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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(3/1/01)


Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

hello, i have an incident for your "stereotype of the month contest" and in fact i would like some help too...if you have any information of how i could contact billy mills or anyone including yourself who could help...then please let me know.

i am a mi'kmaq woman who just recently graduated from mcla in north adams, ma. as you may have heard, there is a debate going on in that town over the mascot. the debate was started by athletic director, scott nichols. he has successfully changed a mascot in the past and decided to attempt the same at mcla. he then asked me what my feelings were and i agreed to help him. as the only indian woman who has been directly involved with that college in recent years, i felt i was obligated. i went with him to his meetings and tried to explain indigenous perspectives for why this can offend some native peoples.

i explained that the college does not recruit indian students and does not have scholarships available for native american students who apply. i explained that the college does not include native history, arts, culture and contemporary issues in their courses, there are no native profs and the college has been battling racism in many forms for a long time now.

the mascot is the "mohawk" warrior. there are no mohawk people in the area...except for one or two who may have found there way into that community...i have lived in the area for three years now and haven't seen them yet...the mascot was acquired in 1962 as a result of a contest...a contest to see who could find the most fearful mascot to replace the old one...the image of an indian man won...three students came up with the idea and shared a $25 savings bond.

the student newspaper has for the past 39 years used words like "scalping," "chief," and "tepee" when talking about their team players...none of whom are indian. the history prof has made very racist comments (which i will include) and has targeted me...he also went to the city council and a vote of 4 to 5 occurred in favor of keeping the mohawk...the mayor also is very upset with me.

everything was fine...progress was being made and then all at once everything exploded. i have become the target of prank call, hate mail, and harassment on campus...a newspaper reporter even called me today and told me that it's a good thing that i don't live in north adams because the mayor is so against me and when the mayor gets mad things have been known to happen to people...like people breaking into the homes of others to get their point across...things are getting very scary....there has even been physical fighting...

the athletic director has asked if i could get any indian people to come to the school for one day to conduct a form of round-table talk...or anybody at all...or people to write the president and urge his decision to drop the mascot.

i would like to know if you or anyone you know could help me? also i was wondering if you or anyone you know has a way for me to contact billy mills?

i think i should include a quote from the history prof who is also a racist and has tenure and can't be fired. there is a message board on campus for the profs and students and this history prof posted a rather long message...here are some of the things he said...this is exact...word for word:

...this is one of the areas where i part company with the left-wing wing nuts of our faculty and administration. what we have are a group of sissies who want to recreate history...rewrite it to fit their description of the way they wish it had been...i for one see absolutely nothing NOTHING!!! OWED to native americans blacks hispanics feminists gays etc. whatever YOU ARE OWED NOTHING YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU ARE WHERE YOU ARE! as far as i am concerned there were no wrongs done to native americans..unlike your knee-jerk liberals (emphasis on "jerk") wish that it were true but really wasn't an interpretaion of history...THEY WERE SAVAGES!!!!!! ...one reason why i object to "history" being removed from the "core" curriculum and being replaced courses and sections taught by professors who wish that Chief Thunderthud had been our first President and not George Washington....

okay that is all of his quotes i am going to send for now...i think you get the idea...i really need some help here...somebody is going to get hurt...i really and truly believe that somebody is going to get hurt!

thank you for your time,

jaime

To protest, contact:

Mass. College of Liberal Arts
President Thomas Aceto
375 Church St.
North Adams, MA 01247

Rob's comment
At least the imaginary Thunderthud wasn't an Indian killer, unlike George Washington.

Amazingly, Clark Billings, the irate history professor, is (or was) a city councilor in North Adams. When the council put the "Mohawks" nickname to a vote, he bellowed how he wouldn't bow to "political correctness." He got his way, browbeating the council into retaining "Mohawks" by a 5-4 vote.

Fortunately for our purposes, Billings outed himself as a closet racist. As his diatribe shows, people like him cry "PC" to mask their narrowminded prejudices. In effect they're saying, "I don't like it when you point out our biases, so I'll make you the issue by labeling you 'PC' rather than deal with the real problems."

