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If I Reference Hiroshima in an E-Mail to a Student, It’s Because I Want to Nuke Their House

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riotscene

Above: A clearly relevant threat to 21st century higher education administrators.

The administration war on faculty has reached a new low at Oakton Community College in Illinois.

Oakton Community College (OCC) is insisting that a one-sentence “May Day” email referencing the Haymarket Riot sent by a faculty member to several colleagues constituted a “true threat” to the college president.

Lawyers for the Chicago-area college argue that the email, which noted that May Day (May 1) is a traditional time for workers to remember the riot, threatened violence. Last month, OCC demanded that the now former faculty member “cease and desist” from similar communications in the future or face potential legal action.

May Day is celebrated every year on May 1 by the international labor movement to commemorate the fight for workers’ rights. The celebration is historically associated with the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago.

“Merely noting to one’s colleagues that May Day is a time when workers ‘remember’ the Haymarket Riot does not constitute a ‘true threat,’” said Ari Cohn, a Senior Program Officer and lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “The United States Department of the Interior has designated the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument a National Historic Landmark. If remembering the Haymarket Riot is a ‘true threat,’ the monument itself would be illegal.”

On May 1, Chester Kulis sent an email to OCC colleagues that read, “Have a happy MAY DAY when workers across the world celebrate their struggle for union rights and remember the Haymarket riot in Chicago.” The email, titled “May Day – The Antidote to the Peg Lee Gala,” was written in response to a reception hosted by OCC in celebration of the retirement of college president Margaret B. Lee.

This makes right-wing claims that I was calling for Wayne LaPierre’s assassination seem relatively cogent. How a mention of a labor action over a century ago is an actual call for violence against a person today is completely unknowable because it’s not. If he had said, “I would like to bomb the administration building like the anarchists threw that bomb at the police in 1886 and kill them all” I guess you’d have a case. This is just stupidity. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s part of the larger academic crackdown on left-leaning professors protesting the corporate university. University presidents and boards of trustees see themselves as corporate heads and want the ability to dispose of any employee for any reason, including talking back to power.

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  • joe from Lowell

    Man.

    I’d better stop wishing people Happy Easter.

    • Warren Terra

      Easter’s about resurrection (and chocolate bunnies), maybe you’ll be OK.

      Now, Passover …

      • yet_another_lawyer

        It always feels surreal wishing people a happy passover. “Many children were murdered. But not yours. It’s your day, enjoy it!”

        • Gregor Sansa

          Por inocente! Ja, ja, ja.

          (In Latin America, people commemorate Herod’s supposed slaughter of babies with elaborate lies, a la april fool’s day. Instead of “april fool”, the joke is announced with the words “por inocente”, that is, “because you’re so innocent”. And “ja” is how you spell “ha” in Spanish.)

      • Malaclypse

        Not to mention Hanukkah.

        • wjts

          And International Stabbing Day.

      • Lurker

        Yeah. It would be the wish “Have a great Good Friday!” that might be interpreted as a threat.

        • politicalfootball

          Yeah, and what is so good about Good Friday anyway? The way I see it, you’re saying you’re glad that the founder of my religion was tortured to death.

          • cpinva

            well no, crucifixion is a manner of execution, not torture, the torture came first, then the execution. so no, he wasn’t tortured to death. torture conventionally isn’t supposed to result in death (though it often times does), execution is.

          • Origami Isopod

            “Holy” mistranslated as “good.”

          • Linnaeus

            One could charitably interpret it as good because of Christ’s necessary sacrifice for the salvation of humankind.

          • apogean

            I’m a long time listener of The Bugle podcast, a comedy news podcast with John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman (a Jew). One of my favorite jokes ever:

            John: “Happy Easter, Andy – the day your people finally brought a man to justice.”
            Andy: “The system works, John. The system works.”

            Later they would refer to “noted Middle Eastern wizard and raconteur Jesus Christ.”

            • Warren Terra

              Zaltzman is an extremely lapsed Jew, and Oliver is a comedian living in New York, so there are a lot of jokes about the wrong one being Jewish.

        • Randy

          I had a Jewish client wish me a “Happy Good Friday” once. I was taken aback, but chose to regard it as a friendly gesture.

