Prof. Potter’s comment

By request, here’s the comment that Prof. Claire Potter, aka Tenured Radical, wrote on Ed McKeon’s blog:

As a blogger myself who has often been criticized for responses to things that are too quick and idiosyncratic, I don’t want to come down too hard on you. But — allowing for the fact that students were drunk and undoubtedly overreacted because of that — that the police showed up with dogs, tasers and pepper spray in the first place is outrageous. Tasers are sometimes a lethal weapon, not a harmless crowd-control device. Pepper spray, if it gets in the eyes, can cause permanent damage. To be attacked and bitten by a dog is a terrifying and possibly life-changing experience. At its worst, the party was a noise nuisance: students were not trying to interfere with a function of government, nor were they doing anything more harmful than being a pain in the ass to some of their neighbors. Students did not deserve riot control tactics typical of Birmingham in the 1960’s or the West Bank for acting as kids do when they are confronted by authority. While I wish our students had simply been compliant and not escalated the confrontation, not being deferential to unreasoning, violent authority should not make anyone — Wesleyan students or Middletwon citizens — subject to assault and battery by the police.

The Middletown Police response is a function of the ways law enforcement in general has been amped up in the past eight years by Homeland Security money, using a non-existent threat of domestic terrorism as an excuse. The MPD used this as an excuse to make an example of Wesleyan students — nothing more, nothing less. And an argument that says the students deserved it because they didn’t follow orders is just absurd. If your kid doesn’t do what you say, do you have the moral — much less the legal — right to whip him?

There is tremendous resentment of Wesleyan in Middletown, something the university has been trying to address and needs to keep working on, and in this case, the MPD are the leading edge of that resentment. But there are two issues internal to Wesleyan that also need to be addressed: Wesleyan Public Safety’s decision making here, and their possible grievances in terms of what they have to deal with all year (rudeness, aggression from students when they are trying to do their jobs) in relation to such events while also being available 24-7 to be cab drivers, open locked dorm doors, and transport students in various states of inebriation and disrepair; and the possible consequences of Wesleyan’s policy of selling off its houses, which will bring private homeowners in Middletown into closer contact with student events like this one.

Claire Potter
Professor of History and American Studies
Wesleyan University

(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)

96 thoughts on “Prof. Potter’s comment

  1. Anonymous

    “The Middletown Police response is a function of the ways law enforcement in general has been amped up in the past eight years by Homeland Security money, using a non-existent threat of domestic terrorism as an excuse.”Yeah. Hundreds of drunk students refuse to clear a public street after hours of requests by their own public safety, then local police, then state troopers. After a few hours they start tossing beer bottles at police and 4 are arrested.Yet another example of how mean and stupid George Bush is.

  2. Anonymous

    “The Middletown Police response is a function of the ways law enforcement in general has been amped up in the past eight years by Homeland Security money, using a non-existent threat of domestic terrorism as an excuse.”

    Yeah. Hundreds of drunk students refuse to clear a public street after hours of requests by their own public safety, then local police, then state troopers.

    After a few hours they start tossing beer bottles at police and 4 are arrested.

    Yet another example of how mean and stupid George Bush is.

  3. Anonymous

    there were 2 dogs, one on each side of the street. the response was big from the police… but not that big.let’s not build this up into something it wasn’t, which is meaningful political action like what happened in birmingham.the president’s definitive statement echoes that, and I applaud his effort to guide the dialog effectively. let’s stop fighting over the details of what happened and turn this into something constructive. it IS a learning experience, like Professor Potter alluded to. however, it is not an event with the magnitude of Birmingham or the West Bank.if we don’t take something from thursday night and change our own habits, as students at wesleyan, citizens of middletown, of the US and of the world, then it will really have been all for nothing.I have hope in my peers that we are smarter than that.

  4. Anonymous

    there were 2 dogs, one on each side of the street. the response was big from the police… but not that big.

    let’s not build this up into something it wasn’t, which is meaningful political action like what happened in birmingham.

    the president’s definitive statement echoes that, and I applaud his effort to guide the dialog effectively. let’s stop fighting over the details of what happened and turn this into something constructive. it IS a learning experience, like Professor Potter alluded to. however, it is not an event with the magnitude of Birmingham or the West Bank.

    if we don’t take something from thursday night and change our own habits, as students at wesleyan, citizens of middletown, of the US and of the world, then it will really have been all for nothing.

