Tag Archives: campus protests

Four Lessons for Professors from Recent Campus Tumult

1) Never object to a diversity policy publicly. It is no longer permitted. You may voice concerns in a private conversation, but if you do it in a public way, you are inviting a visit from a mob or punishment from an administrator.

2) Do not assume that being politically progressive will protect you (as Weinstein found out at Evergreen and the Christakises learned at Yale). Whatever your politics, you are eventually going to say or do something that will be interpreted incorrectly and ungenerously. Your intentions don’t matter (as Dean Spellman found out at CMC). This is especially true if your university offers students training in the detection of microaggressions.

3) If a mob comes for you, there is a good chance that the president of your university will side with the mob and validate its narrative (as the presidents at Yale and Evergreen have done, although the presidents at Middlebury and Claremont McKenna did not).

4) If a mob comes for you, the great majority of its members will be non-violent. However, given the new standard operating procedure (which I described in a recent Chronicle article entitled “Intimidation is the New Normal”) you must assume that one or more of its members is willing to use violence against you, and you can assume that many members of the mob believe that violence against you is morally justifiable.

Excerpted with permission from Heterodox Academy

College Students Lose It over the Election

University heads are very concerned with their students’ feelings and fears about the presidential election.  A Chronicle of Higher Education article collected 45 university president statements on the election. The statements reveal how many presidents advocated acceptance of the election results and/or congratulations of the winner—approximately zero–as opposed to offering comfort and therapy of sorts for the allegedly traumatized losers.

They have nothing to say about citizens’ duty, in a democracy, to accept election results, even if their preferred candidate loses.  This is both shocking and a reflection of the higher education ideological monoculture (see Jonathan Haidt’s Minding the Campus interview) as well as survey results showing that about 25% of millennials reject democracy as a form of government.

U.S. flags were burned in protest at American University, Hampshire College and the University of Missouri at Columbia, among other places.

At Brown University, some students tore up a large number of small flags that were planted to mark Veterans Day. This was a breakthrough in flag-based antagonism: ruining other people’s flags, instead of just your own. A comment on the website of The Brown Daily Herald said, ” Their purpose was not only to honor veterans as a whole but specific members of our community. I am ashamed that our campus continues to have a problem civilly and rationally expressing opposing opinions. We are becoming an echo chamber and the liberal caricature that Fox News thinks we are.” And St. Mary’s College of Maryland announced that an investigation has shown that some of its students were responsible for shredding and lowering to half-staff a flag at a local post office.

And St. Mary’s College of Maryland announced that an investigation has shown that some of its students were responsible for shredding and lowering to half-staff a flag at a local post office.

The colleges’ endorsements and promotions of partisan animus are an ominous turn for American society.  Citizens who are unhappy with the election results should feel free to oppose the incoming administration (witness Mitch McConnell’s pledge to make Barack Obama a one-term president around 2009). But they should not feel free, as university presidents apparently do, to oppose the legitimacy of the result.  University presidents should be particularly wary of making academia more partisan than it already is.

Unfortunately, higher education is part of the license raj.  As a government-sponsored cartel (accreditation, professional certification requirements plus student loans), it considers itself exempt from outside pressures.  The result has been the removal of civics from curricula and capture by a radical identity politics ideology to the exclusion of a commitment to democracy or republicanism (small caps).

LET PROS RUN YOUR CAMPUS PROTEST

In a crowd of protesters at Brigham Young University, Kelsey Bourgeois, 26, is shown carrying a sign in one hand and a megaphone in the other. The photo is in the May 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

deseretnews.com
deseretnews.co

She is not a BYU student, though she was one years ago. She is a professional protester. She produces posters, gather names on petitions and coaches complaining students on how to “optimize” their demands.

She works for Care2, a B-corporation of the left, promoting causes like animal rights, environmentalism, vegetarianism, choice on abortion, and human rights, such as the cause of the woman who died mysteriously in a Texas jail after a traffic arrest. The student protesters do not pay for Care2 services, but outside companies receive $1.50 to $2 each for access to the names of protest supporters.

