As if Ohio State University needed any more bad press, school head honcho Gordan Gee put himself on the wrong end of one nationality group you really don't want to piss off: the Polish.
Gee's comments came during an Q&A at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, according to the Dispatch.
“When we had these 18 colleges all kind of floating around, they were kind of like PT boats, they were shooting each other,” Gee said. “It was kind of like the Polish army or something. I have no idea what it was.”
Some in the audience laughed, prompting Gee to say: “Oh, never mind, who did I embarrass now?” A moment later he said: “I’ll have to raise money for Poland now.”
Outcry was swift, blowing out of the Polish American Congress, a group that claims to represent 10 million Polish American. Not only were they pissed at Gee for bagging on the homeland's military might, but took umbrage at the suggestion Poland needed any help raising money.
“The Polish American Congress is shocked by the slanderous analogy used by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee and his slur on the military of a nation that has been fighting valiantly and effectively alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said a statement from Susanne S. Lotarski, vice president for public relations.
“We are dismayed by the bigotry and ignorance expressed by the president of such a large and prominent American university, especially since Ohio has a large Polish-American population and many OSU students are of Polish heritage. President Gee needs to apologize for his remarks.”
“Poland not only has a capable military but also is strong economically and does not need money being raised for it,” the statement said.
Now, we've eaten at Sokolowski's and watched season 2 of the Wire, but we're still baffled such a strong reaction would come from a group famed for their calm demeanor. It just so happens, Scene's award-winning staff writer Vince Grezgorek, known on Twitter and to friends and co-workers affectionately as Vince the Polack, is our in-house expert on everything pierogi-related. Because we needed more insight, and because he only sits one cubicle over, we swapped a thoughtful email correspondence on Gee's comments and the Polish Question:
Me: Why are Polish people so sensitive about their army?
Vince: Sorry. Can I answer this later. I'm designing my new tattoo. It's the Polish crest, but with a pink flamingo instead. But I can't draw. So I got three other dumb Polacks who change lightbulbs with me doing the artwork. Is that the answer you want, you Pole-bating asshole?
Me: I didn't think you people would be so thin-skinned.
Vince: We're not sensitive. We just ask that if you must poke fun at the Polish army, you do it proper justice. A much more apt comparison for Gee to make would be comparing the Polish army to the Ohio State football compliance office. And what do you mean, “you people”?
Me: You sound mad? Are you mad about Gee's comments?
Vince: No. But it's time for Polacks to worry less about cliche jokes about our culture and more about Polacks actually doing legitimate, further damage to our reputation, like Polacks who give us a bad name by trying to screw vacuum cleaners.
Me: Well said. Thanks you for your time.