Is Dustin Lance Black strongly opinionated? We’d argue yes. Strongly opinionated about gay rights. Strongly opinionated about nobody seeing his sex photos. And, likely, strongly opinionated that Hope College’s decision to ban him from its Michigan campus is ridiculous.
Black, who’s nearby filming What’s Wrong With Virginia, was invited to take part in two different events at the school: speaking to a screenwriting class at the school, and taking part in a roundtable discussion on sexuality. But neither opportunities were “educational” enough for Hope College Dean of Students Richard Frost, who the Holland Sentinel reports “said that from past experience, strongly-opinionated speakers usually don’t further academic discussions about gay, lesbian or transgender issues.”
Hope students originally requested a showing of “Milk” along with a panel discussion, which was not approved by the college. Subsequently, several college administrators, faculty and students met to discuss the two separate events — the class visit to discuss screenwriting, and the screening and discussion of the film — and the decision was made to go ahead with the invitation for the class visit.
Not everyone is so pleased with the decision. Namely, students. Particularly the queer ones. There’s this letter to the editor arguing Black’s pedigree is reason enough to invite him to campus, and this note we received from Timothy Brandt, who describes himself as a “GLBT Hope College student”:
Essentially, both our group and a screenwriting class wanted to host Black on campus. The Administration (i.e., the President and Board) chose to allow Black to speak to the class about his process as a screenwriter (How is the influence of being gay NOT going to come up there?), but told GSF that we were not allowed to host Black for an academic Q&A (after a showing of “Milk”) on the topic of facilitating healthy discussion about the issue of homosexuality in communities, both Hope College’s and Holland, Michigan’s. Eight departments had already told us they would support the academic nature of the event, but the Dean indicated that the Administration’s “position was non-negotiable.”
The President and Board’s reasons for their decision: “The dean of students enumerated two reasons for this decision. First, ‘Dustin Lance Black’s advocacy would be too strong for campus.’ Second, the event and Dustin Lance Black would ‘polarize’ the campus, prompting counter responses from other groups that would further impede the discussion of these emotionally charged topics. In addition, concerns were raised about donor support, which could place stress on the college’s finances” (excerpt from GSF’s statement to the editor and campus).
Students on both sides of the homosexuality culture war are outraged that their college’s administration doesn’t think they’re mature enough to discuss important issues on campus respectfully, or even sanely. Doesn’t our school have a Communications department? And what kind of spineless nitwits do Hope’s donors want the college to produce? Homosexuality isn’t going away. The pissed-off and hurt students aren’t going away. The Administration is censoring academic discussion of one of the great social issues of our time. Sounds like the dark ages to me.
Dark ages, indeed. Which explains why college students were rallying earlier this month after the administration’s decision. Here’s The Anchor‘s Oct. 14 frontpage:
What’s next? Banning cross-dressing because it’s too distracting for college kids?
The entire premise of keeping Black off campus is ridiculous. Colleges are supposed to foster worldly leaders. Censorship isn’t the way to do this. Then again, remember that Hope College is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. As the school’s website notes, “Its great religious heritage is expressed through a dynamic Christian community of students and teachers vitally concerned with a relevant faith that changes lives and transforms society.” But didn’t RCA, in 2005, approve a recommendation “to immediately begin an honest and intentional denomination-wide dialogue on homosexuality”? Yes, yes they did.
And do you know how best to have a dialogue?
BY HAVING A DIALOGUE.