Eternal Vigilance Is The Price of Tenure





Dear Sinclair Community College team,

No doubt you have heard that Sinclair Community College is under assault by an extremist outside agitation group known as FIRE. The very name of this organization suggests — and inflicts — lawlessness and violence.

This disruptive FIRE group has been given aid and comfort by certain dissident, potentially violent, and questionably stable Sinclair students. Somebody is going to have THEIR accounts checked very carefully at the bursar, let me tell you, and there is going to be some VERY pointed sharing at Resident Education Circle Learning Time. These for-now students have filed suit against Sinclair, aided and abetted by fundamentalist jihadists at the Thomas More Society, which openly supports views in direct contravention to our Community Differences Statement.

As difficult as it is to believe, these students and outside agitator groups — dangerous religious extremists all of them — oppose my efforts to keep you, the Sinclair Community, safe. In the interests of good order, harmonious discourse, correct thinking, and public safety, we have enacted reasonable and prudent restrictions on certain campus activities through our Campus Access Policy. More specifically, we have banned the weaponized expression disingenuously known as "leaflets" and "protest signs."

Though this has resulted in some controversy, I stand firmly behind what I said to the media about my commitment to safety in an increasingly dangerous America:

But Johnson said the police “have the latitude to make decisions about those things that would affect the safety and security of the situation,” including banning signs.

Colleges have an obligation to protect students, employees and visitors in an era when acts of domestic terrorism have captured headlines, said Johnson. Concerns about campus violence have spiked, he said, since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings in which 33 people died.

Columbine caught the attention of educational institutions nationwide, Johnson said, serving as a 9/11 to campuses everywhere. “And Virginia Tech was the second 9/11.”

Although Johnson said he can’t imagine how “words on (a) sign would make a person unsafe,” he did say protest signs could be used as weapons.

“It has nothing to do with what was printed on those objects,” he said, “but what those objects could be used for.”

Some critics suggest that my comparisons to Columbine, Virginia Tech, and 9/11 are excessive, melodramatic, and even unbalanced. These skeptics do not enjoy the sort of perspective that prolonged exposure to academia can imbue upon an open mind. My good friend and colleague Chuck Sorenson understands — we administrators and professors have the obligation to protect the learning environment from any threats, even threats that cannot be detected without years of careful study, ovular discussion, and group therapy.

In this case my detractors are merely ignorant of history, which is strewn with the letter-blood of word-violence empowered and encouraged by the so-called First Amendment to the United States Constitution, a document enacted without any faculty committee consultation whatsoever. Please consider (trigger warning!) these searing images of threatened violence:

Unruly mob brandishes weapons to intimidate bystanders.

Extremists launch botanical attack on peacekeepers.

Note use of military uniform to underline message of violence sent by aggressive sharp-edged sign.

Signs are dangerous. They can be heavy, and they have edges, and hurty words. Leaflets are dangerous. You could roll up a bunch of them and swat someone with the little tube. Also you could slip on them. We will remain vigilant against these threats. Not only that, but starting now, we are expanding and supplementing our campus protest policy. The following items are no longer permitted at Sinclair College protest events:

Backpacks: Racists use backpacks to bomb innocents at Martin Luther King Jr. holiday commemorative marches. This is inconsistent with the College's diversity policy. Therefore backpacks are not permitted at protests. [Note: commemorative marches are not permitted on campus.]
Frisbees: Might be disguised chakram.
Hackysacks: Could be disguised grenades; may contain marijuana.
Cell Phones, Smart Phones, iPads, Laptop Computers, Handheld Electronic Devices: These electronic items can all be used to play games. Games like "Doom" are associated with violence by students, as was demonstrated at Columbine. They are not permitted at protests.
Textbooks: Large, heavy, could be used as bludgeoning weapons against campus security by agitators. Known to promote questioning of authority, which is inconsistent with good order on campus.

I expect strict compliance with these new terms by our Campus Security And Order Ministry. It's time that these dissenters started listening, not talking. It's time that they figured it out: we're community college officials for a reason, people.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Chris R. says

    You forgot shoelaces, instruments of strangling and rappelling down from trees onto innocents. Otherwise, quite thorough.

  2. PrairieDog says

    I guess we were very poorly informed in Canada – I thought that the weapons involved in Columbine and Virginia Tech were guns, not signs. Must be our liberal/soft-on-crime/if-you're-not-with-gov't-you're-with-child-pornographers media and general social structures.

    Serious – Popehat is always an adventure in learning and I love the posts. Learning goes best with laughter.

