Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another attempt to defend the A-T

I haven't been posting things from the discussion list, but I was driven to post this. A person from the journalism department posted a letter this morning asking why there wasn't more outrage on campus when a non-student was arrested, cited, and fined for marijuana possession. I am not quite sure I get the parallel. I guess we were supposed to be upset that the university police did their job because the victim was black. Apparently, he sees this as differential applications of justice.

I don't see this at all and most of the responses on the list pointed this out. Even if this were an outrage (which it is clearly not), it doesn't lessen the hostile attitude of the A-T's April Fools Issue.

Here is the letter:

Last week many colleagues used this forum to register their opinions about the April Fool’s issue of the Advance-Titan. I am writing to bring to your attention an item that appeared in a different issue of the A-T, an article that appears to have gone largely unnoticed even though it seems to me to say a lot about campus climate.

In its March 29 issue, the A-T reported the following (based on a police report):

March 14, 2007. (1:15 a.m.)--During a routine building check, an officer detected the odor of burning candles and incense coming from a guest room in the North Gruenhagen Conference Center, in violation of university fire regulations. The female guest was contacted and identified herself as a Philadelphia resident who was performing in the “Voices of Africa Choral and Percussion Ensemble.” She consented to a search of the room where candles and incense were found. The officer noticed her trying to conceal something in a suitcase. The officer seized a cosmetic case containing a marijuana joint and roaches weighing 2.2 grams. The female admitted it was her marijuana but denied smoking it in the room. Nonstudent Regina Contave (sic), 46, was cited for possession of marijuana.

As you may know, Ms. Cantave (the proper spelling of her name) belongs to a group that was a guest on this campus in January 2005 for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner. She performs under the name of Akusua Nyo Agyiriwah, and she was back in the area last month because Voices of Africa was performing for Neenah school students as part of the group’s mission to foster multicultural awareness and understanding.

Without question the officer was doing his or her duty to protect the lives and property of the university community. Asking Ms. Cantave to extinguish any candles or incense was completely appropriate. But the officer should have stopped there. Searching the room was an unnecessary intrusion.

I encourage you to read the police report carefully and apply your powers of critical analysis. How credible is it that a person with illegal substances in her possession “consented” to a search of her room? If that person had consented to a search, why would she then try “to conceal something in a suitcase”? For those of you who have lived in urban areas, how likely is it that you would allow a police officer into your bedroom in the middle of the night absent subterfuge or threat?

I’m sure the rejoinder from the UP would be that the officer had an obligation to investigate a crime. But officers have great discretion in how they choose to enforce the law (if they didn’t we would all have speeding or jaywalking tickets for what we do on Algoma Boulevard). The fact is they exercise their discretion according to the parameters that are established by those in their chain of command.

What message do you think that Ms. Cantave took away from her encounter with the UP? That UW Oshkosh values an environment that is “inclusive” and “tolerant”? Let’s not forget that her offense was not a crime, in a narrow legal sense. Possession is a civil offense and in the scheme of things not a lot more serious than driving a few miles an hour over the speed limit. But it cost her $375 and spoke volumes about how welcome people like her are on our campus.

I invite you to reflect on the difference in our reaction to this incident and to the April Fool’s edition of the A-T.

As part of that reflection, I urge you to consider the difference in agency, on the one hand a uniformed (and armed) employee of this institution who is paid to carry out its mission and support its values and on the other hand students, who pay us to be formed and instructed in the value of knowledge and inquiry.

We appear to be far more tolerant of the actions of people invested with formal authority than the ones who are here for an education.


lammers said...


That is one colossal non-sequitur.
I cannot fathom under what circumstances that would even remotely seem to have anything to do with the A-T flap.

One could certainly make a case that perhaps say an official visitor should be cut some slack. When I saw that story, I thought, Gee, maybe they just should've confiscated the contraband and given her a warning. She was an official guest, after all. But it entirely eludes me what that has to do with the A-T in the least. Ms. Barnard was not arrested, Ms. Cantave was not publicly lampooned, etc. There are no parallels that I can see. I cannot imagine that the writer is suggesting that to make folks of diverse backgrounds feel welcome, we allow them to break the law with impunity???? What a colossal insult THAT would be! No rational person would argue that!

