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Some college presidents show signs of growing a backbone

Could it be that college presidents are finally starting to realize that giving in to campus crybullies and their ridiculous demands is a lose-lose? That treating them like toddlers and giving them a lollipop every time they cry to shut them up might not be the best idea?

Two recent examples give hope.

The president of the College of William and Mary, President W. Taylor Reveley III, recently shut down student Black Lives Matter activists’ list of demands.

“I don’t deal in demands,” Reveley said. “I don’t make demands of other people. I don’t expect to receive demands from people. I love to get suggestions, recommendations, strong arguments.”

Predictably, students accused Reveley of white supremacy and patriarchy. Let’s hope he doesn’t cave.

In another example, Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng told students she does not support safe spaces.

“As a university professor, I’m not sure I have any support at all for safe space,” she said. “I think that you as a student have to develop the skills to be successful in this world and that we need to provide you with the opportunity for discourse and debate and dialogue and academic inquiry, and I’m not sure that that is correlated with the notion of safe space as I’ve seen that.”

Students now demand she either take it back or leave her post. It seems she is not budging. In a statement to NBC, Cheng said:

NAU is safe. Creating segregated spaces for different groups on our campus only [leads] to misunderstanding, distrust and [reduces] the opportunity for discussion and engagement and education around diversity. Our classrooms and our campus is a place for engagement and respect – a place to learn from each other.

Good for President Cheng.

That is a much stronger statement than the University of Michigan put out when its leaders told students they could not have a segregated safe space for students of color. Instead of telling students “no” flat out, they put out a conciliatory explanation, noting the many “identifiable cross-cultural spaces on campus” that already exist. The statement also delved into repairs to a couple of those cross-cultural spaces, mentioned the non-gender specific restrooms that have been installed recently across campus, and cited a $10 million multicultural center under construction.

One of the biggest problems facing higher education today is spineless college presidents. Writing on The Federalist, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, points out:

… shame on a hundred other college presidents—at least a hundred—who have similarly taken the easy path of capitulation to know-nothing name-callers over the last year or two. …

Higher education today recruits college presidents in part by ascertaining their willingness not to get in the way of whatever progressive causes are currently fashionable. We hire college presidents who are all-in on diversity, sustainability, world-citizenship, and so on. Boards of trustees, charged with making these decisions, generally recline into accepting the advice of “stakeholder” committees in which each ideological faction wields a veto. We then wind up with college presidents whose superpower is appeasement.

“College presidents whose superpower is appeasement.” That’s a great line, and a great summary of the last two years in academia. But perhaps the tide is turning, if just a little.

MORE: San Diego State president forced to ‘apologize’ by anti-Israel mob for campus anti-BDS posters

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.