I had heard that you can buy term papers online, though I never encountered one in my classes (I didn’t assign term papers in undergraduate evolution classes). But a ping on one of my posts, in particular the one criticizing Agustín Fuentes’s Science op-ed indicting Charles Darwin for sexism and racism, alerted me that one outfit, Grand Term papers, is selling a “adjudicate this issue” term paper.
Click on the screenshot to see the odious offer:
Here’s how you order. Mind you, they aren’t plagiarizing me: this particular form of perfidy involves a student taking credit for the work of a professional (?) writer. In other words, this is arrant cheating. I have to say, though, that the topic is a good one for a student’s original paper.
A majority of students suffer from demotivation, physical, mental or personal problems that can hurt their studies. In most instances, the source of stress is associated with a bulk of incomplete assignments with demanding turnaround times. Unfortunately, the lack of energy and non-prioritizing academic studies can hurt the results of any coursework. When all these factors accumulate, they can directly impact how an individual learns and put them under unnecessary strain. However, at _.com, we have all the necessary resources to support students learn more deeply, perform better in their coursework and produce high-quality and well-researched academic assignments. We have a large team qualified in diverse subject areas and topics to assist you with all academic writings. To access our services, click here and make the first step towards a successful educational journey.
Note the “at __.com”, suggesting that this is itself boilerplate copied from another source. The English is itself a bit wonky (“a bulk of incomplete assignments,” “make the first step” and so on). Perhaps they’re not written by native English speakers.
Since the writing is supposedly original, you can’t detect this by looking for plagiarism via Google. I’m not sure how one would find out that a student’s paper wasn’t written by the student, but I’m sure there are ways. Has anybody had any experience with this form of cheating? It rankles me a lot because it’s academic cheating.
Six days ago I reported that the incoming University of Chicago Undergraduate Student Government (USG) issued a statement in conjunction with the anti-Semitic organization Students for Justice in Palestine. This is an official position of the U of C’s student government (click on document to enlarge or to see it in situ).
The support for BDS and anti-Zionism I see as manifestations of anti-Semitism, and, as I wrote yesterday about a Scientific American op-ed, this statement, leaving out the malfeasance of Palestine itself, is grossly misleading, if not an arrant lie. And of course saying “From the river to the sea, USG supports a Palestine that is free” is precisely the student government’s calling for the elimination of Israel.
The University of Chicago is, as per its Kalven Principle, politically and ideologically neutral (not always in practice, though), so as I wrote in my last article:
In a response issued yesterday by President Zimmer and Provost Lee, “Campus discourse and international conflict,” the University administration affirms its neutrality in this issue but condemns bigotry on all sides, which is in accordance with the Kalven Report, one of our founding principles that affirms official University neutrality on moral, ideological, and political issues.
Now the student government, which is an elected body and not an official unit of the university, can bloody well make all the statements it wants. I’m not going to report them or say that they’re violating University principles. But the statement above made me feel, for the first time in 35 years, that I’m surrounded by students who would damn me just for being a Jew who supports the existence of Israel (i.e., a “Zionist”). I’m not of course a religious Jew but a secular Jew from a religiously Jewish background, and at any rate nobody deserves to be criticized solely for their ethnicity.
When Jewish students and student organizations like Hillel objected to this resolution, the student government decided to vote on this statement again as well as decide whether to apologize to Jewish students for it. As our campus newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, reported two days ago, this attempted retraction and the apology, both failed. The statement above stands, and I am an apostate. The student government at the University of Chicago officially professes anti-Semitism. Let this be known to the donors and parents of prospective students!
Click on the screenshot to read:
The vote was made by email, and the results will not be made public. Now that is pure cowardice! Even the votes of American congresspeople are public, and don’t students deserve to know how their representatives voted?
This is a shameful resolution, though it violates no University regulations. It shows that our student body is just as wokey, au courant, and ignorant about current affairs as are the editors of Scientific American.