          • Hogan

            The traditional Good Friday greeting, of course, is “Give us Barabbas!”

            • Warren Terra

              Or: Welease Wodewick!

          • Linnaeus

            It’s funny you mention that. I read a discussion once in which a non-Jew was asking how one would properly acknowledge Yom Kippur to an observant Jew and was wondering if “happy Yom Kippur” would be the right phrase. One of the discussants, a Jewish man, replied, “Er, probably not. It’s like saying ‘happy Good Friday’ to a Christian”.

            • Hogan

              I think it was Lenny Bruce who said that Gentiles celebrate holidays; Jews observe holidays.

            • GoDeep

              I’ve said Happy Yom Kippur multiple times to Jews. So far everyone has responded good naturedly. I’ve also said Happy Ramadan to people. If there’s a reason to be happy, I’m happy to be happy!

      • Jackov

        Perhaps his polite meaningless words are
        Happy Easter 1916.”

    • What’s good about Good Friday is that I get to nail my college president to a cross.

      • rea

        Oh, Erik! Another metaphor?

        • cpinva

          no, I think this time he means it for real. out of curiosity, what size nails do you use?

        • I would like to officially that I have not literally called for the crucifixion of every college president in this nation.

          • Origami Isopod

            You’re slacking.

          • Unemployed_Northeastern

            Is that you, Scott Walker?

          • Barry_D

            I see, ‘not *every*’. Good work there.

      • Origami Isopod

        What letters do you carve into the cross over his head?

        • ASSESSMENT

          • joe from Lowell

            A part of me will never stop laughing at this comment.

          • Thom

            excellent!

        • wjts

          DPRD: David Providentiae Rex Decanorum.

      • Lee Rudolph

        The president of URI is a Filipino (Folk) Catholic?

        These customs are strongly discouraged by the Catholic Church in the Philippines, which considers them to be fanatical, superstitious expressions of Folk Catholicism and self-harm contrary to its teachings on the body. The Department of Health meanwhile often insists that participants in the rites should have tetanus shots and that the nails used should be sterilized.

        I bet Jesus didn’t get his nails sterilized!

  • Steve LaBonne

    July 14 could be tricky too.

  • rea

    It’s taking the reference to Haymarket far too seriously to try to metaphorically hang an innocent man in response.

    • DrDick

      Any challenge to university administration authority is just like a death threat!

  • Phil Perspective

    Actually, it’s more than that. It’s part of the larger academic crackdown on left-leaning professors protesting the corporate university. University presidents and boards of trustees see themselves as corporate heads and want the ability to dispose of any employee for any reason, including talking back to power.

    Why do you hate Jonathan Chait?!?!?!?!?

    • ColBatGuano

      Yeah, only liberal SJW’s infringe on faculty’s right to speak out. This doesn’t fit in that category so it must be something else. Boners told me.

    • Ahuitzotl

      How much time have you got?

  • rdennist

    I think it’s a projection issue myself.

  • howard

    i just took a quick look: the president has been there 30 years and is retiring at the end of the month, and this is how she wants to go out? there must be a further back story here.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    You know who else celebrated May Day….

    • joe from Lowell

      Busty milk maids.

      Look, just let me have my dream.

      • rea

        One misty, moisty morning when cloudy was the weather . . .

        • Hogan

          “There’s a song. “Twas on a Monday morning, all in the month of May—”

          “Then it is about sex. It’s a folk song, it starts with “twas,” it takes place in May, QED, it’s about sex. Is a milkmaid involved? I bet she is.”

          “There could be.”

          “Going for to market? For to sell her wares?”

          “Very likely.”

          “O-kay. That gives us the cheese. And she meets, let’s see, a soldier, a sailor, a jolly ploughboy, or just possibly a man clothéd all in leather, I expect? No, since it’s about us, it’s a soldier, right? And since it’s one of the Ins-and-Outs . . . oh dear, I feel a humorous double-entendre coming on. Just one question: what item of her clothing fell down or came untied?”

          “Her garter. You’ve heard it before, Perks!”

          “No, but I just know how folk songs go. We had folk singers in the lower bar for six months back hom—where I worked. In the end we had to get a man in with a ferret.”