But is Jaime right about Billings being beyond retribution? Compare his screed to the school's official written policy on discrimination (from the website):

The Massachusetts State Colleges prohibit all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion and national or ethnic origin. The policy describes all conditions and all actions or omissions including all acts of harassment by personal vilification as defined in Section II (pg. 5) of the Affirmative Action Plan, which deny or have the effect of denying to any her/his rights to equality and security on the basis of her/his race, color, ethnicity, culture or religion. The policy reaffirms the values of pluralism and the pre-eminence of individual human dignity as preconditions to the achievement of an academic community which recognizes and utilizes the resources of all persons.

"All acts of harassment by personal vilification"...which "have the effect of denying to any her/his rights to equality and security"...how do the prof's words and alleged targeting of Jaime not qualify under this rule? Seems to me the prof should have his butt kicked off campus, pronto.

By the way, the Mohawk name and image are stereotypical, but "old" stereotypes aren't eligible for the contest. (Otherwise, we'd be inundated with mascots and old Westerns.) What makes this entry contest-worthy is the professor's ignorant utterances in a public forum. If the school doesn't denounce and discipline him for his blatant harassment and intimidation, then it must condone his statements. That makes this the kind of institutional racism the contest exists to highlight.

Anyway, I sent Thomas Aceto an e-mail that basically contrasted the professor's words with the school's policy. The following exchange of messages ensued:

Dear Mr. Schmidt,

Thanks for your inquiry about this situation at Massachusetts College. I have prepared a response to you which includes exerpts from the response I received from the person in question to action I had taken. I'd like to send that to you but will include the exerpts only if you agree they will not be published. You can certainly cite from them but I would not feel comfortable having you use the material as taken directly from the letter the individual sent to me and to his faculty colleagues. If you cannot agree to this I will still respond but without the material in question.

I am curious as to how you obtained a copy of an e-mail message that was sent through our internal system, intended only for Mass College employees. I think there is a real chilling impact on internal message boards if they can be accessed by outsiders. That's not to say that "anything goes" on such boards, quite the contrary. We do hold people accountable as we have done in this instance.

Thomas Aceto

Thomas D. Aceto
President
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams, MA 01247
voice (413) 662-5201
fax (413) 662-5580
email: taceto@mcla.mass.edu

*****

>> Thanks for your inquiry about this situation at Massachusetts College. <<

Thank you for your response.

>> I'd like to send that to you but will include the exerpts only if you agree they will not be published. <<

Okay, I agree.

>> I am curious as to how you obtained a copy of an e-mail message that was sent through our internal system, intended only for Mass College employees. <<

Is your system open to all students, or to student employees? A student sent it to me.

>> I think there is a real chilling impact on internal message boards if they can be accessed by outsiders. <<

If your message board is available to all employees, I'd question whether it's truly "internal." At a minimum, it sounds as if your whole faculty, including student teachers, and support staff could've seen the message. That's a lot of people, and I doubt they're bound by any confidentiality agreement. But as I said, someone sent me the message. I didn't "steal" it.

Anyway, I look forward to more information on the situation.

Rob Schmidt
Publisher
PEACE PARTY

*****

Dear Mr. Schmidt,

Thank you for your recent message about an e-mail incident at Massachusetts College.

I assure you that action has been taken on this matter without compromising our commitment to free speech as protected under the U.S. Constitution. I'm not at liberty to tell you precisely what was done as personnel matters are an internal matter and confidential.

However, I will share with you several snippets of a message the individual in question sent to the campus, addressed to me. I do so with the understanding that that THIS IS NOT material that you can quote ver batim in your publication.

Obviously, you are free to write whatever you choose about this incident. It is important to recognize that no institution (including a newspaper or journal) should be held accountable for the public utterances of an employee. While we work hard at creating the kind of culture and ethos at the college that would minimize the likelihood of outrageous statements intended to attack the diginity and worth of another human being, we can only be held accountable to how we respond to such situations. You will have to be the judge of that, filtered through whatever values you hold to be sacred.

