09 December 2015

Professors run and hide when the race-circus comes to their campus

Stephen Kershnar
Why the Faculty Remain Silent
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 21, 2015

The protests at University of Missouri and Yale University have spread. Campus protesters demand that university positions be handed out in a racial spoils system, blatant nonsense be accepted as fact, and free speech be curtailed. An interesting issue is why the faculty have remained silent.   

At the University of Missouri, black students and their allies demanded quotas (10% of faculty and staff must be black), mandatory diversity training, and fewer black students flunking out or leaving.

At Yale University, a protest over two married professors’ suggestion that decisions about adult students wearing Halloween costumes are best handled by the students themselves rather than the administration quickly led to Yale promising to spend $50 million to hire more black and Hispanic faculty, implement mandatory diversity training for supervising professors and staff, and so on.  

Ivy League competitor Brown University had previously announced a $100 million dollar plan to diversify its campus. It will double the number of black and Hispanic faculty and implicitly lower standards to attract and retain them. Already, 33% of Brown students and 20% of its faculty are not white, but administrators and protesters think that this diversity includes the omnipresent Asians and they add the wrong sort of diversity. The percentages also don’t include the large number of Jewish faculty and students, but again they add the wrong sort of diversity.

Other universities are being hit with similar protests. An elite and traditionally Jewish University (Brandeis University) has been hit with protests demanding quotas (10% of faculty and staff and 15% of students must be black), mandatory diversity training, and increasing funding for black student organizations and programs. Hamilton College protesters demand 13% of the faculty be black and that the next college president and the chairs of certain departments not be white. Similar protests and pressured resignations have occurred at Amherst, Claremont-McKenna, Dartmouth, Duke, Hamilton, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton.

The protests have consistently demanded that a racial spoils system be imposed. This despite the fact that the Supreme Court has clearly and repeatedly held that quotas are unconstitutional. The courts have never held that even race preferences for faculty and staff are constitutional, let alone quotas, and likely would not do so (given its narrow holdings on race preferences). Nevertheless, the protesters demand quotas and preferences and some of the best universities meekly comply and hope no one sues them.

The protesters claim that blacks and Hispanics face unbelievable amount of racial hostility. This is blatant nonsense and the protesters know it. Overt expressions of rare hatred are incredibly rare and with surprisingly frequency turn out to be done by black or Hispanic students trying to get sympathy for their cause. There are no studies that I am aware of showing that such students face regular hostility and anecdotes supporting such claims are few and open to interpretation.  

The protests have also been surprisingly hostile to free speech. At Missouri, protesters at a state university repeatedly shoved a reporter. A Communication professor called for violence to remove a reporter she surely knew was acting within his rights. At Dartmouth, protesters aggressively insulted, pushed, and shoved students in the library. Sit-ins (also known as trespasses) have also occurred at several campuses, including Princeton. At UCLA, protesters demanded that a professor be punished for an article of his that appeared in a top-flight academic journal.   

At almost all of the campuses hit by protests, students have demanded mandatory diversity-education classes. These classes consist of little more than propaganda and are devoid of academic content. They limit free speech by mandating a correct view on race, gender, and sexual orientation much as would a mandatory pledge of allegiance.  

The faculty at these universities know all of this. They do the hiring and promoting and are well aware that they are not discriminating against blacks and Hispanics and in favor of Jews and Asians. In fact, they go out of their way to favor black and Hispanic applicants (and often women) and do so openly. They know full well that quotas are illegal and that free speech is central to what they do and yet hide quietly when the race-circus comes to town.   

Why have the faculty stayed quiet? Some likely agree with the movement and don’t care that the racial spoils system is illegal, the claims of victimization are false, or free speech is being disrespected.

Others likely disagree, but don’t want the howling mob or their colleagues turning on them. No faculty member wants to get pounded in the way the Yale professors did. The fact that administrators can and do quietly punish faculty members who bring controversy to their campuses makes it wise to stay silent.  

Also, faculty seem to be increasingly quiet people, removed from public life. This can be seen the surprising absence of academics (aside from lawyers) in Congress and especially the Congressional leadership. Also, in the recent past, no major presidential candidate has been a legitimate academic.   

On a side note, SUNY-Fredonia is ripe for protest. At Fredonia, black students had, and likely still do have, SATs that are, on average, much worse than those of white students and are far less likely to graduate in four years. As the percentage of the student body that is black or Hispanic has roughly tripled and doubled respectively (2005-2014), the lower graduation rate is increasingly noticeable and relevant to the college. Some minority faculty claimed to have faced a hostile climate and left. There has even been a protest and tense meeting on racial matters involving a previous president (Dennis Hefner) and a controversy involving speech on racial issues (disclosure: It involved me). Some of this led to the hiring of a full-time diversity officer. It is an interesting question how Fredonia faculty would respond to protests or demands like those faced by its elite counterparts.    

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