Here’s a pretty blatant violation of the First Amendment by Stanford University as reported by Slate. But to know how it’s a violation, you have to know two pieces of law. Click on the screenshot to read:
In short, a third-year student at Stanford Law School, Nicholas Wallace, decided to make fun of the conservative Federalist Society, some of whose members agreed with the January assault on the U.S. Capitol, by publishing some satire on a listserv:
The flyer promoted a fake event, “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection,” ostensibly sponsored by the Stanford Federalist Society. It advertised the participation of two politicians who tried to overturn the 2020 election, Missouri Sen. Joshua Hawley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Violent insurrection, also known as doing a coup, is a classical system of installing a government,” the flyer read, adding that insurrection “can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government.”
Reader Paul found a screenshot of the flyer:
The Federalist society urged Stanford to formally investigate Wallace. When the school did, Stanford put a hold on Wallace’s degree and forbade him from graduating, asserting that Wallace may have violated the University’s code of conduct. But Stanford, and especially its law school, should have realized two things, which apparently were caught by the estimable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), whose own statement is here.
On Tuesday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter to Stanford urging the school to “immediately abandon its investigation and commit to procedural reforms to protect the expressive rights Stanford promises to its students.” FIRE pointed out that California’s Leonard Law requires private universities to comply with the First Amendment, and there is no real question that Wallace’s email is shielded by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has held that satire, including offensive and hurtful expression, constitutes protected speech, and Wallace’s email is obviously satirical. “No reasonable person familiar with the email’s context would understand it to be sincere,” FIRE wrote, noting that it advertises an event that occurred 19 days earlier and is “laden with figurative language intended to impugn national political figures.”
If you knew about the Leonard Law, and that satire is considered free expression, you’d realize that Stanford shouldn’t have even begun an investigation of permitted speech. Indeed, the Federalist Society itself promotes free speech on campus, so why is it doing this? Wallace suspects, correctly, I think, that this is pure retaliation.
But, as the NBC News ends every evening, “There’s good news tonight!” Yesterday evening Slate updated the article with this:
Update, 9: 30 p.m.: Stanford has concluded that Nicholas Wallace engaged in protected speech, dropped its investigation, and lifted the hold on his diploma. Wallace has confirmed that he will be allowed to graduate.
What’s especially ironic is that a left-wing school went after a student for making fun of a right-wing organization, all the while violating the freedom of speech that Stanford is required to adhere to.
I’ve been at the University of Chicago for 35 years now, but never have I felt so alienated, at least politically, from the student body.
As the Chicago Maroon (our student newspaper) reports, the incoming University of Chicago Undergraduate Student Government (USG) released a statement in conjunction with the blatantly anti-Semitic organization Students for Justice in Palestine, a statement you can find at the paper’s link below or read here (click twice to enlarge to readable size):
It is clear that this statement is calling for the obliteration of Israel as a country, not just University “divestment” from Israel. SJP wants Israel gone, as does BDS, as evidenced by the statement “From the river to the sea, USG supports a Palestine that is free.” This is our student government calling for the elimination of Israel. (Note the dissing of the “ideology of Zionism,” another sign of anti-Semitism.) And although the statement decries the deaths of Palestinians, there’s not a word about Hamas’s rockets and the first strikes by Palestine. This is hypocrisy of the most blatant kind, combined with arrant ignorance and an adherence to an ideology and history they know nothing about. The combination of SJP and our student government is particularly toxic. Really, students: are you willing to say this publicly that you want the state of Israel wiped off the map?
Now, however, the student government is having second thoughts, and is planning to vote about whether to retract this statement and even apologize to the University’s Jewish community (which, by the way, has never called for the obliteration of the Palestinian territories). From the Maroon:
USG will vote this week on a resolution to retract a statement released last Friday in support of Student Justice for Palestine (SJP) and to issue an apology to the UChicago Jewish community from the members of incoming USG involved in the creation of the statement.
