As we used to say in college in the Sixties, “The students are revolutionizing.” In this case, here at the University of Chicago they are asking for—no, demanding—a department of critical race studies. Here’s the view of one student (shared by many) in this week’s Chicago Maroon (click on screenshot):
The University of Chicago is renowned for its support of intellectual curiosity, and yet, somehow, the school lacks a department devoted to critical race and ethnic studies (CRES)—a department that would further investigate race relations during such a pivotal moment in history. In the summer of 2020, a #MoreThanDiversity campaign—launched by faculty affiliates of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC)—demanded that UChicago’s provost, Ka Yee C. Lee, set aside funds for a department dedicated to CRES. In December, Ka Yee C. Lee allocated funding to #MoreThanDiversity so that they could propose a CRES department, but allocating funds for a proposal does not mean that it will be approved or implemented to the extent that it should be. Students of color cannot feel at ease when campus administration tiptoes around the need for a department that would prioritize critical questions regarding race and ethnicity, which has been expressed by students and faculty numerous times. Despite the fact that establishing a critical race and ethnic studies department is crucial to conveying their supposed commitment to diversity and inclusion, the administration has unsurprisingly delayed conversations surrounding its implementation, especially considering UChicago’s role in upholding white supremacy.
You might check out that last link about how we are, even now, upholding white supremacy. When a business-school professor invited Steve Bannon here a while back (he didn’t come), that was upholding white supremacy! We also upheld white supremacy when, in 1856, Stephen Douglas donated 10 acres of land to start the University. No matter that those acres are not part of the present University, nor that President Zimmer ordered the removal of two plaques honoring Douglas, saying this:
“Douglas does not deserve to be honored on our campus” because “Douglas profited from his wife’s ownership of a Mississippi plantation where Black people were enslaved.”
No, no, none of that counts. We’re apparently still upholding white supremacy, therefore we need a department of critical race and ethnic studies.
The article above adds this:
UChicago’s administration needs to reevaluate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially considering that their response to #MoreThanDiversity’s demands has merely been to fund a department proposal, refusing to fund the creation of the department itself or acknowledge its importance in dismantling racist systems. Critical race and ethnic studies serve to transform the conventional mode of thought surrounding race and give room for self-reflexive comprehension, so when the University creates obstacles for #MoreThanDiversity, they are also creating another obstacle for students to engage in transformative studies.
“Transformative studies.” You know what that means: it means ensuring that students who take this department’s courses will be turned into epigones of Critical Race theory. It means ensuring that, in the area of ethnic studies, only one point of view will be tolerated, taught, and accepted. You’d be a fool to believe otherwise.
Such a department would, of course, be an organ of propaganda. The University has rightly dragged its heels on this one, and refuses the other student demand to eliminate the campus police. But if such a department were founded here, it would mark the beginning of the end of our reputation for free and open inquiry—the features that still make the University of Chicago unique among American colleges.
You needn’t tell me that the title is grammatically incorrect; it’s on purpose. While Steve Pinker is known for documenting material and moral progress in our species over the last five centuries, and analyzing why it’s happened, there’s one area where he’s not so optimistic. And that’s the increasing “illiberalism” on American college campuses.
Pinker’s pessimism, based on events that you’ve seen documented repeatedly on this site, was expressed in a new interview in the Brown Daily Herald, the student newspaper of Brown University. (Brown is known as a “woke school”.)
Click on the screenshot to read.
Much of this you’ve heard before, like the fracases at The Evergreen State College and Middlebury College, but some stuff is new. For example:
A) Pinker dates the beginning of “political correctness and cancel culture” to the publication of Ed Wilson’s Sociobiology in 1975, which inspired a lot of pushback from those who thought Wilson’s views on human behavior (i.e., it has a genetic/evolutionary component) were retrograde and right-wing. I was at Harvard at the time and witnessed some of that, though I wasn’t there when a protestor threw a cup of water on Wilson and shouted, “Wilson, you’re all wet!”
B) The “cancellation” trend is increasing. The article cites data from FIRE’s “disinvitation database” showing that the last five years have witnessed a 36% increase in these disinvitations over the five years before that. I’ve also documented that this increase has been accompanied by an rise in the proportion of disinvitations and shouting-down events coming from the Left. In the earliest data coming from 1998 and the subsequent ten years, there was a roughly equal number of cancel-culture things from the Right and Left, but now they’re heavily from the Left.
C) Pinker gives two reasons for the increase. First, “a backlash on the left against Donald Trump.” That is, people have supposedly realized that Enlightenment ideals have failed to rescue us from tyrants like Trump and his minions, and so resort to “some fairly radical responses.” I don’t think this is all that plausible, for wokeness has not obviously diminished—indeed, it’s increased—since Biden took office. It’s early days, but I see the storm clouds gathering.
His second explanation is that it comes from “several generations of professors having indoctrinated their students in an ideological mixture of postmodernism and Marxist critical theory”, which has now reached the tipping point into college insanity. This seems more likely to me. And then there’s my own theory, which is probably not mine, that the pandemic got a lot of people restive, and they took this out by policing others, as well as by trying to control their environment by gaining power.
One take by Pinker on this mess:
It’s not that every college administrator or professor shares these views, though, Pinker says. But few are daring enough to express their opposition. When faced with an issue of this sort, colleges too often choose flight over fight. Groveling has become the default setting. “It’s rather disturbing to see the people in charge of our institutions of higher learning repeating clichés and slogans,” Pinker said. “For university administrators, (acquiescence) is often the path of least resistance since a small number of noisy student protestors can make a university president’s life miserable.”
Student activists have learned how to game the system. Claims of mental and physical harm are used to advance political agendas. Statues are taken down. Disfavored speaking events are shut down, and those opposing such moves are treated as though they agree with the content of the speech rather than the principle of free speech itself. But it’s mostly a tactic, Pinker says. “It’s not that we have a generation of snowflakes. Although, there may be some of that. But it’s not so much being wounded but it’s the pretext of being wounded,” which is used as a means to exert power and conscript others into conforming to the ideology.
And, contrary to those who say this is a tempest in a teapot, and that the kids will settle down when they get into the “real world,” well, we already know that’s a bogus claim. Newly hatched Wokies are infesting mainstream media, corporations, and academia itself, and bringing their college views with them.
From the article:
The result is that fringe student activists can and do wield an inordinate amount of power on campus. Universities have become political in the extreme, and we should be worried.
“Contrary to the cliché sometimes attributed to Henry Kissinger that ‘academic disputes are so fierce because so little is at stake,’ I think a lot is at stake,” Pinker says. “Not only (because) it’s college graduates who populate and control all of our institutions … but the entire academic ecosystem is at stake.”
