Dear President Paxson,
With our campus recently filled with dialogues of divestment, sexual assault, and same-sex marriage, I can imagine that you are looking for a respite from the demanding life of a university president, a job that requires you to curate a safe, empowering environment for thousands of brilliant students, taking into account our needs and social awareness.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you that respite.
You see, I’ve kept another pressing issue locked up inside me. It started as a joke, then suddenly became real, in a cataclysm of fiery, uncouth emotions: confusion, anger, astonishment. You have left me reeling, Christina.
I speak, of course, of your Batman endorsement.
I can sense a shocked denial approaching. Nay, you are on record. Last winter, during a UCS “Fireside Chat” — Ah! what pleasant names we give the propagation of evil! — you offended a nation.
In case you don’t wish to watch the shocking footage (and I don’t blame you if you don’t — though a criminal shouldn’t do the crime if she can’t do the time), the offending moment unfolded like so:
UCS Interviewer: Spider-Man or Batman?
Christina Paxson, newly-elected Pope of Brown: Batman, better car.
God damn this letter, I’m fighting back tears. Give me a minute to compose myself.
Okay, better now.
On the surface you appear friendly. Your smile is wide—well-practiced at Princeton, I’m sure—and you converse with, well, at least not a criminal amount of bureaucratic doublespeak. I’m sure you tell your children you love them at least once a day, buy organic, and only drink on the weekends. You seem upstanding, and I doubt you have need to exercise your right to view your FBI file. In short, you obviously sleep soundly at night.
But I can’t, Christina. I. Cannot. Sleep. You see, I submitted that superhero query when UCS was soliciting questions on Facebook. I was looking forward to some old-fashioned, web-slinging enthusiasm. Boy, was I wrong.
Your offhand comment, sure to bring a carefree laugh to your oblivious interviewers, makes me fear for the future of Brown University. When you uttered those three words, I heard this:
I, Christina Paxson, endorse a chauvinist technocrat heir to a military-industrial fortune who enacts a bizarre brand of brutal vigilante justice under cover of darkness at the expense of the lives of both his friends and law enforcement agencies in a major American city.
Don’t deny it. Please. It will only make you look silly, and make your inevitable retraction ring hollow.
At this point you’re protesting vehemently. “But Seth! I just like a fun superhero! He has gadgets! He rocks a sexy yet sensible suit!” To that I say: CHECK. YOUR. PRIVILEGE. The words we speak matter, regardless of intent. Your words, once spoken, existed as lingual juggernauts, lousy with meaning, overflowing with the painfully obvious financial and technological excess of the 1%. Such carelessness, we may logically deduce, will be the guiding principle of your tenure here on College Hill.
I am a benevolent opinion writer, though. I do not wish eternal ignominy upon you, though you may have already earned it. There is a yet a chance for you to join the light side.
Do you have any idea what it will mean for the students of this university to know that their leader cheers on a lower-class, high-achieving orphan, who grew up in a broken home, who had scholastic dreams and was bound to reach them, who crosses socioeconomic boundaries through his sheer brilliance and down-to-earth charm, who’s first allegiance is to the family he loves? To support such a man, Christina, is to support what makes us Brown students. It is the key to our university’s longevity and prominence. This is not about what keeps our wallets fat and our rankings high, it’s about what makes our souls burn with the fire of emotional and intellectual passion.
Endorse Spider-Man, Christina! Do it publicly! Do it for yourself! Do it for your students! Do it for your children! Do it for the world!
In any case, I hope you’ll agree that Superman can bite me.
Seth Kleinschmidt ’13