Monday, September 22, 2008

Notes on TU GAP of April 4, 2008

Transylvania University ( TU) is the first private campus I have been on . Since we were there by the indulgence of the U and not necessarily under the First Amendment, we took pains to be on our best behavior.

That week was wet much of the time and the one day, a Friday, on TU was no exception. The day was warm and not terribly rainy, but windy. Due to the smallness of the campus and weather conditions, we set up eight signs instead of the full compliment of 17. This did not compromise our effectiveness.

Some TU students organized an impromptu protest. I photographed them before the wind took its toll. A small gathering formed about midday, and by the end of the day, most individuals in it had moved to the display to observe and discuss. Frequently, students and some profs gathered to debate with us. The discussion was often intense and on a relatively sophisticated level.

Three Conversations: Early after the display set-up was complete, two professors appeared nearly at once. Professor One is “Chair, Division of Social Sciences; Professor Of History.” Initially, without words from me, he began bellowing as loudly as possible a foot from my face that our display was an outrage. He was extremely loud, and I do not wish to understate this, except that it lasted only a few seconds. I remained calm and asked him if any of his relatives had died in the Holocaust. He said, “Maybe” in a way that suggested that he did not know, or that maybe he did not wish to tell me. At some point he said that he taught a course on the Holocaust and I asked him for a course outline. He said that I couldn’t possibly understand what he was telling me, because I was “a blank wall.”

Professor Two said she taught in the Psychology Department. She insisted that no medical textbook said that an individual human life began at fertilization. I asked her to bring me a medical text, and she returned with a Developmental Psychology book that referred to the entity soon after fertilization as an “organism” I asked, what kind of organism? “Not a plant or animal, but human,” I said. I said that her text did not deny that human life began at fertilization, but was simply unclear. And then I showed her the text we carry with GAP, the page with a chart headed “prenatal human development” that indicates fertilization as the beginning. Somehow she did not understand this and did not really know what “prenatal” meant and said that she was “disappointed” that I could not discuss “responsibly.”

The History professor returned later with his course outline and we talked further. His main point then was that he questioned whether or not the victims of the Holocaust and the other atrocities would support the use of their photographs. To show him I wasn't’ a blank wall, I said, “When Schindler’s List came out, I read the book before the release of the film. And whenever I heard the music from the film, I cried.” He said quickly, as if he were sarcastic, “I’m touched.” When I told him that I could learn from him, he said that I would misuse the learning. When I returned home after GAP I sent him an e-mail. (See post below. Note that the prof never answered my e-mail.)

Conversation Three was with a Philosophy/History student. This was challenging because of the intelligence of the student, my fatigue at the end of the day at the end of the week, and because we spoke fast and furious, though civil. The student was more open minded than the profs and we were able to interject some humor, except he gave me a fake e-mail address after saying it was real, which leads me to doubt his sincerity. His main point was that an act is evil solely to the degree it inflicts suffering. I said that an act can be evil even if no one suffers, for example, abortion is evil because it robs a human being of life, though no evident suffering occurs.

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