Campus Free Speech

Columbia Student: I Was Reported to Gender-Based Misconduct Office for Calling Myself Handsome

When universities give this much power to the always-offended, they make it impossible to have a dialogue about anything.

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Narcissism
Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

You would think students instructed to report to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office had committed serious transgressions. Its name conjures images of creepy guys harassing and violating women.

Columbia University graduate Benjamin Sweetwood claims he did nothing of the sort. He got in trouble for doing something completely inoffensive: he referred to himself as handsome in a class.

"Now I've graduated from Columbia University, I am finally ready to reveal a dark and shameful secret I have kept buried for almost two years," writes Sweetwood in a recent article about his experience. "I, Ben Sweetwood, committed 'gender misconduct' while a student at the above mentioned institution of higher learning."

According to Sweetwood, the incident happened in his Chinese class. He was supposed to say something in Chinese, and that's what he picked. The professor later told him she thought it was a funny remark, but one student had complained. That was just the beginning:

Later that day, my advising dean emailed me to say, "The University's Gender-Based Misconduct Office contacted us because they received a complaint about your behavior towards your Elementary Chinese II professor. It is important we meet to discuss this as soon as possible." I responded in a defiant tone, denying any wrongdoing, though I agreed to meet the next day.

Sweetwood's dean made him promise never to make any upsetting remarks. When the student refused, he was sent to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office, where an administrator attempted to persuade him to abandon his micro-aggressive ways.

Sweetwood's account of the ordeal is a bit on the hyperbolic side, and oozes contempt for the people who chided him. But it's hard to blame him: how would you feel if you were accused of gender-based misconduct for making a stupid but completely harmless remark about yourself?

It's little occurrences like this that inspire concern about the state of free speech on college campuses. This wasn't an example of one student saying something offensive and another student calling him out for it—in this case, Student A said something objectively inoffensive, Student B complained to the administrative authority, and the authority intervened.

Columbia, you may recall, is the university where classical mythology was deemed too triggering to be taught. When universities give this much power to the always-offended, they make it impossible to have a dialogue about anything.

NEXT: Donald Trump's Fat-Shaming Fetish

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  1. Ben Sweetwood? Sweetwood?? Seriously?

    1. Robby, I too expect a better pseudonym out of you.

  2. You would think students instructed to report to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office had committed serious transgressions.

    No, I wouldn’t think that for an instant, actually.

    1. I think that was tongue in cheek.

      So all the libertarians here agree that the “offensive” speech wasn’t offensive. The student’s remark was subjective. Would the libertarians here defend an objectively true “offensive” statement? Like:

      “The evidence is irrefutable that behaviors common within the homosexual community are unhealthy and high risk for a host of serious medical consequences, including STD’s, HIV and AIDS, anal cancer, hepatitis, parasitic intestinal infections, and psychiatric disorders.”

      This objectively true statement by a Harvard urologist got him fired. Did any libertarians defend him? (No.)

      1. I’m sure it was the last three words that got him.

      2. Libertarians object to government interference in speech; the “Gender Based Misconduct Office” is a result of Title IX government interference. Church was fired because his values didn’t agree with the values of the private institution that employed him.

        As for his statement, he implies a causal relationship between homosexuality and various diseases, and he is factually wrong. There is no evidence that homosexual behavior causes “psychiatric disorders”. Furthermore, for the other diseases, it is specific sex acts that are the cause, sex acts that heterosexuals engage in frequently as well. In fact, lesbian behavior places women at less risk of diseases, so I suppose he should counsel all his female patients to become lesbians, right?

        It is perfectly fine to tell his patients that anal sex puts them at high risk for certain diseases, and that they can avoid that risk by abstaining and reduce it by using condoms. Linking that to homosexuality or LGBT events is both ignorant and inappropriate.

        Church tried to use his medical authority to push a moral point and he played fast and loose with the facts. That’s why he was fired. And not only was that a perfectly legitimate decision by a private institution, it was also the right thing to do because someone who lets his personal predilections interfere with his practice of medicine just shouldn’t practice medicine at all, and certainly not at a premier institution.

        1. If Church had posited a correlation instead of a causation, he probably would still have a job at Harvard. If you can’t tell the difference between the two, you might not be Harvard material…. Oh, who am I kidding? If his correlation mistaken for a causation had been in favor of the left’s bugaboos, he would still be working there.

          1. “If Church had posited a correlation instead of a causation…”

            You apparently have any English problem.

            He states that “behaviors common to…”. Saying there is commonality is correlation NOT causation. Alas, more straw men.

