Yale, realistic-looking stage weapons, and the prospects of zero tolerance policies:

Like Eugene, I'm happy that Yale has reversed its foolish decision to ban the use of realistic-looking weapons in theater productions. I hope that this reversal - which probably came as a result of widespread opposition to the ban among both Yale students and outsiders - will deter other universities from enacting ill-advised zero tolerance policies in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. As the Yale Daily News noted, the new policy was met with widespread condemnation and derision :

The ban affected at least two shows that went up over the weekend: the play "Red Noses" and the opera "Orpheus in the Underworld," and attracted national media attention as well as causing a stir among students involved in theater on campus. Several students complained that the requirement infringed on their free speech, while others pointed out that the policy was unlikely to assuage anxiety about Virginia Tech.

Hopefully, this episode will dampen enthusiasm for similar policies elsewhere in the academic world. University administrators tend to be very risk-averse and will avoid instituting draconian zero tolerance policies if doing so would cause a backlash that will make their lives difficult.

As for the suggestion by Yale Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg (the official who instituted the ban) that critics of the policy are "not using their own intelligence," I will only say that people who live in glass houses should avoid throwing stones - especially realistic-looking ones. However, I don't want to put down Dean Trachtenberg too much. By instituting this policy and generating a backlash against it, she has unintentionally performed the valuable public service of demonstrating that college students and the general public have little appetite for harsh zero tolerance policies. If her error helps to prevent similar ones at other schools, it is a price well worth paying.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Yale, realistic-looking stage weapons, and the prospects of zero tolerance policies:
  2. Yale Rescinds Ban on Realistic-Looking Stage Weapons:
  3. Zero Tolerance Comes to Campus:
  4. Yale Bans Realistic-Looking Onstage Swords: