Naturally, my instructor friend was taken aback and more than a little annoyed. Clearly peeved, he asked these young men to identify themselves.
In response, they said nothing. Absolutely nothing. They did nothing. At one point, one of them attempted to make a phone call.
Many of us, I’m sure, would find in this circumstance a reason for concern. Alarm even. But the friend, a bold fellow, just got pissed and insisted that the young men leave. Eventually, they did. He escorted them out the door. He tried to pull off the one kid's horse mask. No luck—the kids trotted off.
Later, it came to light that this “invasion of mute assholes” phenomenon has occurred elsewhere on campus. It is by no means an isolated incident. The phenomenon is, I've been told, the result of an assignment given to students in a Sociology course—something about violating social norms and then seeing what happens.
|Liz Cipres: her usual level|
The instructor friend eventually came into contact with the head Sociology instructor on campus, who wrote him an email. I read it. I don’t know what my friend made of it, but it struck me as condescending. The gist of the email seemed to be, "we can't be blamed if some of our students don't follow our guidelines when completing this assignment." She listed these guidelines. They were clearly of the CYA variety—you know, "don't do it at the college," where, of course, a student's inappropriate behavior might produce ripples that come back to faculty.
Such an email! I'd be pissed anew.
Eventually, the matter came to the attention of Liz Cipres, Dean of Counseling Services, who took on the matter with her usual level of competence. Among other things, she suggested that instructors could lock their classroom doors.
I'm not making this up. That's what she suggested.
Has something like this happened in one of your classes?
What is one to make of these disruptive Mute Asshole phenomena—and the assignments that inspire them? And what is one to make of the Sociology Dept's CYA and hand-washing moves?
* * *I've decided to be helpful. Based on extensive research, I’ve constructed a handy guide for students who wish to fulfill this assignment. What follows are cool and UNCOOL attempts. Let them be your guide:
FULFILLING THE ASSIGNMENT TO VIOLATE SOCIAL NORMS (BUT NOT AT THE COLLEGE WHERE I COULD GET MY SOCIOLOGY INSTRUCTOR IN TROUBLE):
• Entering Ralphs, then buying your Wheaties in the nude: cool
• Wearing a Scream mask, going to Grandma’s house, ringing the doorbell, and then, when she opens the door, screaming and making threatening gestures: uncool
• A guy (not in Scotland) showing up to church in a cute dress: cool
• A guy showing up to his pro-life, right-wing friend’s birthday party, then gifting said friend with that Beatles album that has the notorious “dead babies” cover: uncool