It's a Mad, Mad World

Self-censorship and political correctness at Robert Morris University


The word mad is politically incorrect these days, having been displaced by terminology that celebrates the insights of people with "different mental abilities." But it really is the only word that will do to describe a recent act of censorship in Chicago.

In late February, a dance troupe from Robert Morris University (RMU) took part in a national competition in Minnesota organized by the United Performing Association. The student dancers frizzed their hair, smeared black make-up around their eyes, donned straitjackets, and executed a dance routine inspired, in a nutshell, by life in a lunatic asylum. To the strains of "Fast As You Can" by Fiona Apple, they wriggled, writhed, shook their thang, and finally ripped off their straitjackets to reveal the word "HELP" scrawled on their t-shirts.

They placed eighth. So it can't have been the most memorable routine in the world. They packed away their mental-patient gear, de-frizzed their hair, and returned to normal university life. End of story.

Well, not quite. A few weeks later, Chrisa Hickey, a blogger who writes about mental-health issues, saw a photograph of the dancers on an Internet site and she didn't like it. Not one bit. As the mother of a teen with a schizoaffective disorder she felt this image of young women pretending to be mad was offensive. So she complained to RMU. And this single complaint—from a woman who had not witnessed the dance or even known that it had taken place prior to stumbling across a photograph of it online—set in motion a chain of events that would transform the Robert Morris students' lives forever.

After everyone from the Chicago Tribune to the Daily Mail in Britain picked up this story, the dancers were made to apologize for "any offence we may have caused." Then the university itself issued an apologetic statement in which it said the costumes were indeed "inappropriate" (even though no one seems to have thought so when the dance was being performed) and assured Hickey that "they would not be worn again." The dance routine would effectively be erased from history.

As if that wasn't apologetic enough, as if desperate to prove that it was truly, abjectly sorry for allowing some of its students to dance as they saw fit, RMU went so far as to rewrite some of its fundamental rules. From now on, the university declared, dance troupes will have far less leeway to choose their own costumes—instead all outfits will have to be approved by the school itself and submitted to the same committee that okays the uniforms of sports teams.

The frizzy-haired dancers explained that they were tired of routines that aimed only to "look pretty and act sunny" and had wanted to do something more challenging, in keeping with the fact that dance is "a form of art and a great outlet of expression." Now, with an Orwellian-style costume committee that will no doubt be more interested in preserving RMU's reputation in the eyes of super-sensitive bloggers than in guaranteeing students' right to free expression, what student will ever aim to go beyond "sunny and pretty" and do something a little edgier?

Finally, promised RMU in the wake of Straitjacketgate, the school will do more awareness-raising amongst students in order to "increase sensitivity toward people with [mental] disorders." So not only will the school police dancing students' glitter, tassels, and leotards, it will also police the student body's thinking about mental illness.

In short, in response to a single, isolated act of vicarious offence-taking, where a woman who had not witnessed the dance routine decided on behalf of mentally ill people everywhere that a photograph of the dance routine was offensive, a university has banned said routine, censored the dancers, apologized, changed its rules on dance costumes, and stepped up its efforts to cleanse its students' minds of allegedly insensitive, inappropriate thoughts about mentally ill people. I told you that the only word that could accurately describe these bizarre events is "mad."

Why did a university so quickly and willingly genuflect to the complaints of one blogger? And why have media outlets across Chicago and elsewhere treated this weird episode as if it were perfectly normal? Chrisa Hickey, the blogger in question, gets all defensive when I ask her what she thinks about the impact of her complaint. "I surmise that you intend to write an article about how I am a soul-crushing busy-body," she says (well, if the hat fits). But, she continues, "I never requested that the school censor or in any other way stop the team from dancing in whatever costumes they see fit."

This is somewhat disingenuous; Hickey has not complained about RMU's overreaction, which suggests she's quite happy with it. But nonetheless Hickey does have a point: she didn't explicitly demand censorship of the dancers and possible censorship of future routines. Instead, those things were offered up to her as a kind of sacrifice by RMU, with school officials desperately hoping they might appease the gods of sensitivity and media fury.

What Straitjacketgate really shows is the power of sensitivity today, its extraordinary influence over public life and freedom of expression. But this is a two-way process. It is not enough simply for someone to feel offended; there also must be spineless institutions willing to bow and scrape and promise never to do it again.

Indeed, the true power of the politics of offense-taking today, as Stefan Collini discusses in his new book That's Offensive! Criticism, Identity, Respect, is contained in the cowardice of public institutions, from universities that ban dance routines to galleries that hide away awkward art to political groups that self-censor their speech. It is modern-day institutional cowardice, the deeply-held elite conviction that words and images are potentially hurtful, the notion that causing offense is the worst thing any respectable institution could ever do. This is what empowers "soul-crushing busy-bodies" like Hickey, it's what allows individuals or tiny groups of people to wield enormous influence over what the rest of us can see or read or tap our feet to.

The top-down sanctification of self-esteem effectively grants people a license to be offended. It tells them: You are sensitive, you are weak, so don't hesitate to moan about and potentially crush any image or words you find hurtful.

In this sense, RMU has set a dangerous precedent. In caving in to one letter from one woman, it has waved a red rag to those sections of society whose offense-antennae are permanently switched on, effectively inciting them to try the same thing with other universities. You might just be one person, but you too can bring a university to its knees!

