The best defense is a good offense, as the mantra goes, and this isn’t lost on Karen Gross, former president of Southern Vermont College and former senior policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Education. None of that defensive nonsense that hate speech isn’t free speech for her. At the Hechinger Report, “covering innovation and inequality in education,” Gross goes right for the throat.
“Crybullies,” “entitled whiner syndrome,” “spoiled sense of entitlement … ”
Since the start of the student protests on the University of Missouri campus that included a hunger strike by a graduate student and a sit-out by the Tigers’ football team, negative, demeaning and offensive comments have been hurled at student participants.
Well, it’s true that the characterizations haven’t been warm and fuzzy. That, of course, doesn’t mean they’re inaccurate. Just unpleasant.
It is as if folks assume that being enrolled in college or university is such a privilege that one parks one’s capacity to criticize at the door.
Is the concept of students speaking up and out, asking for racial equality and harmony or improvements to the institution they attend verboten today?
Cool use of German, immediately invoking the ghost of Nazism, Godwin’s Law notwithstanding.
Stated differently, it strikes me that what folks are saying is: be quiet and thankful and go about your own life. It is rude and disrespectful, the argument goes, to get angry and exercised when one is fortunate enough (privileged enough) to be a college student, earning a degree and pursuing a pathway to future economic success.
Whether her use of “it strikes me” is a deliberate set-up for the strawman characterization of the opposing position or her time in academia has merely empowered her to express arguments through her personal gestalt is unclear. But if the only question was student complaints versus those who disagree with student complaints, there wouldn’t be any question as to everyone’s right to express their thoughts. One speaks. The other speaks. The marketplace of ideas prevails. And we all go home to argue another day.
But, of course, her set-up is just a wee bit off-base. The problem isn’t students expressing their views, but seeking to silence opposing views, from demanding the firing of administrators, professors, housemasters, who don’t rub their tummies nicely enough, to defunding student newspapers that print heresy, thoughts with which they don’t agree. They silence speakers on campus, spit on those who listen to them, force disinvitations, physically threaten and block journalists, demand loyalty oaths to let journalists inside.
And then come The Demands, that departments be created, academics hired, mandatory coursework imposed, names, statues, removed from buildings and schools. Sorry about that expectation that your tuition would go to learning, you know, physics. Instead, it will be spent changing hundred year old signs and learning critical race theory, which will surely persuade a judge of something someday.
Gross isn’t the sort of college president-type to let specific facts stand in the way of her attack any more than gross generalizations bundled up in her strawman:
I have been equally disquieted by many of the comments surrounding the more recent defacing of portraits of African American faculty at Harvard Law School. Instead of outrage, some commentators have been downright calm while others have suggested that the minority students at the institution are responsible in an effort to create added evidence of racism at Harvard Law School. Seriously?
How’s that for a forceful rejoinder? She is so attuned to the culture of students that leaving her argument at “seriously” is more than enough to win the point. It’s hard to know whether she hates Harvard lawprof Randall Kennedy, but she surely won’t let a grown-up get in her way.
What drives someone to this depth of myopia? Gross lays her soul bare:
As a product of the 60’s – when many protests turned sadly into violence and were accompanied by arrests – I have been disappointed by the absence of student protests over the past decades. Students need to learn to fight for what is right and fair and just, most especially those in positions of privilege whether of their own making or inherited. The alternative – silence in the face of wrongs – has a long and horrific history, of which the Holocaust is but one example.
Until now, no one has ever made the comparison between micro-aggressions and the Holocaust. Then again, most “products of the 60s” gave up dropping acid long ago. Yet, I agree with her base concern that students need to fight for things that matter. But that doesn’t help much to discern things that matter. In the 60’s, the fight was over kids dying in ‘Nam and the streets of San Francisco. Today, it’s over somebody naming a building after Dr. Clyde A. Lynch because of his last name.
I refuse to believe that our campuses are such paradigms of racial, ethnic and gender equality that we can afford to just “go along” calmly and without dissent. Anyone who has been on any campus knows there are inequities of all sorts. Just look and listen to the students of all ages, races, ethnicities and genders.
Just calm down, and stop laughing at the gap of logical connection. Students are, and should be, free to express their dissent and disapproval with any damn thing they want. So what if their complaints are trivial, silly and flagrantly narcissistic. They’re entitled to whine all they want; we’ll make more.
Folks, in the recent peaceful incidents on America’s campuses, the students are not whining; they are not being disrespectful; they are not being selfish. No, they are doing precisely with what we need for them to do with their privilege: improve the world we all inhabit and promote a brighter and better world for their children and our grandchildren to inherit.
Or “fuck your white tears,” as they take to the
streets library of Dartmouth to silence through threats and intimidation to demand “justice” for their privilege denied. Gross’ attack was a sound tactical approach, except for one problematic detail. Facts. They’re a bitch. And I get to say that because I get free speech too.