There were many crazy moments to choose from in 2017 as universities became free speech battlegrounds.
Between protests that involved students carrying baseball bats around campus and the interrogation of a teaching assistant who simply showed a debate clip from public television, 2017 may have been one of the most tumultuous years for college campuses in recent memory.
Here are our picks for the craziest stories of the year:
10. A University of Pennsylvania teaching assistant brags on Twitter about prioritizing students based on race and gender.
University of Pennsylvania teaching assistant Stephanie McKellop explained in October how her pedagogical tactic of “progressive stacking” works in practice: “I will always call on my Black women students first. Other POC get second tier priority. WW [white women] come next. And, if I have to, white men.”
The University of Pennsylvania recently announced that McKellop is being relieved of her teaching duties.
9. York University professor argues that big stomachs are “glorious.”
Allyson Mitchell, a professor at York University’s School of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, argued in a journal article published in 2017 that “fat queer art” can liberate obese individuals from the social perception that they are slow and lazy.
In her article, Mitchell included a pencil drawing of her friend’s “gunt.” Mitchell explains that “gunt” is a colloquial term for a “fat pubis area between the genitals and the stomach,” a portmanteau of the words “c*nt” and “gut.” Gunts are beautiful, Mitchell argues. Why? According to her scholarship, it takes time for gravity to bring them down and shape them in all of their “glory.”
8. Princeton and Harvard host kinky sex tutorial workshops.
Princeton University announced in December that they will be hosting a workshop by a newly recognized student group for students interested in unique sexual experiences. The scheduled workshop will focus exclusively on BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism.
But Princeton wasn’t the first elite institution to get in on the fun. In November, as a part of Harvard University’s sex week, the Ivy League institution hosted an anal sex workshop entitled, “What What in the Butt: Anal 101.” The workshop taught students “how to put things in their butt.”
As with most proceedings at Harvard, the anal sex workshop placed great emphasis on equality. After the presenter noted that “not all men have penises, not all women have vaginas,” she argued that “the butthole is the great sexual equalizer. All humans have a butthole.”
7. Brandeis cancels the performance of a play that is critical of Black Lives Matter.
Academy Award-nominated writer Michael Weller said he was “heartbroken” when he learned that his alma mater Brandeis University had decided to cancel performances of his anti-political correctness play, Buyer Beware.
Buyer Beware, which was written exclusively for Brandeis, focuses on a fictional Brandeis student who plans to perform a provocative stand-up comedy routine that touches on hot-button political issues and is threatened by the school’s administration with academic probation in the hopes that he will cancel his performance. Ultimately, the main character performs his routine, and students protest in response.
In November, Brandeis announced that performances of the play had been canceled in response to protests over its content and message. “Following open and productive conversations between [Weller] and faculty from the Theater department and the Division of Creative arts, together we decided to engage with the play through a rigorous, team-taught course next semester, while [Weller] will premiere the play in a professional venue,” the university said in a statement.
6. Notre Dame students claim that Vice President Pence’s commencement address made them feel “unsafe.”
Students at the University of Notre Dame claimed that Mike Pence’s scheduled commencement address on campus made them feel “unsafe.” Two seniors at Notre Dame started a campaign to raise awareness of student concerns over the selection of Pence as the commencement speaker.
“For me personally, [Pence] represents the larger Trump administration,” Senior Immane Mondane told the student-run newspaper of the University of Notre Dame and the nearby St. Mary’s College. “His administration represents something, and for many people on our campus, it makes them feel unsafe to have someone who openly is offensive but also demeaning of their humanity and of their life and of their identity.”
5. Canadian University Conducts Orwellian Investigation into teaching assistant’s decision to show television debate clip.
This is one that you have to hear to believe. Leaked audio from an investigation at Wilfrid Laurier University into teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd’s classroom conduct was published online in November. Shepherd’s supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, professor Herbert Pimlott, and Adria Joel, manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support at Laurier, can be heard in the clip berating Shepherd for her decision to present a clip of a television debate on a recently introduced transgender pronoun law in Canada. The staff accused Shepherd of not only violating university policy but also of breaking Canadian law.
After an international backlash, Laurier was forced to apologize to Shepherd.
4. Harvard University punishes members of single-sex campus groups.
In December, Harvard University officially adopted a policy that penalizes members of single-sex campus groups. Members of such groups will be ineligible for leadership roles in other student organizations on campus. These students will also be ineligible for prestigious academic fellowships.
The decision was made in part after an investigation by Harvard’s Taskforce on the Prevention of Sexual Assault who argued that single-gender social organizations such as fraternities and sororities contribute to a toxic social environment.
An overwhelming 61 percent of Harvard students are against the new policy.
3. Angry mob sends Middlebury professor to the hospital during Charles Murray protest.
In March, an angry mob of student protesters derailed a speaking event featuring Charles Murray at Middlebury College. The mob not only successfully derailed the event but also sent event moderator and Middlebury Professor Allison Stanger to the hospital. She left wearing a neck brace.
“During this confrontation outside McCullough, one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck,” a statement from the university read. “She was attended to at Porter Hospital later and (on Friday) is wearing a neck brace.”
2. Former professor charged with assault for allegedly beating Trump supporter with bike lock.
Eric Clanton, formerly a professor at Diablo Valley College, was charged in August with assault over an April incident in which he allegedly bashed a Trump supporter over the head with a bike lock. The victim’s head was left bloodied and wrapped in bandages.
Although Clanton disputed the charges, he did not specifically deny that he was the masked individual behind the assault. In May, police searched Clanton’s home, which lead to his arrest. He was charged with four counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon.