by Matty Daley
If you haven’t heard about the Tucker Max debate by now, you’re probably going to. The struggle between student organizations and Student Affairs initiatives has become an in your face campaign that now runs deeper than basic principle and moral, but deep into the roots of democracy, free speech, and separation of “church and state.” I put “church and state” in quotations to signify Student Affairs as a belief system – a basis of values governing the ideology of the College student population, with the College’s student organizations acting as the political representation of the campus’ student body.
In recent weeks, two of these organizations, the College Union Board (CUB) and Student Finance Board (SFB), who are among what are generally considered the “Big Four” among the College’s most prominent student organizations, along with the Student Government Association and the Inter-Greek Council, have been under political attack from offices within the division of Student Affairs, and other prominent, further affiliated student organizations. But these attacks justified in their pursuit of this ideological justice?
In hindsight, many of these attacks have been misdirected, attempting to pinpoint a target to aim the “blame thrower” at. The position of CUB, and its purpose for bringing Max, has already been explained, in much detail, by CUB’s Director, Raquel Fleig. Regurgitating that information here would serve no greater purpose in pointing out the alarming issue at hand.
Talk of censorship has begun to steam among the rubble of this battle, with voices growing louder than the rants of Ann Coulter. What we really have in our possession is an issue of free speech – the right of the student population, and its bestowed student organizations, to act independently in decision to bring whatever form of extra-curricular entertainment to the campus, and to allow visiting artists, under contract with the College, to share with the student population their services.
But what about Max?
He’s a law school graduate turned author, with a self-proclaimed hate for not only women but all people as well. The Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives (OAVI), along with organizations such as WILL and PRISM, have launched a campus-wide campaign and petition to prevent him from performing his lecture program, as a part of the spring semester’s Welcome Back Weekend, in disgust of his overt racism, sexism, homophobia, and misogyny. Simply, he’s a rich frat boy who has nonconsensual sex with women, knowingly and continuously breaks the law and has managed to rise in recent fame, from the novelization of his misdemeanors, with the publication and film adaptation of his book, “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
Who has actually read Max’s book? I have. I regard it as a vile and vulgar literary work, most likely full of embellishment by its author, and narrowed down to the most outrageous moments in the life of a party boy – but, in that lies Max’s appeal, allowing him to garner four consecutive years of placement on The New York Times bestsellers list. Max, who had no interest in pursuing a career in law, but had only earned his degree to please his father, managed to turn his life of out-of-control partying into a career in memoir authorship – this is the basis of his lecture.
If chosen to visit the College, Max will not be directly speaking of his partying lifestyle, but of the anomaly that occurred when his online blog had garnered itself a fan base, later to be recognized by corporate power, and asked to be stretched into memoir format for publication
This sort of business isn’t new in the entertainment industry. Scouts have taken to the Internet in search of new potential, not necessarily talent, for likely success in the entertainment selling business. When it comes down to it, Max got lucky.
The argument doesn’t rest here – it lies within Max’s potential position as a Red Dot on the College campus. Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, the program coordinator for the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, and front figure of the pilot Green Dot Campaign on the College campus – if you’re unaware of what the Green Dot Campaign is, I won’t tell you here, but encourage you to ask around about it, opening discussion for yourself, and enhancing the much needed dialogue that the campaign needs and deserves – has recently become a forceful voice among the opposing parties, pushing the Max issue to come to a stop, and urging the Office of Student Affairs to halt the efforts to bring Max on campus, out of principle for who he is.
I have had the pleasure of working with Deitch-Stackhouse for almost a year now, as an office assistant to the Offices of Anti-Violence Initiatives, Alcohol & Drug Education, and Differing Abilities services. I have observed her passion for her position in the College community. I have worked with her in designing brochures for the office, drafted the initial constitution for her Student Anti-Violence Educator program, and crafted bulletin boards for all residence halls on campus to launch word about the Green Dot Campaign. I, myself, have been nominated and invited, as a campus student leader, to participate in the first ever Green Dot training sessions, and have never felt threatened or disappointed by Deitch-Stackhouse and the work I have completed in support of her efforts. Until now.
