Dear Sam Houston State University:
Hey Bearkats! I know it's been a minute since we've chatted, but I've got some thoughts on this whole Monica Foy situation and your less than stellar response to it.
If you don't remember me, that's OK. I know the order of famous Bearkats goes roughly:
1. Dan Rather
2. Shea Serrano
27,000. Cory Garcia,
but at one time I was your Student Government Vice President. My time in office was a quiet one, so quiet that literally the only proof of it actually happening is a throw away mention in this old story about the election.
So while my time at the school wasn't exactly newsworthy – we can't all be cartoonists accused of racism – I have great memories of the school, and I've never been ashamed to be a Bearkat. While I was there I got to have my own radio show, hang out with pagans and get kicked out of the small dorm I lived in because you needed more office space (not bitter).
But today, well, today I'm not quite feeling my Bearkat pride.
Now, don't get me wrong: what Monica Foy said was, at best, extremely stupid. The reason no one asked why Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth deserved to be shot is because most normal, rational people know a simple truth: no one really deserves to be shot. In a Utopia that will never, ever exist, justice would be fair and no one would ever be shot. But we don't live in Utopia and people do get shot and sometimes people say really dumb things on the Internet.
It's how we respond to the quirks of life that define who we are, and I have to be honest here: you're not looking good SHSU.
Now I get it: yesterday you were getting messages from people who were really upset that someone they didn't know said something they didn't like on the Internet, and they wanted to share that opinion with you. I know this because Miss Foy had retweeted a few things that we here at the Press had put online, and they were sending her harassing tweets with us tagged in it. It was pretty awful, because there are few things worse than angry dudes who feel they have an excuse to fat shame someone.
Like I said, you were feeling a lot of heat and you felt you had to say something. And so you said this:
“SHSU appreciates the enormous public response in support of law enforcement. The university is a leader in educating many people who work in criminal justice and those who protect the civil liberties this country was founded upon, including free speech, whether we agree with that speech or not.
SHSU has a strong Student Code of Conduct. The student’s remarks will be evaluated to determine if the code was violated following standardized due process. The university has an ongoing commitment to taking actions that strengthen dialog and understanding between our students and the law enforcement community.”
Sigh. Way to give in to the hate mob guys.
Unless you just really want to get hit with a 1st Amendment lawsuit, you know as well as I do that you don't need to do the whole “due process” thing. There's nothing in the 25 various forms of Student Misconduct listed that you can hit her with, unless you want to maybe try and prove that she tweeted what she tweeted on campus property or during a campus event (hello bullet point 21), and only then if you can also prove that the tweet is indecent, which seems like a pretty big – not to mention petty – waste of time for a public institution.
Remember: just because people want blood doesn't mean you're obligated to give it to them. You can be better than them.
Really, this isn't even a Freedom of Speech issue; people have the right to say dumb things on the Internet. No, this is a Freedom of Stupidity issue.
And that's kind of what college is all about. It's about going somewhere new and experiencing new things and making mistakes before you go out in to the real world. Yeah, sometimes you're going to drink too much or you're going to fall for a person that's bad for you or you're going to send out a tweet that you shouldn't have. You'll take the wrong classes and you'll miss tests and you'll make poor decisions. You'll do things you regret and you'll not do things and you'll regret that too. You fail and if you're lucky you'll learn from that failure.
That's what college is. That's what this situation is. It's a learning opportunity, for everyone. Maybe that lesson is to think more before you tweet. Maybe that lesson is that even if you only have 200 followers you can still go viral. Maybe that lesson is that there are a lot of assholes in the world looking for an excuse to make fun of your appearance and are just waiting for a news story to come along and give them an excuse.
What it isn't and what it shouldn't be is some sort of weird authoritarian, “we'll see if we can find the blood you want and by the way please listen to the cops and don't be mad at us” thing.
I can't help but think that Sam Houston would frown at all of this, if he was 155 and still had control of his facial features.
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I leave you with this, found in the Sam Houston State Student Guidelines:
The university affirms its position that freedom of expression, as well as inquiry, is essential to a student’s educational development. Vigorous intellectual explorations by students may sometimes result in questioning of popular conceptions, and this in turn, may elicit the concern of society at large.
Freedom of Stupidity. Think about it Bearkats.
Eat'em Up Kats (is that still a thing?),
Class of 2006