Does RMU have any regrets about what it has done? Is it worried that it has sacrificed students' free expression at the altar of blogger intolerance? Is it really up to a school to tell its dancing students what they can and cannot wear or how they can and cannot dance? Suddenly, after making all those promises and statements in relation to Straitjacketgate, RMU seems inexplicably shy. "No comment," it tells me.

Brendan O'Neill is editor of spiked in London.

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  1. “This makes me so saaaaad…so depressed and saaaaad!

    1. This article offends me. I have a borther who has a learning disability and struggles to write articles. Please take it down and submit an apology letter or I’ll write about it in my blog.

      1. Brother* See I’m so inflamed right now I can’t even type properly.
        TAKE IT DOWN

        1. H1 Borther thanks you for d3fending me!

        2. I thought it was a typo for BIRTHER and wondered who you were, denying that I am your mother. There’s no reason in that; you must be mad.

      2. Chrisa Hickey, a blogger who writes about mental-health issues, saw a photograph of the dancers on an Internet site and she didn’t like it.

        Moral of the story: Bloggers are a menace.

        A university has banned said routine, censored the dancers, apologized, changed its rules on dance costumes, and stepped up its efforts to cleanse its students’ minds…

        Alternate moral of the story: If you want to perform a crappy dance routine, do it on your own property.

        1. Additional moral of the story:

          The trustees and deans of this university, who purport to operate an institution dedicated to the mind, are fucking liars who deserve to be excoriated and abused in every legal way at our disposal.

          It’s their property, but if they are lying douchebags, they deserve to have people [rhetorically] tapdance on their fucking heads.

  2. so why don’t we start a campaign to email as many RMU alumni as possible suggesting them to withhold donations until the university upholds free speech…

    Aw, fuck it. Too lazy.

  3. There are two purposes to teaching

    1. To teach people to think
    2. To teach people to think like the teacher

    The second is by far the more popular with teachers

    1. She posted Brendan O’Neill’s email to her and her response to it here. Her response is quite condescending and unashamed. She seems to be really clueless.

      1. Linky breaky. Here we go…I thought O’Neill’s questions were leading, and I thought her responses represented the exact ninny/maternalist that she is. She is very concerned for these girls, you see…

        Think of it this way – of the 30 or so girls on RMU’s three dance teams, between 3 and 6 of them either have or will develop depression, bipolar disorder, paralyzing anxiety, or schizophrenia. And, if they’d just done a dance routine dressed as crazed mental patients, would they get help? Would they tell their coach? Their friends? Probably not. And if they’d thought of that before they chose those costumes, maybe they would have chosen differently.


        1. She keeps coming back to that. It’s in both letters. She’s not an attention whore, you see, She was doing it for their own good. If one of them developed depression, they obviously wouldn’t go to the doctor, because they’d just danced in straight jackets.

          You people just don’t understand…She’s Saving Lives!!!

        2. I wonder what her next crusade will be. Maybe she’ll write to NBC because Michael Scott wore a strait-jacket on the Office?
          Maybe Cartoon Network gets an email since Bugs Bunny donned one once?

          People amaze me.

  4. I find RMU’s opposition to liberty offensive. If I write a letter, what are they going to do to not offend me?

    1. I’m offended that you’re offended. Who do I see about that?

      1. I take great offense to your offense at Mensan being offended. Is there someone I can write to?

        1. If you’re in Canada you can write to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

    2. And just because Bloom County generally always got there first, at least as far as the mainstream went…


  5. This belongs right….about…..HERE.

    1. Sweeeeeeeettttttt

      But I always preferred “House of Fun”


      1. I could have gone with Night Boat to Cairo, but it probably belongs on another thread today.

      2. I loved when they did “House of Fun” on The Young Ones.

  6. I never requested that the school censor or in any other way stop the team from dancing in whatever costumes they see fit.

    What did she want to happen? What did she expect to happen?

    …I am a soul-crushing busy-body…

    At least she has some self-awareness.

    1. I actually commented on her thread about it. I got this message: “Your comment will be visible after approval.”

      I guess this is the kind of world this lady lives in. Insulated from those she disagrees with. Cut off from opposing views.

      Methinks her son isn’t the only nutjob in that house.

      1. Yeah, she should take a sensitivity class, and submit her future blogging ideas for pre-approval by an editorial board, preferably consisting of you and NEM.

        Wow, did you two miss the point here.

        1. What is the point?

        2. What is the point?

        3. What is the point, exactly?

          She’s perfectly free to whine and the administrator is perfectly free to cave, but to dissemble with “I never requested…” like she is somehow totally surprised by the response is just pure bad faith.

        4. I don’t want or need to know what her future blogging ideas are for her to post them. I embrace her natural right to express them as she sees fit, even if especially if they are different than mine.

          You miss the point. The point is that stifling speech and/or expression is always bad. She is the epitome of intolerance for the sake of acceptance. And you are a dumbass.

          1. “You miss the point. The point is that stifling speech and/or expression is always bad. She is the epitome of intolerance for the sake of acceptance.”

            Of course stifling speech/expression is bad. One party here is exercising a right to free speech; another is squelching it. You spent your post deriding the former; the point, and the problem, is the actions of the latter.

            “And you are a dumbass.”

            I know you are but what am I. Nyah.