Steve, the eternal optimist, says that there are some solutions. The first one I really like, because it’s the abandonment of my own University’s principles, currently in progress, that will eventually bring us down—maybe to the level of Princeton, but I hope not to the level of Smith:
But there are some slam-dunk moves universities and students can take to improve the culture, Pinker says. The number one priority of each and every campus bureaucracy must be to advance the mission of the university. Administrators must also continuously reiterate “the principles that underlie the existence of the university, namely acquisition of knowledge where knowledge inherently involves humility and skepticism.”
Part of the mission of the University of Chicago is to foster not just the acquisition of knowledge, but the acquisition of the ability to evaluate knowledge and arrive at positions through free and open inquiry. That too requires humility and skepticism. In this view of life, one must cling tenaciously to the principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom.
While I’m not sure how many students at a place like Smith are “unwoke” and appalled by its balkanization, the last sentence below is vitally important. We have to speak up against the dying of the light, no matter how many people hurl insults like “racist” or “bigot” at us. Saying what you feel might not make you popular, but, like atheism, rationality spreads faster the more people are willing to speak out against irrationality.
On the student side, Pinker is optimistic. “I’ve been surprised by how many students are actually appalled by the stifling of debate and the deplatforming of speakers.” But, by and large, these students have watched the battles on campus from a safe distance. “(They) aren’t bringing in the bureaucrats to shut down those they disagree with, they’re not protesting, they’re not setting off fire alarms during lectures,” so we don’t really know how prevalent these views are. But repairing the culture requires that they be more vocal.
Whether these kinds of changes are coming anytime soon, Pinker is unsure. But he rejects the notion that the pendulum will swing back from gravity alone.
“I think it could happen and will happen but only if we make it happen. It won’t happen by itself.”
There seems to be lots of organizations forming to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech, and the three I know of (two of which haven’t yet been announced) include a mixture of liberals and conservatives, which is great. After all, freedom of thought and expression isn’t the bailiwick of any one side of the political spectrum.
I found out about this one from my colleague Brian Leiter, who posted this on his website Leiter Reports: (CHE is the Chronicles of Higher Education, and you should read their article; link below). Brian’s short post:
“Academic Freedom Alliance”
This new organization will provide moral and in some cases legal support for faculty whose academic freedom rights (including their right to engage in extramural speech) are under attack. CHE has an article about the new organization here. I will note that in recruiting initial members, it was made very clear that the AFA would have defended Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita, as well as Amy Wax and Adrian Vermeule. That is how a principled defense of the academic freedom rights of faculty should proceed.
ADDENDUM: While the delusional Wokerati in academia pose a growing threat to academic freedom, it’s worth noting that in the examples mentioned above, the two faculty who lost their jobs were targeted, successfully, by reactionary forces outside the universities.
Click on the screenshot to go to the site:
It’s a truly impressive list of leaders (many from beleaguered Princeton University, where the group was founded) and members, all of whom are academics (they seem to have forgotten about Professor Ceiling Cat, Ph.D). The legal advisory team comprises several heavy hitters, including Jeannie Suk Gersen and Randall Kennedy from Harvard Law School, as well as a number of high-powered private attorneys. These can and will be used to put pressure on universities who are violating principles of free speech and academic freedom.
There’s also a reading list of books, and one of articles, which include pro-free-speech pieces by Brian Leiter, John McWhorter, Cornel West and Robert George, Randall Kennedy, and Jeannie Suk Gersen. I’ve read most of those pieces, and it’s really worth going through them. The “other historical examples” on the book list page contains two of the founding principles of The University of Chicago.
When I spoke to the Princeton University legal scholar and political philosopher Robert P. George in August, he offered a vivid zoological metaphor to describe what happens when outrage mobs attack academics. When hunted by lions, herds of zebras “fly off in a million directions, and the targeted member is easily taken down and destroyed and eaten.” A herd of elephants, by contrast, will “circle around the vulnerable elephant.”
“Academics behave like zebras,” George said. “And so people get isolated, they get targeted, they get destroyed, they get forgotten. Why don’t we act like elephants? Why don’t we circle around the victim?”
George was then recruiting the founding members of an organization designed to fix the collective-action problem that causes academics to scatter like zebras. What had begun as a group of 20 Princeton professors organized to defend academic freedom at one college was rapidly scaling up its ambitions and capacity: It would become a nationwide organization. George had already hired an executive director and secured millions in funding.
In the summer, George emphasized that the organization must be a cross-ideological coalition of conservatives, liberals, and progressives who would be willing to exert themselves on behalf of controversial speakers no matter which constituency they had offended. Though the funding for the organization came from a primary conservative donor, and many of those who feel most besieged in today’s academic environment are on the right, the threats to academic freedom were myriad — and did not threaten only those on the right. A principled defense of core values would require scrupulous neutrality in application and significant participation from across the ideological spectrum. “If we were asked to defend Amy Wax, we would,” he said. “If we were asked to defend Marc Lamont Hill, we would.”
Today, that organization, the Academic Freedom Alliance, formally issued a manifesto declaring that “an attack on academic freedom anywhere is an attack on academic freedom everywhere,” and committing its nearly 200 members to providing aid and support in defense of “freedom of thought and expression in their work as researchers and writers or in their lives as citizens,” “freedom to design courses and conduct classes using reasonable pedagogical judgment,” and “freedom from ideological tests, affirmations, and oaths.”
The alliance will intervene in academic controversy privately, by pressuring administrators, and publicly, by issuing statements citing the principles at stake in the outcomes of specific cases. Crucially, it will support those needing legal aid, either by arranging for pro bono legal representation or paying for it directly.
As the article adds, the group is so well funded and so stacked with high-class academics and lawyers that any college getting a warning letter from AFA had better pay attention! But I’m a bit worried about the balkanization of the mission. As well as this group, and the two incipient organizations I mentioned earlier, there’s also the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an estimable organization that seems to do pretty much what the AFA and others propose. I wish there were some way for these groups to be folded together, or at least to coordinate their activities.
As I’ve written here before, the University of Chicago has several “foundational principles”. These include the famous Chicago Principles of Free Expression, promoting complete freedom of speech, which have been adopted by over sixty universities. They also include the Kalven Report, which prohibits the University, with a few rare exceptions, of taking official political, moral, or ideological stands. Both of these principles are designed to foster the widest possible discussion of issues and to avoid “chilling speech”, that is, to avoid creating a climate in which people feel intimidated from speaking their minds. The latter point is especially salient in these times of ideological conformity, especially in colleges (and that means, in general, conformity to the Progressive Left).