. . . The resolution, introduced Monday night, greets an already-tense campus embroiled in debate over Israel-Palestine relations. The same night the statement was released on Twitter, a group of Jewish students reported that as they returned from a service at UChicago Hillel, a passerby drove by them and “repeatedly yelled out ‘F*ck Jews.’” In the days following the release of the SG statement, seven Jewish groups on campus signed an open letter by UChicago Hillel addressed to the incoming student government. The letter accused the incoming student government of using antisemitic language, saying “Student Government unequivocally rejects Jewish people’s right to self-determination.” Like the resolution, Hillel’s letter called for USG to retract the statement and extend an apology to Jewish students. Additionally, a group of 452 students, parents, alumni, and faculty signed a petition in opposition to the USG statement and requesting a retraction and apology.
It’s hard for me to accept that the student government is, in effect, not only anti-Israeli, but anti-Semitic, which, as I said, is what’s really behind the call for condemning Zionism and “freeing Palestine”.
In a response issued yesterday by President Zimmer and Provost Lee, “Campus discourse and international conflict,” the University administration affirms its neutrality in this issue but condemns bigotry on all sides, which is in accordance with the Kalven Report, one of our founding principles that affirms official University neutrality on moral, ideological, and political issues. (This issue was treated the same way by University College London in late May: a condemnation of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic bigotry along with a refusal to take sides in the controversy or to condemn either side.)
Here’s the statement:
To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Campus Discourse and International Conflict
Date: June 1, 2021
We have received a number of inquiries and objections regarding a statement by the incoming Undergraduate Student Government on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is painful for many, and one that is intensely personal for many members of our community. The University of Chicago does not have an institutional position on international conflicts, in keeping with our longstanding practice against taking positions on social or political issues outside the University’s core mission. This position was developed in accord with the enduring principles articulated in the Kalven Report. [JAC note: Decrying bigotry that may affect the working of the University does not violate University policy or Kalven; see below] As outlined in that report, the University’s position preserves the freedom of faculty and students to argue for or against any issue of social or political controversy and thus requires “a heavy presumption against” collective political action by the University itself.
One important corollary to freedom of expression on campus is that no individual faculty member speaks for the University as a whole. This is equally true with regard to student expression, and thus while Student Government representatives are elected by undergraduates, neither Student Government nor any other student group speaks for the University or for all students on any issue. As stated in its own Constitution, the mission of the Student Government (SG) is “to further the interests and promote the welfare of the students at the University of Chicago; to foster a University community; … and to represent the body more effectively before University authorities and the community at large.”
We are deeply disturbed by recent cases of anti-Semitism that have taken place in our country and across the world. These acts are deplorable and antithetical to our values, including our deep commitment to open and free inquiry, and our welcoming of people of all backgrounds. These values compel our steadfast opposition to discrimination in its many potential forms, including rejection of anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and other forms of bias that are also incompatible with our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The University does not tolerate violence, threats, intimidation or harassment directed at individuals or groups, as reflected in University Policy. We are committed to taking action to prevent such behavior and to address any cases that arise. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed a bias incident is encouraged to report it to the Bias Education & Support Team (BEST).
We continue to support the wellbeing of all members of our community, and to provide an environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on this and other issues. Our University is at its best when we treat each other with care and mutual respect, build on shared values, and come together to ensure people of all backgrounds and beliefs can thrive on campus. For those seeking additional support, UChicago Student Wellness offers undergraduate and graduate students accessible, high-quality, and culturally sensitive mental health services. The Staff and Faculty Assistance Program offers support for University personnel.
Contrast this with the statement of UCLA’s Asian-American Studies Department on the same issue, a statement of strong support for Palestine and a blanket condemnation of Israel. This is the incursion of politics into academic that should not be taking place. Have people forgotten that the mission of a University is teaching, learning, and apprehending how to think and analyze, not to engage in social engineering? Stanley Fish argued that point in his book, giving it the title “Save the World on Your Own Time.” (I’ve just read it.)
The only possible quibble I have with Zimmer and Lee’s letter is the first sentence in the fifth paragraph: “We are deeply disturbed by recent cases of anti-Semitism that have taken place in our country and across the world.” This refers not to an issue relevant to the University’s mission, but to what’s going on in the country as a whole. Had they just said that anti-Semitic acts are “antithetical to our values and impede the University from performing its mission,” it would have been more in line with what the Kalven Report intended. But this is a minor plaint. And while it may look neutral and laudable, one can argue whether people should be disturbed by cases of anti-Semitism. Many people aren’t!
