For years, one of my favorite analogies was to say “it’s like the Iran-Iraq war — you wish find yourself wishing they both lose.”
It served me well, but now with Iraq on its shaky way to becoming a US ally, it’s a touch outdated. I find myself looking for a new conflict where both sides are equally despicable. And thanks to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, I just might have it — spammers and Islamists.
The tale is of a gentleman who works for William Paterson University in New Jersey. Mr. Jihad Daniel received an unsolicited e-mail from a professor about an upcoming film about a lesbian relationship. He wrote back, expressing his opinion of homosexuality in the context of his Muslim faith (the words “God” and “perversion” featured prominently in his response). The professor who sent out the original e-mail (chairperson of the Women’s Studies Department) found it “threatening” and “harassing,” and filed a complaint. The university looked at the issue and gave Mr. Daniel a formal reprimand.
As painful as it is to me, I find myself siding with someone named “Jihad.” Even more painful, I am disagreeing and criticizing lesbians and movies about lesbians.
But to me, the principle is the same. Professor Scala sent an unsolicited e-mail to Mr. Daniel, one virtually guaranteed to offend his devout religious beliefs, and went whining to the administration because a low-level employee and part-time student said a couple of unpleasant things.
To my way of thinking, Ms. Scala initiated the communication and added Mr. Daniel to her mailing list without his consent — which he certainly would have likely refused, had he known of it beforehand. But once she began that conversation, she had no grounds for complaint about how he chose to answer her as long as he remained within the bounds of the law and University policy. And as far as I can tell, there was no threat involved (overt or implicit) — merely his expressing his sincere opinion and informing her that her own beliefs were not shared, and her “invitation” was most unwelcome.
I’d like to think that this would lead to a policy change at the University, where professors cannot simply mass e-mail every single person with a university e-mail account unless they opt-out. But from my own experiences with academia, I predict that instead the university will stand behind its faculty’s “right” to “communicate” with the entire community. And any student who is so foolish as to ask to be omitted from future mailings will be forever tainted as “intolerant.”