Aaron David

A fourth generation Californian, befuddled.

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147 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    The situations in each of these schools is different. Some make me roll my eyes at the hypersensitivity of some people or their unwillingness to allow things they don’t like. Some seem like protests born of poor treatment and long standing unanswered grievances. But if you have already decided one narrative fits all of them, and they narrative is deeply negative towards the kids, then what is there to discuss. If the kids are all wrong and all situations are the same then what is the point. Why look into each of the situations or listen to the various stories.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

      I think you can recognize that each situation is different, and that these situations may have legitimate grievances, and still point out the troubling undercurrent of trying to stifle the public expression of uncomfortable positions.Report

      • Michelle in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I agree. Despite the different objectives of these protests, the overall effect is to crack down on offensive speech and create safe spaces where one need not confront it.Report

      • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I agree about the stifling of uncomfortable positions but there is often more to what they are asking for. Boiling it down to only focusing on the kids bad arguments seems like a way to ignore anything they might have to say.Report

        • Michelle in reply to greginak says:

          True, but their legitimate claims tend do get ignored when they talk the language of feelings and seem to want a therapeutic solution to the problems.Report

          • greginak in reply to Michelle says:

            I agree with this to a degree. I don’t think they frame their issues well or they don’t realize how poorly it comes of to people who don’t already agree with them.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

              Which takes us back to students being young & still learning, which takes me back to, “where in the fish are the adults in all this, the ones who should be helping these youth craft a better message, instead of reliving their activist days/fantasies?”Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    How much power do these students have? Can they hire and fire? Have any refused to pay their tuition? Have any holed up in the President’s office? Because if all the students have done is march and chant and write letters and yell than they aren’t stifling anything. If the university, in response to their marching and chanting and letters and yelling, enacts policies or fires people, then the university is the issue, not the students.

    ETA: Ultimately, the power still lies where it always has: in the hands of a concentrated few. If you have issues with the university taking disciplinary action against folks, go after the university. Go after the people with the power. Go after the people in position to make policy. Don’t go after the kids yelling in the streets. All they have is the streets to yell in. They don’t pull the levers. They’re simply hoping they get pulled differently (and may or may not agree with the new lever pulling that we’re seeing).Report

    • Michelle in reply to Kazzy says:

      Well, if they’re football players they apparently have enough power to bring down a university president and chancellor. Regular students seem only to have enough power to pressure lower-level administration either to resign or issue abject apologies.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Michelle says:

        “There’s a protest on the green, sir.”

        “The hippies again? Must be Tuesday.”

        “No sir, it’s the football team – they are refusing to play, which could muck up alumni donations.”


        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Glyph says:

          My understanding is that it’s even worse than that. They have NCAA contracts that need to be fulfilled, and there’s immediate big money on the line if the team doesn’t play.

          Looks like having millions of dollars in the hands of a small group of workers who are paid massively below market price has consequences after all. I wonder if this isn’t the first of many football strikes now that it’s clear how much power they have.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


            I wonder if this isn’t the first of many football strikes now that it’s clear how much power they have.

            Or alternately, contractual strings attached to football scholarships that say they have to play if they are of sound health, and if they don’t, they have to pay back their tuition?Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

              I’d be surprised to learn that scholarships contain such language, but wouldn’t put it past the universities. And if that language isn’t in there now, I fully expect it to be so soon.

              None of which prevents the players from faking injuries.

              As many have noted, the players having the support of the coaches in this situation was *huge*… not only because it communicated that the issues and grievances weren’t limited to students but also because it left the university with little leverage to do anything in response.

              “Coach! Go out there and make them play!”
              “Fine then, we’ll fire you, too!”
              “Great. You know my contract is fully guaranteed in the event of firing and you’ll be on the hook for my salary and whatever you pay the next guy, who probably won’t come cheap after all this if you want anyone of any quality?”Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m not saying that I’d want them to do that (and maybe their lawyers have advised them against it) – but with that much money riding on football, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Oh, yes, I agree wholly! Sorry if that wasn’t clear. If they can’t already do this, I’m sure in the future they’ll make sure they can!Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

                I suspect you’re wrong about the language. I’d be surprised if the scholarship didn’t say clearly that it was contingent on your continuing to participate in all of the team’s activities, less a handful of spelled-out exceptions. There are a small number of schools that do multi-year scholarships, or that allow you to keep the scholarship when you stop taking part, but that’s not the standard NCAA arrangement.

                At least for the very top players, it’s not the loss of the scholarship that’s the big risk — it’s the loss of the opportunity to audition for the NFL general managers.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I would be surprised if there weren’t other conditions on the scholarships, like staying out of trouble with the law, no use of performance-enhancing drugs, maintaining a minimum of academic performance, probably participate in some “engagement experience” in the community which provides free PR for the university, etc.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to Glyph says:

              That’s a possibility. It would certainly prevent strikes over nonsense. But I have to wonder what the outcome would be if, on the one hand, the university was on the hook for millions in penalties and the collapse of a valuable football franchise and on the other hand, the students were just on the hook for tuition. If the concession was valuable enough, I think the players could still swing it. I can’t see a sports-centric university burning its football franchise to the ground and losing tens of millions of dollars just to make an example out of the football team.

              The trick is that since NCAA rules prevent the students from getting just about anything of value from the university, there probably aren’t that many issues worth taking that kind of risk for.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michelle says:


        That is leverage. But not power. Leverage is saying, “We won’t play. But ultimately the decision to keep the President on lies with others.” Power is saying, “You’re fired.”

        The power structure has not changed. Perhaps different groups have different amounts of leverage and/or are applying it differently but the power structure has not changed.

        Any and all rules being changed or enforced are being done at the behest of others.Report

        • Michelle in reply to Kazzy says:

          No, they don’t have the power to fire the president directly. But what is leverage if not a form of power?

          And would we really want to change the power structure to enable students to be able to fire university presidents?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:


      A moderate-sized group of otherwise non-empowered people can have a fair amount of power over what can be said in a space if the actual authorities there let them. If you went and got your five burliest guy friends and they got their five burliest guy friends and you went to a campus quad and declared that it was a safe space from anyone saying anything nice about the NFL, and you vocally shouted down anyone who tried to do so, and demand that they leave, you would gain de facto a lot of power over the discourse that occurred in that space until the campus authorities came and cleared you out. And if they did not, you would retain that power for a while.

      What’s being debated here is how much actions like that threaten the values of free speech and open discourse, which our society values, and which universities consider themselves to place even more

      I’m not saying there aren’t different side to that debate. One can say that it’s less important that those values be strictly protected in all campus spaces, even ones as quintessentially shared and representative of open discourse as “the quad,” than to occasionally give marginalized students essentially exclusive rights to public space, when they can make it “safe” from expression that they don’t want to hear. I personally take seriously the argument that these students feel excluded in such spaces all the time, and so some balancing should take place. (I take it seriously, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s strong enough to justify letting them silence dissent on the quad.)

      Regardless, I do think that in the moments that were depicted, you did in effect see this group effectively seize a bit of exclusive power over that space on campus. And they used it to try to control dissent there, to some extent or other. (But see my comment in the other thread questioning how much of it they actually sought to do that in – whether it might have been analogous to not letting people inside the very middle of a prayer circle that is also a protest on a quad. But I don’t know if that was the case. In my view, a lot of this rides on the size and geometry of the space being contested here.) What’s really under discussion here is that impulse – to go to a place as quintessentially public and representative of free discourse on campus on the quad, and try to control dissenting expression there, rather than be open to it.

