Turmoil on the College Campus (and elsewhere)

I’m pulling together research on the on-going protests on college campuses. I don’t have an article in the works yet. Just gathering info. I thought I would share some of the links here this afternoon without commentary.

Fox News reports on research from Brookings that found that most of the protests to date have happened at schools with a wealthier student body. “Since 2014, at the 90 or so colleges that have tried to disinvite conservatives from speaking, the average student comes from a family with an annual income $32,000 higher than that of the overall average student in America, the Brookings study found.”

In the Chronicle, Stanley Fish pushes back against the idea that a university is a place for free speech.

Freedom of speech is not an academic value. Accuracy of speech is an academic value; completeness of speech is an academic value; relevance of speech is an academic value. Each of these values is directly related to the goal of academic inquiry: getting a matter of fact right. The operative commonplace is “following the evidence wherever it leads.” You can’t do that if your sources are suspect or nonexistent; you can’t do that if you only consider evidence favorable to your biases; you can’t do that if your evidence is far afield and hasn’t been persuasively connected to the instant matter of fact.

Charles Murray continues to give campus talks. He was at Duke and Columbia this week. The faculty at Columbia released a statement.

The University of Chicago is creating a system for punishing students who violate their free speech policy.

The Chronicle has a great round-up of all the campus protests against conservative speakers, as well as the white supremacist garbage that’s also going on.

Another opinion in the Chronicle:

The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life. A distinguished scholar at my own college writes in an open email letter to the faculty that when colleagues who are “different” (in his case, nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale) speak to us we are compelled not merely to listen but to “validate their experiences.” When we meet at a faculty reception a week or so later and he asks what I think of his letter, I tell him I admire his willingness to share his thoughts but have been puzzling over the word “compelled” and the expression “validate their experiences.” Does he mean thereby to suggest that if we have doubts or misgivings about what a colleague has said to us, we should keep our mouths firmly shut? Exactly, replies my earnest, right-minded colleague.

A profile of FIRE.

Another shouting down of a speaker at McMasters College.

This is just two days of articles. I feel like things are heating up. And not just on the college campus. I went to a meeting for local Democratic women a few weeks ago. It was the first time I went to one of their events. It was standing room only. Lots of first timers there.



7 thoughts on “Turmoil on the College Campus (and elsewhere)

  1. Definitely heating up, but I wonder if this can be sustained and how effective it will be. As an example, my stepmother asked me and my husband (also a political scientist) yesterday how to find congressional district level polling data for a district in another state. When we prodded her why she needed this, she said she had gone to a local Democratic meeting, and she was part of the working group that was going to try to convince others in our area to support vulnerable Congressional candidates elsewhere (since all of our reps are Democratic and safe). Perhaps a non-centralized model that relies on people to collect data and craft messages will be effective in that the messages will be tailored to reflect local preferences, but color me skeptical.

    I hope I am wrong – I hope this is sustained, and it is effective. But I am worried that people will be all fired up for 2018, won’t see the results they want (the Senate map is not good for the Democrats – too many seats exposed – and House districts make taking it back a difficult proposition), and will then be completely and totally disillusioned.


  2. I too worry about sustained opposition in the face of continued lack of results. Since I also believe the popular vote tallies, that there are more Americans who opposed Trump and that the technicalities of our government produced the results, it will be easy for people to retreat to despair on the technical issues (of gerrymandering, voting rights, legal issues, as examples). That is why the institutional fighters, the Democratic party, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Legal Services Corporation, the newspapers and magazines, . . . are so important. The ACLU has lost and lost again, and kept fighting, over and over again. People who have been in the battles know that’s the way it works. So while personal action might be important, so is supporting the professional opposition. And, we have to support them as they fail, because they will, until they have more power.

    There’s a story my kiddo discovered and presented to me recently, about Emanuel Celler. Celler was a congressman from Brooklyn, who gave his first speech in congress against the race inspired imigration laws of 1924, which excluded non-whites, Southern and Eastern Europeans, and Jews. He continued to fight vehemently against the xenophobia of his age, fighting for refugees, increasing the numbers of displaced persons America accepted after World War II, fighting for civil rights. His persistence was crowned with the passage of the 1965 imigration act, the result of a forty year fight.

    (I see analogies against the fight against diseases. People join the fight when they are personally affected. But there are scientists who have been testing a theory, over and over again, seeing experiments fail, and trying again.)


  3. The ACLU, fighting infectious diseases, Emanuel Celler – all are are wonderful exemplars of persistence in the face of long term goals.

    I think that redefining a “win” is critical to maintaining stamina and resisting discouragement. With any longterm goal, having the win be the end point increases the risk of giving up significantly. For someone who has never become involved politically, the win initially might be showing up at that meeting that Laura went to. It might be making 3 phone calls a day/week to your representative.

    You get the idea.

    A lot can be achieved in the meantime.


  4. I don’t see what the last item has to do with the others. It would be nice if the local Democratic women were organizing to protect free expression on college campuses, but I doubt that is their goal. If anything, I presume that they support speech suppression, like their fellow Democrats among the professoriate.

    The speech suppression to date doesn’t seem to have been winning the Democrats many elections. The president of Emory vowed to punish anyone who chalked Trump slogans on campus, but Trump still carried Georgia pretty easily.


  5. The point is that people are very upset and polarized right now. They just want to do something, and for some people doing something is organizing with other Democratic women, and for others it’s standing up to people who are dehumanizing others by shouting them down or otherwise protesting.

    I read that Newt Gingrich was at Cornell today but it seems like nothing major happened.


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