Mizzou: No Longer An Actual University
Amid a wave of student and faculty protests over racial tensions that all but paralyzed its flagship campus here, the president of the University of Missouri system resigned Monday, urging everyone involved to “use my resignation to heal and start talking again.”
The president, Timothy M. Wolfe, had grown increasingly isolated, with opposition to his leadership reaching a crescendo in the last few days: a graduate student, Jonathan Butler, has been holding a highly publicized hunger strike, saying he would not eat again until Mr. Wolfe was gone; the university’s student government on Monday demanded his ouster; and much of the faculty canceled classes for two days, in favor of a teach-in focused on race relations.
But it was the football team that delivered what might have been the fatal blow to Mr. Wolfe’s tenure, when players announced on Saturday that they would refuse to play as long as the president remained in office, and their head coach, Gary Pinkel, said he supported them. The prospect of a football strike drew national attention, and officials said that just forfeiting the team’s game next weekend against Brigham Young University would cost the university $1 million.
Well, now we know: the football team at Mizzou takes priority over everything else. The University of Missouri is a football team with a university attached to it. More:
“It is my belief we stopped listening to each other,” Mr. Wolfe said. “We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quit intimidating each other.”
“I take full responsibility for this frustration,” he added, “and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.”
Thousands of students and faculty gathered Monday morning at the Speaker’s Circle, at the heart of the campus, to discuss racism and ramp up pressure on Mr. Wolfe and the Curators to act. They erupted in cheers at word of his resignation, and Mr. Butler said he would eat for the first time in a week.
Well, Tim Wolfe’s dietary habits aren’t the same as my own, because to quote e.e. cummings, cited in an earlier post this morning, “There is some sh*t I will not eat.”
Here is the list of demands protesting black students made:
So, how far is Mizzou willing to go to satisfy these radical demands? If they think forcing Wolfe out will settle matters, they’re dreaming.
Here’s some background from the Washington Post, on events leading up to the Wolfe self-immolation:
The problems in Columbia began on Sept. 11. That’s when Payton Head, the Missouri Students Association president and an African American, was racially abused as he walked home.
“Last night as I walking through campus, some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided that it would be okay to continuously scream N—– at me,” Head wrote on Facebook the next day. “I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society.”
African American students became upset when it took university chancellor R. Bowen Loftin nearly a week to respond to the incident. After several other black students experienced similar abuse, Butler and others organized a rally.
“The University of Missouri does not care about black students,” Danielle Walker shouted into a microphone. “Racism lives here. Not in Ferguson. Not in Baltimore. Not in South Carolina. Here. Right here.”
OK, wait. Why does jackass behavior by a group of white racists riding around in a pick-up truck on campus — racists who might not even be part of the university community — require a response from the chancellor of the university? Why is the lack of a response a sign that the University of Missouri does not care about black students? When I was an undergraduate at LSU, drunk frat-boy types would sometimes drive by groups of us walking down Highland Road to the bars, and yell abuse at us, usually “Faggots!” or something like that. It never occurred to any of us to demand that the university chancellor Show That He Cares. Did any of us think that the university administration actually approved of idiots calling undergraduates names from passing cars? Of course not. If violence had been threatened, that would have been a different matter, but the general understanding was that you will always have jerks among us, and drunken stupidity was not generally a cause for making a federal case.
Well, not anymore, I guess:
Barely a week later came another ugly on-campus incident.
Shortly after midnight on Oct. 5, members of the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) were in a campus plaza rehearsing for a play the following night when “an inebriated white male” called them “n—–s.”
This time, the university responded more promptly, with Loftin issuing a statement denouncing the incidents. “We support free speech in the context of learning, spirited inquiry and intellectual discussion, but acts of bias and discrimination will not be tolerated at Mizzou,” he wrote.
Sanction that jerk, then. What he said was unacceptable. As the Post notes, Mizzou is a campus of 35,000 students. It should not shock anybody that among that vast population are racists and drunkards, as well as all manner of sinners. When one of them sins by getting drunk and saying something racist, the proper response is to punish the racist drunkard. It is not a Crisis™. And lo, the university identified the white drunk and kicked him off campus! But that wasn’t enough.
