The craziness that is engulfing American universities with respect to Critical Race Theory is exemplified by a recent ruing of the Student Bar Association of Rutgers Law School-Camden. Fortunately, some timely intervention from the estimable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), recounted in its article below (click on screenshot), forced the students to rescind their rule.
The SBA of Rutgers’ Camden campus added a section to its constitution entitled “Student Organizations Fostering Diversity and Inclusion” on Nov. 20 , mandating that any group that wishes to receive more than $250 in university funding must “plan at least one (1) event that addresses their chosen topics through the lens of Critical Race Theory, diversity and inclusion, or cultural competency.” Last fall, 19 of 22 student groups requested more than $250.
This puts student clubs in a bind: Should they request the funding they need, even though it would require planning an event — such as hosting a speaker, outing, or mixer — that may be at odds with or unrelated to the group’s own views?
As FIRE noted, Rutgers is a state university, and is therefore forbidden by Supreme Court rulings from “viewpoint discrimination,” which includes differential distribution of funds to student groups based on their politics or views. The requirement that student groups—many of which surely aren’t involved with CRT—hold specific events promoting CRT is therefore unconstitutional. This was pointed out to the President of Rutgers in a 5-page letter from FIRE on May 17.
After the letter arrived, the Student Bar Association (SBA) met with the Rutgers administration and rescinded their stipulation. The SBA Presidents, however, responded petulantly, saying in a May 23 email to the student body that they did this because of the issues involved and the time deadline, but that they were not giving up. This section of the letter implies that they’ll continue their unconstitutional—and ultimately futile—fight. Click to enlarge:
Of course “the other guys who say so” include the Supreme Court! It’s almost humorous that they think they can pass the amendment again or something like it. That would also be unconstitutional.
It’s manifestly obvious that no public school can force its constituent groups to present seminars pushing a particular ideology. It’s as if a conservative SBA voted that every funded student group would have to present a seminar favoring unrestricted access to guns by Americans, or blanket opposition to immigration. Be the issue on the liberal or conservative side, groups cannot be forced to adhere to or present a favored ideology.
The fact that the Rutgers SBA could even try something like this tells us about the warped thinking that has infected America in the last year. There’s nothing wrong with fighting racism, but there’s everything wrong with fighting it by using unconstitutional means forcing others who may disagree with your methods to nevertheless mouth your approved ideology. It also tells us that a Student Bar Association that blatantly violates a Supreme Court decision needs to bone up on its law.
I have long since been disabused of the notion that Canadian universities—indeed, Canadians in general—whom I used to see as more sensible than Americans, are also lesswoke than Americans. Indeed, some of the biggest abrogations of freedom of speech (even though Canada doesn’t have the equivalent of the American First Amendment) have been at Canadian schools. Remember how Lindsay Shepherd was treated at Wilfred Laurier University?
Well, McGill is about to match Wilfred Laurier, at least in the anti-free-speech rhetoric espoused in a new “open letter” on the Students’ Society of McGill University site (click on screenshot below). The letter is signed by The Students’ Society of McGill University Executive Team, The Anthropology Students Association, The Anthropology Graduate Students Association, World Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies Association, Black Students Network, Muslim Students Association, Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and the Thaqalayn Muslim Association.
Their statement explicitly demands the cutting back of freedom of speech, which, it says, conflicts with the right of students to be free from “harm”. (This, of course, is the usual trope.) They cite research that supposedly shows the harm that “microaggressions” (read “offensive speech”) are supposed to cause, but because these data involve self-report, I’m dubious. Now there’s no doubt that someone can be offended or even get depressed a bit when hearing speech they don’t like, but in my view, the benefits of free speech outweigh the “harm” caused by speech (often a pretended harm, I think, voiced to gain status). And, as Salman Rushdie said, “Nobody has the right not to be offended.”
The opening paragraph of the letter (the first three excerpts below) is about as explicit a statement as I’ve seen about why we can’t have complete freedom of speech. The bold bits are mine. You’ll recognize many of the tropes, like the claim that McGill was built on a “history of oppression”:
It is no secret that, like many other academic institutions, McGill University was built on a history of oppression, its existence made possible by profiting off of the labour of enslaved and marginalized peoples. This regrettable history not only tarnishes the University’s past but also continues to influence how the University operates today. Scholars have abused their right of free speech and academic freedom to defend acts of rhetorical violence against marginalized communities on campus, shielding racist, sexist, and transphobic speech behind the term “controversy.”
Sorry, but rhetoric is not violence; equating the two simply debases the meaning of the word “violence” and serves to chill speech. Now the speech these students decry is speech that is racist, sexist, and transphobic, which they want to ban because it causes “harm.” While they’re not specific about what kind of “hate speech” they want banned, we’ll see some examples in a minute. The letter goes on:
Freedom of expression is traditionally considered central to permitting the free exchange of ideas and debate and fostering the university environment. Free speech, however, does not exist outside of its social context. David Gillborn, a critical race theorist at the University of Birmingham, suggests that the terms of what is considered ‘legitimate’ speech are dictated by whiteness, since “[w]hiteness operates to invest speech with different degrees of legitimacy, such that already debunked racist beliefs can enjoy repeated public airings where they are lauded as scientific and rational by many White [sic] listeners, who simultaneously define as irrational, emotional, or exaggerated the opposing views of people of colour.” Moreover, evidence from psychology, social work, and medicine suggest that microaggressions, including racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic speech, have numerous and significant impacts on the health,wellbeing, and educational success of marginalized people.
The idea that speech deemed “legitimate” is only that speech emitted by whites is nonsense. For if anything is true, it’s that many people of color are speaking out loudly and frequently, both in person and on the Internet. In fact, this letter itself is an example of what the authors consider legitimate free speech. The “white free speech” they decry is touted as bigoted speech whose airing apparently gives some “scientific” credibility to racism. But that’s also nonsense if you believe that a prime tonic for speech you don’t like is counter-speech. And there is plenty of counterspeech against speech considered bigoted, hateful, and transphobic. I offer as one example the tons of speech offered in response to what was seen as J. K. Rowling’s “transphobic” writings and tweets, which of course weren’t transphobic at all. The volume of counterspeech, many by marginalized people, must have exceeded Rowling’s own words by a factor of hundreds.