            1. excuse me, but that is properly spelled

      2. I was about to comment there but didn’t. Guess it wouldn’t have been worth the time anyway.

      3. Your comment isn’t up on her site (unless it’s the one from Anonymous time-stamped 12:48 PM today). Also, see my 3:02 PM (here), where I reposted her quote about Reason and O’Neill.

  7. At least the bitch didn’t sue.

    Some scumbag lawyer (redundant I know) may have gotten a big enough payout to become a politician.

  8. Is that the Feministing or Jezebel Dance Squad?

    1. Hey! Get the name right at least…..it’s the Fisting or Lezabel Dance and progressive political awareness and fully empowered and self actualized pro unionization of sex worker sisters and and and………

    2. Not fat enough.

      1. Sorry dude…there’s only so much spoof and snark that I can gin up for this story.

    3. Oh my god!!! It’s their entrance music!! And they’re going to go in to the ring!!!

  9. This lady’s such a tool. She had this to say in her comments section: Would you still think it was art if they were all dressed up as persons with Down’s Syndrome? Or elderly dementia patients? Or kids with Autism?

    As if people with Down Syndrome and autistic kids have an outfit they wear to identify themselves?

    What an ignorant asshole.

    1. Would you still think it was art if they were all dressed up as persons with Down’s Syndrome? Or elderly dementia patients? Or kids with Autism?

      Yes, it’s art because it was a dance routine, so even if it sucked, which it’s 8th place finishes tells us it probably did, it’s still art.

      The worst part of this is that the busy-body had her activism justified. So even if no one else reacts like RMU did, she won’t ever shut up. Ever.

    2. Down’s could easily be suggested by a good make-up artist.

      1. Well, she said dressed, not me. And as far as the girls donning the eye-black and pasty Robert Smith look, I think they were going for an extreme, over-the-top look, not what people in the loonie bin really look like…more of a caricature.

      2. Down’s Syndrome kids often wear those cool beanies with the propellers on them.

        1. Drool. Don’t forget the drool.

      3. A helmet with stickers works too.

        Hmmm, I just became aware of an interesting correlation. An Ohio State football player wears stickers on his helmet too.


        1. Go fuck yourself, scUMbag.

          1. Hang on Sloopy, Hang on

    3. Strangely, I would have thought that the lack of aluminum foil hats would have given her a clue that they weren’t portraying schizophrenics.

      1. I couldn’t have said it better myself

    4. Ah, this is why the going full-retard meme can never die.

      The lady is a ri-tard.

    5. Wow, who thought this thread would lead toa retard wrangler flashback for me.

      Back when I was a retard wrangler, the school put on a show for black history month. The Special Ed kids were chosen for African dance. It turns out, that African dance is just like jerking your body around to bongo music. At least, that’s what our instructions were.

      Sadly, my retard didn’t dance, so I had to act like a human puppeteer–jerking her 8 year old body around to the music.

      Luckily, I was able to get out of wearing the dashiki by “accidentally” spilling coffee on it.

      1. A friend of mine spent some time as a special ed teacher. He had his own diganostic acronyms, including

        FITH (F*cked In The Head) and FITH-MS (F*cked In The Head with a Mean Streak)

    6. yeah i think the point of the dance was that the dancers wanted to express an outcry for freedom and that they were trapped as if in the mad house or what-not. probably very little to do with schizoautisatardation or whatever her kid has.

      1. Apparently they were right about being trapped in a madhouse.

        The good news is that Robert Morris University now has some spare straitjackets that can be appropriated for the use of their administrators.

  10. Seemed like an apporpriate quote to the RMU administration.

    “I would like to direct this to the distinguished members of the panel: You lousy corksuckers. You have violated my farging rights. Dis somanumbatching country was founded so that the liberties of common patriotic citizens like me could not be taken away by a bunch of fargin iceholes… like yourselves.” – Roman Maroni.

  11. “Hickey has not complained about RMU’s overreaction, which suggests she’s quite happy with it.”

    Looks like she was right thinking that O’Neill was intending to write an article about how she is a soul-crushing busy-body. When she wouldn’t cough up the money quote he’s happy to write the words for her.

    No wonder RMU went straight to the “No comment.” Apparently anything else is licence for Brendan to just make shit up.

    1. You are correct

    2. There was no point to her communication if her intent was not to secure a change of behavior from the university.

      1. That means we get to ASSIGN her an intent, and if she doesn’t like it, too fucking bad.

  12. Gee, I wonder what Chrisa Hickey and RMU think about (I’ll say … NSFW) the Chapman brothers’ art?

    1. That’s not art, Rich. It’s an ad for the new Skechers walking shoe.

      1. Can’t it be both? Also, it might be OK for Abercrombie & Fitch.

        1. Also, it might be OK for Abercrombie & Fitch.

          Nope. Needs more diversity.

  13. …deported to Sweden; says he’s not from there.

  14. I don’t know… I think establishing a committee to approve every dance outfit is a bit over-the-top but otherwise I don’t see what the big deal is here. A school decided that a particular dance troupe’s act was offensive to some and apologizes. Every individual/organization has to decide for his/her/theirself where the risk of offense is sufficient to curb said behavior. It would be one thing if they were making a political statement, or if it had significant artistic value. But it’s a bunch of college kids dancing around; who cares?

    1. Fuck you.

      1. Good to see, ten years later, I’m still getting the same reaction from the girls on the dance squad!

        1. Oh, we’re just playing hard to get, you know that.

          1. The students who are in the dance troupe should just tell the administration that it has changed the rules and now let it enforce them.