I only wish that the President and Provost had made such a strong statement about the many pronouncements of our departments that also violate the Kalven report, like those on this list. While President Zimmer has affirmed that departments and official units of the University must adhere to the no-politics-ideology-or-morality principles limned in Kalven, many of these statements still violate Kalven. They need to be taken down pronto.
But it hurtsme quite a bit to see our own student government passing resolutions born of ignorance, hatred, and ideological conformity. I hope the SG/SJP statement gets rescinded. (And since many donors are Jewish, this will also hurt the University in its pocketbook.)
Here we have two editorials purporting to say different things, but in the end reaching nearly identical conclusions.
The first, published at Persuasion (click on screenshot), is by a young writer, Sahil Handa, described by Harvard’s Kennedy school: “a rising Junior from London studying Social Studies and Philosophy with a secondary in English. At Harvard, Sahil writes an editorial column for the Crimson and is a tutor at the Harvard Writing Center. He is the co-founder of a Podcast Platform startup, called Project Valentine, and is on the board of the Centrist Society and the Gap Year Society.”
The title of Handa’s piece (below) is certainly provocative—I see it as a personal challenge!—and his conclusion seems to be this: most students at elite colleges (including Harvard) are not really “woke” in the sense of constantly enforcing “political correctness” and trying to expunge those who disagree with them. He admits that yes, this happens sometimes at Harvard, but he attributes wokeness to a vocal minority. The rest of the students simply don’t care, and don’t participate. In the end, he sees modern students as being similar to college students of all eras, especially the Sixties, when conformity meant going to “hippie protests.” His conclusion: modern “woke” students, and those who don’t participate in the wokeness but also don’t speak up, are evincing the same “old borgeois values” (presumably conformity). And we shouldn’t worry about them.
It’s undeniable, and Handa doesn’t deny it, that Wokeism is pervasive at Harvard. He just doesn’t see it as universal:
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of the woke mob that has taken over college campuses, and is making its way through other cultural institutions. I also suspect you aren’t particularly sympathetic to that mob. While I’m not writing as a representative of the woke, I do wish to convince you that they are not as you fear. What you’re seeing is less a dedicated mob than a self-interested blob.
I recently finished three years as a Harvard student—a “student of color,” to be precise—and I passed much of that time with the type you might have heard about in the culture wars. These were students who protested against platforming Charles Murray, the sociologist often accused of racist pseudoscience; these were students who stormed the admissions office to demand the reversal of a tenure decision; these were students who got Ronald Sullivan—civil rights lawyer who chose to represent Harvey Weinstein in court—fired as Harvard dean.
. . . . Nor are most students even involved in campus protest.
There are almost 7,000 undergraduates at Harvard, yet the tenure protest was attended by fewer than 50 students, and a few hundred signed the letters urging the administration to fire Sullivan. Fretful liberals do not pause to think of all the students who didn’t join: those who talked critically of the activists in the privacy of their dorm rooms; those who wrestled with reservations but decided not to voice them; or those who simply decided that none of it was worth their time.
But Sullivan was fired as a dean. The Harvard administration itself engages in a lot of woke decisions, like punishing students from belonging to off-campus single-sex “finals= clubs” (probably an illegal punishment), and giving them “social justice placemats” in the dining halls to prepare them to go home for the holidays. The woke students may not be predominant, but they are vocal and loud and activist. If that’s all the administration sees and hears, then that’s what they’ll cater to.
But why aren’t the non-woke students protesting the woke ones? Well, Handa says they just don’t care: they’re too busy with their studies. But it’s more than that. As he says above, the students who have “reservations” “decide not to voice them.” Why the reticence, though?
