Michigan State University plans to ban whiteboards from its dorm-room doors starting next semester to stop students from using them as ways to bully other students, according to an article in the Detroit News.
Kat Cooper, the director of university residential services communications, told the News that there have recently been “several incidents” of whiteboard-aided bullying occurring on campus each month.
“Sometimes these things are racial, sometimes they’re sexual in nature,” Cooper said.
“I know that when I was in school, whiteboards were an essential form of communication with other students,” Cooper continued. “It used to be that their [appropriate] usage outweighed their abuse, and that’s just not the case anymore.”
Despite Cooper’s clearly well-reasoned explanation, however, not all students are praising the school for protecting them from this particular office supply.
Now, there’s no doubt that there have been problems with some students’ usage of whiteboards on MSU’s campus. As an article in Inside Higher Ed pointed out, there was one incident in particular involving an African-American student that had the area’s local chapter of the NAACP praising the ban as a “victory.”
Writing racially charged things on whiteboards is terrible, but here’s the thing: If you’ve got a campus full of adults who can’t handle being around whiteboards, it seems to me like the whiteboards are not the problem in that situation.
As one MSU freshman, Sofia Sokansanj, said: “People are going to say things no matter what, whether it’s to their faces or on a whiteboard; it’s just something you can’t always control.”
It’s harsh, but it’s true: If you’re the kind of garbage person who is running around writing racial slurs on whiteboards, you’re probably the kind of garbage person who will continue to run around doing racist-garbage-person type stuff regardless of what your dorm-mates have and have not been allowed to bring home from Office Max. And although it’s not clear whether this ban will extend to chalkboards — or if it’s only, specifically melamine-surface boards that are problematic — it’s clear that the garbage people still will have plenty of options. For example: Post-It notes! Paper! What if students start hanging paper on their doors?
The answer: Ban paper! You may think that that sounds a bit far-fetched, but the truth is, the exact line of “reasoning” that Cooper used to justify banning the whiteboards could also be used to ban sheets of paper. Just like she did with the whiteboards, Cooper could argue that when she “was in school” sheets of paper “were an essential form of communication” that people don’t really need as much in the days of text messaging and e-mail, and that therefore although “it used to be that their [appropriate] usage outweighed their abuse . . . that’s just not the case anymore.”
Make no mistake: Racism and sexism are disgusting, and it is important to take steps to eradicate them. But at the same time, it’s also important to know when you’re doing something completely useless based on an idiotic line of logic — and it seems like MSU could use some help in that area.