College Bans Student from Campus for Newspaper Essay

One of the stranger news items to cross my path during the previous semester: A college in Maryland temporarily banned a student from setting foot on campus due to an article he wrote that was published in the student newspaper.

Early last month, Charles Whittington, an Iraq war veteran, was suddenly told he was no longer allowed to attend classes at the Community College of Baltimore.  The school was so worried he may be a threat that administrators there put out a “notice of trespass,” making it illegal for him to be on CCB’s grounds.

The cause for their concern: “War is a Drug,” an essay Whittington wrote for an English class that he later submitted to the Connection, the school’s monthly 5,000-circ. student paper.  According to a CNN report, the piece “details what [Whittington] calls his addiction to killing.”

A portion of the essay: “I got used to killing and after a while it became something I really had to do.  Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. . . . I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body.  When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it’s a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me.”

Whittington told CNN the essay was simply a means to cope and describe an emotion experienced to different degrees by some veterans- not hint at any machinations for civilian violence.  CCB administrators were unswayed, allowing him back on campus only after he passed a psychiatric evaluation.

A college spokeswoman: “When you look in the era of post-Virginia Tech and the content and the nature that he wrote about in the article, it caused us concerns.  We had to take some action against Mr. Whittington to ensure the safety of the college.”

My take: Yikes.  I’m much more afraid of the school than the student.  I suppose it’s a backward compliment about the power of the campus paper that something published within it was taken so seriously.  But my goodness, if a guy who has fought and killed for his country can’t wrestle with “Hurt Locker”-style feelings in print, what’s the point of having a platform for student news and views?

To be clear, I personally find his almost-manic killing fixation disgusting.  In letters to the editor published in the subsequent issue of Connection, others seem to agree with me.  There are also separate issues with the validity of his descriptions of *how* he killed enemy soldiers and the unfortunate usage of the phrase “rag heads.”

But the larger value of the work holds steady even amid those concerns: He writes powerfully about a very real condition that was triggered by his participation in a conflict that is defining modern times.  The guy earned an “A” for the essay in class.  His teacher was the one who told him to have it published!  To then not only punish him for his apparently good work, but also go so far as to equate him with the Virginia Tech psycho, is the unkindest cut of all.

Community College of Baltimore officials, this is your notice of trespass: Please do not set foot in my sights until you pass a free press evaluation.

One Response to “College Bans Student from Campus for Newspaper Essay”
  1. Suzanne Yada says:

    Wow. Thank you for alerting us all to this.