    I have hope in my peers that we are smarter than that.

  5. Tenured Radical

    Professor Potter is a lesbian, and a somewhat mannish one at that, although the “giant phallus” comment was never made by me. Interesting turn, that. You know, one of the reasons I left Middletown was that it was impossible, without the personal intervention of my physician, to get a procedure done at the hospital and list my actual life partner as the emergency contact. Things have not changed much in the intervening years, I see.Let me just say that for teachers, practically all moments are teaching moments, but good teachers realize that there are other moments that exist simultaneously with the teaching: other people’s experiences that often contradict and collide with each other. Everyone commenting needs to remember that, and as someone who runs her own blog, that moment where people are just insulting others in the comments are difficult to take, particularly when they are made anonymously.There’s a lot of emotion here, and I want to reassure the students commenting on this blog that this event will not just be allowed to go away. Faculty are talking among themselves, even though we aren’t very visible at semester’s end, and several of us are in contact with administrators who are acting in good faith. It’s going to take months to sort this out and plan for a safer community. Please try to be patient. And for those people who seem to be getting off on lecturing the students indiscriminately, why not just back off, let the police investigation take place and contact the university with your complaints more formally? You are picking on people, many of whom have had their first experience with unreasoning authority and potentially lethal force, and it is just nasty to keep yelling at them and provoking them. Get a grip, and consider picking on someone your own size.Claire PotterProfessor of History and American Studies

  6. Tenured Radical

    Professor Potter is a lesbian, and a somewhat mannish one at that, although the “giant phallus” comment was never made by me. Interesting turn, that. You know, one of the reasons I left Middletown was that it was impossible, without the personal intervention of my physician, to get a procedure done at the hospital and list my actual life partner as the emergency contact. Things have not changed much in the intervening years, I see.

    Let me just say that for teachers, practically all moments are teaching moments, but good teachers realize that there are other moments that exist simultaneously with the teaching: other people’s experiences that often contradict and collide with each other. Everyone commenting needs to remember that, and as someone who runs her own blog, that moment where people are just insulting others in the comments are difficult to take, particularly when they are made anonymously.

    There’s a lot of emotion here, and I want to reassure the students commenting on this blog that this event will not just be allowed to go away. Faculty are talking among themselves, even though we aren’t very visible at semester’s end, and several of us are in contact with administrators who are acting in good faith. It’s going to take months to sort this out and plan for a safer community. Please try to be patient.

    And for those people who seem to be getting off on lecturing the students indiscriminately, why not just back off, let the police investigation take place and contact the university with your complaints more formally? You are picking on people, many of whom have had their first experience with unreasoning authority and potentially lethal force, and it is just nasty to keep yelling at them and provoking them. Get a grip, and consider picking on someone your own size.

    Claire Potter
    Professor of History and American Studies

  7. Anonymous

    6:22/2:09, We should NOT allow cops to get angry and beat up kids. However, I believe we need to focus on this particular incident and punish where appropriate. To me, it’s counter-productive to connect the dots from Birmingham to Middletown (folk song anyone?). But if Prof Potter (whom I like) is looking for a teaching moment, whatever…

  8. Anonymous

    6:22/2:09, We should NOT allow cops to get angry and beat up kids. However, I believe we need to focus on this particular incident and punish where appropriate. To me, it’s counter-productive to connect the dots from Birmingham to Middletown (folk song anyone?). But if Prof Potter (whom I like) is looking for a teaching moment, whatever…

  9. Anonymous

    8:39 I’m beginning to understand the perspective; it’s all about a “giant phallus”. Is Potter a lesbian?

  10. Anonymous

    8:39 I’m beginning to understand the perspective; it’s all about a “giant phallus”. Is Potter a lesbian?

  11. Anonymous

    two treatises of government yo! overthrow this shit – my pursuit of happiness is getting messed with.

  12. Anonymous

    two treatises of government yo! overthrow this shit – my pursuit of happiness is getting messed with.

  13. Anonymous

    10:53:Sorry you find the abstraction boring, but while I essentially agree with your narrative of Friday’s events, I think it does need to be put into some perspective. Basically, why do we allow cops to get angry and beat up kids? This is not intrinsically a political issue, but it is an opportunity to question use and abuse of power and authority.

