Many students at Davidson College recently responded in anguish and outrage after some conservative students filmed a video asking people on campus if they would sign a petition to redistribute GPAs for the sake of “education equality.”
Many students refused to sign the petition, saying it wasn’t fair for a variety of reasons, including that people who earned their As should keep their As, and that students who are given good grades without hard work might not be inspired to improve.
But after students discovered later the petition was a hoax played on them by conservative students in an attempt to illustrate the unfairness of wealth distribution, they hastily called a teach-in at the campus union at which they denounced the effort and vented their frustration.
Some students said the fake petition made them struggle with feelings that they do not belong at Davidson, while others aggressively attacked the video, calling it “oppressive,” “illegally filmed,” and “inflammatory bullsh*t,” according to a video of the April 27 teach-in on Facebook.
Multiple students at the teach-in also made comments supporting both income redistribution and GPA redistribution, saying “life wasn’t always fair” and it’s “the right thing to do.” Others suggested that not forcibly redistributing income would give rich people the power to decide who lives and dies based off their charitable donation whims.
One student who spoke identified herself as the daughter of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and lamented that her parents are unable to get jobs available to American citizens.
The GPA petition was distributed by students in the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the North Carolina-based Davidson College, a small liberal arts school. Young America’s Foundation had run a nationwide video contest asking its chapters to film students’ reactions when asked if they would voluntarily redistribute their good grades to a failing student in the name of “fairness.”
“The hypocrisy is obvious. Liberals embrace socialist policies when their own property is unaffected, but when socialism affects them personally, watch them become advocates of free enterprise instantaneously,” the foundation stated on its website in announcing the contest.
In the Davidson video, members posed as “Students for Educational Equality,” and recorded themselves asking people on campus whether they would sign a petition to “redistribute the top 10 percent of GPAs at Davidson to the bottom 10 percent.”
Many did not sign, although a professor and a couple students did.
At the end of their video, the conservative students say: “Ask yourself this question: If it’s unfair to say that the people with the highest GPAs didn’t deserve it, why is it suddenly fair to say that successful people don’t deserve the money they earned.”
Despite the backlash the effort received, Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson College stood behind it, stating on Facebook it “serves as an analogy, not an equivalency.”
“It is simply an illustration of fruits of your labor and your being able to decide what happens with those fruits,” the statement continued. “Regardless of your level of income or academic achievements, what is relevant is that the fruit is yours and you should be able to decide what you do with it. Davidson Young Americans for Freedom stands for limited government and free enterprise, and we stand by our video.”
Although many students at the teach-in voiced anger, at times the conservative students’ point was made, such as when one student named Helen called out her professor who signed the fake GPA redistribution petition: “There are students like myself who learned English as a second language and have to put in extra hours of work just to do readings, looking up words, phrases, so shouldn’t you get those GPA points for putting in that work?”
The professor responded later in the forum that he disapproved of the petition’s “methodology,” saying he felt tricked as he thought it was either a commentary on the ineffectiveness of standardized testing, or simply a joke. But he added he enjoyed the robust discussion the video created, calling the discourse good and necessary.
Dozens of students turned out for the teach-in, including Haley Hamblin, co-founder of Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson, who explained how she came from a low-income family and was only able to attend Davidson College by working multiple jobs as well as through scholarships the school offered.
“I don’t see that as any kind of disadvantage or something that keeps me from being successful here at Davidson, I think it just gives me more of a drive and love for the education that I have here,” Hamblin said. “The donors [who fund the scholarships] are willing donors and it’s all voluntary. I feel very blessed that the donors allow me to be here and if I ever have the chance to give back I would. But it’s important to understand that that’s voluntary and wealth redistribution isn’t.”
In a message to The College Fix, Kenny Xu, president of Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson, said some members felt frustration over what they believe is a “misinterpretation” of their petition effort, saying they were accused of not caring about low-income students.
“They feel like the video lacked nuance and failed to consider important differences in income vs. GPA,” Xu said in a message to The Fix. “I appreciate their legitimate concerns and criticisms, and wanted this video to be the centerpiece of that discussion (of which many positive and fruitful ones happened on campus). However, some of the concerns went too far as the picture some people tried to paint of us was one of not caring, not listening, and not respecting low-income students. This is categorically false.”
The Davidson video won the nationwide contest, earning the Davidson students free trips to YAF’s national conference.