            In a free society, individual expression and association trump the right of educational institutions to employ the state to enforce their genuflections to the ego-centric / easily offended / group think Stalinistas.

            1. In a free society, individual expression and association trump the right of educational institutions to employ the state to enforce their genuflections to the ego-centric / easily offended / group think Stalinistas.

              The school is not employing the state in any way. If the children disobey and stage another “offensive” routine, no one will be arrested or charged. They will simply be disciplined internally according to school rules. Institutions have the right to make their own rules regarding these things. We are free to rabidly disagree with their decisions, as I’m sure we all do here, but if we say they should not be allowed to do so, then we are guilty of employing the state to keep an institution from running itself as it sees fit.

          2. Oh, we’re just playing hard to get, you know that.

            No means yes!
            Yes means anal!

            1. What does enthusiastic yes mean?

              1. Only STEVE SMITH knows.

    2. When most colleges claim to be places where people can freely explore artistic and intellectual expression, there is a problem. Not a “there oughta be a law” problem of course, but a “fuck those people” problem. You can’t support free expression and censor anything that offends.
      I don’t really know anything about this school, so maybe they never claimed to support free artistic expression.

    3. It’s a private institution restricting what a group that (I’m assuming) gets school funds can do while representing the school. I don’t think they should be restricting them, but I can’t get too outraged over the school’s actions.

    4. ClubMedSux wrote:


      Are you kidding me?

      Here, you need these:

      [1] http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/s…..reflex.htm

      [2] http://www.englishclub.com/gra…..lexive.htm

  15. “…Hickey has not complained about RMU’s overreaction, which suggests she’s quite happy with it.”

    That’s kind of a leap, isn’t it?

    1. Let me be clear.

      No, it is not a leap.

    2. That was not intended to be a factual statement.

    3. Well, she complained about a dance routine she didn’t see, but even though she denies responsibility for the results of her complaint, she doesn’t criticize them either. So I’d say it’s not a leap.

  16. Would you still think it was art if they were all dressed up as persons with Down’s Syndrome? Or elderly dementia patients? Or kids with Autism?

    Okay, I’ll bite. How exactly does one dress up as a kid with autism?

    1. Glad you passed on the dementia one.

      1. OK, smartass. How do demented people dress?

        1. I think you might have missed the joke there.

          1. Oh, shit. I did miss that.

            Well, now I know how demented people dress. I look in a mirror.

        2. Like libertards!!! OMGLOL!!!! I’m so clever!!!

        3. Like cops, or TSA workers.

    2. Dress like Tyler Cowen?

  17. After everyone from the Chicago Tribune to the Daily Mail in Britain picked up this story, the dancers were made to apologize for “any offence we may have caused.”

    Big mistake. Apologizing to the Terminally Sensitive only encourages them.

    The appropriate response is to crank it up a notch! And keep cranking until they STFU!

    1. made to apologize

      How, exactly?

      1. “You’ll never dance in this town again!”

    2. ^^This^^

      Those girls should have been in spinner beanie caps and drooling on themselves.

    3. Would “cranking it up a notch” work with, say, burning Korans daily on dozens of U.S. streetcorners? Who would poop out first, the burners or the barbarians rioting?

      1. I’m in favor of giving it a try.

      2. use the Koran fires to cook bacon and baby back ribs!!!

  18. Finally, promised RMU in the wake of Straitjacketgate, the school will do more awareness-raising amongst students in order to “increase sensitivity toward people with [mental] disorders.” So not only will the school police dancing students’ glitter, tassels, and leotards, it will also police the student body’s thinking about mental illness.

    Oh come on! Awareness-raising usually refers to voluntary or mandatory-with-no-attendance-taken “workshops” that are attended only by people who already agree with the people running them. It’s not “cleansing the students’ minds” by any stretch of the imagination.

    It sounds to me like RMU is just trying to make this issue go away, and it’s likely that few if any of the promised actions will actually be followed up on.

    1. There was no “issue” to go away.

      Please, tell us what “issue” there was for the administration of RMU to address?

      Litigation? Nope.

      Declining applications? Nope.

      Pressure from the state? Nope.

  19. “Straitjacketgate”?

    For the last time, can we do away with the fucking -gate suffix?

    1. Looks like somebody is having a -gategate moment.

    2. I second that! The only time it should have been used after the original was during the Whitewater scandal. . . . and it sadly wasn’t.

  20. Great job writing a partially factual article, Brendan. Try reading her post about the email you wrote her, and her responses to your questions – none of which you used,of course.

  21. Great reporting job, Brendan. Only half truths. If you weren’t British I’d say you were a Republican.

    1. Feel free to correct him, otherwise, thanks for dropping by.

    2. Lorraine waits while the master Bates.

  22. They placed eighth. So it can’t have been the most memorable routine in the world.

    Eighth in a national competition is probably not bad.

    1. I was thinking of the same thing. In fact, the assertion is border-line illogical.

      A friend of mine once finished fourth in a regional bodybuilding contest. I doubt that Brendan O’Neill would not have told my friend to his face that he must not have been that good if he finished fourth.

      1. The remake of King Kong with Jack Black was the fifth highest grossing film of 2005 and War Of The Worlds was fourth.

        Just saying…

        1. King Kong: a big hairy ape

          War of the Worlds: a ten year old Dakota Fanning

          Keeping in mind that “sex sells”, apparently there are more pedophiles than zoophiles in America.

