Bryn Mawr: “The world’s most expensive anti-racism YouTube training program”

January 6, 2021 • 12:30 pm

We now have a female version of George Bridges (the spineless President of Evergreen State): she is Kim Cassidy, President of the ritzy Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. At that school, tuition, room and board will run you a cool $74,000 a year. (I just found out that Bridges has resigned and will be gone by June.)

As I reported in early December, there was a strike among students at nearby Haverford College after an October police shooting in Philadelphia of a black man, Walter Wallace, Jr., that led to demonstrations and riots in the city (see my reports on Haverford here and here). The student strike was inevitably accompanied by a laundry list of demands, to which Haverford caved (granted, some demands were reasonable, but most weren’t given that the institution was not racist).

There’s no evidence that Bryn Mawr was racist, either. Until the killing of George Floyd, the Philadelphia shooting, and then the strike at nearby Haverford, there were no accusations of “systemic racism” at Bryn Mawr or demands for institutional change. In solidarity with Haverford, most Bryn Mawr students also went on strike on October 28, not attending classes and shaming or bullying those students who wanted to go to class and those professors who still held them.

The story of this strike and its sequelae is recounted by the mother of a Bryn Mawr student, who understandably used the pseudonym “Minnie Doe” when she wrote the piece for Quillette below (click on screenshot). It is the usual story, but related eloquently, of entitled students using racial unrest to leverage power, turning a non-racist school into a Critical-Theory-oriented antiracist school in which dissent is brutally suppressed. Doe says her child will be leaving Bryn Mawr now that it’s become toxic. The title of my own piece above comes from Minnie’s angry characterization of the school (see below).

Just a brief summary.  At first, President Cassidy showed some spine, announcing that classes would resume quickly and that students were expected to attend them. She also decried the “shaming” and “acts of intimidation” against faculty and staff by the student strikers. But she later apologized for those words when she and her administration completely capitulated to the student demonstrators.

The students produced a 23-page list of demands (it took over an hour to read them to the President), and then had a Zoom meeting with administrators in which the students’ faces didn’t appear but the administrators’ did.  As you can see from the video below, President Cassidy, faced with a bunch of angry students, simply crumpled and said she’d meet all their demands. She added that she would resign, along with the Provost and another dean, if they didn’t meet the demands to the students’ satisfaction.

Do listen to this:


Below are the University’s response to the student demands (click on screenshot to see full document), listing each demand, how Bryn Mawr would meet it, when it would be met, and how much it would cost. Some of the demands aren’t totally wacko, like removing the picture of a former President who was indeed a racist and anti-Semite, but most of the others are an incursion of critical theory into a University, stifling the spirit of inquiry of once-admired institution.

I’ll highlight some of the demands as well as the timeline and budget allocated by Bryn Mawr to meet them.

First, the customary requirement for courses in diversity and equity:



These “reparations” may be illegal, as they bestow preferential resources on black and indigenous students:


Labor acknowledgments. But how does the college determine whose labor is “unseen”, and isn’t there labor of non-black people that’s also unseen?

The striking students who abandoned their paid jobs at the college nevertheless demanded to get paid. The school agreed:

There were the usual calls to abolish the police, which the university is studying. Further, those students who do community work on racism as part of their studies will now get paid for it, though presumably “outreach” students who don’t work on racial justice don’t get paid:

There’s other stuff that I won’t list, but the final one is a demand for “grade protection”: that is, students didn’t want to get lower grades if they didn’t do their classwork during the strike. And yes, the administration caved on this one, too. Minnie Doe said this about the demand below:

Far from facing consequences for ruining the fall, 2020 semester, strikers have been lavishly praised by the school’s president and continually assured that their grades won’t be impacted. Some professors have even agreed to accept what they call “strike work”—conversations with friends and family about racism, diary entries, time spent watching anti-racism documentaries, and so forth—in lieu of actual course work, even in math and science programs. Additionally, the college has instituted a credit/no-credit policy that will allow all students to choose up to four courses this year that won’t factor into their GPA.


The strike lasted 16 days. In its aftermath, and amidst the wreckage that is now Bryn Mawr College, “Minnie Doe” wrote this assessment:

As for the majority of students who came to Bryn Mawr to actually receive an education that goes beyond anti-racist bromides, they’re out of luck. The same goes for parents who ante up $54,000 a year for tuition (and another $20,000 for room and board). Kim Cassidy now presides over what is essentially the world’s most expensive anti-racism YouTube training program. Putting aside the disgrace associated with her cowardice, not to mention the outright abdication of her educational mandate, this also happens to be a massive rip-off for families, many of whom are spending their life savings so that a child can attend this once-esteemed institution.

What these students have learned—at a Quaker-founded institution no less—is that might makes right, that discussion and debate are for racists, and that the middle-aged elites who run society’s most prestigious institutions will sell them out for their own public-relations convenience, all the while publicly thanking the social-justice shakedown artists who engineered their own humiliation, thus incentivizing more tantrums in the future.

“We’re all gonna be here for only four, maybe five years, so nobody really gives a damn about Bryn Mawr in the long run,” said one anonymous strike leader at a November 9th sit-in event. It’s an appalling sentiment. But unlike President Kim Cassidy’s groveling communiqués, it at least has the benefit of being honest.

Here’s a sign, which I’ve shown before, pasted on the entrance to Bryn Mawr’s Park Science Building in November. Cultural revolution, anyone?

Disinvitations and disinvitation attempts, 2019-2020: 70% of the censorship comes from the Left

December 30, 2020 • 9:45 am

I decided to go back through the last two years of the Disinvitation Database from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to see how free speech and its suppression was faring on campus.  Their records of deplatformingsdisinvitations, and censorship attempts began in 1998, and now number 465.

FIRE’s “disinvitations” fall into three categories:

The term “disinvitation incident” is used to describe the controversies on campus that arise throughout the year whenever segments of the campus community demand that an invited speaker not be allowed to speak (as opposed to merely expressing disagreement with, or even protesting, an invited speaker’s views or positions). We make a distinction between an attempt to censor a speaker and the actual end result of a speaker not speaking. “Disinvitation incidents” is the broadest category, including “unsuccessful disinvitation attempts” and “successful disinvitations.”

Not only are unsuccessful disinvitation attempts increasing, but so too are successful disinvitations, which fall into three categories:

  1. Formal disinvitation from the speaking engagement, such as the revocation of Robin Steinberg’s invitation to address Harvard Law School students.

  2. Withdrawal by the speaker in the face of disinvitation demands, as demonstrated by Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University.

  3. Heckler’s vetoes,” in which students or faculty persistently disrupt or entirely prevent the speakers’ ability to speak, illustrated by the case of Ray Kelly at Brown University. These incidents are labeled as “substantial event disruption.”

For each incident, FIRE gives the year, the school, name of the speaker, the kind of campus event, what the controversy was about, whether it was true “disinvitation” rather than an attempt to censor the speaker (i.e., a petition to disinvite), whether the impetus for the censorship came from the Right of the Left of the speaker (or information wasn’t available [“N/A”), and a link to the details. As I’ve reported before, when the data began in 1998, there was a fairly even distribution of censorship attempts from the Right versus the Left. That has now changed: the bulk of disinvitations come from pressure by the Left. But, as I show below, if you look at all the data, the last two years seem to mirror the overall 22-year fact that the Left exerts the bulk of campus censorship.

For the records from 2019 and 2020, go here, here, and here.

