By now you’re probably aware of the ongoing racial turmoil at the University of Missouri, where both the school’s president and chancellor were forced to resign in the face of growing protests. Today, in a desperate effort to placate the protesters, the MU Police Department sent an email to all students urging them to report “hateful and/or hurtful speech or actions,” even if no law is being broken.
The entire email can be viewed below (via Reason.com):
To continue to ensure that the University of Missouri campus remains safe, the MU Police Department (MUPD) is asking individuals who witness incidents of hateful and/or hurtful speech or actions to:
Call the police immediately at 573-[###-####]. (If you are in an emergency situation, dial 911.) Give the communications operator a summary of the incident, including location. Provide a detailed description of the individual(s) involved. Provide a license plate and vehicle descriptions (if appropriate). If possible and if it can be done safely, take a photo of the individual(s) with your cell phone.
Delays, including posting information to social media, can often reduce the chances of identifying the responsible parties. While cases of hateful and hurtful speech are not crimes, if the individual(s) identified are students, MU’s Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action.
The fact that the email has to warn students to call the cops before posting their “hurtful” experience to social media speaks volumes. If you experience something, and your first reaction is to post it to Tumblr or Twitter, it probably doesn’t warrant a phone call to the police.
And given the recent video footage we’ve seen of protesters hassling journalists on public property, there’s no reason to assume students are capable of discerning what legitimately warrants police action. Then again, given the fact that a University of Missouri professor was also caught on video seeking “muscle” to remove another journalist from a public space, maybe the students are the least of our worries.
Granted, if someone is being legitimately harassed, it’s understandable why the police should be involved. But urging the entire campus to report “hurtful” incidents is both vague and absurd, not to mention ripe for abuse. At least a few minority students must find the cultural appropriation of Silento’s Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) to be hurtful. Should they call the police every time they see a white girl dancing to it?
Actually, now that I think about it, that’s exactly what they should do. Maybe this new system is a good idea after all.