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
[email protected]

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