Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crackdown on free speech at Loyola University

This is an open letter to anyone who feels it applies to them. At best, I hope this illuminates a fundamental problem in our society to some readers and at least, I hope to keep myself sane by reaching out to gain clarity on the emotions I've been feeling since the incident.

Doublespeak is not Truth.
My focus is on the truth, and I feel that in situations of confusion my goal becomes all too apparent.  When words with real meaning and power are evoked by somebody with the sole purpose to manipulate, there is no containing my outrage.  This is exactly what happened just a few weeks ago in the upper-classmen dormitory I occupy at Loyola University Chicago.

The Incident
The night started as you'd expect on a college campus. My roommate and I invited a few kids over for a friend's birthday.  Alcoholic beverages were procured individually and by the end of the night we had a grand total of 19 people in our one bedroom apartment style dorm. Days prior to this party we had taken measures to ensure we wouldn't be bothering anybody in our hall.  Each neighbor on our floor was notified and informed that they should come knock on our door if the party got too loud.  Throughout the night, we limited consumption of alcohol by playing "Water Pong" instead of beer pong and encouraging guests to drink at their own pace rather than lining up shots or playing drinking games. Finally, we planned on winding down the party to no more than a few people at 12AM since campus "quiet hours" starts at then, and that hour was soon approaching.

That is responsibility. 

Responsibility is recognizing the fact of reality called "consequence" and then taking steps to deal with those consequences.  A party can become a disturbance.  Drinking can become dangerous.  These are consequences to be dealt with in reality.  Ignoring those facts would have been irresponsible.

What happened next should be obvious.  Two Resident Assistants (RA's) knocked on the door at 11:58PM and demanded to step inside.  I answered the door and bit the bullet.  Some "responsibilities" we have may be arbitrary, but should still be respected.  I believe a man has a "responsibility" to grudgingly pay taxes or else they lose their freedom to do any good for themselves or for others.  In the same respect, I believed I had a "responsibility" to go through the motions and allow the RA's the chance to document us on the arbitrary rules enforced by Loyola University.  Just as a man needs freedom and is therefore willing to pay taxes, I need an education and therefore felt willing to abide by their rules.

What I didn't know was the extent to which patronizing doublespeak would be used on us.
 "Can you guys help us put your bottles of alcohol on the table so we can document it?"
Help you? I thought to myself.  Help like we're accomplishing a goal for our mutual benefit?
"No I won't help you, I'm being forced by you." I muttered to the RA's who furiously scribbled on their notepads.
More reality denial came in the form of the famous Nazi slogan 'We're just doing our jobs guys, please we want to get this over with just as much as you do.'
Call it what you want but *your* job is *yours* for a reason.  Believe it or not, as a human being you are responsible for your voluntary actions no matter who you have deferred reasoning to at the given moment and last I checked, applying for the position of RA is wholly voluntary.

Recognizing this as a denial of truth, I decided to speak up.  After the report was clearly filed I decided to speak my piece in front of the room.  I stood up and pointed to my Liberty or Death flag hanging in the living room and informed them that I was a Libertarian and that I loved freedom.  I went on to ask them questions like:
Why did you show up in the first place?
Who were we bothering?
Don't you realize you can just leave us alone?
Don't you understand you are responsible for your actions?

While I attempted in desperation to reason with the RA's, one of them ignored me completely and scribbled away on her notebook while the other just tried to look sad and repeated her mantra of "following rules and doing her job."  After this a friend of mine asked them directly whether or not we had been "compliant", despite the extensive questioning and contempt.  They responded that we had and they departed.

So far, so good?
Now, this seemed fair to me.  I was caught with the alcohol. I violated the arbitrary maximum occupancy rule.  The room was noisy at 11:58... close enough to "quiet hours" I suppose.  I sucked it up and tried to have good sportsmanship about it, I mean, after all the penalties were no different from a yellow flag in a soccer game.

But that's not all they stuck me with.  In our official hearing a few days later I discovered I was being charged with the more severe Class B penalty (along with the Class A's listed above) of Failure to Comply.  Out of context phrases including "I will not help them" and "I'm paying to be indentured here" were included in the incident report. After stating my case at the hearing, the presiding Loyola officials informed me that while I was physically compliant in their demands, the words I spoke simply "were not helpful" in the situation.
According to my Student Handbook, I am facing residence hall probation or even University probation for the words I spoke and those words alone.  Any institution that punishes individuals specifically for thoughtfully questioning the status quo cannot be said to be intellectually honest to say the least.

A Fundamental Problem
The denial of responsibility that I saw is the same I see in my Psychology class when people just can't figure out how Milgrim got so many people to zap the bajeesus out of strangers.  It's the same denial of responsibility I learned occurred at the Nuremberg trials.  And, sadly, it is the same denial of responsibility parents have in relation to their children.  "I was just following orders" and "I didn't know any better" can be exposed as petty rationalizations at best when compared to the true notion of responsibility.
When the effects of your actions horrify your true self, it is certainly easier to deny the reality of it.  This is what I spoke out against and this is why I am being punished.

The compartmentalization of actions is what all systems of predation rely upon.  Emotionally, pulling a trigger is much easier than stabbing with a sword and pushing a button on a remote controlled drone is even easier than that.  This is well known in the Psychological community and it is shockingly obvious that this has been exploited by State Governments and other institutions like Loyola University who choose to uphold their illegitimate laws.

Universities of all places ought to be safe havens for pursuing truth and integrity.  This incident showed me conclusively that it is the opposite.  University is the first chance sycophants and sadists get to use and abuse the very same power that corrupted them.  It is the final nail in the coffin that the first 12 years of State Schooling produced.  Of course these people were "just doing their jobs", they know exactly what they're doing and they relish it.

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