  14. Anonymous

    10:53:
    Sorry you find the abstraction boring, but while I essentially agree with your narrative of Friday’s events, I think it does need to be put into some perspective. Basically, why do we allow cops to get angry and beat up kids? This is not intrinsically a political issue, but it is an opportunity to question use and abuse of power and authority.

  15. Anonymous

    As much as 6:22 and Prof Potter would like to turn this into a “tin soldiers and Nixon coming” moment, sometimes the simple explanation is correct. A bunch of drunken, idiotic students were confronted by a bunch of pissed-off, over-reacting cops. The Homeland Security/West Bank/Birmingham narrative is boring.

  16. Anonymous

    As much as 6:22 and Prof Potter would like to turn this into a “tin soldiers and Nixon coming” moment, sometimes the simple explanation is correct. A bunch of drunken, idiotic students were confronted by a bunch of pissed-off, over-reacting cops. The Homeland Security/West Bank/Birmingham narrative is boring.

  17. Anonymous

    lol @ the godwin’s law posthad to look it up:”As an internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

  18. Anonymous

    lol @ the godwin’s law post

    had to look it up:
    “As an internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

  19. Anonymous

    lauraalyse, two people posted at 5:30pm people are responding to the person who posted above you at the same time…

  20. Anonymous

    lauraalyse, two people posted at 5:30pm people are responding to the person who posted above you at the same time…

  21. Anonymous

    Are you kidding me? Grow up children. Listening to this crybaby BS makes me yearn for a military dictatorship. Act like an adult and you will be treated like one.

  22. Anonymous

    Are you kidding me? Grow up children. Listening to this crybaby BS makes me yearn for a military dictatorship. Act like an adult and you will be treated like one.

  23. LauraAlyse

    “5:30 – “you’re telling me you want the cops to use exactly what to disperse the crowd?”arrests. If the someone is disobeying the law, you arrest them. you do not attack them.”I never wrote that. I don’t know why you put it in quotes.

  24. LauraAlyse

    “5:30 – “you’re telling me you want the cops to use exactly what to disperse the crowd?”

    arrests. If the someone is disobeying the law, you arrest them. you do not attack them.”

    I never wrote that. I don’t know why you put it in quotes.

  25. Anonymous

    There were more than two— look at pictures. Some have 4-5.The student who was attacked by the police dog didn’t swing at an officer at all. He was fleeing the party once they started opening pepper-spray fire and moving in with the K-9 unit, and the student ran down the street and into a senior’s house… Officer Clark chased him with a dog, followed him INTO the house, and the “assault” on the police officer occurred when the student tried to close a door behind him to keep the officer/dog out of the room. There was no hitting, swinging, punching or kicking. He was trying to lock himself in a room to keep the dog off his heels.

  26. Anonymous

    There were more than two— look at pictures. Some have 4-5.
    The student who was attacked by the police dog didn’t swing at an officer at all. He was fleeing the party once they started opening pepper-spray fire and moving in with the K-9 unit, and the student ran down the street and into a senior’s house… Officer Clark chased him with a dog, followed him INTO the house, and the “assault” on the police officer occurred when the student tried to close a door behind him to keep the officer/dog out of the room. There was no hitting, swinging, punching or kicking. He was trying to lock himself in a room to keep the dog off his heels.

  27. Anonymous

    Does anyone know what CT state law says or legal precedent in CT for “excessive force” in a case like this – intoxicated citizens reportedly refusing to disperse, becoming verbally abusive toward police and some bottles (and apparently a smoke bomb) thrown – with the partier to cop ratio somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1? Just curious if anyone knows at similar cases at UConn or Yale etc and how judges, inquiry commissions responded (i.e will they actually rule that the situation legally and reasonably warranted use of pepper spray and tasers?).

  28. Anonymous

    Does anyone know what CT state law says or legal precedent in CT for “excessive force” in a case like this – intoxicated citizens reportedly refusing to disperse, becoming verbally abusive toward police and some bottles (and apparently a smoke bomb) thrown – with the partier to cop ratio somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1? Just curious if anyone knows at similar cases at UConn or Yale etc and how judges, inquiry commissions responded (i.e will they actually rule that the situation legally and reasonably warranted use of pepper spray and tasers?).

  29. Anonymous

    So wait – just read the Argus article which stated there were only 2 police dogs. Is this true? Student accounts have made it seem like there were several.