Here are the overall data beginning in 1998 (465 incidents):

Disinvitations from the Left:  283
Disinvitations from the Right: 129
Disinvitations whose origin was politically unidentifiable: 53
Percentage of politically identifiable disinvitations from the Left: 68.7%

The 2019-2020 data follow recent trends:

Disinvitations from the Left:  35
Disinvitations from the Right: 15
Disinvitations whose origin was politically unidentifiable: 10
Percentage of politically identifiable disinvitations from the Left: 70%

I guess, then, that, contrary to my impression, the degree of censorship coming from the Left hasn’t changed much.

As in most recent years, the Left is the end of the spectrum trying to censor speakers, but of course most students and faculty on American campuses are on the Left.

Here are a few instances of people you might know of, mostly involving disinvitations. (Go to the original entry and click on “view” to get the details.)

A few notes on reasons for disinvitations and censorship:

Stanley Fish: “Faculty committee cancelled speech by author Stanley Fish in the wake of student protests demanding that the university English department focus more on racial issues.”

Bob Kerry: “Former Nebraska Democrat Senator and governor Bob Kerry withdrew from commencement speech at University of Nebraska-Lincoln after the Nebraska Republican Party called for his disinvitation over his support of abortion rights.”

Jane Fonda: “Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose calls on Kent State University to disinvite actress Jane Fonda from giving commencement address over her criticism of the military.”

Ivanka Trump: “University president Jay Golden canceled commencement speech by Ivanka Trump in response to calls criticizing her selection as speaker in the wake of President Trump’s comments on protests over the homicide of George Floyd.”

Elizabeth Loftus: Given the nature of the reasons, I suspect that “From the Left” is probably more accurate than N/A: “Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus disinvited from New York University lecture series by NYU administration after serving as an expert witness for the defense during the Harvey Weinstein trial.”

Lori Lightfoot: This surprised me as she is our liberal black mayor of Chicago, and yet the Left at Northwestern tried to censor her. Reason:  “Petition to disinvite Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot over alleged misconduct of Chicago’s police officers.”

Note that many of these schools are public universities, and thus are legally required to abide by the First Amendment. That means that they cannot cancel speakers or disrupt their talks. The fact that this happens means that the speakers either aren’t trying to sue the schools or can’t be arsed to do so. (Of course some speakers withdrew before speaking.)

Beyond that, the data are embarrassing to all of us who consider ourselves on the Left. We are supposed to be the side in favor of free speech. But if you’ve learned anything from this site, censorship flows largely from The Woke, who constitute a moiety of the Left.

Haverford publicly caves in to its entitled students

December 21, 2020 • 1:30 pm

On December 5 I described the meltdown happening at ritzy Haverford College (tuition: $57,000 per year, total expenses $76,000 per year) following a police shooting of a black man in nearby Philadelphia. The students went on strike and issued a long series of demands to the College, as outlined in my article and in an informative piece in Quillette by Jonathan Kay.

What was remarkable about the Haverford protests was how readily the administration caved in to the student demands, which comprised the usual laundry list of no punishments for strikers, more money for diversity initiatives, defunding the police, changing the curriculum, the institution of pass-fail grades, the creation of ethnically segregated spaces, and getting rid of the President (he’s now resigned). It seems that the students suddenly discovered the university’s “systemic racism”, which wasn’t a problem before the shooting (see Kay’s article about the harmony that used to reign at Haverford), and used this discovery to try getting everything they wanted.

The response of Haverford administratores, who cringingly abased themselves online, was in strong contrast to the response of nearby Swarthmore College (equally ritzy), whose black President, Valerie Smith, basically told the students to bugger off and stop making anonymous demands instead of engaging in civil discourse.

And, by and large, the Haverford students won. An article at the Haverford Clerk, the College’s independent student newspaper (click on screenshot below) recounts the administration’s surrender and links to a list of the students’ demands and the administration’s item-by-item responses, with the vast majority of those responses being “yes, we will.”

I’ll give only one excerpt from the newspaper piece, which saddens me since it’s about the Biology Department. Heretofore science departments have been resistant to or not interested in changing themselves to fit student demands for a social-justice curriculum, but that’s changing (it’s also changing at the University of Chicago). The excerpt:

Without any overarching guidance from the administration, faculty members took a number of different approaches to respond to the two-week interruption in classes caused by the strike and finish the semester.

One notable response came from the Biology department. Before the strike had even ended, the department had discontinued classes for the remainder of the semester in order to focus on redesigning the curriculum with equity and inclusion in mind. All classes, including thesis sections, were canceled outright. The department adjusted thesis requirements and deadlines to reflect this change.

Yet students in most biology classes still completed the entirety of their coursework for credit—just without traditional in-class hours. Instead, students learned from classes recorded in-person last year. Students requiring in-class hours for visas, alongside all students interested in participating, were able to participate in a credit-bearing seminar entitled “Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum”.

No in person biology classes at all! You can get credit for last year’s classes, but they’re old ones, and online. Instead, the biology department retreated to develop a curriculum centered on “equity and inclusion”. And, for students who needed in-person classes to meet visa requirements, they could take—no, not evolution or genetics or physiology or molecular biology—but “a credit-bearing seminar entitled ‘Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum’”.  What a waste of a chance to learn biology! The purpose of a biology department, which I shouldn’t need to recount here, is to teach students biology, not inculcate them with the tenets of Critical Race Theory. And you just know what that new curriculum will be like!

Oh, one more excerpt, which involves those professors who decided to keep having classes and giving assignments during the strike:

On the other hand, some professors never canceled class during the course of the strike and pushed ahead as they originally planned. If and how students were allowed to make up work varied from class to class.

“There was no guidance and no support,” said one student, who found themself [JAC: is that an error or a new pronoun? I suspect the latter, but shouldn’t it be “themselves”?] weeks behind their classmates who didn’t participate in the strike after their professor chose not to cancel class and move deadlines for assignments. “I felt that not only had I missed materials presented in lectures, but in independently making up materials, I was unable to analyze it at the same level,” they explained. “The quality of education that I received drastically fell because of the professor’s unwillingness to support the strike.”

That last sentence would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. If the professor supported the strike by canceling classes and exams, the plural student would also have a lower quality of education, for there would be nothing to learn! As it is, there were classes, the student decided not to attend, and the student is beefing because of their own decision. At least there was a chance to learn something!

Anyway, it’s useful to read the list of student demands and the administration’s responses. Here’s the first one—one of the few the administration refused (click to enlarge):

Below are the demands I find especially scary, for they involves ideological policing of the faculty by the students, who get paid to monitor the faculty’s ideological purity:

The demands (note the claim that “this body will not be punitive”):

The administration’s response (white background for white-background demand above, grey response for grey-background demand. “FAPC” is the “Faculty Affairs and Planning Committee”.

Good Lord! If I were looking for a job as a biology professor now, I sure as heck wouldn’t consider Haverford—knowing that the students would constantly be watching me to ensure that I wasn’t an ideologically “problematic professor.”  Nor would I want to have to center my class around “inclusivity”: I’d just teach evolutionary biology the way I’ve always taught it, giving the best view of current knowledge I could.  If that’s not inclusive enough, I’m not sure what would be. But maybe that already makes me “problematic”. I teach everyone the same, and I treat all my students the same. To me, that’s the best I can do to adhere to inclusivity and equality.

But do parents really want to fork out nearly a third of a million dollars to buy this kind of “education” for their students?


h/t: Luana

Swarthmore College’s president has the moxie to resist ridiculous student demands

December 20, 2020 • 1:15 pm

In early November I reported on the meltdown at ritzy Haverford College in Pennsylvania in response to an October 16th police shooting of a black man in Philadelphia. From then on the scenario is familiar: the Haverford administration responded with a message of solidarity and social justice, but they didn’t phrase it exactly as the disaffected students wanted (they told the students to “stay safe” and not venture into Philly). The students protested, accused Haverford of structural racism, and issued a list of demands. They then went on strike. The Haverford administration immediately folded, abasing themselves in a cringeworthy way and promising to accede to all the students’ demands.

