Are Universities Giving Hall Passes for Hate?

ID-100238209I’m the last person who thinks that there’s a substitute for common sense. You can’t get it in a book on tape and you sure as hell can’t teach it in school.

Common sense comes from fucking up.

If you sit down and actually look at our legal system, our legislation is driven purely from past fuck-ups.

We can’t own slaves. (Fuck Up: Colonial America)

We can’t/can sell alcohol. (Fuck Up: Prohibition Era – that shit didn’t work)

We can’t discriminate based on gender, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, creed or race. (Fuck Up: America, pre-2009)

We can say pretty much anything we damn well please (Fuck Up: Oppressive British law)

We’re all seen as equals under the law (Fuck Up: anyone who pissed off/on the Founding Fathers)

When one of my Twitter followers contacted me last week about the tragic suicide of a young Rutgers student, I fell face-first into a series of emotions. Emotion pie. There were so many colossal fuck-ups that I didn’t know where to begin. Today’s post is a journey through fucked-up thoughts.

What’s “Different”

Back when I was still in school, I didn’t pay attention to “different.” I was different. I was a goth nerd (yes, that’s a picture of ME). Some of my friends were obviously gay. And it was cool. They were…well, they just WERE. They sat at our lunch table, hung out with us before and after the bell and crammed into someone’s car when we all decided to stay out past curfew.

They were the same. I’m sure other kids treated them like shit, but they were “with us.” They were safe. They were our friends.

But here’s one thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve gotten older: kids are mean.

Kids can be evil little assholes. And they don’t have a lick of common sense.

When I think of these two kids (because that’s what they are – KIDS) from Rutgers who thought it would be balls-out funny to webcam broadcast a young, gay student’s private moments across the social mediasphere, I’m wondering where we went so wrong in the development of today’s youth that this would even be considered as acceptable.

These are kids who have the smarts to get into a university that turns down over half its applicants but seem to have jack shit in the line of common sense.

And they turned out to be mean.

Before I go any further, I’ll say that assholes happen. No university can prevent the assholes. But maybe this is one fuck up that can help universities (and parents) deal with the assholes before they stop thinking and start acting on their assholian nature.

The Onus

Having left corporate America back in 2006 (for good), I can still remember Diversity Training. Seriously – the videos are laughable and the quizzes following even moreso. But the sessions did one thing quite well: they made you think twice about what you said and did, because the dude holding your paycheck wasn’t essentially saying he had no desire to deal with a lawsuit brought on by the next asshole who wanted to tell the receptionist she had a great rack.

So if universities are charged with shaping today’s undergraduate population for roles following graduation, isn’t it common sense to think that there should be some diversity training in that process?

Freshman orientation is a load of crap, no matter what university you attend. But I’ve learned something pretty interesting from having two criminal defense attorneys as copywriting clients this year:

Most college students are completely unaware of the Code of Conduct that rules their school.

Here in Denver, both major universities can expel students for merely being accused of a crime. A DUI can be deadly to a student’s career – and that’s alcohol.

How about Invasion of Privacy, kids? Just because you share a room or a wall with someone – that doesn’t give you the right to act like a fucktard.

So If We Can’t TEACH Common Sense…

I say that the universities in this country – and perhaps worldwide – need to sit up and take notice. I’ll bet that the entire Board of Regents at Rutgers has assumed the fetal position complete with thumb sucking after Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide. And it appears that the University might even be more culpable as it was revealed today that Clementi sought a room change after the initial incident.

Hello, Rutgers, institution of higher learning with lowered standards.

We’re a nation that recently passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on October 22, 2009. That was less than a year ago. And I’ll bet if you sat down with Darun Ravi and Molly Wei (the alleged co-conspirators who broadcast Clementi’s sexual encounter via webcam), they wouldn’t be able to tell you who Matthew Shepard is…was…or what his death meant to the non-heterosexual community. And that’s a fucking shame. Because apparently, we’re still a nation who cares more about what goes on in bedrooms that aren’t ours than about the basic human rights that a long history of fuck-ups has set into legislation.

I’m thinking that since the average cost of a college education runs between $20-$30+k per year here in the U.S., that it’s time for universities to start the education process by understanding that the following (by and large) comprises their freshman classes:

  • Kids who have never lived away from mom and dad
  • Kids who have never done their own grocery shopping
  • Kids who have no fucking clue what they want to be when/if they grow-up
  • Kids who will, invariably, make some epically stupid decisions over the next four years
  • Kids who don’t understand what it means to be responsible for their own success and failures because they’re coming from a sheltered environment.
  • Kids who come from diverse cultural backgrounds who don’t necessarily understand or relate to those who are “different.”

If universities can understand these six things, then the logical addition to the freshman orientation process would be what corporate American already understands: diversity training is necessary.

Corporate America gets that there are assholes in every bunch. When will universities understand the same and actually sit down and explain a Code of Conduct to the student body? $20k+ is a shitload to pay for daycare, and I’ll venture to say that the rules are better explained (and better enforced) at daycare than in college.