Finally, if you look at the link to the claims that “microaggressions” are harmful, they aren’t all that convincing, as they are based on self-report, and also neglect the possibility that people who are more easily offended, and more readily claim harm, may also be more willing to discern microaggressions in their quotidian environments.
The paragraph continues (these three bits are from a single opening paragraph):
The defence of discriminatory dialogue at the expense of the safety, security, and wellbeing of people of colour reflects the power of whiteness in determining what is and is not considered acceptable speech. Upholding free speech at the cost of marginalized groups permits racist talk with real-world impacts; it teaches future generations that perpetrating this kind of harm is acceptable. These harms are not hypothetical; they have been and will continue to be felt by marginalized communities on campuses across the country.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends: an explicit claim that free speech cannot be permitted because it creates harm in marginalized groups. They make this even more explicit further down:
While material featuring harmful language can be used prudently, the use of bigoted material, whether ableist, transphobic, racist, or otherwise discriminatory, is unacceptable, and McGill University has made no effort to resolve this tension. The University’s Statement of Academic Freedom defines no limitations for academic freedom, failing to address the responsibility of professors to use their freedoms responsibly. Equity and academic freedom need to be addressed as intertwined issues and McGill University falls short in this regard. . .
. . . When the voices of students are sidelined and disregarded, the solution is not and cannot be active listening and dialogue, as the Principal argued. While inclusiveness and academic freedom are both invaluable principles, they cannot always coexist. Thus, when the University refuses to define limitations to academic freedom, the safety and wellbeing of marginalized students become inherently secondary. This is best exemplified by the University’s decision to first underline their respect for “free speech” when bigoted dialogues do make their way onto campus. The message McGill sends is all too clear; when equity and academic freedom come into conflict, they are more than ready to “abandon one principle in favour of another.”
As they should! We’ll see shortly the kind of speech these student organizations consider to be bigoted, ableist, transphobic, racist, and discriminatory. But it’s amply clear from the above that counterspeech and “active dialogue” won’t suffice. They want speech to be BANNED.
Of course, the determiners of what kind of speech is unacceptable—The Deciders—will be these students, who will try to get McGill to ban it. (Let’s hope they don’t succeed.)
But what kind of speech do they want McGill to prohibit? They give some example when damning the writings of emeritus professor Philip Carl Salzman, an anthropologist. After the two paragraphs below, they demand that McGill remove Salzman’s Emeritus Professor status. This tells you the kind of speech that’s considered harmful—microaggressions. I invite you to read the links to see for yourself:
Despite their editorial nature, Salzman’s opinions are presented as though they are objective facts. Meanwhile, his affiliation with McGill lends him credibility that would not otherwise be afforded if not for his status as a Professor Emeritus of a respected institution such as McGill University. In providing such commentary while presenting himself as an affiliate of this University, Salzman’s recent publications in public fora demonstrate a lack of consideration for his responsibility as an academic.
For example, the link to Salzman’s supposed denial of gender parity is a discussion of how different preferences of men and women—differences that may be based on biology—may lead to a lack of equity (representation) in various fields. While you may dispute his claims, it’s certainly not “hate speech”, and may well contain more than a grain of truth. As for “rape culture”, I myself would deny such a term as it’s often used. While one rape is too many, and it’s a vile and horrible crime, we do not live in a “rape culture” that sees rape as okay, that is experiencing an unprecedented wave of sexual violence on campus, and that society strives to let rapists off the hook.
In all of the examples above, what the McGill students see as “hate speech” is speech that is at least debatable—though I by no means agree with all of Professor Salzman’s claims—and should be debated.
Along with whatever woke classes McGill University has on tap, they should add to them a class of “free speech”, and one taught by someone like Geoffrey Stone, not one of these McGill students who sees all speech they don’t like as not only harmful, but worthy of censorship.
UPDATE: From Block Club Chicago (click on screenshot):
The action continued into Sunday with yoga, breakfast and organizing workshops. Students will remain there “indefinitely until we hear publicly” from Lee, CareNotCops organizers said in a tweet.
In a statement Monday, organizers said they would remain on the block until Lee agrees to meet their demands.
They’re going to be waiting a LONG time. . . . .
For some time now, I’ve been anxious about my University becoming more and more woke. That’s clearly happening to the student population, and there are signs it’s affecting some of the administration as well. This would break my heart, but I think the tide is unstoppable. I only hope that the highest administrators—the President and the Provost—will hold the line.
The latest instantiation of student wokeness, as reported by the Chicago Tribune (click on screenshot below) is a set of two demonstrations last Saturday for defunding and abolishing the campus police, a large and well trained set of men and women who help keep us safe on the South Side. I’ve met quite a few of them, and have found them professional and efficient. But then again, I’m not a person of color, for a lot of the protestors claim that the police are racist. As far as I know, while there may have been an occasional case of “profiling”, I haven’t seen evidence to buttress that strong claim. The case that’s always cited (see below) holds no water.
And of course it would be madness to abolish, much less disarm, the U of C campus cops. We are firmly ensconced in the South Side, not a particularly safe area, and there are lots of shootings there. If the campus cops were to go, I doubt that many parents would want to send their kids here, and the University knows that.
Nevertheless, the students demonstrated Saturday in front of the Provost’s house (Ka Yee Lee, a female chemist ofAsian descent), as well as of President Bob Zimmer’s house at the University, blocking traffic in both places. I was a bit upset at the demonstration at Zimmer’s, as he’s not been well: he had a brain tumor removed and is stepping down as President at the end of the upcoming academic year.