  23. But RMU is a private university, right? Free to do whatever they damn please, including not allowing students to act “inappropriately”? But of course this is simply an example of the crushing political correctness that prevails in academia these days. Academics talk of defending free speech but do not practice it. Harvard was “free” to force Larry Summers to resign, and “free” to establish all those ridiculous “consciousness raising” activities intended to counteract the baleful effects of Larry’s evil thoughts, but it was also “wrong” and stupid to do so.

    1. But RMU is a private university, right? Free to do whatever they damn please, including not allowing students to act “inappropriately”?

      Yes and yes. And we’re free to mock it.

      1. No, in a free society, the right of the university to employ the state in order to have its way is trumped by the rights of the student to express themselves and to associate with other insensitive dancers.

        The dancers should not cave. They should tell the administrators to go ask Jesse Jackson if he has a rash between his legs.

        1. How is the university employing the state here?

          And yes, they should go full retard as a response to the school. Or just flip the bird and moon them.

          1. At the moment, it is not. I was getting getting at the endgame – students defy rules and wear costumes without approval / RMU moves to enforce the rules / RMU attempts to remove students from campus.

            1. RMU attempts to remove students from campus.

              So, you disagree with private property rights and/or freedom of association?

  24. The hair, argh. The hair, argh.

  25. Oops.

  26. 1: Can we play Alice Cooper’s From The Inside in tribute?

    2: Has a shrill oversensitive child-centric mother ever complained about the portrayal of the “THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!” mom on Simpsons?

  27. “It’s for your own good.”

  28. No alt-text. I am disappoint.

    1. My very first thought on the matter.

  29. I can’t remember which movie it was, but suddenly I am reminded of Cheech, in a straitjacket, scooching himself around the floor of a padded cell, screaming, “My balls itch! Hey, somebody come here and scratch my balls!”

  30. Daaamn… RMU went full retard. You never go full retard.

  31. “The student dancers frizzed their hair, smeared black make-up around their eyes, donned straitjackets, and executed a dance routine inspired, in a nutshell, by life in a lunatic asylum.”

    All my illegitimate grandchildren.

  32. Do we even HAVE insane asylums (other than Congress) anymore?

    If they dressed up as ass-raping male prisoners no one would have stopped them and any complaints would have been ignored.

    1. Invisible Finger|4.15.11 @ 2:21PM|#
      Do we even HAVE insane asylums (other than Congress) anymore?

      No, silly. We have meds. Pharmaceutical asylums.

      But there are still places where they lock up the mentally ill, either via voluntary commission or state-ordered stays…

      My brother happens to be a grade A+ schizophrenic, and has been involuntarily committed at least twice. Usually every region will have at least one hospital with some kind of locked-down psychotic inpatient care (aka a ‘modern asylum’); straightjackets are not widespread, but also not completely out of style yet. If you ever want to feel really, really, really creeped out, go visit one of these places. I find hospitals scary enough by themselves. Add a lot of drooling, glazed over crazy people chainsmoking and trying to talk to you…? Yeah. It aint pretty. After a few visits to these types of places I realized ‘one flew over the cookoos nest’ was more like straightforward reportage than fiction.

      It so happens a childhood friend of mine became the head nurse of the main loony bin in my area. I don’t know how he does it. An hour is straining for most sane people. Every day of the week? I think you have to be a little shaky yourself to comforably work in that environment.

      1. How you felt visiting the loony bin, is how I feel every day in the United States.

        I don’t mind talking to “crazy” people – it’s not much different from talking to an average American.

      2. I was in a mental institute for a while. It it a creepy place with lots of authoritarian nurses and people living in their own tormented world. I tried to add some spirit and joy to the place by running card games, organizing a fishing trip and getting other patients to vote on watching the world series. Nurse Ratchet was not happy. We even smuggled booze and a couple hookers in one night. Those were crazy times. Then I was lobotomized and chief smothered me and threw the control panel through the window to escape.

  33. This article keeps talking about Chicago media, isn’t Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh?

    1. There are multiple universities by that name, just like Loyola and Miami.

  34. Story opportunity!

    There was a similar incident I was sort of involved with @ Vanderbilt University in 1993

    I was in a photograpgy course with the head of the Fine Arts department, an old 60’s pop-art/multimedia guy who looked like Santa Claus, named Don Evans…

    Someone asked the prof if he could give us a review of 20th century photographers to get an idea about what is considered ‘innovative’ in the genre. He offered to do a slide show outside of normal scheduled class time for anyone interested.

    About half the class showed up, and he spent an hour running through slides of people like Capa, Herb Ritz, Helmut Newton, Avedon, Carter-Bresson, yadda, yadda… and then I think two Mapplethorpe photos. One was a close up of a lilly. The other was a guy in leather stuffing a dildo up his butt.

    Anyway, keep in mind Vanderbilt is something of a finishing school for southern debutantes. There are plenty of girls who go there with no goal in mind other than to find a suitably-blueblood marriage partner. Art classes are where they tend to coagulate (if not in the Peabody teachers college). So … you can guess what happened.

    Couple days later rumor started spreading that Don Evans was being kicked out.