  3. says

    "These skeptics do not enjoy the sort of perspective that prolonged exposure to academia can imbue upon an open mind."

    "…the United States Constitution, a document enacted without any faculty committee consultation whatsoever."

    Pure comedy platinum.

  4. Ben says

    Hm. Wouldn't that make for three 9/11s? Columbine, actual 9/11 and Virginia Tech would be the third. Unless he is not counting 9/11/01 as an actual 9/11. Anyways, that's not important, probably.

    In the article on, it says that the police requested that they lay down their signs. Was this temporary? I know that police get nervous whenever someone refuses to drop something. When I was going to university, they broke a vagrant man's arm with one of their batons when he refused to drop his cane.

    People protested but nothing came of it, except that they ended up dropping charges along the lines of 'resisting arrest' and something like 'refusing a lawful order'. Well, that and I had read that a few churches tried to reach out to the homeless individual.

    So, does their 'campus access policy' actually give "… campus police license to ban protest signs and the distribution of pamphlets…" or isn't that just a native part of what police can do?

    I guess the difference is ban. They can say "give me your sign while I talk with you so that you do not attack me with it," but they are saying "You may not bring a sign here"?

  5. VPJ says

    Oh, come *on* Chris R, it's not even close to being properly thorough. No mention of pencils, rubber bands, and paper clips. Alone or, God forbid, in concert, they could cause such a holocaust as to make Omaha Beach pale by comparison.

  6. AlphaCentauri says

    I notice they neglected to prohibit stealing magnesium from the chemistry lab. I guess even a dean can still enjoy a good exploding toilet.

  7. says

    So it is sort of, "I don't necessarily disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death the right to keep you from putting it on a piece of card stock?"

  8. Totally NOT Meghan McCain says

    If the "“Totally Meghan McCain”" incident taught you anything, I would think you would know that it is very dangerous to not make it very clear (perhaps using a suitable 256 point font with bold and italics) that this is a parody. Otherwise you might get sued, don't ya know?

  9. Connie says

    May I remind you of the danger of water bottles? Indeed, bottles in general! As our noble and bold TSA has shown us, containers can contain harmful liquids, such as juice, or soda, or even alcohol. These liquids could be used in an assault on others resulting in wetness, liquid in the eyes, and even STAINS on clothing.

  10. Jackie_M says

    I work at Virginia Tech, and watch 4/16 unfold outside my window, and was before that evacuated for two bomb threats in the days beforehand . That doesn't give me more of a reason to talk about this, but I'll get it out there so you know where I'm coming from.

    Words are weapons: ones we are free to use. There is a time and a place for them, and they must be treated with respect. Unlike most weapons, however, words can be used to both hurt and heal. Words that heal one person can hurt another. While you can be on either side of the debate that caused this reaction from SCC (and I have intentionally not looked for what the issue is) the words involved can help or hurt. You cannot convince me that the guns used by Seung-Hui Cho could do anything but hurt someone.

    By choosing the words he has, President Johnson has chosen words that hurt me, as I believe in the right of protest, but just like the recently rumored to be planned trip by the Wesboro Baptist Church to the memorial of Officer Crouse I believe in one thing: You have the right to be a jerk.

    Comparing words to lethal force is just that: being a jerk. President Johnson should respect the victims of the tragedies he invokes, and no invoke them for hyperbolic statements.

    p.s. I first took this as being satire with the pictures included. Peaceful protest pictures used to illustrate that words are weapons? Am I missing something in my reaction to his choice of words? I still find it difficult to not take it as such, and hope it is.

  11. says

    Old Saying — Academic Politics are incredibly vicious because the stakes are so small.

    The tendencies of "campus police" overreact is perceived (by me) to be higher than normal because of how infrequently they are called upon to deal with anything serious.

    The Seattle police have a horrible record for cracking down and cracking skulls during the least offensive of public gatherings. I think its because our murder rate and such is just so low. They seem to have this "in the bunker, waiting for the big one" mentality that is likely to go off half-cocked at any time for being wound so tight. (Mmmm… mixed metaphor… my favorite…)

  12. says

    "… strewn with the letter-blood of word-violence…"

    :: happy sigh ::

    But what's with the guy advocating that we remember "descent"? Whence, or from whom, are we supposed to descend? (Or does he just want us to get down with our bad selves?) Inquiring minds….

  13. Tom says

    Admittedly, the one time I've ever dealt with FIRE, they left me with the impression that they and everyone associated with them should be tossed out of the school and legally slapped down- they were suing my school because we had a non-discrimination requirement for student organizations; essentially Campus Crusade for Christ and the other religious organizations on campus didn't hate homosexuals and non-Christians enough for a few students, and they felt the school should need to recognize them as an official, school-sponsored club… when told they didn't qualify they sued, with this org's backing. School's lawyers caved almost instantly.

