Identity Politics Run Amok at the University of Denver

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Free Speech Wall at the University of Denver

Their heads full of self-righteousness and the angst of youth, too many campus activists seem determined to impose identity politics on campuses.

In 2015, some students at Princeton University acting under the banner of the Black Justice League demanded “cultural competency training” for faculty and staff, required classes on “marginalized peoples,” and a dedicated space on campus for black students.

The same misguided thinking has now infected my alma mater, the University of Denver.

In September 2016, the message “Disrupt the Peace, White Silence = Violence, White People Do Something, #BlackLivesMatter,” was painted on the university’s Free Speech Wall. The Wall was subsequently defaced to change the message , leading to a sit-in, a march and an Oct. 7 meeting with the school’s chancellor, Rebecca Chopp.

At that meeting, the Black Student Alliance presented the chancellor with a list of demands, including:

  • That a former mascot, called Boone (after Daniel Boone), be prohibited at any DU events because it is “representative of the western extinction of Native American culture” and that another mascot be picked “that celebrates inclusion and diversity while also acknowledging the history of the university’s part in violence against Native Americans”
  • That DU stop calling the students, teams, etc. “Pioneers”, which they’ve been doing since 1925, because “The term ‘pioneer’ is highly problematic for many, especially Native American students, as it is defined as a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.
  • That all students applying to DU be required to write an essay articulating their understanding of Inclusive Excellence.
  • That all students complete a curriculum in “Race, Inequality & Social Change” in order to earn a degree.
  • That DU establish an Ethnic Studies Department.
  • That DU provide a budget for the following heritage/history month programs and events:

February – Black History Month

March – Women’s History Month

May – Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

June – LGBT Pride Month

September – Latinx Heritage Month

October – LGBT History Month

November – Native American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

In a counterintuitive move, a group of student leaders subsequently imposed restrictions on what could be written on the Free Speech Wall and a camera was installed to monitor who’s writing what there.

Hate speech has also been prohibited on the Wall. Hate speech “may take the form of direct or indirect offensive slurs, jokes, messages, or attacks on members of the DU community based on their race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, abilities, socioeconomic background, or sexual orientation,” a memo said.

The memo concluded with the nonsensical comment that “…these guidelines are not intended to restrict free expression; rather they are a means through which we can continue to thrive as an inclusive community with a shared value system and many varied viewpoints.”

Is all this really where we want our universities to go —coercive cultural sensitivity training, the Orwellian suppression of free speech in the name of supporting openness, the elimination of historical references that don’t conform to modern sensibilities, the imposition of identity politics?

The fact is, erasing history solves nothing. Nor does mandated cultural awareness. And the explosion of racial and ethnic heritage months is taking us all in the wrong direction. What we really need is to incorporate recognition and appreciation of various heritages into the daily flow of our calendar and lives.

 

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Correcting history: no more good guys (or girls)

In the face of student protests, Princeton University has decided that while it will retain Woodrow Wilson’s name on the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, it will be transparent about Wilson’s “failings and shortcomings”. A special Woodrow Wilson legacy committee of the Princeton Board of Trustees called for the University “to acknowledge that Wilson held and acted on racist views”.

Some students, under the banner of a Black Justice League, had demanded that Princeton remove Wilson’s name from the school because of his clear racism during his academic and political careers.

So now that we’re on the path of publicly highlighting not just the achievements, but also the warts-and-all failings, of Americans in the context of current thinking, I offer the following new text to accompany all monuments, displays, etc. intended to honor some prominent people.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson

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Wilson (1856-1924) served honorably as President of Princeton University and as the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921) After WWI, he tried to build an enduring peace through creation of the League of Nations. He was also a leader of the Progressive Movement. In 1918 he endorsed the 19th Amendment whose ratification provided all women the right to vote by its ratification in 1920.