This is NOT the sort of clear thinking and rational analysis one expects of the benificiary of a liberal education. Very foggy, hazy rationalization, indeed ...

Of course, had the burning incense and such started a conflagration in the building and people had been injured, there would no doubt be a public outcry wondering why the police hadn't prevented it.

Frank J Doster said...

Come to Wisconsin on vacation, leave on probation!!

Miles Maguire said...

My post was most emphatically not an attempt to defend the A-T.

It was an attempt to get members of the university community to think about some of the deeper causes of the climate issues on campus.

It may have worked in some places, but obviously not in others.

S.B. said...

I'd like you to share with us any outrage posted to the discussion list concerning this. It's only fair, after all.

lammers said...

Yeah, that's pretty awful all right. In fact, it makes conservatives look SO awful, I *still* wonder if this isn't some Onionesque parody designed to make conservatives look bad. If it's not a "liberal plot" to discredit conservatives, then I can only assume the primary motivation behind it is to simply cheese people off by pushing their buttons.

The difference is that this is a privately produced non-sanctioned publication that consistently produces material of this sort. The A-T is the official voice of the university's students which generally does a reasonable job of representing them. There is hope for the A-T; the other rag is a write-off.

Here's an analogy: The April Fool's A-T was like a blemish on a nice white carpet; it's worth cleaning. What you linked to is just one more lump in the hog lot; why bother cleaning it up? Just ignore it.

Seriously, you should take it as a compliment that folks have gotten so worked up over the April Fool's edition. It shows they CARE about the A-T, that they recognize that the rest of the year it does a pretty good job of representing diverse student interests.

The conservative paper is a write-off. No one cares about it; it's beyond redemption and clearly nothing to be taken seriously. It's impact is no greater that graffiti on the wall of the restroom. This is especially true if its staff's main goal is just to piss people off (as seems the case). What do you do with any annoying attention-seeking brat who is working hard at irritating you? Ignore him.

S.B. said...

You're right about Life & Liberty. I wish it were an "Onionesque" publication, but unfortunately the staff is really that scary.

And while you have a point that we're the "official" student voice and they're not, it's worth pointing out that Conservatives in Action is a student group and is therefore funded by student fees, just like the A-T.

lammers said...

s.b. wrote: "it's worth pointing out that Conservatives in Action is a student group and is therefore funded by student fees, just like the A-T."

Hm. Pretty irresponsible way to spend it, IMO. And I'm saying that as someone who tends to favor certain conservative viewpoints.

I was provided a copy of the latest issue of Life & Liberty (thanks, Andy!) and I have to say that it is a real disservice to conservative viewpoints; it is utterly counter-productive to their own stated objectives. While there were a few tiny grains of sense therein, most of it seemed designed to simply be contrary to whatever is percieved as the prevailing "PC" opinion. No one is going to be won over it, no one is going to re-evaluate his or her thinking because of it. Independent and middle-of-the-road voters who can sometimes be swayed to the conservative view with a sound argument will be utterly repulsed by it.

Persuasive and compelling arguments CAN be made to support many conservative viewpoints, but all I saw in L&L was children reveling in their naughtiness and thumbing their noses at convention. It's like EVERY day is April Fools.

As I said before, really not worthy of notice, and that is unfortunate. I think it is healthy for multiple contrasting viewpoints to be presented in a university setting. But it's like like the old joke about "never get in a battle of wits with an unarmed man." One viewpoint is just not well represented on campus.

If the staff of L&L wishes to truly advance the objectives of conservatism in this country, they will take a more serious approach to their newspaper and cease to take their cues from inane bloviators like Rush Limbaugh.

Janine said...

I'm not sure what the pot ticket had to do with the April AT edition?? She was smoking pot, got a ticket, and life went on. Maybe the point is that the AT published it?

Don't get the connection.

lammers said...

Miles Maguire wrote:
>>It was an attempt to get members of the university community to think about some of the deeper causes of the climate issues on campus.<<

Yes, that's a good point. Folks breaking the law on campus definitely contributes to a suboptimal climate. At first, as I mentioned, I thought maybe Ms. Cantave should've been cut some slack, as a visitor, as a courtesy. But after re-reading your post, I've changed my mind.

