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We’ve moved on from tearing down statues to scrubbing campus nicknames

The debate was always headed this way

The George Washington University has lately been quietly scrubbing the “Colonial” brand from much of its campus signage. The school is no doubt responding to a referendum passed by student voters last year calling on the nickname to be abolished because it is (wait for it) offensive. The campus administration was apparently happy to oblige this notion. At the University of Denver, meanwhile, students can have their campus IDs scrubbed of the “pioneer” nickname if it offends them. (One alumnus said the name is “rooted in settler colonialism and violence toward Indigenous people.”)

It is a funny but also predictable place to have ended up. Last year, you may recall, many campuses across America went on a kind of statue purge, ripping down monuments that students had decided were too offensive to stand (in some cases students ripped them down on their own). We were told that this was simply a localized re-alignment of campus values: Once the hateful statues were sent to the scrap pile, the madness would end. It certainly wouldn’t go farther than the scrubbing of a few problematic structures of morally compromised men.

Of course that was a lie. The defining hallmark of campus progressivism is its relentlessness: It is never satisfied with its own victories, and it always craves more. The issue here is not so much worldview as it is power. Tearing down a statue, forcing a school to memory-hole its campus brand—these are acts of authority, instances of students exercising their dominion over the administration.

It surely feels rewarding and gratifying. But of course it’s not going to stop there. It’s entirely probable that, half a decade from now, students at GWU will demand that the university’s title itself—named after a colonialist warmongering slave owner—be scrubbed and swapped out for something else. It’s unlikely that the university would cave to those demands…at first. But administrations have a way of weakening over time, especially under the sustained efforts of campus activists. Everything now is an offense waiting to happen; all of it is subject to elimination.

MORE: The stupid campus statue wars continue

IMAGE: Littlewiz / Shutterstock.com

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