But here’s the Tribune report:
Here are the students’ demands and indictments from the Trib piece:
Those rallying demanded school leaders disclose the university’s police budget — and then cut it in half. The student group additionally wants the university to disband its police force by 2022 and to redistribute the remaining funding to support students of color and ethnic studies.
. . . Members of student groups UChicago United and Care Not Cops as well as the activist organizations Black Lives Matter Chicago and Good Kids Mad City were at the protest.
“I’m angry because the University of Chicago, you know, the one that loves buzzwords like diversity and inclusion, that puts Black kids on their postcards, is the same university that owns and operates one of the largest private police forces in the country,” Wright said.
The crowd shouted back, “That ain’t right.”
The students always cite this incident with Charles Thomas as the reason cops should be disarmed/defunded:
Speakers pointed to the 2018 shooting of fourth-year student Charles Thomas as an example of school police failing to protect the community. Thomas was in the midst of a mental health crisis in the 5300 block of South Kimbark Avenue when a university officer fired a shot and wounded his shoulder as Thomas advanced with a stake in his hand, officials have said.
Alicia Hurtado, another student organizer, said university police also racially profiled Black students and neighbors and upheld what she said was the university’s history of gentrifying Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods.
Thomas, a fourth-year student with mental problems, may have had a psychotic break: he went berserk and began smashing car windows with an iron bar (not a wooden “stake”). When the cops confronted him (you can see the video at my post on the incident), he brandished the bar and started running at the cops, whereupon they shot him in the shoulder, which I think was a deliberate disabling but not life-threatening shot. From the student newspaper:
Bodycam and dashboard footage released by the University shows officers confronting Thomas. As he walks toward them, an officer can be heard shouting, “Put down the weapon!” while Thomas shouts “What the fuck do you want?” and “Fuck you.” About a minute after the officers arrived on the scene, Thomas begins running rapidly toward the individual wearing the body camera, who commanded Thomas again to drop the weapon, and then fired a single shot into his shoulder.”
The cops had every right to disable Thomas, who would have bashed their brains in. Yet this is taken as an example of police “failing to protect the community” and of the University “not addressing mental health adequately”—as if one could prevent all students from having breakdowns. In fact, since the incident Thomas has had other episodes and is now in Cook County jail awaiting trial on felony charges. One can debate whether or not he belongs in jail, but that’s the call of the City of Chicago Police, not the University. What is the case is that without armed cops, Thomas might well have killed a policeman or two. Yet even now the students think the cops didn’t handle the situation appropriately. I disagree.
After Ka Lee (or someone) left the picketed house she lives in but drove off without talking to the protestors, they maturely made her a parking spot in both English and Chinese, labeling her a racist. This is shameful. I’ve never seen a scintilla of evidence that either Zimmer or Lee are racists (to me they seem quite antiracist), and the bandying about of “racist” in a situation like this is absolutely unconscionable. In fact, one could consider the Chinese writing racist since Lee speaks perfect English, and I have no idea if she speaks any dialects of Chinese.
But the good news: the University, which knows what would happen if the campus police force were to be cut in half or disappear, simply said “nope” to the demonstrators:
When asked for comment, a university spokesman referred to an Aug. 12 message from President Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee, who said they believe it’s necessary to examine public safety and how policing can be improved.
The message also said, “The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) provides a vital service in helping to keep safe and support our campus and surrounding communities — a mission that the University has undertaken with the encouragement of community leaders and in accordance with Chicago City Ordinance. That role will continue.”
And so the students can keep griping, but it’s futile, as nobody running this University who’s in their right mind would bow to the protestors’ demands.
The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.
Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.
The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest. It finds its complement, too, in the obligation of the university to provide a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of public issues.
There is one exception to this: the University can officially weigh in on an issue that endangers its own mission as an educational institution.
These two reports are among the five seen by the University of Chicago as “faculty reports and policies that have guided the University’s approach to free expression and open discourse over the years and to this day.”
Further, the University, when appealing to prospective students and scholars, sells these foundational principles as something that sets our University apart from others: untrammeled free expression (see here). The principles of free expression are highlighted in this video intended, I think, to lure students and scholars here:
I had hoped that the faculty and administration would hold the line on all the principles, but especially the two principles above. In truth, free speech is still viable here—at least temporarily. But now various statements issue constantly from the administration that align with political movements and ideologies, often involving assertions about race that are clearly ideological and political rather than purely moral. It looks as if the Kalven Report will soon be in tatters—if any administrator even remembers its purpose and dictates.
Although the University remained silent during the McCarthy-era red-baiting, and during the Vietnam war, it is no longer silent about things like structural racism, critical race theory, and so on. Indeed, though I agree with virtually every political statement the University is making on these issues, that is not the point: the point is that, qua the Kalven report, the University should not be making these statements at all as official policy. For official policy creates a climate that brooks no dissent, and that is precisely what both the free-speech policy and the Kalven report were designed to prevent. Remember its words?
There is no mechanism by which [the University community] can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives.
Well, the freedom of dissent is no longer so full, as the University has made assertions that brook no dissent. Our only alternative is to agree to jump and ask only, “how high?”
In contrast, the wokeness of students here is taken for granted: it’s a one-way ratchet to authoritarianism that will also destroy the “founding principles.”
To wit: the students are demanding the defunding and eventual disbanding of the University of Chicago Police Department, a large organization that patrols not just the campus, but a wide swath of the South Side, from 35th Street to 63rd Street. I’ve interacted with them quite a bit (often without them knowing I’m on the faculty, though they can see I’m white), and have found them polite, professional, and efficient. (This morning I saw one officer return to Botany Pond a stray turtle who had wandered several blocks away, doomed to expire in the heat.)
Criticism of the UC Police began in earnest in 2018, although there had been sporadic complaints of police racism that I don’t know much about. But in April of 2018, the campus police got a report of a man acting erratically off campus, bashing in cars with a rod and doing other damage. Responding to the call, the police were charged by the man, who wielded the metal bar as a weapon. They warned him to drop it, and, as he continued charging them , they shot him in the shoulder.
