Whence is Colorado College’s Board of Trustees Getting Its False Information?
June 26, 2008
by Adam Kissel
Today we report in a press release that the Chair of Colorado College's (CC's) Board of Trustees has affirmed the school's actions in finding that two students violated CC's "violence" policy for posting a flyer that parodied a flyer of the Feminist and Gender Studies program. In a letter to FIRE, Board of Trustees Chair David van Diest Skilling wrote that "the College acted correctly in their handling of the students' behavior" and that "there is no need for further action." But it seems that the Trustees were not given either true or complete information about the case.
Torch readers will remember many of the details: in early 2008, a pseudonymous group called "the Feminist and Gender Studies Interns" produced and distributed a flyer called "The Monthly Rag." The flyer included a reference to "male castration," an announcement about a lecture on "feminist porn" by a "world-famous prostitute and porn star," an explanation of "packing" (pretending to have a phallus), and a quotation from The Bitch Manifesto. In their parody, two male students distributed a flyer called "The Monthly Bag" under the pseudonym "The Coalition of Some Dudes." The flyer included references to "tough guy wisdom," "chainsaw etiquette," the shooting range of a sniper rifle, and a quotation about "female violence and abuse" of men from the website batteredmen.com.
Shortly thereafter, Colorado College President Richard F. Celeste sent out a campus-wide e-mail declaring that "The Monthly Bag" included "threatening and demeaning content" and asking the "Dudes" to come forward. When they did less than an hour later, they were subjected to a three-hour hearing and charged with "bias" and violating the college's values of respect and integrity. Only after public pressure did CC retreat to the idea that the entire matter was about the "violent" implications of mentioning a sniper rifle.
Ultimately, the Dudes were found guilty of "violating the student code of conduct policy on violence." Although Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students Mike Edmonds acknowledged that the publication was meant to satirize "The Monthly Rag," he wrote that "in the climate in which we find ourselves today, violence—or implied violence—of any kind cannot be tolerated on a college campus" and that "the juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality" in an anonymous parody made students feel threatened by chainsaws and rifles. One of the Dudes, Chris Robinson, appealed Edmonds's decision, but the final judge of the appeal was Edmonds himself, who notified Robinson on April 11 that his appeal had failed and that the finding would remain in his student file until he graduates. Although Celeste had argued that the students were "not sanctioned or punished," the April letter clearly stated that the letter in the file was a "discipline letter," and the Student Code of Conduct makes clear that having a letter placed in a student's file is an official punishment.
FIRE wrote to Skilling on May 16, urging him to ask Celeste to remove the guilty finding from the students' files. But Skilling replied on June 18 that the board found "no basis to make any changes to the College's actions." Skilling said that because "The Monthly Bag" was "published anonymously without warning or permission" and "referenced tools and weapons of violence," the administration's actions were legitimate.
Skilling also incorrectly asserted that the two "Dudes" freely posted a second issue of the "Monthly Bag" in April after identifying themselves, but in truth the authors of the second issue, "The Coalition of Some Other Dudes," were four unnamed students.
Skilling's letter thus is wrong in the first instance—the case from the start was not about the reported range of a sniper rifle. And it is wrong in the second instance: the Other Dudes (including one female, by the way) were not the same as the Dudes, and last I heard, the CC administration still does not know their identity.
So, how is the Board of Trustees getting such false and misleading information?
Interested parties can ask President Celeste: 719-389-6700; firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what you find out.