Students ‘deeply hurt’ by criticism of liberal intolerance

I merely borrow my headline, which is not original to me, from an article (here) at the Campus Reform website.  I urge Orthosphereans to read the article. Meanwhile, so as to quell embarrassment, the CEO of the college has sent out this message:

I am writing to reinforce our deep and abiding commitment to free speech and open expression of ideas at SUNY Oswego. First Amendment rights are foundational to learning and critical thought. Be assured they are honored and respected here.
In the past few days, an interaction and email exchange between a student speaker at “Open Mic” on April 26, 2018 and a staff member has been reported on in Campus Reform (Campus Reform is a project of Leadership Institute. On its website, Leadership Institute says it teaches conservatives of all ages how to succeed in politics, government, and the media). Several other media outlets across the country have published the same account.
We have looked into this matter for several days now. We see that misunderstandings and miscommunications might have been avoided. And, while our staff member acknowledged the speaker’s free speech rights and did not literally issue a reprimand, sanction or prohibition, the words used were of a nature that likely led to misinterpretation. For that we sincerely apologize.
I met with the student and had a full discussion of the matter.  I commended her on voicing her opinions and seriously explored her impressions of the campus, especially relative to safety.  I was heartened to know she is proud she could speak out, feels safe, and has many friends and supporters at SUNY Oswego. She also expressed her love for SUNY Oswego.
But please know, we will not let our guard down; we will continue to encourage all members of our campus community to embrace diversity in all its forms — diversity of people, thought and expression. And, we will remain vigilant about safety, encouraging anyone who feels unsafe or threatened to let us know.
We will remain steadfast in educating all students, faculty and staff that while some ideas are different from and may even be anathema to what we think, it is important that we allow them to be expressed.  If we take the opportunity to listen and civilly engage with each other, we might more easily build bridges across our divides, reflect more clearly on our own beliefs and hopefully, acquire greater knowledge. That is who we are at SUNY Oswego.

18 thoughts on “Students ‘deeply hurt’ by criticism of liberal intolerance

  1. Pingback: Students ‘deeply hurt’ by criticism of liberal intolerance | @the_arv

  2. The message from Trish is a hoot. The mic is “open,” but a student should use it very warily, since one complaint will trigger the “unwritten policy” of his being barred from the “open” mic.

    Not only that. The “Alcohol and other Drug Coordinator” is going to “reach out” to you. Well, I have to say that SUNY Oswego is a very clean campus, with only one drug other than alcohol present and in need of coordination.

    Anonymous complainants, “unwritten rules,” an “open” mic. I can’t think of a more “safe and inviting atmosphere.”

  3. I wonder what attitude we should try to instill in conservative students. On the one hand, they should not passively absorb the pernicious beliefs of their professors and upperclassmen. On the other hand, they should know that they still have a lot to learn and need intellectual mentorship of some sort. On the one hand, it’s good to recognize that the administration, the faculty, and the student body are hostile to the expression of our views. On the other hand, complaining about it to them seems to cede them more moral authority than they deserve. The university has an explicit ideology. [I’m sure we’ve all gotten emails from our president/provost/dean/whatever that our university stands for “diversity”, that “hate” (i.e. dissent) has no place in our “community”.] Having decided to become a partisan, it is not entitled to the dignity we would grant a neutral referee, even one that is imperfect in its impartiality. Of course our beliefs will not be welcome on campus, any more than heretical beliefs should be welcome in a Catholic seminary. (If only our bishops could resolve to be no more tolerant than secular universities.) We are an elite. Having seen through the prejudices and superstitions of the masses, we should expect to have to work semi-clandestinely in small networks without wider support and hopefully with only the formal disapproval of the university.

    • When I was in the public schools, Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” was the system’s “little red book.” It actually had a red cover, just like Mao’s little production, and we read and discussed it more than once. Of course young people find it is very easy to identify with Holden Caulfield, and more especially with his opinion that all authority figures are “phonies,” since this allows a young ignoramus to feel superior to to adults who actually know and have done things. Like most youth culture, it serves to protect the ego of a class of humanity who don’t yet have much to be proud of.

