Panic at Oberlin

George W. Dent

At first I thought it was a joke from The Onion.

Oberlin College canceled all classes for a day, the story said. Why? Had a crazed gunman shot several people? Had a serial rapist or armed robber struck again?

No. A couple of items of graffiti had been scribbled around the campus, and one student saw what might possibly have been someone in a Ku Klux Klan costume, although later reports indicated that it more likely was just someone wrapped in a blanket.

The Victorians had such a phobia about sex that even piano legs had to have sleeves lest young women faint at the sight of a naked piano leg. Of course, at the same time sex was openly for sale on London's streets. The censorship of sex was an artifice confined to certain times and places.

Likewise Oberlin students are trained to go into shock at the sight of phrases that are scrawled all over many urban areas, fill the internet, and pervade rap music. Of course, Oberlin students are neither stupid nor hypersensitive. They realize that the current hysteria is a staged event and has little relevance to the outside world.

Nonetheless, Victorian priggishness did damage many minds, and one wonders whether the delirium at Oberlin will hinder some students in coping with the politically incorrect world outside the Ivory Tower. Oberlin president Krislov should have said: "We're all intelligent, educated, resilient adults. Don't let yourselves be provoked by such stupid trivia."

Rather than letting this farce fade away, the college has now asked the FBI to investigate. The response should be: "We have serious crimes to deal with. We can't waste our time with every incident of scurrilous graffiti." However, the plague of political correctness is now epidemic in the federal government as well as academia, so terrorists, sex traffickers, and illegal gun dealers may get a break while the FBI diverts its attention to adolescent pranks.

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