It’s because voicing them turns them into apostates, for their college and post-college success depends on going along with the loud students—that is, acquiescing to woke culture. The Silent Majority has, by their self censorship, become part of woke culture, which creates self-censorship. (My emphases in Handa’s excerpt below):
The true problem is this: Four years in college, battling for grades, for résumé enhancements and for the personal recommendations needed to enter the upper-middle-class—all of this produces incentives that favor self-censorship.
College campuses are different than in the Sixties, and students attend for different reasons. Young people today have less sex, less voting power and, for the first time, reduced expectations for the future. Back in the Sixties, campus activists were for free speech, and conservatives were skeptical; today, hardly anybody seems to consistently defend free speech. In 1960, 97% of students at Harvard were white, and almost all of them had places waiting in the upper class, regardless of whether they had even attended university. Today, fewer than 50% of Harvard students are white, tuition rates are 500% higher, and four years at an Ivy League college is one of the only ways to guarantee a place at the top of the meritocratic dog pile.
It would be strange if priorities at university had not changed. It would be even stranger if students had not changed as a result.
Elite education is increasingly a consumer product, which means that consumer demands—i.e. student demands—hold sway over administration actions. Yet most of those student demands are less a product of deeply understood theory than they are a product of imitation. Most students want to be well-liked, right-thinking, and spend their four years running on the treadmill that is a liberal education. Indeed, this drive for career success and social acquiescence are exactly the traits that the admissions process selects for. Even if only, say, 5% of students are deplatforming speakers and competing to be woker-than-thou, few among the remaining 95% would want to risk gaining a reputation as a bigot that could ruin their precious few years at college—and dog them on social media during job hunts and long after.
It seems to me that he does see a difference between the students of then and now. Yes, both are interested in conforming, but they conform to different values, and act in different ways. After all, they want to be “right thinking”, which means not ignoring the woke, but adopting the ideas of the woke. And that conformity extends into life beyond college, for Harvard students become pundits and New York Times writers. This means that intellectual culture will eventually conform to the woke mold, as it’s already been doing for some time.
In the end, Handa’s argument that we should pretty much ignore Woke culture as an aberration doesn’t hold water, for he himself makes the case that many Harvard students exercise their conformity by not fighting Woke culture, and even becoming “right-thinking”. After tacitly admitting that Wokeism is the wave of the future, which can’t be denied, he then reiterates that college Wokeism doesn’t matter. Nothing to see here folks except a war among elites, a passing fad:
The battle over wokeism is a civil war among elites, granting an easy way to signal virtue without having to do much. Meantime, the long-term issues confronting society—wage stagnation, social isolation, existential risk, demographic change, the decline of faith—are often overlooked in favor of this theater.
Wokeism does represent a few students’ true ideals. To a far greater number, it is an awkward, formulaic test. Sometimes, what might look to you like wild rebellion on campus might emanate from nothing more militant than old bourgeois values.
Perhaps Stalinism didn’t represent the ideas of every Russian, either, but by authoritarian means and suppression of dissent, all of Russia became Stalinist. The woke aren’t yet like Stalinists (though they are in statu nascendi), but even if they aren’t a majority of the young, the values of the Woke can, and will, become the dominant strain in American liberal culture. For it is the “elites” who control that culture. Even poor Joe Biden is being forced over to the woke Left because he’s being pushed by the woke people he appointed.
Michael Lind has what I think is a more thoughtful piece at Tablet, which lately has had some really good writing. (They’ve been doing good reporting for a while; remember when they exposed the anti-Semitism infecting the leaders of the Women’s March?). Lind is identified by Wikipedia as “an American writer and academic. He has explained and defended the tradition of American democratic nationalism in a number of books, beginning with The Next American Nation (1995). He is currently a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.”
Lind’s thesis, and I’ll be brief, is that the nature of American elitism has changed, and has become more woke. It used to be parochial, with each section of the country having its own criteria for belonging to the elite (i.e. attending the best regional rather than national colleges). Now, he says, we have a “single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. He sees this as a significant social change: a “truly epochal development.”
