It’s 2021, time to stop pandering to “oppressed” college students

Late last year, the “oppressed” students at $71,550-a-year Bryn Mawr College, a small women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, initiated a strike and demanded that their school “dismantle systemic oppression in the Bryn Mawr community” and end a crippling regime of “institutional racism, silencing, and instances of white supremacy.”

Unfortunately, how Bryn Mawr’s administration handled the strike bore too much resemblance to the behavior of so many other easily bullied schools.

Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy initially called for students to return to classes, citing “the significant financial sacrifices that students and families make for this education.”

“Education is our mission and our reason to exist,” Cassidy said. “The College made a legal and moral contract with its students, and their families, to offer classes. We have an obligation to honor this contract.” 

When reports multiplied of abusive behavior targeting students seeking to return to class during the strike, Cassidy spoke again: 

“Whatever the important goals of the strike and the demands, the College cannot countenance shaming, harassment, and intimidation of students or faculty to achieve them. The College cannot and will not tolerate a climate of fear where, amongst other examples, students are afraid to eat in the dining halls for fear of humiliation or for being seen as racist. The acts of intimidation that I am witnessing and that many students and faculty have described violate the [school’s] core principles. Students have a right to their education and should not have to endure shaming to attend class.”

Some emboldened faculty and students also publicly chastised the strike leaders.

A professor wrote on the student newspaper’s site: “The notion that because “You are a Black man, before anything else” and therefore must be in support of the strike or be socially ostracized and bullied by others online is the fundamental problem with the strike.” 

 A student wrote: “One can only hope the administration – which appears to have behaved with unusual grace and provided meaningful support – does not give in to this sad display of self-absorbed and (one is forced to say) childish acting out. Of competitive victimhood. I’m sure the students think they are justified, but with this behavior they have put themselves severely in the wrong. A university education is a privilege that they should get busy and try to deserve. They are lucky to be there and have no right to demand anything.”

The student was quickly slapped down by a classmate: “Racists have used the “lucky to be there” formulation for decades and centuries to suppress the aspirations and demands of people of color.”

The student newspaper tried to inject a little levity into the increasingly tense campus environment with a poll, “Which is your favorite breakfast potato:  Shredded potatoes, Sliced potatoes, Diced potatoes, Hash browns, Tater tots.” But the campus tumult continued.

So President Cassidy surrendered. Not only did she apologize for criticizing the strikers, she said she intended to fulfill a 24-page list of strike demands.

In doing so, Cassidy emulated other weak-kneed college administrators across the country who have caved to absurd demands by children and deserted their responsibilities as adults.

“We’re all gonna be here for only four, maybe five years, so nobody really gives a damn about Bryn Mawr in the long run,” a strike leader at a November 9th sit-in event said, according to a critical post written by the mother of a Bryn Mawr student. 

Of course, that’s the problem. College students are temporary occupants of classrooms and dorms, sort of like rental tenants. They don’t own the college’s past or future, even if they act like they do. 

In that vein, no serious academic committed to higher education, would embrace all the demands spelled out by the strike’s leaders (the group later changed its name to The Black Student Liberatory Coalition (BSLC) and invited students and faculty to “continue to disrupt the fucking order.”).

The Strike Collective’s demands, presumably to be paid for by the students’ already heavily burdened parents, are lengthy. Here are some. Read them and weep:

Trust the Collective, We got each other. 

DEMANDS

  • Search committees for new faculty hiring must include two students with voting power and a diversity representative committed to “executing an anti-racist framework.” (Teenagers voting on new faculty hires; PhDs would love that. Whats next – students voting on tenure?)
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for students, faculty, staff and administration, and the President must be mandatory. (Standard fare on all protest lists now, even there are serious questions about the effectiveness of such costly and time-consuming training)
  • A new position must be created to develop a process to remember protests, controversy, and dissension at Bryn Mawr. (To replace all the old racist statues with statues of today’s heroes who will be condemned 50 years from now?)
  • Bryn Mawr must create a “Reparations Fund” that would make a yearly allocation of funds and resources to Black and Indigenous students in the form of grants for summer programs, affinity groups, multicultural spaces, and individual expenses such as books, online courses, therapy, and any and all financial need beyond the scope of racial justice work. The fund should also be used to support local Black and Indigenous communities. (Ah yes, a call for reparations. A sure winner.)
  • All Open Letter writers to the student newspaper and Core Bryn Mawr Strike Collective organizers must be financially compensated in the form of a Radical Transformation Fellowship stipend at the value of $1000 by the end of Spring semester 2021. The Fellowship must continue to be instituted annually. (Of course, reward strike leaders who disrupted everybody else’s education.)
  • Bryn Mawr must pay all student employees who participated in the strike for all work hours missed during the strike. (God forbid kids who skipped their jobs to protest should lose any pay.)
  • Bryn Mawr must take an ACTIVE (emphasis in original) role in the abolition of Police and Penal institutions at local, regional and global scale and eliminate “investment in building harm reducing institutions.” (No more police, jails or prisons. Let ’em all out. That will make things better.)
  • Increase annual funding for the Black Cultural Center and residence from $10,000 to at least $100,000 to support college wide Center events, the food co-operative, aid request, and endeavours that celebrate the past, present, and future members of the Latin/x and African Diaspora in the Bryn Mawr “Community.” (Go ahead, raise student fees to pay for this. Our parents can afford it.)
  • The Strike Collective must be given immediate access to a comprehensive history (at minimum the past ten years) of Bryn Mawr’s investments with the intention of the Bryn Mawr Strike Collective (BSC) examining investments in all military and militarized institutions, including the U.S. Military, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and  military-contracting entities, including, but not limited to, the top five weapons manufacturers Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics.
  • Bryn Mawr must “divest from corporations wrecking the environment, utilizing sweatshops and/or child labor, perpetuating violent and racist prison industrial complex, acting as operator to imperialism and colonialism through involvement in the military industrial complex, and executing an apartheid systems.” (This is demanding that the managers of Bryn Mawr’s investments  limit their investment options and prioritize political leftism over profit that supports the college.)
  • Bryn Mawr must invest 15% of the interest of its endowment in local Black social justice efforts with special attention to grassroot organizations without any precondition or restriction being applied on the organizations. (Just give them money, no controls, no audits? No thank you.)
  • Bryn Mawr’s Campus Safety team, which deals with security, fire safety, and parking, must be replaced with community organizers and social workers. (The next time there’s a sexual assault, robbery or car theft on campus, call your social worker.)

As a growing list of colleges and universities cede to demands by aggressive student groups, there’s a growing need for adults in the room to stand up and resist actions that are undermining the quality of higher education.

Resistance shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of preening protesters. 

The mob is not the rest of us

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

When the demand went out from activists earlier this year to “Defund the police,” Portland, Oregon responded. 

In June, the City Council cut $15 million from the police budget, rewarding Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a key architect of the cut, with a big win. 

But when Hardesty pushed later for deeper cuts, she failed. At an Oct. 28 City Council Zoom call meeting, Hardesty proposed slashing the Portland Police Bureau’s budget by $18 million and shifting the money to other city services. When the proposal was tabled until a Nov. 5 meeting, Hardesty did not take it well. “I see it as a cowardly move to put this vote off until after the election,” she said. “I am a bit disgusted at the lack of courage on this council.”

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty

Citing 156 nights of street protests as a call for action, Hardesty said, “It is shocking that my City Council colleagues don’t know why people are taking to the streets.”

Hardesty either didn’t know, or didn’t want to acknowledge, that the people “taking to the streets” in this and other protests, and generating a lot of overwrought media coverage, don’t necessarily represent the community at large. Too many other politicians and members of the public often make the same mistake.

A recent Gallup poll, conducted as part of a newly launched Gallup Center on Black Voices, found that, in fact,  a large majority—81 percent—of black Americans want the same or increased levels of police presence in their neighborhoods. Just 19 percent of black Americans said they wanted the police to spend less time in their neighborhoods. This is similar to the 67% of all U.S. adults preferring the status quo, including 71% of White Americans.

Previously reported Gallup findings show the vast majority of Blacks believe police reform is needed, such as improving police relations with the communities they serve and preventing or punishing abusive police behavior, but that’s not the “Defund the police” message seen on protester’s placards.

“The “defund the police” movement is backed by progressive activists and politicians, who in turn are funded by nonprofit social-justice organizations and money from corporations shaken down by agitator groups…which pose as community organizations, though they have little popular representation or membership,” Charles Blain, the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute, asserted in City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “They champion the most adverse policies for the very citizens they claim to be fighting for.”

Linked to this is the pressure by some activists to eliminate the Transit Police that patrol TriMet’s transit system. 

Activists have aggressively criticized The Transit Police, alleging that say they focus on people of color and make members of marginalized communities fearful. In response, the Portland City Council has already voted to pull the Portland Police Bureau out of group on Dec. 31.

The problem is research presented to TriMet’s board of Directors indicates there’s actually a high level of support for the Transit Police among TriMet riders. According to a TriMet survey, a lack of transit police makes half of all riders feel unsafe. The percent is higher for Blacks (67%), non-English speakers (58%), and people of color (54%). Just 24% of those surveyed said the presence of police makes them feel unsafe.

According to the TriMet survey, 61% of riders think the greatest threat to their safety isn’t the Transit Police,  but other riders who are too aggressive, perceived to be abusing drugs, or having mental health issues.

Then there are the Parlance Police who want to ram their word usage down our throats.

One of the best examples of these people in action is activists (including much of the media) pushing the public to embrace use of the term Latinx as a gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label to describe a diverse Hispanic or Latino population.

The term has come into wide use by entertainment outlets, magazines, corporationslocal governments, and universities to describe the nation’s Hispanic population. Politicians, in particular, have hopped on the Latinx trend. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for example, marked Hispanic Heritage Month by promising in English and Spanish to champion Latinx families.  

But there’s a problem. Recent work by the respected Pew Research Center found that only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have even heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves.

“Progressives, Hispanics are not ‘Latinx.’ Stop trying to Anglicize our Spanish language,” Giancarlo Sopo, a public relations strategist, wrote in a USA Today Opinion column. “Hispanic Americans face plenty of challenges as it is. The last thing we need are English-speaking progressives ‘wokesplaining’ how to speak Spanish.”

Progressives argue that Latinx fixes the gendered nature of Spanish,” Sopo wrote.” It is true that nouns are gendered in Spanish, but it is unclear what, if any, problem this poses to Americans. Taken to its logical conclusion, a push for gender-neutral Spanish nouns requires dismantling a language spoken by 572 million people across the world.” 

“The term (Latinx) makes me sad and angry — it represents another anglicism of my native language and a feeble attempt at gender inclusivity,”  Laura Phillips-Alvarez, a student at the University of Maryland, wrote in an Opinion column for the school’s newspaper, The Diamondback. “…America is obsessed with labeling things, and “Latinx” is just another attempt at categorizing a group of people who are so frustratingly difficult to categorize.”

And while we’re on the subject of mobs, let’s not leave out the college student activists who pressure campus administrators and intimidate the rest of the student body.

Recent events at Bryn Mawr College, a small women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania that charges $71,550 a year to attend, are a prime example of a student mob takeover that effectively shut down the campus and led to administration capitulation. 

After two Philadelphia police officers fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man armed with a knife, on Oct. 25, a group of Bryn Mawr activists “embraced the dubious claim that their extremely progressive campuses were actually contaminated by a dangerous climate of racism that (quite literally) threatened the survival of black students,” the parent of one student’s parent wrote in Quillette, an online magazine. “In many cases, the ire was directed not only at administrators and non-ideologically-compliant faculty, but also at any student suspected of not supporting the strikers’ apocalyptic rhetoric, dramatic postures, and inflated demands. Anyone who sought to attend class, go to the dining hall, or even turn in schoolwork was denounced as a “scab,” and often faced acts of bullying.”

The leaders of Bryn Mawr’s student strike, which began on October 28th, said their goals were “to dismantle systemic oppression in the Bryn Mawr community,” and end the apparently crippling regime of “institutional racism, silencing, and instances of white supremacy.” Their demands, which by mid-November were a dense 24 pages long, included implementation of a “Reparations Fund” for grants to “Black and Indigenous students in the form of grants for summer programs, affinity groups, multicultural spaces, and individual expenses such as books, online courses, therapy, and any and all financial need beyond the scope of racial justice work.”

This would presumably mimic an action students at Georgetown University took in 2019 when they voted to increase their tuition(likely paid by their parents) to benefit descendants of enslaved Africans that the Jesuits who ran the school sold nearly two centuries ago to enhance its financial future.

On Nov. 16, Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy surrendered, sending an email to Bryn Mawr students, faculty, and staff saying, ” I am in agreement with the areas for action laid out in the November 12 demands. I have attached a response that details how specific aspects of demands will be fulfilled, including timelines and our commitments to invest the resources needed.” 

At the end of the strike, Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy said The Bryn Mawr Strike Collective’s actions ” have been brave and bold.”

On November 21st, Cassidy sent an email to parents saying the strike was over. The strike leaders, now named The Black Student Liberatory Coalition (BSLC), invited students and faculty to “continue to disrupt the fucking order.” 

According to the parent-written Quillette article, some professors have agreed to accept “strike work”—conversations with friends and family about racism, diary entries, time spent watching anti-racism documentaries, and so forth—in lieu of actual course work, even in math and science programs. 

Activists have every right to press their agenda, but decision makers, the general public and the media need to be more careful about assuming the activists speak for the rest of us.

 It’s like relying on Twitter to interpret the public mood. A small share of highly active Twitter users – most of whom are Democrats – produce the vast majority of tweets from U.S. adults, according to another Pew Research Center report. The most active 10% of users were responsible for 92% of tweets sent between November 2019 and September 2020 by U.S. adults with public-facing accounts. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents accounted for 69% of these highly active Twitter users, while Republicans and GOP leaners accounted for 26%. 

Mobs are like that. They don’t speak for everybody.

These are difficult and dangerous times. Pandering to the mob makes things worse.