    Apparently what happened is one girl in my class was appalled by the prof showing ‘blatant pornography’ in a academic setting, and while saying absolutely nothing to the prof or the class, and voluntarily attending the showing itself, decided to call her daddy, who called the chancellor, who called the endowment office to discover how much money daddy had given to the school over the years, who called the arts department, and summarily canned this tenured department head who was pretty much the only teacher in the school that everyone thought was a pretty cool dude. Furthermore, charges of ‘sexual harassment’ were filed.

    There was a short gap of one or two days while this information was digested… and then, more or less spontaneously, the entire undergraduate school decided to sit in front of the chancellors office in protest.

    Again – Vanderbilt aint no Kent University. Protestin’/activism/political agitation/communal solidarity is not exactly part of the makeup of the place. Bourbon, frat houses, blond airheads, grade inflation, and nepotism is more the ruling order.

    But for some crazy reason, the entire student body decided they weren’t happy about the eviction of Don Evans. Most people had never taken his classes… but most everyone who had was a big fan. I don’t remember how exactly it went down…maybe someone handed out flyers or something, but next thing you knew there were 6000 kids protesting outside the chancellors office.

    2 days after this student-stand-off thing, they decided to not fire Evans after all. It made the papers. It was something of a tipping point in the Political Correctedness. years… or at least it used to get mentioned in the same breath as the U. Penn/israeli guy/”Black Cow” incident. The truth is that what was most notable (like the above-mentioned ‘crazy dancers’) was that it was a completely minor, meaningless, harmless, silly stupid event…that got turned into a career-destroying situation that in turn resulted in a massive student protest, and major newspaper coverage…

    Lesson I took away from it = All it takes is one uptight, hysterical, oversensitive bitch to make a lot of people completely miserable. It appears this has not changed much.

    1. I once hired a Vanderbilt grad.

      My wife and I visited a few falls back. What a great campus. We were there on a football weekend to see Vandy get its ass kicked by Kentucky on the saturday and the Titans get their asses kicked by the Jags on Sunday.

      A Girls Gone Wild bus was parked outside one of the frats. And the partying and tailgating on saturday morning before the game was omni-present.

      1. re: Vanderbilt…My wife and I visited a few falls back. What a great campus

        It’s an arboretum. They spent $5m a year just pruning the trees or some shit back when i went there. The campus does kind of sell the place. nice packaging never hurts.

        We were there on a football weekend to see Vandy get its ass kicked by [insert any football team here]

        When I went there the common practice was to bring a flask, a date, and never even watch what was happening on the field (a mixture of shame and contempt). Typical homecoming game score: Alabama 67, Vandy 3

        The basketball was generally better.

      2. Jay Cutler FTW

    2. I was in a photograpgy….with no goal in mind other than to find a suitably-blueblood marriage partner

      Did you find him?

    3. This incident was mentioned in a book called “Defending Porno” you can read the excerpt here:

      http://books.google.com/books?…..page&q=Don Evans Vanderbilt University&f=false

  35. From one of the articles.
    ‘It’s accepted as entertainment,’ she told the Chicago Tribune.

    ‘But if you’ve seen your kid restrained and medicated because he’s having a complete psychotic break, it wouldn’t be entertaining.’

    Whats interesting is that Chrisa Hickey’s complaint wasn’t based on it being offensive to those who are mentally ill, but that it caused her to relive seeing her son in a straight jacket. Reading through the articles no one has claimed that the dance was not an accurate portrayal, just that it bothered people to be confronted by what some people go through in mental institutions. So not only do you have to be sensitive to those with mental illnesses but also those who don’t want to confront what is being done to the mentally ill.

  36. Yeah, my sister wanted to recite ‘Howl’ at her high school talent show. Of course the administrators wouldn’t let her do it.

  37. Chrisa posted this on her blog @ 12:55 PM today: They [Reason] can only surmise what they surmise because Brendan O’Neill didn’t write the truth. If they’d read my letter – oh, and the letter I wrote him in response to his request for comment (which was more than just that one line), they’d realize that.

    But that would take self-action. They’d rather be fed their opinions by the media.
    April 15, 2011 12:55 PM

    1. I invite her to post the letter or the second letter here to show the side of the story she refused to share before.

      It’ll either show that she’s full of shit or Mr. O’Neill is. Either way, LULZ.

      1. In the interest of full disclosure, I’d also welcome that.

        1. I just posted a polite request for the second letter on her comments. If it doesn’t get approved, then you know she’s full of shit.

        2. Good luck with that. I’ve written three very courteous comments on her site requesting she do just that, and none of them have cleared her filter censor.

          It would appear that she is not only full of shit, but that she doesn’t want her fans over at the loony-blog to know she’s full of shit. (Behavior appears symptomatic of paranoid schizophrenia or some other nutjob disorder)

          1. Dammit. And it was sooo hard to be polite. Wasted effort, I guess.

            1. Maybe her kid’s crazy is contagious.

          2. I just did the same, waited a bit, and reloaded the page. Nothing yet, but maybe she’s off doing something and needs to actually see it to approve it.

            This is what I wrote:

            Hi. I read the post in Reason about the RMU dance, and I saw your comment about being “fed” lies over there, so I took it upon myself to read your letter to RMU. In light of your comments, I’m just wondering if you could post that letter you sent to Mr. O’Neill. You’ve offered, and I’m willing to take the time to read it. Thanks in advance,


            1. She did post your comment


              1. I did find the letter with the help from Google. I haven’t been able to find if she posted the comment. Either way, all I wanted to see was O’Neill’s letter and her response, and I found it. But thanks for pointing it out.

