Right before break, The Dooley Show made an extremely insensitive joke about the “lynching” of Affirmative Action Students at Emory at the end of an episode. The response has been swift and fierce. A Petition to suspend the Dooley show from ETV is up over 500 signatures, and the Facebook page calling for the shows ouster has garnered dozens of posts in support of taking down the Dooley Show. Yet the responders, while wholly justified in their anger, is on the verge of taking their war one battle too far, by asking SGA or the administration to step in and punish the Dooley Show, ETV, or both, depending on who is doing the demanding. This is a mistake, which while made with the best of intentions, will have a negative effect on free expression, and the free exchange of ideas in this community long term.
Now before I get started laying out my case against Student Government, Administration, or Faculty intervention, let me start by saying that I do not condone the comments made by the Dooley Show Host. Furthermore, I believe that ETV should do the right thing and suspend the show for the rest of the school year along with their apology from a few days ago. Also as a note: This column is written with the assumption that the comment was a joke and not a direct threat to the minority students on campus (Since the show is comedy show, it seems pretty clear it was an awful joke and not a true threat). Despite all this, it still is incumbent on those with power to change the final outcome of this situation to take the long-term consequences of any reaction into consideration before leveling final judgment on The Dooley Show or ETV.
Emory is a school that like many other institutions of higher learning is based on the idea that everyone has the right to express him or herself freely. While not a Public Institution, and thus not subject to the First Amendment, Emory still claims to uphold the right of individuals to speak their mind regardless of their viewpoint. In fact, Emory’s own Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment Policy States:
"Emory University abides by the values of academic freedom and is built on the assumption that contention among different views is positive and necessary for the expansion of knowledge, both for the University itself and as a training ground for society at large. Emory is committed to the widest possible scope for the free circulation of ideas."
What this means in the context of this discussion, is that no matter how offensive or derogatory the remark was toward the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, they did have the right to say it under the auspices of university policy. For those who found the mark to be in poor taste or worse (namely: everyone), it is our job as a student body to challenge it strongly, stifle its spread through reason and logic, but not suppress it through the use of either Student Government or the University at large.
But why is it so important to keep the University out of this issue? There are two ways in which the University could interfere, and one in which SGA could become involved. Both are extremely problematic.
In the first instance, the University could directly punish the members of the Dooley Show or less likely, ETV, using community service, a reprimand, or other punishment tool. I am opposed to this on the grounds stated above, that as an institution dedicated to preserving the right of people to express themselves freely, they cannot interfere without expressly denouncing their own stated institutional goal and worse, making speech only so free as it does not offend someone else.
The second, and most called for response, is the denying funding to ETV if they continue to run the Dooley Show. The chief argument being made for this point is that no ones tuition money should have to fund a derogatory comment. While well intentioned, this argument fails in the broader scope of the University.
The reason is that, as an institution that is dedicated to Free Expression, it creates challenges if the precedent for banning something from campus is “a lot of people find it offensive”. For example, if a group brought William Ayers to campus to speak, having previously orchestrated acts of terrorism but now serving as a retired Professor, could we not refuse all money to the group that brought him because we do not want tuition money put toward ends that offend a lot of students? Furthermore, could a campus group be denied all funding for bringing Ann Coulter to campus, because of the myriad of inflammatory things she has said over the past ten years, even though she is a best selling author? This gets unbelievably sticky quickly, and leads us to a dangerous place as an institution. And that is all without mentioning the travails if a hard line pro-Palestinian, or pro-Israeli speaker or group did something that severely angered the other sizeable population on campus. By using the Administration or Student Government to attack the Dooley Show, this effort will be using a blunt instrument to cut into a serious, but limited problem.
If we accept that either SGA or the Administration can withhold money to an organization based purely on what the clubs message is, then we will in effect make every club’s message completely subservient to the whims of SGA or the Administration at large. This is not acceptable if we care at all about the open exchange of ideas here at Emory.
Now many supporters of this movement may disagree that free expression on campus is as important as leveling justice on The Dooley Show. But I ask you to look around and see that free expression is affording you a great victory right now. There is a minority civil rights conversation happening that could not have happened without this comment. The Dooley show has been completely discredited by everyone who has seen the video clip. At a minimum the show will probably be suspended, and no one will ever take it seriously again. So I am merely asking that supporters not make their victory aver intolerance one that also serves to stifle what allowed your victory in the first place; The free expression of ideas.