      There are lots of other spaces on campus that can be safe. OTOH, if you don’t *at any other time* feel free to express yourself there, I can understand the impulse to make it “safe” for a very defined and limited length of time. I know where I come down on that, because there are so many other parts of a campus that can be made “safe,” but I don’t think it’s as easy a question as some make it out to be. But I still think it has one answer that is consistent with the prevailing values of the university in the American system, and others that are not.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “And if they did not…”

        As long as the powers that be have unilateral discretion over whether or not they act, then we cannot say that power wrests elsewhere. If they bequeath that power unto others, than those others might hold it, albeit temporarily. They hold it at the mercy of those who have given it to them.

        As long as the rules say, “If you throw a punch/tackle someone/fire a shot, you risk imprisonment but if we throw a punch/tackle someone/fire a shot, we are exercising our lawfully held power,” than the power dynamics remain the same.

        I’m not arguing the merits of this or any other protest. I’m arguing the idea that the students are in any way actually violating the rights of others. They simply don’t have the power to. Not on any kind of scale worth fearing and not without the endorsement — tacit or otherwise — of those who actually hold power. And it is in those people’s hands that responsibility lies.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

          The concern isn’t the students not wanting to hear the opinions of others, it’s the fact that they want to those who hold power to bend to their will and enforce that desire, coupled with the fact that, by & large, there is a distrust that those who hold the power have the fortitude to resist that call (because giving into that desire actually grants them more power).Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            How is expressing offense-taking connected to bending those with power to the offense-takers will? Is there a distinction between those two concepts in which the expression of offense-taking is consistent with free speech, or does every such expression entail a desire to bend power to its will?

            Go to the Yale case: surely the kids over-reacted to the Christakistakeses emails, but their reaction was perfectly consistent with the exercise of free speech, yes? They found it offensive and expressed as much. Ms. Christakis, on the other hand, found the administration’s email offensive, and blamed her offense-taking not on the administration but on offense-taking kids!

            How does that make any sense?Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

              I’m thinking more along these lines:

              The University of Missouri police department sent an email urging students to report offensive or hurtful speech – not because it is illegal – but so the Office of Student Conduct could take disciplinary action against these students.

              How quickly the police moved to take action at the behest (I am assuming) of the Office of Student Conduct (before cooler heads came knocking with a clue).Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                As I wrote upthread, offensive or harmful speech isn’t mentioned in the list of demands.

                Adding: But to get things back on track, the expression of offense taking strike me as perfectly legitimate and appropriate exercises of free speech. But the counter argument appears to be that it’s not! It’s actually inconsistent with free speech because such expressions are necessarily (??) intended to bend TPTB to its will and impose censorship.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:


                My impression of the Yale thing was that what you’re focusing on here are the fractal tails of the controversy that never really whipped back and grabbed Gandalf (or something), or only did to a tiny fraction of the extent they’ve been represented to.

                To explain. My understanding of the basic timeline is that the initial university email about costumes was written. Then Christakis wrote hers. Then there was the protest. And you’re saying why isn’t that protest free speech? And my impression was that for about 98% of protesters and observers it was. But it happened that a very small number (or maybe it was a bit larger) of the protesters were asking for Christakis’ job as a house master (or whatever, but not her job as a professor). To which an even smaller number of people then said that calling for someone to resign a (one of more than one) position one holds at a university is not within the bounds of what we should regard as legitimate free speech, at least in an intellectual community that values free speech – because it’s about punishing her speech by threatening her job. But prominent among those was Mr. Christakis, and he’s conflicted on the point (household income and all). I don’t know how many more people than him followed the fractal out that far.

                My impression of the Yale thing was that it was much closer to just being an email sent by the University requesting costumes be done sensitively, an email responding to that, and then a protest about that email. I think the extent to which it spun out into really significant free speech claims and counterclaims was really overstated.

                Just my 2 pennies, in case they’re any help to you at all.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Signing on largely with what Mike said, it isn’t that the students take offense, or even want to be free from being offended, it’s when those who are offended start demanding a pound of flesh in return, or otherwise ask TPTB to intervene in what is clearly a speech issue.

                And to be honest, those demands would not even be much of a concern, if that was as far as it went. It’s that TPTB are too easily swayed by those demands & aren’t engaging the students as to why such demands are unreasonable.

                So to be clear, I’m not putting this on the students. They are students, this is part of the process. I’m putting it on the administrators & educators who are failing to teach (or, worse, are teaching this exact thing, thus making it so that the problem will grow outside of the academy).

                ETA Prior to 9/11, I never would have thought something like the Patriot Act would be possible. Now, it’s something I see that we have to be ever vigilant against.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                It’s that TPTB are too easily swayed by those demands & aren’t engaging the students as to why such demands are unreasonable.

                Nice. I think we still disagree about “the demands” insofar as they relate to speech, but this seems like a sliver of agreement and a good place to let it rest for a bit.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Oh good, I got fishing work to doReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                PS Regarding Yale, I was not following that very closely. All I really know about it was it had something to do with an email & Halloween costumes and after that I lose track of what was going on.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                All I really know about it was it had something to do with an email & Halloween costumes a bunch of damn kids trying to restrict free speech!!! 🙂Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Hell yeah! Man, I wish I hadn’t moved to the urban village so I could have a lawn to tell those damn kids to get off of!

                (As it is, my front yard is a public park).Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Where it gets complicated is one of the people involved is some weird sort of Dorm Thingy, whose job is basically interface between a dorm of students and the school administration.

                Sorta like a more grown up Den Mother or faculty Resident Advisor sort of thing. She also taught as a professor, I think.

                The calls for resignation were, IIRC, for the RA-ish positon and not her faculty position as professor.

                Given the nature of the RA position, that’s at least an arguable position since if she’s lost the faith, respect, or simple ability to work with the students in that dorm she can’t perform her job, and that job IS to work with the students.

                Now whether she should resign or be fired would depend on how many people in the dorm that represents. If it’s 2%, blah. Ignore them. If it’s 90%, then there’s a problem.

                And to be honest, if it’s half or more? This email was just the LAST thing. She had serious problems with them before, I’d bet money on that. It’s ever so rarely the last thing, it’s a string of them.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

                Yeah, closest I ever had to an RA was a platoon leader in ‘A’ school (he was in charge of our barracks space), and he outranked us by a lot, and calls for his dismissal from that post by the residents of the barracks had better include allegations of a chargeable offense.

                By the time I started college, I was married. I don’t think I ever set foot inside one of the campus dorms.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                OTOH, had an officer put out a statement reminding everyone of the importance of conducting themselves appropriately over the holiday weekend, and your platoon leader had put out another statement challenging the one from the officer, I suspect he’d be gone before you even had the opportunity to complain.

                By contrast, at the university I attended, if a significant portion of the student body had a problem with the person in charge of the dorms, I don’t know that they’d be removed, but I do know that they wouldn’t have been able to rely on academic freedom as defense in the was that the Christakis have, because they weren’t connected with the academic function of the school in any non-trivial way.

                Which sort of points back at the fact that you and I and these Yale students all made very different choices about where we spend our time after high school–and we made those choices consciously. Each community is different, with different structures and expectations. That’s why I leave it up to Yale to address the very Yale-specific situation that’s arisen, and push back so hard against attempts by outsiders to turn it in to an opportunity for PC bashing.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott says:

                I don’t know that he’d be dismissed, but I imagine there would be a rather earnest counseling session happening soon behind closed doors such that it wouldn’t happen again.

                But then, the military is much more precise with regard to authority & chain of command.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I don’t know all the specifics about the residential position the Yale people had, but there seems to me something problematic about one administrator responding to an email sent by administrators (who I assume rank above her) by sending another email to her residents, over whom she has authority, almost calling on them to disobey the initial email.

