By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don’t, hate persists. – Southern Poverty Law Center
Better election fraud than rape. That’s what I always say. Not really. That’s what I’ve been saying since Friday, when I learned that Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) student Matt Weaver was arrested. But he was not arrested for repeatedly promoting rape (along with homophobia, misogyny, pedophilia and racism) in the pages of The Koala, the privately-owned, for-profit tabloid he edits and touts as a “humor” publication.* That’s not a crime. No, Weaver, who was running for president of ASI, the student government, was arrested and charged with three actual criminal counts associated with the elections:
1. unlawful access to a computer or database,
2. identity theft and
3. election fraud.
Here’s the gist of it: The university’s information security folks noticed suspicious activity on a university computer Thursday evening. According to one unconfirmed report, what was suspicious was seeing 300-some votes miraculously appear in a couple of minutes when the university is lucky to see 600-some votes trickle in over a four-day online election. Whatever the true numbers, a red flag flew up, and the campus police found Matt Weaver seated at the computer in question and in possession of equipment typically used to illegally capture keystrokes. Keystrokes, as in student user names and passwords—the data required to cast votes in the student polling scheduled to close that evening at 5 p.m.
Hence the charges against Weaver and a flurry of speculation, not the least of which is what the incident might reveal about Weaver’s alleged reasoning capabilities if he were to be found guilty of allegedly stealing the identities of alleged CSUSM students in order to allegedly win a student government election using an alleged university-owned computer with his alleged own login.
The Darwin Awards allegedly come to mind.
More interesting though is the sense of entitlement one must possess—an “I want it, I deserve it, I will sure as hell take it” assumption—in order to perpetrate such a crime as self-serving election fraud. Although, what a dreary goal that is, cheating to assure oneself the presidency of a student government at a public university unremarkable except for The Koala (and for hiring expensive new deans while fees rise rapidly enough to exclude already-struggling, working- and lower-class students from higher education).
Such a sense of entitlement can only have been intensified by the administration, which, since the CSUSM edition of The Koala launched in January 2011, has not challenge The Koala’s discriminatory, hate-riddled content or the behaviors of the likes of Matt Weaver who have defended the The Koala’s content as humor while harassing and threatening those who exercise their constitutional right to critique it.
The Koala published multiple glorifications of rape and an actual guide to rape, and the administration said nothing to reassure students, faculty and staff that the tabloid’s sanction of rape would be countered by university efforts to make the campus as safe as possible. The Koala published violent and pornographic scenarios targeting students, faculty and staff, and the administration said nothing to comfort them or others who feared being similarly targeted. The Koala published harassment or threats targeting activist students, faculty and staff, and the administration said nothing to the campus community to indicate that such retaliatory tactics were just plain wrong. Instead, the administration indicated no crime had been committed, hence no comment.
Except that now it appears crimes have been committed, allegedly by one of the people responsible for The Koala, someone who embodies the white, male heterosexual privilege-to-behave-badly that has been so well established by the Cal State San Marcos administration’s silence.
Without high standards for campus community participation reinforced with actions, without well-articulated and specific condemnation—not censorship—by the administration, without any repercussions for harassing the collective majority of the diverse student body, it is inevitable that at least one student would determine that he would try his hand at, say, election fraud.
Better election fraud than rape. And how grateful I suppose we should all be that the unfettered hostility tacitly allowed by the CSUSM administration has not in fact escalated to something more violent, to sexual assault or suicide or a campus shooting. Yet.
That is not intended to let anyone off the hook. Matt Weaver is absolutely responsible for his behavior, however self-defeating, however unhealthy. Whatever he did or didn’t do, that was his decision.
But the environment on the CSUSM campus in which the violence of discrimination, harassment and threats are repeatedly without condemnation and hence nurtured, that environment is the responsibility of the administration. And the administration is as guilty of creating it, as is the person who manufactured votes in the student elections guilty. How deeply dismaying, both of them.
On the lighter side, as one student suggested: Matt Weaver arrested? Now that is humor.
* The Koala is a for-profit business owned by George Lee Liddle III, with editions at CSUSM, San Diego State University and University of California San Diego (UCSD). Liddle’s former partner Sammy Elhag withdrew from the partnership in February 2011, after The Koala at UCSD published a manipulated pornographic image of a student leader.