The Chronicle presented this story as a normal one, thought the use of professionals to inspire, coach and conduct protests seems revolutionary. Unless challenged, off-campus supporters can now run campus protests—and perhaps nationalize them– as part of an indirect money-making scheme.  Some students will still gather in angry crowds, but many will opt to leave it to the pros. Care2 gathered 113,000 petition-signers on behalf of the protest at BYU, more than three times the total number of students at the BYU campus.

Perhaps presidents of universities will intervene to ban professional protesters from campus. But judging from their non- action on protest last fall, don’t count on it.

Limp Administrators Let the Angry Few Take Over

The tumultuous, racially charged demonstrations that rocked American campuses this fall show few signs of abating. In fact, they’re spreading across the country because student activists have been emboldened by their “successes.”

For example, at the University of Missouri, the president and chancellor resigned amid protests (even the football team threatened to go on strike) regarding allegations of racism on campus and the administration’s refusal to address them. In response, the UM system announced the creation of a Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer and various diversity initiatives.

Related: What Yale’s President Should Have Said

Common threads running throughout the campus upheavals include attacks on principles of free speech and a willingness on the part of school officials to mollify students and cede control to leftist protesters. Given higher education’s track record, however, both developments are unsurprising.

Universities have long preached the gospel of social justice through politicized degree programs, coursework, and university policies. For years, there has been a proliferation of gender, black, and gay studies programs and a host of other partisan “studies” fields. Meanwhile, universities have ramped up multiculturalism “training” for students, professors, and administrators.

And they’ve long treated students as customers to be appeased at all costs to keep the money flowing. The mindset born of the combination of political correctness and consumerism has brought about policies that attempt to “protect” students’ emotional well-being—usually at the expense of scholarly debate and the open exchange of ideas. Schools have disinvited campus speakers who offend the sensibilities of left-leaning students. They’ve given credence to illiberal concepts such as “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”

A Lame Defense of Trigger Warnings 

The initial end result has been the debasement of campus discourse, increased cultural and racial division, and diminished academic standards. But we are witnessing an even more disturbing trend: much of academia is being turned on its head, with the least knowledgeable and least mature members of the academic community assuming command based on their emotions.

Protests started by individual campus events and by events outside academia have coalesced into a powerful national movement. Actual authorities cravenly submit to their demands, and one is tempted to think of such historical anti-intellectual movements as the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao-tse-tung or the Italian monk Savonarola’s “bonfires of the vanities.” 

Related: Our North Korean Campuses 

Under the banners of “racial equality” and “solidarity,” some of the protesters—who have aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement and other non-academic liberal causes—have shunned civil debate entirely. At Dartmouth College, protesters stormed a library, shouting racial epithets at white students trying to study.

At Yale University, a student screamed at a school official whose wife (also a Yale employee) had had the temerity to suggest that administrators should not regulate “offensive” Halloween costumes worn by students. Others have vandalized campus statues and monuments tied to historical figures with controversial pasts or racist legacies.

More problematic than these and related incidents, however, has been universities’ timid responses. Out of fear of public shaming and protest, school officials have caved to this new movement’s politically correct thought police. As mentioned above, some have resigned, and others have promised to spend millions on diversity and racial sensitivity programs.

The Mess at UNC

Some administrators seem so fearful of this movement that they have joined with it preemptively. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in response to the events on the campus, in Missouri, and elsewhere, Chancellor Carol Folt recently announced the creation of a new high-level administrative position aimed in part at improving race relations on campus. And on November 19 the school hosted a “Town Hall on Race and Inclusion” which embodied much of what’s wrong about higher education’s tendency to conciliate students.

Roughly 1,400 people—including Folt, the university’s board of trustees, hundreds of professors and administrators, and students—packed the school’s performing arts center. High above the stage, the university’s motto, Lux libertas (Light and Liberty), was displayed—a message that starkly contrasted with the event’s eventual tenor of groupthink and hostility to dissent.