In solidarity with Haverford, other nearby schools, also ritzy ones, also went on strike, including Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore.  Swarthmore students also issued a long list of demands (I’ll quote a few below), which included another familiar one: that students who didn’t go to class and missed their academic assignments because of the strike were not to be penalized in any way. Unfortunately, Swarthmore didn’t agree to that, and students began failing assignments. At that point they stopped their strike.

You can read the list of demands by clicking on the screenshot below:

The demands begin with the familiar land acknowledgment, but with a twist: the students want to give the land back! I still maintain that these are examples of moral preening with no salutary effects:

We would like to first acknowledge that Swarthmore College resides and operates on stolen land from the Lenni Lenape. With this acknowledgement of the stolen Lenni Lenape land, we also bear witness to Swarthmore College’s longstanding history of racism, violence and continual oppression of Indigenous people. We recognize that our fight for Black wellness and safety at Swarthmore is happening on desecrated land, which means we are also implicated in the violence that the College enacts against Indigenous peoples. It is not acceptable to offer empty condolences without a concrete plan for reparations. Let us be clear: we are fully committed to creating a future where Native people everywhere get their Land Back.

That would, I suppose, mean the end of Swarthmore. But no matter. Here are a few of the many student demands (indents are direct quotes, emphases are as in the original)

We demand that there be no punitive actions and/or repercussions for the students involved, whatsoever. This includes BiCo students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr currently taking Swarthmore courses. This includes the guarantee that no student will fail this semester, fail to receive credit, or be hindered from completing their degree plan in any way, as a result of any involvement with this organizing.

And this is rich: the students who wrote the demands want to be paid for it!

In alignment with the demands of Bi-Co students, we demand that Swarthmore recognize, credit, and financially compensate the Black and Brown, gender-oppressed, and FLI people involved in the creation of this open letter and demands. 

Here’s a good way to kill a liberal education and chill speech at the same time:

We demand that Swarthmore faculty across every department incorporate and center the work of Black, Indigenous, Disabled, and Queer writers, scientists, and activists beginning with the 2021-2022 Academic year. 

  •  For too long, the syllabi of Swarthmore faculty have been Eurocentric, and have erased the contributions of disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities. We demand that the revised syllabi of Swarthmore faculty be looked over by a committee of LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and disabled students who will be financially compensated for their labor. 

How are you going to do that in a chemistry class? And, of course, there must be no dissent in these courses, for they’re structured around Critical Theory.

Naturally, the campus police have to be defunded in favor of social workers and therapists:

We demand that Swarthmore College reduces its Public Safety officer workforce over the next two years. We demand that funding from those vacated positions be re-allocated to CAPS for the hiring of new counselors as aforementioned. 

Public Safety is not in the service of protecting Black students, who are frequently stopped and asked what their business is on campus. Pubsafe is not an essential service. Counseling for Black students, for whom this political and historical moment is incredibly traumatic, is essential and funds should be reallocated accordingly.

There is the request for lowering academic standards, but only for students of color:

We demand that all academic expectations are significantly modified to meet the needs of the most marginalized students. Beginning with the Spring of 2021, all coursework deadlines should be adjusted to prioritize student wellness. This will require professors to rework their syllabi in order to meet the needs of the students that are struggling the most in their courses. It is violent to expect students to disregard their well being in order to meet academic expectations.

Finally, there’s the call for mandatory brainwashing, clearly is not an opportunity for discussion, but for the authoritarians to instill RightThink in the students:

We demand that Swarthmore fully fund workshops on cultural competency and intersectionality that are mandatory for all first-year and transfer students beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. These workshops should be taught by marginalized people. Too many of our peers are able to graduate without having to reflect on systems of oppression and how they are implicated within them.

On November 19, two weeks into the strike, Swarthmore’s President, Valerie Smith, wrote to the protestors and the whole college. Her letter is remarkable in both its civility but also its flat-out rejection of the students’ petulant demands. Click on the screenshot:

A few excerpts.

The civil opening:

I am grateful to be part of a community united in its commitment to make the institution we share a more inclusive, equitable, and welcoming place. While I’m proud of the work we’ve achieved together, that work is far from complete; in fact, it may never truly be “finished.” But I want to reiterate that I am eager to engage with students as we continue to build a more diverse and just community together.

The hammer falls:

In my experience, however, the type of large gathering you’ve described, particularly one organized by an anonymous group that requires attendance of certain individuals to discuss the specific demands you’ve put forth, isn’t conducive to meaningful and productive dialogue. I am thus declining the invitation, because I believe that to bring about enduring change, we must engage in a more genuine, focused, nuanced, and sustained interaction and exploration of the issues at stake. My colleagues in the administration and I welcome engagement with any members of our community who are willing and able to participate in this difficult and necessary work.

The spanking of the striking students for not behaving well:

But while we share some of the same aspirations, our vision for the path toward achieving them differs. Some of your demands and aspects of your latest response take liberty with the facts. Students and faculty alike have raised serious concerns about feeling pressured into supporting the strike. And there is an undercurrent emerging that those who do not fully subscribe to your demands or your approach somehow fail to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which would be, of course, a false equivalency. I am sure that you do not intend for others to feel this way, but it is, nevertheless, the way that some in our community — who are deeply committed to racial justice — are feeling.

Smith’s polite rejection of further dialogue with the letter writers, who were of course anonymous:

At this point, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I see further engagement with an anonymous group and a set of demands that do not reflect the serious and ongoing efforts of those in our community as the most effective way of addressing issues critical to the entire College community. As I said before, I greatly appreciate that you have highlighted the need for me and members of the administration to find new and more effective ways of communicating, connecting, and working with students, in the service of meaningful change. I am committed to doing so and am even now working to develop new structures and strategies for conflict resolution, change, collaboration, and communication.

And lest you think President Smith is an old white racist woman, no she’s not. Her photo is below; she’s also described as “a distinguished scholar of African-American literature” and an advocate of social justice:

Smith’s significant priorities at Swarthmore include attracting more low-income and first-generation students, innovating the curriculum, increasing diversity, and strengthening relationships between the College and the region.

But she’s going to do it her way, not at the point of a gun held by a bunch of entitled students. I can’t say she has “cojones,” for she’s a woman, but she’s surely, as the kids say, “badass.” Kudos to her.  She knows how to walk the line in these troubled times, and that doesn’t mean truckling to the students. It means being a leader, not a craven follower.

President Valerie Smith

Editors of Princeton student newspaper: dump the school’s policy of free speech when it protects hate speech

December 8, 2020 • 11:00 am

It’s time for both universities and their students to recognize that the principle of free speech can and often will conflict with the principle of “inclusivity”, for any time someone is offend by what another person says—or if a statement  conflicts with someone’s ideology or values—that person feels “excluded”. Nowadays, of course, exclusion in this way, synonymous with “offense”, is equated with “harm”—or even “violence.” That’s a false equivalence, degrading the meaning of the latter two terms.

And when we have a conflict like this, most thoughtful people have decided that freedom of speech must trump “inclusivity”, most often abrogated by what students call “hate speech.” For anybody can claim offense about anything, and, as I’ve often said, one person’s “hate speech” is another person’s “debatable speech”, i.e., free speech.  A few examples: criticism of abortions, of Islam, of affirmative action, and of the claim that transgender people are absolutely identical to members of the biological sex whose gender they’ve adopted. All of these have been deemed “hate speech.” Should they be banned? Not on your life.