The offender turned out to be a mentally ill student, Charles Thomas (my reports here and here), who has since been in and out of jail and is now incarcerated for violating parole. But the shooting upset the student body— though, as I said, the cops really didn’t have a choice if they didn’t want their heads bashed in—and they shot him in the shoulder. Note, they didn’t try to kill him—these are not, after all, Minneapolis police. There were calls for mental health care to be improved on campus (it was), and, inevitably, for the defunding and disbanding of our police department. Here’s the report from the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, about the student sit-in in at campus police headquarters on June 12 (I’d missed the event). Click on the screenshot to read:
100 students began sitting in inside the police station, and, acting professionally, the police let them in, but, as business hours ended, refused to let anyone else in, though they could leave. Bathroom facilities were locked, as they are normally after hours, and delivery pizza, also ordered after hours, wasn’t allowed in, either. Forty students stuck it out for the night. They could have been arrested for trespassing, but the police wisely decided to let them be.
What did the protestors want? This:
Their demands were “defund,” “disarm,” “disclose,” and “disband”: for the University to reduce the UCPD budget by at least 50 percent for the 2020-21 school year; entirely disarm the police force; make the organization’s budget from the past 20 years and all future years public; and dissolve the force altogether by 2022.
Protest signs (photo from the Chicago Maroon by Yiwen Lu):
I’ve read in other places that by eliminating the UC Police (I believe we have about 50 officers), the protestors don’t intend to replace then with the Chicago city police, whom they dislike even more. It is not in fact clear what they want in terms of campus security.
What is clear is that if eliminate the police force, or even disarm it on the gun- and crime-ridden South Side of Chicago, the school will eventually vanish. What parent would send their child to the University of Chicago if there were no campus police?
The University Provost and Chief of Police even met with the protestors in person, but refused to immediately accede to their demands.
It is stuff like this that disheartens me even more than usual, for I am immensely proud of being associated with this university, and I’m saddened by watching it slowly—on the student, faculty, and administrative sides—put its foot on the greased slide of wokeness. That produces a one-way trip to 1984—36 years late. I’d love to hear what kind of campus security these students want when the cops are gone by 2020. But no worries: I’m 100% sure it won’t happen. The University administration is not as muddled as these students.
Now if only the administration would stop violating the dictates of the Kalven Report by taking official University positions on politics, I’d regain more confidence in my school.
This segment of a recent “The Simpsons” video was posted only a month ago, and has racked up over 1.1 million views. The writers have clearly kept their eye on what’s happening at Yale—and other colleges.
Nonie Darwish is an Egyptian-American who converted to Christianity from Islam, wrote several books criticizing Islam, its treatment of women and sharia law, and is the director of Former Muslims United. Given that her father was assassinated by the Israeli Defense Force for Islamic terrorism, you’d think she’d be violently anti-Israel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, as she is a strong supporter of Israel. Here’s the mission statement from her website:
While the radical leftists, from Obama to the universities to the dominant media deny that radical Islam is a threat to America and the West and abet the mass in-migration of hundreds of thousands of people who are hostile to us and our values, they aggressively shut out voices which are warning of the danger. We are truly in a David-versus-Goliath moment.
There are stark differences between Islamic and Western culture. Above all, Islamic Sharia law is utterly incompatible with our Constitution and Judeo-Christian values. We who understand this better than anyone, because we have lived on both sides and have chosen the West, need to be heard and read in the media, on the college campuses, in print and in the government.
That’s a bit strong for my taste (I don’t see Obama as a “radical leftist”), but hardly something that should get people shouting. But if you think that, you’d be wrong, for today’s students don’t require much provocation to start rampaging.
Here are a few of Darwish’s quotes and statements about her from Wikipedia (they are sourced):
“After 9/11 very few Americans of Arab and Muslim origin spoke out… Muslim groups in the U.S. try to silence us and intimidate American campuses who invite us to speak. I often tell Muslim students that Arab Americans who are speaking out against terrorism are not the problem, it’s the terrorists who are giving Islam a bad name. And what the West must do is ask the politically incorrect questions and we Americans of Arab and Muslim origin owe them honest answers.”
“Just because I am pro- Israel does not mean I am anti- Arab, its just that my culture is in desperate need for reformation which must come from within.”
Darwish believes Islam is an authoritarian ideology that is attempting to impose on the world the norms of seventh-century culture of the Arabian Peninsula. She writes that Islam is a “sinister force” that must be resisted and contained. She remarks that it is hard to “comprehend that an entire religion and its culture believes God orders the killing of unbelievers.” She claims that Islam and Sharia form a retrograde ideology that adds greatly to the world’s stock of misery.
She claims the Qur’an is a text that is “violent, incendiary, and disrespectful” and says that brutalization of women, the persecution of homosexuals, honor killings, the beheading of apostates and the stoning of adulterers come directly out of the Qur’an.
I’ve read a few of her talks and watched some videos: she seems like a conservative Christian who strongly opposes Islam as an ideology as well as a religion—mainly because of its oppression of gays and women as well as its corporal punishment of criminals. I haven’t seen her espouse any “bigotry” (true Islamophobia, or rathter “Muslimophobia”). Rather, she called for the extirpation of the religion, which of course her opponents—and they are many, especially on college campuses—mistake as calls for violence against Muslims. (The same wrongheaded accusation has been made against Ayaan Hirsi Ali.) You can say “religion must go” without saying “let’s kill all the believers,” but apparently that’s too subtle a distinction for Muslim apologists.
