PETA versus people
Freedom of speech is a marvelous right, ranking as one of the most precious of our American democracy. It affords each citizen the privilege of saying almost anything in public in large part free from retribution or legal consequences.
But when used in the absence of common sense and good judgment, this freedom also can expose one’s shortcomings. When the speaker’s judgment is overcome by zealousness, the impact of the intended message can be weakened or lost. In extreme cases, the speaker’s personal characteristics, including ignorance and cruelty, can be revealed.
Such was the case last week when representatives of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) mounted their display in GW’s Kogan Plaza. Several Gelman Library staffers were extremely offended and upset, as was I, by the display that showed photos of a notorious lynching of African Americans in the segregated South alongside photos of dead animals hanging from a rope. The intended PETA message that the depravity of the former somehow rests on a moral par with the latter demeans African Americans and the sanctity of human life.
Any reasonable person, even those with only a modicum of intelligence and knowledge of American history, will immediately recognize the fallacy of this and similar correlations they make relating the death of animals with the experience of Jews in the Holocaust and Native Americans in the West. Unwittingly, the persons making such arguments reveal their fanaticism and distorted judgment, and whatever moral high ground they might lay claim to is lost by the revelation of their insensitivity to the feelings of major segments of their audience.
My objection to the display is not a question of whether the PETA cause is right or wrong, nor is it a matter of free speech. Despite all that I find objectionable and reflective of bad judgment, I nonetheless strongly support the right of PETA supporters to express their opinions and, as they have so eagerly and clearly laid claim to in this instance, their right to make utter and complete fools of themselves. That in the end may say more about the validity of their cause than anything else.
-Jack Siggins, University librarian
The Hatchet’s editorial staff devoted an entire editorial to argue against intelligent design.
What’s humorous is that the primary argument of the editorial was: “The debate over intelligent design signifies a lack of priorities in American public discourse.” If that’s your stance, why did you contradict yourself by addressing it so lengthily in the paper?
You should print a correction to the editorial that reads: “The debate over intelligent design signifies a lack of priorities in the Hatchet’s public discourse.”
-Jerah R. Cordova, senior
Short and simple
I absolutely love The Hatchet’s new “What’s the deal with …” column in the features section, especially this week’s spotlight on the jump-roper in front of the Statesman (Nov. 7, p. 5).
When I lived there as a senior, I used to pass him all the time and say hi – but I never knew he taught music (or that he “dabbled ” in modeling, for that matter). Keep the short, fun features coming.
-Julie Gordon, alumna, former Hatchet news editor
Ready to quit
I was happy to see The Hatchet cover the meeting between the student Senate and my colleague Kip Lornell and myself (“Union decision delayed,” Nov. 3, pg. 1). It is also gratifying that the Senate then unanimously passed a resolution urging the University to recognize the union. It is amazing and very disappointing to me after winning a free, fair and democratic election, which was carefully overseen and certified by the National Labor Relations Board, that this is even an issue.
I believe one thing that allows the University to behave in such a morally reprehensible manner is that, in general, faculty members are viewed not as workers, but as “teachers.” As such, we are given respect, but not sympathy. Many of us view teaching as a calling and most of us would tend to say “I teach at GW,” rather than “I work at GW.” Our image, the title “professor” and the genteel atmosphere of the University all tend to obscure the basic fact that we are workers who are being denied our legal rights.
While the argument has been made that the adjunct faculty are morally entitled to longer contracts (most of us work from semester to semester), better wages (which has remained all but flat for 5 years), partial benefits (such as the ability to buy into the GW health insurance program), etc., I’d like to make the point that the NLRB has already twice determined that we are now legally entitled to be represented in collective bargaining by the union and the University’s refusal to recognize us is reminiscent of the very worst of corporate America. The double-talk that emanates from Media Relations Director Tracy Schario and Academic Affairs Vice President Don Lehman makes me think of “Animal Farm” or perhaps more aptly, a Wal-Mart spokesperson.
After teaching here in the music department for 20 years, founding the jazz program, organizing the weekly jazz jam sessions (since 1986) and designing the jazz-studies minor, I’m ready to quit in disgust. I could deal with being underpaid, but having my rights as a U.S. worker denied me by an institution that I have been associated with since age 11 is almost more than I can bear. You can bet too that before I leave I’ll have a few things to say face to face to the pertinent people.
The major newspaper headlines report “White House officials will be required to attend briefings next week on ethics.” Maybe University officials could sit in as well.
-James Levy, adjunct associate professor of music