Now I hasten to add that I find racist speech abhorrent, and would do what I can to counteract it, but through counter-speech, not through banning speech I don’t like. Should a student be able to call Jews “Hebes” or “Yids” and accuse them of being money-grubbing power-mongers seeking to take over the world? Yes, of course they should be allowed, even though I’m a secular Jew. Those words are offensive to me, but I wouldn’t for the world suggest that the person who said them be punished. I’d just say he’s an idiot. Ditto with someone saying “Gas the Jews.” That is legal speech, for it doesn’t present an imminent and predictable danger of real harm.

But the editors of the Princeton student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, don’t agree. They say that a university that fosters diversity and inclusivity must ban “racist speech” (which is of course undefined). The editorial is signed by all the members of the Princetonian editorial board save a brave dissenter: one Zachariah Sippy.

Their intent is clear: punish people who exercise their free-speech rights to say things considered racist by others. (All quotes from the paper.)

We have received many messages professing the University’s commitment to the ongoing fight for racial equality in the United States. But actions speak louder than words. What does it mean to increase faculty and staff diversity, as President Eisgruber announced he intends to do, if the community they join does not stand against racism they may encounter?

. . .These ideas cause demonstrable harm to students of color who make up the University community. They force students to question their place on our campus, because they suggest Black people’s intellectual or behavioral inferiority make them incapable of succeeding in higher education.

. . . Those who use free speech to defend racist ideas are essentially saying that it is acceptable for Black students to exist in a perpetual state of discomfort, leaving them vulnerable to numerous traumatic experiences, in the name of an abstract principle that is prioritized over the well-being of our community members.

I would suggest that any time you see the word “harm” in a piece like this, you should mentally substitute the word “offense”.

Read the editorial, published a month ago, by clicking on the screenshot:

To try to sneak around freedom of speech, the editors suggest that Princeton already bans hate speech in its own regulations.  From the paper:

Time and time again the University has acted as an enemy to justice, abusing its powers by deploying free speech language when addressing charges of racism. So it is time for a shift in power. Written in the free speech policy is the stipulation that speech “directly incompatible with the functioning of the University” can be restricted.

But if you look at that free speech policy (which isn’t by the way, linked to the article, you find that speech incompatible with university functioning is the same type of speech that courts have ruled is not protected by the First Amendment.

From Princeton’s Statement on Freedom of Expression:

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

This is in fact word-for-word identical to the University of Chicago’s Principles of Free Expression:

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University.In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

So no, just as Chicago wouldn’t ban racist speech, or any legal speech, so Princeton wouldn’t, either. This has gotten the editors’ knickers in a twist.

To further underscore the editors’ misunderstanding of free speech, they conflate sit-ins that block Princeton’s access to buildings, and are against University regulations, with free speech:

Yet, Nassau Hall’s [the Princeton administration building] supposedly unwavering conviction that free speech — even that which makes one uncomfortable — is our institution’s lifeblood fell apart when administrators were made to feel uncomfortable. In the fall of 2015, the University threatened student activists from the Black Justice League  with disciplinary consequences. The administration further denied these students secure accommodations, even when they received death threats. That is the very definition of suppressing speech.

No, you chowderheads! The activists were threatened not because they were saying anything particular, but because they were illegally staging a sit-in in Nassau Hall. You have the right to say what you want, but you don’t have the right to occupy University space against regulations. That is known as civil disobedience, and comes with the stipulation that you have to suffer the legal or disciplinary consequences. I have a right to protest Donald Trump’s policies, but I don’t have the right to do so by entering the Capitol and expatiating from the Senate floor.

The students don’t seem to understand that a University can be opposed to racism, and enact policies to prevent it, and to foster inclusion, diversity, and equality of opportunity, yet at the same time foster a strong policy of free speech. The university doesn’t promulgate racism (I seriously doubt that Princeton is “structurally racist”), but it doesn’t punish speech deemed racist—unless it constitutes personal and repeated harassment. But that kind of harassment is already illegal.

I thought Princeton students were supposed to be smart. I guess they are, but these editors are also ignorant. One would think that, of all people, editors of a newspaper would understand the meaning of “freedom of speech.”


Social-justice turbulence at Haverford, self-abasing administrators, and some lessons

December 5, 2020 • 1:00 pm

I see that Quillette is now being demonized by many Leftists as some sort of “alt-right” or conservative website. And although some of their articles are indeed too Right-wing for me, most of the articles seem to be doing what I do—calling out the excesses of the Left, the same excesses that, I suspect, held back the predicted Blue Wave in November’s election. Further, it’s not a good idea to denigrate an entire website as a way of avoiding—or urging others to avoid—reading anything published there. Regardless of what you see as Quillette‘s overall ideology, you will benefit from reading some of its pieces, if for no other reason than some of the follies of the Left, which threaten a liberal government, simply can’t be found in mainstream media.

Here is one piece that will repay reading, although it’s long (my printout, in 9-point type, occupies 14 pages). This should keep you occupied on a cold December Saturday:

In some ways it’s nothing really new: the piece describes a meltdown at Haverford College, a posh and expensive school near Philadelphia. What’s unusual about this is that the students went on strike for several weeks, refusing to go to classes or, indeed, do anything college-related. What’s not new is that they issued a set of demands to the administration: the usual mix of the ridiculous to the tame. And the administration, to placate the outraged students, accepted nearly every one of those demands.

To me it’s a scary harbinger of my own school which, despite holding the line on some aspects of free speech, is showing worrying signs of encroaching wokeness. I’m worried that the University of Chicago will go the way of Yale, Middlebury College, Harvard, and now Haverford. But more on that in weeks to come.

The author of the piece, Jonathan Kay, is the Canadian editor of Quillette, and has cobbled together a thorough and engrossing summary of Haverford’s meltdown.  I’ll try to be brief, as I want to discuss his views on the future of fulminating college wokeness.

Earlier this year, before the death of George Floyd on May 25, Haverford was pretty much a school of comity. While there was discussion about various issues, there was not much about race, and a college committee in 2019 noted that there was, as Kay says, “little indication of mass discontent or ideological conflict.” This contrasts markedly with the many statements in the next few months, including some by administrators admitting that Haverford had long been a bastion of systemic racism.

All that changed with the death of Floyd and then the police shooting in Philadelphia on October 26 of another black man, Walter Wallace, Jr., who was bipolar and carrying a knife.  Because it wasn’t clear that the cops had a good reason to fire on Wallace, this predictably led to rioting in Philadelphia. Earlier, the racial unrest of the summer had led the College’s President, Wendy Raymond, to issue a statement of support for the black protestors, and the students began protesting the alleged racism of Haverford and issuing lists of demands.

After Wallace’s death, President Raymond and Interim Dean Joyce Bylander (the latter a black woman) issued a joint letter of anti-racism, but made the mistake of saying that students shouldn’t go to Philadelphia to protest because they could get infected with Covid-19 or “play into the hands of those who might seek to sow division and conflict especially in vulnerable communities.” (It’s not clear whom they meant.)

This statement (like others, reproduced in the article), urging students not to put themselves in “harm’s way”, enraged those students, who saw in it a line drawn between the poor black residents of Philadelphia and the entitled bubble of Haverford students.  A Zoom call ensued on November 5 in which the President, the black Interim Dean, and the black Provost, Linda Strong-Lee, talked to many of Haverford’s 1350 students. The students proceeded to revile the administrators in the call, as usual, but did so anonymously.