                I said upthread: I found O’Neill’s questions leading — were they statements? — and her responses pretty paternalisitc (apparently, maternal is not a similar adjective).

    2. Oh, it’s totally LULtastic, Sloopster. She won’t approve comments critical of her, as I assume yours was. The “if they’d read my letter” act is total BS. She’s attention-whoring and painting herself as a victim. Should we call the WHAAAAmbulance for her?

  38. This article and most of the comments are, at best, horrible. There are multiple stigmas in our society and the last thing we need is something that only furthers those stigmas.

    What the woman did is not nuts or even brash… she wrote about it on her blog… which was picked up by other news outlets. If anything this shows the reputation she has in the field of mental health advocacy. I challenge any one of you to write a retort in your blog and see if anyone notices.

    This article clearly has more snide remarks than actual newsworthy reporting. Great job…

    1. Drive-by troll totally misses the point of the article.

    2. Uh, wrong. She wrote a letter to the school administration admonishing them for their insensitivity…a totally unfounded claim since she took the work out of context, assuming it was something it was not.

      She personally started the process that ultimately resulted in the stifling of free expression. She could have stopped the process at any point by saying, “Whoa. This is not what I want.” She never did that, therefore her behavior is inexcusable.

      As far as the commenting on here. Until you spend a bit of time on here, you are speaking out of turn. Many of us on here are somewhat mentally deranged. Crazy, nuts, schizo, even cuckoo if you will. We post rambling junk all the time, much as you might find on the stall walls of your local lunatic asylum or “loony bin,” to use the parlance of our time. Much of the apolitical commentary is meant to elicit laughter at least as much as thoughtful response.

      As far as your last sentence, what remarks were snide? The ones where she basically says she won’t comment further for fear of being portrayed a certain way? That looks like the building blocks of a paranoid schizophrenic. Perhaps she needs to stop caring for her son and needs to start being his new roommate.

      Even money says you are either a progressive douchebag, you are actually Chrisa Hickey or you are one of those asshole men from that apology video NutraSweet (I think) posted yesterday morning. Either way, I pity you.

    3. Not only did she write the administration, she also forwarded her blog post to someone she knew in a local paper, and they wrote about it. This would’ve never gone anywhere if she didn’t actively try to push it.

    4. Firstly, to which stigmas are you refering to? Secondly, how does this article further that stigma. Thirdly, how does your evidence lead to the conclusion that “This article clearly has more snide remarks than actual newsworthy reporting”? You commit the many logical fallacies here, including non sequitur, unwarranted claims such as the one above, and red herrings (what does her reputation have to do with the claims made article?). Overall this is an extremely weak argument at best. I suggest putting a little more thought in to your comment before posting it

    5. “This article clearly has more snide remarks than actual newsworthy reporting. Great job…”

      This is a libertarian advocacy website. What’d you expect? A Progressive perspective?

      “This article and most of the comments are, at best, horrible. There are multiple stigmas in our society and the last thing we need is something that only furthers those stigmas.”

      What’s she doing to fight the stigma of overprotective mothers trying to make the world safe for overly sensitive idiots by treating adults like children?

      Is there room anywhere for people who don’t give a shit about the mentally ill in your world?

  39. This article clearly has more snide remarks than actual newsworthy reporting.

    Can you stick your nose higher in the air, sniff, wave a handkerchief around, and hold a hand over your heart with an aghast expresion on your face? Also, can you do it with a sorta faux-british accent? It will really pull everything together.

    1. Yeah, the Innocence Abused is strong with this one.


  40. Wonder how she feels about this insensitive album cover.

    1. Actually, I’d say this one is more appropo. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw that picture.

      1. Maybe but Quiet Riot is MUCH better to listen to.

  41. The real definition of insanity is spending $10,470 per semester in tuition to go to freakin’ Robert Morris University.

    Unless Mommy and Daddy are rich and you have nothing better to do with four of the best years of your life, you’d be better off spending that time lighting $100 bills on fire.

    The evangelicals have their own private colleges without most of the PC crapola. I wonder if some well-funded libertarians like the Kochs have considered establishing a more free-wheeling liberal arts school where PC speech restrictions are banned?

    1. Every liberal arts school in America is becoming PCU.

    2. I went to an evangelical liberal arts college. While it is refreshing to have a different set of speech restrictions than the ordinary schools, there are still plenty of things that students are just not allowed to say. The end result is kind of like CNN vs. FOX – they spout different bullshit, but they both spout bullshit and occasionally agree on the bullshit.

      A liberal arts college that allowed freedom of speech would in fact be nice.

      1. Exactly.

        I know that evangelical schools have speech (and conduct) codes, just not the same PC ones as the leftist-dominated schools.

        A lot of the speech controversies seem to come from political-related campus activities, which is absolutely the most worthless way for a liberal arts student to spend their four years. An education in philosophy, history or even arts will inevitably have ideological overtones, but overt campus political activity is simply a complete waste of time. Nobody off campus gives a shit about what some 19-year-old thinks about Israel or financial regulation.

        Any professor who tries to turn the classroom into a propaganda mill is doing the students a huge disservice and should be fired for ineptitude.

  42. Considering the autobiographical verisimilitude of “When The Pawn Strikes…” by Fiona Apple — there’s a long story behind the album, her relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson, and his movie Magnolia — the dancers actually weren’t that far off in their artistic interpretation.