As an executive board member of CUB, I have now been placed in a compromising situation. Torn between my desire to demolish the issue of censorship at hand and deliver what the student community has asked of my beloved organization, and my belief in Deitch-Stackhouse’s efforts to one day abolish issues of rape, nonconsensual sex, and violence against men and women on our, and any, college campus. However, in recent days of this battle at hand, I have come to an alarming realization – to prevent Tucker the opportunity to come to the College would be deadly to the efforts of those who strongly believe in this abolitionary effort. If we silence Max, we silence ourselves. We bring the conversation to a close, and we gain nothing from it.
If we reexamine the case of Coulter, we’ll remember the anger at the decision to bring her strongly voiced political and moral values in exposure to our campus. But we forget one thing: she didn’t change who we are as an institution. Issues of political agenda, racism, and homophobia, the basis of Coulter’s bestselling platform, are pretty much the same this semester as they were then. Enough rumor about her ridiculous ideology was spread to prevent student converts in her wake, and I say this with a bit of tongue in cheek. I had attended the Coulter lecture myself. While I was reviled by her as a person, I must admit that I admired her passion and her ultimate persistence, which resulted in her fame as a political author.
If we correlate the Coulter experience to that of Max’s, we come to uncover an important truth – we can’t change who Max or Coulter are as people. Some might say, “It’s too late for them” – whether this is true or not is for these individuals to realize for themselves. However, we can still allow them to come, if only to admire what they have managed to achieve, in spite of their controversial, dominating personalities. We can obtain from them the necessary ingredients in their stories that can lead to our own successes, in allowing our personal values and goals to be heard and achieved. After all, both Max and Coulter are bestselling authors, and surely there is something of value to obtain from two individuals who have managed this feat.
Ultimately, I would encourage Deitch-Stackhouse, the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, WILL, PRISM, the College Democrats, the College Republicans and all other anti-Max affiliated parties, to transform this experience to support their causes. Max, as a person, can be used to open dialogue about the issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, and misogyny that may or may not plague our student population.
There’s an old, commonly used saying that claims, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and I couldn’t agree more. Bringing Max could be the best thing that could happen in the anti-violence movement, if we encourage students to attend the lecture with a subconscious awareness to view Max for who he is as a person. He can be used as a primary resource of power, alerting students to the nature of individuals of his “kind” and empowering the proceeding conversation to launch astronomically.
If we give to the student population the entertainment they have requested, and then “ride the wave” to further our own purpose, everyone can win. I won’t claim that they will win, because this factor is unpredictable. Its ultimate effectiveness can only be determined by the efforts willing to be put forth in the days that follow in the “apocalypse.” It will reinforce Max’s purpose as an entertainer (much as we come to view films like “The Hangover” and “Superbad” as entertainment, and not guidelines for living), and in the days that follow, we can begin to change the conversation while the ears of students are still perked to the issues.
I do not agree with Max, with whom he is as a person or with the legal, moral, and social crimes he has committed. As a former, openly gay class president, Max has offended me individually with his disgusting display of homophobia and self-proclaimed masculinity. However, I do feel that his story as an author has something valuable in it, so I think we should bring him here. As a member of the CUB executive board, I feel it is necessary to protect the rights of our student organizations, and desiring student population, to allow approval of his visit. Otherwise, we have compromised the trust and relationship built between our student leaders and campus offices, creating a much bigger problem than is already at hand.
As a faithful employee to Deitch-Stackhouse and the other affiliated offices for whom I work, I think we can use the aftermath of Max’s visit to further our efforts and alert the campus population to the wonderful Green Dot Campaign, creating a dialogue that can ultimately prove more valuable than shutting down the controversy at hand. I’m game to embrace the double edge of the sword. Are you?