A View From Mizzou
Boy, my mailbag these days, you should read it. This is a slightly edited letter from a white student at Mizzou — edited to remove his name and identifying characteristics. He’s scare of the left-wing McCarthyism at the university, and once you read his letter, you’ll understand.
The student begins by talking about how he hasn’t noticed that Mizzou was any kind of hotbed of racial animus, but he admits that as a white person, maybe he has missed something. Then he answers the question I posed on the blog earlier, about whether or not most students at Mizzou agreed with the protests, and if not, why weren’t they protesting the radicals? The student writes:
When someone cries “racism”, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to speak up from the other side of the aisle without being called a racist. You’ll see precious few people actually involved with the school at any level arguing against what happened — certainly not staff or faculty because they don’t want to be perceived as being in league with [former president] Wolfe and potentially lose their job — but I think even the student voice from that perspective will be small. It won’t be a crowd of people demonstrating on the quad, anyway, and I really doubt anyone would be willing to undertake a hunger strike in an effort to reverse what happened (which, without a football team, would be unlikely to succeed anyway). One person with a sandwich board or a letter to the editor of The Maneater – maybe. But I think most people who feel like I do will keep silent because we’re too afraid of what’s going to happen if we speak up.
The damage to Wolfe is already done, but the damage to MU’s integrity and that of all the instances like this at other educational institutions that are sure to follow suit is just beginning to be known.
There’s a couple of other factors at play in the student mentality, and maybe I’m a little jaded and cynical. I think the college mentality of getting fired up that you can effect change and actually have an impact in the workings of the world, or your small sphere of influence within it, drives a lot of people (mostly undergraduates) to take up causes they know little if anything about, and I also think there’s a fair contingent of Caucasian students who don’t care enough to express an opinion either way because allegations of racism against African American students don’t directly affect or involve them. Still some might see this for what it is, realize their voice won’t do anything to stop the kind of decisions that go hand-in-hand with multimillion dollar SEC deals, and that voice will continue to murmur quietly in the background while the voice of outrage, founded or not, will continue to futilely blaze a trail toward political correctness.
I really hope that someone on campus will push for the other side of this story to be known alongside the protesters’ case. I’d hate to think the college that founded the idea of journalism school is a group of one-sided reactionaries instead of free and critical thinkers.
Let me invite dissenting students or faculty at other colleges experiencing these protests to talk about the situations there. Will there be counterprotests? Why or why not? Do the conditions this student describes above also exist at your school? I will protect your anonymity, but I do need some confirmation that you are who you say you are — that is, a real student (or faculty member, or staffer) at a real school.
What kind of university can thrive in a climate of such fear? Good grief, administrators and faculty, look at what you’re doing to yourselves and the institutions you have been given responsibility to steward!