Not a Panacea

Last week, MTVNews was covering the suicide and chimed in with me on Twitter for my thoughts on their article, which posed the question whether laws could have prevented Clementi’s suicide. I say no law can prevent anyone from doing anything (given the inmate overcrowding epidemic nationwide, I’ll refrain from further substantiation). New Jersey lawmakers have even introduced a bill to up the penalty for Invasion of Privacy. But if the death penalty won’t deter murderers, how will this law deter stupid kids?

We can do our best as a society to raise awareness and get our noses out of other people’s business. Who I fuck is MY business, so long as they’re of age and consenting. Maybe that should be a slide in the diversity training process, showing that the water cooler isn’t stationed next to anyone’s bed. Who we love, relate to, embrace or shun – it’s our business and ours alone. Frankly, you can be intolerant of anyone you choose. I’m intolerant of the dipshit in front of me in line at the grocery who holds me hostage in the cell phone scream-off with her boyfriend.

But when your intolerance brings harm…when you cross the line from your beliefs into someone else’s life – and one that most likely does not affect you in any way, shape or form…you’re going down. Laws are there to act as a deterrent for those with a sense of common sense and to penalize those who didn’t have any.

Graduate to a New Level of Responsibility

Universities – step to the plate and stop waiting for the lawmakers to do something that isn’t going to help your cause. Who’s going to come out and say that they’re not going to take any shit from the next incoming freshman class? These kids are on your turf. Start acting like you own the place, because one day, my kid’s $20-30k+ a year is going to be worth just as much as the intolerant little asshole of a roommate you assign him or her. You can’t help it that the kid’s an asshole.

But you can at least do you part to say what will and will not be tolerated on your campus.

In Closing

I love my friends and I don’t care who they’re fucking, in love with or dislike. They’re my friends. I’ve only got 37 years of common sense in me and respect the fact that these kids in this whole unfortunate mess only had 18. But now, one of them doesn’t have a chance to get to 37, and that sucks. Laws won’t stop this from happening again, but we’re a nation with a history rich in fuck-ups. We need to remember our fuck-ups. I’d be curious to run a quiz and see how many high school seniors know who Matthew Shepard is and why he’s important. He died after being mercilessly beaten, tortured and tied to a fencepost – left to die. Because he was gay.

Maybe kids need to see the crime scene photos to understand what death plus two kids serving two consecutive life sentences looks like.

That’s one helluva picture, ain’t it?



  1. ken

    i just heard on a PBS program about happiness that, contrary to what most people believe, the young are the most unhappy, and the older you get, the happier you get.

    basically it amounted to the wisdom afforded by passing years giving people the perspective they needed to appreciate what they have.

  2. Jason

    There's a saying, "tolerance is the virtue of the man who has forsaken all others."

    Only one person took Tyler Clementi's life, and that was Tyler Clementi. Other people may have caused him great embarrassment, but he escalated it into self-harm. That speaks of far greater hatred of himself than anyone else ever showed him.

    Suicide is not restricted to homosexual teens. Too many teens reach the conclusion that their life has insufficient value to continue with it and I want to know why.

    When I was growing up I was generally the odd one out of the group (autism spectrum can do that to you) and I remember being lonely enough that I went to a Burger King drive through at 1am just to hear a human voice, but I never lost the belief that my life had transcendent value. Any obstacle could be overcome with faith and hard work.

    I think the thing that philosophy bred in me was a sense of perspective. I don't think young people (or even older people) have such a view. When you're the centre of your world every setback becomes a major tragedy, while if you keep a realistic view that you're one of six billion people, many of whom have had similar or worse experiences to yourself, each setback simply becomes an obstacle to climb or a burden to carry.

  3. Kristin

    Well said and thought out. Much to think about. I would also like to throw out something I’ve figured out in the past few years as a college professor (we had a seminar on the Y2K generation). Kids today? Do not know consequences. At all. This generation has been told since they were in peewee soccer at age 3 that they are awesome and winners no matter what. Lose a game? Get a trophy anyway. Get caught stealing? Damn video games are to blame. Cause a suicide? Oh it’s society’s fault. Seriously, they haven’t a clue about consequences. Because they van sneeze and someone applauds them – YouTube is nothing but a giant trophy for these “winners”.

    • Dear Redhead

      Consequences…man, did you hit the nail on the head with that one, Kristin. It shames me that we’re a society that’s come to reward mediocrity so that achievement means nothing anymore. People of all ages need to learn to own their actions, bottom line. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Lacy

    First and foremost………….AMEN!!! Fantastic blog! Secondly, not only should Universities take responsibility but so should the fucking parents! It is THEIR responsibility to take the assholiness out of the fucktards before they even get to college! As a FORMER teacher, I am sick to death of all the excuses! It is NEVER the kids fault and furthermore, it is NEVER the parents fault. It is the teachers and administrators and society. People are never responsible for their own fuck ups anymore. Bring back the paddle!! My only comfort is knowing that one day these kids will be out and alone in society with no one to help them but themselves. IF they get there without other fuckups fucking shit up for them!
    Love the article!

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