Although it is signed by some faculty, as opposed to the numerous other unsigned statements that appear as official blanket endorsements of ideologies on department or program webpages (e.g., here), it still appears as an official statement by an organization, and is therefore liable to chill speech. I see this as an egregious violation of the Kalven Report.
Note that it not only describes the death of George Floyd as a “police murder”, which is surely a debatable issue rather than a settled matter (can we please wait for the trial and verdict?), but, more important, pushes adherence to a certain point of view as well as calling for action (following the program of Black Lives Matter, defunding the campus police, and supporting current protests). This is a political and ideological statement from an organized unit of the University. It therefore does not belong on an official University webpage. Although I adhere to parts of the statement, even if I adhered to all of it I would still consider it a violation of the University of Chicago’s principles.
As the Kalven Report notes, and I agree, the faculty are welcome to write whatever they want as individuals or groups, but not when appearing to speak for the University or one of its units:
In October of last year, President Robert Zimmer reaffirmed that these principles and clarified that they don’t just apply to the University administration, but to units of the University as well:
The principles of the Kalven Report apply not only to the University as a whole, but to the departments, schools, centers, and divisions as well, and for exactly the same reasons, i.e., these essential components of the University should not take institutional positions on public issues that are not directly related to the core functioning of the University. Of course, faculty, students, and staff, either individually or in groups, are free to take positions as individuals or as collections of individuals, but this expression must be distinct from expression advanced by official units of the University. This distinction must be maintained, because the process of assessing complex issues must always allow for the broadest diversity of views to be heard and held, and the diversity of views that lies at the heart of a great university must never be chilled by formal institutional positions on such issues.
I love that paragraph, as well as the one above it. “It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.”
Some departments, faculty, and students apparently don’t realize that by pushing their political points of view as statements of departments, committees, and other official units of the University, they are chilling the speech of those who might disagree with them. By all means, write on your own time; write a letter to the Chicago Maroon newspaper; write an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education giving your personal take on politics. But don’t try to make your views into official University statements, thereby inhibiting free discussion.
If you’re not a Yank, you may not know that not too long ago, the SATs (originally the Scholastic Aptitude Tests) were required of nearly every high-school student wanting to attend college. There were two sections: verbal and math, with the highest score being 800 on each. When I took them back in the Devonian (1966), nobody paid for the expensive test-preparation courses that many students take now. But as Andrew Sullivan writes in his Substack column this week (I urge you to subscribe), those prep courses don’t do much anyway, raising scores a paltry 5-20 points.
It’s a good piece this week, and there’s another longish piece on the new movie The Mauritianian, a dramatization of the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, imprisoned in Guantanamo for 14 years, and how he was tortured abused, and mistreated, but eventually won his freedom. The movie stars Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch, and that’s a good cast. I expect I’ll be watching it.
I like the reach and diverse interests of Andrew Sullivan, and find his site the most absorbing of all the Substack sites for demonized journalists (I subscribe to his and may to McWhorter’s). Click on the screenshot below to go to the SAT story:
Now many colleges have dropped the requirements for these standardized tests: the University of Chicago dropped the SAT and ACT (another standardized test) requirement in 2018, ostensibly to attract a wider pool of applicants. I’m not sure how that would work unless some qualified applicants couldn’t afford to take the tests (and I believe you can take them for free if you’re poor). Other schools dropped them for a year or so because of the pandemic (you take them in a big room with lots of other students), and say they’ll “revisit” the requirement after the virus is gone.
But I don’t believe that for a minute. I’d be willing to bet that no school that dropped the SAT/ACT requirement “temporarily” will reinstate it. In fact, the tests are being dropped for another reason: they show an achievement gap between races, and that is too meritocratic for the Woke. And yet, as Andrew argues—and I think he’s right—dropping the tests is actually harmful to minorities, for it eliminates the one way we can identify smart kids on a nearly level playing field. I wish colleges would be honest about why they’re dropping these requirements, but not a single one has told the truth.
Behind the Covid19 news, outside the 1619 wars, far more important than Dr Seuss, and much more far-reaching than dismantling the classics, a real line is being crossed in American education, and therefore American society as a whole. It’s the accelerating abandonment of standardized tests, the one objective measurement of students’ ability and potential in our society and culture: 77 percent of high school seniors sent in SAT scores in 2019-20; only 44 percent this year; and many schools want to keep it that way. What was initially a temporary suspension of tests because of Covid has become an opportunity to tear down the entire system.
The rationale for the SAT abolition movement is — surprise! — critical theory, which insists that any measurement that results in different outcomes among ethnic or racial groups is a priori racist. (Except for all cases when non-whites and non-Asians do better than whites or Asians, in which case, never mind.) In the words this week of Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York: “Standardized testing is a pillar of systemic racism.”
His argument is pure Kendi: the results are solely and exclusively what determines if a test is racist. Not the test itself; not evidence about its fairness or otherwise; not data about how it is constructed; not studies that examine its effects alongside every other way of measuring academic potential. Just the results.[JAC: Sullivan is right here about what Kendi would say, for he says that any inequity, or inequality in performance, among races is prima facie evidence of a racist policy.]
There is no countering this argument because it is not an argument. It is a threat. All it tells us is that the power of the term “white supremacist” will be ruthlessly deployed to shut down anyone who dares to argue that the SAT is, in fact, the least culturally biased of all measurements, the one thing wealthy kids cannot buy, and the most helpful tool in discovering the potential of poor, first-generation immigrant, black and Hispanic children, and rescuing them from the restrictions of class as well as race.
Sullivan then summarizes some misconceptions about the tests, and I’ll summarize his summary:
a.) The tests are still the best predictor of academic success in college (better than high-school grades) as well as of “life success” (e.g. $$). And this predictive ability holds for all demographic groups, all minorities.
b.) The tests aren’t biased against any groups. They used to be somewhat biased against “cultures”, but a lot of work has gone into making them “standardized” with respect to culture and ethnicity. Note as well that the highest scorers are Asian-Americans—and not just the ones whose families have been here for generations. That belies the “cultural bias” narrative against people of color.
c.) Sullivan gives data showing that nearly half of students admitted on the basis of their SAT scores were poor or first-generation students (those who were the first in their family to go to college). As Sullivan says, “almost half of the SAT places were from minority or poor kids, who would otherwise have been hidden from view. Why on earth would you surrender that tool?”
d.) The ethnic-group inequalities highlighted by the tests begin much earlier than college. As I’ve said incessantly, true equality demands expensive and yearslong efforts diverting money from the richer to the poorer. That offends many Americans’ sense of fairness, but is it fair to have permanent minority underclasses as a legacy of slavery and discrimination? Here’s Sullivan’s fix:
If you want to increase black and Latino representation in higher education, tackle the real problems, not the fake ones. Insist on higher standards from the very beginning in our failing schools; find ways to strengthen the stable nuclear family among blacks and Latinos, which is by far the most significant advantage Asian-American kids have; challenge the street culture that tells minority kids that reading and studying is “acting white”; make the SAT mandatory for everyone, make it easier to take, and make it free.
