Last week this paper printed two articles, six editorials, and four letters on the repercussions of an assault, as well as an ongoing count of days the assailants have remained on Grounds.
(As I understand it, one student did the assaulting while two others watched along with a fourth student who has since graduated.)
In its crusade to have three students expelled, the CD has boldly taken on authorities, campaigning against cowardice, injustice, and dishonesty for the sake of the community that it cares about. In a spirit of respect and gratitude I offer a few ideas on how the paper might do this better. My theme parallels an excellent editorial by Chris DelGrosso (April 26th).
An editorial on the 21st admirably denounced advocacy of violence against the students accused of assault. But I would like to recommend a more active non-violence than the CD has thus far engaged in, even – dare I say it? – an attempt at loving enemies.
In these five issues of the CD there is not a word about nonviolence as a way of life. A distinguished veteran of the civil rights movement is teaching a class on nonviolence in a Charlottesville library, but no one has recommended that violent students attend it.
President Clinton has visited a high school program designed to resolve disputes peacefully. The CD has not promoted any similar program. There has been no suggestion that the accused meet, talk with, or apologize to their victim. The CD has promoted a rally in favor of expelling these students, but not asked them to appear and publicly apologize to the university, not demanded that they perform community service, not suggested that they make financial restitution to their victim or to the bureaucracies whose time they’ve occupied (rather than funneling their loot into the pockets of lawyers). The three objects of the CD’s scorn have been asked to do only one thing: leave. And the CD seems to hold the dubious belief that they could enroll at a comparable university after being expelled from this one.
The rest of us have been asked to hate. There is not a word about avoiding enmity while doing our duty for the good of all concerned. We have not been asked to forgive or even to try to understand. No one has proposed an investigation of what causes assaults like this one, of what could help these students avoid doing it again, and of what might lead them to more violence. We are, instead, asked to be tense with anger, and informed that we already are so. In an editorial on Monday with the less-than-peaceful title “Kick them out,” we are told that “Sandy Kory should have been vindicated.” This doesn’t mean that his story should have been proved true. The CD takes his story as beyond dispute. (And perhaps it is, although a plea in a criminal court hardly settles the question.) The meaning of “vindicated” is made clear by what follows:
“The student body should have been able to breathe a collective sigh of relief while waving an eager goodbye to ….”
This is not the high-principled enforcement of a policy intended to prevent future violence. This is vengeance portrayed as propriety. The editorial goes on to tell us that postponements are “prolonging Kory’s agony, and our own.” It’s not clear whether this “our” is meant to encompass the “student body,” and it’s far from clear whether Kory has reported to the CD that he is in agony. The editorial immediately proceeds to express a lack of familiarity with Kory’s thinking and to state that the student body isn’t actually holding it’s angry breath:
“It is surprising that Kory has stayed at the University this long, after all he has endured.
“The University community should be outraged. There has not been nearly enough public uproar ….”
One gets the impression that the CD intends to tell both the readers and Kory how to feel, without openly acknowledging and addressing other possible ways of feeling. Kory’s own words, quoted in a Monday article, expressed more calm than seething rage: “I’m just resigned to the fact that these guys are going to go to school here.”
After having told us on Monday that the community should be (but wasn’t) outraged, the CD told us on Wednesday that , “…the community’s anger is at a boiling point ….” This unavoidably looked more like a wish than a fact. The assertion was reversed on Thursday by an editorial stating:
“The situation has been front-page news for some time now, but students barely have taken notice.”
Also on Wednesday the CD printed a letter under the title “Serve justice” which called the three accused students “goons” and “bums,” and treated them as a species apart by refusing to call them students and associating them with an alleged group of enemies of us all:
“… three ‘students’ who are no better than the street thugs we deal with every day in the courts throughout this nation.”
Thursday’s editorial complained that Kory’s assailants were permitted “to roam Grounds unscathed and unchecked.”
Do these young men actually “roam,” like wild carnivores, or do they walk to classes and other activities like homo Sapiens? And what sort of scathing does the CD desire?
A Friday editorial informed us of what to many recent CD readers might be a surprising fact: Kory’s main attacker has served jail time for his offense. This fact calls into question the running count of days that these students have spent on Grounds as well as the idea that nobody has been scathed or checked. The editorial uses this bit of information not to argue that the student has suffered enough, but to label him a criminal, something irredeemable.
Another editorial tells us that the continued presence of these students on Grounds is an insult to Kory and to all University students past and present, because we good people have refrained from assaulting others. I find THIS insulting, because I have no desire to assault others and so do not suffer from restraining such an urge. These assailants have damaged my belief in the safety of the Grounds. They have hurt Kory. And they themselves are hurting. It’s not a pretty scene. But no one has unfairly been allowed to act in an evil manner. Most of us do not wish we could have behaved like the assailants.
Most of us also do not work to promote goodness so much as react to evil when it jumps in our face. We can do better.