                Now, I’m not going to say that such an email would never be warranted. But I don’t see how the sender has any reasonable expectation that such an act would be free of consequences.

                So to me, it isn’t just what she sad, but what seems like an abuse of power, insubordination, or both.

                If my “dorm parent” or whatever this person was sent me an email that said, “Listen… you should be okay with being offended if it is in pursuit of people having a good laugh,” I would not feel as if that person had my best interests at heart. It would compromise my relationship with her. Severely.Report

              • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

                If my “dorm parent” or whatever this person was sent me an email that said, “Listen… you should be okay with being offended if it is in pursuit of people having a good laugh,”

                Putting aside the obvious issue of using quotes to offer your characterization of what someone said instead of using them to quote someone, is that really how you interpret the email?

                That’s not meant to be a taunt. I am legitimate curious if that is how you read it. I read it somewhat differently.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

                “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”

                I read this as saying that the right to be obnoxious trumps the right to not be offensive. And while that might be true in a legal sense, on a college campus — one folks pay oodles of money to attend — I would want an adult charged with my well being to put my emotional well-being pretty high on her list of priorities. Certainly above other people’s need to indulge in obnoxiousness.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And, again, her email was in response to an email from admin. Her point seems to be, “Man, admin are a much of killjoys… AMIRITEGUYS?” Unfortunate for her, it seems she was not right. At least not in the minds of many of her charges. She failed them. She used her power — her ability to email an entire college’s worth of students — to subvert the position of her administration, a position which many of her charges agreed with.

                That doesn’t make her inherently wrong. Such an action can very well be justified in certain circumstances. And perhaps it was justified in hers.

                But nothing excuses her from the consequences of her action.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Only quasi-related, there is something strange about her reliance on her knowledge of child development and applying that to college-aged students. The needs of preschool students and college students are… different.Report

              • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

                But you’re saying more than that. You’re saying that even posing the question is such an act of provocation that it ought to be rebuked and, in some form, punished.

                In all honesty, I find the idea of charging college administrators with protecting students emotional well-being (aside from the obvious provisioning of mental health services where needed) to be infantilizing to students at a point in their lives when they are most in need of challenges to their existing world views.

                Further, I question how much you believe in this yourself. For instance, a student raised around only people of a like ethnicity and who internalizes a good deal of fear with regards to other groups probably finds being thrust into an integrated environment quite jarring to their emotional well-being. Should colleges protect them from unsettling amounts of diversity? My guess is that you would answer no?

                I think the problem is that you arguing back and forth from two separate ethical frameworks that do not quite work together.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to j r says:

                That’s absurd.

                If you want to challenge the world-views of students, you need to care a great deal about their emotional well-being. Because students who don’t feel self-confident will respond to such challenges as attacks, get defensive, and fail to learn anything.Report

              • j r in reply to Alan Scott says:

                Good point!

                And since you began your comment with that very hurtful statement about me being absurd, I am choosing to get defensive and fail to learn anything from you.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott says:

                Weren’t you elsewhere critical of the notion that students are not adults? Isn’t a feature of adulthood being able to handle your own emotional well being?

                Are these grown children in need of care, or adults we should take seriously ?

                PS I can just imagine the reaction of my CC in basic if he had been told he had to care for our emotional well being. Its amazing to me that 80 guys from all over the country, all races & walks of life, getting tossed into a small compartment with one authority figure whose idea of conflict resolution is everyone doing pushups until you are too tired to argue, can somehow come to a diverse & equitable understanding & gel into an effective team in just 10 weeks.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Everything I said is just as true of adults as children. There’s nothing about adulthood that suddenly invalidates any attention to one’s emotional well-being.

                Now, the way in which it’s appropriate to attend to an adult’s emotional well-being is significantly different. That’s why the services designed to support students at a university level are significantly different than the services designed to support students in K12. They, by design give more agency too, and therefore put more responsibility on, the students they serve.

                But what we’re seeing at Yale is a direct result of that. The student aren’t avoiding their responsibility to care for themselves. They’re exercising that responsibility.

                Also, when did you go through basic? Your CC might have been told to pay attention to your emotional well being–just by his CO, not by the recruits under his charge.Report

              • j r in reply to Alan Scott says:

                The student aren’t avoiding their responsibility to care for themselves. They’re exercising that responsibility.

                Yes, they are exercising it by demanding that the authority figures on campus enforce prohibitions against behavior that they find emotionally troubling.

                If you think that sort of thing is perfectly acceptable adult behavior, that’s fine. I simply disagree.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott says:


                I think we may have a definitional issue here. I see the terms “responsible for” & “aware of” as two very distinct paradigms.

                Responsible for : Read – Therapeutic relationship. A Therapist/Counselor/Doctor could be said to be responsible for a patient/clients emotional well being.

                Aware of – Paying attention to. My CC was most certainly aware of our emotional well being, as he had a duty to get us help should we need it and avoid having someone suffer a meltdown during training, but he himself would not be responsible for our emotional well-being* (beyond basic things like listening to concerns).

                Now (avoiding all judgements as to the validity of students complaints & what not), I could see the College Master as having a duty to maintain some degree of awareness as to emotional health of their charges (within reason, there are likely hundreds of students & two faculty who have other responsibilities to attend to), and to make an effort to direct people to campus resources when they become aware of trouble, but requirements beyond that would be unreasonable.

                Now it’s possible that the College Master’s were just really bad, very poor listeners, very unresponsive or unconcerned with students who really needed help, or fostering an environment where students did not feel they could turn to the Master’s for help, in that case, they should not have that responsibility. But if their only sin was not adequately stroking student ego or self-esteem… Either way, the Yale issue is a local issue, and it seems very closely tied to that specific culture, which is part of why I couldn’t care enough to try & keep track of it.

                *There is actually a lot more involved in all that, but discussing that could almost be a post all in it’s own.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

                Again, I’d need to know more about the specifics of her residential position but if it functions like the residential positions at my school, then she might be asked to serve as both the most proximal and trusted authority figure for her residents. That is a meaningful position. And to send an unprovoked (by the students) email such as the one that she did, she risked needlessly breaking many students’ trust.

                Her point is not an invalid one. But it is one better taken up with the administration behind the scenes. At least to start.

                It didn’t invite dialogue or discussion. It put forth her opinion, which was that the college should not be policing costumes (even though no such thing was proposed) because she personally had no idea where to draw the line. She seems to acknowledge the line exists but objects to the administration encouraging (not requiring) atudents to say on one side of it.

                It isn’t clear to me whose interests the email served. Students who balked at the admin email were still free to dress as they wanted.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

                there seems to me something problematic about one administrator responding to an email sent by administrators (who I assume rank above her) by sending another email to her residents, over whom she has authority, almost calling on them to disobey the initial email.

                Yes, I agree with this. It was reason enough that on that basis alone I wouldn’t have been particularly troubled had Christakis been removed. The Dean of Students is her boss trying to do his job. It’s probably very within Yale culture for such freelancing by underlings to happen, but it strikes me that this is a rather egregious case of a person undermining her superior in a joint effort to provide effective leadership to a group of young students by sending out an email questioning the wisdom of the advice of the superior to the same group of students. That just seems obviously egregious to me when you strip it of this somewhat bizarre context. I wouldn’t call on any university administration to tolerate that behavior, even if this particular one was.

