Staff Editorial

By Mac Weekly Staff

The Politically
Incorrect-themed party held on Jan. 17 has already reached
unprecedented heights of notoriety at Macalester. Discourse on the
issue seems preoccupied with the how and why of the event, the lines
drawn and erased as a result of that night.

Perhaps the discussion
should unfold differently.

There should be no
question that immediate administrative action is absolutely necessary
in this case. First, administrators are bound to respond to all
reports of harassment, and to enforce college policy against behavior
that creates a hostile environment for students. Moreover, inaction
would have been deeply disturbing. Indeed, the twelve days of silence
that passed between the incident and the report that led to its
handling was troubling enough.

We are not so naïve
as to suggest that politically incorrect humor is not shared behind
closed doors on this campus, nor so pedantic as to call for
infringement on the domain of private speech in private space. But
the event ƒ?” which was rather explicitly publicized on Facebook ƒ?”

entered public space, at which point it was no longer an informal
matter between friends.

Particularly troubling
ƒ?” and especially demanding of administrative action ƒ?” is the
report that one student dressed as a Klansman was accompanied by
another in blackface with a noose around his neck. This alone crossed
the line between what could have at least claimed to be an
intelligent exploration of stereotypes and making light of a grave
and morally despicable practice that is bound to create a hostile
environment for students.

In any case, it is
crucial that administrative action come in a spirit of reconciliation
rather than retribution. The Macalester community has been craving
genuine, open discourse on multiculturalism and political correctness
ƒ?” and suffering in its absence ƒ?” for some time; the eruption of
impassioned controversy surrounding the party is evidence enough of
that.

A variety of
longstanding, critical questions have suddenly emerged: Are
Macalester students taking seriously a commitment to multiculturalism
and diversity? Do domestic students of color feel included and
respected in our community? Do some students find the political
correctness of academia stifling? Do Macalester students think
themselves so enlightened that politically incorrect behavior on
their part becomes acceptable? What of the stereotypes of race,
gender and class implicit in “white trash” and
prostitution-themed social events?
This is not the point
at which to quietly discipline ƒ?” or harshly punish ƒ?” the
individuals and sweep these questions under the rug. The need for
affirmative steps to bring about genuine discourse across academic
disciplines and student communities is clear. We call on
administrators to facilitate such reconciliatory dialogue through
open forums for students, faculty and staff as soon as can be
arranged. Further still, an academic conference on this very subject
might be a bold, important and healthy step.