        2. Church tried to use his medical authority to push a moral point and he played fast and loose with the facts.”

          If you look at his words, there is no fast and loose, just easily verifiable facts.

          Why can’t leftists like Mr. Rational Exuberance make an argument without straw man fallacies? Did he say causal? Anywhere? No. No. No.

          Lesbianism is associated with lowered risk of some diseases but higher rates of obesity and of substance abuse and other mental health disorders. So no. That would not be appropriate medical advice.

  3. The University’s Gender-Based Misconduct Office

    Good grief.

    And I’m supposed to feel sorry for people who rack up tens of thousands of dollars in college debt.

    1. The new Cultural Revolution is well and thoroughly underway…

    2. You ever get the feeling that the Weathermen won.

    3. Actually that makes me feel MORE sorry for them.

    4. Those executive secretaries to the Vice-Provost in the Diversity Department don’t come cheap…

    5. Not only are you suppose to feel sorry for the one person who objected to the Chinese “I’m handsome” statement. But they want you to pay for her gender studies degree.

  4. The comment obviously wasn’t objectively inoffensive as apparently someone took offense at it. Let’s not defend this as a proper recourse, but opening up the idea that there is objectively offensive and inoffensive speech does more to lead to banning of speech than for saving it.

    1. The comment obviously wasn’t objectively inoffensive as apparently someone took offense at it.

      An “objective” standard is a “reasonable man” standard. Something can be objectively inoffensive in that no reasonable person would take offense, even though some thin-skinned neurotic asshole was offended.

      1. It’s turtles all the way down for that. We defined “reasonable man”, then we define that prior, then the next. It’s the No True Scotsman fallacy. And it’s unnecessary for this argument anyway.

        This doesn’t need to be defined as objective in order to make the argument. And in fact, I think it weakens the overall argument for free speech if we start treading into the realm of objectively appropriate reaction to thoughts.

        1. “Student A said something objectively inoffensive”

          cute that robby still thinks there is such a thing. don’t stop believin’

        2. And it’s unnecessary for this argument anyway.

          Not arguing, just pointing out that one unreasonable person doesn’t invalidate an objective/reasonable man standard.

          1. Yeah…. i thought a persons opinion was the definition of subjective.

          2. “Not arguing, just pointing out that one unreasonable person doesn’t invalidate an objective/reasonable man standard.”

            It is not just one “unreasonable person”. It is tens of thousands and they have invaded the DoJ and Academic “diversity” departments. (And the Armed forces have just announced promotion based on “diversity”.)

            The speech that needs to be defended is always offensive to someone.

      2. What if all the “reasonable men” are stationed in a gender-studies department at Oberlin? What do you think they would find “reasonable”?

        1. From a purely free speech standpoint I don’t think it’s a necessary conceit for the argument. From a libertarian standpoint its even worse. It’s objectively inoffensive because enough people agree it isn’t offensive. 99% say yes, it must be true.

          At its core I feel that type of argumentation is what libertarianism stands against.

          1. At its core I feel that type of argumentation is what libertarianism stands against.

            It’s not so much the manner of argumentation as the whole premise that is the problem. Libertarianism is against the notion of offensiveness being an enforceable, well, offense. Free speech and all that. It doesn’t much matter how you decide to carry out the unlibertarian goal.

            SLD about private universities and whatnot

      3. An “objective” standard is a “reasonable man” standard.

        That standard was thought up by now-dead white men and is therefore null and void.

    2. It is objectively inoffensive because it is a personal, subjective valuation of oneself.

      One cannot, reasonably, take offense at another’s subjective opinions about themselves.

      One can disagree. One can feel for the other. But one cannot take offense because the opinion is self referential, excluding the subjective opinions of others.

  5. In what world is calling yourself handsome is a stupid remark?

    1. In what world is calling yourself handsome is a stupid remark?

      ^^^^ I came here to post this.
      I’d also like to know the mindset of someone who would be offended by such a remark.
      Is this a taboo thing to say in Chinese?

      1. I had a language professor in college who would always pick mild topics like abortion when it was time for free discussion in Spanish.

        1. El aborto muy grande.

      2. I came to make sure someone commented on it.

        1. Seriously. That stood out like a sore thumb. I’m glad you guys were on top of it while I was away.

          I’d love some quotes from the administrators in question about how it is important that people are protected from white guys having opinions on any topic, real or imagined, weighty or insignificant.

          I wonder what would have happened if he had uttered the number one question we learned in spanish class.

