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PC Campus Culture
A Win for Sanity at Oberlin

The president of Oberlin College—a famously leftwing school that recently made headlines for student protests against “cultural appropriation” of ethnic food in dining halls—has issued one of the most forceful rebukes of campus activist intimidation of any academic authority figure to date. Whereas many college presidents have made their best efforts to appease social justice protesters (mostly by promising to spend more money on the protesters’ preferred campus programs), President Marvin Krislov of Oberlin responded to a list of demands—which included firing specific faculty members, granting tenure to others, creating segregated “safe spaces” for black students, and paying student activists for their efforts—by firmly declining to negotiate:

Some of the challenges outlined in the document resonate with me and many members of our community, including our trustees. However, some of the solutions it proposes are deeply troubling. I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community.

The students concluded their list of demands by saying, “these demands are not suggestions” and threatened “immediate action” if they were not heeded. So who knows what, if anything, they will have in store for the Oberlin administration in the coming semester. But it’s also clear that campus activists regard capitulation as a sign of weakness, not solidarity—just ask President Christina Paxson of Brown. So whatever response the activists are planning would probably have been just as bad, if not worse, had Krislov tried to placate them by promising a new campus diversity center or convened a committee to make courses less, as the activists put it, “westernized.”

At the same time, for critics of modern university political culture, it’s hard not to feel at least a modicum of appreciation for the activists’ willingness to attack certain academic orthodoxies. As Ross Douthat (no supporter of campus Jacobinism) has written, academic administrations have “long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.” The Oberlin activists seemed to sense this: In their list of demands, they criticize the College for using “the limited number of Black and Brown students to color its brochures” and suggest that its ideals of “equity, inclusion, and diversity,” as recited by campus administrators, are meaningless. On that front, they are not entirely wrong: The academy’s worship of diversity is in many ways a hollow exercise, a type of collective virtue signaling motivated more by a desire to boost rankings and market itself than by any comprehensive idea of justice.

Repudiating campus protesters, in other words, isn’t enough to fix the modern university. But to the extent that it shows that the people running the academy still have some moral spine, it’s a good start.

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  • Suzyqpie

    Last line in the “students” jeremiad, “These are demands and not suggestions. If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.” That’s a dose of Obama style my-way-or-the-highway approach.

    • Andrew Allison

      I suggest immediate action from the college administration, namely expel the little jerks.

      • Jim__L

        It would be more effective to show them as ineffective.

        My hat’s off to the Oberlin folks for showing some spine.

        • Andrew Allison

          I’m sorry, but these idiots don’t understand being shown as ineffective, they need their a–es kicked, and hard.

      • Gray Wolf

        The little jerks are their customers.

  • Blackbeard

    This isn’t over yet. Let’s see how the administration holds up when the students come back from break and counterattack. My prediction: Krislov will be forced to bend his knee or he will be forced out. Modern liberalism has no defense against the monster of multiculturalism that they themselves created.

    • texasjimbo

      Its true the “protesters” are now put in the position of having to escalate or be rendered toothless. I would have preferred the president not suggest he was inclined to collaborate with the stupid, self righteous ninnies and instead clearly state that the protesters would pay a heavy price for stepping out of line. But even this mild rebuke is so rare I’d like to think of it as progress.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I suspect that the administration planned this rather carefully. The students are currently at home (for the most part), and this statement reaches them as they are in direct communication with their families, who are largely financing their adventures. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if these students are being rather forcibly reminded by their parents that they (the parents) are paying the bills, and that this will come to a screeching halt if they (the students) decide to confront the administration and get themselves expelled.

  • bflat879

    I have said for years that, if our colleges and universities were as interested in graduating the poor and disadvantaged, as they were in getting them in there for pictures, things would be a lot different. First, however, we need to deal with K-12 education, so we can send our children to college with the necessary education to succeed. Apparently, success is not the purpose of the exercise any more.

  • MrJest

    Just expel the “problematic” students for creating a hostile learning environment. End of problem.

  • Proud Skeptic

    Actually, I am sorry to see that the president of Oberlin is pushing back. Maybe it is time for one of these liberal colleges to just fix these race problems, pay a $15 minimum wage, free up the “Department of Jazz, Racial Grievances and Gender Confusion” and see where it takes them. Why fight it? After all, it is the Oberlin culture that spawned spoiled little sh$ts like these. Let ‘er rip!

    • Eurydice

      Sure, this makes sense. If students want to spend enormous sums of money on useless studies, they’re free to do so. And if universities want to take their money and give back nothing useful in return, they’re free to do that, too. There are plenty of other colleges and universities and there’s no reason why Oberlin should cling to old standards of excellence or continue to exist at all. Donors and alums might feel differently – but, hey, it’s the 21st century, As for $15 per hour, I think those poor people who get minimum wage should get extra hazard pay for having to deal with all the entitled little darlings.

      • Proud Skeptic

        As long as it is private money and a private college, they should just go with it. I mean, how can you spend all that time teaching kids to do what they did and then be surprised when they did exactly what you taught them to do?

        • Eurydice

          Yes, it’s an interesting kind of compartmentalization – that students will only learn the “good things” and not the “bad things.” And also an interesting kind of hypocrisy – because if these institutions really did believe in what they’re are teaching the kids, the organizational structure wouldn’t need to be changed in order to reflect that.

  • Celsius1939a

    There will never be any sanity at Oberlin. All the losers piled together in one crummy place. Stay away from it. The terrible thing is that it once was a fine music school.

  • Gringao

    Oberlin…who would have thought Oberlin would be the modern Thermopylae and its president our Leonidas?

  • Gray Wolf

    Academics – by personality – generally are not confrontational and pretty spineless.
    AND, they’re as lefty as the little red guards that their faculty indoctrination has produced.
    What goes around comes around.
    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Who cares, the present Blue Model bricks and mortar college is too expensive, and is going to be replaced by online degree programs. Colleges are in the same position as all of the print media, even TV news, and are all going out of business, or changing so drastically that they are nearly unrecognizable. With few exceptions, I expect most colleges and universities to go out of business, once employers accept the validity of online degrees. The days of going deeply into debt to pay for a college education so you can get a high paying job will be over, and so will the colleges that debt supported.

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