Look - We're TOLERANT at the UofM!
At least that seems to be the gist of the friendly letter I just got from Mr. Robert Bruininks, President of the University of Minnesota, in response to my letter to HIM expressing my disapproval of such a tolerant institution as the UofM defending and supporting such a bigoted play as "The Pope and the Witch", when similar support would certainly not be present for any play portraying Islam, African-Americans, or any other group of people with such irreverence and falsehood.
But I guess since Mr. Bruininks SAYS they are still tolerant, even when they are not, that means they are. Because he said so. Right? Hmm.
Here's his letter, for your viewing pleasure:
Dear Ms. Gibson:
Thank you for contacting me regarding an upcoming theatre production at the University of Minnesota. I understand your concern regarding its content, but strongly disagree with any suggestion that the University of Minnesota is anti-Catholic. Just like the thousands of views expressed here each year - many from devout and committed Catholics - those views allegedly espoused in this play do not reflect those of our institution as a whole.
The University of Minnesota is a research university dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and one of the hallmarks of that work is academic freedom. That freedom extends to the ability of faculty, staff and students to present works of art, music or scholarship from a variety of viewpoints-including those that are controversial. This play, in particular, is one in an entire season designed to demonstrate a variety of theatrical techniques. It has been staged in a number of venues in the past decade, including four other major universities, and it is housed in 167 university libraries around the country, including the Catholic University of America and Holy Cross College.
(Great - so just because others have done it, we can do it too? That's been a great rationale throughout human history. And shame on CUA and Holy Cross for such scandal as they have caused!)
This institution has long championed academic freedom as supported by our Board of Regents policy. Academic freedom is described in the policies that guide the University's work as adopted by our governing board of regents in 1938, 1963, 1971, and 1995. (Sure, let's hide behind "academic freedom", a vague term that seems to have nothing to do with the showing of tihs play - what kind of academics can be done from this play, other than sociological studies of whether or not watching bigoted material contributes to an increased sense of bigotry against another group of individuals?)
Like its peer institutions, the University of Minnesota hosts hundreds of conferences, concerts, theatre events, lectures, and workshops each year. These occasions bring to campus speakers, scholars, artists, politicians, and public figures that represent a broad and diverse range of opinions. Within that wide range of viewpoints, we will always find those with which we agree as well those with which we differ vehemently. (When was the last time YOU saw a Nazi play on campus, promoting violence again Jews? So apparently there are some things that you will disagree with and would NOT allow to be promoted by your institution. I notice that in this whole paragraph you don't say anything about what you don't allow, only that there's all these various things that people may not agree with and that we allow. Doesn't say one word about things THE UNIVERSITY doesn't agree with and doesn't allow. It's all the royal "we" (all of us are buddies, you too stranger) that does and doesn't agree with every viewpoint. Interesting wordplay there.)
I appreciate your taking the time to share your views on this issue. I hope that this matter will not keep you from supporting the work of this country's great research universities, which are both places of great intellectual diversity and major contributors to the United States' ability to compete in an increasingly knowledge-based world economy. (Oh, you can forget that! You and your skillfully crafted politically correct double-speak can go play in your own dang backyard, I ain't joining you!)
Sincerely, (Really? I suppose when you write nothing, you can be sincere about writing nothing!)
Robert H. Bruininks
For the record, here's my original letter:
September 15th, 2006
Mr. Bruininks, Mr. Friswold, and to whom it may concern on the Board of Trustees,
I am shocked at the intolerant behavior that your institution of higher education is endorsing, and not only endorsing but blatantly defending, regarding the planned production of the play "The Pope and the Witch" in Spring 2007.
If this were a play that was bigoted against the Muslim, Jewish, African-American, Native American, or any other ethnic or religious community, would you allow it? I doubt it. If I wanted to promote a play that portrayed an Islam in the way this play caricatures the Catholic Church, no doubt your university would label me as an intolerant bigot.
No matter what our personal feelings are regarding the Catholic Church, yours or mine, it is clear that it is a major world religion, numbering over a billion people, and it deserves the same respect and tolerance that you would give to any other religious group, whether we agree with them or not. Might I also remind you that John Paul II, in particular, was a very highly respected individul acround the world, if you would recall the events surrounding his death last year.
You are setting a very clear double standard for your students and for the surrounding community by what you are doing, something that should be beneath you.
I ask that you rescind your support this production, to maintain the integrity of your institution, and to be tolerant of others as you claim to be. Or is that just a farce?
In no way can I support such an institution as would allow this, I will be forwarding all of the information that I have on this to everyone else that I know who stands for justice and integrity, and encourage them to withhold all support as well until such a time as this university actually does work towards “establishing and nurturing an environment that actively acknowledges and values a very broad diversity of points of view that are free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice, intolerance and harassment".