Click on the screenshot to read his longer piece:
In some ways, avers Lind, society is more egalitarian than ever, and what he means by that is that there is less obvious bigotry or impediments to success for minorities. And he’s right:
Compared with previous American elites, the emerging American oligarchy is open and meritocratic and free of most glaring forms of racial and ethnic bias. As recently as the 1970s, an acquaintance of mine who worked for a major Northeastern bank had to disguise the fact of his Irish ancestry from the bank’s WASP partners. No longer. Elite banks and businesses are desperate to prove their commitment to diversity. At the moment Wall Street and Silicon Valley are disproportionately white and Asian American, but this reflects the relatively low socioeconomic status of many Black and Hispanic Americans, a status shared by the Scots Irish white poor in greater Appalachia (who are left out of “diversity and inclusion” efforts because of their “white privilege”). Immigrants from Africa and South America (as opposed to Mexico and Central America) tend to be from professional class backgrounds and to be better educated and more affluent than white Americans on average—which explains why Harvard uses rich African immigrants to meet its informal Black quota, although the purpose of affirmative action was supposed to be to help the American descendants of slaves (ADOS). According to Pew, the richest groups in the United States by religion are Episcopalian, Jewish, and Hindu (wealthy “seculars” may be disproportionately East Asian American, though the data on this point is not clear).
Membership in the multiracial, post-ethnic national overclass depends chiefly on graduation with a diploma—preferably a graduate or professional degree—from an Ivy League school or a selective state university, which makes the Ivy League the new social register. But a diploma from the Ivy League or a top-ranked state university by itself is not sufficient for admission to the new national overclass. Like all ruling classes, the new American overclass uses cues like dialect, religion, and values to distinguish insiders from outsiders.
And that’s where Wokeness comes in. One has to have the right religion (not evangelical), dialect (not southern) and values (Woke ones!):
More and more Americans are figuring out that “wokeness” functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans of all races, along with backward remnants of the old regional elites. In effect, the new national oligarchy changes the codes and the passwords every six months or so, and notifies its members through the universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority of all races pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at Harvard or Yale to clue them in. And non-college-educated Americans spend very little time on Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which they are unlikely to be able to identify—which, among other things, proves the idiocy of the “Russiagate” theory that Vladimir Putin brainwashed white working-class Americans into voting for Trump by memes in social media which they are the least likely American voters to see.
Constantly replacing old terms with new terms known only to the oligarchs is a brilliant strategy of social exclusion. The rationale is supposed to be that this shows greater respect for particular groups. But there was no grassroots working-class movement among Black Americans demanding the use of “enslaved persons” instead of “slaves” and the overwhelming majority of Americans of Latin American descent—a wildly homogenizing category created by the U.S. Census Bureau—reject the weird term “Latinx.” Woke speech is simply a ruling-class dialect, which must be updated frequently to keep the lower orders from breaking the code and successfully imitating their betters.
I think Lind is onto something here, though I’m not sure I agree 100%. This morning I had an “animated discussion” with a white friend who insisted that there was nothing wrong with using the word “Negro”. After all, he said, there’s the “United Negro College Fund.” And I said, “Yeah, and there’s also the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but you better not say ‘colored people’ instead of ‘people of color’!” In fact, the term “Negro” would be widely seen as racist now, though in the Sixties it wasn’t, and was used frequently by Dr. King, who almost never used the n-word in public. “Negro” was simply the going term for African-Americans then, but now it’s “people of color”, or, better yet, “BIPOCs. And that will change too”. “Gay” has now become a veritable alphabet of initials that always ends in a “+”. “Latinx” isn’t used by Hispanics, but by white people and the media. It’s an elitist thing, as Lind maintains.
But whether this terminology—and its need to constantly evolve, 1984-like—is a way of leveraging and solidifying cultural power, well, I’m not sure I agree. Weigh in below.
I’m suffering vaccine side effects today, so posting will be light. But I should be right as rain by tomorrow. I am at work, but not firing on all cylinders. Bear with me.
