Flyers prompt free speech debate at Colorado College
April 3, 2008
KRDO News Channel 13
A war of words at Colorado College.
It has one student saying college leaders have a double-standard over free speech.
It all comes down to two flyers—one put out by the Feminist and Gender Studies Program on campus, and the other by a male student who says he just meant to poke fun at the feminist flyer.
Chris Robinson, a senior political science student, and a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, posted a flyer across campus. On it, you'll find snippets like "Tough Guy Wisdom," a recent study questioning the glass ceiling, and even graphic sex tips taken from Men's Health Magazine.
"This was guy stuff," said Robinson. "It's a it's a caricature of hyper-masculinity, meant to be a humorist counterpoint to the caricature of hyper-femininity. I wanted to cause a stir. I wanted to challenge some of the pre-conceived notions around here about what constitutes legitimate debate. We just thought, 'this is begging to be satirized.'"
The F&G flyer that came out first included advertisement for a feminist porn activist and sex books to check out.
On seeing Robinson's flyers, the campus issued an email, asking the authors to come forward:
"The flyers include threatening and demeaning content, which is categorically unacceptable in this community... anonymous acts meant to demean and intimidate others are not [welcome]," stated the campus email.
On speaking with NEWSCHANNEL 13, CC leaders say it wasn't just about the feminist content, but also about these lines in Robinson's flyers:
"Did you know?? The Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle has an effective range of over 2000 meters?"
"Your chainsaw is not an indoor toy"
College leaders say they had to take the action they did, because of when the flyers were posted—weeks after the shootings at Northern Illinois University in February.
College leaders questioned Robinson and his friend about the flyers. They found them guilty of threatening the school with violence.
A CC media liaison tells NEWSCHANNEL 13 they had to first consider the safety of the students, in light of the campus shootings across the country.
But Robinson says very little of his questioning focused on the sniper rifle or the chainsaw lines.
"They asked me about my political beliefs, whether I'd ever taken a feminist gender studies class, how I felt about issues of gender, how I felt about issues of class, power. It had nothing to do with the issue of violence," says Robinson.
In a statement addressed to NEWSCHANNEL 13, President Richard Celeste writes,
"Colorado College values and fosters freedom of expression, and in discussions with students regarding [the publication], has encouraged further dialogue about freedom of speech issues on campus. The students involved in creating this publication were found to have violated the college community's standards, but they were not sanctioned or punished. Instead, they were urged to engage the college community in more inclusive dialogue, debate and discussion on freedom of speech, and through a letter to the editor of the student newspaper and other actions, they are doing so."
And it doesn't end there. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education—or FIRE—is going to bat for Robinson.
"It's clearly a case where the men's point of view is not acceptable at colorado college, whereas the feminist position is," said Adam Kissel, director of FIRE. "If the real idea is that a poster that mentions a gun or mentions a chainsaw is somehow violent, there's something very wrong on college campuses in this country."
FIRE has asked that President Celeste issue a public apology to Robinson.
Colorado College maintains that the students were not sanctioned and not punished, nor will the incident go on the students' transcripts.
To see the flyers for yourself, click here.
- Flyers prompt free speech debate at Colorado College, PDF, 50.5 KB , KRDO News Channel 13