CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From thernUniversity ofrnPennsylvaniarnby Gregory P. PavlikrnOn Buffalo and BiasrnSheldon Hacknev, president of the Universityrnof PennsyK’ania, was recently chosenrnto head the National Endowment forrnthe Humanities. Dr. Hackney has beenrndescribed bv the Chronicle of Higher Educationrnas something of a moderate withrna passion for free expression. I won’t rehashrnhis credentials as a defender of freernspeech, except to say that he backed thernpublic financing of Robert Mapplcthorpe’srnhomoerotic photo exhibition atrnthe histitute for Contemporary Art atrnPenn in 1989. The president of the conservativernNational Association of Scholars,rnStephen Balch, described Hackneyrnas an “intelligent, open-minded man ofrnintcgritv.” With all this lavish praise,rnone can easily sec how Dr. I laekney wasrnso promptly confirmed.rnBut dietoric and reality too frcquent-rn1- diverge, and Hackney’s reputation forrndefending open expression is illdeserved.rnMajor national media attentionrnhas focused on the university’s zealousrnprosecution of a young Jewish manrnfor calling a group of black women “waterrnbuffalo.” Although the charge ofrnracial liarassment was dropped bv thernwomen, the controversy lasted longrnenough to raise serious questions aboutrnthe propriety of the university’s “hate”rnspeech code. This code has been flagrantlyrnabused with some frequency, andrnhas resulted in a climate of outright politicalrnintimidation. 1 speak now fromrnpersonal experience, having been veryrnneadv mauled by the 1 laekney administrationrnfor the high crime of insensitivit^rnyhirnthe fall 1992 semester, two whiternstudents were placed under investigationrnby the university for racial harassment,rna charge that can result in a rangernof repercussions, from a permanent marrnon a student’s transcript to expulsion.rnThev had thrown water out of their dormitoryrnwindow on a group of studentsrnperforming a ritual “tapping” exercisernfor initiation into a senior honor society.rnNever mind that this rather noisyrnceremony occurred after two o’clock inrnthe morning, that the two white studentsrnclaim that members of the honorrnsociety had thrown eggs at their building,rnthat the initiates were blindfolded inrnviolation of university policy and staternlaw, or that these “honor” students letrnloose a stream of violent and anti-whiternepithets after the soaking: the honor societyrnis called Onyx, meaning black.rnBecause there was no real evidence ofrnracial ill will on the part of the whiternstudents, the university’s acting JudicialrnInquiry Officer, Catherine Schifter,rnpressed for a settlement. The two studentsrnwere essentially coerced into signingrnan agreement that involved expulsionrnfrom their rooms, writing a letter ofrnapology, and community service to avoidrnthe kangaroo court that would have followedrnthe investigation. Predictably, thernOnyx Society faced no consequence,rnonly appeasement.rnAs an editorial columnist at the schoolrnpaper, the Daily Pennsyhanian, I suggestedrnin an opinion piece that somewherernthe idea of justice had been lostrnand that a gross double standard was atrnwork, not only in the university, but inrnthe country at large. I cited the ease ofrnthe Onyx Society in particular, and expectedrnan angry response from somern(particularly after an administratorrnthreatened my life if I chose to run therncolumn). But I hoped to draw attentionrnto the real issue of the rot that hasrnsettled within the university system inrnmulticulturalism’s wake.rnSix days passed when I received a callrnfrom Dr. Schifter. She rather happily informedrnme that 31 charges of racial harassmentrnhad been filed against me.rnWhen I queried her as to why, her responsernwas, “You need to ask?” I askedrnDr. Schifter if I was protected by thernuniversity’s “Open Expression Guidelines,”rnwhich explicitly state that speechrncritical of the university is protected, andrnwas told that this was to be determinedrnas part of her investigation. It was thenrnintimated to me that if I sat down withrnthe entire bulk of students that had filedrnthe charges against me and opened a dialogue,rnall would be forgiven. ‘Ify to envisionrn31 angry black students placingrnthe blame of hundreds of years of whiternoppression on my head. I am sure thatrnhad I accepted this offer and eventuallyrnbroken down in an admission of my insensitivity,rnI would have been railroadedrnstraight through the campus court system:rnshot by my own confession, as itrnwere.rnI laekney did not live up to his reputationrnas a free-speech idealogue. Althoughrnhe had full knowledge of thernease, he nevertheless allowed an investigationrnto be launched against me, despiternPenn’s signed agreement with thernnewspaper stipulating that no judicialrnaction will be taken against a student forrnanything written in the paper. The ordealrnended only when Alan Kors, a professorrnof intellectual history who servesrnon the NEH board, placed a personalrncall to Hackney. It seems that thernprospect of a political spectacle was notrnon the Hackney agenda for the semester.rnNevertheless, a month passed before I receivedrnwritten notice that I was not to bernformally charged.rnApparently, the threat of permanentlyrnsmearing my academic record was notrnenough for the militants in the campusrnblack community. On April 15, theyrnchose to seize and dispose of nearly allrn14,200 copies of the Daily Pennsyhanian,rnin which my final column of thernsemester ran, from the distributionrnpoints on campus. In place of the newspapersrnwas a note, claiming responsibilityrnlay with the “Black Community,”rnwhich was protesting the “blatant andrnvoluntary perpetuation of institutionalrnracism.” A black student’s remark to thernPhiladelphia Inquirer that day seems tornreflect the attitude of the Hackney administration:rn”I really feel like I totally,rnabsolutely agree with freedom of speech.rnBut it’s another thing when they’re gettingrncomplaints from over a hundredrnpeople that they’re feeling really harassed,rnand they don’t do anything aboutrnIt.”rnAs is customary for campus minoritiesrnafter committing a crime, the gaggle ofrnthieves marched to Hackney’s housernwith a list of demands, including therndismissal of a police officer who had thernaudacity to arrest one of the protesters.rnIt seems the student, a black male, resistedrnand was poked with a police club.rnAs it turns out, the young man is therngreat-grandson of Elijah Muhammad,rnfounder of the Nation of Islam, a mili-rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn