Eugene Cho

stupid awards: four george fox students and sandra bernhard

Regardless of your political or ideological views, what happened last week with the hanging of the Obama effigy at George Fox University was downright disturbing and disgusting.  All folks – including Christians – should have been quick to condemn the stupidity of the act AND consider once more, the important call of the church and Christ followers to the ministry of reconciliation and justice.

And let’s be honest here, it’s not just the Obama stuff…there’s been some vitriolic and outrageous things said of Sarah Palin that are downright outrageous and disgusting. But hardly a peep from the very ones that cry injustice over the Obama Hatorades. One that comes to mind is actress/bad comedian Sarah Bernhard’s “gang-rape” warning to Palin in her one woman show:

The Republican V.P. nom would be “gang-raped by my big black brothers” if she enters Manhattan, Bernhard said. Palin is said to be making a campaign stop in New York next week.

“[The gang rape comment] is part of a much larger, nuanced, and yes, provocative (that’s what I do) piece from my show about racism, freedom, women’s rights and the extreme views of Governor Sarah Palin, a woman who doesn’t believe that other women should have the right to choose,” Bernhard told the Daily News today.

“Women deserve better,” she continued. “I certainly wish Governor Palin no harm. I’d just like her to explain to me how she can hold such outrageous views – and then go back to Alaska.”…

“Now you’ve got Uncle women like Sarah Palin who jumps in this s*** and points her fingers at other women,” Bernhard says, before launching into the several minutes’ long diatribe against Palin, calling her a “turncoat b***”.

Disgusting, racist, and disturbing. 

And going back to the effigy story at George Fox, here’s the article.  Despite what wanna be conspirators hoped for, the perpetrators were four current students at GFU.  The punishment includes community service, multicultural education, and a one year suspension.  Is this enough?  I sure would love to hear from some of the GFU and GF Seminary students.

So, I award these four unnamed students and Sandra Bernhard my “Stupid Awards.”  I don’t want to sound mean but you have to call stupid when you see stupid.  Who gets your stupid award?

NEWBERG, Ore. — Four students at George Fox University confessed to hanging an effigy of Sen. Barack Obama from a tree on campus and were suspended for up to a year, school officials announced Tuesday.

The students names were not released.

Other sanctions include community service and multicultural education, which must be completed before the students can return to campus, said Brad Lau, vice president of student life.

The students were singled out during a campus investigation late last week as those responsible for hanging a life-size cardboard cutout from a tree on campus with a sign saying “Act Six reject.”

Act Six is a scholarship and leadership program for Portland students, many of whom are minorities.

“These students were very sorry and deeply grieved by the impact of this event,” Lau said. “Regardless of their intentions, the image of a black man hanging from a tree is one of the most hurtful racist symbols of our history.”

Lau declined to give any details about the investigation or the possible motivation of the four students.

The 3,355-student Christian university, which was founded by Quaker pioneers in 1891, stopped short of dismissing the students permanently. The campus is “a redemptive community, and we allow for the possibility of change,” Lau said.

The FBI is continuing its investigation into possible civil rights violations, including whether the display intimidated minority students in exercising their federal rights, FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said.

Vanessa Wilkins, a 19-year-old sophomore in the Act Six program, said she is satisfied with the level of punishment of the four students. “I don’t think they knew how far it would go,” she said. “They didn’t understand the repercussions of their actions. I don’t believe the students thought this all the way through.”

Filed under: politics, religion, , , ,

20 Responses

  1. DK says:

    I give my stupid awards to all the politicians of our country who only seek to serve their own interests.

  2. Pat says:

    I don’t know the full story behind those four students, but that punishment sure feels like a very light slap on the wrist to me. Kudos to student Vanessa Wilkins for a quote that showed a lot of class in that situation.

  3. Tyler says:

    I think considering the act that this was a fair punishment. Kicking them out of school would have done no good except make them an example…a pointless example though.

    Even more punishment has been how this story has blown up. I am sure that all of these students had no idea this would be a big deal.

  4. eugenecho says:

    i like grace and the redemptive beauty of grace.
    but i still think we need to call stupid when stupid is.

    @tyler: having said that, their identities were not revealed, right? while i understand the reasons, i wonder if GF will provide space for the 4 students to personally apologize to the Act 6 community.

  5. andy says:

    @tyler: “a pointless example though.” Pointless? Sending the message that hate and racism are not tolerated doesn’t seem pointless to me. Hanging a picture of a black man from a tree is inexcusable, they should be expelled permanently IMHO. But my guess is that these kids drop out, everyone probably knows who they are.

  6. Laura says:

    Another comment Vanessa made that didn’t make the news coverage was even more revealing… A TV reporter asked two Act Six students if they were satisfied with the punishment given to the four students responsible. Almost in unison, they reared back and said, “Satisfied?! No!” Vanessa continued, “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. This is a great community–to have to be taken out of it for a time? No…” That’s gospel right there–the heart of Jesus.

