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Outrageously Dumb Campus Moments of the Week (May 11)

The College Fix presents a roundup of the top scandals, screw-ups, and stupid decisions involving college campuses. This week, Elizabeth Warren is not a Cherokee, and the Chronicle of Higher Education welcomes dissent, unless its readers complain. But first…

3). President Obama announced his personal support for gay marriage. Is this a campus or higher education issue? Not specifically, no. But college students, who once loved Obama but have soured toward him since the election, were showering him with praise all over again for his bold and courageous stance.

Unfortunately, the president’s stance just isn’t very bold or courageous. He only endorsed the idea of gay marriage; he favors letting states decide the issue. Gay marriage will not be part of his re-election campaign platform. He will not push the federal government to do something about gay marriage. And he waited until after the election in North Carolina to take a stance. How is any of that courageous?

If you are a college student, it’s perfectly acceptable to be glad the president shares your views on an important issue. But, as Huffington Post senior writer Radley Balko put it, Obama’s gay marriage announcement “ hardly merits a new chapter for Profiles in Courage.”

2). Professor Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator in Massachusetts, was credited as a minority hire at Harvard University. For years, Warren has claimed Cherokee ancestry, but recent scrutiny of her ethnic background revealed only meager evidence that a distant, distant ancestor had ever been part Cherokee. Even more bizarre was the revelation that an ancestor of hers was involved in rounding up members of the Cherokee Tribe for the Trail of Tears.

The lesson? If you plan to claim status as a member of an ethnic minority, double check two things: One, that you actually are a member of an ethnic minority, and two, that your ancestors never forced members of that minority into homelessness and starvation.

1). The Chronicle of Higher Education fired Naomi Schaefer Riley, a conservative contributor to the Chronicle’s blog, Brainstorm. Riley wrote a post disparaging the academic field of black studies that drew outrage from members of the field. Online commenters called Riley a racist, and although the Chronicle initially stood by the post, Riley was eventually fired.

You can disagree with her argument that the dissertations of black studies students are “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.” You can argue that Riley was too quick to judge the dissertations without fully reading all of them. But do those views really make Riley a racist? (Given that she is married to a black man, as some have pointed out, this seems doubtful.)

It’s clear that the Chronicle didn’t think the post was racist–until the ire of its liberal commenters forced its hand. TCF contacted Chronicle editor Liz McMillen for clarification on which sentences in Riley’s post were objectionable. We also asked what changed between the paper’s initial defense of Riley, and its ultimate termination of her. McMillen did not respond to these questions.

Her silence earns the Chronicle of Higher Education the top spot for dumbest moment of the week.

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