And the administrators proceeded to abase themselves:

The President:

Raymond presented herself as solemnly apologetic for a litany of offenses. She also effusively praised and thanked the striking students for educating her about their pain, while “recognizing that I will never understand what it means to be a person of color or be black or indigenous in the United States. I am a white woman with considerable unearned privilege.”

Not only did Raymond announce that she would be acceding to many of the students’ previously listed demands, she also reacted positively to the new requests that students put forward during the call. “All of the recommendations you’ve made here sound spot on and are excellent,” she said. “We can do those—and go beyond them.”

The Provost:

“I’ll just share that I hear your pain, and I know that this is something that rings hollow for you, but I am a black woman who has lived in a black body for 56 years,” responded Strong-Leek, in carefully measured tones that, among all the responses from administrators, seemed closest to escalating into something approaching candor. “My husband is black. My children are black. Every day, I worry about them and myself. Every day, I confront racism. [I’m] Looking forward to working with you and looking forward to making Haverford a better place.” She seemed to be fighting back her own emotions, but ultimately kept her composure.

The Interim Dean:

“I continue to listen and learn, and try to understand the ways in which the college has failed you and how I have failed you,” Dean Bylander calmly responds, ticking off seemingly well-rehearsed talking points. “[I] continue to be committed to trying to work to change and improve the experience of BIPOC students at Haverford.” Her face is a mask of deadpan professionalism. Or maybe she’d simply gone numb.

Eventually, the College acceded to virtually all the students’ demands. But by then the students had gone on strike, refusing to attend classes or extracurricular activities, with the intent being to disrupt the college, make them see how valuable people of color were in running the College, and to spend their time doing teach-ins and reading anti-racist literature. The strike lasted three weeks.

It wasn’t enough that there was a strike, for the striking students tried to punish those “scab” professors who insisted on holding classes during the strike as well as those students who opposed the strike, the latter keeping quiet lest they be forever demonized. Alumni banded together threatening to withhold donations to Haverford unless the students’ demands were met (this is a particularly effective way to effect college change: smack them in the pocketbook).

Social-media statements like this circulated (“Peanuts” is President Raymond’s dog, for crying out loud, and the poor mutt was threatened multiple times with death):

They threatened the President’s dog, for chrissake!

All of a sudden, where comity had reigned, the students, administration, and alumni discovered that all along the school had been a bastion of racism and bigotry:

The students appeared on Zoom under pseudonyms plucked from a list of past Haverford presidents and benefactors. The idea, a strike organizer self-identifying as “Henry Drinker” is heard to say at the 12:20 mark, was to co-opt the names “of the old white men who have made Haverford the racist institution that it is today.”

. . . These details help contextualize the mass email that Dean Bylander and President Raymond sent to the school community on October 28th, a six-paragraph message that student strikers would cite in the days that followed as proof of the “long tradition of anti-Blackness and the erasure of marginalized voices that have come to characterize the experiences of students of color at Haverford.”

From an article in the college newspaper by a student named Soha Saghir:

This campus has failed its Black students (especially Black women and Black nonbinary people), its students of color, and its FGLI [first-generation low-income] students—the very people whose labor is the backbone of this campus. These emails [from the administration] were just one more way in which you and this institution neither feel nor understand how tired, angry, and ready for change we are… In this pandemic, that labor has intensified in unimaginable ways… We are no longer asking for inclusion or diversity since that gives more power to the institution. Instead, we will disrupt that order. We will be going on a strike from our classes, our jobs (which we need), and any extracurricular activities. This campus can’t run without BIPOC. This is not just a reminder that we are valuable to you on campus, but that our lives, minds, and bodies matter.

There’s more, but what’s clear is that all of a sudden students discovered that the school, once peaceful and inclusive, was really a hotbed of racism. Did the school change in such a short period of time, or did outraged students confect a “structural racism” that didn’t exist.

I opt for the latter, having long lived on a liberal campus where such recent accusations fly in the face of the facts.

What bothers me about Kay’s piece is what looks like a correct diagnosis of why the administration caved completely to the students, abasing themselves, losing their dignity, and admitting to an institutional bigotry which didn’t exist. It’s because the administration has nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by standing up to the students. If true, that doesn’t give me much hope:

When campus meltdowns of this type occur, you often see conservative culture warriors demand that administrators take a hard line, demonstrate backbone, “grow a spine,” and so forth. But what is their incentive for doing so? It was once the case that a university president was able to balance different constituencies against one another as a means to achieve some kind of policy equilibrium—liberal students versus more conservative professors, administrators against alumni, this department versus that. But that doesn’t happen anymore: Thanks to the homogenizing effects of social media, all of these constituencies tend to be drinking the same bathwater from the same troughs, and so get caught up in the same social panics at the same time.

And Kay’s solution seems lame: “eventually the trend will reverse itself, and that will be prompted by the students themselves.”  Dream on, Mr. Kay: I don’t see this happening:

The process of sifting through these events at Haverford has convinced me that the ideological crisis on American campuses can’t be solved by administrators—not because they are beholden to critical race theory, intersectionality, gender ideology, postmodernism, or any of the other bugbears of conservative culture critics, but because they simply have no practical inducements for doing so. Ultimately, this is a crisis that is going to have to be addressed, if at all, by students themselves. And in this regard, I do see some green shoots of hope. Nick Lasinsky, a white undergraduate student at Haverford, wrote a beautiful and thoughtful piece called Why I’ve Chosen Not to Strike. And a black student named Khalil Walker wrote an amazing series of comments in which he demolishes the idea that Haverford is a hive of systematic racism. Our culture moves in cycles, and I predict that you will see more of these brave voices in months to come.

I predict otherwise. These woke and outraged students will, since they come from elite colleges, get positions of leadership in the media as well as in other colleges, for many of them will go on to become academics and administrators. And that will make colleges even more woke, and so on. There’s nothing on the horizon to break that cycle.

As I worry about this fate for my own university (our hard-line President, Bob Zimmer, will resign at the end of this academic year), I spend too much time—especially for an emeritus professor—fretting about the University of Chicago. For decades, we were the beacon of freedom of speech and academic freedom among American colleges. This uniqueness was in fact a selling point of the University, who advertised it to potential students and their parents. But it’s crumbling.

Now we stand on an equipoise that could easily turn us into Haverford, especially because many of our students are just as woke as theirs. While I still fight for freedom of speech here, it’s getting harder and harder, and the opposition gets louder and louder. What’s freedom of speech compared to the “harm” you cause by speaking your mind?

Before too long, we may see the time when the University of Chicago is no longer the model for colleges that want to encourage all sorts of discussion and discourage none. And I find that prospect discouraging.

Cornell’s student assembly votes against disarming campus police; outraged students vow to remove from office those who voted the wrong way

November 22, 2020 • 1:00 pm

It’s possible that Cornell University doesn’t need a campus police department, much less one with armed officers, but the University itself clearly decided they needed one (parents like to know that their kids have their own “security guard force”). This isn’t my call, though I would maintain that, due to my own school’s location on the crime-ridden South Side, the University of Chicago does need cops with guns.

But, as we know, students at almost every campus with its own police have called for defunding them or for disarming those cops who carry weapons. (This includes the University of Chicago.)  What’s unusual is what happened at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where the student government voted down a resolution to disarm the cops. Click below to see the article in the student paper, the Cornell Daily Sun:

You can see the long resolution below that decries the cops for three pages with “wheras”s concentrating on racism, and then proposes the short resolution:

Be it therefore resolved,

Supporting data and trends overwhelmingly show that police on college campuses should not have access to lethal weapons as it is unnecessary and proves to increase the likelihood of danger/use of lethal force rather than decrease;

Be it finally resolved,Cornell University must take action by immediately disarming the Cornell University Police department of all lethal weapons.