  7. elderj says:

    I dunno… we restore people in the church who commit adultery, who have abortions, who divorce without cause, who steal, who lie, who watch pornography. Is a racist act such as this worse and what does a Christian college do in such circumstances that would mark them as different than a secular school?

  8. g says:

    my stupid award:

    Bad parents who spend their money of designer clothes, brand-new cars, cosmetics, booze, and drugs etc. rather than properly feeding and clothing their children who they send to school woefully unprepared.

    One McDonald’s cheeseburger and a single clean t-shirt doesn’t count as responsible, unfortunately.

  9. beb says:

    stupid award goes to everybody that doesn’t see that these 4 were not doing it to harm Obama, but the reverse. This whole situation stinks and they are keeping quiet because they don’t want to full story to come out.

  10. andy says:

    I’m all for love and forgiveness, but as a learning institution I think having a zero tolerance policy is best when dealing with hate crimes. What if someone brought a gun to campus, flashed it around, then later felt bad about it? Safety of all students, minorities or not, should be a very high priority.

  11. Matt EHH says:

    Stupid award goes to our society, all of us. The more disgusted I get with the self-serving politics going on, the more I see it as a reflection of us. We have violent, arrogant, racist, and other currents of insecurity flowing through every corner of America. For things like effigies, when the happen so frequently and broadly, or violent misogyny weaved in language that saturates our media, to result in just focusing the blame on those responsible for the most recently covered idiocy, misses the opportunity. We got issues.

  12. Wayne Park says:

    I don’t think it was fair punishment and somewhat appalled @ those who think it is. Obviously you don’t understand the historical implications of hanging someone from a noose, or at least in effigy. It’s a terribly slanderous, hateful thing, and even doing it out of ignorance or as a joke is in my mind, criminal negligence. But that’s debatable. I just don’t know how anyone can think it was a meaningless act.

    HOWEVER, the modus operandi of the church is restoration, reconciliation and grace and I agree w/elderJ on this one. If we payed back justice for injustice, who could stand? It bites, but to show these dipshits grace is the way of the kingdom. The good thing is this, it IS a Christian school after all, and perhaps there is true hope for realization / remorse for these guys, so there’s hope for repentance. So that’s a silver lining. But regardless of remorse or not, I guess it is still our obligation to reconcile, forgive…

  13. Wayne Park says:

    Having said all that, in retrospect, I think George Fox U did the right thing. I would’ve done the same, were I in their position.

  14. eugenecho says:

    @beb: umm, if you say so.

    the punishment is one facet of the story.
    what i want to see and am curious about is “what does reconciliation and restoration look like for those involved at GFU?”

  15. Peter Choi says:

    Is there any notice on what actions towards reconciliation the school will impliment for student body?

  16. Tyler says:


    I said a “pointless example” because it would have shown that not only are Christians full of hate, but they also never forgive.

  17. andy says:

    Tyler, I’m assuming you don’t have any kids, because every parent knows that punishment does not equal hate. There can be both forgiveness and consequences, there should be both…

  18. Sue Van Stelle says:

    I saw the bit about wanting to hear from a seminary student from George Fox, and I fit that demographic.

    We discussed the incident in our “Missional Leadership” class at GF Evangelical Seminary on Monday and watched the tape of GFU President Robin Baker’s response. I suggest that if you haven’t visited the GFU website to read about how campus leaders have responded, it’s worth the time to do it.

    While the act of racism was deplorable, the response of the campus leaders has been exemplary. I know that the Act Six students were consulted immediately to get their input on how they thought the incident ought to be handled. If the Act Six students felt that the perpetrators ought to have been treated more harshly, I’m sure they would have been.

    I also gather that the students responsible really were a lot more ignorantly “stupid” than intentionally “racist” in this incident. As in they probably had no idea of the connotations surrounding hanging an effigy of a Black man from a tree. How anyone can be that clueless I don’t know, unless these students were home-schooled or attended a Christian elementary and high school where the darker chapters of American history were either glossed over or ignored. (NOT ALL Christian or home schools do this, but some do.)

    Last semester I took a seminary class called “Christian Ministry for Reconciliation” in which we spent a great deal of time wrestling with racial reconciliation. I have great faith that campus leaders responded to this incident in the spirit of much prayer and in the sincere desire to reflect the Spirit of Christ as clearly as possible.

    Again, I recommend that you visit the campus web site to see first-hand how the incident is being handled.

    Grace and peace to you,

    Sue Van Stelle
    George Fox Evangelical Seminary Student

  19. eugenecho says:

    @sue: thanks for sharing. all encouraging stuff.

  20. dk says:

    Stupid people are still offered grace. Zacheus was stupid, so was I. Christian reconciliation transcends PC, thankfully. But I agree that we need to call stupid, stupid. Can we live with stupidity, or are we above the fray in our depravity? This truly begs the question of beauty in depravity.

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