      In any case, I bring up Salinger because Holden Caulfield and his concept of “the phony” were instruments of cultural subversion (the movie The Graduate tells the same story). Well, the cultural subversion worked and Holden Caulfield (a.k.a. Trish) is now the “phony” in charge of things. His “open” mic is phony, his “unwritten policy” is phony, his “reaching out” is phony, etc. But you have to be conservative to know this because the mic is “open” to a progressive student, there are no “unwritten policies” that pertain to SJW’s, and when an administrator “reaches out” to a leftist, it is to pat him on the head.

      The Holden Caulfield moment is what young dissidents on the right now call the “red pill.” To be “red pilled” is to join Holden Caulfield in the belief that all adults are phonies.

      As you say, this puts a conservative student in an unnatural position, since they are inherently on the side of the system. It also undermines their natural deference to established authority. It pushes them into the role of Holden Caulfield, from which it is not at all easy to return to that of a conservative.

      • In decades past, I occasionally spoke at events organized by Young America’s Foundation, College Republicans, and suchlike. I stopped responding to those invitations because, as I discovered, the young people — or at any rate, the large majority of them — had no deep convictions and no deep (or broad) knowledge. They were pro-GOP, as one might say, hoping one day, with a political science degree, to become an aide to a Republican congressman or senator. They read National Review, but not Dostoevsky, American Conservative, but not Walker Percy; they knew that socialism was bad, but they could not explain why, and my perception was that they were not really interested in why. On the positive side, none was a Holden Caulfield, but in their way they were almost as tedious as Holden Caulfield. The ferocity of the diversity apparatchik’s lashing-out against a peep of complaint by a mild, pro-GOP coed, who probably corresponds to the type that I have just described, is nevertheless terrifying. I naturally empathize with the young woman for having been summoned and no doubt dressed down by an officer of the institution, on whom has officially devolved the de facto power to ruin lives. Had the young woman not reported her experience to Campus Reform, and had Campus Reform not publicized it at its website, the apparatchik would no doubt have been left licking her chops after a tasty meal. The story became news, so that the CEO of the institution had to step in and mitigate the cascading public-relations disaster. She declares publicly that, in a meeting, she “commended” the student for speaking her mind, but in the next paragraph of her statement, she writes: “Please know, we will not let our guard down; we will continue to encourage all members of our campus community to embrace diversity in all its forms — diversity of people, thought and expression.” That is the rhetoric of militancy and doubling-down, not of conciliation or contrition.

        In Bonald’s vein of thought, I wonder what advice I would give to hypothetical, actually conservative or (better yet) reactionary students who felt lost in hostile territory without any defenders. I would urge them to organize for study and discussion, but only unofficially. I would say: “Under no circumstance seek administrative permission to have right-leaning convictions or to educate yourselves in the traditions of the right. Whatever you do — and here is a list of books that you should read and discuss — do it on your own and do it, preferably, off campus, in a coffee house, or a city-park, or sitting on the rocks by the lake shore.”

        P.S. It is probably worth noting that the apparatchik’s prose and the student’s prose lie at about the same level, with the apparatchik misspelling complaint three times, splitting at least one infinitive, and omitting the participial d from what should be supposed, and the student, although apparently a junior who must have taken freshman composition two or three years ago, making a slew of basic-language errors. These linguistic embarrassments are indicative of the intellectual character of contemporary colleges and universities.

        P.P.S. I just noticed this tit-bit in the CEO’s message of response. During the colloquy between the CEO and the student, or rather at its climax, the student, according to the CEO, “expressed her love for SUNY Oswego.” It is inadvertent, undoubtedly, but the accidental parallelism with the climax of Eric Blair’s famous dystopia could hardly be more piquant: “It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

      • The only thing I remember from Catcher is the kid who died from a pulmonary embolism or stroke from an injury to his leg. Being a soccer player at the time, that freaked me out.

        She also expressed her love for SUNY Oswego.

        Was she blinking in Morse code at the time?

      • @Tom, Thank you for this reply. I agree that the ideal would be a small group of conservative students meeting to study great illiberal books. There should be no expectation of university approval. Certainly no protesting or other publicity stunts. On the other hand, it would be nice if they could discuss what they were reading (or at least, as in your example, get a reading list) from sympathetic faculty. They do, after all, need mentorship. I wouldn’t want them to develop a mirror image attitude to the Leftist activist students, thinking they already know everything (or even what books they should read). Also, there is the difficulty of how interested students are even going to learn about a completely unofficial reading club. I recently did a little search of clubs at Washington State University, looking for some moderately conservative group to subvert. I found nothing except the college Republicans, which wouldn’t even work as a decent poaching ground. For the time being, it looks like pseudonymous blogging is all I can do.