There is no data that convincingly show that disarmed campus police reduce crime (or harm) more than armed police, though the resolution adduces data showing that unarmed security patrols reduce crime compared to no patrols.  The way to deal with this issue, if you want a good study, is simply to disarm the Cornell Police for several years and see if there is less crime or less harm. That is not going to happen, though, as the students have no say in whether the police are armed or not. While it is possible to do a sort-of-controlled study, that one would be polluted by possible temporal changes in crime. All it would take to settle the issue, though, is one school shooting to which campus police couldn’t respond in kind.

After a fractious three-hour meeting, the student assembly, the SA, voted down the resolution 14-15-1. I’m stupefied not only that the vote was against disarming, but was such a close vote (these things are usually lopsided on the Woke side).

Immediately, a group of protesting students accused the SA of racism. From the Daily Sun:

While the protest occurred at the CUPD headquarters, the other target of organizers was clear: Recalling the 15 Student Assembly voting members who voted against the resolution.

Why are old white men so much worse than young white men?

November 13, 2020 • 9:30 am

When I open the latest issue of our student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, I often get similar feelings as when I read HuffPost: “This rag is way too woke.” It’s especially depressing here because of the big gap between the students’ wokeness and the University’s ideals, which are to promulgate nearly complete free speech and to refrain from the University making any official statement about politics, morality, or ideology beyond those necessary to ensure that the University functions as an equal-opportunity venue for learning and exploring ideas. (See our list of “Foundational Principles”.) Both of these principles are meant to promote free discussion, in hopes that the clash of ideas brings knowledge, awareness, and learning how to learn.

Here’s an example from the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Protest and Dissent:

In our view, dissent and protest are integral to the life of the University. Dissent and protest should be affirmatively welcomed, not merely tolerated, by the University. Especially in a university community, the absence of dissent and protest—not its presence—is a cause for concern. The passionate expression of non-conforming ideas is 2 both a cause and an effect of the intellectual climate that defines this University in particular. In addition, dissent and protest—and public demonstrations by groups and individuals—play a role in the University’s educational mission: being a member of an educational community that values dissent and protest is, in part, how people develop as citizens of a democracy.

In contrast, many (but by no means all) of our students want repression of “hate speech”, deplatforming of speakers, the right to avoid punishment for disrupting speech, and, of course, defunding and eliminating the campus police. A major editorial in the new Maroon, for instance, bemoans the possibility that after our current President—Robert Zimmer—steps down at the end of this academic year, the committee chosen to select his replacement consists of uniformly wealthy and overwhelmingly white males. (That isn’t true: there are two women, one Hispanic man, and one black man on the committee of 12, in addition to Zimmer himself). The students are afraid that Zimmer’s replacement will be just like him, and want “faculty, staff, students, and community members” to be on the search committee lest the policies of Zimmer (including retaining the campus cops) be continued.  With a committee like that, we’d wind up getting somebody like George “Can I Pee Now?” Bridges, the invertebrate president of The Evergreen State College. In fact, the committee should strive to get someone like Zimmer, as he’s fought hard to keep the University of Chicago a bastion of free speech and unrestricted inquiry (he’s also been hugely successful in the President’s other job: raising money for the University).

It’s not the disparity of age, sex, and color between students and trustees or President that worries me (our Provost, by the way, is an Asian woman)—it’s the disparity between these two groups in what they think a university is for and how it should be run. The students want the purpose of our University to be social engineering, and preparing students to be social engineers; the faculty and administration want the students to learn and learn how to think; to bathe in and ponder rarified ideas. We don’t see the university as a way to inculcate students with certain societal values, but as a way to get them to think about and arrive at their own values.

Contrast the Founding Principles above, for example, with a booklet produced by our Leftier students, the Dis-Orientation Guide for 2020: 59 pages of wokeness that begins by repudiating our principles of free speech as inconsistently applied (they’re not) and rejecting the Kalven Report’s admonition for the University to avoid taking official political stands. In my view, if our President is replaced by pliable, woke, and invertebrate Presidents like those of Evergreen State, Yale, and Smith, the unique aspects of the University of Chicago will be gone. Every class would begin with a land acknowledgment, and the faculty would have to “get in the canoe”. (Do watch that video for a horrifying dose of faculty and administrative self-abasement.)

Zimmer and some of the trustees are, of course Old White Males, a trope that appears in the same issue with an editorial with the customary critique of “core curricula” everywhere:

Placing readings in relation to current world events would not only deepen students’ understanding of content, but it would widen the context under which we could apply it later on. Untangling the pages of dense theory written in the 17th century generally does not do wonders for student engagement—it is when what we read is made relatable that it becomes interesting to us, and it is then that we become motivated to push our reading further.

The solution could be as easy as including more authors of different races and backgrounds: namely, less [sic] old white men.

I’d have some sympathy with this—after all, diverse voices emit diverse ideas and viewpoints—if the core hadn’t already been revamped to be diverse in many ways. Check out some of the courses offered, and I’ve put part of a pdf below.  You can explore more sample courses and sample texts by starting here (the “general education requirement” of 15 courses that constitutes the Core), and clicking around. Check out “Civilization Studies” for a panoply of courses that will appeal to those who want more ethnic and gender diversity. The Core is superb, and is one reason many students come here.

So I absolutely reject the idea that the core, which comprises considerable and diverse courses, is heavily conditioned with too many “old white males.” Of course if you’re interested in Western Civ or Western Literature, you’re going to find it OWM-heavy, for Western civilization developed at a time when women and minorities were shoved to the margin. Come back in 200 years.

But what I don’t understand is why the denigration of OLD white males? Are YOUNG white males better? Shakespeare had already produced some of his finest work by age 40, and I could name many pillars of literature and art, who, even though white, made their contributions when young.  Is the underlying idea that old white males are more conservative than young ones? Well, maybe now, but if you go back a few hundred years, even young white males would be seen through modern eyes as not only conservative, but often bigoted.

What we have here is again a conflict between two ideals of liberalism: diversity and anti-ageism. If it’s racist and sexist to denigrate authors because they’re white and male, then it’s triply pernicious by being ageist and adding that they’re bad because they’re old.

And to those who dismiss white men because they’re old, I have two words in response: Bernie Sanders.

More ludicrous erasure: students at Brown demand removal of two Roman statues, while students at UW Madison vote to remove Lincoln statue

October 28, 2020 • 10:15 am

At Brown University there are two bronze copies of statues of Roman emperors. One is of Marcus Aurelius:

. . . and the other is of Caesar Augustus (sources of both photos, and a discussion of the statues’ history, are here)

Well, all statues these days are subject to intense scrutiny, and a group of 6 students representing “Decolonization at Brown” (endorsed by 28 student organizations at the University, including the Brown Birding Club), wrote a petition/letter at the Blogonian—an independent student newspaper at Brown University—about the two monuments. The students and groups strongly assert that the two statues are harmful because they exemplify white supremacy and values and thus are offensive to students of color. They have to come down!

Read (click on screenshot) and weep:

What’s telling about all the beefing is that the claim that the statues symbolize colonialism and white supremacy, and were put up to show that Brown was trying to inculcate its students with whiteness, are not based on fact, but on student offense. There’s no record of anything intentions to codify white supremacy. Rather, the statues were clearly erected to symbolize Rome as an antecedent of Western culture and philosophy.  Some quotes from the beef above:

Last spring, Brown’s Public Art Committee proposed to restore and relocate the bronze copy of a Roman statue of Augustus, which currently stands in front of the Ratty, using tens of thousands of dollars solicited from an unnamed donor. Under this proposal, the statue would be moved to the Quiet Green, across from the Slavery Memorial.

