… as Vattimo suggests, the “accomplished nihilism of the real (Western) world gives us nothing substantial for our rhetorics except an insubstantial rhetoric. .. I criticize intellectual practices that are too close to the narcissism of insiders, whose proposition and theories, despite their critical appearance, recode forms of stabilization; I seek instead to affirm the possibility of something like a nonrationalizing (counternarcissistic) intellectual endeavor. –Sande Cohen, Academia and the Luster of Capital
Chances are you recall the uprisings on college campuses around the country last fall, sparked by the Yale Halloween Costume Email controversy and the Missouri protest. The protestors presented their respective colleges with Demands, largely centering on public apologies for past injustice, mandatory SJW-indoctrination for all students and faculty, and more money for minority teachers, staff, students, and programs.
So I wanted to check up on how colleges have responded. (List is not inclusive; I have tried to focus on the most well-known institutions.)
President Martin’s Statement on Campus Protests
On Thursday night I attended a student-organized protest against racism and other entrenched forms of prejudice and inequality. … Over the course of several days, a significant number of students have spoken eloquently and movingly about their experiences of racism and prejudice on and off campus. The depth and intensity of their pain and exhaustion are evident. … It is good that our students have seized this opportunity to speak, rather than further internalizing the isolation and lack of caring they have described. What we have heard requires a concerted, rigorous, and sustained response.
The organizers of the protests also presented me with a list of demands on Thursday evening. While expressing support for their goals, I explained that the formulation of those demands assumed more authority and control than a president has or should have. … I explained that I did not intend to respond to the demands item by item, or to meet each demand as specified, but instead to write a statement that would be responsive to the spirit of what they are trying to achieve—systemic changes that we know we need to make. … I was asked to read this statement to students today in Frost Library and did so at noon.
• Trustees abandon Lord Jeffery Amherst, commander who endorsed plan to “extirpate” Indians with smallpox-laden blankets, as symbol and unofficial mascot of Amherst College. School name will remain.
… the university announced it would convene a university committee on race. The Undergraduate Government at Boston College set a January 19 deadline for the administration to release a plan to “create a more racially inclusive campus,” but the administration missed the deadline and didn’t release any statement as to when an action plan would be released. …
Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn that suggest there isn’t any problem that needs to be addressed. In November, Dunn stated, “The supposition that BC is an institutionally racist place is a difficult argument to make … I think that’s a false assumption, an unfair assumption, and impugns the integrity of so many good people on this campus who’ve joined this community precisely because they’re people of good will who oppose all elements of bigotry,” according to an article in the college’s independent newspaper, The Heights.
Acting Brandeis University President Lisa M. Lynch is pushing for changes she hopes will increase diversity in the student body and staff — but she won’t do it on a timetable set by student protesters.
Lynch, with the backing of the Waltham school’s board of trustees, sent a multipage letter to the campus community this weekend after meeting with students who have occupied the Bernstein-Marcus Administrative Center — which includes Lynch’s office. …
“The atmosphere described by our students is painful to hear and calls on all of us to address these issues,’’ Lynch wrote. In her letter, Lynch aligned herself broadly with the goal of increasing diversity at all levels of the university …
• After a 12-day sit-in, Brandeis commits to increasing applicants of color (now 17 percent) by 5 to 10 percentage points annually and to double underrepresented faculty members (5 percent in 2014) by 2021.
See also: Reaffirming and Accelerating Brandeis’ Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Justice and Statements of Support and Commitments to Action to Advance Diversity and Inclusion at Brandeis University by Department, School, and Program
On Monday, Nov. 16, … Concerned Graduate Students of Color at Brown University came together to publish a list of demands and request a written response from the administration within one week. The working draft of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) was released by President Christina Paxson’s office on Nov. 19, 2015. … We, Graduate Students of Color, reject this plan as a response to our demands.
See also Brown U releases $100 million plan to increase inclusivity, ; plan later increased to $165 million.
• Brown faculty vote on Feb. 2 that Columbus Day will be known as Indigenous People’s Day, prompted by students objecting: “We don’t celebrate genocide.”
Response to Claremont McKenna College Demands:
… we write as members of the senior leadership of the College and people who care deeply about Dartmouth. We want to share a message with the community: we hear your concerns about ensuring that Dartmouth is not only diverse in numbers, but also a place where all community members thrive. …
We couldn’t agree with you more. Diversity is one of the cornerstones of our academic community and, like you, we want Dartmouth to be a campus where our students gain the confidence and skills to work and lead in a global society. … Recently, a presentation of the “Freedom Budget” document highlighted for us that we, as the administration, must engage the campus more effectively in current and future action to achieve our shared vision for Dartmouth …
- More than $30 million will be invested in the Society of Fellows program to bring recent post-doctorates to campus. Post-doctoral programs have been an effective tool for recruiting diverse faculty from other campuses. …
- The E.E. Just Program, which supports the academic success of under-represented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, will undergo a major expansion.