Days later, a group of black protesters surrounded a car carrying Wolfe in a parade, and refused to let him pass. Wolfe’s driver “bumped” a couple of protesters in an effort to get away. Well, if you are going to prevent a car from driving on a road, don’t be surprised when you get bumped, morons! But that was seen as another sign of the racist character of the Mizzou administration.
And then someone painted a swastika in feces on a residence hall wall. This person has not been identified. Nobody knows if this was a genuine act of hate, or a hate crime hoax carried out by a provocateur (this has been a documented problem on campuses). But it didn’t matter to protesters. It was useful to the cause.
Here is Allan Bloom, reflecting in 1987’s The Closing of the American Mind on the destruction of university culture by the 1960s protest movement:
Indignation or rage was the vivid passion characterizing those in the grip of the new moral experience. Indignation may be a most noble passion and necessary for fighting wars and righting wrongs. But of all the experiences of the soul it is the most inimical to reason and hence to the university. Anger, to sustain itself, requires an unshakable conviction that one is right. Whether the student wrath against the professorial Agamemnons was authentically Achilleans is open to question. But there is no doubt that it was the banner under which they fought, the proof of belonging.
It wasn’t just the football team and black students. The Post writes:
Tensions were high on campus Monday morning — with a student on a hunger strike, others camped out in solidarity, faculty members canceling classes, a petition and boycott. In the morning, the Missouri Students Association, which represents the school’s undergraduates, formally called for Wolfe’s removal. In a letter, it decried the administration’s silence after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, a black man, by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and charged that Wolfe had “enabled a system of racism” on the Columbia campus and had failed the students.
Here’s the letter the MSA sent:
Think about this. The university students have allegedly fallen apart because the university administration did not take a public position on the shooting and riots in Ferguson, which “forced [them]to face an increase in tension and inequality without systemic support.” This is outrageous! These grown men and women could not bear to think about events in Ferguson without
Daddy and Mommy the university administration telling them that it felt their pain? The university has “failed” them by not creating “spaces of healing”? My God, students today. What entitled, privileged children they are. Little emperors.
And what is this “culture of racism” that Tim Wolfe has “enabled”? Surely there is more to it than a drunken idiot dropping the N-word on students, or (perhaps equally drunken) rednecks yelling racist epithets at a black student. So, tell us? Are we really to believe that the University of Missouri campus is a bastion of racial hatred? Just because a group of students says so? Let’s hear the reasoned public case that the racial situation on the U of M campus is so bad that it required the resignation of the university’s president. Just because
Daddy Tim Wolfe did not say “yes” to the students’ demands does not mean that he didn’t listen to them. One gets the impression that college undergraduates today have been told “yes” so often by their parents that they cannot understand that their desires are not self-justifying. Maybe Tim Wolfe really was a lousy college president, and maybe he ought to have done more, or done things differently. But that has not been demonstrated by the evidence presented. Race and racism really are a big deal in our society — but on the basis of the evidence presented, Tim Wolfe has not created a “culture of racism” on campus.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter: Tim Wolfe is out. He was saying as late as Sunday that he wasn’t going to resign, but he must have been told in this morning’s meeting of the board that he didn’t have their support anymore. Well, we now know what the University of Missouri is — and is not.
We have seen today at Mizzou the acquiescence of reason to indignation — or, to be more blunt, the acquiescence of reason to football. Naturally, the White House praises the mob:
White House press secretary Josh Earnest praised the protesters. They showed that “a few people standing up and speaking out can have a profound impact on the places where we live and work,” Earnest said. It would require continued “hard work” on the part of students and administrators to ensure progress continued, he said, and he noted that similar debates are taking place at other campuses, such as recent protests at Yale University.
The scale and source of the concerns at Yale are different, Earnest said, but both go to the “fundamental issue of ensuring that there is home for everyone” on college campuses.
Great, so now the White House sides with SJWs.
