The progressivist insistence on feeling safe and included, along with accompanying acts of censorship and personnel complaint, has proven so successful in recent years that one can hardly blame conservative students for joining in. But they should hold back. When conservatives proclaim that they are offended and unsafe, though they may win a quick victory in the ongoing campus culture wars, they only ensure future losses as well. What happened at North Carolina State this month shouldn’t be repeated.
The episode followed a customary plot. An official at a university says something offensive about a particular group; the group files an objection and the official steps down. Usually, the parties of complaint come from a historically-disadvantaged group—women, blacks, Muslims, gays, etc.—who have considerable moral authority at the school because of their victim status. The offending figure, too, has often meant no disrespect in his actions, but has shown himself insufficiently sensitive to the group’s “experience.” A protest follows, the offender apologizes, and he may or may not keep his post.
This time, however, we had a non-disadvantaged group, conservative students (presumably white), and an official who was a lot more than insensitive. He was hostile and insulting.
Here are the things the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at NC State wrote in separate tweets on Twitter:
But, now the GOP is the party of the NRA, neo-Nazis, the KKK, and all manner of Alt-Right crazies.
Yet another indication of the lack of ethical values inherent in Trump supporters.
Sitting in the Renaissance lounge, working, listening to three redneck businessmen discussing democratic mobs and violence. Lots of coded language.
Tiresome, predictable, irritating stuff, and it roused the College Republicans to act. The Executive Board of the CRs composed a demand letter and posted it on its own Twitter page. The Board introduces it with, “Attached here is our statement regarding insulting comments made by NC State’s Vice Chancellor.” The statement is clear, direct, and sober. But it is a misguided response from beginning to end, precisely because it copies progressivist demand and language to the letter.
The demand comes in the opening sentence:
The College Republicans at NC State are formally requesting the immediate resignation of Vice-Chancellor Mike Mullen due to his continued insolence and insulting rhetoric.
This is a mistake. The CRs should not have called for the resignation of the administrator. That’s the left’s tactic, which the young right should not imitate. Instead, the CRs should have let him remain in place, but demanded that he demonstrate somehow that he will not actively discriminate against conservative students. They should have widely broadcasted his opinion of GOP supporters, made a public issue of it, and let the leadership of this public institution in a state whose voters went for Trump in 2016 wriggle its way out of the embarrassment.
For, the vice chancellor had put himself in a tough spot. He knew that he must treat students impartially in the nuts and bolts of his position. Administrators must be fair no matter what they think of the politics of the kids. But the vice chancellor had thrown himself under suspicion. This could have been an interesting situation, with the CRs enjoying a distinct advantage.
What a spectacle it might have been if, instead of demanding he resign, the CRs had asked him to join them for a town hall meeting. They could have had fun facing their accuser and stating to him in front of a crowd, “You have called us allies of Nazis and Klansmen—me, a student from Charlotte whose mother read what you said about me—would you please explain?” No indignation, no excess solemnity, no tears. The CRs could have shown themselves to be the adults in the room, the VC the childish name-caller. And throughout it all, the CRs would have shown that they’re having a good time, that the insults are so ridiculous that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, the CRs did take them seriously. The language of the letter after the opening demand maintains a tone of high offense. Here is the next paragraph:
Targeted rhetoric that compares Conservatives and Republicans on NC State’s campus to “neo-nazis,” “alt-right crazies,” and “KKK members” has no place in the university system. Mr. Mullen’s comments have affixed Republican students to society’s most egregious and reprehensible groups, thus widening the gap of political divisiveness and creating an unsafe political environment for all students.
The idiom comes right out of progressivist whining. “Targeted rhetorical . . . has no place . . . political divisiveness . . . unsafe political environment.” That last phrase is the worst. Conservative students should NEVER talk about safe spaces! Progressives have infantilized the campus enough. Conservatives shouldn’t add to the problem.
The next sentence gives us more progressivist lament: “Mr. Mullen has spewed hurtful rhetoric.” Hurtful is one of those fuzzy, whiny, flat, unimaginative words whose weakness is supposed to reflect the injured innocence of the afflicted one. It’s the diction of a victim mentality, and conservatives should save victimhood for people who have suffered more than an overgrown adolescent insulting them on Twitter.
The next paragraph is just as bad. It contains two words high in the social justice nomenclature:
Since 1951, College Republicans at NC State have advocated strongly for respectful dialogue and inclusiveness in the political process.
One would like to think this is parody. Progressives love to call for more “dialogue,” which usually means, “Let’s talk until you agree with me,” and their “inclusiveness” is really a form of coercion. Conservatives, then, should use them with irony. But there are no signs that the CRs have their tongues in their cheeks. They really mean it.
This time, they won. The VC resigned. But it’s a lost opportunity. I sympathize with conservative students at NC State. The relentless condemnation of Trump and his supporters is annoying, witless, and predictable, not to mention insulting. But it does no good for the right to force a resignation, not when they are so outnumbered and overwhelmed in higher education that they must play a different game. A more enduring victory would have been to ridicule him and show the campus that conservatives have better things to do than complain about puerile accusations.
Conservatives must start having fun with liberal calumny. Social justice types will never be very popular. They’re humorless and judgmental. Don’t follow their lead.