- The Office of the President is sponsoring a three-year program project to help make Dartmouth Outing Club activities accessible to students receiving financial aid.
- Dartmouth will provide $1 million in recurring funds to support the cost of hiring faculty who bring diverse perspectives to campus.
We can and will do more.
In response to student demands presented at the Duke Tomorrow forum Nov. 20, President Richard Brodhead sent an email last Tuesday to the students who organized the forum assuring them of his commitment to deal with the concerns they raised. … Brodhead’s email noted that the Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues will be responsible for considering many of the demands presented. He added that orientation programs and faculty diversity efforts—which were also included in the demands—are already in place.
“We look forward to working with all members of the Duke community to make the University a better place,” Brodhead wrote in the email.
• Emory promises task force to “examine the feasibility of a geofence” to block the social media app Yik Yak in university ZIP codes to protect African-American students from what a black student group calls “intolerable and psychologically detrimental material.”
• Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall — named for Georgetown presidents who organized the sale of 272 slaves to settle university debts — are renamed. Students further demand the creation of an endowment, at the current value of the sale’s profit, to recruit “black identifying” professors.
[Minow] has already taken several steps to respond to some of the student demands and formulated her own plans to improve race relations at the schools. She has appointed a committee to consider changing the school’s seal, which she said last Monday would require the Harvard Corporation’s approval; administrators have also said they will work to create a more diverse faculty and hire a staff member to focus on diversity issues. …
On Friday, however, Minow primarily watched and listened as students spoke. “Thinking, listening, thank you,” she said, after Leland S. Shelton, the president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, reiterated each demand and asked if she was prepared to immediately agree to any of them. …
In an email sent to Law School affiliates on Friday, Minow wrote that she will carefully consider the student demands.
“I listened carefully,” Minow wrote. “I will do my best to ensure that we find ways to work together, joining students, staff, and faculty to address proposals and above all to strengthen this School and its possibilities to be better and to make the world better.”
College officials released the working group’s report Thursday. It included recommendations to diversify the College, and to support affinity-based students groups on campus and in multicultural centers, among others.
Harvard Law School has decided to officially chance the seal, though I don’t know yet what to.
• Thomas R. Rochon, president of Ithaca College, pens an opinion piece asserting college presidents should step up, not down; in January, he announces he will step down, effective next year.
Called on to address the student’s demands, Daniels pointed to the new Faculty Diversity Initiative, a multimillion dollar effort designed to help each of the university’s divisions find, attract, and retain the most talented faculty representing a broad diversity of backgrounds and experiences. The effort, unveiled earlier Monday, has been in the works for more than a year.
In response to a question suggesting that the initiative could lead to more qualified candidates being passed over, Provost Robert C. Lieberman said: “I would very, very strongly resist the premise of your question, which is that sometimes diversity and excellence or standards are opposed to each other. They in fact reinforce each other, and we will only be excellent to the extent that we are diverse.”
Daniels pledged transparency on the topic in the form of a report on the composition of the faculty, to be issued every two years. He also announced plans to strengthen the university’s Center for Africana Studies with the addition of five new faculty members—two in the center, two in the Department of History, and one interdisciplinary scholar.
One of the students’ requests was for a mandatory cultural competency course for all undergraduates. Daniels said that a single course required for all students “goes against the grain of choice that is embedded in our curriculum,” but that “other approaches to that issue are on the table.” He said possibilities open to discussion include establishment of a distribution requirement, mandating that students choose from among a set of courses in which cultural differences are considered.
Daniels also backed establishing a comprehensive diversity training program for the faculty, staff, and all students. A pilot training program was implemented at student orientation this past fall, and a working group to develop training recommendations will be launched by the start of the spring semester.
The joint statement from MSU president Clif Smart and Board of Governors Chair Stephen Hoven explained ongoing efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, announced plans to expand multicultural programming and outlined numerous ways students can help shape decisions.
“Recently, a group of students took the time and initiative to remind us of our responsibility and commitment to provide you with an inclusive environment that fosters learning, growth and opportunity. Pointing to the ongoing challenges that our nation continues to face in terms of diversity and inclusion, these students have presented important questions, made requests, and asked that we stop what we are doing to listen and respond,” … “We have stopped, we are listening and we offer this letter in another effort to address those concerns.” …
MSU officials, in the Tuesday statement, noted that improving diversity and inclusion has been a top priority in recent years and said that commitment will continue with three overarching goals:
• Expand diversity programs
• Increase enrollment and retention of diverse students from “underrepresented” backgrounds
• Expand the pool of diverse faculty and staff
The president of MSU is not-ironically named Clifton Smart III.