    I really shouldn't hold grudges, but I do think those guys getting financially demolished in a courtroom would make the world a better place.

  14. says

    Tom, if you are talking about FIRE's religious liberty advocacy, I have to disagree with you.

    I don't think that a [choose your sect] group should have to accept as a leader someone who rejects its beliefs any more than a gay rights group should have to accept a homophobe.

  15. Ben says

    Huh. That is strange. So the Sinclair President Steve Johnson told the Dayton Daily News (in the article linked to in the original post):

    “It has nothing to do with what was printed on those objects… but what those objects could be used for.”

    And in the complaint, they quoted the Chief of Police Charles Gift as saying that they are forbidden because they can be 'disruptive'. So it seems they do not have a shared understanding. Unless Mr Johnson means that 'what they can be used for' is disruption.

    Also, in a "post-9/11 world" people coalesced into spontaneous protests on, perhaps, a weekly basis where I attended. So I do not see the connection between requiring advance approval and security.

  16. Mike K says

    Heh, where I went to college there were only two security guards, that were only there at night. Then again, I grew up and went to school in areas where leaving doors unlocked was normal.

    As a list of weapons, you forgot the following (in addition to those mentioned above): pens, shoes, scarves, belts, chains, cushions, chairs, hands (and coverings thereof), feet (and coverings thereof), any safety equipment, auto-mo-cars, magnifying glasses, weather, food, food trays, plates, laser pointers, electricity, paper, disks, etc.

  17. wgering says

    *pepper spray can also hurt people

    (Seriously wish there was a "preview comment" option)

  18. says

    The TSA and liquids. True story, with a touch of TMI…

    I have a mild auto-immune issue with my digestive tract. I use a product that is sold as "Adult Product" in place of Preparation H. Chosen product is superior IMHO because it is less messy and addresses ph issues etc. My use is medical, aligned with said product's original medical purpose, but "off label" to how it is marketed now.

    I had a tube Adult Product with me while flying. Both product itself and the squeeze tube it comes in are clear. The tube contains 6oz when new. It could be easily seen that the tube was nearly empty (maybe 1oz remaining).

    First the TSA insisted on making me feel like an ass because of the Adult Product nature of the Adult Product.

    Then they disallowed Adult Product not because there was too much gel, but because the container -could- -hold- too much gel. He cited directly that the tube was labeled 6oz and that it didn't matter that it was clearly three-quarters or more empty, and that said tube fit within the plastic bag for such containers.

    I was told I could check Adult Product through to my destination. If there had been a way to do that without leaving the line, without putting Adult Product into a box, and somehow getting a bit TSA label on it I might well have. (The idea nearly empty tube of Adult Product with a foot long airline routing tag dangling from it, slowly turning on the baggage carousel festooned with TSA logos was damn appealing.)

    I am reasonably sure that there was no refilling station inside the secure part of the concourse that could have either (a) supplied me with more Adult Product™ nor (b) allowed me to fill the remainder of the unused volume with dangerous volatiles. Did they expect me to hijack a plane by making the flight crew all slippery after furiously wringing out the full 1oz available? No, worse, the 1.1oz available after obsessively getting the invisible residue off the insides like the last tidbit of toothpaste from its tube?

    Meanwhile, on another leg of the same trip, a woman with an 8oz water bottle that was nearly empty asked the security guard guy if the bottle was okay since it was nearly empty. He told her to peel off the part of the label that had the "8oz" part on it.

    You can also take on a completely dry container such as a camp shower… as long as it is completely dry.

    So yes, they are not guarding against volumes of liquids or gels, but pre-moistened containers that -could- -once- have held too much liquid or gel.

    So Scooby Doo liquid ghost bombs are a credible threat?

  19. Basil Forthrightly says

    AlphaCentauri, perhaps there's no rule about magnesium because it's metallic sodium that's the real threat.

  20. says

    Actually I think the "no signs with sticks" rule, such as at WWE Raw events and concerts would be reasonable restriction. The signs on the wooden posts can turn into low-grade improvised poll arms pretty quick.

    Plus, when the signs are on sticks "the speaker" is basically claiming extra territory. They can sit block a lot of view while expending no effort and/or disrupt the movement of others more than arms reach away.

    I don't know which kinds of signs were at issue here. If it was all poster-board and tempera paint then yea the cops were wrong. If it was pikes and waving pitchfork signs then the cops were kinda right.