  30. Anonymous

    So wait – just read the Argus article which stated there were only 2 police dogs. Is this true? Student accounts have made it seem like there were several.

  31. Anonymous

    Does anyone know the student who allegedly assaulted the canine officer? Just curious because my uncle’s a cop and he said those dogs are trained to attack if their handler is assaulted. Just wondering if the kid is that stupid in general to take a swing at a cop with a dog in tow or if he was out of his mind drunk (my guess) if he actually did swing at the cop.

  32. Anonymous

    Does anyone know the student who allegedly assaulted the canine officer? Just curious because my uncle’s a cop and he said those dogs are trained to attack if their handler is assaulted. Just wondering if the kid is that stupid in general to take a swing at a cop with a dog in tow or if he was out of his mind drunk (my guess) if he actually did swing at the cop.

  33. Anonymous

    Yes, yes, of course. I knew I was missing something! It is a Golden Rule that a half-hour’s shiftlessness on a University street, plus some drunken insults and one tossed beerbottle, equals tasers, pepper spray, rubber bullets, chasing, tackling, attack-dogs, and arrests at the hands of every working police officer within a 10-mile radius.This was not about failing to make a crowd disperse. This was not about underage drinking. This was not even about particular belligerences that admittedly may have occurred on the part of the students. This was about the giant phallus of America’s police force assuring itself of its dominance over some skinny hippie types.I repeat: Wake up.

  34. Anonymous

    Yes, yes, of course. I knew I was missing something! It is a Golden Rule that a half-hour’s shiftlessness on a University street, plus some drunken insults and one tossed beerbottle, equals tasers, pepper spray, rubber bullets, chasing, tackling, attack-dogs, and arrests at the hands of every working police officer within a 10-mile radius.

    This was not about failing to make a crowd disperse. This was not about underage drinking. This was not even about particular belligerences that admittedly may have occurred on the part of the students. This was about the giant phallus of America’s police force assuring itself of its dominance over some skinny hippie types.

    I repeat: Wake up.

  35. Anonymous

    8:02 -you’re a moron for not even reading these posts and trying to argue the same, tired point. one, two students threw bottles. a minority portion of the students present on foundtain that night were in fact on the street and refusing to get off. does this allow the police to take this agression out not only on those 1 or 2 idiots who threw things, or just those on the street, but indescriminantly on all individuals present, even those who were on the sidewalk and lawns of homes and had complied with the demands of the police?grow up, use your brain

  36. Anonymous

    8:02 –

    you’re a moron for not even reading these posts and trying to argue the same, tired point.

    one, two students threw bottles. a minority portion of the students present on foundtain that night were in fact on the street and refusing to get off. does this allow the police to take this agression out not only on those 1 or 2 idiots who threw things, or just those on the street, but indescriminantly on all individuals present, even those who were on the sidewalk and lawns of homes and had complied with the demands of the police?

    grow up, use your brain

  37. Anonymous

    Who thinks that when you throw bottles at cops they will respond with gentle, “Excuse me sir/ms/ze, you’re under arrest?” Technically, you start throwing things at cops it’s attempted assault. It may have been over the top but you’re a moron if you don’t think they’ll respond with pepperspray or worse – especially when the crowd was clearly filled with intoxicated people. And where in this country (or any other) do people think that if they argue with cops, it will get them anywhere but on the pavement with the cuffs ons?

  38. Anonymous

    Who thinks that when you throw bottles at cops they will respond with gentle, “Excuse me sir/ms/ze, you’re under arrest?” Technically, you start throwing things at cops it’s attempted assault. It may have been over the top but you’re a moron if you don’t think they’ll respond with pepperspray or worse – especially when the crowd was clearly filled with intoxicated people. And where in this country (or any other) do people think that if they argue with cops, it will get them anywhere but on the pavement with the cuffs ons?

  39. maxliving

    peter: Well at least now we can get a break from this never-ending discussion for a bit (yeah right).

  40. maxliving

    peter: Well at least now we can get a break from this never-ending discussion for a bit (yeah right).

  41. Anonymous

    5:30 – “you’re telling me you want the cops to use exactly what to disperse the crowd?”arrests. If the someone is disobeying the law, you arrest them. you do not attack them.

  42. Anonymous

    5:30 – “you’re telling me you want the cops to use exactly what to disperse the crowd?”

    arrests. If the someone is disobeying the law, you arrest them. you do not attack them.

Comments are closed.