Those are good suggestions. The nuclear family issue, though, tends to bridle the Left. When I brought it up in a discussion with a liberal and antiracist friend about cultural differences that impede achievement (he was the principal of a largely black secondary school), he simply shut me down, saying “We’re not going to discuss that.” Now I don’t know offhand the hard evidence that two-parent families are better for the achievements of their kids, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. In his book How to Be an Antiracist, Ibrahm Kendi simply denies this effect.
We need to bring these tests back. In their desire to eliminate the meritocracy, the Woke have removed from colleges a tool to identify minority kids who deserve admission and could not have been singled out by grades alone. It’s an example of how people have simply ignored the data in favor of their ideology, and, in a desire to be performative anti-racists, have hurt the very groups they are trying to help. I’ll finish with Sullivan’s conclusions.
. . .many on the left want to get rid of the SAT altogether. They insist, against all the evidence, that the nuclear family is irrelevant to success. They are telling black and minority kids that things like perfectionism, hard work, and turning up on time are just “white supremacy culture,” and standards are racist. They are setting up black kids for failure, while telling them that failure is actually success, and then discriminating against Asian kids to cover up for the racial imbalance these policies create. [JAC: He’s referring in part to the affirmative-action lawsuit filed by Asians against Harvard, which is still wending its way through the courts.]
Standardized testing has always been a progressive idea. It disrupts class and race, unseats entrenched privilege, and offers the poor and the marginalized their best chance of social mobility. And it seems to me deeply depressing that progressives would rather posture about “white supremacy” than do anything to actually help minorities progress in childhood, without condescending, neo-racist discrimination in their favor, long after the die has been cast.
I swear, Bret Stephens is bucking for a New York Times pink slip and a slot on Substack along with the other canceled columnists. Not long ago, Stephens wrote a column for his paper about the firing of his colleague Donald McNeil, concentrating on the Times‘s excuse that McNeil deserved firing for using the n-word (even didactically), because “intent was not relevant”. The point of Stephens’s piece wasn’t to defend McNeil’s language but to say that journalism must take intent into account. As he wrote then:
Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.
That ought to go in journalism as much as, if not more than, in any other profession. What is it that journalists do, except try to perceive intent, examine motive, furnish context, explore nuance, explain varying shades of meaning, forgive fallibility, make allowances for irony and humor, slow the rush to judgment (and therefore outrage), and preserve vital intellectual distinctions?
Journalism as a humanistic enterprise — as opposed to hack work or propaganda — does these things in order to teach both its practitioners and consumers to be thoughtful. There is an elementary difference between citing a word for the purpose of knowledge and understanding and using the same word for the purpose of insult and harm. Lose this distinction, and you also lose the ability to understand the things you are supposed to be educated to oppose.
Well, they’re not going to like the new column by Bret Stephens, either. Although the title is conservative in tone, Stephens is a conservative columnist. And, as we saw, the paper just published a pretty good piece on the racial troubles and administrative malfeasance at Smith, so this shouldn’t be a topic that’s off the table (and apparently isn’t, as this column didn’t get spiked). Still, I sense a Substack in Stephens’s future, simply because he tells the truth about both Wokeness and the effect of Critical Race theory on colleges, which is a divisive one. Further, Critical Race theory is beginning to infiltrate the paper itself, so this can be taken as further criticism of the NYT, though Stephens doesn’t make that comparison.
After going through l’affaire Smith College, Stephens asks the critical question:
Still, the most interesting aspect of the drama at Smith has less to do with the details and more to do with the location. To wit, why is it that racial tensions keep boiling over at some of the nation’s most emphatically progressive-minded institutions, whether it’s at Smith, Yale, Northwestern, Bryn Mawr or the Dalton School? Why does the embrace of social justice pedagogies seem to have gone hand in hand with deteriorating race relations on campus?
It’s especially interesting because, as Stephens implies, these schools are emphatically not bastions of structural racism, and have done about everything possible to both placate protestors and ensure that there is no obvious inequality on campus.
This implies that Wokeness is a concomitant of “privilege”, which is to some extent true. It’s the educated people, who can afford these schools and have their life success well on track, that have the time to not only learn about Critical Race Theory, which is often taught at these schools, but also the leisure to agitate and make demands and petitions. Importantly, the students also have the ability to threaten prestigious schools in a way that could damage their reputations. After all, Yale, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Harvard, and The Dalton School can charge huge tuitions because of their reputations. That’s why Smith, which stands to lose its reputation because of people like Stephens, is now in trouble, just as Evergreen State was in trouble a few years ago (Evergreen lost lots of students and had to cut back on faculty hiring and programs).
And here are Stephens’s answers to his question, which are pretty accurate.
One answer is that if many students are enjoying a diet of courses on critical race theory, and employees are trained on the fine points of microaggressions, they might take to heart what they are taught and notice what they have been trained to see.
Another answer is that if those who report being offended gain sympathy, attention and even celebrity, more accusations may be reported.
But the most important answer comes from realizing that all of these colleges, like nearly all American colleges, have administrators and staff that lean mostly to the Left (you will find few people at the schools named above, for instance, who will admit to being conservative). Stephens:
The deeper answer, I suspect, is that the Woke left has the liberal left’s number. It’s called guilt.
The telling line in Powell’s story comes from a letter the Black Student Association wrote to McCartney, Smith’s (white) president, saying its members “do not feel heard or understood. We feel betrayed and tokenized.” Tokenized, most certainly: Behind every affirmative action program at every liberal institution is a yearning for moral redemption — admission to its present ranks is granted in exchange for absolution for past sins and acceptance of its ideological assumptions.
The Woke left doesn’t want to be a party to this bargain. Absolution is off the table. And the liberal ideals themselves are up for renegotiation.
In place of former notions of fairness toward individuals regardless of race, the Woke left has new ideas of “restorative justice” for racial groups. In place of traditional commitments to free speech, it has new proscriptions on hate speech. In place of the liberal left’s past devotion to facts, it demands new respect for feelings.