Response to NYU Demands:
• Oberlin dining services promises “culturally sensitive menus” after demands for more traditional foods, including fried chicken, at Afrikan Heritage House, and for more indigenous versions of General Tso’s chicken and banh mi. Oberlin president finds 14 pages of other “demands and not suggestions” (e.g., eliminate Western-centered course requirements) even less palatable. In January, he announces he won’t respond to them.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t: one of the complaints protesters lodged against UC Irvine:
a. In 2011, to begin the Cross Cultural Center’s 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. symposium, UCI’s Hospitality and Dining services served fried chicken and waffles in “honor” of the event.
I don’t think there’s any agreement on whether serving fried chicken is “culturally sensitive” or “horribly racist”–which I find especially weird because everyone in the South, white and black, eats fried chicken. Also, BBQ is totally better than fried chicken.
Last week, the president of Princeton University agreed to implement or consider the demands of student protesters who had taken over his office, including providing black students a cultural space on the Ivy League campus and initiating discussions about “cultural competency” training. Christopher Eisgruber also agreed to open a debate about Woodrow Wilson’s legacy at Princeton. …
Cecilia Rouse, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, welcomes the discussion. Rouse agrees that changing a name would be an easy thing to do, and that much more difficult challenges remain, such as how to develop a curriculum that is less focused on Europe, how to have course readings that are more reflective of the world, and how to ensure that faculty are comfortable talking about race.
Response to Tufts U Demands:
After heads rolled over a Kanye-Western themed frat party at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), several adjustments to the UCLA campus climate have been made, including suspension of the social groups that hosted the party for alleged “racist undertones” of their event. …
On October 22, UCLA’s vice chancellor Janina Montero responded … that she is open to many of the ASU’s demands, including exclusive funding for the ASU, revision of the school’s anti-discrimination policies, an “Afro-house” for black students, a student advisory board for campus diversity, increased enrollment of black students, and creation of a Black Student Leadership Task Force. She also said that the chancellor has collaborated with the LAUSD to build the Horace Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles.
Response to U of Kentucky Demands:
Each time our student passes the images on his way to class or a movie or a speaker, this student — one of us — must confront humiliating images that bear witness to how we still fall short of being citizens together in what Dr. King called the “beloved community.” And countless other current students, faculty, staff, prospective students and their families, and other visitors to our campus, endure the same pain when they walk into one of our University’s signature and busiest venues. Moreover, this is often the first exposure people have to our campus, our culture, and our values.
This cannot continue. In spite of the artist’s admirable, finely honed skill that gave life to the mural, we cannot allow it to stand alone, unanswered by and unaccountable to the evolutionary trajectory of our human understanding and our human spirit.
• Charged with a sluggish response to racist incidents, Timothy M. Wolfe and R. Bowen Loftin, top University of Missouri officials, cave when football players threaten to strike, raising the specter of a forfeit penalty of more than $1 million.
Yale President Plans ‘Significant Changes’ In Response To Student Demands
Declaring that there is still much “unfinished work,” Yale University President Peter Salovey Tuesday offered a detailed response to student demands in the wake of rising racial tensions on campus.
Salovey, under intense pressure from the Yale community, proposed “a structure to build a more inclusive Yale” that would add faculty, multicultural training for staff, expanded resources for cultural centers, enhanced financial aid for low-income students and creation of a “prominent university center” to address issues of race, ethnicity and social identity. He said these are “the central issues of our era.”
“I have heard the expressions of those who do not feel fully included at Yale, many of whom have described experiences of isolation, and even of hostility, during their time here,” Salovey said.
It is just so HAAAARD to be a student at Yale. WAH.
• Erika Christakis quits teaching at Yale, citing lack of “civil dialogue and open inquiry” after a brouhaha over her criticism of university guidelines on culturally sensitive Halloween costumes. …
• Yale promises to devote $50 million in resources over five years for faculty members “who would enrich diversity” (currently 6 percent are underrepresented minorities). …
(In the interim, three portraits of Calhoun are removed from the college.)
• Harvard and Princeton drop the title of “master” — term dating to medieval universities — for heads of residential colleges; Yale is mulling the same.
The award for shortest list of demands goes to Ithaca College:
The resignation of College President Tom Rochon or for him to be removed from his position.
The award for longest list goes to UVA, which, at 6259 words, was twice as long as the second-longest list, and included demands such as:
Posters in First-Year dorms and on Stall Seat Journals, and other educational, promotional tools should focus on prejudice and oppression, and should offer examples of implicit biases in student-to-student, faculty-to-student interactions. and student-to-Charlottesville resident interactions. Student-run University agencies such as The Honor Committee and The Student Council should prioritize the creation of initiatives aimed towards engaging the student body in conversations surrounding race and inclusivity as elements of our University ideals. …
Students of the University of Virginia must be knowledgeable and conscious about the history of racial oppression and discrimination in the current and historic U.Va. and Charlottesville communities. …
[A mandatory course on the history of UVA] …
Every course should strive to recognize minority perspectives and every department should make it a goal to offer multiple courses that include or focus on minority perspectives within their field each semester. For example, Biology could study genetics across minority communities, …
Well, at least I got a good laugh out of this one.