          “Where is the bathroom?”

          We only learned a few adjectives. Big, little, tall, short, beautiful, ugly, young, old, fast, slow, hot, cold… that’s about it. Challenged with task of describing myself, that’s all I could have used.

          I could be tall, handsome, young… that’s about it. I don’t think we even had a word for skinny. Or “average looking”.

          The administrators deserve to be smacked around on this one, even though it is of little consequence.

    2. Do you have a mirror?

    3. AutoRobby is stuck in qualifier mode?

    4. The one in which you are Warty or Steve Smith?

      1. STEVE SMITH WANT TO HAVE WORD WITH YOU. BY “WORD”, MEANS “RAPE”!

  6. Sweetwood’s dean made him promise never to make any upsetting remarks

    Which is impossible since you can never know what will and will not upset someone else.

    It’s almost as if someone’s feelings are their own responsibility.

  7. This is what happens when high-school bullies aren’t allowed to weed out the weak and infirm.

  8. Taking Chinese so you can later plunder the country for its cultural treasures and dilute its epicanthal character is cultural appropriation and possibly a microaggression.

    1. Is there another reason?

      1. Denies safe spaces to the unprivileged?

  9. Why are they shaming his body image?

    1. SOMEBODY GET CHAPMAN IN HERE, STAT!!

  10. I now understand why graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism are incapable of basic fact checking while writing about rape accusations.

    The poor dears’ education has made them about as prepared to deal with the subject as a witch doctor is prepared to deal with brain surgery.

    1. That’s some industrial hairspray he’s got there.

      1. You know who else uses industrial hairspray?

        1. Every teenager building a potato gun?

        2. The lady at my bank who still rocks a beehive?

              1. Tin Roof……….Rusted

  11. Robby should be reported for his poor alt-text.

    1. I know….I thought he would have had SOMETHING. Maybe even a self-depreciating hair remark.

      1. You have no idea how seriously Robby takes his hair.

      2. self-depreciating hair remark… unpossible.

      3. It looks like the “alt” attribute reads “Narcissism”, while the “title” attribtute (the one that shows up when you hover over an image) is blank.

  12. In what world is calling yourself handsome is a stupid remark?

    In the world of 24/7 victimology. Rejecting victimhood is victim-shaming.

    1. You joke, but this is where they’re headed. False consciousness as a microagression.

      1. microinvalidation. please try to keep up.

        1. I thought the next level was nanoagression, and if you correct me your committing a macroinvalidation of my lived experience.

  13. Perhaps the law students could start suing the school for extra credit?

    1. It would be more educational than every other part of their curriculum, from the sound of it.

    2. But I guess it’s private. Would depend on the contract.

  14. He was supposed to say something in Chinese, and that’s what he picked.

    Actually, he was *trying* to say “Fuck all you white devils.”

    1. Tonal languages are hella difficult.

  15. Well?!?

    Is he handsome?

    Damnit, the story doesn’t even finish.

    1. I’ve clicked on the link to the article. The guy is not handsome. At all. Perhaps Columbia was right to discipline him.

      1. I was talking about the painfully cute boy in the illustration above.

        1. I agree with you about the boy posted here. Thanks to Robby for NOT posting the picture of the Columbia graduate.

      2. As to the actual subject of the article – not so much. And this from someone who likes lads with a bit of meat on their bones.

      3. Word. I seem to remember a British(!!!) woman who wrote a book about the trials and tribulations about being beautiful. A British woman.

        1. There are beautiful British women. But she was not one of them.

          1. +1 Jacqueline Bisset circa 1968.

          2. My mother was considered beautiful. But that was attributed to her Czech half.

            So +1 fresh off the boat.

            1. British are not as a rule attractive people. So if she really were beautiful, she’d stand out.

    2. He looks like Kid Rock put on a 100 pounds of neckbeard.

  16. “Sweetwood’s account of the ordeal is a bit on the hyperbolic side, and oozes contempt for the people who chided him. But it’s hard to blame him”

    Who would blame him? Somebody reading this article?

    Is Robby having a conversation in his head? Is Robby trying to convince himself not to blame him?

    Can somebody explain this?

    What does this mean?

    Who’s blaming him for oozing contempt?

    Anybody?

    Nobody?

    ?

    1. Does this look like a Judge Nap article to you?

      1. No?

        Hitler?

        What were we talking about?

    2. This was the part that hopeful quasi-cozmoes believe is Robby ‘trolling the yokels’.

      He just has to be!!!!111!11.

