"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Gay devil worshipers" on campus now?

UMM has been the cause of some embarrassing headlines through the years. None of this has stood in the way of UMM essentially keeping its "jewel in the crown" status. Enrollment numbers don't seem affected. What are we to make of the embarrassing stuff? Maybe we should dismiss it like we dismiss an uncle who has fits.
Is it possible that a pocket of gay devil worshipers is now developing on campus?
There was a time when I thought people associated with UMM were becoming too strident in the gay rights cause. All social rights movements get going with baby steps. Gay rights has proceeded with the usual fits and starts. One senses an underlying momentum that is not going to be stopped, just blunted now and then. We have some southern governors causing problems. The corporate world is pushing back against them. Maybe we need a major political realignment in this country that quarantines the South. Hey, hasn't that been the norm in the history of the U.S.? Regressive Southern interests coalesce and then they lose, lose, lose. All the Dixiecrat Party ever did was lose.
I was not pleased seeing a gay rights demonstration on the UMM campus that had a booth with a poster-size picture of Eleanor Roosevelt on the side. Did Eleanor Roosevelt ever proclaim she was gay? Would she have wanted the public to know about it? Could we even assume it was true? Shouldn't people associated with UMM apply some scholarly standards to this?
One bit of infamy from UMM's past, lest you need reminding, was the two biological males named king and queen for UMM's Homecoming. I showed up as media to take a photo of them before the start of the parade, and I was unfazed. I didn't act like I was taken aback at all. I immediately sensed what had happened. I knew such a scenario could happen here.
Eventually UMM cancelled Homecoming royalty completely, not admitting any particular embarrassment about the episode with the two men. I think UMM just reasoned that Homecoming royalty were anachronistic. It's fluffy tradition. It's harmless and it probably should have continued. We just needed the students to go along with the fluff. They couldn't be trusted to do that.
And then in the past couple of years, we learned we couldn't trust students to put out a reasonable student publication. Oh, the University Register is quite fine. It reflects UMM's basic ethos. But UMM allowed a purportedly conservative group to come along and have all its whining for their own paper granted. But then of course they abused it. We got "NorthStar."
Normally I'm a fan of alternative campus publications. But NorthStar seemed to have a fundamental purpose of hurting people and even trying to hurt UMM itself. Much of it was basic nonsense, such as a headline wondering if Mussolini was overrated or underrated. In other words, we either appreciated Il Duce too much or not enough. He ended up having his body hung up on meat hooks and mutilated.
The NorthStar creators, who I guess had nothing better to do with their time, used "satire" as a cover explanation for all it did.
The other day I brought up the subject of this new Satan group with a student acquaintance of mine. At first she laughed. Then she made a face. She then tried to dismiss the whole thing as possible "satire."
Where is all this "satire" taking us in terms of taste? If the point is to make a political statement, well then my goodness, make it, and I don't care if you somehow do it in a nuanced way. Indirect means of communication is in fact a trait of well-educated people, sometimes to a fault. We have irony, sarcasm and parody.
When I acquired a copy of Mad Magazine in my youth, it was obvious "satire." No label needed.
The satire we see emanating from UMM is dangerous. I have wondered if I have generational problems trying to relate to today's young people. Maybe I'm clueless and I just cannot penetrate what they're trying to do and say. 
My generation was rebellious. But we had causes like the Viet Nam war and civil rights.
The self-described conservatives behind these oddball campus publications today don't seem to be pursuing anything righteous. They put on "affirmative action bake sales" that end up with police intervening.
The NorthStar had access to campus video surveillance to catch people taking more than one copy. In order to go after these "thieves" on legal terms, they tried arguing they were charging $5 a copy after your first free copy. Does anyone think the supposed $5 charge was anything other than a ploy to try to catch people who might be trying to remove papers from campus?
I know of at least one instance where a UMM faculty member removed copies of the University Register from campus. Student papers and controversy are well-known acquaintances. Sometimes a paper will get in the vortex of controversy in connection with printing the name of an alleged sexual assault victim.
Nevertheless, the campus should have but one student news/opinion publication, and if it strikes you as "liberal," well so what? College students have historically been liberal. Many of them moderate as they get older, as they acquire assets, but I would hope they still want kids to have access to clean, safe drinking water. I'm starting to wonder.
The new gay/Satan thing on the UMM campus has a purpose of combating conservatism. Why not just combat it with well-articulated ideas? Just saying.
A campus-wide email announced that the new "gay devil worshipers" were coming out of the woodwork to combat an alleged uprising of conservative voices on campus. Was the idea to be just as silly as "NorthStar?"
I think here is where UMM's new chancellor might start intervening. Reason can triumph after initial confusion. 
By way of background, let me share about a conversation I had with a former Morris Public Library director. The computer department at the library was new. How quaint! You'd get shown how you could call up "Amazon.com." Amazing! I discussed with Rita Mulcahy the rash of incidents mainly in the Twin Cities where perverts were coming to the library to do, well you know what. Eventually librarians threw up their arms and said "well, we have free speech, we have the First Amendment." This got modified, Ms. Mulcahy said, when a new line of reasoning took over: "It wasn't a free speech issue, it was a patron behavior issue."
I think UMM's new chancellor should put his foot down, saying "UMM has an amazing variety of political and philosophical ideas, but we must govern the ways the adherents present the ideas so as to appear mature and responsible." It's a behavior issue, not a free expression issue. In the meantime we have the "gay devil worshipers" providing a new bizarre chapter in the history of our University of Minnesota-Morris campus, one that makes the rest of us want to wash our hands.
 
Addendum: The proper spelling is "worshipers" and not "worshippers," and "worshiping" not "worshipping," according to some quick research I did. I was inclined to go with the two p's at first. My research indicated that many people opt for the two p's but that technically it's incorrect. Oh, I also learned that "Satan" should be capitalized.
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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