EAGLE proposal flies in the face of logic

by Beacon Staff • September 20, 2006

Editor's note: To clarify the distinction between content appearing on the editorial page and that in the rest of The Beacon, the newspaper's staff has decided to rest the responsibility for content appearing on this page solely on the editor in chief, the managing editors and the opinion editors. Additionally, pieces appearing on the opinion page represent the views of individual writers, not the newspaper's staff.

After anti-gay phrases were discovered on a student's whiteboard days after this year's freshmen moved into the dorms, there came a mostly expected reaction.

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman sent out an appropriately measured e-mail to the student body condemning the graffiti, The Beacon ran a story about the incident, and students expressed bafflement over how such a thing could happen at Emerson.

One solution suggested by Emerson's Alliance for Gays, Lesbians and Everyone (EAGLE), however, raised more than a few eyebrows. Co-Presidents Andrea Wheeler and Jessica Ganon indicated that they plan to push for mandatory diversity training for the student body.

Subsequent contact with Wheeler laid to rest any belief this is a half-baked proposal. She said she was "dead serious" about such an idea and added EAGLE was planning to hold meetings with diversity leaders in the near future.

Two questions are raised by such a proposal. First, is it necessary? Second, will it work? On both issues, EAGLE doesn't have a claw to stand on.

This most recent occurrence was unfortunately not an isolated incident. Last year, The Beacon reported on two similar acts of hate messages, one homophobic and one racist. Wheeler and Ganon's opinion that this constitutes a widespread problem that requires swift action is noble, but unfortunately misguided.

There are colleges and universities in the country with legitimate race and diversity issues. The Duke University rape scandal, as one example, highlighted a lot of deep-seated racial strife between that institution and neighboring North Carolina Central University--issues that should be analyzed and addressed.

This is not the case with our school. Are there any gay or lesbian Emersonians who can say with a straight face that they feel less accepted here as a result of the act of vandalism? Of course not. Emerson may be one of the most tolerant colleges in the country of those who live alternative lifestyles. In fact, they can barely be considered "alternative" here.

If those responsible for the hateful act made themselves known, they would probably be driven from the school. What they did was certainly not indicative of any larger mindset at Emerson.

Even if it were, it is difficult to imagine any solution less effective than mandatory diversity training. Punishing the collective with such an insulting program will serve only to foster hostility to organizations like EAGLE, which is responsible for a number of positive activities on campus, such as its support for gay marriage-an issue this page has unambiguously endorsed for years.

And what of those who really do have hate in their hearts? Will a few hours spent being preached at about the importance of tolerance cause them to change their minds? The concept is too ridiculous to warrant an answer.

Anyone caught violating the school's policy on harassment should be appropriately disciplined. The rest of us should not be. Emerson's history of tolerance and acceptance should be a sign that we are already doing our part.