                I also agree that it seems likely that an email like this is not the unique reason a person in this kind of loco parentis position with the students would lose their confidence and support. And even more generally, I also agree that their call for her removal from that position is different from a call for a removal of a person from an academic position based on opinions expressed, etc. That job is to support them in their endeavors as students, so whether they feel supported or not is material to whether she’s dong the job. The feelings of a group of her charges, or even all of them, shouldn’t be the final word on whether she keeps the position, but they’re certainly relevant, and I don’t think the students are out of line to make those feeling known, nor that her free speech rights are endangered when they do so. Unlike how they might be if they were demanding the termination of, say, a non-tenured lecturer for expressing unpopular opinions.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:


                This makes my argument but in far better terms. Thanks!Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

          If I hurt you but the authorities let me get away with it, have I not hurt you? Have I not violated your rights?

          Your argument is really that because the university could go in and disperse the protest, or at least somehow force them not to shout down and exclude different views, then the protesters ipso facto can’t be doing anything to stifle free speech on the campus, even though they are choosing on their own to shout down and exclude different views, and they could just as easily choose not to? Would you be in favor of the university doing that? By the way, this is a protest movement that had just forced the resignation of the university president for inattention to their concerns. Is it really your position that the university was in a position to take an action like that at that moment?

          The university will likely stand back and let these things play out, up to a point. You’re not going to let OWS occupy the space for days and days and days, but this was a matter of a couple hours – I’m not sure a university even could respond to a situation like this in a meaningfully timely way. Nor should they. This is all within the hurly-burly of genuinely safe campus affairs. But that doesn’t mean that a group like this never exercised some real power over what was happening on the qaud, that they didn’t seek to exclude contrary views and the press, and that that doesn’t have real implication for the value of free speech on the campus. The university is going to let you say what you want to say, and isn’t going to shut down your protest inside of an hour if you call for a “safe space.” But that doesn’t mean that by doing so you haven’t taken action to limit free speech on campus, in a particular place and time. (The place being the place that most singularly symbolizes the campus’ commitment to open discourse).

          Do you disagree?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Drew says:

            If I hurt you but the authorities let me get away with it, have I not hurt you? Have I not violated your rights?

            This is salient, an authority can exercise power both through action, and inaction. There is a reason the Blue Flu gets people anxious.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

            I think shouting down people is one thing. Enforcing speech codes (which as noted below is not something the students at Mizzou ever asked for) is quite another. The students can’t enforce speech codes because they don’t have the power to. And if speech codes are wrong, the university should resist imposing them… whether or not the students want them.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

              Speech codes? How is this, meaning this discussion about the speech implications of how this protest was carried out, about speech codes at all?

              I don’t follow.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Because speech codes — of the sorts discussed with regards to the police department and disciplinary action — unambiguously limit free speech.

                Shouting people down is arguably a limit on free speech or free speech in action.

                Yes, I can shout you down. But you can just shout louder. That is to say, I don’t actually have the ability to threaten your right to free speech other than to make it hard for you to be heard (which isn’t really a free speech matter… one has a right to speak, not necessarily a right to be heard).

                But when the police or the admin can punish you for your speech… now we have a real issue.

                But only certain folks can do that. And none of them are in the quad.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

                “But when the police or the admin can punish you for your speech… now we have a real issue.”

                Welcome to the Libertarian Party, here’s your complimentary gun.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

                There should be a tote bag with some weed as well, and a gift certificate for an abortion at Planned Parenthood.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Chip Daniels: There should be a tote bag

                With an image of the Gadsen Flag on itReport

              • Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

                Okay, so we agree that we may have a potential problem when we get to the point of speech codes. But that’s not the point along the spectrum we are discussing. We’re discussion whether there may also be a problem a little closer in along the spectrum. Like, maybe around here:

                Yes, I can shout you down. But you can just shout louder.

                Keep in mind, we’re not talking about metaphorical shouting here. We’re talking about telling people to leave, that we don’t want there to be an exchange of views or reportage happening in this space, we want there to be a space that’s safe from certain expression. And we’re talking about appealing to muscle to make that happen. In my view, at some point along here the end of a free exchange of ideas, which is particularly valued in the university setting, is impeded by a perversion of its ostensible means (Don’t just discuss stuff on the quad, shout people down on the quad! They can just shout louder! Maybe we’ll then involve some muscle on either side or both!) At some point in my view that stops being about speech.

                In your view, “We don’t want you here on this public space where we’re holding a protest saying things we don’t like; we want this space to be free for us to exist in without hearing your views, and we might use some muscle to get our way if the U doesn’t step in to stop us” is itself just more speech, so long as the university isn’t helping to enforce it. I think that isn’t much about the free exchange of ideas anymore regardless of what the U does or doesn’t do about it, which is what the Quad is all about. This is, I think a genuine difference in visions of free speech on campus. In some ways perhaps your vision of speech on the Quad is even more robust than mine: Let the Quad belong to the truly strong, whoever can hold it, whoever can shout loudest (and maybe assemble some muscle to help come out on top). In my view, at some point speech has to stay in the spirit of end we have in mind for why we protect it so strongly, because speech can rub itself out if it’s not used with some minimum of restraint.

                So yeah,Perhaps we can just leave our differences on the question there.Report

  3. Stillwater says:

    In the email asking students to “call the police immediately” if they hear hateful or hurtful speech, the police department concedes “cases of hateful and hurtful speech are not crimes,” but says “if the individual(s) identified are students, MU’s Office of Student Conduct can take disciplinary action.”

    A day later, scholars piled on, noting the university may be risking lawsuits with its request for reports, which one scholar says called to mind McCarthyism.

    “This tells me this university is totally without governance at this point and is wandering into major, major constitutional problems,” says University of Missouri law professor Josh Hawley, who is on leave from the school as he campaigns to be Missouri’s next attorney general.

    Issues of potentially politically-motivated pandering perfunctorily put aside, I agree with Mr. Hawley. Mizzou is functionally without governance at this point. And presumably had been prior to the Uprising! Personally, I don’t blame the kids for a decision made by the University Police (what was the thinking here? Aren’t they supposed to be the adults in the room? (Oh wait. Ooops!)).

    I blame it on post modernism.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      One other thing here: I just re-read the list of demands made by Concerned Student 1950 and nowhere does it mention hateful or offensive uses of speech, let alone demanding the curtailment of those types of expressions.

      So I’d say, at this point in time (the situation is fluid…), that the decision to enforce a speech code was made more or less unilaterally by the University higher-ups as an attempt to reintroduce “order” to a situation degenerating into chaos pretty quickly.

      {{That isn’t to say I’m supporting or defending their efforts here, since I’m actually confused about what they’re trying to accomplish. }}Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

        Boo-yea, Stillwater.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          Along those same lines, Kazzy, I think the same thing may apply to Yale: the hooha all started when Admin. disseminated an e-mail calling for respect of others wrt Halloween costumes, yet it’s the students who got blamed for infringing on speech rights.

          I don’t know, exactly, where to draw the line, of course. Clearly some black folks find black-face offensive, but in the Yale case it was the admin. and not the kids that was “infringing on expression”. Course, it’s easy to say that the Admin wouldn’t have written that email without the kids getting all up in it, but that’s where the distinction between expressing offense-taking and desiring speech restrictions is important. Some kids presumably find those expressions offensive; the Admin actively tried to get people to refrain from so expressing themselves.Report

          • Michelle in reply to Stillwater says:

            But the kids took the admin’s side against Christakis who had the temerity to suggest that they didn’t need the admin’s guidance in choosing Halloween costumes because they had agency enough to decide what is offensive on their own.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Michelle says:

              I take the admin’s side on this too, FWIW. I think sending out an email asking college kids to be respectful of others in costume choices is perfectly appropriate. No one had to adhere to the request, as far as I’m aware.

