Opinion: Let’s Stop This Madness

Photograph by Miranda Harple

(Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

By Garrett Glaeser, Columnist

It has been a sad week for this school because of the mishandling of a situation revolving around a forty-year-old yearbook photo. It has been a week of emotion, of conversation, of questions and many responses.

Some have said that is a teachable moment for our campus community, a moment for us to grow from a mistake made forty years ago. I’d agree that it is, but not in the way it has been suggested.

The implication that anti-Semitism was on our campus forty years ago, and still exists today, from one yearbook photo captured at a party is illogical. This has gotten so far out of hand that a man whom President Janet Morgan Riggs has heralded as one of the school’s most avid supporters over the years has felt the need to resign.

This behavior is not what I expected to find at Gettysburg College and today is a day that I am not proud to be a Bullet.

As college students, if we can’t handle seeing an image of a man in a costume bearing a swastika without feeling deeply disturbed, then I don’t think we belong in college. Furthermore to assume because he wore this costume, Mr. Garthwait is anti-Semitic is ignoring the many comments his classmates have shared about his character.

Yesterday, an article in The Gettysburgian by Ben Pontz quoted many of the people present at the function. Pontz quotes Dr. Steve Evans ’79, who said that in 1979 the swastika was “was a symbol of defeated Germany, of this horrible thing that happened that was crushed.” If the people at the time did not have any concern about the costume or the theme of the party then we shouldn’t be looking back and trying to create a problem where there isn’t one.

In the original email we received Tuesday morning, we were told that we’d all find the image to be “deeply disturbing.” What I find to be disturbing is how the leadership of our college could have contextualized the photo but chose not to do so. It seems to me that we should emphasize the testimony of people who were there at the time over speculation by students and administrators 40 years later.

Mr. Garthwait’s offer to resign from the Board was a gracious effort to minimize the impact of the release of the photo, but it should have been immediately rejected. The call to still do more after his departure is absurd. If Mr. Garthwait truly held anti-Semitic views, we would have heard about it by now.

It appears Mr. Garthwait has been found guilty of being a college student at a party wearing a costume. Do our fraternities today not do the same thing? Are themed parties not a common occurrence nearly every weekend on our campus? Do the themes not reflect pop culture and TV shows just the same as it did in Mr. Garthwait’s time here? We are told that whatever we post on social media will always be there, so let us be warned that it can be used for this kind of defamation in the future.

Let us not forget that there are other individuals in that now infamous photo. Why was there no effort to reveal their identities? I believe the answer is very simple. Once Mr. Garthwait’s identity was uncovered, the individuals responsible saw an opportunity to topple a man in a position of influence.

I do not know Mr. Garthwait, but I am a participant in the Leadership Certificate program that bears his name. To suggest that the Garthwait Leadership Center should no longer be named for its founding donor is appalling. Is leadership not based on redemption, on second chances, on one’s ability to understand a mistake, accept ownership of it, and move on for the better? What kind of message does that send to the students and faculty that work so hard to make the GLC as great as it is?

For me this is an issue that doesn’t need to be an issue. It is a fabricated problem blown up by media attention and gossip. The suggestion that things need to change on campus to accommodate groups that feel marginalized because of this is unwarranted.

Gettysburg College, has, is, and will continue to be a great place. Let us not allow this slandering of an alumnus to further damage our current experience and the legacy we leave behind.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. The most “grown-up” opinion I’ve read on the topic.

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  2. I understand where you are coming from, but to suggest that the people who uncovered this photo had a goal to “topple a man in a position of influence” is in my opinion very insulting. Maybe Mr. Garthwait didn’t have ill intentions when he wore that costume, but to say that Jewish students have no right to be disturbed is not okay. Unless you are a Jewish person whose family or faith was affected by the Holocaust and the Jewish genocide perpetuated by the Nazis, you don’t have a right to say how they should feel. Maybe you weren’t disturbed by the photo but if there were people who were, I think you should try to understand why they feel that way instead of accusing them of having ulterior motives.

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    • I wholeheartedly agree that clearly these writers are not Jewish. To speak with authority on a subject that doesn’t relate to you is not only poor journalism but shows your own prejudices. It’s real life stuff and to use words like fabrication when talking of a real life annialation, is more proof that sadly there are still people in this world who just don’t get it.

