Mock prison camp display crossed a line

Kevin Lin

Dear Editor,

I was very offended when I read John Burns’ hyperbolic quote, “I guess the students at Washington University were in a gulag all along, and the administration proved it through their stifling of free speech.” This is highly disingenuous, considering the University allowed Young Americans for Liberty to hold the assembly and plaster multitudes of flyers around campus. Also, as far as I know, no one has been forced to work as slaves here or been repeatedly physically abused by the staff. I find it ironic that YAL has plastered the dorms with flyers proclaiming truth versus a “leftist lie,” when it seems they are not above lying themselves.

The idea behind the display was distasteful. Certainly, paying tribute to the fall of the Berlin wall is commendable, as is remembering the struggles of those interned in gulags. Turning it into a thinly-veiled commentary on American health reform, however, crossed the line. There are many ways for YAL to get their message out without the need to politicize such tragic events; it cheapens the millions of lives that died in the labor camps.

Of course we must remember the past so we do not repeat it; that is why Germany holds remembrances of their own concentration camps; however, few political groups would dare use Auschwitz or Treblinka to further their own agendas.

Overall, it seemed that this was just a publicity stunt by the YAL. They could easily have disclosed all the details of their event in advance to Events Services. The entire display was just overdone, especially the fake blood. I expect the commemoration of such a deplorable chapter of history to be solemn and respectful. When Emily Piontek admitted that health care reform was part of their motivation for hosting the event, it showed the event was more of an excuse to further an agenda than a memorial and history lesson. Burns said the University engaged in censorship similar to Soviet communists; if this were true, he would most likely have been arrested and sent without trial to a subarctic region by now.

Kevin Lin, Freshman

  • It is good that our students care so passionately about ideas, and want to learn more.

    Let’s bring back the Sociology Department, and the undergraduate major in Social Thought and Analysis, so that WashU students may be better educated about these issues. Isn’t this what we are all saying, between the lines?

  • Student

    If you can’t construct an argument against healthcare reform without comparing Wash U to a gulag, maybe it’s time to rethink your motivations.

  • In my posts to another discussion thread, I pointed out that the University of Missouri at Columbia has a Speaker’s Circle, right outside the library, surrounded by benches and bulletin boards, where free speech, including lively criticism of the University Administration, is actually encouraged and freely practiced. No doubt there are invisible lines that may not be crossed, but I am assured by a friend who is a Mizzou alum that this is very popular, because it really is not scripted.

    If the administrators are really concerned about amplified sound, why not provide an audio system for our Speaker Circle? Why not have quiet hours so the students may get some sleep? Perhaps the circle outside the Olin Library is not the best place for this on our campus (because students need quiet to study). How about the Swamp?

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    per veritatem vis

  • What’s shameful and offensive is that students have to erect a mock gulag to actually spur real discussion about a political system that eradicated 150,000,000 people from the planet during the 20th century.

    What’s shameful and offensive is that your teachers and professors never taught you about this.

    What’s shameful and offensive is that starting discussion and promoting thought – albeit through provocative means to wake people up – is outlawed on your campus. And I don’t really give a damn what bullshit excuse they give or by what euphemistic phrase they call it: crushing free speech is crushing free speech. And your university, Kevin, has a contractual obligation to you to provide you with an open environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas and devoid of arbitrary censorship. For example – the structure was “unsafe” to construct, yet somehow “safe” to deconstruct.

    What’s shameful and offensive is when students have been so thoroughly brainwashed into statism that they turn against fellow students in support of the administration when it openly and gleefully stifles free speech. See the video at this site and watch how they strove to find excuses and plotted to crush the dissent of your fellow students:

    What’s shameful and offensive is that most students don’t know that Nazism is a form of socialism.

    What’s shameful and offensive is that students like you, Kevin, do not read your history. You’re willing to to allow the rest of us to take the risk and suffer the consequences for ignorant gambles against the lessons of history. All of this in the face of billions who have suffered under socialism because leaders like you were so damned sure they were on the “right” side of history. So sure they could positive change through making decisions for everyone else on how to live life…on how to cease living.

    No, Kevin, this Gulag set was not offensive. It is a bold and necessary reminder – especially in the face of the negligence of the academics that populate the faculties of your college and hundreds more – that only one end can befall a nation that steals decision rights away from citizens and into the hands of even the noblest of oligarchies. Noble intentions meant very little to the millions of residents scattered across the hundreds of GULAGS in the “archipelago.”

    Read Solzhenitsyn, Kevin. Perhaps then you will not fault us for taking pains to speak out. “The dead remember our indifference. The dead remember our silence.”