Paying lip service to diversity of thought
Some colleges fancy themselves as everything for everyone. We’re all one big happy community!
Then a columnist for the student newspaper blows the fake kumbaya.
Washington University in St. Louis went into damage-control last week when The Student Life published a column titled “It’s OK that conservatives don’t feel welcome.”
The subject was the social isolation felt by conservative students on campus, and Sean Lundergan said this was not only “fine” but also not enough.
“Rather than stifling debate, dismissing unproductive conservative ideas can open up our opportunities for meaningful discussion,” he said, comparing conservative views to alchemy and leech treatments for diseases.
Lundergan singled out “fans of the president” for his marginalization from campus life, “because their ideas add little value to our discourse”:
Conservative ideas do not deserve equal consideration to that afforded liberal and left ideas, because conservative ideas are not equal to liberal and left ideas. There is no legitimate argument for supporting Donald Trump and his allies, at least not one that holds up in any academic community worth its salt. …
Instead of propping up fringe ideas out of some sense of “bipartisan” openness, we should embrace the fact that so many of our students are liberal.
That way, those with correct views can plot out how to guarantee universal healthcare, redistribute wealth in “the best way” and mitigate climate change, according to Londergan.
Among the negative responses to the column was Lori White, vice chancellor for student affairs. Several students told her that “the column intensified their sense that they do not belong at our university,” White wrote in a letter to the editor.
Finally treating conservative students the same as any other so-called marginalized community, White wrote that “it is not OK for any student to feel unwelcome at Washington University”:
No matter a student’s political leanings, background, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other identity. [sic] While the author of the column has the prerogative to express his views and raise critical questions, the notion that politically conservative beliefs and/or politically conservative students are not welcome on our campus is entirely inconsistent with our community values of mutual respect, openness and tolerance. Creating an environment in which different viewpoints can be expressed, including those with which we might not agree, is fundamental to our mission as a university.
WUSTL strives to be “a place where all are welcome and where diversity of identity, thought and perspective are celebrated,” White wrote. I’m not sure that anyone other than the administration believes this.
The university makes it more likely that conservative viewpoints will be marginalized, censored and chilled by its very policies.
It guarantees students the right to be free from “emotional harm,” and when your student body is three-quarters progressive (according to Londergan), that increases the opportunity for progressive students to accuse the conservative minority of emotionally harming them.
It warns students that they don’t have to violate university policy in order to commit a “bias incident,” defined as even “hurtful” acts that are “perceived by the victim” to be motivated by one of several status categories. Unsurprisingly, everything but political views is covered, making it difficult for conservatives to claim victimhood as conservatives.
Better than an administrator’s hollow reassurance that conservative students are welcome on campus: a parody of Londergan’s column by students in the conservative-leaning business school.
Owen Auch and Ian DeMoura wrote an op-ed that it’s okay for liberal students to feel socially isolated in business schools across the country and at WUSTL:
After the recent collapse of Venezuela, many liberal students have reported negative social ramifications for their Marxist ideas. They feel like their naive utopian ideals do not get the same recognition as the pragmatic capitalism of their peers. And I’d like to say: That’s fine. …
Liberal ideas do not deserve the consideration afforded to conservative ideas, because liberal ideas do not make sense in the real world. There is no legitimate argument for supporting Nancy Pelosi and her allies, at least not one that holds up in any academic community worth its salt. Advocating for inefficiency, gridlock, sensationalist outrage and anything else Nancy Pelosi represents is not a productive in a space meant to contribute ideas to the world. …
There is only so much discourse to go around, and we shouldn’t squander any of it having a balanced discussion on “Should people get money just because they asked for it nicely?”
Londergan responded to the criticism by writing a lengthy “clarification” for his next column that explained his beliefs as a result of his “jaw problems.” As you might guess, it includes his apology for being “born white, in a safe, middle-class suburb.”
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