We strongly oppose this proposal and urge the Public Art Committee—and any community members or donors who are invested in the role of public art at Brown—to replace both the statue of Augustus and the statue of Marcus Aurelius (currently on Ruth Simmons Quad) with new works of art commissioned from local Black and Indigenous artists.

These monuments were brought to our campus with the goal of upholding the ideals of the “perfect” white form, white civilization, white supremacy, and colonialism—ideas that we believe are incompatible with Brown today. Consequently, removing and replacing these statues is a crucial step in confronting such legacies. We see this as a moment of immense opportunity for transformation and reflection, and we hope that the broader campus community, the Public Art Committee, and potential donors will, too.

It goes on and on like this; the language is by now very familiar:

Because they are not actually from ancient Rome, we must understand them as modern monuments to a set of values and political stances which existed when they were commissioned for Brown’s campus.

. . . The connection between the U.S. and Rome is entirely ideological. There is no natural or direct tie between the two—there is only a fabricated lineage of whiteness. Statues made in the Roman-style, like the two at Brown, are intended to materialize this connection. They convey the supposed supremacy of white values over non-white cultures, a reading in which non-white people should learn and aspire to whiteness. Alt-right groups, like the Proud Boys and Identity Evropa, use this idea of “white virtue” to ground white supremacy.

. . . To the significant number of students, staff, and faculty at Brown today who are not white, these statues function as a constant reminder that Black, Indigenous, and people of color are not included within Brown’s conception of the University community. The presence of these statues is therefore not only incompatible with, but violates Brown’s stated commitment to inclusion, equity, and change.

The authors and supporting organizations call for the complete removal of the statues.

I deny, first of all, that these statues are harmful, or that any students genuinely feel offended by them (there’s also an antiracist monument calling attention to Brown’s involvement in slavery). The offended, I argue are pretending to be offended, using offense as a means of asserting power—of making the campus do what they want. If these statues are removed because Rome engaged in expansion, well, let’s just write off every monument to Greece and Rome, both bellicose empires, but also empires that helped form the ideals of the West. And why not expunge all Roman and Greek writing from the curriculum as well?

At least one student— a woman of color—has pushed back in an article at the Brown Daily Herald, another student newspaper. While Bhaskar could use some lessons in how to write more simply (I’d recommend her reading Strunk and White or Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”), she does make the point that what goes for statues can also go for curricula. After all, if a Roman statue is offensive, what’s to ensure that readings of Roman and Greek thinkers won’t be expunged, too? No more Meditations of Marcus Aurelius the Colonizer and White Supremacist.

A quote from Bhaskar:

Now, more than ever, the world needs graduates and scholars who are able to recognize the many intricacies and layers of the past and who can use this multifaceted knowledge to consume historical and artistic vestiges of the past with intentionality and a capacity to use such lessons to guide progress. The University must move beyond tendencies to censor “uncomfortable” or “controversial” topics that fail to echo the outspoken post-modernist and left-leaning images associated with Brown in favour of upholding the tenets of free inquiry and the preservation of nuance within the exploration of historical relics. Outlining tangible steps for creating robust anti-racist curricula, while equipping students with the patience, wisdom, and skill-set to grapple with uncomfortable realities and relics of the past, is crucial for the University to uphold its mission of “communicating and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry.”

There’s one student who’s much wiser and more thoughtful than the many who have a kneejerk reaction to classical statues as symbols of “white supremacy.”

Meanwhile, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a statue of Abraham Lincoln sits in front of the administration building atop a hill. I saw this when I visited Madison to speak at the FFRF:

Well, Lincoln is in bad odor, too, these days. Lincoln! The man who fought a war against those who wished to preserve slavery, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation! Why Lincoln? Well, read and weep again:

A group of students are calling for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue at the top of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus.

This comes after protesters took down two statues on the state Capitol grounds: one embodying the state’s motto “Forward” and another of Civil War Union Army Col. Hans Christian Heg. The students say despite the former president’s role in the abolition of slavery, he had a racist past in supporting the notion of a “superior” white race.

“I just think he did, you know, some good things…the bad things that he’s done definitely outweighs them,” Nalah McWhorter, president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, told the Badger Herald.

Lincoln was memorialized on the university campus for his role in creating land grant universities, of which UW-Madison is one. The land for the campuses was largely seized from Native American tribes in 1862 through the Morrill Act. Lincoln also ordered the execution of 38 Dakota men that same year.

The students say the sum of the former president’s actions warrant taking down the statue.

“And I do want the 100% removal of the statue. I don’t want it to be moved somewhere or anything like that. I want it removed,” McWhorter said.

And on what basis did “the bad things Lincoln did definitely outweight the good ones”? Does Ms. McWhorter know how many lives were saved or made better by the ending of slavery in America? Yes, Lincoln did order the execution of 38 Dakota tribesmen who killed settlers and soldiers, but he also commuted the death sentences of many more of the convicted. But against that we must measure Lincoln’s legacy, and I can’t imagine what kind of mind would decide that Lincoln caused more harm than good. Again, I assert that this is faux outrage disguising an attempt to get power over a university. Removing a statue of Lincoln, or of Roman emperors, will do exactly nothing to ameliorate racism or better the opportunities for minorities.

In fact, following a student petition with many demands, the first of which was to remove the Lincoln statue (it also demanded the abolition of the campus police), a resolution was brought before the student government demanding attention to BIPOC demands, including doing something about the Lincoln statue, one of the “remnants of this school’s history of white supremacy.” According to Campus Reform, a right-wing site, the student government passed that resolution unanimously.

I don’t know what’s worse: these student demands to remove statues that not only honor great men, but remind us of history, or the pusillanimous administrators who bow to those demands. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro is a welcome exception, but after the students and African-American Studies Department castigated Schapiro’s hard-nosed response to defund-the-cops protestors, he’s showing signs of caving.

For those who think that all this madness will end when Biden is elected, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The students have had a taste of power, and they won’t stop until they’re running the asylum.

Kerfuffle escalates at Northwestern University; students call for President’s resignation

October 22, 2020 • 10:00 am

Two days ago I reported that the President of Northwestern University {NU), Morton Schapiro, wrote a letter to the university community decrying the vandalism and obstructionism of protestors who are trying to get NU to disband its police force. He asserted that “while the University has every intention to continue improving NUPD, we have absolutely no intention to abolish it,” decried the protestors who camped illegally outside his house, criticized them for chanting obscenities outside his house (including calling him a “pig,” which he construed as anti-Semitic), and, at the end, expressed his willingness to engage in peaceful dialogue but added “I refuse to engage with individuals who continue to use the tactics of intimidation and violence.”

It was a remarkable letter given the tendency of university administrators to truckle and grovel before student demands, particularly on issues that bear on race—as the police issue does.  (The students argue that the NU police intimidate and terrorize black students.) Our Provost wrote a similar response after her house was picketed and she (of Chinese ancestry) was subject to racist slurs. Provost Lee also declared that the University of Chicago is not going to get rid of its campus police. (For those non-Americans unfamiliar with university police, yes, we have them and in some cases, as with our own police, we need them, particularly at large schools that take substantial policing and are located in high-crime areas.)

Of course, Schapiro’s refusal to abase himself enraged the students, and now an entire NU department, that of African American Studies, has published an equally strong (but to me, not equally convincing) response, and the students are calling on Schapiro to resign unless he meets all their demands.  These events are reported in two articles in the campus newspaper the Daily Northwestern, and you can read them by clicking on the screenshots below.


