And things get ugly when scholars decide to argue over the Internet

Staff Editorial

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Halloween, followed by an election week, must have freed the witches.

Last week, recipients of the San Diego Community College District’s distribution lists witnessed an outrageous exchange of e-mails (unfortunately not for the first time). The content and language used should have been kept between four walls. Instead, they were sent to every single e-mail in the DLs of one of the largest employers in the county. We are talking about over 5,000 full and part-time employees working for the district, according to its Web site.

With the Internet, where no information can be totally safe or confidential, people should not expect information to be private, especially if the recipients exceed three digits. People on Community College District DLs, specifically, should use adequate language that matched their academic environment.

This episode started when a student, that has been elected to the position of Associate Students President, Student Trustee and Community College CT Board Member (and will be referred as the student in this article), sent e-mails requesting scholars to participate in an “Evening with Experts” event. The debate was over politics and the calling was: “We will have a panel of four on each side (conservative and progressive). We will pick one issue to start with and throw other issues in once the horses have been beaten to death.”

As the student realized there would not be enough people to join the panel, he sent the following words to the DLs: “Due to the fact I cannot find enough conservatives to fill the panel I am going to postpone this event.I find it disturbing that I can find many professors.(that) stand up for liberal ideas.(but only) two the entire district. I pose this question. Do we really promote diversity?”

Convenient enough, recipients are caught by the student’s online debate proposal and start writing back. One response was: “Rather than engaging in meaningless labeling, why don’t you look specifically at what each professor brings to the table. I might humbly suggest that you.enroll in a critical thinking class,” while another was: “How would you promote ‘ideological’ diversity? You’re right about San Diego County. The East and North County are not liberal. The head of the KKK lives in Fallbrook.”

The student became inflamed with the responses, and replied: “Now I am being compared to the KKK! I am shocked at the lack of intelligence and respect that is being shown by some of the responses I am getting!”

As a consequence, he is bombarded by responses full of rage, “Please keep your comments respectful.we teach that comments like this are not welcome,” or, more absurdly: “Most people who work for the district are intelligent. That is why you cannot find many conservatives to be on the panel.”

People should keep their personal comments to themselves. First of all, this is an academic environment and people, especially scholars, should be unbiased. Secondly, inferring that conservatives are not intelligent is not the best argument to support political convictions.

As the discussion goes on, some take the side of the student, “Sorry, you guys, but I think (the student) could probably teach.a thing or two about critical thinking.(and) about responding to a challenge intelligently instead of using name-calling and insults.”

Funny–the student that should, a minute ago, take a critical thinking class, is now able to lecture about it.

One response tried to break the heat, “This discussion is an inappropriate use of District DLs,” while another desperately pleaded, “Please stop the ‘reply all’ wave.”

But the discussion did not stop, instead it took another direction with the reply: “How is planning an inappropriate use of district DLs? In fact, I think this is about as appropriate as it gets!” At that time, the discussion was already going in circles.

By now, nobody knew what the issue of the first e-mail was. If they had lost it but could not leave the battle of egos, they should at least have used their time discussing more important issues like, for example, about lecturing students on Prop N before the election.

The bottom line is–should anybody do anything about this situation that only distracts and clogs up e-mails? Should this episode be a call for the administration to require more adequate posture? Maybe every e-mail should go through the deans’ offices before being posted.

As for the student, in one of his earliest e-mails he mentioned, “Sorry, this is the first event of this kind I have organized.”

I bet it was. But sorry pal, this was a real life situation. This should not have to be mentioned again, but we are in an academic environment and you should have known better by now. Please learn how to be more articulate to handle a situation before horses have actually been beaten to death.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email