Dean Says Free Speech is More Like Accordions Than We Think
Dean Says Free Speech is More Like Accordions Than We Think
The Chrislip College Board of Regents voted yesterday to remove Robert Spaniel from his post as professor of mathematics. The firing was the result of an allegedly racist act perpetrated by Dr. Spaniel several weeks ago. The incident was videotaped by an amateur cameraman, and has since been the source of much debate around campus.
The incident in question took place during an otherwise uneventful lunch in the cafeteria. Odell Watts, a student-teacher, was returning from the lunch-line with his tray of food when he slipped and fell to the floor. In doing so, he landed face-first in his mashed potatoes.
According to witnesses, Dr. Spaniel laughed when he saw this and commented, “Eat ’em, don’t breathe ’em!” an apparent reference to what Mr. Watts was doing to the potatoes with his face. The videotape, though grainy and poorly lit, seems to support the charges made by the witnesses.
Dr. Spaniel is white. Mr. Watts is an African-American.
The incident set off a storm of protest from one end of campus to about one-eighth of the way across it; primarily in the section which houses liberal arts students.
In announcing the firing, Dean Harvard Marner spoke from a prepared statement that said in part: “Freedom of speech is like an accordion. It’s a good thing to have, [but] that doesn’t mean you should practice it within earshot of others.”
The Doubleday Dictionary defines an accordion as a portable reed organ using air from a self-contained bellows operated by the performer.
The following is the complete text of Dean Marner’s statement concerning the firing of Dr. Robert Spaniel
“After much deliberation, we’ve decided it’s in the best interest of the students, the faculty, and indeed the whole of Chrislip College, to can Robert Spaniel.
“What began as a minor scandal quickly became a rowdy-dow, and was on the verge of turning into a brouhaha. Hopefully, giving Bob his walking papers will put an end to it.
“The Board of Regents is… or are… (long pause), The Board of Regents am responsible for providing students with teachers who are good role models. They have to make sure one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel of monkeys. It’s clear that Bob Spaniel was the bad apple in this case, when he was tossed into the barrel of monkeys, of which we are proud to claim Odell Watts as one of them.
“Some people say that Bob has lost his freedom of speech. But let me say this: Freedom of speech is like an accordion. They have a lot in common. Both produce sweet music when played properly. Both have the capacity to either please or offend. And both resemble a large concertina. In other words, it’s a good thing to have. That doesn’t mean you should practice it within earshot of others.
“I must admit that I don’t understand why what Bob did is so terrible. But then, I’m from a different generation. We didn’t have computers and cable TV. We didn’t have lubricated condoms and men landing on the moon. We didn’t have all these wonderful Ronco products. And people were different back then, too. We took things in stride. We believed in living and letting living.”
[A reporter interrupted and asked where Dean Marner got the information that lubricated condoms are landing on the moon. The dean replied that this was news to him, but that he would look into the matter further.]
“In closing, let me say that we wish Robert Spaniel well, even though he is a pretty bad fellow. We’re sure he’ll find another math-teaching job somewhere else where nobody knows him, and that in no time at all those students will be able to count as high as ours can.”
The following is a letter to the editor from Professor Mick Williams concerning the firing of Dr. Robert Spaniel
The firing of Robert Spaniel was correct, both politically and morally.
We’ve all seen the video a hundred times, frame by ugly frame.
We saw Odell Watts, a black African-American gentleman of color, as he slipped on the floor and plunged into his mashed potatoes.
We saw the face of Robert Spaniel rising in the background like a white death’s-head mask, a smile of perverted amusement twisting his lips.
We heard his staccato outburst of laughter; a series of six distinct “ha-ha’s.”
We heard his tasteless comment: “Eat ’em, don’t breathe ’em!”
That video reminds me of another video – the one in which the heroic figure of Rodney King cringed as he was clubbed by white America. And let’s be honest, the hands of all European-descended Americans were holding those billy clubs that night.
I am not going to apologize for being a white man. I did that in the last issue. But like all thinking people everywhere, regardless of race, I feel shamed by the actions of a “man” like Robert Spaniel.
And what were his actions? Simply put, he laughed at a black man. This is unacceptable behavior. There is nothing funny about black people. I and some like-minded friends recently attended a comedy club downstate. While there, we refused to laugh at the black comedians. We knew their humor was born of the white foot of oppression on their necks, and our laughter would have shown that we didn’t take these comics seriously. So we sat there in a stone-silent show of solidarity.
Some might say that seeing someone, anyone, fall into a plate of mashed potatoes is “funny.” But I have to question the true source of Spaniel’s amusement. Considering the color of mashed potatoes, it’s very likely that Spaniel saw the symbolism. He was laughing at the image of a black man falling on his face in the white world.
And what of his comment, “Eat ’em, don’t breathe ’em!”? The word “breathe” is synonymous with the words “inhale” and “snort.” Was Spaniel perhaps comparing the plate of mashed potatoes to a mound of cocaine, and insinuating that Mr. Watts was prone to indulge in drugs because of his color?
Or was he suggesting that Mr. Watts, with the wide, flaring nostrils of his race, was as likely to inhale his vegetables as eat them?
And what of the mashed potatoes themselves?
Police artist’s sketch of the potato in question before it was mashed
Potatoes are a racist vegetable. Examine one closely and you’ll see a metaphor of our society. The exterior, brown and honorable, most often ends up on the trash heap. The interior, lily-white, is prized as the most valuable part of the vegetable.
It was no accident that Dan Quayle – that walking ventriloquist’s dummy who can’t tell sitcoms from real life – spelled potato with an “e” at the end. It wasn’t a mistake, but rather a subtle way of reminding America that he expects the “po ta toe” (poor to toe) the line. In his upper middle-class Republican (read: Fascist) mind, poor and black mean the same thing.
America got wise and flushed the Quayle. Now our school has gunny-sacked the Spaniel. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Maybe we’re one step closer to living in a free country; one in which people aren’t punished for the color of their skin, but for their ideas.
Professor Mick Williams