A ‘multicultural center’ would further balkanize the campus
Students at Harvard last month made an impassioned plea for a campus “multicultural center,” a place where students could gather and do…something. It’s not all that clear, really, which is not all that surprising: One of the principle hallmarks of academic identity politics is a general aimlessness, a lack of definite purpose. But ostensibly one gathers that the “multicultural” students in question would like a dedicated space to be around other “multicultural” students: One student said that Harvard’s existing “cultural organizations” can “sometimes be unintentionally excluding people and people may not feel like it’s the safest space for them to enter.” A multicultural center would purport to solve that problem.
Here is a gentle suggestion: This is silly nonsense. There are likely fewer places that are more welcoming and more culturally universal than the campus of Harvard University. The notion that anywhere on Harvard’s campus—let alone a “cultural organization” dedicated specifically to minority students—might somehow be “unsafe” is frankly preposterous. And the notion that Harvard is not already saturated with enough “cultural organizations” beggars belief: according to the Office of Student Life, there are a total of 73 organizations on Harvard’s campus devoted to “cultural and racial initiatives,” a further eight devoted to “women’s initiatives,” and another six serving “gender and sexuality.” What student could possibly look at this smorgasbord of identity-based offerings and conclude, “Gee, it’s just not enough?”
But progressive campus politics are relentless and insatiable; they always demand more. Which is why the “multicultural center” will almost assuredly not be the last such organization on campus. In several years a few dozen students will very likely be complaining that they feel “unsafe” there, and calls will arise for something new and even more inclusive—a “multimulticultural center,” say. The point of these politics is not to solve any problem but to further and further balkanize students among ever-more fragmented and irreconcilable groups and identities, fomenting a kind of paranoid political environment that works to the advantage of racial hucksters and overpaid campus administrators. Students would do well to resist these demands and start trying to reassert a modicum of good sense into campus life.