              But again, I’m not at all clear that the admin posted that email because overly-sensitive students had bent them to their will, but even if they did, the Admin’s choices are on the Admin. In my view, Christakis was wrong to blame (or to so imply) offense-taking kids for decisions the Admin made, and in particular, to blame them because they weren’t sufficiently pro-free speech or too quick to find offense. But we’ve already talked about Christakis’ email, you and I. My thoughts about that dynamic are the same now as then.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think the problem is that you had some number of protestors who were throwing a tantrum and telling Christakis (I’m paraphrasing here) – we don’t want to debate you, we just want you fired. Thats about as illiberal and anti-academic an attitude as you can get, and it’s understandable that it would turn people to Christakis’s side. I would even argue that if this kind of attitude (let’s call it “less chat, more splat”) towards college admins was pervasive then it really does show a growing failure of academia to instill liberal values in students, or provide them with the tools to address their grievances within a democratic society. How representative you think those outbursts are of the whole situation at Yale, or in academia in general is – I imagine – the latent factor that drives much of the observed anger and disagreement in this discussion.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

                The the call for her “firing” was in the capacity of her and her husband’s role as hall monitor (no, not that, I can’t remember what it was called … ah!: they were Master’s of a dorm room… ) because some students argued they weren’t performing the job they were tasked with. To wit!:

                The Silliman Master’s role is not only to provide intellectual stimulation, but also to make Silliman a safe space that all students can come home to. His responsibility is to make it a place where your experiences are a valid concern to the administration and where you can feel free to talk with them about your pain without worrying that the conversation will turn into an argument every single time. We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard.

                But, in his ten weeks as a leader of the college, Master Christakis has not fostered this sense of community. He seems to lack the ability, quite frankly, to put aside his opinions long enough to listen to the very real hurt that the community feels. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.

                So, not “no debate, I want you fired” as much as “no debate, let me talk about my feelings, which you don’t wanna do, so I want you fired”.

                Beyond that, I’m not gonna defend what the kids did. I think it’s all sorta ridiculous, actually. I mean, there’s a problem here, and if it’s a speech issue, then admin oughta sit those kids down and get them caught up to speed; if it’s a safe space issue and part of the role of the Cs is to foster one (by listening to the kids pain) then deal with that. If it’s kids getting confused because they’ve taken to many continental phil classes and think words create social power dynamics, then they should drop those classes immediately.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

                Fair enough. The Ivys have some pretty arcane traditions about this stuff, so it’s entirely possible that the Stillman Master is really supposed to be a sort of intellectual glory hole that the students get to shoot their load of problems into. If that’s the service Yale claims to provide – and the initial admin email does actually support such an interpretation – then that’s the service Christakis should provide if he wants the job. And the rest of us should consider not sending our children to Yale.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

        This is a pretty key insight that I, at least, wasn’t aware of. The list of demands is all about structural changes to the way the university promotes diversity – hiring, training, mental health, outreach, etc. And the response from the university was “okay, we’ll start cracking down on offensive speech”. If that’s really how it played out then the university is indeed as tone-deaf and incompetent as the protestors suggest. At the very least, it certainly puts the blame on the university for creating an environment of fear – which is indeed what the protesters were upset about right from the beginning. Thanks for highlighting this point.Report

  4. Damon says:

    Civilization continues it’s spiral downward….Report

  5. Francis says:

    “Also, it is achieved by allowing some students to bully others into not voicing their opinions.”

    You may want to consider that the minority students feel this way all the time (or so they say).

    Turn-about can, from time to time, be fair play. If privileged students are experiencing some portion of how the minority students feel treated every day, then possibly there’s an opportunity for a teaching moment that ultimately results in a more inclusive environment.

    I don’t claim to know enough about the true facts of campus environment at Mizzou, but I do distinctly recall some conversations I had with minority classmates back at Dartmouth in the mid-80s. Their campus experience was very different from the one I had. People who are not living as being a distinct minority should probably be a little deferential to the claimed experience of those who are.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Francis says:


      “Hey! We can’t speak our minds!”
      “Welcome to our world for the past, oh, forever.”

      Now, maybe silencing voices is inherently wrong in all cases. But if that is the case, we need to look at ALL instances and respond proportionally.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

        That’s pretty much all discussion around Critical Mass rides, come to think of it.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:

          As much as I support biking transit, blocking people just trying to get home after a long day at the office seems like a bad strategy especially if they are on public transit.

          I am not much of an activist at heart so I always question the tactical advantages or disadvantages of various techniques. I can see the value in raising awareness like the union rat or a picket line but I wonder what is to be gained by more dramatic activist techniques like disrupting people having brunch or critical mass.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I’ve ridden in a couple of them, and honestly, it’s about the experience of those inside the ride, not those outside the ride.

            Maybe people outside the ride to resent having to give bicyclists the same right of way and space they’d give a motorist – and maybe that’s good for them, and maybe the resentment actually slightly harms other efforts. But none of that is the point.

            Feeling solidarity and support all around you for once, actually holding a small measure of power, rather than wondering where in the spectrum between tolerance, total phone-induced obliviousness, and incoherent bike-resenting old-man rage the drivers immediately behind, left, and right of you are – exhilarating joy.

            Personally I don’t need the rides that much anymore, and I don’t even know that they’re all that active in town anymore, because the attitudes of motorists have changed enough to make them unnecessary.

            In our first few years in town, I had many close calls borne I’m pretty sure of total indifference to my safety, one driver actively try to run me off the road, my wife had a bottle thrown at her out a car window, two separate instances of guys yelling at me in rage because I signaled, shoulder checked, and changed into the left lane before making a left turn, more people than I could count leaning on their horns because I had the effrontery to ride a bike in the only place it was legal for me to do so. Most drivers were reasonable, but there was enough hostility bubbling around to make an outlet like critical mass really cathartic and necessary.

            I don’t know where the change came from, but it’s been years since any of that has happened to me.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    I agree with a lot of what Greginak said above and will point out that there are plenty of adults who don’t have much tolerance for dissent either. Politics is tribal and people with deferring political views are often seen as outsiders and undesirable, not as the loyal opposition. I don’t think Talk Radio and Fox News tolerate much dissent or outside voices.

    The other view is that Lee is right on how this is an old split among the broader left. There has always been a part of the left that viewed Freedom of Speech as a bourgeois freedom that can be used as a tool against other pressing issues like social and economic equality.

    The same thing is when a side calls for “civility” and it can be an attempt to silence the opposition or set the terms of debate.Report

    • I agree. As mentioned in a slew of other comment sections, this Left/Liberal divide can not be understated, even if the protestors themselves do not classify themselves as one or the other.

      As much as I enjoy radical politics and hope that radicals have gigs at universities around the world (I wrote a piece here defending a friend of mine who came under attack by conservatives for some of her Lefty comments), I am absolutely opposed to an attack on the foundation of open discussion and the considering of other ideas. Whether some of these students see it as their end goal or not they are pushing for a more totalitarian regime/environment around speech and thought that no honest liberal should support or apologize for.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    Further to what Brother @francis notes above, there are those who, like me, involve themselves with the law of obviating discrimination, believing (mostly correctly) that each case thus handled incrementally improves things by remedying past inequalities and disincentivizing the sorts of things that create future inequality.

    It’s easy to forget, though, that in so doing we are in fact chilling speech.

    When examined strictly through the lens of First Amendment law, a white guy dropping the n-bomb in conversation is unfortunate, uncouth, rude, and most importantly, speech that is in theory protected from governmental sanction. But when examined through the lens of anti-discrimination law, that sort of thing is potent fodder for a racial harassment lawsuit — which, if resulting in a plaintiff’s verdict, is in fact sanctioning speech.