          • I just got done reading that book a few days ago. God, I miss Pratchett so much already…

            • MPAVictoria

              I have been doing a reread of all his books since he passed away. And do you know what? They all hold up. every single one so far has had a memorable line or plot point that has stuck with me. A few have made me tear up and most have made me chuckle aloud.

              /We have lost one of the greats…

              • I haven’t had time to do a re-read of his stuff — and besides, I’m still reading some of his books I’d neglected. I’ve barely touched the Tiffany Aching books, and they do seem to be astonishingly fun.

                I was reading a collection of his quotations from the Discworld books after he died, and it was astonishing how many really glorious lines and passages he put together…

                • MPAVictoria

                  “I was reading a collection of his quotations from the Discworld books after he died, and it was astonishing how many really glorious lines and passages he put together…”

                  I did the same and I agree completely.

              • B. Peasant

                I personally thought his quality declined over the last few years. 40 books in the same setting is tough, but I also had a suspicion the Alzheimer’s was affecting him worse than they were letting us know. The last truly great “adult” DW book IMHO was probably Night Watch.

        • Joseph Slater

          Oooh, Steeleye Span reference! +100!

    • PSP

      A certain old Maine carpenter, who told me:

      Hurray Hurray
      It’s the first of May
      Outdoor diddling
      Starts today

  • Sly

    Well, there goes all our Independence Day Violent Sedition Day celebrations.

  • Sebastian_h

    “Actually, it’s more than that. It’s part of the larger academic crackdown on left-leaning professors protesting the corporate university. University presidents and boards of trustees see themselves as corporate heads and want the ability to dispose of any employee for any reason, including talking back to power.”

    You take a perfectly useful story and then start projecting or something. If this is about a larger issue, it is how colleges and the culture at large take trivial concerns and minor potential harms and blow them up into weaponized craziness. See for example the Kipnis case non awful crookedtimber discussion.

    And yes, I did say “blow them up”.

    See also Swat Team sent in guns blazing over the possibility that the electricity had been shut off.

    • If you want to say an accurate description of how college administrations see their employee relations is projecting, well I guess words don’t have to have meaning any more.

      • Sebastian_h

        It isn’t a crackdown on left leaning professors. That is the projection part.

    • Origami Isopod

      non awful crookedtimber discussion.

      The longer a Bent Woodies thread goes, the more awful the discussion, no exceptions. That thread is 376 comments long.

  • Joseph Slater

    “. . . I was calling for Wayne LaPierre’s assassination,” Loomis posted, “. . . an actual call for violence against a person today.”

  • postmodulator

    Just from a tactical perspective, it’s funny that the same team that wants to eliminate tenure tries so often to demonstrate that tenure remains necessary.

    • Buckeye623

      Rule 1: Companies always have the Workers’ Best Interests in mind.

      Rule 2: When they don’t, see Rule 1.

  • Linnaeus

    None dare call it political correctness.

  • cpinva

    I’m hoping the attorney who sent that letter isn’t stupid enough to actually go through with legal action, should the former employee tell him to go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut, and continue referencing historical events in his emails. seems to me that should be a good way to put his license (if not his credibility) at risk, along with finding himself and the school at risk of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against them.

    I hope, but stupider things have happened, done by stupid people.

  • Linnaeus

    By the way, in case anyone missed it, here’s a good response in Vox to the other Vox article about a professor “terrified” by his liberal students.

    • Prof. Poirot

      Thanks! I had indeed missed it.

      That’s an excellent takedown of the original article. You just made my morning.

    • cpinva

      as I started reading the first article, I was dubious about the author’s assertions, then I got to the part where he referenced Freddie DeBoner, and I knew it was utter hogwash, before I looked at the rebuttal.

  • Warren Terra

    In a nation that memorializes its civil war dead with sales events at furniture stores, this overly literal callback to the origins of May Day seems a bit much.

  • Rudolph Schnaubelt

    Hey!! The C.P.D. and the Pinkerton’s brought that bomb to the Haymarket. Doesn’t anyone acknowledge that anymore?

    I’d love to go back to Chicago in the springtime.

  • GoDeep

    I’m happy and pleasantly surprised to see a link to FIRE. Happy indeed.

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