    They were all a little screwed up, and pretty much admitted it to the world, if one was paying attention. But I’m guessing the blogger in question really doesn’t care about that.

  43. When I read the tease, my guess was that, with frizzy hair and black around the eyes, the complaint was going to be of racism.

    I wonder what sort of thing the college thinks they’ll avert by right of refusal on the costumes? Couldn’t be nutcases, because that was done already so nobody’s going to do that again anyway.

  44. we used to just oil the squeaky wheel,
    now we replace the whole car. this is not madness, this is idiocy.

  45. Reminds me of the old folk story attributing the Catalan lisp to Queen Isabella, whose son supposedly had a lisp. As the story goes, she didn’t want her son to feel bad about having a lisp, so she proclaimed that everyone in the Spanish Court had to speak with a lisp under penalty of death.

    Once everyone in the court started speaking with a lisp, all the provincial aristocracy in the countryside wanted to sound like the people at court, so they started speaking with a lisp too.

    The upper merchants wanted to sound like the aristocrats, the paupers wanted to sound like the merchants, and before long, all of Catalan was pronouncing it “Bar-th-elona.

    That story’s been debunked, I hear, but there’s at least one grain of truth–Queen Isabella was a hateful and vicious witch.

    The same kind of person that would effectively shut down a dance program just because it might make her kid feel bad. Shit!

    1. may i say….red herring?? This story has nothing to do with the article

      1. They’re both about some mother trying to silence everyone so that her child won’t be offended…

        Why isn’t that about the article?

        If she doesn’t want to be compared to Queen Isabella, then she shouldn’t act like Queen Isabella…

        Why isn’t that about the article?

        The idea that the rest of the world should change itself so as not to offend you or your child’s tender sensibilities?

        Queen Isabella did it to forcibly converted Christians, and if this lady did it to a dance troupe–it’s still all about using coercion to shut people up, isn’t it?

        So as not to offend you or your child’s tender sensibilities?

        Why isn’t that about the article?

  46. the dancers were made to apologize for “any offence we may have caused.”

    A non-apology apology was what was called for: “We’re really sorry to hear that she took offense to what we did. We have a great deal of sympathy for someone who is so easily offended. We wish her the best of luck in overcoming this handicap.”

    1. There’s another way to go with it too. My apology might have gone:

      “I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep regret if anything I said may have offended all the f’ing retard wackos out there.”

      1. The correct response would have been stamped on the envelope: “Return To Sender-Unaccepted.”

  47. My problem with this woman – besides the suspicion that she is an attention-whore using her son as a tool to gain the attention – is that she wants to make the argument that mental illness is so serious that it cannot even be seen to joked about but at the same time she wants to argue that mental illness should not be stigmatized because, hey, we’re all crazy, it’s no big deal to be crazy.

    As one of the millions of people who need medication to stay ‘normal’, I agree with the second argument. Being ‘crazy’ ain’t no big deal – sometimes the chemical and electrical signals in my head get a little scrambled and my brain tries to kill me. If you can’t laugh at the absurdity of that, what the hell can you laugh about?

  48. I disagree with this, but a Libertarian website has no right complaining about this. It is a private institution, so it has the right to institute its own policies because all involved parties are consensual. As an article on political correctness, this is great, but as an article on Libertarianism it is not.

    1. Actually you miss the point of Libertarianism. I may agree that a private institution has the right to implement whatever policy they choose, but I also reserve the right to mock and denigrate those policies.

    2. Wrong.

      The institution in question uses the word “university” as part of its name.

      That, to me, means that it is attempting to pass itself off as an institution devoted to the mind.

      FURTHER, it has a dance troupe. I bet it also has classes about the history of dance. I am ABSOLUTELY SURE that in the course of holding those classes and promoting that dance troupe university figures indulge in a lot of complete and utter bullshitting about the importance of dance as an art form, and the power of dance as a tool of communication, and the important social role played by dance, blah blah blahdy blah blah.

      Having gone out on these multiple limbs they deserve our abuse if they fail in their defense either of free thought or free expression.

      By caving into this blogger, essentially they are admitting that they only PRETEND to be vigorous advocates of the liberal arts, because they lets them steal money from the marks they trick into registering for classes. And for that they deserve whatever bad press we can give them.

  49. The school has the right to decide on the rules for their dance competition, obviously. I think the messed up thing is making the 10 or so paying customers (girls who did the dance) feel bad in order to cater to the 1 woman who isn’t even affiliated with the institution. It would be like a restaurant kicking out a table of customers who annoyed a non-customer walking past the building outside. I don’t think rights or sensitivity have much to do with it. It makes no business sense.

  50. RMU is a private university. They can do whatever they want. It’s called liberty and/or capitalism. If you don’t like it, don’t send your kids there. Don’t hire people from there. Don’t patronize their arts.

    Agree with LB’s analogy…if it had been an alumni/donor or attendee, her concern (and pockets) might be meaningful.
    Don’t get me wrong, goodwill still matters to businesses (and private universities) so you can’t alienate everyone outside the window. All those people are potential customers.
    But if it’s just one person, the simplest solution probably is to tell them “Then don’t eat at our restaurant.” I can’t imagine a lot of businesses actually doing that…

  51. ty rights, etc. seem like a more accurate measure of freedom than democracy.

  52. This plan has no merit

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