The termites continue gnawing deeper into the foundations of American universities. Here’s a new incident that happened at the University of California at Berkeley, and shows not only the deep sense of entitlement that many students have, but their lack of respect for both their professors and the way education is supposed to work.
When Harley Shaiken, a professor at the Berkeley Graduate School of Education with an impressive expertise in Latin American studies, arrived at class recently to administer a midterm exam, he didn’t expect to be sandbagged by the students. But he was: a group of them, apparently of Hispanic descent, stood up and demanded that he cancel the test and instead assign “a take-home essay with significant time to prepare”. They were, they claimed, too stressed out by events like the Mexico City earthquake and the hurricane in Puerto Rico to take an exam, and hectored the other students, who wanted to take the exam, as being unempathic and enmeshed in their white privilege.
The whole episode was filmed in the 11-minute video below, and Shaiken, while listening and offering due respect to the students, stood his ground and refused to cancel the test. When the students said they’d complain to the Ethnic Studies Department, he said they were welcome to do so.
This is all reported in greater detail in a post by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley’s website (Why he’s reporting it I don’t know. He appears to be a combination of a libertarian and a social progressive, but in this case, his politics seem irrelevant.) Turley’s report on the video, which you can also watch below (some of the audio is hard to make out):
The protesters insisted that their “well-beings are being put on the line because of the emotional, mental, and physical stress that this university is compounding with what is already going on in [their] everyday lives.” Shaiken (who is an expert on Latin American studies) balked at the notion that Berkeley was an oppressive environment: “This is a campus that is truly related throughout Latin America to the notion of free speech.” The effort to dialogue with the protesters only made things worse and one shouted: “Have you ever checked ‘unlisted’ or ‘undocumented immigrant’? I don’t think so!” The students further objected that Shaiken could not teach workers rights in Mexico as a white man.
Shaiken begins by trying to say that he “admires” their passion, but the protesters quickly cut him off. He then tried to give his own bona fides as a regular protester and denounced right-wing protesters on campus. He said that he is part of protests on the left all of the time but refuses to let “right-wing demonstrators” shut down the school. When he mentions the “integrity” of the school, the protesters smirked and dismissed him. Shaiken offered to give them a forum in the Thursday class to discuss this issue (though it is a bit unclear why the other students have to sit through another diatribe on the issue as opposed to setting aside time outside of class). He then tried to get the students to let the other students complete their exams and speak with him outside.
When other students objected to their disrupting their class they were then attacked and told to shut up and listen: ” Are you trying to silence us right now? Is that what you’re trying to do? . . . you need to listen to us.”
Finally, rather than speak with Shaiken outside of class, the protesters took their complaints to the Department of Ethnic Studies. However, they remained long enough to denounce the students who waited to take their midterm exams as fostering white supremacy . . . because they were at Berkeley for an education. The student insisted “I don’t know why you’re still, like, sitting down, y’all. I don’t understand. I really don’t understand. Y’all can take your fucking test, but people are dying out there.” She added “you can take your f–king exam but people are dying out there.”
Here’s the video, with a YouTube commentary apparently written by Shaiken:
If these kids are the future, we are screwed. Noteworthy parts: 3:40, 4:58, 9:15, and 10:20.
This is a protest that occured right at the start of a midterm exam in one of my classes at UC Berkeley. As the exam was about to be passed out, students went to the front of the lecture and began reading their grievances with the class and the professor. When the professor refused to postpone the exam the students left and went to complain to the ethnic studies department. I do not know whether or not they will be able to retake the exam or if they will get a 0.
I’d suggest a zero, since they simply walked out of the exam. I admire Shaiken for keeping his cool, which I don’t think I’d be able to do, but then again I’ve never been faced with anything like this:
Given his stance, I doubt that Shaiken is going to give these students a substitute essay midterm, though he may let them take the exam late (I’ve done that for students with real excuses, though it’s a bother because you have to make up an entire new exam). I’ll write to Shaiken and Turley to see what happened. Were the students suffering serious psychological issues—and that’s not obvious from the video—I’d refer them to counseling and perhaps let them take the test later, but it’s more parsimonious to assume they just don’t want to take the test.
But I agree 100% with Turley’s take on this ludicrous interruption:
We have seen students openly block speakers and disrupt classes on campuses across the country without any discipline from their schools. I recently discussed how students prevented a Northwestern professor from teaching a class with a visitor from INS — leading only to an expression of disappointment from the university. I do not view such disruptions as exercises of free speech but the denial of free speech and free thought.
. . . Like the Northwestern professor, Shaiken was extremely supportive of the students despite their disruption and he openly identifies with the causes of the left. That does not matter. These students repeat terms like “privilege” like some mindless mantra that shuts down any dialogue and dismisses the arguments of the speaker. Indeed, as previously discussed, [he’s referring to the William and Mary protests], some members of groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa have expressly denounced free speech and the liberal democratic model. Such views reject the very foundation for learning and higher education on our campuses. Yet, too many university officials are cowed by these protesters and evade their responsibilities of protecting academic freedom.