The University of Chicago is famous for its principles of free expression, which include the Report of the Committee on Free Expression pledging “commitment to free and open inquiry.” The Chicago Principles, as they’re called, have been adopted by about eighty American universities, and are a point of pride for our school. (They simply mirror the courts’ construal of the First Amendment on our private campus, which needn’t adhere to that Amendment.) The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) ranked our University #1 in the 2020 Free Speech Rankings.
But lots of students aren’t too keen on the Chicago Principles. The one below, who wrote an op-ed in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, would have us abandon those principles. It’s the usual argument: “free speech” enables “hate speech” and racism. But the problem with the anti-free-speech stand, so prevalent these days, is glaringly obvious in her piece. Click to read it:
Ms. Hui is in fact a rising student leader, even as a first-year student. She interned for Elizabeth Warren, worked for Planned Parenthood, and is part of an organization on campus that connects students to politicians. In other words, she’s likely to be influential after she graduates. She’s clearly on the Left, which makes it even more worrisome that she is so adamantly opposed to free speech, which is traditionally a position of the Left.
And yet Hui’s also fallen victim to the anti-First-Amendment virus, seeing students as malleable automatons subject to being swayed by “hate speech” and bigotry. Her solution: make herself (or someone like her) the arbiter of acceptable speech, ban those who purvey “hate speech”, for students should not be allowed to hear that stuff, and scrap the Chicago Principles—and probably the First Amendment as well.
Were I an undergraduate here, I would resent the implication that I’m so pliable to argument that I can’t be allowed to hear speakers like Steve Bannon (you can, after all, skip their talks). I would resent the notion that Hui, or others like her, should be allowed to determine which speech should be heard. And I would resent the idea that she thinks that the First Amendment enables bigotry, and its implementation in liberal colleges is a deliberate attempt to turn students into white supremacists. (I am not making this up.)
Like most liberal arts schools, the University of Chicago is liberal, with, I’d guess, 90% of the faculty falling on the Left end of the spectrum. But, observing that both Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz went to Ivy League schools (Stanford and Yale Law for Hawley, Princeton and Harvard Law for Cruz), Hui concludes, for reasons that baffle me, that these two quasi-insurgents were the product of a liberal education deliberately designed to turn young people into Nazis and Klan members. Do I exaggerate? Read this (my emphasis):
It is not that [Hawley and Cruz’s] education failed them—their education did exactly what it was meant to do. It prepared two budding conservative minds to go forth into the corridors of power—to disguise bigotry as love of country, hate speech as meaningful debate. You see, despite constant claims to the contrary, elite institutions are not liberal bastions that engender “woke” minds; rather, they propagate white supremacy by justifying racism as intellectual discourse. The University of Chicago is no stranger to this phenomenon—in fact, with its “Chicago principles,” our school has become a leader in framing hateful rhetoric as par for the course in the pursuit of free speech. These principles bolster and enable the next Ted Cruzes and Josh Hawleys and harm marginalized students, who are told that their rights—their very humanity—are up for debate.
If Chicago is turning out people like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, it’s escaped my notice. Yes, we have a beleaguered titer of conservative students (they’ve founded their own newspaper, the Chicago Thinker), but they’re not white supremacists. I haven’t seen any “hateful rhetoric” on campus so long as I’ve been here—that is, unless you construe speech about abortion or the Israeli/Palestine situation as “hate speech.” If Hui is simply objecting that our school produces conservative students, well, my advice to her is to live with it. Not everybody is going to turn out like Hui, which is why we have politics in the first place.
And here, avers Hui, is the result of the Chicago Principles, which itself mirrors the First Amendment. Note her low opinion of our malleable students and the view that people like Steve Bannon simply shouldn’t be given a platform because they might influence students.
