By David French
Friday, May 26, 2017
It’s almost summer, but it’s not too late for one last campus absurdity. At Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., biology professor Bret Weinstein is reportedly no longer safe on campus:
As a biology professor for 15 years at Olympia’s The Evergreen State College, Bret Weinstein has seen his share of protests, but he’s never been afraid of being on campus until this week.
“I have been told by the Chief of Police it’s not safe for me to be on campus,” said Weinstein, who held his Thursday class in a downtown Olympia park.
An administrator confirmed the police department advised Weinstein it “might be best to stay off campus for a day or so.”
His principal crime was dissenting from a so-called “Day of Absence,” an event in which white students and faculty were asked to leave campus for a day. In response, he wrote a letter to all faculty and staff containing arguments like this:
There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Days of Absence, as well as the recent Women’s Day walkout), and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.
You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus on the Day of Absence. I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation, whether they have “registered” for it already or not. On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.
He was, of course, accused of “anti-blackness” and cornered by a group of students who engaged in a Yale-style shoutdown, and now he’s not safe on campus.
Conservatives tend to respond to incidents like this by rolling their eyes, calling the students “snowflakes” (a term many on the right need to stop using, given their own hysterical reactions to leftist critiques), and relishing their inevitable education in the so-called “real world.” The presumption is simple — these kinds of antics won’t fly when they’re trying to sell insurance or write code or balance a company’s budget. The “real world” is a harsh teacher, and soon they’ll have to grow up.
This response, however, is fundamentally wrong. For the most committed campus radical, the “real world” doesn’t await; a lifetime of activism does. They’ll move seamlessly from academia into government, art, and politics, and sometimes right back into academia.
Remember Emma Sulkowicz? She’s the former Columbia University student who carried a mattress on her back to protest the university’s handling of her sexual-assault claim against a fellow student. The university found her alleged attacker not responsible, and law enforcement refused to prosecute, but she insisted on his expulsion anyway. She was hailed from coast to coast by people with no first-hand knowledge of the incident and celebrated as a feminist hero. Shortly after attending the State of the Union address at the invitation of New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, she filmed a pornographic depiction of her alleged rape. Now she’s a “performance artist living and working in New York City,” and in her latest piece she was “bound, berated, and hung from the ceiling” as some sort of comment on Donald Trump.
Have you heard of Eric Clanton? He’s a college professor who was arrested for beating three people with a bike lock at a Trump rally in April. He’s apparently served as a part-time instructor at Diablo Valley College, teaching a class described as “introduction to philosophy with a background in teaching ethics, critical thinking, and comparative philosophy East/West.”
Yes, even ethics professors are beating people with bike locks now.
Indeed, even the “real world” isn’t what it used to be. Now that we live in hyper-partisan times and increasingly work in geographically separated ideological cocoons, it’s easy to take your activism straight to work, even if it’s not a philosophy department or progressive law firm. Corporate boycotts directly extend campus politics into the world of commerce, and any person who works for a major progressive corporation knows very well what they risk if they publicly dissent from the company line on the same hot-button cultural issues that trigger campus meltdowns.
There are many real worlds now, and a person of any ideology — if they so choose — can live their entire life without facing the stereotypical “wake-up call” that tends to moderate political extremes. So don’t look at campus craziness and take any comfort at all from the fact that these so-called “snowflakes” will graduate and enter the marketplace. The real world they’ll choose to join will indeed change them, but not in the way that conservatives imagine. Their real world will only magnify their voice.