  4. Pingback: Students ‘deeply hurt’ by criticism of liberal intolerance | Reaction Times

  5. @T. Morris — Because it is not at all neutral, the posture of neutrality is poorly and rather awkwardly executed. Consider this sentence from the CEO statement: “We will remain steadfast in educating all students, faculty and staff that while some ideas are different from and may even be anathema to what we think, it is important that we allow them to be expressed.” Notice the royal-corporate “we.” To whom does it refer? It refers obviously and primarily to an ideologically consolidated upper-administration and secondarily to ideologically sound faculty members and students. Notice again the phrase, “ideas [that] are different from and may [sic] even be anathema to what we think.” The phrase amounts to a pontifical bulletin that dogmatically opposes anathemata to “what we think,” and that admits on the sly that “what we think” is massively conformist and mandatory. In a follow-up, the pontifical voice speaks of allowing the expression heretical ideas. That is quite different, in a sinister way, from stipulating that the First Amendment establishes the absolute right of political free speech, in which establishment there is no quibbling or censorial allowance.

    Then there is the question whether the coed at the center of the scandal expressed any ideas, either approved ones or unapproved ones. As I read the report of what happened, the coed never delivered a discourse of ideas, but rather she issued a complaint about having been the target of regular, nasty, unpunished liberal hostility for the full three years of her matriculation thus far.

    • As a high-ranking bureaucrat in an ostensibly open society, your college president is of course obliged to respect all views. But as a status-seeking communicant in the Church of Progressive Pieties, he must signal his personal holiness. When he writes “we,” he is not referring to “SUNY Oswego,” or even the People of New York State. He is referring to the Church of Progressive Pieties, in which he is anxious to remain a member in good standing.

      • You’re right about that, of course. I too easily forget that the anti-hierarchical Prog religion is rigorously, massively hierarchical. By the way SUNY Oswego, which calls itself “Oz” in its internal publicity, is almost entirely a gynocracy.

  6. We have a general idea as to what the young women said yet I would like to know the specific words she used during the event. Before people start to shout out protestations filled with outrage, I believe the public should know the specific words she used so a complete picture can be drawn instead of using a few selective quotes from the young woman.

    • Jim, it is not a case of specific words; it is a case of a casually stated general complaint against the leftists who run college and university campuses, and who have “zero tolerance,” as they like to say, for anyone who, however minutely, disagrees with them. The coed said that she had voted for Trump, was in favor of Trump’s policies, and that, having made this explicit, she became the target of regular denunciation and harassment. You know me. You know that I am polite and softly spoken. I am the target of regular denunciation and harassment. The “liberal” regime on campus is Manichaean: It divides the human race into the elect and the preterit. All campus administrators belong to the elect, and anyone who gainsays them in the smallest degree belongs to the preterit. Is it likely, do you think, that the young woman stood up to the “open microphone” and uttered “F— – You, Liberals” to the audience; is it likely, do you think, that she stood up and said, “Let’s go back to Jim Crow”; is it likely, do you think, that she said, “Let’s re-institute a literacy test before voting”? No. She merely reported that, for being a pro-GOP, Trump-voting conservative, she had been subjected for three years to unseemly verbal mischaracterizations and imprecations, not only by illuminated SJWs, but also by their professorial abettors.

      As it is a regular “open microphone” event, it seems certain that remarks are recorded. Had the coed said anything that was actually objectionable, the university officers would have quoted it from the recording, so as to condemn her and protect their own asses. As there is no flaunting of wicked remarks made by the coed, it follows patently that the coed made no wicked remarks. If she had, the “offended” parties would currently be hiding behind those remarks.