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      • Actually, “we” do “get it.” This is yet another FAKE hate crime. Another HOAX. When students go searching through yearbooks looking for photos that offend them, there is something wrong. Sure, I can understand that just looking at the photo might raise questions to a 20 year-old, especially the “Resistance” types who have low IQs and virtually no understanding of world or American history. But once the CONTEXT of the photo was explained, the time came for our offended Jewish students to issue a public apology for jumping to conclusions. You leftists love to ruin lives, as long as they are the lives of white, Christian males. It’s time to fight back against the leftist idiots that slandered a good man. Our president, who regularly publishes articles in the socialist Huffington Post, should resign. The students responsible for this debacle should be suspended immediately. And the Jewish studies professor who demanded Bob’s removal and his name expunged from the school should be forced to undergo sensitivity training.

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    • First, you make a fair point that the students who raised this issue may have been offended. This is not surprising, since the modern leftist student seems to be offended by EVERYTHING, from MAGA hats to Cinco da May themed parties, and the typical college Progressive has the the historical knowledge and depth of understanding of a sponge. However, once the CONTEXT of the photos was revealed, i.e., that Mr. Garthwait was at a Hogan’s Heroes-themed party and that Hogan’s Heroes was a show that LAMPOONED the Nazis with a cast of largely Jewish actors (all of whom fled Nazism and some of whom had multiple relatives executed in Nazi liquidation camps), it was incumbent upon the students and the president of the university to drop their “I’m offended” protests. Any normal human being looks at this situation and laughs. They laugh at the students, who are clearly just hypersensitive, leftist goofs. They laugh at GC–Who wants to send their kid to a P.C. freak show? Speaking for the vast majority of Americans, WE ARE SICK AND TIRED OF HYPERSENSITIVE, LEFTIST GOOFS AND THEIR IDENTITY POLITICS AND THEIR USE OF RACE/RELIGION AS A BLUDGEON AGAINST OTHERS.

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  3. Thank you. After reading and re-reading the comments on the different write ups of this ridiculousness, you have captured the illogical essence of the situation. What a shame. What a shame that students at an institution that I have held so dearly in my heart, are so easily sucked into the mob mentality.

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    • Thank you for analyzing so well the unnecessary furor this situation has caused. Mr. Garthwait, a Trustee since 2007, has devoted untold time and treasure to the institution he loved. In my opinion, he deserved more investigation of context, thought and support from College Administrators and Trustees than the virtue-signaling rush to judgment that resulted. His private discussion with and apology to the “offended” students who “discovered the photo” and “identified” those in it should have ended the matter. Will it continue with the “identification” and shaming of the others in the photo? Google, as well as yearbook photos, will probablty be around for the foreseeable future, and the news articles surrounding this debacle will likely continue to be available there when prospective students or faculty look for information about Gettysburg College. It makes me very sad .

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      • Great job on this article Garrett.

        While no one is making light of the image today, the now infamous picture taken was from a typical theme party of that era that was completely acceptable at THAT time. It’s nothing more than that. There was zero evidence of any prejudice of any kind. The 1979 frat was diverse and the brothers have weighed in. No one had a problem with the party and no one meant any harm to anyone. Additionally, the man in question has done great things since, and many have benefited from his leadership and generosity. These are all straightforward facts that the Garthwait bashers absolutely refuse to accept.

        The person who should be outraged is Bob Garthwait. He has been wrongfully embarrassed and smeared over this and yet he still bent over backwards to keep the peace. The Gettysburg administration really came up small and completely caved to the contemporary views of today. They should have had the fortitude to show some real leadership and stand by him, like you did. If they let this go any further it will only make matters worse for everyone. They only thing that will come out of this is peoples reluctance to donate money and help out. Why would anyone want to put up with this?

        Absolutely no one won here. Next time the PC crowd ought to think things through before they spout off, and the administration ought to have the resolve to handle it if they do.

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  4. Amen! Amen! Complete leadership failure is the “deeply disturbing” event here.

    Does anyone at the school think Mr. Gartwait resigned on his own?

    No one out here thinks so either. He was forced out by the all to common spinelessness of higher Ed “leaders”

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  5. Everyone is talking about having “post-conviction” conversations about cultures, race relations, and what they think the photo signifies. What happened to any “pre-conviction” discussions, including allowing Mr Garthwait to meet and talk with President Riggs and the entire Board? Many in this country are so concerned with the “optics” of a situation they immediately condemn rather than analyze the situation. Do those that condemn Mr Garthwait really believe that in 40 years their norms and beliefs might change? Or they might look back and say “I can’t believe I did that”? Have those that have called for Mr Garthwait’s head ever seen Hogan’s Heroes? As an alumnus of Gettysburg College I’m ashamed of how this was handled, where the College is as an institution, and the treatment of Mr Garthwait.

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