Darwish has spoken on (and been protested at) many college campuses. In the latest incident, following her invitation to speak last Tuesday to the Georgetown University College Republicans (co-sponsored by the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute), she was attacked for “hate speech” (which of course is not seen as “free speech”), and was demonized by the liberal campus magazine, The Georgetown Voice, as being “anti-Muslim.” Here’s are some of the views of author Ali Panjwani, a Georgetown student (my emphasis):
As a Muslim-American student studying in the country’s capital, it pains me deeply to hear this rhetoric surrounding Islam. It hurts me to hear the man who I must call my president go directly after my identity and the livelihood of my community. My religion that has made me who I am and drives my inner force is under attack—the faith that has instilled in me the virtues of compassion, service, and justice is being compromised. It is emotionally exhausting to wake up every morning and witness Islamophobia—a vicious challenge to my being—spreading like wildfire.
Institutions like Georgetown University play an important role in combating Islamophobia, especially in an increasingly heated political climate. Being a respected institution in the global sphere, Georgetown has the responsibility to denounce the Islamophobia of the current administration and provide a safe haven for Muslim and international students who are affected by its policy changes and hate speech. To my dismay, the Georgetown University College Republicans, the Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition, and the Georgetown Review are breaking from this responsibility of the university community to combat Islamophobia.
. . . On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the College Republicans are providing Nonie Darwish a platform to spew her hateful and violent views on Islam in an event titled, “Women in Sharia: A conversation with Nonie Darwish.”
That title sounds fairly innocuous, no? The fact that Mr. Panjwani can’t distinguish bigotry against Muslims from condemnation of Islam can also be seen in his demonization (and distortion) of the views of Asra Nomani, a friend of mine who is a practicing Muslim but who deplores the religion’s excesses and misogyny:
On Wednesday, March 1, the Georgetown Bi-Partisan Coalition and the Georgetown Review are providing a similar platform to Asra Nomani, who many know as the Muslim immigrant woman who voted for Trump. However, she is not just any Trump supporter who is female, Muslim, and an immigrant. She has a long history of statements and actions that have perpetuated the same Islamophobia as Darwish and Trump’s administration. Nomani argued for the religious and racial profiling of Muslims saying, “There is one common denominator defining those who’ve got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim …”
Finally, Panjwani solemnly tells us that what Nomani and Darwish purvey cannot be considered free speech, but “hate speech,” which he says is different and should be censured (and the speakers censored). This kind of softheaded and unthinking rhetoric is getting tiresome (my emphasis):
My critique of these speakers is not an effort to silence free speech. Muslim communities recognize the importance of free speech in all situations. However, [JAC: There’s that inevitable “however”!] these speakers are not exercising free speech, they are exercising hate speech, a speech of the kind that no organization, especially at Georgetown, should endorse or give a platform to. It is also not enough to make a statement dissociating with the views of these speakers. How are we going to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, which these groups at Georgetown claim to do, by emboldening individuals who frankly spread false information and promote hatred and even in some cases, incite violence? The invitation to these speakers should be rescinded by these groups because their hate speech is not in line with the Jesuit values of Georgetown and is not constructive. These individuals allow no space for dialogue and are unyielding in their views that the religion of Islam is a problem. Their being invited to speak on this campus is unequivocally irresponsible, rationally unjustifiable and dangerous to the safety of the already-vulnerable Muslim community I belong to—a community that is a backbone to this institution and our country.
Well, couldn’t it be true that Islam really is a problem, just as many religions have been? No, we can’t say that, and anybody who does should be censored and their speaking invitations revoked.
A prominent anti-Islam author had to be protected by security during a planned speech at Georgetown University Tuesday night when pro-Muslim activists threatened her.
Nonie Darwish was entered and departed the event with guards and faced protesters shouting at her in hopes of causing a scene, said organizers.
Outside the event, activists at the Catholic university held a pro-Muslim demonstration and handed out a flyer that accused her of anti-Muslim hate.
. . . Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute President Michelle Easton told Secrets, “This is a woman who spent 30 years living under Sharia law in Cairo and Gaza before finally escaping to America—only for some to attempt to oppress and silence her in the ‘land of the free.’ Why should ANY ideology be above criticism? Nonie has fatwas on her head in over 50 countries— countries that, if Nonie were to set foot, have an Islamic duty (under Sharia law) to imprison and behead Nonie. Why should her criticism of sharia law and the Islamic values that have endangered her very life be met with protests? Why are we not allowed to question and criticize Islam?”
Why indeed? Well, we know the answer: Islam is a religion espoused by “people of color”, and thereby gets a free pass for its misogyny, homophobia, and calls for murder of apostates and infidels. But nobody dares point this out.
At least the protests at Georgetown were free from violence, but probably only because security guards were there. And yes, those protests constitute free speech. But how judicious is it to demonize a former Muslim, one whose dad was assassinated by the IDF, and who is living under a fatwa in Egypt so that can never set foot in her home country without fear of being murdered. I don’t know what kind of world would demonize someone living under a fatwa as an “Islamophobe”.
Darwish was also the subject of protests at Berkeley that accused her of Islamophobia. If you think they’re justified, you can read the entire text of her Berkeley talk here. The speech, though passionate, is against the ideology of Islam, not against Muslims. I suspect most readers would agree with most of what Darwish said, including her final paragraphs below. Despite that, she was shouted down and forced to terminate her talk.
Well, nothing new here; I’m just reporting these things as they come in, and call your attention to Darwish’s ending, in which she properly decries the Western Left’s silence on the illiberalism of Islam:
If Islam is a religion of peace then we must demand better from our religious leaders. We’ve had it with the self-anointed intolerant Ayatollahs, Mullahs and Sheikhs who act like Allah and silence free speech by issuing fatwas of death.
Western feminists must embrace a single standard for both the West and Muslim society. Feminists and everyone else concerned with human freedom must support Muslim dissidents, both male and female, who are risking their lives in a battle for women’s rights under Islam.
I ask the support of the American left. You should be our natural allies because we are the reformers and defenders of freedoms in the Middle East.