    That doesn’t mean that I advocate repealing anti-discrimination laws because they impact speech. No more than I advocate censorship because some speech makes other people uncomfortable to hear. It’s about finding the balance between the competing goods of a free and open environment for debate and discussion, versus a free and open environment in which all people are afforded substantial dignity and respect.

    We can have both. We should have both. We must collectively search for ways to practically have both. Finding the sweet spot where both can be realized, however, is a bit of a balancing act, and it’s really easy to overbalance one way or the other. Which is why the debate I read about today sounds so very very very much like the same debate going on a generation ago when I was in college: then as now, the struggle is not between good and evil, but rather between one good and a different good.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Burt Likko says:

      It’s about finding the balance between the competing goods of a free and open environment for debate and discussion, versus a free and open environment in which all people are afforded substantial dignity and respect.

      Very well said. We don’t get very far when things like freedom of speech are afforded this absolute quality. We can, do, should and always have placed limits on speech. The limits just need to be negotiated and fought over.

      And in order to do that, all the stakeholders need to be represented. Looking at the comments arguing over whether racism exists, or exists here, there or the other place, what strikes me is the underlying assumption that it is something that can be decided without the input of the offended party themselves- what we have, literally, is a bunch of white guys talking about what is or isn’t offensive to black people.

      Everyone here is well intentioned but really, we are missing a lot of the picture here.Report

    • j r in reply to Burt Likko says:


      This argument would make sense in an alternate universe where people are actually making the claim that other people should have to live under constant threat and harassment for the sake of free speech. As far as I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, no one is making that claim.

      Where is the supposedly pro-harassment, pro-discrimination side? Show me one instance where a reasonable interlocutor (i.e. not Brietbart or WND) is defending the right of individuals to smear swastikas in public spaces in the name of free speech or of campus-sanctioned groups to hold whites only parties in the name of free assembly.

      If these protests, at Missouri and elsewhere, were only about students asking administrators to enforce existing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions, this likely would not be a national story. It is a national story, because mixed in with the complaints about administrators not acting in regards to real complaints are all sorts of demands about moving the needle on what sort of speech does and does not deserve protection. Here is one example from a list of student demands at Amherst:

      5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” and “Free Speech” posters. Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

      Does anyone here want to argue that putting up posters saying “All Live Matter” constitutes threat and harassment and, therefore, should not be afforded the protections that we normally extend to political speech?

      I keep hearing people complain about so-called free speech absolutists, butt when I dig deeper into what that means it usually ends up being people making common-sense defenses of the First Amendment.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        Is it at all possible that those demands are not reasonably expected to be enacted but, rather, represent a position from which to negotiate? Perhaps they don’t actually intend to discipline students who post “All Lives Matter” posters but simply want to draw attention to the fact that a seemingly innocuous statement can actually be deeply offensive?

        I recognize we can only really work off the words they offer. And yet it seems like we are holding these kids to a standard that we so rarely hold others.

        So much of this could be cleared up by actually engaging in a dialogue with those voicing their concerns.Report

        • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

          Here is an alternate take:

          The idea that people would try to use the threat of formal sanction from an authority figure (particular in the context of college students, who literally have their futures on the line) to get other people to think twice about posting dissenting political views is deeply offensive.

          And this is exactly why people like me are taking the protesters to task. They are literally trying to use the threat of punitive action to chill free speech. And the idea that is being done by the powerless as a means of asserting themselves against the powerful is simply a false narrative.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to j r says:

        No claim is being made, anywhere, that is properly escribed as “pro-harassment.” There are claims being made — right here on this comments page, for instance — that the expression of repugnant ideas might in some cases exceed the desire of others to be free from exposure to them, and in other cases not.

        Consider, for instance, student protesters at Mizzou who purported to exclude the media from their “protest zone.” Their claim was the media’s presence rendered the environment hostile. Competing rights at play there, wouldn’t you agree?Report

        • j r in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Their claim was the media’s presence rendered the environment hostile. Competing rights at play there, wouldn’t you agree?

          I guess, in the sense that a game of one-on-one between myself and Lebron James would technically be considered a competition. But you’re the lawyer, so you tell me. Exactly how much of a competition is what you are describing? If a university refused student demands to block media (including other student journalists) from a protest on public grounds, are they opening themselves to liability? If the student protesters came to you asking you to represent them in suit against the school on the grounds that allowing the press created a hostile environment, would you take the case?

          Just to be clear, I am speaking literally here, not hypothetically. I understand that there are cases where institutions can and should enforce restrictions on speech and expression that constitute harassment to others. I just have yet to see an accurate claim of that nature in regards to this student protest issue.

          I have yet to see a student complaint/demand that was not either describing an action that schools already have rules in place against (like drawing swastikas on common walls or holding whites only parties) or would not involve a very obvious unwarranted speech prohibition (like prosecuting students who post fliers with unapproved political messages).Report

          • trizzlor in reply to j r says:

            >>I have yet to see a student complaint/demand that was not either describing an action that schools already have rules in place against (like drawing swastikas on common walls or holding whites only parties) or would not involve a very obvious unwarranted speech prohibition (like prosecuting students who post fliers with unapproved political messages).

            I think that’s why it’s important to actually distinguish between the specific demands being raised at each school:

            (1) The Missouri protestors (which involve the entire campus) are demanding structural changes to the way the school hires, educates, and counsels minorities that do not involve speech prohibition (beyond an apology from the ex-Dean).

            (2) The Yale protestors (which involve one or two campus Houses) are demanding that a teacher be removed from a sort of life coach position (as they describe it). If the position is being accurately described, then this is about existing rules not being enforced; otherwise it’s about enforcing speech. That puts it in a gray area until we know how this position is actually supposed to function.

            (3) The Amherst protestors (which involve an on-line group) are demanding university recognition for specific viewpoints over others, re-education for students holding these viewpoints, as well as changes to the school mascot.

            I don’t think it’s intentional, but much of this discussion is turning into a game of whack-a-mole where, as we find out more exculpatory information about one protest group, the conversation shifts to another protest group which we know less about and is therefore less defensible. I’ll note anecdotally that much of the initial coverage (and thus first impressions) of the Amherst protest was driven by a parody twitter account, which should give you an indication of how well that situation is understood.Report

            • j r in reply to trizzlor says:

              Apologies if I wasn’t being clear. I’m not trying to litigate the whole list of student demands and complaints. I am speaking here only about those complaints that compel the administration to take action that limits the speech and expression of others. The issues of hiring more diverse faculty members or graduate student health insurance are another conversation.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


                So is calling for an administrator who failed to enforce policy (e.g., dismissed hate messages scrawled on a public wall) to be fired a free speech issue?Report

              • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m not sure I understand the question. I guess it is tangentially a free speech issue in that the folks calling for the administrator’s firing are exercising theirs.

                ps – Do we really know enough about what happened at Missouri to say that anyone “dismissed hate messages?” That is a pretty strong claim.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

                The protestors claim that the President ignored these issues. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong. A thorough investigation would help. But obviously they think they’re right and if they are, that would make the President derelict in his duties, which seems a reasonable reason to call for his firing.Report

  8. Damon says:

    Came across this recently. Nicely sums it up.


    Money quote: “And poof, you lost the budding concern of white America for the travails of black kids being murdered by cops.”

    Back away Disco Stu…back away.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

      I’ve heard this before.
      During the Vietnam war protests, the college students were painted as privileged sissies. The white college educated civil rights protests were too. Same as the anti-apartheid protestors.