The more I think about it, the angrier I get. She was an invited GUEST on our campus, staying in our guest residence, and she slapped our hospitality in the face by breaking the law! That is just about as rude and discourteous a thing as I can imagine! If someone did that in my home, I would be outraged.

If this is to be the kind of campus where everyone feels safe and secure and welcome, it is absolutely essential that EVERYONE respect the law. The law, after all, embodies the social compact by which society functions. We cannot afford to have folks picking and choosing which laws they like, for if they can opt to not obey drug laws, then they can just as righteously opt to ignore hate-crime or anti-discrimination or assault laws.

Yes, Miles, after reading your post more carefully, I am convinced that our UP did the right thing, and I thank them for doing so. In order to maintain a civil tolerant campus environment, respect for the law is absolutely essential. Without respect for the law, the fabric of society unravels and all kind of ugliness can result.

Anonymous said...

"S.B. said...

You're right about Life & Liberty. I wish it were an "Onionesque" publication, but unfortunately the staff is really that scary.

And while you have a point that we're the "official" student voice and they're not, it's worth pointing out that Conservatives in Action is a student group and is therefore funded by student fees, just like the A-T.
10:18 AM, April 13, 2007"

Ms. Barnard needs to take the time to do some actual research and then MAYBE she might be considered a journalist. Conservatives In Action have yet to receive any funding from the University in any way. That would have been easy to find out had you actually checked the report put out annually by the University rather than making assumptions.
You know what they say about people in glass houses Steph.

S.B. said...

I stand corrected. If CIA does receive any student funding (which isn't actually detailed in the annual UWO report, last time I checked), be sure to let me know, Nate.

Anonymous said...

Well...back onto the fact that Ms. Contave "consented" to a search, I will tell you why.

I know from personal experience.

Police these days come to your door and ask politely: "Do you mind if I take a look inside?"

And of course, the citizen is obliged to let them in for the sake of not looking guilty.

What most homeowners (or in this case, room-occupants) don't know is that you don't legally have to let an officer in if they do not have a search warrant. If there is no clear and present danger to anyone's well-being, they usually cannot obtain a search warrant.

So in a nutshell, police are just tricksters and crafty. They use their shiny badges as a fear-inducer, not as a welcoming feeling of saftey.

Nana Akosua Baakan, said...

Please Post

9 A.M. EDT, Thursday, May 31, 2007
1. At the time of that this citation was issued, VOA was on tour in the Appleton, Neenah and Oshkosh cities of WI and were housed as guests in the North Gruenhagen Conference Center, 208 Osceola Avenue, Oshkosh, WI.
2. VOA was not aware of any infraction made by any of our Members until May 6, 2007 approximately 7 weeks later when we received an email from Muriel A. Hawkins, Ph.D., Assistant Vice Chancellor, Center for Academic Support and Diversity, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
3. The Ensemble member in question, Okomfo Nyo Agyiriwah, AKA Regina Cantave was performing with VOA but did not alert us to the full extent of the situation or the investigation of her room, nor did she tell us of her impending citation.
4. VOA investigated this matter further, contacted the OWU Police Department and requested a written report which it received on May 10, 2007.
5. From the inception of VOA, we have had a harsh and stringent policy pertaining to any member participating in any illegal substances while performing with us; in housing provided by us or our event producers; or in their private lives. Once this knowledge becomes available, VOA policy is to suspend the member indefinitely or until appropriate rehabilitation has taken place.
6. Ms. Cantave, has voluntarily resigned from the group. Her position is that she has been falsely accused and will pursue legal measures to resolve this matter in the not too distant future. We have accepted her resignation entered on May 8, 2007.
7. We sincerely apologize for any problems this incident may have caused for the campus residents, staff and administration of UWO, the employees at North Gruenhagen Conference Center, the UWO police department and any other parties known or unknown.
8. We further hope that this will play no part in any future engagements that may occur between our Ensemble and the community of Oshkosh, Neenah, Appleton or there about.

Submitted: May 29, 2007
By: Nana Akosua Baakan Agyiriwah, Managing Director & Founder
The “Voices Of Africa” Choral & Percussion Ensemble
Contact: Nana Akosua Baakan Agyiriwah, tel. 215-386-0088 email: