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. 

And Democrats think Biden is the best they can offer?

Biden confused

In September 2019, at the third Democratic presidential debate, an ABC moderator asked Joe Biden:

“…as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden answered:

“Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education…make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

Good grief!

 

 

Reparations: paying for the sins of our fathers

Ezekiel 18:19-20

Ezekiel 18:20 / Jeremiah 31:30.

Ezekiel 18:20

On June 19, 2019, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on H.R. 40, a bill that would study the feasibility of and proposals for reparations for descendants of slaves in America.

That was also Juneteenth, a day celebrating the emancipation of black people and “reminding the country of its original debt, and the debts it has since accrued,” Vann R. Newkirk II wrote in The Atlantic.

What, exactly, do current and future generations of Americans owe for the long past transgressions of others against blacks? Have we all inherited our fathers’ guilt?

In Germany, the descendents of a Nazi sympathizer have been gtrappling with a similar question.

Acknowledging their father’s anti-Semitism, his Nazi sympathies and the abuses that took place at a business he owned in Germany during the Nazi era (that is now a multi-billion dollar holding company), Albert Reimann Jr’s children  concluded they needed to make amends.

The New York Times recently reported that the Reimann children are donating to institutions that assist former forced laborers under the Nazis and doubling the budget of the family foundation to fund projects that “honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and of Nazi terror.”

“I have to do something,” said Martin Reimann, one of Albert Reimann Jr’s grandchildren.

Do Americans need to “do something,” to make amends for slavery and its ugly aftermath and, if so, should it take the form of reparations?

What should we do because of the sins of our fathers? How much culpability do living Americans have for the persistence of slavery in their country for so many years, for allowing the ideals of reconstruction to be undermined and tolerating racist practices to persist?

negroesforsale

As far back as 1964, Whitney Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, called for reparations of sorts, “a domestic Marshall Plan” for blacks comparable to America’s massive aid to Western Europe after WWII. “Disadvantaged for three centuries,” Young wrote, “American Negroes require compensatory benefits . . . “

Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, has argued, “To oppose reparations is to be racist. To support reparations is to be anti-racist. The middle ground is racist ground.”

Dr. Ibram Kendi speaks during Morning Meeting

“To oppose reparations is to be racist.”  – Ibram X. Kendi

 

“Only an expansive and expensive compensation policy for the descendants of the enslaved and relegated of the scale Lincoln proposed for the enslavers and subsidized could prevent the racial wealth gap from compounding and being passed onto another generation,” Kendi wrote.

There’s no question that the evils of slavery left a deep stain on America and that reconstruction and subsequent racist policies have done damage to American blacks. It’s also clear that this country must come to terms with its legacy of slavery.

But as Lance Morrow, a senior Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, has said, a full-throated reparations debate in the United States will not be conflated with a positive and healing gesture; all it will do is “push the country to angrier extremes on either side, stimulating fresh antagonisms.”

Coleman Hughes, a black Quillette columnist, took a similar approach in testimony before the House subcommittee on June 19:

“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today; we would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors; and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction—from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-NH, has already taken a similar position.”First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil.,” he said in 2016. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.”

Even Barack Obama has questioned the feasibility and advisability of reparations.

“Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps,” President Obama said to Ta-Nehisi Coates in an Oct. 19, 2016 interview for The Atlantic. “That those were wrongs done to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks, but in the form of a Marshall Plan, in order to close those gaps.”

“It is easy to make that theoretical argument,” Obama said. “But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right.”

An attempt to decide on the specifics of a reparations program would also be a nightmare. Who would even be eligible? If it’s individuals, who alive today has suffered as a direct result of slavery?

Coleman Hughes accepts the merit of reparations paid to Holocaust survivors, victims of internment during World War II, and victims of the Tuskegee experiments, for example, “but not reparations for “poorly-defined groups containing millions of people whose relationship to the initial crime is several generations removed.”

It’s unfortunate that so many of those competing for the Democratic presidential nomination have chosen to embrace reparations. It may enhance their appeal to the left wing of their party, but it likely alienates many more people. And now that the reparations cat is out of the box, everybody and their brother may demand reparations for past injustices.

An April 2019 Rasmussen poll found that just 21 percent of likely voters think taxpayers should pay reparations to black Americans who can prove they are descended from slaves.

Fox News poll that same month found that 60 percent of Americans oppose paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves and only 32 percent support it.  Even a July 2018 poll by Data For Progress, a progressive think tank, found that 68 percent were opposed.

But some of the Democratic candidates endorsing billions in reparations must figure that African-Americans will embrace the concept, and African-Americans are a good share of likely voters in South Carolina, one of the early primaries, and on Super Tuesday, March 3..

Frankly, buying votes was much cheaper and made more sense when they only handed out free beer at the polls.