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Volokh Conspiracy

Edgewood College calls the police over 'suck it up' Post-it note


Victoria Stroup (Campus Reform) and Robby Soave (Reason's Hit & Run) have the story; here's an excerpt from the Campus Reform item:

According to a letter sent out by Vice President for Student Development Tony Chambers [which the Campus Reform item reproduces—EV], a student at the college started a campaign to let students and others express their feelings about the outcome of the election by placing notes on a table in the commons.

One note—bearing the phrase "Suck it up, pussies!"—was placed on the inside window of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, eliciting outrage within the traumatized academic community.

According to the letter, the Post-it caused "[a] great deal of fear, sadness, and anger among students, faculty, and staff," was "a targeted act of intimidation and cowardice," and "constituted a Hate Crime"—so the school "reported [it] to the Madison Police Department."

I'm not a fan of vulgarity (and though the pejorative "pussy" may well have come straight from pussycat, I think that today it does have a vulgar connotation in that sense); and, as a private college, Edgewood isn't bound by the First Amendment—if it wants to ban the public use of the word "pussy," even in political contexts, or for that matter phrases such as "Fuck the Draft." But the label "hate crime" is ridiculous here—chiefly because there's no crime, though also because the recipients weren't targeted based on their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or the other bases that are generally required for the legal label "hate crime" to apply; certainly no criminal prosecution for a "hate crime" would be possible here.

And beyond this, the school's reaction is so ridiculously over-the-top that it just proves the Post-it writer's message, even if I would have framed the message more politely. It's like someone calling someone else a prick, and the other person responding in a way that seems to be perfectly captured by that pejorative.

I emailed Edgewood College to see whether the story accurately rendered the Chambers email, and to ask if they had anything further to say, and got this response:

I can confirm that the image is a rendering of the email that Dr. Chambers sent to students, faculty and staff.

We have nothing to add in this matter.