All of this has left many of the traditional gatekeepers of liberal institutions uncertain, timid and, in many cases, quietly outraged. This is not the deal they thought they struck. But it’s the deal they’re going to get until they recover the courage of their liberal convictions.
I’m not sure I agree with Stephens’s notion that liberal academics feel deeply cheated because they’re not being let off the hook for favoring affirmative action. What is important here, and what Stephens only touches on, is not guilt but fear. In particular, fear of being called a racist. It’s the same fear (and guilt) that you read about in Tom Wolfe’s portrait of the Black Panther fund-raiser at Leonard Bernstein’s home: “Radical Chic.”
What is true is that the Woke does have the liberal left’s number. For the fear of being called a racist, and the fear of people saying you are “erasing” or “othering” them, causing “harm” and “violence”, is a strong motivation for change among the Left. And, as John McWhorter realized, absolution is indeed off the table. You go Ibram Kendi’s way or the highway; there is no middle way.
For paragraphs like this to appear in the New York Times is amazing. But you will hear them only from the mouths of conservative columnists, not from centrists and certainly not from anyone else at that liberal newspaper. That the Woke has the Left’s number is palpably true, but nobody dares say it, just like nobody dares stand up to the kind of racialized fascism that did in Jody Shaw at Smith.
I fear that Stephens’s tenure at the Times will soon come to an end, for they can’t bear to hear stuff like this. In fact, they don’t like their conservative columnists at all, as we’ll see when we look at Donald McNeil’s recently published (and horrific) account of the toxic atmosphere at the paper. In truth, the Times administration is no different from the Smith College administration: they are autocrats who expel people accused of racism. For the Times editors, dealing with McNeil, and now reading Stephens, is too much like looking in the mirror.
Jodi Shaw hasn’t yet brought her legal case against Smith College, but one seems to be impending, as she’s filed a complaint with the state of Massachusetts (see below). Her GoFundMe page has also reached the total below (click on screenshot), heading towards twice her original goal.
And she really does seem to be sequestering everything above $150,000 for helping others in similar situations. Here’s a new addendum to her page (her emphasis):
***Therefore, any monies over $150K will be placed in an escrow account to be disbursed as needed to individuals I know or who have reached out to me who are trapped in hostile workplaces, including in the workplace of my own former employer. ***
As February 22, together with monies contribute to my private PayPal account, we have raised $85K for this escrow account alone.
This is important as there are many others in the wings who are thinking about or preparing to take action and could really use the help.
That escrow money has now grown to over $127,000! Clearly, a lot of people are on her side—or the side opposing strict application of Critical Race Theory in universities—and I don’t think that all of them are white supremacists. Surely many of them are the sympathetic folks who are afraid of “outing” themselves.
Shaw also added this yesterday:
I have some news to share. I sent my complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) last week. This is the first step in the process of bringing a suit against Smith College. Although the MCAD has yet to certify it, I wanted to share a preview with all of you who have so generously supported this cause.
Thanks again for all your support. Words cannot express my gratitude. This is truly a community effort.
The document in question, a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, was prepared with the help of a lawyer. At 18 pages long, it has a lot more information than what we’ve learned already, and it all reflects pretty badly on Smith (remember, though, Shaw is an opponent of the College’s policies, and the document is a legal one). You can read it by clicking below, or going to the link above. You can read successive pages by clicking the arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve reported on the case of Jodi Shaw, the employee of Smith College who was driven out for making YouTube videos about Smith’s climate of toxic racial divisiveness—a climate that affected her personally. Shaw turned down Smith’s offer of a financial settlement in return for Shaw’s silence, and started a GoFundMe campaign to keep her and her two kids alive since she doesn’t have a job. The money will also go for a lawsuit against Smith and to help other Smith students. The campaign has raised nearly $241,000—$90,000 over its original goal (Smith says she’ll use any excess over $150,000 “to help others exercise their right to be free from a hostile work environment”). To me, this quick and generous response means that there are a lot of people out there (not all of them Republicans!) who share Smith’s worries about the infusion of Critical Race Theory into colleges. Smith College appears to be a particularly toxic example of that infusion.
Rolling Stone published a snarky attack on Shaw, which is short on facts (it completely neglects the atmosphere of Smith reported in detail in the New York Times article below), and paints Shaw as a “cancel culture martyr.” The hit piece, which you can read by clicking on the screenshot below, ends this way:
Fortunately for Shaw, she appears to have gotten her money’s worth: a fundraiser to help her with living expenses has raised more than $214,000, proving that one of the quickest routes to success in the age of social media is to publicly and dramatically claim you’ve been canceled.
I highly doubt that Shaw went through all this tsouris to become a martyr and to gain “success in the age of social media.” Rolling Stone‘s reporting is both inaccurate and execrable, and we’ll move on.
I’m amazed that the New York Times covered the story not just of Jodi Shaw, but of the fulminating racial toxicity at Smith, which of course was the reason Shaw was exposed to the “racial sensitivity training” that started the whole incident. And the Times’s story is long, complete, and fair. It pulls no punches when it comes to describing Smith’s toxic atmosphere. But it also paints a dire picture of Kathleen McCartney, Smith’s President, who is wedded to Critical Race Theory, apparently out of fear of pushback from the students. I’m not going to call for McCartney’s resignation, as that is something I have no power over, but I think that the present furor, including a letter in the Paper of Record about what’s really going on at Smith, might hasten her departure.
Read the longish NYT article by clicking on the screenshot.
This is the story’s dramatic “lede”:
This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.
Facts versus “personal truths”—but the “personal truths” turned out to be empirical falsities!
As I thought, and as Shaw has said repeatedly, Smith is ridden with racial tension. And it didn’t have to be that way. It all went back, as the article describes, to a 2018 claim of racism by Ouou Kanoute, a black firstfirst-generation student whose parents immigrated from Mali. In the summer of that year, Kanoute went to get lunch in a cafeteria that was restricted to participants in “a summer camp program for young children.” Kanoute wasn’t supposed to be using the cafeteria because she was a student worker—a teaching assistant. One cafeteria worker
. . . mentioned that to Ms. Kanoute when she saw her getting lunch there and then decided to drop it. Staff members dance carefully around rule enforcement for fear students will lodge complaints.
“We used to joke, don’t let a rich student report you, because if you do, you’re gone,” said Mark Patenaude, a janitor.
Kanoute then took her lunch and went into the lounge of an empty dorm closed for the summer. Nobody was supposed to be in that dorm, and janitors and others were told to call security if they saw anybody there. A 60 year old janitor saw Kanoute and made that call. A security worker came, recognized Kanoute, and left. And that was it. No mention of race was made by anybody, including the janitor reporting Kanoute’s presence.