P.S. Arguing that segregation lessened “friction” between the races, Wilson permitted it throughout the government during his presidency. Though Wilson had initially been friendly to the Russian Revolution, his attitude changed once labor strikes, race riots, and anarchist attacks broke out across the United States in 1919. In response, Wilson’s attorney general deported left-wing activists, raided political groups, and arrested thousands. In the words of one historian, Wilson’s “legacy of repression lasted for decades”; his administration’s violation of civil liberties served as a precedent for McCarthyism in the 1950s.

In short, Wilson was a sleazeball.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh

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Lindbergh (1902-1974), an American aviator, made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20-21, 1927.

P.S. Because of his initial opposition to U.S. entry into WWII, some accused him of being a fascist sympathizer. Also, after his and his wife’s death, it was learned that Lindbergh had maintained three secret families in Europe that included seven out-of-wedlock children borne by three different mothers. So much for the greatness of The Lone Eagle. What a sleazeball.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Roosevelt, who assumed the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression as 32nd President (1933-1945), guided America through one of its greatest domestic crises and helped lead the Allies to victory over Germany and Japan in WWII.

P.S. Roosevelt cheated on his wife, Eleanor, all over the place, most notably with Lucy Mercer (later Rutherfurd), endorsed the internment of thousands of Japanese, Italian and German aliens and U.S. citizens in American internment camps during WWII, tried to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court to impose his will, and failed to protect millions of Jews from being slaughtered by Hitler’s armies. In short, he was a cheating, power-hungry, civil rights ignoring sleazeball.

Martin Luther King Jr.

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Dr. Martin Luther King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

During the years of his leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved major, genuine progress toward racial equality in America. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speechNobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language.

P.S. King’s critics accused him of an overblown need for adulation and a complex personal life that included a myriad of affairs during his marriage to Loretta Scott King. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of King, said in his 1989 autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down that King had a “weakness for women.”Clayborne Carson—who was engaged by King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, to compile a collection of her husband’s writings—said extensive portions of the dissertation King prepared for his Ph.D. in theology from Boston University, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” was plagiarized. In summary, King was actually a sleazeball.

Suzie Baldwin

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Baldwin, a senior at Princeton University, comes from Lexington, Kentucky and graduated from Eastview Prep School as an AP Scholar with distinction. She was captain of the debate team and earned several awards in regional competitions. She also participated in the National Honor Society and student government. At Princeton, she is pursuing a major in Political Science with a minor in Religion. She is a member of the Varsity Equestrian Team and volunteers at the Eastside Homeless Shelter. After graduation, Baldwin intends to travel in Europe, enter Harvard Law School and then work for the ACLU.

P.S. Baldwin, born in 1996, was raised an only child on a massive estate with a thoroughbred horse farm in Kentucky where she was a spoiled brat. She frequently threw temper tantrums, both in public and at home, hated to hear the word “no”, refused to clean up and put her toys away, expected to be listened to at all times, and frequently interrupted adult conversations. In high school, Baldwin exuded an air of condescension and was widely disliked by teachers for her unwillingness to listen to opposing points of view. At Princeton, she’s a royal pain-in-the-ass in class, where she constantly insists that “the revolution is coming”.  Baldwin is, in essence, a sleazeball.

John Q. Smith

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Smith, born Feb. 4, 1960, has, to all appearances, lived a fairly ordinary and honorable life. Raised in Hillsboro, OR, during his early summers he sold lemonade in front of his home and sent the proceeds to a local homeless shelter. In high school he played quarterback on the football team and participated in the robotics program. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in accounting, after which he went to work for Precision Castparts in Portland. He is married to the former Jamie Lynn Wilkinson and has two children.

P.S. Smith presents a public picture of himself as a normal, stand-up guy.However, as a child he had a habit of shoplifting items at major retailers, in college he bought liquor for underage fraternity brothers and he hid a brief cheat sheet in his shoe when taking his CPA exam. He repeatedly overvalued his old clothes contributions to Goodwill on his tax returns and fudged on his resume.In addition, at an accounting convention in New Orleans in his 30s, he smoked some marijuana and engaged a prostitute (though he thought, at first, that she was just an attractive woman at the hotel bar). In short, beneath his thin veneer of respectability, Smith is a sleazeball.