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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

With poor judgement, Secretary out of line

Published: March 22, 2013
Section: Editorials

Responding to an opinion article in The Hoot about Brandeis Hookups on Facebook last week, Student Union Secretary Carlton Shakes wrote a comment filled with profanity to address our writer’s post. Prior to Shakes’ comments, administrators of the Brandeis Hookups Facebook page had engaged in a respectful discussion, explaining the points they disagreed with while employing an appropriate and understanding tone.

But Shakes, who wrote, “Shut the fuck up BH is an anonymous forum for the Brandeis campus” before ending his comments with “Take your self-righteous bullshit and the stick out of your ass, thanks,” showed a lack of respect and incredibly poor judgment. Of course, Shakes has the same First Amendment right to free speech as anyone, but as a student government official he is held to a higher standard of behavior. Just because Shakes has a legal right to speak his mind, does not mean the student body cannot judge him for what he says and hold him accountable when his words contradict the most fundamental university values of respect and decency.

Although Shakes posted the comment from his personal facebook account, it is irrelevant. His name and by extension, his position, are still attached to his words. He does not put aside his leadership role by logging into his personal account.

Certainly it is the responsibility of the voters in the student body, not a newspaper, to demand how Shakes should follow up on his disrespectful, inexcusable and offensive behavior.

In an email titled, “Campus Civility and Respect,” Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel cautioned students to exercise greater care and thought when posting online.

“This is particularly challenging in the environment of online and social media. The potential for harmful messaging online is compounded by the ease of casual, immediate response,” Flagel wrote. “We have all seen some of the most media-savvy and polished professionals undone by their postings online, and none of us are immune to the dangers of being inadvertently offensive.”

In posting his comment with such a disrespectful tone, whether intentional or not, Shakes’ comment reflects very poorly on the Student Union.

But the larger issue now is one of distraction from the important topics. In response to The Hoot article, students participated in an important discussion about sexual attitudes, stigmas and behaviors on campus. The substance of that discussion is now lost, as administrators spent many hours this week debating how to respond and react to Shakes’ online comment. And they should have. Such behavior should not go unnoticed.

But our leaders in student government should be driving and encouraging the thoughtful discussion, not turning us away from it.