A few questions to begin.
How does a person, an institution, or society define its operational spheres? What constitutes your home environment? Your work environment? Your learning environment?
Apparently none of these are any more circumscribed within traditionally understood boundaries. They are instead perpetually pushing outward creating new space in the wake. This novel Big Bang Theory of operational environments rests at the core of a recent decision to expel two University of Oklahoma fraternity members for “creating a hostile learning environment for others.” Since the theory represents the decision’s bedrock, and this is a public university, surely we can expect some exploration of its contours.
The most fundamental of which being cartography defining the borders of the University of Oklahoma’s ‘learning environment.’ Secondarily, defendants would seem entitled to an explanation of how these parameters were breached by their singing on a private bus. Resulting discussion could dispense with undue flattery to principle and proceed directly to the two forces that always animate such announcements: who and whom. But that seems a bit garish for nuanced men of letters. And so after concluding his flamboyant display of moral peacocking, it would be gratifying to hear a slightly more sober treatment of the matter from OU President David Boren.
So what is the OU ‘learning environment?’ The classroom experience would seem to capture much of it. So was an acapella rendition of the baleful tune performed just prior to a Tuesday morning HON 2970 SEX AND LOVE IN AFRICAN HISTORY class? No? Does one person’s learning environment extend beyond their own personal time and space? If Joe is receiving antibiotics in the infirmary, has his ‘learning environment’ suffered a hostile sortie by singers on the soccer field?
Perhaps so. Rumors do propagate and Joe is quite sensitive to them. But going further still, does one person’s learning environment project even into the private sphere of another? This is quite an exciting advancement in our understanding of the universe, if so. Here is how it would work in theory: If Joe was in a classroom absorbing a pleasant OU lecture on white privilege while Steve was in a bedroom of his campus apartment listening to a rap song on his red Beats headphones, he might verbally articulate the following actual lyrics:
shot the motherfucker back
Right out the ass son
For nigg*rs don’t know how to act
What the deal son
I shot the motherfucker back
No doubt son
For nigg*rs don’t know how to act
According to the Environmental Big Bang Theory, Joe’s ‘learning environment’ continually expands in a 360 degree arc from his person at 186,000 miles/second until striking Racist. In this case, that celestial object being Steve’s caterwauling within the presumed privacy of his own sonic sphere. And so even though consciously unaware of the incursion, the integrity of Joe’s ‘learning environment’ has been compromised by the enunciation of these (as President Boren described) “threatening racist” lyrics. Steve should be expelled at a minimum, with at least some consideration given to state-sponsored electrocution.
Though some moderates within the university demur. They say Joe’s ‘learning environment’ has not suffered irreparable harm until Steve’s singing of rap songs were actually heard by another human being. This being a wing of the if ‘nigg*r’ is said in the woods with no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? school of academic thought. Of course that someone hearing wouldn’t necessarilly need to be Joe. According to this line of reasoning, if even Mike heard Steve singing rap songs, then Joe’s environment has been punctured. Others claim that actual documentary evidence must exist for the transgression to have impacted the space-time continuum. Thus if Steve records himself singing rap songs and uploads the clip to World Star Hip Hop, then Joe has been injured. Although it is not entirely clear if the wound is altered by whether the publication occurs by Steve’s own hand or ocurs surreptitiously without his awareness–I.e. if Mike recorded Steve singing rap songs and uploaded the clip to WSHH without Steve’s permission. In this exotic scenario, Steve would have egregiously harmed Joe without either party’s actual knowledge. And to think some say science isn’t fascinating.
Though this shouldn’t be the purview of mere bloggers who have themselves fatally pierced the OU learning environment with opinions published on the Internet. Rather it is the responsibility of the OU President and his physics faculty to clearly articulate how this theory works and the myriad ways it may be applied.
Though while awaiting that erudite explanation I sought to obtain more earthy opinions from those who have themselves suffered most by the Songs on a Bus album tour. The consensus at WSHH was soundly behind the administration’s prompt disciplinary action. More than a few liberally deploying racial slurs and expressing a desire to assault members of the offending fraternity–actions with unknown learning environment impacts.
Though one comment in particular captured the outrage of hearing the Nigg*r word perfectly.
Im not shocked by this. Too be honest this shit is just a regular Monday to white people! They didn’t just start this!
The commenter’s name: DatDeathRowNigga187
And the universe expands with serene indifference.