      Otherwise, we’ve got a new contender for the Dalmia Crown.

  17. Why would twitter shadow ban one of their most handsome users?

  18. But, like, he paid them to go there right?

    And stayed? So…?

  19. This is enough of a reason to vote Trump. Robby wouldn’t understand. But I’m serious.

  20. My money is on another student thinking that Sweetwood was using the assignment to flirt with them.

    And Sweetwood probably hasn’t even noticed them.

  21. instructed to report to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office

    The only logical reaction is, “we have a *what* office?”

    and the second logical reaction is, ” and…..’or else‘ what?”

    the only way these things will be destroyed is if they’re ignored, and they try and double down by asserting authority they don’t merit.

    1. he was sent to the Gender-Based Misconduct Office, where an administrator attempted to persuade him

      see, this is what i’m talking about.

      Why even *humor* them?

    2. But the universities know they hold the “employment credentials” card. It’s how they get away with outrageous tuition and student loans.

      Basically it’s predatory behavior, but nobody wants to shit on their one shot at making good money for not having to work hard. More unfortunate is the fact that most state universities want to follow the lead of the Ivies.

      As an employer, I’d rather see a prospective employee with “Community College” as part of their resume. It tells me that this person is much less likely to waste my money.

      1. The entire point is to make them bite instead of bark.

        If all they’re doing is ‘persuading’, then tell them “thanks for the advice, but i’m not buying”.

        If they try and escalate it, then you let the press know you’re being threatened by the Uni for trivial speech. Cost some people their jobs.

        These people only insinuate themselves into positions of power through the acquiescence of the majority.

        1. “El Guapo“?

          Pics or GTFO.

    3. the only way these things will be destroyed is if they’re ignored, and they try and double down by asserting authority they don’t merit

      They certainly have the authority, and you can’t ignore them.

      What he should do is transfer at the end of the semester.

  22. [the alt text]

    “Robby sneeringly regards the competition. fumes at his own inability to grow facial hair.”

  23. According to Sweetwood, the incident happened in his Chinese class. He was supposed to say something in Chinese, and that’s what he picked. The professor later told him she thought it was a funny remark, but one student had complained.

    I immediately guessed that it was supposed to be a joke. So naturally someone was bound to be offended.

  24. for making a stupid

    Jesus Robbie, why pretend this is stupid? It’s meaningless, but it’s not stupid. Why are you bending over backwards to give the crybabies something to hang onto?

    1. “One hand giveth, and the other taketh away. The Robby works in mysterious ways.”

  25. It’s Kafka’s world, we’re just living in it.

  26. Calling Yourself Handsome Now Gender-Based Misconduct: Robby Soave hardest hit.

  27. “……how would you feel if you were accused of gender-based misconduct for making a stupid but completely harmless remark about yourself?”

    You just microagressed against his sense of self esteem. Maybe he DID think he was handsome. Why you gotta be a jerk, Robbie?

  28. For the first time ever, I find myself semi-quoting Hillary Clinton:

    “Can’t we just drone this place?”

  29. It is a complete outrage that a “Gender-Based Misconduct Office” even exists.

  30. Why is “I am handsome’ a stupid statement? If he is good looking, then it is true. If he had said “I am smart”, would that also be a stupid thing to say?

  31. Sweetwood’s dean made him promise never to make any upsetting remarks.

    If anyone ever tried to browbeat me into making such a promise, I would do my best to upset them with my remarks.

    -jcr

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    ……………. http://www.BuzzNews10.com

  33. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,
    ——————>>> http://www.4cyberworks.com

  34. “how would you feel if you were accused of gender-based misconduct for making a stupid but completely harmless remark about yourself?”

    There was nothing stupid about it. It was harmless and obviously a joke. The only thing stupid here is anybody taking offense. We shouldn’t give them the satisfaction of saying it’s stupid. That’s a stupid thing to do.

  35. I am an old school liberal and I am extremely uneasy about the shift towards fascism and censorship on American campuses. This is Orwellian-level insanity and I am starting to fear there will be no academic tradition left in this country if universities keep going this way. I am certainly grateful that I completed my education in the 90s. There is no way I could have put up with all of this.

  36. My last collegiate experience on a campus was in 2004, thank god. I was already the old guy, so I didn’t have a lot of meaningful interaction with the student body. Even so, I don’t recall this kind of shit. I don’t think I would’ve made it through two weeks if there’d been such a thing as a microaggression in those days without going to prison for aggravated murder.

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