WARNING: In this article, I attempt to document my own reaction towards an inflammatory video and the threats that it has provoked towards members of our community. My opinion is independent, and may or may not represent the greater Vassar community. The anonymous threats I reference in the article will be included in an independent link, are NOT associated with the Huffington Post and are NSFW.
The screen shots of these comments can be accessed by clicking here
Rage ensued after a viral attack campaign targeted Vassar College.
Students and staff members alike, who had done nothing to provoke this attack, were revealed on hidden camera, some of whom had their names included without their permission. This video, being inflammatory in nature, had attracted the collective rage of internet commenters towards individual members of our school. Specifically, Kelly Grab, who works in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, was harassed by internet users after her identity was explicitly exposed by the video creator, Veritas. However, after delving into this provocative video, I am proud of how amazingly empathetic my fellow students were in reaction. Not only did they watch the video with an open mind, but they redirected its provocative nature towards consoling Grab with a collaborative thank you card, commemorating her positive impact on our campus.
Before we get explore this happier note, however, we must to delve into the video and its negative impact on the Vassar community.
The video unravels as told. An undercover actress, who abused our student confidentiality protocol, impersonated a Vassar undergraduate and unlawfully recorded her conversation with one of our campus administrators. Based solely on the dialog in the video, she seemed to have instructed Grab to shred a small pocketbook copy of the constitution because it was causing her anxiety. From there on, the focus of the video switches to a man dressed as the American constitution, who converses with some of the students and hands out printed copies of the constitution. The video itself is about 12 minutes long, with chunks of the recorded footage repeated as filler.
Off the bat, my problem has less to do with the subject matter and more with the blatant lack of confidentiality. Because the first amendment allows the video's creators to ridicule the liberal nature of our college campus, I can't oppose their right to do so. Thus, I can handle satire, and I am confident enough with my own beliefs to poke fun at myself and my peers from time to time. However, the disrespect towards students as human beings and the lack of confidentiality for individuals appearing in the video is appalling. Veritas includes the names of staff members with their appropriate positions, and the comment section is full of violent threats towards these individual members of our school. Yet, despite the inflammatory nature established in this video and its visible aftermath, the main confusion on campus has to do with the political point Veritas was trying to make, both concerning Vassar and all liberal arts institutions.
"It just seems so strange to me" remarks Natasha, a junior who was unknowingly filmed by the Veritas crew. "He made up a completely isolated situation and applied it to our school."
Natasha is, in fact, correct that the situation was completely isolated. It has never been brought to my attention nor to the knowledge of my fellow students that the sight of the Constitution was causing any one person to experience anxiety on campus. There is, however, a campus policy to not discriminate against individuals seeking personal help, so any complaint made about Grab's compliance with the actress's demands has less to do with her individual morality and more with the rules and guidelines for how campus therapy works.
Yet, despite the fact that she only complied with a proposed therapeutic demonstration, Grab is being targeted as an individual person who committed treason.
Despite conflicting beliefs among students, we all agreed that Grab, one of our caring administrators, did not deserve to be targeted and identified by this smear campaign. We therefore put together an online document, including a sentimental thank you card for Grab and the signatures of students who rely on her services. The google doc spread rapidly on Facebook, and a long list of student signatures were committed underneath the letter. Therefore, despite the video's direct intention, it inadvertently challenged us as students to acknowledge how special and caring our staff truly is.
To conclude this chapter of debate, Veritas wanted to see if we would comply, and we did. Yet somehow, the organization that created this isolated incident disregards the logical fallacies that its thesis is established upon. They ordered us to shred a document because it hurts them, yet they never asked us about our own beliefs and intentions concerning the constitution. There was no poll, no honest Q and A with students; just a video, among others on the Veritas channel, that was taken completely out of context. If anything, we set an example on how to treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity, and showcased on camera the inspiring amount of love we treat our disabled students with. So, ironically, while Vassar students are being called sick in the head for some horrific action, it's even more disturbing that certain people hold the symbolic value of the Constitution above that of the living, compassionate subjects which it aims to protect.