Thomas Aceto

Thomas D. Aceto
President
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams, MA 01247
voice (413) 662-5201
fax (413) 662-5580
email: taceto@mcla.mass.edu

*****

Thank you for your reply. I'm glad to hear the professor was repentant. I heard from another source that his views were public knowledge—that he sits on the town council, even.

One comment on the following:

>> Obviously, you are free to write whatever you choose about this incident. It is important to recognize that no institution (including a newspaper or journal) should be held accountable for the public utterances of an employee. <<

My understanding is that employees don't have an unlimited right of free speech in the workplace. An employer can rightfully penalize or even fire them for saying something hurtful—again, in the workplace. An e-mail sent through your campus system to other employees and students would seem to qualify as a workplace issue. Companies have fired employees for sending X- or R-rated material via company e-mail, for example, and this case doesn't seem much different.

I hope to read some of the news reports published on your "Mohawk" nickname and this professor/councilman's views. If I have anything else worth saying, I'll let you know. Thanks again for the info, including the man's private apology.

[In his message to Presdient Aceto, the professor seemed to apologize sincerely for his lack of decorum and control—but not, one should note, for the content of his diatribe.]

Rob Schmidt
Publisher
PEACE PARTY

*****

Rob,

You're right about employees not having an unfettered right of free speech in the work place. Normally, the line is drawn on the manner in which one speaks and not so much on the content. I held my infamous professor accountable for attacking people rather than for attacking their ideas. Interestingly enough, there was a state supreme court case in N.H. within the past year or two where a professor (I believe at UNH) was supported by that court even though many students in a class were offended by his language and choice of examples he used in teaching certain principles in a course.In essence, the court said to be offensive to someone is not reason enough to curtail free speech. No doubt you are well aware of the case.

We certainly live in interesting times. It took the Supreme Court nearly 100 years to determine that "separate but equal" is not equal. I wonder what other principles we hold dear today as a nation will be shattered in the not too distant future? And, when they are shattered we will nod and say, "that's right—why did it take so long for us to see that?"

Good luck with your publication.

Tom Aceto

Thomas D. Aceto
President
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams, MA 01247
voice (413) 662-5201
fax (413) 662-5580
email: taceto@mcla.mass.edu

*****

>> You're right about employees not having an unfettered right of free speech in the work place. Normally, the line is drawn on the manner in which one speaks and not so much on the content. I held my infamous professor accountable for attacking people rather than for attacking their ideas. <<

I read about Prof. Billings's actions on the North Adams town council. I found them to be terribly typical. In public, people like him portray protesters as whiners who don't have a legitimate case. They inevitably label the protesters "politically correct." In private, these people reveal themselves to be closet racists. They think their opponents are little better than children who should be grateful to their "betters."

>> Interestingly enough, there was a state supreme court case in N.H. within the past year or two where a professor (I believe at UNH) was supported by that court even though many students in a class were offended by his language and choice of examples he used in teaching certain principles in a course. In essence, the court said to be offensive to someone is not reason enough to curtail free speech. No doubt you are well aware of the case. <<

I don't know the case but I understand it. Once you give a professor tenure under the present system, you have to let him teach. The question is whether you should give someone like BIllings tenure in the first place. You wouldn't give a Nazi who denied the Holocaust existed tenure, would you? Someone who thinks all Indians were "savages" isn't much different from Hitler. He clearly buys into the idea that some races are better than others.

A newspaper doesn't have to publish every article submitted to it, and a university doesn't have to hire every professor up for tenure. In addition, the whole idea of tenure is questionable and is coming under increasing scrutiny. Journalists don't have tenure, so I'm not sure why professors need it.

>> We certainly live in interesting times. It took the Supreme Court nearly 100 years to determine that "separate but equal" is not equal. I wonder what other principles we hold dear today as a nation will be shattered in the not too distant future? And, when they are shattered we will nod and say, "that's right—why did it take so long for us to see that?" <<

Fortunately society's long-term trend is toward secular humanism, which is all to the good. Someday we'll have a real multicultural perspective: that people of every race, religion, nationality, culture, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth are truly equal and have something to contribute. Then perhaps we'll see people as family members and not as "survivors" to be voted off the island.

Rob Schmidt
Publisher
PEACE PARTY

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