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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Backlash Develops Over Student Protests - Some say protesters’ tactics are designed to suppress debate ('If you disagree with anything they’re saying, you will instantly be denounced as a bigot and attacked on social media.The most jarring part of all this is to see the administration going along with it.')

From The Wall Street Journal:

Student protests over racial grievances on college campuses gained momentum this past week, but they also generated a backlash among classmates who believe protesters’ tactics are creating an atmosphere of intimidation designed to stifle debate.

The criticism is bubbling up around the country as protesters have claimed wins in the form of resignations of senior administrators and promises for more resources and better representation for minority groups.

At the University of Missouri, where the protests climaxed two weeks ago with the resignation of the school president, Ian Paris said he was prompted to speak out when classmates told him they disagreed with some of the demands protesters had made but were afraid to speak out.

“If you disagree with anything they’re saying, you will instantly be denounced as a bigot and attacked on social media,” said Mr. Paris, a 21-year-old senior. “The most jarring part of all this is to see the administration going along with it.”

At the University of Kansas, a student group has called for impeachment of the student-body president because she didn’t stand up during a town-hall meeting when they called for support of a series of items demanding racial justice. One item was a call for a parallel student government that emphasized diversity.

Jessie Pringle, who took office in May, said she needed to think about that and hesitated to stand. Demands that she step down have prompted calls from students and even more from alumni telling her to push back, she said.

“Quite frankly, the message from alumni in particular has been to stand my ground and don’t let anyone bully you,” said Ms. Pringle. “We need to talk about racism on this campus and how to move forward, and I don’t think my resignation will help to address those issues.”

At Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., more than 300 people have signed on in support of an open letter published last weekend by junior Nathaniel Tsai, stating that they don’t endorse discrimination but also don’t condone the actions of the protest movement on that campus last week.

The dean of students resigned last week after students launched hunger strikes calling for her to step down, citing concerns about racial insensitivity.

Mr. Tsai, 19 years old, said that while he has gotten support for his comments, he also has had classmates accuse him of hurting the cause.

“It’s disheartening,” he said of criticism of his letter. “There are people out there who believe we shouldn’t have said anything at all.”

Rachel Doehr, a senior at the school, said she had supported minority students’ efforts on campus but felt a monthslong protest was hijacked in recent weeks.

“They were asking for some really reasonable measures, like resources on campus,” she said. But once some called for the administrator’s resignation, “The middle ground started to feel alienated.”

“Nobody felt like they could speak out because they didn’t want to come off as disagreeing or being against students of color,” Ms. Doehr said.

Nadine Strossen, a New York Law School Professor and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, said this swing to clamp down on ideas that the majority of protesters disagree with was just as prevalent when she was a student in the 1960s and 1970s protesting against the War in Vietnam.

“It seems to be basic human nature to want to suppress ideas that you disagree with,” Ms. Strossen said. This week it’s gotten to the point where “you’re not even allowed to suggest something is open to debate… there is a total disconnect with the idea of diversity that is their goal.”

By Friday evening, more than 500 people had signed a petition denouncing a move by Princeton University administrators to reconsider the use of Woodrow Wilson’s name on the campus and to designate campus space for cultural-affinity groups. The administrators’ moves Thursday night ended a 32-hour sit-in in the president’s office by students associated with the Black Justice League.

The petition said the students “appreciate the concerns but oppose the demands of the Black Justice League,” calling for dialogue to include all members of the university community, “not merely those who are the loudest.”

Debate was particularly sharp between black students. In one FacebookFB1.00% exchange viewed by the Journal between several African-American students, one was criticized for supporting the opposition petition.

“We gotta stand in solidarity with each other. At the end of the day, we only got us. Nobody ever loved us except for us,” wrote one student. Another said he would pray for the dissenting classmate.

The co-author of the Princeton petition asking administrators to reconsider their concessions said the loud volume of the discussion thus far was crowding out any diversity of thought.

“The discussion surrounding these issues on campus was being monopolized by a few very loud and very passionate students, but the silent majority of Princeton students weren’t being heard for fear of being called racist or another term,” said Evan Draim, a senior who co-wrote the petition.

“We see these demands as a genuine threat to academic integrity,” said Joshua Zuckerman, Mr. Draim’s co-author. Mandating cultural-sensitivity training raised concerns that people who did discuss controversial topics “will be demonized and punished.”

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