A common response of publicity-conscious university presidents to the social justice protests rocking their campuses these days is to apologize to the protesters and capitulate to the majority of their demands (which often seem to involve spending huge sums of money on the protesters’ favored programs). President Christina H. Paxson of Brown University, for example, has promised to spend $100 million on, among other things, promoting “university-wide research and academic programming on Power, Privilege, Identity and Structural Racism” and creating workshops to “foster greater awareness and sensitivity on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”Two weeks ago, we expressed skepticism that this approach would be effective. “It’s only a matter of time,” we wrote, “before protesters take to the quad with megaphones again, protesting that administrators are trying to buy them off without addressing any of the real underlying issues.” It turns out that it didn’t take that much time at all. According to Emily Shire’s latest dispatch from Brown in the Daily Beast, students are already up in arms, insisting that Paxson’s $100 million dollar plan is not enough:
Despite allocating an impressive amount of financial and academic resources to promoting identity diversity, [the plan] has failed to quell the tide of student anger at Brown.A group of protesting students declared Dec. 3 “Day of Reclamation.”The Facebook group for the Day of Reclamation reveals a strong hostility to white voices and a desire to restrict their ability to share opinions.“This is NOT a space for white students to be offering their opinions or the ‘issues’ they take with the consolidated, working list of demands,” one Brown University student posted. “People have been building on them for months and have very specific reasons for their asks, but it will never be your place to criticize them.”The Facebook group also includes a video of students interrupting and shouting at Paxson during the Day of Reclamation.
The seeming increase in outrage is the opposite of what the professor expected, having read the plan as incredibly generous to student demands.“I badly misread the situation,” he said. “The lack of respect for the president, the provost, and the people trying to do what they can here, I’m sort of stunned by it. I thought the draft plan would quell the anger, and it’s sort of like they doubled-down.”
Campus administrations and faculty are overwhelmingly sympathetic to leftwing causes, and they desperately want to find a way to be on the protesters’ side. But as they are now starting to find out, this is very likely impossible. The campus left sees capitulation not as a sign of solidarity, but as a sign of weakness and disrespect. And, of course, they’re not entirely wrong, in a way. If administrators had real moral spine—and if they truly respected their students—they would stand up to, rather than indulge, the illiberalism engulfing their institutions.