    "The School" however probably had no prior intent with regard to the protesters and are now stuck either having to back their employees or buckle like a belt and pay the protesters. So the suit is likely wrong too since it disallows the "okay, our bad" median and adult response from all parties.

    We don't know the initial conditions that got the police moving either.

    Every snowflake in an avalanche would plead innocent.

  21. Elegy says

    Ken  •  Jul 17, 2012 @2:34 pm

    I just shared this on the school's Facebook page.

    Because that's how I troll.


  22. VPJ says

    I don't necessarily disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death the right to keep you from putting it on a piece of card stock

    By Jove, I think he's got it.

  23. Ben says

    Well it also doesn't look like they enforce it unilaterally, either. On the video of the incident with the police it looks like, at around the three minute mark, there is an elderly woman with her own sign (I think it says "Mandate" with another word, then something in subscript that I cannot read. But all you I can see is "ETADN~" and "~IS" because the rally was about a HHS requirement that all or nearly all private health insurance plans cover contraceptives).

    I also do not follow the primary police officer's (the one he first talks with, and who talks with him for the majority of the time) line of reasoning about how the videographer is somehow being combative because he is talking with them instead of attending his event? He is only talking with them because he wants to attend his event with a sign and does not think they should be disallowing this.

    It seems like maybe the 'unwritten' portion of this policy is something that came from apathy and got hardened into a 'law of the land'? They do not seem to have it very well thought out.

  24. trizzlor says

    Ken, some of the FIRE cases on religious liberty that you linked to focus on campus groups that ban specific denominations from being *members*, not just leaders. This seems like an infringement on the rights of certain students to peacefully attend and interact with student groups. If the organization wants to use university space and resources to host their club, then they should be open to a student from any denomination as long as that student is not being disruptive.

  25. John says

    Hmm… I recently graduated from there, and I wasn't aware of this being an issue until it showed up in the news. I knew they had a policy in which you had to provide notice of where/when you were going to hold any kind of rally, but they let anyone who provides that notice do it. Also, the only time I've seen someone get arrested at one of those things is when he tried to grab the gun from the belt of the cop who was talking to him. However, I'm sure personal anecdotal evidence doesn't encompass the whole issue.

  26. Kelly says

    Ken: You shared it! I wonder if they will delete it or have a bit of a fit over it?

    As to the incident and the school 'policy', I think it is a load of manure.

  27. says

    Prayer in schools? Sure, if you come to one meeting you must attend all of them, I get to pick the rotation schedule of gods and sects…

    The issue of exclusion is always kind-of tough. On the one hand there is freedom of association. Just as freedom of religion must include freedom from religion, the freedom to associate must include the freedom to not associate.

    On the other hand, there is the problem that all associations tend to become "power bases". Gatherings tend to become brotherhoods, then clans, then societies.

    Any system that -requires- people to accept and recognize every sub-group is inherently broken. It's broken because of the people not the system.

    I have often said that Communism would be the perfect system of government if there were absolutely no humans involved. Libertarianism is perfect if you have everything you will ever want or need already stockpiled in your basement. and its a mathematical fact that the only system of voting that doesn't ever suffer from unintended outcomes is the one-man-one-vote pure dictatorship.

    So there really isn't a balance of reasonable people where all people are not reasonable. And were all the people are already reasonable there is no need to enforce rules of association. It's not that "the only winning move is not to play" it's that "if you find yourself in the game then someone very close at hand is unreasonable; and if you play a lot more than most, that person is likely you."

  28. says

    Here's an interesting story within the purview of this blog:

    Obviously violence is bad, but what are everyone's rights in this situation? Where does Mann's right to exist in a given space end and the employees' rights not to be recorded begin? I'm reminded of the whole "living room" metaphor we've been using here, and this is definitely an issue that will be important in the future.

  29. John Pomeroy says

    "Descent" [is] the highest form of patriotic… 35+ comments and no one mentions that goof ball?

    I went and looked at One featured article talked about "Summer Restaurant Week." The link next to it was to an article on an e. coli outbreak in local restaurants. Guess I'm staying home…

  30. says


    Any right to attend meetings should be subordinate to the right to association. If an expressive group's message (or ability to express its message) is diluted or hindered because of the presence of even a well-behaved dissenter, it should be allowed to exclude the dissenter — who is free to form his or her own group to counter those views.