It would have ended there had Kanoute not used social media to claim that she was persecuted because she was black. (Kanoute’s behavior over the past few years makes her seem a tad unhinged.) And then things went to hell. The janitor was put on leave, the cafeteria worker persecuted and harassed by both President McCartney and the students, and McCartney, stung by her own missteps in the past, put the campus on Full White Supremacist Alert:
Smith College officials emphasized “reconciliation and healing” after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories — as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer — set aside for Black students and other students of color.
. . .Ms. Blair [the cafeteria worker] was reassigned to a different dormitory, as Ms. Kanoute lived in the one where she had labored for many years. Her first week in her new job, she said, a female student whispered to another: There goes the racist.
Anti-bias training began in earnest in the fall. Ms. Blair and other cafeteria and grounds workers found themselves being asked by consultants hired by Smith about their childhood and family assumptions about race, which many viewed as psychologically intrusive. Ms. Blair recalled growing silent and wanting to crawl inside herself.
The faculty are not required to undergo such training. Professor Lendler said in an interview that such training for working-class employees risks becoming a kind of psychological bullying. “My response would be, ‘Unless it relates to conditions of employment, it’s none of your business what I was like growing up or what I should be thinking of,’” he said.
That’s exactly what Jodi Shaw experienced, and also thought was “none of anybody’s business.”
Note that the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) stepped in to defend Kanoute. But then Smith College hired a law firm to produce an independent report on the incident, and it came up with. . . no evidence of racism:
The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN picked up the story of a young female student harassed by white workers. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the student’s case, said she was profiled for “eating while Black.”
Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. Ms. Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed.
A similar conclusion—no racism involved—was reached by the Boston Globe‘s investigation.
You’d think that would be the end of the story, right? Wrong! For now there is a narrative of racism, as John McWhorter points out, and it’s a narrative that has to be kept going regardless of whether there is real racism at all. And so President McCartney hasn’t done a thing to foster reconciliation or healing. Instead, she just brings up the “feelings versus facts” trope, as well as the discredited trope of “implicit racial bias”:
Still, Ms. McCartney said the report validated Ms. Kanoute’s lived experience, notably the fear she felt at the sight of the police officer. “I suspect many of you will conclude, as did I,” she wrote, “it is impossible to rule out the potential role of implicit racial bias.” [JAC: If you can’t rule it out, because it’s impossible to dig into someone’s unconscious, then it must be racism!]
The report said Ms. Kanoute could not point to anything that supported the claim she made on Facebook of a yearlong “pattern of discrimination.”
Ms. McCartney offered no public apology to the employees after the report was released. “We were gobsmacked — four people’s lives wrecked, two were employees of more than 35 years and no apology,” said Tracey Putnam Culver, a Smith graduate who recently retired from the college’s facilities management department. “How do you rationalize that?”
(Remember, this is from the New York Times!) Smith’s and McCartney’s behavior is reprehensible. Were I a Smith alum, or a donor, I’d be appalled at how McCartney’s acted. What kind of President is this?
But the ACLU has behaved just as badly. As we know, the ACLU is going off the rails these days, and when an organization like that can’t even admit the truth, and has also has bought into a racial narrative that it must defend, you get something like this:
Rahsaan Hall, racial justice director for the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts and Ms. Kanoute’s lawyer, cautioned against drawing too much from the investigative report, as subconscious bias is difficult to prove. Nor was he particularly sympathetic to the accused workers.
“It’s troubling that people are more offended by being called racist than by the actual racism in our society,” he said. “Allegations of being racist, even getting direct mailers in their mailbox, is not on par with the consequences of actual racism.”
That is, let three lower-middle-class people be thrown to the wolves by Smith. What does it matter if the narrative of structural racism at Smith (which does NOT exist) be kept alive? There’s always that “subconscious bias” that is “difficult to prove”!
A few Smith faculty are quoted as opposing what McCartney and the College have done, but they are crying in the wilderness. It’s up to the College’s trustees and alumni to let President McCartney know that “lived experience,” if it doesn’t correspond to the truth, cannot be allowed to ruin people’s lives or to create a toxic climate in a formerly respected college. In the end, Kanoute’s acts and false cries of racism have come down to ruin Jodi Shaw’s life as well.
The miscreant President is acting notably un-Presidential.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: In the first comment below, reader Coel notes this:
Jodi Shaw has written this response to the letter from Smith’s President, specifically about the settlement demand/offer, and also her GoFundMe page now says that the “hold” has been removed.
Shaw’s letter, which you should read in full, says this in part:
After I went public in October with my complaints about the hostile working environment at Smith, the college made clear to me that they would like me to accept a severance and leave. I offered to accept a severance only if Smith would take meaningful steps to end the racially hostile environment by ending their mandatory race-based struggle sessions and their requirements that employees judge each other and the students in our care on the basis of their skin color. Smith quickly made clear to me that they would not consider such changes. The ideology would stay. Only a financial settlement with the college was possible.
Shaw then decided that she wouldn’t settle. President McCartney’s letter is thus misleading and my impression of Shaw as a brave and principled woman remains. I have just donated to her GoFundMe campaign.
Reader Melissa Johnson noted, in a comment on yesterday’s post about the suspension of Jodi Shaw’s GoFundMe account, that Smith President Kathleen McCartney has issued a message to the Smith College community about Shaw’s activities. In my view, McCartney should simply shut up about pending actions, but she can’t resist dissing Shaw as well as emphasizing once again that she’s proud of Smith’s antiracist programs.
A college staff member resigned last Friday in a letter that she made available to the public. Ordinarily, a personnel matter of this nature would not warrant a letter from the president to the college community; however, in this instance the former employee, in her letter, accuses the college of creating a racially hostile environment for white people, a baseless claim that the college flatly denies. In addition, her letter contains a number of misstatements about the college’s equity and inclusion initiatives, misstatements that are offensive to the members of our community who are working every day to create a campus where everyone, regardless of racial identity, can learn, work and thrive.
I write to emphasize that Smith College remains unyielding in its commitment to advancing racial justice, a commitment that includes and benefits every member of our community. Given the centrality of this work to Smith College’s mission, I want to take this opportunity to ensure that each of you has accurate information.
The employee suggests that Smith tried to buy her silence. But it was the employee herself who demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions. Further, while the employee aims her complaint at Smith, her public communications make clear that her grievances about equity and inclusion training run more broadly—as she puts it “to the medical field … the publishing field, the tech field, it’s in the schools, the legal field, public schools, private schools, colleges of course, government. It’s everywhere.”
