Friday, December 14, 2007

Just a Joke?

I thought we were going to make it though the year without any scandalous Halloween party stories. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Last year the big story was terrorist costumes, but this year students chose to be victims. Two students at Penn State have pictures up of themselves dressed as Virgina Tech shooting victims for Halloween. Facebook groups for and against the right to be offensive are growing.

Both of these articles are about Pennsylvania institutions, but that should not be an indicator that these kinds of things are limited to any state or even region. Like the first commenter in the VT victims article, I am not really surprised by this. There have been terrorists at every Halloween party I've attended since 9/11. Before that, there were unabombers. There are always a few that are sacrilegious and I won't even get into the scantily clad. The other thing that has always been consistent is that nobody (myself included) has ever said anything to them at the party about being inappropriate. What has changed, is that the remnants of Halloween don't get thrown out like smashed pumpkins. They are not private like the left over candy stash. When those photos become public and permanent, they represent you in a whole new way than the dimly lit moments at a bonfire when everyone is hidden behind makeup and masks. I'm not saying that I approve, but Halloween use to be a free pass for mischief, and that is not the case now that there is evidence of everything that has been done.

What really bothers me about these articles is who is doing the apologizing. Why are universities asked to make public statements and apologies for student costumes? We are responsible for students in a lot of way, but how accountable are we for their poor taste? Staff are worrying about their online presence because they can't draw a definite line between when they do and they don't represent their institution, but how does that translate to students? When do students (both good and bad) start and stop representing their university?

If they are given the responsibility of representing the university, why are they not the ones apologizing? The terrorist costume from last year made a formal apology, but this year's students have reacted by creating a facebook group. (For those of you who are not members of facebook, my biased summary of his group is all of these people were offensive so I should get to be offensive to) Why not just say you are sorry? The school can't force him to, and I don't think they should, but is he against doing it himself? Is it really demanding the right to offend, or is it refusal to admit a mistake?

When I think back to all of the jokes I have told, and all of the things I have laughed at, I realize that humor really is an indicator of maturity. I know that I would regret not apologizing if I publicly offended anyone with a tasteless joke.

A Quick Congratulations

My life has been consumed with the end of the semester papers, finals, and Christmas knitting. I did want to share a quick update on the SURF proposals. Of the 14 UCA proposals, 6 were funded! The other 8 haven't been rejected yet, because some of the awards may not be accepted so their funds may be redistributed yet. There were a couple strong proposals that I expected to get funded that were not on our list, but I am really proud of our results. Congratulations everyone.