This Week in National Affairs: It’s Back to School, and It’s Ugly
The school year has just begun, but already there’s #controversy. Schools, especially universities, are a crucible for the debates playing out over the country as a whole. And since America’s national conversation has been a bit of a garbage fire lately, it’s not surprising that things got heated on campus this week.
Nearly all of America’s hot button issues—from LGBTQ rights to the Second Amendment—got their moment, their backlash, their wave of hashtags, and their second wave of those same hashtags being ironically misused by the other side. And then there’s the added layer of collegiate absurdity. So here are the issues the country has teed up, ready to mold young minds.
No Transgender Bathrooms in Texas Schools
Late Sunday, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s transgender bathroom directive, just in time for the state’s first day of school on Monday. The President has said that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom and locker room of their choosing, rather than the one that matches the gender they were assigned at birth. The measure’s unanimously supported by LGBTQ advocates, who feel it’s not only a show of compassion, but also a good move for student safety.
So, what’s US District Judge Reed O’Connor argument for blocking it? Federal overreach, and…wait for it…Title IX, the law enacted to stop gender discrimination in schools and activities. His legal interpretation of the law is that since Title IX stipulates “facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex,” that means that the sexes are binary and MUST be separate.
For the most part, the people of the Internet are mad about this.
Heartbroken by Texas judge’s decision to halt the rights of trans youth from using their indentity’s bathroom
Ignorance like this is fatal.
— Cole Ledford (@ColeLedford11) August 22, 2016
— Kris Young (@AutTransKing) August 22, 2016
Others have pointed out that this issue should perhaps not be Texas’ first educational priority.
Maybe a Judge in Texas should enforce reading laws before delving into bathroom legislation. pic.twitter.com/uAd2haa5jY
— PoliticalGroove (@PoliticalGroove) August 22, 2016
Though this court’s decision is unlikely to hold, it was only one of a number of setbacks for transgender rights surfacing in the federal courts this month. And with the presidential debates coming up, it’s surely to be back in the news soon. The issue’s far from resolved.
As part of their resident advisor training program, the State University of new York at Binghamton had a race relations seminar called #StopWhitePeople2K16. The goal of the training program, as Binghamton University has said, was to “facilitate a discussion among the RAs that would improve their ability to handle conflicts among residents around issues of diversity.” The name of the seminar (from which the alt-right ire has stemmed) isn’t actually a Binghamton invention. Note the dates on these tweets.
— Sierra Becze (@siecze) August 16, 2016
— Sushi Mane (@BinhDoingIt) August 17, 2016
But as soon as the seminar was announced, #StopWhitePeople started trending pretty much immediately, mostly with comments like this one:
Seriously, how to “stopwhitepeople” not racist to teach to college RAs? https://t.co/PvE9t50qKx
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) August 25, 2016
Explaining systemic racism isn’t the goal of this article. This controversy is for the most part just the #BlackLivesMatter/#AllLivesMatter argument with different window dressing.
Its funny how many white folks look at #StopWhitePeople and try to claim reverse racism yet can’t understand actual racism.
— Baetazoid (@HereIsMySpout) August 26, 2016
The argument against Binghamton U’s #stopwhitepeople RA course “what if it was stop black people!”…UH, WE DO, AND HAVE, FOR CENTURIES.
— Julie Strano (@NotJulieStrano) August 25, 2016
What these tweets missed was that the hashtag that the seminar was highlighting was used mostly ironically to call out cultural appropriation. Was it a great name for a seminar? Up for debate. But racist, that it ain’t.
University of Chicago Wants None of Your Safe Spaces or Trigger Warnings
As part of a class of 2020 welcome letter, the University of Chicago Dean of Students Jay Ellison wrote that “we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” Some people were all in favor of this stance, saying it’s high time America stopped “coddling” its youth.
— Jessica Z Munroe (@JZFit) August 25, 2016
Others saw this as flat-out retrograde.
I find it hilarious there are so many privileged white males giving “kudos” to the University of Chicago for this regressive policy.
— Magic & Real (@DarlingEbony) August 25, 2016
The intellectual dishonesty around many arguments against “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” is staggering
— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) August 25, 2016
It makes no sense to lump disinviting speakers (bad) with trigger warnings (unobjectionable) and safe spaces (good). https://t.co/CKjo5rhMOH
— Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) August 26, 2016
Trigger warnings aren’t a “tumblr” thing. It’s a tool used to prevent people from having to be traumatized ALL OVER AGAIN.
— sully (@NoMayoTears) August 25, 2016
In many ways this is just the same argument everyone (including us) has been having on the Internet. There’s got to be a line between restricting speech and permitting harassment, but nobody seems to have found it.
Interesting: crying students are seen by “no trigger warnings” crowd as a threat to academic freedom but *armed students* apparently are not
— dj ripley (@laripley) August 26, 2016
Cocks Not Glocks
As of last year, it is completely legal for licensed gun owners over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus at public universities in Texas, including in the dorms and classrooms. This is a true fact. One not everyone is thrilled about. So on the first day of school at UT Austin (where else?), students protested. Their rallying cry? “Cocks Not Glocks.” Their weapon of choice? Dildos. Why? because Cocks Not Glocks is a hilarious slogan that is the perfect big, veiny middle finger to the school’s harsh “obscenity” restrictions, which make dildos and other supposedly inappropriate items campus contraband. So guns? Yes, but dildos, no.
Since it’s now legal to carry concealed weapons on Texas campuses, let’s do something about it. Save the day. AUG.24th #CocksNotGlocks 🍆
— Michelle Gonzalez (@mitchyalx) August 16, 2016
“If you are packing heat, we are packing meat!” 👏 👏 👏https://t.co/8FjXbd654y?
— HuffPostWomen (@HuffPostWomen) August 26, 2016
There was some pushback against this protest, but #ClocksNotGlocks didn’t pass the penetration point to arouse the passions of the NRA side that much. Mostly, the tweets were of this variety.
— Mark WouldRatherWork (@MAIngram506) August 16, 2016
But we’d like to leave you on a cheery note, and these tweets (and visuals) really do speak for themselves.
— Matt Valentine (@germanglasseye) August 23, 2016
— Sarah Clements (@sfclem) August 24, 2016