At Smith College, our commitment to, and strategies for, advancing equity and inclusion are grounded in evidence. Research demonstrates the continued presence of systemic discrimination against people of color across all areas of society, from education to health care to employment. Redressing the reality of racism requires asking ourselves how we might, even inadvertently, reinforce existing inequalities or contribute to an exclusionary atmosphere. While it might be uncomfortable to accept that each of us, regardless of color or background, may have absorbed unconscious biases or at times acted in ways that are harmful to members of our community, such self-reflection is a prerequisite for making meaningful progress. The aim of our equity and inclusion training is never to shame or ostracize. Rather, the goal is to facilitate authentic conversations that help to overcome the barriers between us, and the college welcomes constructive criticism of our workshops and trainings.
As a college, we remain committed to continuous learning in support of the humanity, worth, and dignity of every member of our community.
First of all, if this matter is going to be litigated, McCartney should shut her yap, for what she says above could be used against Smith in several ways.
In fact, despite McCartney’s claim that she’s issuing the letter only because Shaw made false accusations about the “racially hostile environment for white people”, that is in fact what Shaw claimed was true for her (it was Shaw’s “lived experience”, as the CRT folk put it). And I suspect, given the level of support for Shaw and her claims that she’s received a lot of support from community members, that the divisiveness at Smith extends far deeper than her own personal experience. (It may be tough to find people to testify to that in court, however.)
In fact, McCartney’s penultimate paragraph brings up the discredited “unconscious bias” hypothesis, as well as the notion that these undocumented biases constitute “harm” to the members of the Smith community. And if McCartney claims that the aim of the college was never to shame or ostracize, which is what Jodi Shaw claimed happened to her, why didn’t she express sympathy for what Shaw experienced (they never responded to Shaw’s 100-page letter of complaint)? McCartney has never shown an iota of sympathy or solicitude for Shaw.
Finally, let us remember that the atmosphere of racial hysteria at Smith began in 2018, when a black student complained of racist treatment. One of our readers used that as “proof” that Smith indeed had an atmosphere of systemic racism. But an investigation by Smith College itself, Insider Higher Ed, and the Boston Globe found that there was no racism involved in this incident (see my post about this here). Nevertheless, McCartney and others are still using that incident as evidence that Smith is ridden with systemic racism. And if you can’t find tangible evidence of that racism, well, there’s always that “unconscious bias”. It’s telling that no real evidence for pervasive racism at Smith has been adduced, though Jodi Shaw has adduced evidence for pernicious antiracism.
Yes, Shaw made a general complaint in her “public communicatons” (probably her YouTube video), that “her grievances about equity and inclusion training run more broadly—as she puts it ‘to the medical field … the publishing field, the tech field, it’s in the schools, the legal field, public schools, private schools, colleges of course, government. It’s everywhere’.” So what? Shaw is free to speak on such issues in her YouTube video, and her observation about the generality of CRT has nothing to do with Shaw’s complaint about Smith College. It’s unseemly of President McCartney to criticize Shaw’s private communications, and seems like a tactic to discredit her.
The one piece of disturbing news from McCartney’s letter is the President’s claim that Shaw herself requested that she be paid off in return for her silence, with the implication that she threatened Smith with a lawsuit if they didn’t settle. That runs counter to at least the implication of Shaw’s claim, on her GoFundMe site, that:
Smith responded by placing me on a leave and under investigation. During this time I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence. In the end it was a decision between comfort or freedom. I chose freedom.
“I was offered” is not the same as “I asked for”, and if McCartney is right, then Shaw disssimulated in her letter and her request for funds. I trust Shaw will clear up the matter. In the meantime, there’s still a hold on her GoFundMe account, but the amount raised is now $211,527.
So I’m disturbed about the conflicting claims about the “settlement offer,” but I have to say that President McCartney has done herself no favors by using this incident to affirm the commitment of Smith to the idea of systemic racism at the College (which, I’m convinced, does not exist), and of “unconscious bias” of Smith people that supposedly creates a harmful atmosphere. That is not inclusive at all, nor is it likely to appeal to older Smith donors, who are surely appalled at this publicity.
I’ve written several times about the plight of Jodi Shaw (here, here, here, and here), the Smith College employee who was demonized and then investigated by her employer because she would not participate in a racial “struggle session” that involved sharing personal details and feelings that she wasn’t comfortable in divulging. As I wrote earlier on:
Shaw had a beef with the College for forcing her to undergo mandatory training in what seems like critical race theory, and in which she was humiliated by the facilitator for her “white fragility”. Kathleen McCartney, the President of Smith, then responded to Shaw’s first video with a cold-hearted letter to the entire College saying, in effect, something like, “Well, we can’t fire Shaw because of the law, but we’ll ensure that all students of color are protected from harm.”
The expected pile-on began after Shaw, single mother of two, an alumna of Smith, and a liberal, began making a series of calm yet determined videos about what she experienced at Smith. The racial divisiveness of the College apparently went far beyond that one “struggle session.” According to Shaw, that atmosphere permeates Smith, is toxic, and was originally set off by a complaint of racism that proved to be bogus. (Isn’t it ironic that policies designed to foster diversity and inclusion often wind up being non-inclusive and creating greater division?)
Shaw was then investigated by Smith, which put her on leave for making her colleagues feel “harmed”, presumably by making the videos that constitute free expression (see Shaw’s explanation here). Shaw filed a long complaint with Smith, to which she received no reply.
I predicted that Shaw wouldn’t last long at Smith, and, sure enough, as Bari Weiss recounts in a post at her own Substack site, Shaw has parted ways with Smith, rejecting a settlement.
Bari reproduces Shaw’s letter of resignation to Smith’s President, and I’ll reproduce it here, too:
Dear President McCartney:
I am writing to notify you that effective today, I am resigning from my position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life at Smith College. This has not been an easy decision, as I now face a deeply uncertain future. As a divorced mother of two, the economic uncertainty brought about by this resignation will impact my children as well. But I have no choice. The racially hostile environment that the college has subjected me to for the past two and a half years has left me physically and mentally debilitated. I can no longer work in this environment, nor can I remain silent about a matter so central to basic human dignity and freedom.
I graduated from Smith College in 1993. Those four years were among the best in my life. Naturally, I was over the moon when, years later, I had the opportunity to join Smith as a staff member. I loved my job and I loved being back at Smith.
But the climate — and my place at the college — changed dramatically when, in July 2018, the culture war arrived at our campus when a student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias. The student, who is black, shared her account of this incident widely on social media, drawing a lot of attention to the college.