Charles Murray is a conservative political scientist and author, perhaps most famous for his book The Bell Curve, co-written with Richard Herrnstein. I confess that I haven’t read it, but I’ve certainly read enough to about it to know that Murray and Herrnstein’s hereditarian views of IQ have been strongly attacked by some other scholars, largely on the Left. Further, from what I’ve read of the criticism from people I respect, the book seems misguided and plagued with misconceptions about genetics (this, of course, is hearsay). But Murray has written many other books and articles about other matters, and in respectable venues like the New York Times and The New Republic.
Yesterday afternoon, Murray was scheduled to speak at Vermont’s traditionally liberal Middlebury College; he was invited by the campus chapter of the American Enterprise Institute Club. That, of course, got up the nose of many, and, according to the school newspaper, over 450 alumni protested, considering Murray’s appearance at the liberal school as “immoral and unethical.” A section of their letter gives the recurrent, tiresome, and incorrect claim that “free speech” doesn’t include “hate speech”. When you read sentences like the first one below, you know that you’re about to see a justification for censorship (my emphases):
This is not an issue of freedom of speech. We think it is necessary to allow a diverse range of perspectives to be voiced at Middlebury. In college, we learned through thoughtful, compassionate and often difficult discussions inside the classroom and out — conversations in which our beliefs were questioned and our assumptions challenged. We fully support the core liberal arts principle that contact with other intellectual viewpoints and life experiences than one’s own is integral to a beneficial education. [JAC: when you see this, you know a “but” will follow immediately.]
However, in this case we find the principle does not apply, due to not only the nature, but also the quality, of Dr. Murray’s scholarship. He paints arguments for the biological and intellectual superiority of white men with a thin veneer of quantitative rhetoric and academic authority.
. . . We, the undersigned, want to make clear to Old Chapel that the decision to bring Dr. Murray to campus is unacceptable and unethical. It is a decision that directly endangers members of the community and stains Middlebury’s reputation by jeopardizing the institution’s claims to intellectual rigor and compassionate inclusivity.
Needless to say, Murray’s talk didn’t go as planned. A protesting mob showed up and began interrupting Murray the moment he started to speak (see accounts here and here):
As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison. Students broke into chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go,” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!”
Murray, wearing a suit and tie, stood at the lectern and waited to be heard. The shouts continued:
“Your message is hatred; we cannot tolerate it!”
“Charles Murray, go away; Middlebury says no way!”
After about 25 minutes, and when it became clear the chants would not abate, faculty came onstage and announced plans to move the lecture to a different location. The administrators said Murray’s speech would be live-streamed so he could speak without interruption. Questions for Murray to answer could be submitted using a Twitter hashtag, they said.
But worse things happened after the talk was over, and these were confirmed by College officials:
Professor Allison Stanger was assaulted and her neck was injured when someone pulled her hair as she tried to shield Murray from the 20 or 30 people who attacked the duo outside the McCullough Student Center, said Bill Burger, a vice president of communications at Middlebury College.
Burger said people in the crowd, made up of students and “outside agitators,” wore masks as they screamed at Murray
. . . . About half an hour after the event ended, Burger said, the two, accompanied by a college administrator and two public safety officers, tried to leave the building via a back entrance and hurry to a car. But protesters had surrounded various entrances and swarmed to the fleeing Murray and Stanger as they exited, he said.
Once Murray and Stanger were inside the car — and after Stanger had been assaulted — the crowd began jumping on the hood and banging on the windows, according to Burger. The driver tried to inch out of the parking space but the angry crowd surrounded the vehicle and tried to keep it from leaving.
Burger said someone threw a stop sign attached to a heavy cement base in front of the car. It finally got free of the crowd and then left campus..
Talk about “endangering members of the community”! Murray would have offered words, not fists or metal objects, and had the mob left him alone, the only thing injured would have been some students’ feelings.
Those who consider words to be violence might ponder the actual violence that their mob behavior inspired: violence that was immediate, deliberate, and intended. Middlebury College and its students should be ashamed of themselves. Regardless of how odious Murray’s views were, the best way to deal with them is let him speak, ask him questions, or stage peaceful, non-disruptive protests or counterspeeches.
When did college students become so ignorant and twisted?
I read the twice-weekly University of Chicago student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, and have noticed over the past few years a clear movement towards identity politics and Regressive Leftism. There is pretty much a unanimity of opinion among its writers, with little attempt to present alternative viewpoints, and many of the op-ed pieces are written by privileged students bewailing their marginalization. I think this reflects the views, by and large, of the student body itself.
Case in point: the headline piece in Friday’s issue, which described a discussion between Robert Costa of the Washington Post and Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager (until June of last year) of Donald Trump. Highlighting Lewandowski, it was sponsored by the University’s nonpartisan Institute of Politics (IOP), and was held at the Quadrangle Club, the University’s faculty club that has small rooms for talks. The press wasn’t invited, but that’s protocol for all IOP talks.
The students protested, as is their right, gathering across the street, chanting, and holding signs. It’s the nature of their protest that I want to discuss here.
First, there’s the photo accompanying the article; here’s the caption from the paper:
Outside the Quad Club on Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of protestors gathered where Donald Tump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was giving a talk. Many of the demonstrators were associated with campus organizations including UofC Resists, Fascism Now, and Graduate Students United. In this picture, a child takes aim at a piñata effigy of Donald Trump that was roped over a tree.
That image disturbs me, for it explicitly endorses violence, and the hitting is being done by a child, presumably with the approbation of the crowd. Was the kid urged to do it? Most likely, since somebody had the idea of bringing a Trump piñata. And, of course, it was not Trump who was speaking across the street. The whole scenario is disturbingly reminiscent of a lynching.
As I said, I have no beef with peaceful protests that don’t interrupt the speaker, but in this case the demonstrators couldn’t restrict themselves to just having a protest across the street. As The Maroon reported:
Seven students entered the event with concealed posters, and were asked to leave after holding up the signs minutes into the talk. Third-year Ryn Seidewitz held a pink poster that read “Hate Speech ≠ Free Speech,” and was asked to leave after holding up the sign. After she came out, she spoke to the crowd, saying that the people in the event could hear the protesters outside. “They keep patting themselves on the back for how great they are at free and open discourse, but they just kicked us out of the meeting,” she said.
Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, contest and condemn the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.
And of course there’s her poster: “Hate Speech ≠ Free Speech,” which is not only wrong (even true hate speech is free speech so long as it’s not intended to incite immediate violence), but erroneous, for, according to the paper’s report, Lewandowski didn’t emit anything close to “hate speech.” (That term, of course, really means “speech with which I disagree.”) Finally, it disturbs me that students so explicitly endorse violating the First Amendment.
Seidewitz went on:
“This kind of event makes it clear where the University stands on Trump, and we wanted to show them that they can’t hide behind this idea of free and open discourse and neutrality, because in times like these there’s no such thing as neutrality,” Seidewitz told The Maroon.
Again we see a common misconception: a university’s providing a venue for a speaker does not imply endorsement of that speaker. And in times like these there is—and should be—such a thing as neutrality, at least on campuses. Regardless of the personal feelings of faculty and the administration, they simply cannot say, “We will host only speakers who endorse a liberal and progressive viewpoint.”
Seidewitz isn’t the only student with misconceptions about freedom of expression. Here are two more:
Other students also expressed frustration with the IOP’s platform of nonpartisan neutrality.
“It’s time that the University get rid of its neutral bullshit dedication to free speech and neutrality, when in reality there’s nothing neutral about inviting a speaker to your campus that represents hate,” second-year Mary Blair said.
“It’s a dangerous normalization of Trump and his ideas to extend an official platform to someone like this,” first-year Philip O’Sullivan said.
Remember that while Lewandowski was indeed Trump’s campaign manager, and is pretty much a diehard conservative, he is not Trump, and in fact was fired by Trump last year. As for what both students said, including the dismissal of free expression as a “neutral bullshit dedication to free speech and neutrality,” I have no words. This is the censorious attitude of young people that I often worry about, for these students will take those attitudes with them when they leave, and may someday be in a position to enforce them.
Finally, some of the views expressed in the peaceful part of the protest were pretty extreme, in line with the Left’s tendency to characterize all its opponents as Nazis and racists. As the paper reported:
The demonstrators chanted slogans including “No CPD [Chicago Police Department], no KKK, no fascist USA,” “Fuck Corey Lewandowski, fuck white supremacy, fuck the bourgeoisie,” and “Shame on U of C, sold out for publicity.”
Shortly after the event began, second-year JT Johnson encouraged the crowd to enter the building and stop the event. Demonstrators approached the entrance of the building en masse, but Chicago Police Department (CPD) and University of Chicago police blocked the doors.
That speaks for itself. Such signs may express opposition and rage, but do they accomplish anything? They are, for one thing, inaccurate (do they really want to do away with the CPD? Is Lewandowski a member of the almost-extinct KKK?), but they also express the kind of distortion that makes the demonstrators seem unhinged.
When a tactic proves politically successful for one group, others often adopt it. Students all over the US and UK, for instance, have taken a page from the extremist Muslim playbook, equating “I’m offended” with “I have been injured”—a justification for censoring others. And in Berkeley, the anarchists go further, threatening violence when they’re offended, like those Muslims who went on a rampage after the Danish cartoons were published.
What happened is that UCSD invited the Dalai Lama, a much beloved figure but to some, including the late Christopher Hitchens, a flawed one. All in all, though, I see him as fairly innocuous—one of those religious leaders who doesn’t do much damage. I do take issue with those who claim he’s pro-science—even though he wrote a book saying Buddhism was compatible with science—as he also accepts reincarnation and karma: numinous and unscientific beliefs.
But the mainland Chinese see things differently. What happened to Tibet, of course, was that the People’s Republic of China annexed that land in 1951, and, after an unsuccessful revolt, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he resides with his followers. Since then, the Chinese have waged a relentless campaign to de-Tibetanize the country, pouring Han Chinese settlers into it, and engaging in human rights violations, including, according to an Amnesty International report, executions, tortures, extrajudicial killings. sterilization, and forced abortions, as well as the closing of monasteries. When I visited Tibet about 14 years ago, the monks all beseeched me on the sly for pictures of the Dalai Lama, which are illegal. (One English woman was even assaulted by Chinese soldiers for wearing a Sergeant Bilko tee shirt, since Phil Silvers, who played the sergeant, supposedly resembled the Dalai Lama.) The old Tibet and its people are rapidly disappearing.
This anti-Tibetan animus was further driven home to me when a young professor who came from mainland China, but had a job in the U.S., went on a rant to me about the Dalai Lama, asking me if I realized that he “drank human blood from a skull.” Of course young Chinese are taught that the Dalai Lama is a figure of divisiveness and rebellion. and he’s called a “terrorist”, so I eventually understood.
Now pre-Chinese Tibet wasn’t perfect by a long shot: it had the remnants of a feudal system, only a step from slavery, and many people were mistreated. But one can’t say that it’s palpably better now, especially for the Tibetans, who are slowly being driven to extinction by the Chinese, and are forcibly denied many of their traditional religious perquisities.
Anyway, UCSD’s invitation to the Dalai Lama angered the university’s Chinese students, who said he was an inappropriate speaker because he was an oppressor, because he was divisive, and because his invitation showed a “lack of respect” to Chinese students. Notably, his choice was said to show an “ethnic secessionism” equivalent to Trump’s xenophobia, an anti-egalitarianism, and a lack of cultural sensitivity to Chinese students. (The students’ objections are detailed in the article.) What was surprising was the students’ and alumni’s use of social justice rhetoric:
In a letter addressed to the university’s chancellor, the UCSD Shanghai Alumni Group used similar rhetoric, invoking “diversity” to justify its opposition.