Folt gave the opening remarks, telling the crowd, “[Nothing] matters more to me [than] having these conversations and trying to…make people in our community feel safe, feel welcome.” She then introduced Clarence Page, a liberal syndicated columnist, who was supposed to moderate the event. Instead, he weakly lost control to students who defied the event’s rules at every turn

‘It’s Our University’

Before Page could give his introduction, a group of roughly 40 students stormed down one of the aisles, chanting “Whose university? Our university!” One student held a sign that read “F— Whiteness.” Another, “UNC Admin Supports Violent Hate Speech.”

The group’s leader grabbed a nearby microphone and brusquely told the crowd, “We are going to read these demands out and you are gonna sit here and listen because we have things that we need to say and problems that need to be fixed.” This was followed by cheers and finger-snapping. Then came the demands, which members of the group took turns reading.

Mandatory Programming, Please

Among other things, students are calling for “mandatory programming [that] teaches the historical racial violence of this University and town….” They also demand “more aggressive recruitment of Black faculty and faculty of color” and an end to the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions decisions, as those standardized tests, according to protesters, “disproportionately benefit” wealthy white students. “Gone are the days where we ask for what is past due to us: we are here to take what is ours. Tear it down, or we shut you down,” concludes the document.

Only once did the moderator speak up and tell the protesters, who took roughly 30 minutes to read such demands, that other students in attendance deserved a chance to speak, too. And even after the protesters left, he allowed students to exceed the pre-determined two-minute speaking limit. Chancellor Folt, nor any of the faculty and administrators in attendance, addressed such insolence. Two students expressed objection to the protesters’ tactics and to the other student-commenters. Muffled sneers percolated through the crowd after those objections were made.

Diversity Brainwashing

Chancellor Folt provided closing remarks. “We couldn’t have heard more strongly that we need training,” she said, possibly referring to “racial equity training,” which one male student suggested should be mandatory for university employees. (“A lot of black people have spoken and have different views, but we all agree on one thing: systemic racism exists. If you don’t understand that it exists, you won’t get it,” he had said.)

That student, a freshman, said he had learned all about “systemic racism” at a diversity training workshop sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Each year, taxpayers devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to that office, which seems more focused on indoctrinating students into political activism than objectively educating students or creating a positive campus climate.

At any rate, perspective is important. Twenty-nine thousand undergraduate and graduate students attend UNC-Chapel Hill; the truculent protesters at the town hall event represent a very small fraction of that total. And while some agree with those protesters and their tactics, many others do not. There are signs that students at Chapel Hill and other universities want administrators to restore civility and reopen the marketplace of ideas on campus.

Furthermore, the vitriol toward other groups expressed by the protestors clearly shows that justice for all is not their goal, but that they seek vengeance and advantage.

Letting the Few Take Over

So it’s time for university leaders to stop allowing a small minority of militant activists to control university policies and campus dialogue. Rather than kowtow to the fringe and waste resources on diversity initiatives and cultural reeducation programs, which have abysmal track records, Chapel Hill and other universities should use recent events as a broader learning lesson.

In the coming months, instead of fear, university leaders should show “solidarity” around the First Amendment, intellectual vitality, and real diversity—viewpoint diversity, which is sorely lacking on many campuses. They can remind students that coercion and the stifling of opposing views—no matter how offensive they may be—hurts one’s cause and social progress itself. The Black Lives Matter movement and other movements in the broader culture are free to behave as they wish; on college campuses, however, higher standards must be maintained and cherished.

In the end, this is a struggle to restore the spirit of higher education. The UNC protestors asked one very important question—“Whose university?” It’s time for administrators, particularly at public universities, to think long and hard about that. Unfortunately, for many, it seems too difficult a task. After all, they created the university according to their beliefs, and the protesters are their intellectual progeny.  

Reprinted from the John William Pope Center for Educational Policy. Jesse Saffron has been with the Pope Center since 2013.