There’s not much new in the article, really, except for a few things. First, the second article gives a link to a response to Schapiro by an entire department of Northwestern. More on that in a second.

Contrary to Schapiro’s suggestion that the protestors may have included some “outside agitators” as well as students (I think he intended this to soften his accusations), the group denies any outside agitation. From the first article:

The organizers pushed back against Schapiro’s contention that their campaign purposely provokes police officers and that they are “outside agitators.” The group connected that language to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Black Lives Matter protesters were paid actors and southern politicians deriding Civil Rights organizers as communist agitators.

Okay, then, we’ll assume that the vast majority of protestors are NU students.

Second, there’s a ludicrous response to Shapiro’s strong statement about the protestors below:

I ask the protestors to consider how their parents and siblings would feel if a group came to their homes in the middle of the night to wake up their families with such vile and personal attacks. To those protesters and their supporters who justify such actions, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t actually “speaking truth to power” or furthering your cause. It is an abomination and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

. . . If you haven’t yet gotten my point, I am disgusted by those who chose to disgrace this University in such a fashion. I especially condemn the effect of their actions on our friends, neighbors and other members of our community who are trying to sustain viable businesses, raise families, study and do research, while facing a global pandemic and the injustices of the world without losing their sense of humanity.

As the paper reports, the protest group NU Community Not Cops responded this way:

They added that it’s an insult for Schapiro to draw on “racist, coded language” like “abomination” and vile.” Questioning whether Black protestors had “lost their sense of humanity” is inherently anti-Black, the group wrote.

Schapiro said nothing about black protestors; he was referring to the protestors in general. And words like “abomination” and “vile” are most definitely not “racist coded language.” This shows that the protestors will glom onto and exaggerate anything if it fits their narrative about race.

Finally, having survived the Sixties well aware that “pig” is a derogatory term for “cop”, I don’t think Schapiro should have implied that applying the term to him was anti-Semitic. I just think he was a bit clueless. But it was a still a vile abomination to call the president a “pig”. The protesting organization responded (from the NU paper):

Schapiro’s suggestion that “pig” is an anti-Semitic term stems from a medieval trope wherein Jewish people were depicted by European countries as engaging in lewd relations with pigs. NU Community Not Cops said they find it “absurd” for Schapiro to suggest that protesters were invoking this trope and not the word “pig” as it refers to the modern slang term about police.

NU Community Not Cops leaders condemned anti-Semitism in their statement, saying that their use of the term “pig” relates to the generations-long practice of Black radical movements invoking the structural violence presented by the police. Members of the campaign called Schapiro a pig, they said, because he has prioritized police and private property “over the lives of Black students.”

“We called Morty a pig because he’s a f–king cop,” one organizer said Monday night. “Can we get some oinks?”

Well, that’s an improvement, isn’t it?

At any rate, of greater interest—and import—is the letter from the Department of African American Studies to Schapiro, which you can find here.  It’s signed by the Faculty and Affiliates of the African American Studies Department, which implies that, at least among the faculty, there was no dissent.

The letter is the usual melange of assertions about harm, structural racism, and so on, and is striking in that despite its vehement assertions about violence, harm, and undue policing of black students, it gives no example, and only once piece of data (see below). As usual, I suspect that most of the assertions are simple grievances without much support. Here are a few statements that sound strongly like exaggerations:

Perhaps we are saddest given that this denunciation is the most full throated expression of “disgust” or call for “accountability” that we have heard from you or your office over the last 6 months—months in which our University and our country have seen so many displays of actual violence against Black people, Indigenous people, Asian and Asian American people, Latinx people, international students, transgender people, people with the temerity to wear masks, queer people, people speaking Spanish in public, and other marginalized groups nearly too numerous to name. Here at Northwestern, Black students wrote to you on June 3 and the Department of African American Studies wrote to you on October 15 detailing concerns about police violence and structural racism at Northwestern, and outlining a long list of remedies. Both were, at best, met with a pusillanimous response.

If there has been “so many” displays of violence by the University against minority people, not to mention against people waring masks, I don’t know about them. What is the “actual violence”? Was it real violence or only words? We don’t know.

They also drag in Trump’s misguided threat to withdraw funding from universities that teach Critical Race Theory (CRT), though, in mentioning it, the Department implies that CRT is essential for their antiracist scholarship. (By the way, Trump’s threat did not “criminalize” the teaching of CRT, much less the work of Northwesterns African American Studies Department.)

It is offensive in the extreme to read your prompt and strongly worded denunciation of nonviolent student protests given that there was NO letter denouncing the remote Zoom attack on the University’s Women’s Center this past spring, despite the vile and criminal child pornography that accompanied this attack, and NO letter reassuring Northwestern’s faculty of color—and all faculty who have dedicated their lives to writing, researching, and teaching antiracist scholarship—that the White House’s recent executive order criminalizing our work would find no purchase here. Even the police’s killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, which many people denounced months ago as nothing short of municipally-sanctioned murder, became, in your exceedingly brief statement, their “fatal mistreatment” of an unarmed man.

This is what it’s come to: unless Schapiro mouths the words that the death of George Floyd was “municipally sanctioned murder,” he’s toast. But we don’t even know whether Floyd’s murder (and it was a homicide) was motivated by racism. Further, there’s the implicit mission that CRT is the basis of the department, and I feel sorry for its students, who are clearly experiencing ideologically uncontested brainwashing.

The one complaint that does deserve investigation is the claim (also made against our own campus police) that the NU police come down disproportionately on minority students. If that’s the case, and if it’s not because minority students are involved in more incidents that require summoning the cops, then this needs to be investigated, and, if there’s bigotry, the police must be trained to be equitable. But the following still has the air of hyperbole.

To read your damning letter to students in this context forces us to hear the shallowness of your concerns and priorities with excruciating clarity. It is beyond tone deaf for you to ask this group of protesters to imagine what it would be like for their families to be disturbed in the middle of the night “by such vile and personal attacks.” In the wake of the murder of Breonna Taylor—who was shot and killed in her own home while sleeping in her bed in the middle of the night, and afforded no justice even in death—this is precisely what Black and brown people have been imagining and experiencing. These images are regularly, consistently accompanied and occasioned by the specter of the police’s terrifying power, and their failure to serve or protect communities of color. Here on campus, reporting by the Daily Northwestern documents the disproportionate policing of Black students. Whereas Black students comprise roughly 6 percent of the student population, 22-40% of NUPD field-initiated stops over the past two years have been of Black people.

At last we have a statistic, and I assume it’s the case. What we need to know is how many of the stops included students versus other people in Evanston (at the U of C, the police serve a huge area of largely black people not on campus), and whether the disproportionality reflects racism versus the alternative of Black students being involved in more reported incidents. If the former, then something needs to be done.

Finally, the letter goes after Schapiro for personalizing the debate by saying that “pigs” was anti-Semitic, but that his discomfort must pale before that of the anger of the students who constantly have “nightmarish experiences.” At the end, the letter states, “We condemn your failure to lead and imbue Northwestern with a grander and more humane vision for the present and the future.”

While the Department’s response is histrionic and full of hyperbole, the police issue needs to be (and I hope is) getting investigated. But in the meantime, Schapiro is right in that NU should be improving its campus police but not abolishing them.

What makes this serious is that an entire department has turned against the college President. What with the students calling for Schapiro’s resignation, and the protests continuing (yes, there was illegal activity, window-breaking, graffiti, and so on), Schapiro’s job may be in jeopardy.

I hope not, for there are precious few college administrators willing to stand up to offended and woke students. If Schapiro goes, it’s a message to all college presidents that they must grovel before the demands of their students, even if those demands are unreasonable.