I just read an article that Olympic College in Washington State (where I live) has banned sport whip cracking on campus. Here’s the article (from http://www.ocolympian.com/news/article_28654240-919d-11e2-b471-0019bb30f31a.html):
Bullwhips are no longer allowed on campus after an email complaint from a professor about the historical use of whips and their meaning to her as well as other students.
OC student Jason Harris’ whip cracking was brought to the attention of OC’s President, Dr. David Mitchell as well as all OC faculty and staff through an email from professor Karen Bolton. She said she felt offended by the recreational practice because of the historical context of the whip and it’s origins in slavery.
“Being a person of color, it literally made me feel sick to my stomach,” said Bolton in the email, “that whip has symbolism.”
The issue was addressed in an open forum Thursday, March 14. Members of the OC community expressed their opinions for both sides of the issue. Counseling Staff John Babbo and Anthony Carson facilitated the forum and President Mitchell, who called for the forum, also attended. The issue was discussed from both a dangerous weapons and racial standpoint in relation to the email.
“Whips are a hobby for me,” said Harris, “this is not something I practice and think of any particular time in history.”
Harris utilized the open field on the Bremerton campus to practice because he does not have adequate practice room at home. Harris was present at the forum and offered his apologies about the escalation of the issue.
“It was very unexpected,” said Harris, “the response that this incident got.”
The student conduct code can be found in the Washington Administrative Code website section 132C-120-065. The WAC, does not directly address the use of whips, but does say any use of a dangerous weapon that can be used to inflict harm on people is subject to disciplinary action. However chapter 9.41 of the Revised code of Washington does not classify a whip as a dangerous weapon.
“In my mind, I am thinking, this guy has a weapon!,” said Bolton in the email, “someone should take action.”
Ed Call, director of OC safety and security, said Harris contacted campus security officer Eric Hill and asked if he could practice on campus. Security officers observed his practice carefully before determining he was not a threat to the safety of students.
“We were watching and observing to make sure he was practicing in a safe manner,” said Call, “a whip specifically is not deemed a dangerous weapon by RCW.”
President Mitchell contacted assistant Attorney General Bruce Marvin, a figure with legal authority, who supports the notion that a whip is a liability. Whips will no longer be allowed on campus.
“CLEARLY our college needs leadership on this issue, and I am asking for you (Dr. Mitchell) to step forward and take care of this,” said Bolton.
This doesn’t just affect Jason Harris it affects all sport whip cracking. You need to write the college’s president Dr. Mitchell and tell him that this ban is crazy. It will take less than a minute to speak up for sport whip cracking. You can write you own email or simply copy the one below (thanks Franco for helping write it) and send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I just read an article about your college banning Sport Whip Cracking on its campus, and with all due respect, I find Professor Bolton’s objection to its “historical” use completely absurd.
For example, fire hoses, baseball bats, ropes, crow bars, torches, cars, pick-up trucks, bottles and even laws have been used HISTORICALLY against black people; are you considering banning those as well? I’m sure you can find an attorney that will tell you all of those have liability issues for your campus, but you aren’t banning baseball or fire hydrants. Because there is such a thing as “reasonable use” in everyday life, and while someone cracking a bullwhip on campus may seem unusual to some, unusual isn’t against the law; it is merely not common place. I’m going to bet that baseball injuries cost your campus more per capita than whip injuries. So the legal argument is very short sighted. Jason Harris did the proper thing by contacting campus security and getting approval from them and they determined he was doing it in a safe manner.
As a matter of historical accuracy, whips have always been, first and foremost, an agricultural tool, and while it is true they have also been used as a repression device at some point in our history, it should be noted that the first users of whips were most likely Africans and inhabitants of ancient near and middle East, ergo NOT white slave-owners.
Despite Hollywood lore, a whip is actually a very poor choice for a weapon and the fear and anxiety it may have caused Professor Bolton, with all due respect, has more to do with her own views regarding Black history in the US than the whip itself. While I can understand the symbolism associated with whips in certain people’s mind, it is IN THEIR MIND. It has nothing to do with actual present day reality.
Sport whipcracking is a planet-wide growing hobby and it is practiced by the most safety-aware people you can ever hope to meet. Whipcrackers have to deal with preconceived notions on the part of Joe public every time they engage in this activity, yet there is nothing unsafe, immoral, depraved or otherwise objectionable, save perhaps the noise which some may find unpleasant after a time, in whipcracking. We regularly teach curious passers-by (and often their children as well!) about the sport and safety. I have never, in my thirty years of practicing sport whipcracking, EVER seen a colleague engage in anything but the most proper and safe behaviour when it comes to using whips. We are hyper-aware of ALL these issues because we do not want to become stigmatised and our passion turned into a controversy.
You wouldn’t even think of being offended if you saw a whip performer at a wild west show or at a circus, so why object to it when it’s in your own back yard? This is a non-issue and I urge you to reconsider this ban…or possibly work out a solution. For example allowing Mr. Harris the possibility to reserve time at racquetball court.
I hope this letter finds you well, please accept my most heart-felt salutations.