  31. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Adam Steinbaugh,

    That is something many people miss; that the right to free speech does not mean the right to an audience or a platform. That the right to associate freely implies the right to NOT associate. That freedom of the press does not mean free printing. And that one's speech is free only to the extent that one is clearly representing only oneself; if you are representing another THEIR freedom of speech may be infringed by YOUR shooting off your mouth.

  32. perlhaqr says

    Jackie_M: The guns used by Seung-Hui Cho almost certainly could not have done anything but harm people, but guns in the hands of others might well have put him down before he killed so many others.

    Robert White: I know you've got some sort of major hate-on for Libertarians, but you might consider arguing against actual libertarianism, instead of whatever it is you think libertarianism is.

    Libertarianism is perfect if you have everything you will ever want or need already stockpiled in your basement.

    I assure you, no principle of libertarianism prohibits trade or commerce.

  33. C. S. P. Schofield says

    Apparently there is nothing so pompous as an academic who has gone into administration at a third rate institution…

  34. Zachary says

    At first, I was insanely pissed off because I thought the president of the college had actually written this and was being serious…. then I realized Popehat wrote this and was being sarcastic, and I laughed my behind off.

  35. says

    Unfortunately, the persons who should be shamed by your post will probably simply dismiss you as an ideological opponent. Ken, I may be off base here and, if I am, I apologize. But I would guess that you are not in sympathy with the views that the Sinclair College protesters were attempting to promote. (I do sympathize with the concerns the protesters were trying to air.)

    Civil discourse in this country would be elevated immeasurably if your general approach could be more widely adopted. Instead, we live increasingly in a country where it is permissible only to speak to persons with whom we already agree; everything else is some sort of "harassment." If we can only talk to other True Believers, however, how can we hope to persuade anyone else?

  36. trizzlor says

    Any right to attend meetings should be subordinate to the right to association.

    This is absolutely true in the usual case, but I don't see any reason for this order to be respected in the case of meetings/clubs supported by public institutions. If your club wants to use university facilities for it's meetings then you cannot expect to have entirely free reign over what denomination of student can attend (without disturbance). This seems like an entirely reasonable compromise between the desire for public institutions to respect free association and also encourage diversity of opinion. It goes without saying that if you want to start your own private club outside the university go right ahead and the university has no right to discriminate against that choice.

  37. says


    The less intrusive means of encouraging diversity of opinion is to make it easy for students to form dissident groups. Denying resources to groups with exclusive membership requirements would be far more likely to lead to diminished debate and exchange of ideas, as the groups would be more likely to flounder without meeting spaces, presence on campus, etc.

  38. Jackie_M says

    @perlhaqr: I made no statement that the shooting of Cho would have been a good or bad thing overall but shooting him is still hurting him, even if it would have saved many lives from ending, and many more from trauma. My point is on the contrast between real weapons used in Columbine, 4/16 (aka VT Massacre, and 9/11 (what do the Columbine survivors call that day?)

  39. Ben says

    Well. Firearms are primarily used for violent purposes – but there are a few nonviolent examples, too.

    Our government uses howitzers and retired, large caliber firearms to control avalanches.

    I only know this because my brother is a firearms enthusiast and takes every possible opportunity to insert this little factoid when discussing gun control versus gun rights.

    Personally, I do not think that the argument for more gun control is strongest when viewed from such an angle – just as everything can be used for martial purposes, weapons can be used for civilian purposes.

  40. Jackie_M says

    @Ben That example is technically harming the natural state of the snow pack (but for useful purposes from a human point of view), but it is still harming. I do believe in the proper application of force, but to say it's not force because it's properly applied is an incorrect definition. Euthanasia is still killing, even if it is out of mercy. I'll go full Goodwin: Killing Hitler can easily (and rightly) have been justified, but it is still killing him, and in upsetting his loved ones it would do additional harm as well, and to say otherwise is lying (but again, rightly justified). And to "reverse" the Goodwin:

  41. Mike K says

    There are weapons that are designed to primarily destroy other weapons, although with your broad definition of harming, almost every human interaction would count as there tends to be a trade off.

  42. Jackie_M says

    @Mike K my most relevant statement (in my mind when writing it above) to the weapons used in 4/16 was "You cannot convince me that the guns used by Seung-Hui Cho could do anything but hurt someone." specifically a Walther P22 and a Glock 19. Applying to other weapons can be done, but the statement will stretch as the weapons change (bombs set off next to oil fires, for example). For the sake of keeping the focus on my mai point of weapons are exclusively harmful, words are not, I'll keep it limited to the pistols (and I'll acknowledge target and competitive shooting as exclusions). I'm not trying to convert anyone to a stance on firearms here. I'm trying to contrast them with words.