Now we will see if Yale will similarly acquiesce. If the university administration and faculty do not stand 100 percent behind Nicholas and Erika Christakis, the university will disgrace itself. It must not accommodate those mewling undergraduate neurotics one bit. I wish I had confidence that Yale was going to do the right thing, instead of the expedient thing. Maybe it will surprise me.
Maybe I’m a romantic about such things, but I have to believe that there is a silent majority of undergraduates and even faculty members in American universities who are sick and tired of being bullied by Social Justice Warriors. They must know that their vocations and their livelihoods are on the line here, and that if they don’t stand up to it now, while they can, they are going to be swept away as surely as Tim Wolfe was. Do you undergraduates and professors at Mizzou realize that the football team — the football team! — pushed out the president of your university? Do you really want the football team to decide how the university runs itself? Because that’s what just happened.
I hope that none of my children want to become professors in American universities. When a university president can be forced to step down for, among other things, failing to create a “space for healing” for its insatiably aggrieved students, we are witnessing an astonishing degree of intellectual and moral corruption. Lop off the head of one university president, teach a thousand, I guess.
It’s all Trumpbait. You know this, right?
In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that too many college students engage in “catastrophizing,” which is to say, turning common events into nightmarish trials or claiming that easily bearable events are too awful to bear. After citing examples, they concluded, “smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.”
What Yale students did next vividly illustrates that phenomenon.
According to the Washington Post, “several students in Silliman said they cannot bear to live in the college anymore.” These are young people who live in safe, heated buildings with two Steinway grand pianos, an indoor basketball court, a courtyard with hammocks and picnic tables, a computer lab, a dance studio, a gym, a movie theater, a film editing lab, billiard tables, an art gallery, and four music practice rooms. But they can’t bear this setting that millions of people would risk their lives to inhabit because one woman wrote an email that hurt their feelings?
Another Silliman resident declared in a campus publication, “I have had to watch my friends defend their right to this institution. This email and the subsequent reaction to it have interrupted their lives. I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns.” One feels for these students. But if an email about Halloween costumes has them skipping class and suffering breakdowns, either they need help from mental-health professionals or they’ve been grievously ill-served by debilitating ideological notions they’ve acquired about what ought to cause them pain.
“We simply ask that our existences not be invalidated on campus,” the letter says, catastrophizing.
This notion that one’s existence can be invalidated by a fellow 18-year-old donning an offensive costume is perhaps the most disempowering notion aired at Yale.
The same thing ought to be said to the black students at Mizzou. No truckload of racist rednecks or no wandering racist drunk has the power to threaten their existence or worth. The idea that the university administration’s failure to react as they would have had them react to Ferguson is a threat to them is just crazy — and yes, perhaps the most disempowering notion aired at Mizzou. But now that they’ve witnessed the power of righteous indignation, it won’t stop here. Now, all eyes are on Yale.
UPDATE.2: Now the University of Missouri chancellor has resigned. Two scalps. Impressive. Three cheers for National Review‘s editorial about the mess. Excerpts:
Wolfe, black students insisted, has “enabled a system of racism” at the university. What exactly that system of racism consists of remains vague. The complaints include the by-now-familiar litany, beginning with the fact that the university administration was silent on the matter of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a year ago. Multiple investigations of the Brown shooting, including the one conducted by Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, have concluded that there was no criminal conduct by police in the case. But even if there had been, what business is it of the University of Missouri? The purpose of a university administration is to administer the university, not to provide a salve for every hurt, real or imagined, that besets the increasingly childish adults it is intended to serve. Other racial incidents have been reported by Mizzou students with varying degrees of documentation: A student says he was twice described with a racial slur, and a swastika was found applied to a dormitory wall with feces. But the University of Missouri is not besieged by the Ku Klux Klan. It is besieged by hysteria. Hysteria needs to be stood up to, not cravenly fed with acquiescence.
When men with souls made of cotton candy wilt in the face of this sort of absurdity, it encourages it. Wolfe is, by his resignation, rewarding destructive and deeply illiberal behavior. … University of Missouri students desperately need to grow the hell up and start acting like adults.