A response to the administrators' reaction to the Dec. 5 editorial
Since President Haas has not yet publicly apologized or expressed support for the administrators who meted out threats and intimidation against the editor of the Lanthorn, I decided I might as well join the discussion.
The GVSU administration response to the editorial from December 5, 2013, “No More Billboards” compares unfavorably to some of the most notorious mis-managers in popular culture—the bureaucrats of the movie Office Space.
In the movie, the main character—Peter Gibbons—works for a tech company. Every day for Peter is regimented and stultifying routine, an endless exercise in pointless procedures and superficial interaction. Surrounded mostly by bland and clueless co-workers, Peter sees work less as productive enterprise and more as a struggle to salvage his humanity.
One day, he fails to file a routine report. In response, six different bosses admonish him for the oversight. At least regarding freedom of speech, Grand Valley is somewhat more efficient. Only three administrators felt the need to admonish the editor of the Lanthorn, Lizzy Balboa.
Peter’s bosses are merely incompetent. The three GVSU administrators, whoever they are, seem more malevolent. However misguided, Peter’s bosses encourage him to be more communicative. In contrast, GVSU administrators took it upon themselves to tell Lizzy Balboa to shut up.
They called her on her personal phone. They attacked her as an individual. They attacked her as an American exercising her Constitutional rights. The spoken and unspoken warnings were clear. Don’t criticize the people with the money. Don’t criticize university policy of selling public space for private endorsements. Don’t think that you are in any way independent of our surveillance and control. No more scholarship money for you, they threaten.
Peter’s supreme boss, Bill Lumbergh—super-annoying, condescending, witless and humorless—seems mild by comparison. At least Peter knows his nemesis. Our bosses dwell in a shadow world of anonymous offices, nameless and faceless servants of money and power. In this case, they became manifest as a disembodied voice on a phone, as a personal threat issued to a student for behaving like an American in an allegedly free and open democratic society.
Freedom of speech means that we support the right of people to say things we disagree with. Stalin supported the right of people to say things he agreed with. So did Mao, Saddam Hussein, Mbutu Sese Seko and many other such ‘leaders.’
Their ilk don’t like disagreement and criticism, that much is clear. I would merely point out a larger emerging truth at GVSU—surrender your Constitutional rights at the big copper-clad archway. Rights and freedom cost money around here.
Department of Sociology