By following the Chicago principles, the University effectively legitimizes and encourages students who may share similar bigoted ideologies. When a Booth professor invited noted white supremacist Steve Bannon to participate in a debate on campus, President Robert Zimmer stood by the invitation, withstanding pressure from student protests outside Booth and a widely circulated letter signed by 122 UChicago faculty members urging him to rescind it. Thankfully, Bannon never stepped foot on campus, though the University certainly made their stance on hate speech clear. Acknowledging that the antisemitic, homophobic, alt-right nonsense Bannon has espoused throughout his life has some academic worth or intellectual merit is categorically absurd. For a young person with hate in their heart to see a man like Bannon espousing his intolerant views behind a podium with the UChicago coat of arms is dangerous and potentially radicalizing. For an immigrant, for a person of color, for a member of the LGBTQ+ community to see that, it is devastating, an assertion that their personhood is not natural, but something to be “debated.” When elite institutions treat people like Bannon as academics—with something to teach, with something valuable to say—it not only validates and potentially propagates such bigoted thoughts, but also signals that the University’s commitment to academic inquiry is more important than the safety of marginalized students an
Yeah, President Zimmer should have banned Bannon, for Bannon purveys “hate speech”. That should keep our students from being molded into little Nazis! (In fact, suppressing conservative speech doesn’t make it go away, it just drives it underground.) Zimmer did exactly what he should have: adhered to the Chicago Principles and refused to ban a speaker who was not violating the First Amendment (n.b., Bannon never came). See my 2018 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, defending Bannon’s right to speak, though I despise the man: “Hate speech is no reason to ban Bannon”. Truly, Hui seems to have no idea that students can think for themselves—that they can hear a man like Bannon, or a woman like Christina Hoff Sommers—and come to their own judgments. She wants to force them to think her way by banning speakers she doesn’t like.
The problem, of course, is that one person’s “hate speech” is another person’s free speech—speech worthy of debating. Even if you think Bannon is odious, exactly why should we censor him? And who else should we censor? And who should be the censor? It’s clear: someone who has Hui’s values. In the end, her views boil down to the old saw, “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”
Finally, Hui conflates speech that directly and predictably incites violence (Trump’s speech before the Capitol siege falls into this class)—speech not falling under First Amendment protections—with “hate speech” that doesn’t incite such violence. The conflation arises because Hui, like many on the far Left, sees speech as violence:
My peers at the Thinker may think me hypocritical, then, for wanting to reimagine free speech on campus. It is, after all, these very principles that affirm my ability to openly criticize the administration, or, say, call for the abolition of the University. But my words—radical as they may be, disagreeable as they certainly are to some—do not do any harm. They do not inspire hate or fear. In short, they have no capacity for violence. And now, more than ever, we are seeing how the latent violence wrought in language can speak (or tweet) violence and death into the world.
And so we see that Hui’s definition of “hate speech” is “speech that inspires hate or fear”, in other words, speech that some find odious and offensive. (Note that she sees words as a form of “latent violence.”)
Hui ends her piece with the “yes, free speech is good, but. . . ” trope. Safety before speech! But I’m not aware of a single student at my University who has been physically hurt or objectively rendered unsafe by somebody else’s speech:
What is so-called “intellectual intolerance” compared to the kind of intolerance that incites hate crimes? It is no longer a matter of students feeling comfortable—now, after an insurrection at the Capitol, after a year marked by racial injustice and police brutality, it is a matter of students being safe.
We’ve seen the consequences of elevating hateful rhetoric—we have seen it now in the highest echelons of power. It begins in our classrooms, where the Trumps and Cruzes and Hawleys are given the tools they need to acquire and keep power, even if it means promoting fascism and white nationalism. The next Ted Cruz could be walking through the quad right now. The future Josh Hawley might be playing devil’s advocate in your Sosc class. We can prevent such radicalization by reexamining the Chicago principles and prioritizing safety over absolute free speech.
When you hear the word “safe,” run for the hills, because censorhip is following close behind.
What I find ineffably sad about Hui’s piece is that I admire her Leftist activism, and because she’s clearly smart and committed to causes I favor. But along the way she’s come to think that the First Amendment, and the foundational principles of her own University, are not only harmful and violent, but designed to create bigots. If our University instituted an orientation seminar on free speech and the meaning of the Chicago Principles, perhaps Ms. Hui wouldn’t have such a negative take on the foundational tenets of her own University.
I end with a question for Ms. Hui:
“Who would you have decide which people are allowed to speak at the University of Chicago, and which should be banned?”
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?
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.