As Chinese alumni, we are proud to be part of the growing UC community because of its diversity and inclusiveness. When addressing such a diverse community, there is a greater responsibility to spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. If Tenzin Gyatso expresses his political views under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.
At UCSD, the Chinese-student opposition to the invitation came instantly. Just hours after the announcement, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) issued a lengthy, Chinese-language note on WeChat saying it had communicated with the Chinese consulate about the matter.
UCSD is a place for students to cultivate their minds and enrich their knowledge. Currently, the various actions undertaken by the university have contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university is built. These actions have also dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students and scholars. If the university insists on acting unilaterally and inviting the Dalai Lama to give a speech at the graduation ceremony, our association vows to take further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior. Specific details of these measures will be outlined in our future statements.
We don’t know what these “further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior” will be; I hope they’ll consist of peaceful protests. In fact, I’m pretty sure they will be.
Of course nobody knows what the Dalai Lama would actually say in his address, but I strongly suspect he’d stay away from matters politic. What strikes me about this protest is that the Chinese students who object come from a country that’s dedicated to wiping out a cultural minority. How dare they protest the Dalai Lama on grounds of promoting “cultural diversity” and “respect”? And it’s also striking that they’ve adopted the language of social justice warriors. As the article reports:
“If there were an objection to the Dalai Lama speaking on campus 10 years ago, you would not have seen the objection from Chinese students being framed within the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion,” says professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom, who researches modern Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine. “There is a borrowing of rhetorical strategies.”
Dr. Tsering Topgyal, a Tibetan native who received his master’s degree at UCSD and now lectures at the UK’s University of Birmingham, called diversity “an expedient notion to latch onto given its importance in both rhetoric and substance in the US and academia.” But he questions its appropriateness as a framing device for this specific grievance:
“If the Chinese students wish to exploit diversity, they would come across as more convincing if they were more committed and supportive of this principle back home. If they are so committed to diversity, it behooves them to be more accepting of the Dalai Lama’s talk, especially since I am sure that many of the non-Chinese student community would wish to hear the Dalai Lama.”
Let’s face it: these Chinese students are neither oppressed nor victims. If anybody is, it’s the Tibetans. How ironic, then, that the Chinese use the language of victimhood in their protests. Of course they have every right to protest, but they really should absorb a bit more history.
A caveat first: this article comes from The Daily Mail, and I haven’t been able to verify it from other news sources. On the other hand, I have verified the students’ demands to which it refers (see below). Further, the Mail article gives quotes from the likes of Sir Roger Scruton, which would have to have been fabricated by the paper. Finally, you’re not going to see many pieces like this published on progressive websites or even in the “mainstream” press. So make of it what you will.
What was reported is that some students at the prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London have demanded that the works of many famous philosophers be dropped from the curriculum—or looked at more critically—because they are white. That apparently means that those philosophers are exponents of colonialism. From the Mail:
. . . .students at a University of London college are demanding that such seminal figures as Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell should be largely dropped from the curriculum simply because they are white.
These may be the names that underpin civilisation, yet the student union at the world-renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is insisting that when studying philosophy ‘the majority of philosophers on our courses’ should be from Africa and Asia.
The students say it is in order to ‘decolonise’ the ‘white institution’ that is their college.
Entitled ‘Decolonising SOAS: Confronting The White Institution’, the union’s statement of ‘educational priorities’ warns ‘white philosophers’ should be studied only ‘if required’, and even then their work should be taught solely from ‘a critical standpoint’: ‘For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so-called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.’
And yes, that statement does exist; it’s at the link below and this is a real excerpt (my emphasis in the text):
Decolonising SOAS is a campaign that aims to address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university. We believe that SOAS should take a lead on such questions given its unique history within British colonialism. In light of the centenary and SOAS’ aims of curating a vision for itself for the next 100 years, this conversation is pivotal for its future direction.
Our aims are a continuation of the campaign last year:
To hold events that will engage in a wider discussion about expressions of racial and economic inequality at the university, focussing on SOAS.
To address histories of erasure prevalent in the curriculum with a particular focus on SOAS’ colonial origins and present alternative ways of knowing.
To interrogate SOAS’ self-image as progressive and diverse.
To use the centenary year as a point of intervention to discuss how the university must move forward and demand that we, as students of colour, are involved in the curriculum review process.
To review 10 first year courses, working with academics to discuss points of revamp, reform and in some cases overhaul.
To make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or it’s [sic] diaspora. SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).
If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.
Now they don’t give any names of white philosophers, and of course there is some justification (point 6) for including a big dollop of Asian and African philosophers (Confucius comes to mind) given that the school deals with Oriental and African studies. What’s not clear is the nature of the courses that are taught: are they general philosophy courses, for instance?
What I object to is that special criticism must be leveled at white philosophers instead of philosophers of color, as well as the assumption that what white philosophers say must always be colored by colonialism. After all, some philosophy must surely be pigmentation-free, not all philosophers were part of the Enlightenment (e.g., the ancient Greeks), and a big part of philosophy deals with questions bearing on all humans, including ethics.
Finally, these are demands, not school policy, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be adopted.
There’s been some pushback, as reported by the Mail (again, I haven’t found these quotes independently):
Last night philosopher Sir Roger Scruton lambasted the union’s demand, saying: ‘This suggests ignorance and a determination not to overcome that ignorance. You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy. If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.’
The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University Sir Anthony Seldon said: ‘There is a real danger political correctness is getting out of control. We need to understand the world as it was and not to rewrite history as some might like it to have been.’
What we see here is that whiteness itself is taken to be a flaw, rather than particular views of white people. Are Peter Singer and John Rawls, for instance, polluted by colonialism? What bothers me the most is point 7, where the scrutiny of one’s views must be severe in inverse proportion to the darkness of their skin. In philosophy courses it is, of course, essential to have a critical attitude, but is it not possible to evaluate the value of philosophical views without considering the ethnicity of those who propose them? And are African and Asian philosophers not going to be taught “from a critical standpoint”?