      Basically, anything that Ivy League students protest against will suffer the same fate. Hell, anything they do will be given the same treatment.

      A Yale student organizes a blanket drive for homeless people? Noblesse Oblige! Trust Fund Charity! Yadda Yadda.

      Consider the counter of the argument. What form of protest could wealthy privileged college students take, that would be immune from the criticism?
      What form of protest could very young, politically inexperienced people take that isn’t rife with stupidity and self-regard?

      I think the attention shown to the stupid protest stuff tends to be nutpicking and concern trolling from people who are mostly hostile to the overall argument, but prefer to focus on easy targets..Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Plus the corollary that, if Ivy league students, or college students in general, do not engage politically, they are a generation of narcissists who are blind to social problems around them.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I think Greenfield’s point is more than just the privileged are trying to engage, it’s that they made it about them.

        It’s two guys complaining about having to work 80 hours in a week, one is an unskilled construction worker making a bit over minimum wage & forced to work mandatory overtime (and probably not getting paid for it), the other his a high-end attorney pulling down half a million a year and trying to look good so he can make partner.

        Both have a legitimate complaint, but one is considerably more sympathetic than the other.Report

    • greginak in reply to Damon says:

      If “white america” can be turned away from caring about black kids being murdered by cops due to the current college protests then they A) didn’t really care that much in the first place B) were going to get preoccupied by some other shiny object and C) were going to be distracted by some other Trumped up example of minorities not being properly thankful of white caring.

      It is a lame excuse for the whites who don’t’ care about blacks being murdered. It conveniently puts the blame for their lack of caring on minorities and snotty teenagers, instead of the person in the mirror.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

        Related to what I replied to @chip-daniels , if I know there is X% of people who will be looking for a reason to not give a crap about a problem (whether intentionally or otherwise), part of a successful strategy would then involve not giving them a bright, shiny reason to not give a crap.

        If my two guys up above are testifying before congress with regard to workers rights and the lawyer does a great job of making it all about him, how quickly do you think opponents will lock on to his narrative and discount the construction worker? It’s absolutely wrong for them to do it, but you know they will. You know it will happen. So you don’t let that lawyer anywhere near the congressional hearing room.Report

        • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          That X% were always going to be weak allies who weren’t going to stick with you. It seems to put all minority protesters in a bind to never say anything that might irk anybody weakly supportive of any minority cause.

          An analogy might be to libertarians who want to get liberals on their side but can never say anything critical of government because it might turn away some liberal. In the case of race there are whites who bristle at any thought of racism being an issue. I’m sure you’ve heard how Obama is the real racist and real divisive one for bringing up racism. If blacks would just stop complaining about race it would all be fine. I’ve heard this multiple times over the past years. How can anyone actually protest anything to do with race with pissing off people who don’t want to hear any mention of race. I don’t think it can be done.

          I think any party or movement should be aiming to change the minds of the reachable people who don’t’ agree with you. But you also have to accept some people aren’t reachable and not contort yourself to get people who you never will.

          And finally, the college protesters are separate from BLM. Sure there may be some overlap but they are not connected groups although they may have some of the same inspiration.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

            Problem is, right now, I think you need those weak allies. Police Unions & Police supporters are powerful lobbies with a strong narrative. Even if they truly agree there is a problem, they don’t want to endure the changes that would be necessary to combat it right now.Report

            • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Weak allies who can’t who won’t tolerate anything they dont’ agree with and will dump you the second some other bunch of minority college students act poorly were never going to help you. If Tamir Rice getting shot can’t overcome some dufus college students then weren’t going to stand with you. They were going to get race baited away or all upset over some other crime that gets attention.

              I’m not against having weak allies per se, but you can’t revolve around the people who will drop you in a second. How do you get good allies and stick with the hard work of reform when you are worried about offending the least commited people. In this matter the contention is people will stop caring about blacks being shot down for nothing because of some separate group of college students doing dumb things. Kids getting shot means less then never seeing college kids acting out. So all POC have to behave properly to never offend any touchy white person who might be an ally. Just not seeing it.

              Re: the “they made it about themselves” thing. Well the various college protests seem to be about complaints about the actual colleges they are in. That is about their daily life and something they are actually in. That is about them and reasonably so.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                greginak: Well the various college protests seem to be about complaints about the actual colleges they are in. That is about their daily life and something they are actually in. That is about them and reasonably so.

                Which rotates back to the whole, “This is a campus life issue, why is it national news?”Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah the fuss about most of the college protests is because they make good stories, not that there aren’t plenty of other things happening. I’d bet the various college protests have had a lot more digital ink then the recent footage of the video of the Chicago cop murdering that guy a year ago.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                And man is that wrong in so many ways.

                And sadly, I bet the only reason the Chicago story is getting much traction is because it is headed & run by Democrats (so the conservative media is pumping it as well).Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Who is making it a national news story?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Media hungry for clickbait.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Which is why it seems unfair to lay that at the feet of the college students.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yeah, I’ll concede that point.

                ETA – Although thinking nasty thoughts, bringing such attention to what is clearly a campus life issue might have had more strategic motives than just clickbait. Given what I’ve said elsewhere in this thread.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                You mean you think the media — or certain segments of the media — might have glommed on to this story because, given certain framing*, they could make their broader ideological opponents look bad?

                That is definitely something that I think happens in a variety of ways.

                * Or perhaps even just reporting it as it was.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Exactly. Framing might not even enter into it. One of the best ways to lie honestly is to tell the truth, tell only so much of the truth, and then shut the hell up.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Look at any given protest. Remember the anti-Iraq protests?

                It felt like the media went out of its way to find the crazy person waving a Palestinian flag yelling about Mumia and Animal Rights rather than the person who showed up to actually protest the Iraq War.

                The guy who says in a dull monotone “I don’t think that we’re going to improve things by invading, I think we’re just going to kill a lot of people before making things worse” does not make for an interesting portion of the one-minute-thirty being devoted to the local protest on the nightly news.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        And when Black folks raise issues, they are constantly being told they’re doing it wrong and until they do it right, their voices will be ignored. It is almost as if most people don’t want things to change.Report

        • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:


        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

          Kazzy: they are constantly being told they’re doing it wrong and until they do it right, their voices will be ignored

          Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean all criticism is invalid.

          Actually, I think it is less “ignored” and more “the message fails”. Messaging is a tricky business & most people suck at it. The ways in which it can fail greatly outnumber the ways in which it can succeed. This is why you can never have just one or two protests. You have to have protest after protest after protest, each one a bit different, until the messaging sticks.

          I wonder how many variations Dr. King & his allies discussed, tried, and discarded untested before hitting upon the few that garnered momentum?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


            But isn’t there a difference between a message actually failing and a message not being delivered optimally and folks than saying, “Hey man, this message isn’t being delivered optimally so I’m not going to listen until it is”? Because, to me, it often seems that the latter is happening and that seems like willful ignorance at that point.

            I think of my students… When a child is upset at what another has done and snaps at them, even if they are in the right I will often talk about how the way they handled the situation might have made it harder for the other person to respond as they wish and, ultimately, undermines their efforts. But sometimes the other child will clearly hear what the aggrieved child has said and will say, “But she yelled it so I’m not going to listen to her.” At which point I say, “You can talk to her about how she spoke to you. But if you heard her tell you that there is a problem, you don’t get to ignore it no matter how she said it.”

