Long before I moved to Estacado, I used to go to the Tumbleweed Anime Convention (which was partially how I fell in love with the state to begin with). Helpfully, it was held at a hotel at the airport. However, because it was on airport grounds, such petty things as “Freedom of Speech” did not apply. They took great pains during orientation to say that any joke involving bomb threats or physical harm would result in your arrest no matter how clearly it was intended as a joke. We were on Tierra de Federales and had to behave accordingly. As far as I know, nobody was ever actually arrested.

Though there were obvious reasons for it, brave young dumb kids that we were we always thought that the policy was stupid. Of course, that was before 9/11. After 9/11, the young people have opted not just to do away with the invincibility of youth, but with common sense as well. A professor at UC-Davis was arrested and held for four days for a metaphor that went over the heads of some of his students.

A University of California, Davis, police declaration supporting the arrest of James Marchbanks describes the fear three students reportedly felt when he presented an envelope holding end-of-course evaluations by saying, “I have a bomb.”

“There was no expression of a smile or indicating he was joking,” a student told campus police, according to the declaration. “My stomach dropped and I felt my life flash before my eyes.”

But a letter reportedly signed by 13 other students in the class says Marchbanks was clearly using a figure of speech to present the documents that might “bomb” his career.

You think?!

Despite its relatively low profile outside of California, UC-Davis is a really good school filled ostensibly with really smart kids. And yet… goodness gracious. This goes beyond being cowardly and to just being stupid. Is this what colleges have come to? The inability to differentiate between metaphor and reality? Granted, this is theater and dance class and so you’re not expecting the world’s most analytical minds, but this is at a university where 90% of the student population is in the top 10% of the graduating class! But I guess the need for drama can trump common sense.

Category: Newsroom, School

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6 Responses to No Joke

  1. DaveinHackensack says:

    U.C. Davis has a low profile? I think it’s medical school is pretty well known (perhaps partly due to the Bakke case, but also to its excellent reputation).

  2. DaveinHackensack says:

    Yes, that should have been an “its”, not an “it’s”. Disqus would enable me to edit that. Another reason why I am coming to appreciate it and will add it to my new blog.

  3. Will Truman says:

    Ask a random person of some good universities in California, they probably won’t name UC-Davis. That’s what I meant by “low profile”.

  4. DaveinHackensack says:

    Random persons are ignorant of lots of stuff. That was the basis for Howard Stern’s man-on-the-street questions, which were later ripped off by Jay Leno.

  5. web says:

    Speaking as one who interacts with students on a daily basis… they are, with few notable exceptions, that stupid.

  6. Will Truman says:


    But fewer random people don’t know that UC-Berkeley is a good school. Or Stanford. Had my father not gone to… a college in California of a similar nature to UC-Davis… it’s unlikely that I would have heard of it. That’s what I mean by “low profile”.

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