by Ibrahim al-Linkoln, official Muslim Civil War Re-enactor
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012,
(AMHERST, MA) —Rebecca Dillon thought she was simply doing what college students are supposed to do: ask questions, engage her professors, discuss the issues. However the last thing Dillon expected was to create the havoc she did in her Cultural Diversity class on Monday when she did none other than express what was on her mind.
Dillon, 21, a biology major in her junior year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, had to be escorted out of her 11:00 AM class and off campus by university police, and is facing disciplinary action by campus officials after she announced an opinion that allegedly caused quite a ruckus. Dr. Niles Fulton, professor of the roused Cultural Diversity course, recounted to reporters shortly after the commotion, “I heard Miss Dillon mutter something as I was listing some dietary items of Cambodian red rice farmers. When I mentioned fried tarantulas, I heard Miss Dillon whisper, ‘gross!’”
According to Fulton, Dillon’s “gross” comment was only the beginning of a massive outbreak of intolerance and bigotry among the class. “A couple of Dillon’s classmates giggled,” recalled a shaken Dr. Fulton, “someone else made a gagging noise. Then another person said ‘eeeew!’ …It was more than we could stand.”
The “opinion incident,” as it is being called by Amherst faculty, spread quickly throughout the entire Cultural Studies Department; within three hours, Dillon’s “gross” sentiment had incited “racial, ethnic, religious, and cuisine-based intolerance among a significant portion of the student body,” with a distinct anti-Cambodian-tarantula-eating tone, according to university officials.
“We had detained Ms. Dillon by 12 o’clock, but the damage was already done,” said Corporal Wendy McNally of the Amherst campus police. “People knew of Ms. Dillon’s opinion and the dangerous context behind it. …The opinion was spreading fast.”
By mid-afternoon, said McNally, hardly a student on campus was not aware of the ethnocentric hatred that had erupted during Dr. Fulton’s Monday class. Even worse, said McNally, students were agreeing with Dillon that eating fried tarantulas was indeed “gross.”
According to Amherst officials, opinions of all sorts (even snap judgments!) eventually ran ramped among the campus, which has always prided itself on its multicultural/opinionless student body. It was almost Tuesday evening by the time campus police, along with local and state authorities successfully quelled the chaos spawned by a single student who had an opinion, of any sort, let alone a negative one concerning an aspect of a non-European culture.
The good news, say officials, is how quickly Rebecca Dillon was escorted off campus and that the damaged left in her opinion’s wake was not worse. Police say they have yet to determine if charges should be filed.
“It’s very disconcerting to still find people with opinions in this day and age,” said Dr. Robert Feldman, Dean of the College of Sociology and Behavioral Sciences. “…Particularly with students –theirs is an age when the mind should be the most open and conducive to a wide learning environment.”
Campus grief councilors will be stationed in the College of Sociology and Sciences, where the incident took place, for the remainder of the week, said Feldman, and a special meeting has been set up between campus officials and Amherst’s Cambodian student community to smooth over any hard feelings the opinion may have caused.
Said Dr. Feldman, “Both members of the Cambodian communtiy have been invited to our Office of Diversity and Caucasian Sorrows this Wednesday. We want to make these students feel welcomed again into our community. There may even have to be a summit between these students and Ms. Dillon…and a plate of fried tarantulas.”
“I would say this could be our version of a ‘beer summit,’” added Feldman, “but given this is a modern college campus, it will probably be more of a Quaalude and STD summit, with tarantulas somewhere in the mix.”
However other school officials are not so sure a meeting between the parties involved in the “opinion incident” can undo the damage.
“Opinions can be a dangerous business,” said Allison Berger, Associate Dean of Students for UM Amherst. “If one were to say they don’t like a food –yams, for instance– that could be just a matter of taste, but at the same time yams are a popular part of West African diets, so then you get into culture vs. culture.”
Concluded Dr. Berger, “An opinion can start as an innocent critique of a certain food, but before you know it you’ll be making opinions on which ethnic group is superior to another; which groups need to be segregated, and which pile of dead ethnic babies need to be thrown into a flaming pit. Genocide and destruction are the inevitable outcomes in a society with opinions.”
By Tuesday morning violence and unrest around campus had subsided, with students and teachers returning to class as normal. Although UM Amherst Interim Police Chief Patrick Archbald seemed more than cautious in a phone interview with Duh Progressive.
Chief Archbald: “We have contained the situation for now; things are copasetic. But we cannot be sure if ‘the opinion’ is gone for good or just at bay for the moment.”
Duh Progressive: “So is it fair to classify the ‘gross opinion’ as still on the loose?”
UPDATE: A meeting Wednesday morning did occur between Rebecca Dillon, Dr. Fulton, Dr. Feldman, Chief Archbald, and one of UM’s two Cambodian students. No progress was reportedly made on the “opinion issue,” but several of the tarantulas did contract herpes.
UPDATED UPDATE: Duh Progressive is pleased to announce that it delights in seeing how many people take this article as fact.