Before even investigating the facts of the incident, the college immediately issued a public apology to the student, placed the employee on leave, and announced its intention to create new initiatives, committees, workshops, trainings, and policies aimed at combating “systemic racism” on campus.
In spite of an independent investigation into the incident that found no evidence of racial bias [JAC: Smith’s own investigation showed no bias, either], the college ramped up its initiatives aimed at dismantling the supposed racism that pervades the campus. This only served to support the now prevailing narrative that the incident had been racially motivated and that Smith staff are racist.
Allowing this narrative to dominate has had a profound impact on the Smith community and on me personally. For example, in August 2018, just days before I was to present a library orientation program into which I had poured a tremendous amount of time and effort, and which had previously been approved by my supervisors, I was told that I could not proceed with the planned program. Because it was going to be done in rap form and “because you are white,” as my supervisor told me, that could be viewed as “cultural appropriation.” My supervisor made clear he did not object to a rap in general, nor to the idea of using music to convey orientation information to students. The problem was my skin color.
I was up for a full-time position in the library at that time, and I was essentially informed that my candidacy for that position was dependent upon my ability, in a matter of days, to reinvent a program to which I had devoted months of time.
Humiliated, and knowing my candidacy for the full-time position was now dead in the water, I moved into my current, lower-paying position as Student Support Coordinator in the Department of Residence Life.
As it turned out, my experience in the library was just the beginning. In my new position, I was told on multiple occasions that discussing my personal thoughts and feelings about my skin color is a requirement of my job. I endured racially hostile comments, and was expected to participate in racially prejudicial behavior as a continued condition of my employment. I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting “Rich, white women! Rich, white women!” in reference to Smith alumnae. I listened to my supervisor openly name preferred racial quotas for job openings in our department. I was given supplemental literature in which the world’s population was reduced to two categories — “dominant group members” and “subordinated group members” — based solely on characteristics like race.
Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection, and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world.
Although I have spoken to many staff and faculty at the college who are deeply troubled by all of this, they are too terrified to speak out about it. This illustrates the deeply hostile and fearful culture that pervades Smith College.
The last straw came in January 2020, when I attended a mandatory Residence Life staff retreat focused on racial issues. The hired facilitators asked each member of the department to respond to various personal questions about race and racial identity. When it was my turn to respond, I said “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.” I was the only person in the room to abstain.
Later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of “white fragility.” They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress, but that it is actually a “power play.” In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was shamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.
I filed an internal complaint about the hostile environment, but throughout that process, over the course of almost six months, I felt like my complaint was taken less seriously because of my race. I was told that the civil rights law protections were not created to help people like me. And after I filed my complaint, I started to experience retaliatory behavior, like having important aspects of my job taken away without explanation.
Under the guise of racial progress, Smith College has created a racially hostile environment in which individual acts of discrimination and hostility flourish. In this environment, people’s worth as human beings, and the degree to which they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, is determined by the color of their skin. It is an environment in which dissenting from the new critical race orthodoxy — or even failing to swear fealty to it like some kind of McCarthy-era loyalty oath — is grounds for public humiliation and professional retaliation.
I can no longer continue to work in an environment where I am constantly subjected to additional scrutiny because of my skin color. I can no longer work in an environment where I am told, publicly, that my personal feelings of discomfort under such scrutiny are not legitimate but instead are a manifestation of white supremacy. Perhaps most importantly, I can no longer work in an environment where I am expected to apply similar race-based stereotypes and assumptions to others, and where I am told — when I complain about having to engage in what I believe to be discriminatory practices — that there are “legitimate reasons for asking employees to consider race” in order to achieve the college’s “social justice objectives.”
What passes for “progressive” today at Smith and at so many other institutions is regressive. It taps into humanity’s worst instincts to break down into warring factions, and I fear this is rapidly leading us to a very twisted place. It terrifies me that others don’t seem to see that racial segregation and demonization are wrong and dangerous no matter what its victims look like. Being told that any disagreement or feelings of discomfort somehow upholds “white supremacy” is not just morally wrong. It is psychologically abusive.
Equally troubling are the many others who understand and know full well how damaging this is, but do not speak out due to fear of professional retaliation, social censure, and loss of their livelihood and reputation. I fear that by the time people see it, or those who see it manage to screw up the moral courage to speak out, it will be too late.
I wanted to change things at Smith. I hoped that by bringing an internal complaint, I could somehow get the administration to see that their capitulation to critical race orthodoxy was causing real, measurable harm. When that failed, I hoped that drawing public attention to these problems at Smith would finally awaken the administration to this reality. I have come to conclude, however, that the college is so deeply committed to this toxic ideology that the only way for me to escape the racially hostile climate is to resign. It is completely unacceptable that we are now living in a culture in which one must choose between remaining in a racially hostile, psychologically abusive environment or giving up their income.
As a proud Smith alum, I know what a critical role this institution has played in shaping my life and the lives of so many women for one hundred and fifty years. I want to see this institution be the force for good I know it can be. I will not give up fighting against the dangerous pall of orthodoxy that has descended over Smith and so many of our educational institutions.
This was an extremely difficult decision for me and comes at a deep personal cost. I make $45,000 a year; less than a year’s tuition for a Smith student. I was offered a settlement in exchange for my silence, but I turned it down. My need to tell the truth — and to be the kind of woman Smith taught me to be — makes it impossible for me to accept financial security at the expense of remaining silent about something I know is wrong. My children’s future, and indeed, our collective future as a free nation, depends on people having the courage to stand up to this dangerous and divisive ideology, no matter the cost.
Weiss ends the piece with her own take (below), which is the same as mine, and links to Shaw’s video asking that the anti-white racism she perceived at Smith be stopped.
What is happening is wrong. Any ideology that asks people to judge others based on their skin color is wrong. Any ideology that asks us to reduce ourselves and others to racial stereotypes is wrong. Any ideology that treats dissent as evidence of bigotry is wrong. Any ideology that denies our common humanity is wrong. You should say so. Just like Jodi Shaw has.
If you would like to help support Jodi with her legal fees during this time — and I hope you do — here is her GoFundMe.
“Diversity and Inclusion” initiatives—”D&I”, as they’re called—may be good at the “D”, but they’re lousy at the “I”. Not only was Shaw was not included, but she was in effect booted out, “excluded.” As far as I can see, Smith was not only never supportive of Shaw, but from the outset sought to push her out of the college. They’ve succeeded. But they have not succeeded at muzzling Shaw, and it’s telling that they offered her money if she would shut up about the College when she left. Now why would they do that? Bad publicity, of course?