            But there I go again expecting adults to act like four-year-olds.Report

          • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Dr. King and associates were masters of messaging. But what is forgotten is that didn’t stop them from being smeared as commies or to use a modern term race hustlers or fomenting riots. All those smears hurt their support and pealed off the weak allies. Sure some of those people weren’t against civil rights but with that King guy starting riots we can’t support that. Or very possibly those were just good excuses to not care about something they never really cared about that much.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

              @kazzy @greginak

              greginak: Or very possibly those were just good excuses to not care about something they never really cared about that much.

              And Greg gets the prize. Kazzy, it isn’t that the weak allies want a perfect message & they are going to hold their breath until they get one, it’s that they got a divide filled with all the other shit they have to worry about, things that are more immediate & salient to their everyday than how police interact with distant minority communities. Good messaging, strong messaging, helps bridge that divide. Bad messaging, or worse, hijacked messaging, just dumps more shit in the divide.

              The game is rigged, always has been, always will be. The trick is figuring out how to win despite that.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                That I don’t agree with. My issue is with the way opponents latch on to messaging as a way to shift the squishy middle their way.

                For instance…

                Advocate: We need to address police brutality! Let’s take over the quad!
                Squishy Middle: Well, I guess police brutality is an issue. You have my support.
                Opponent: Seriously? You are siding with the people who took to the quad to protest something that may or may not be happening in the inner city? How can you side with those morons?
                Squishy Middle: Yea, you’re right. Hey, any chance you can help out with getting those speed bumps installed by the local park?
                Opponent: [slinks out of room]

                I understand your point about how to reach the squishy middle. I’m taking issue here with the people who deliberately muddy the waters by focusing on messaging in lieu of engaging with the substantive stuff because they know they only need to give the weak allies enough of a distraction to turn their head.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                People who deliberately muddy the waters are called opponents for a reason. I’m not going to push back on your desire to take issue with them (hell, I’m pretty sure everyone here knows where I stand on police use of force, and it isn’t with the police unions).

                My whole point is that controlling messaging is a big damn deal, especially when you have to overcome the inertia of apathy.

                Let me put it this way:

                BLM: Hey upper middle class white person, care about my cause!
                UMCWP: I do, I think what is happening is horrible. What can I do to help?
                BLM: Push for these reforms to the police.
                UMCWP: OK, I will write my city counc…
                COPS: Now wait just a minute, if you do that, you’ll hamstring our efforts to protect you and you’ll put our lives at risk as well. Here, let me show you this video of a black man with a gun bursting into one of your neighbor’s homes just last month…

                I’m sure you can see where this goes.

                My thoughts: BLM is right about police violence, they have the moral high ground, but the moral high ground is not enough. As I’ve said numerous times, don’t trust to a persons better nature, trust to their self interest, it gives you more leverage. If you want that squishy middle, you have to find a message that lets people who care, but feel their self interest is at risk, to keep caring and feel secure in their self interest. It isn’t enough to be right, or to have a list of effective policy goals, you also have to sell those goals as being effective without being overly harmful to the self interest of the people you need the support of.

                This is what I meant when I said the police have a powerful narrative. BLM has to overcome that narrative. How they can hope to do that is… well… that’s a tough one. I don’t have a good answer.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                No disagreement. I suppose this is primarily a ideal/reality issue. You are right that that is how it works but it’s still bullshit. And we should call bullshit on opposition based on muddying the waters as opposed to substantive disagreement.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                Please, call bullshit whenever you see it. If enough people, especially UMCWP call bullshit on police excuses, we may get somewhere even if BLM never hits upon effective messaging.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But I’m curious… in the scenario you provided, how did the BLM person fail? And what would happen if they played to fear the way the cop did? How quickly would they be lambasted? It seems damned if do, damned if don’t.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                See above: The game is rigged.

                The failure was in not having a good argument toward others self interest while the cops do.

                Think about gay rights. The argument for is equal rights for all. On it’s face, such a thing has no impact on my self interest if I personally don’t know any gay people. If I do know & love gay people (for instance, my aunts), then I do have a self interest (said aunts are my sons guardians, them having full rights better ensures their ability to care for my son should my wife & I die), so opponents have to have a better argument against. Gay rights are icky only works if I already think gay people are icky. To try to gain the squishy middle, they went for religion (God does not approve of gay people) and the threat of social disorder. That worked for a while, until places started allowing gay rights & the social order failed to collapse. Suddenly the squishy middle no longer had a self interest in denying gay rights, except those who really think God really wants us to be mean to gay people.

                I honestly can’t think of too many successful popular movements that did not have a strong appeal to self interest inherent in them. BLM has to find that appeal, one that police boosters can’t hijack or undermine. Absent that appeal, they’ll be stuck waiting until the police really overstep & starting seriously intruding into the UMCWP domain in a similar manner.Report

              • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                You mean it isn’t enough for BLM to claim to be on the side of the angles? They actually need to show how their cause intersects with others self interest? I guess that is hard to do when they are heckling speakers and interrupting political rallies.The problem is showing the UMCWP how the issue is relevant to them since they aren’t likely to be shot while resisting arrest.Report

              • Zac in reply to notme says:

                You mean it isn’t enough for BLM to claim to be on the side of the angles?

                Unfortunately, Platonic solids are unreliable voters at best.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Zac says:

                Oh hell, how did I miss that typo!? Good catch!Report

              • j r in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                BLM: Hey upper middle class white person, care about my cause!

                For me, this right here is where the mistake happens. For one, I don’t believe in the efficacy of care. Contemporary problems of racism/sexism/classicism/etc.are largely institutional and bureaucratic, which means that they are largely immune to bouts of individual caring. Caring is fickle. It’s quite good for short concentrated burst of activity, but very bad at the long hard slog.

                And two, by spending so much time trying to gain UMCWP sympathy, you invariably end up spending way too much time on these meta-level issues of messaging and public support. You know what the public supports? One Direction and Transformers movies. And that’s not a lament. It is a recognition.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                j r: You know what the public supports? One Direction and Transformers movies. And that’s not a lament. It is a recognition.

                Yes and no. The public tends towards apolitical apathy but the public does care about issues en mass at times. During the 1970s and 1980s, the public was concerned about crime and the Republicans were able to use this concern to garner votes. The Democratic Party suffered because they were perceived as soft on crime. Good politics is to note when the public is concerned and using that to your advantage.

                There is a growing but not majority, and probably not even plurality yet, part of the public that does perceive policing and the criminal justice as to wild and harsh. There is definitely an elite consensus on this issue for some part. BLM might be a bit pre-mature with really harnessing these feelings but acting on them in the right time can work wonders.Report

              • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

                My point in that part of the comment is to say that the public is mostly motivated by big showy spectacles and self-interest, bread and circuses. Yes, activist movements can absolutely capitalize on that.

                What happened in Ferguson, what happened around the death of Eric Garner. and what’s happened generally around the issue of police brutality generally is, to me, the textbook example of an activist movement doing things right.

                My comment is more about what happens when a movement like BLM tries to expand from the specific issue of police brutality and these specific instances of police shootings to more general issues of institutional racism, which is why I said:

                Caring is fickle. It’s quite good for short concentrated burst of activity, but very bad at the long hard slog.


              • notme in reply to j r says:

                “What happened in Ferguson, what happened around the death of Eric Garner. and what’s happened generally around the issue of police brutality generally is, to me, the textbook example of an activist movement doing things right.”

                I didn’t think that the rioting and looting in Ferguson was doing things right.Report

              • j r in reply to notme says:

                I didn’t think…

                I know.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

          PS Something like this, intentions aside, will serve to discredit a movement faster than anything else.Report

  9. notme says:

    Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Dr. Everett Piper: ‘This is Not a Daycare’

    He better start drafting the acknowledgement of his white privilege and pray he keeps his job.