Remember when the latest threat to American academia was Muslim outrage, denying speaking engagements to speakers who didn’t have nice things to say about Islam? That was so 2014. Last year Brandeis University was going to grant Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate but uptight students who thought she was too anti-Muslim denied her. Then a few months or so later, more uptight students at the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois were bullied by their own to withdraw a viewing of the movie, Honor Diaries. Enter 2015 and a whole new breed of students have joined forces with the overly sensitive Muslims.
The first I started paying any attention to Social Justice Warriors on college campuses was the case of Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize-winning British biochemist. Although not from an American or professor in an American University, the case to me, was a sign of things to come for universities everywhere. Here’s how I first heard about it: Mr. Hunt told some students that women shouldn’t be in the lab because they distract the men and make the men fall in love with them. Allegedly, Mr. Hunt said female scientists are always falling in love and crying about it. Sounds misogynistic, yes? Sounds like quite the thing to say right out in public, eh? Right out there at a luncheon in Korea with social media at the ready for everyone to capture, it appeared this discoverer of cyclin’s part in cell cycle regulation was all along not very female friendly. Well, it turns out, it was a joke that unless you knew something about him, you’d think the worst.
Tim Hunt met his wife in a science lab. The joke was directed towards his own relationship and probably backfired because his audience (and the witch hunters that came after) didn’t know this. Mr. Hunt is actually quite well known for encouraging women to enter the field of science. But that didn’t, and hasn’t yet, stopped the TwitterStorm of incorrect information. His case is a study on what happens when you don’t have all the facts.
I highly recommend reading Jon Ronson’s, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”. Especially before you drive someone out of a job, home, town or carry a pitchfork to their front door.
Anyhow, at the beginning of this week, I was painfully trying to ignore the football team at the University of Missouri (not a sports fan). You see, the news feeds and Twitter were filling up with them not wanting to play until blah-blah demands were met. As I said, I wasn’t paying attention. Then almost immediately, Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri, stepped down. Whaaaaaa? How does this happen? I know sports brings in a lot of money to a University but sheesh. Made me wonder, what if the honors math students decided not to algebra until their list of demands were met.
The week before, Yale students were getting rowdy over a memo regarding the regulation of Halloween costumes that escalated into a complaint that the school’s administration wasn’t doing enough to fight racism on campus. There were even complaints of graffiti swastikas. Which brings me back to the University of Missouri.
The football team was protesting, threatening to sit out a game, because of allegations of racism on campus. And that the school’s administration wasn’t doing enough about it. There was a claim that there was human shit smeared on a bathroom wall, smeared into a swastika – the poopswastika or swasticaca, have your choice. The student body president, Payton Head, a black man, claimed a truck drove by and an occupant yelled a racial slur at him. And then upped the ante to claim the KKK had a presence on campus. And yet, there is absolutely no evidence for any of these claims. Even if some truck drove by with racist occupants, how does that incident of a passerby turn into entrenched racism with roots on campus? And that poopswastica? No evidence. In the age of cameras on everyone’s cell phones that every college kid has, you mean to tell me no one took a shot? As for the KKK, he made it up! Payton Head admitted to doing so and apologized later. Yet, it all still translated into Tim Wolfe stepping down and later, another professor resigning for the threats he received for the offense of wanting to hold a regularly scheduled exam while students protested.
Now I haven’t been a student at university for over twenty-five years. And I didn’t attend U of M or Yale so I don’t know if there is racism on these campuses. But I do know what these two protests have in common: No Evidence of their complaints. And evidence is very big with me. And secondly, there’s this demand for equality over merit. Just look at the demands of the protesters at U of M. See that #4? They’re demanding classes for racial awareness and inclusion. Who’s going to pay for that? Bet these students are Bernie Sanders fans. And who’s going to teach it? Will a white person be allowed? Probably not, it says it would be overseen by a board of color. And the other demands talk about people of color being preferred. I guess based on Demand #1 which requires Tim Wolfe to admit his “White Privilege”, whitey will be gradually removed from administration.
Remember when the Civil Rights movement was about inclusion? The black community was tired of being separated and unequal. The black community took great strides and did a lot of work and how fantastic that it paid off and they are able to attend the same schools as my children, work hand and hand with me and drink out of the same public drinking fountain. I’m not saying racism doesn’t still exist. It just isn’t legal any more. And you can’t legislate someone our of a bad belief so we must continue to have conversations and educate. And no idea should be off the table. And no race should be considered better than another just because of that race. But if these rounds of campus uprisings are any indication, we’re headed in the opposite direction of inclusion.
Consider that the evening of November 11th, the whites in attendance of the protest were asked to leave so the black students could have their own safe spaces. Safe spaces? This is the concept that students should be free from having to confront any ideas that might be seen as offensive or hurtful. Seriously, why are these people attending a university? This is what the university is for. For you to be challenged and take risks and experiment. Not to be secluded, but to have yourself challenged.
Notice how the demands, reviewed above, talked about people of color making the decisions. Folks, we’re headed back to segregation. I don’t want this. And having children of my own about ten years from being students themselves, I gotta get involved in this. Plus, these are the future leaders of the world. We gotta correct this. And by all means, let it be through inclusive conversations. Not by who has the most power, who can shout louder, not by skin color. And remember, as Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz have said, “No idea is above scrutiny, no people are below dignity.” That’s not a safe space. That’s engaging.
A final thought. Socrates died for the right to inquire and practice free speech, even from death row. Plato went on to create a university with the philosophy of Socrates as it’s guide. And Thomas Jefferson set up the American University for the purpose of everyone to come and have the ability to engage in studies, free from intellectual harassment, in favor of free inquiry. At our current rate of regress, it might just end up that those in charge will set the curriculum, free from free inquiry so that no one gets their feelings hurt. It appears that’s exactly what the University of Missouri protesters want with their list of demands.
Which reminds me, there’s a definition for people like this: The Regressive Left. Also a term coined by Maajid Nawaz. You’ll be hearing a lot more about them as this wave of intolerance, demand for segregation, safe spaces and easy to outrage continues. Stay tuned. It ain’t over. Poopswastika, I learn new words every day.
* Shortly after publication, a reader alerted me that the police report regarding the poopswastika had been revealed. Good to know there’s some evidence, finally. However, this does not justify a claim of rampant unleashed racism at U of Mizzou. For all we know, making a swastika out of shit could be meaning the swastika is shit. Regressive, you’d be in favor of that, yes? The bottom line is that it represents some nonsense, MTV Jackass behavior at best, not worthy of more than a janitorial towel. Not a coup, nor a justification of demands for more color. Merit is the key, people.