More Conservative Delusions of Persecution, This T...

More Conservative Delusions of Persecution, This Time at MSU

An ex-student at MSU threatened violence against a trans classmate. But the lawsuit he’s brought against the school claims he’s the real victim.

The student–who filed the complaint as Jon Doe–took a class that featured a unit on transgender issues. Avowedly anti-trans and committed to his terrible opinions, Doe asked the professor in private for an alternate assignment. Over the course of the conversation, the professor asked Doe what he would do if approached by an openly trans student in the class; Doe said that, if it came to it, he’d “break her face.” The professor later warned that student about what Doe had said, and the student then filed a Title IX complaint. The school suspended Doe, which he appealed. The decision stood.

Now he’s suing the school for close to a quarter million.

Doe argues that MSU violated his right to privacy and free speech. At the beginning of the class, he and other students signed a confidentiality agreement. Any personal details a student revealed in the course would stay in the course. Doe thinks that same standard should have applied to his conversation with the professor. But even doctor-patient confidentiality breaks when the patient admits intent to harm, and Doe gave up his right to privacy when he threatened physical violence, though he does dispute the phrasing.

So much of the right-wing panic over college campuses centers on alleged hypersensitivity. At the same time, the right paints conservative (or just bigoted) students as the real victims. If they feel any cognitive dissonance from these two beliefs, they don’t show it: Doe’s lawsuit echoes the charge that academia is a repressive social justice nightmare that trades free speech for safe spaces. It also charges he was discriminated against because of his gender.

He’d harm a trans student just for talking to him, but he’d like us all to believe that it’s his identity under attack.

In a perfect world, I’d be a professor who teaches poetry using episodes of mediocre sci-fi procedurals, but for now, I’m just a tutor who watches a lot of TV. I got my BA from Kalamazoo College in English with a focus on creative writing, and someday soon I’d like to go back to academia.

Most of my formal teaching training was as a creative writing TA, but I’ve used those skills professionally more to tutor math and write data entry training materials. And though I’d like to focus my work on what I’m really passionate about (which is Netflix binges and outdated video games, mostly), it’s the craft of teaching and writing that keeps me coming back. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of High Faluter: I’m finding that academia doesn’t just stay in academia. And if I can bring crappy midbrow entertainment into academia too, well, all the better. You can find me on Twitter: @StewartFinnegan