      In my department, which is one of the largest on campus, three people are the object or topic (or whatever the word is) of Wikipedia articles. Two of those articles are minimal “stubs.” The only extensive one is the one dedicated to me. I must monitor my Wikipedia page constantly, because, somewhere, in some George-Soros-funded computer boiler room, regularly, “trolls” (as they are called) alter the Wikipedia entry to make me look like a Nazi. What is the objective? It is to get me in trouble with the left-leaning administration, and to get me fired, so as to deprive my family of its livelihood. It is, in other words, to destroy me for dissenting from the on-campus, Puritanical, multicultural, diversitarian orthodoxy. I am a humble non-entity, as I confess, but because I am a dissenting humble non-entity, people (in the plural) want to ruin my life, deprive me of my employment, and black-list me as a political untouchable.

      You have been my student. Do you believe that I deserve that? Do you believe that the grammatically challenged coed deserves that — because that is what the “Coordinator” tried to do to her.

      • I judge people on their words and actions. Your words and actions in the as a professional have not come a close, a quadrant’s exploration worth, to that kind of treatment. As for the coed I wish the university would release the audio for a reason you highlighted, trolls. I am not saying she is one yet a lack of specificity related to her words can empower trolls from any persuasion. This could possibly help to temper the outrage if people push for transparency if these recordings exist. In these hyper partisan days I try to be very cautious when outrage starts to rise due to provocateurs and trolls from all corners of the universe.

      • I have been thinking more deeply about your reply to my comment yesterday. As your former student, I can emphatically say the you carefully choose your words for lectures and writings. Unfortunately many people in the world who enjoy the rights of free speech and expression fail to choose their locutions very carefully. This carelessness often leads to situations we see ensuing in the present regardless of ones political leanings (current examples being on line trolls and provocateurs) . People often say what they want with the absence of two things: 1. a sense of humility 2. very little thought about the consequences their words will have. This has contributed to the current state of affairs where people, regardless of political leanings, automatically label one another a Nazis or Stalinist. That is why I made points about transparency, context, and judging a person based in both their words and actions. By failing to feed to outrage machine, with its need for immediacy, we can have a substantive dialogue and work towards somethings more substantive such as enhancing the ideal of freedom of speech and expression beyond partisan divides.

        P.S. Even though my political leanings veer to the left, I have challenged people on my political side on more than one occasion. My concerns are facts and truth that rise above ideologies.

  7. @Bonald. What follows is a simplification, but it is in essence true. The Left is fundamentally an oral rather than a literate phenomenon; it is furthermore not conversational, but diatribe-driven. (See the discussion of Rousseau in my fairly recent essay on Count Gobineau.) The Right is fundamentally a literate rather than an oral phenomenon. The Right is rooted, first of all, in the Old Testament, the Classical canon, and the New Testament. One of the effects of the Left’s takeover of education is that education has gradually expelled literacy, reorganizing itself as training in the expression of a narrow range of oral tropes. There might indeed be many students on any given college campus who identify, for confused if justifiable reasons, as conservative, but who are really merely GOP-acolytes who, having suffered the penalties of Left-governed schools, are functionally illiterate, have consequently never read anything of importance, and have no readerly ambition. To pose a purely rhetorical question: How would the Tradition, which is another name for the Right, make its appeal to the Young Republican? The list of important books to read and discuss would likely be as meaningless to the Young Republican as it would to the SJW. It is significant that the occasion of the Oswego scandal was an “open microphone” event — in other words, an event in the continuum of orality rather than one in the continuum of literacy.

    An intact orality would be the equivalent of a healthy, archaic tradition. It would belong to the Right. The Left’s orality is not an intact orality; it is an entirely negative anti-literate dispensation. The Left is, as I once again aver, a diminution of consciousness.

    • I expect you’re right about this. I can remember a time when I myself would have seen no appeal in Tradition. The one thing that these conservative-leaning students do have going for them is their alienation. They have figured out that they–or at the very least, the family, small town, and church they grew up in–are being cast as the villains in the social justice narrative. In fact, I should say that they are alienated from university culture because they have not allowed themselves to be alienated from their home culture. These are the students who decided not to abase themselves and curse their kin in the hope of winning acceptance as an “ally”. That girl could have easily won social acceptance with her second X chromosome if she had been willing to renounce her father like a good communist. So I do respect these Republican students for showing some loyalty, even if they have no idea how to justify it.

      Unfortunately, the easiest way for these students to justify their alienation is to appeal to yesterday’s liberalism. That way they can utilize to many of the same oral tropes and be more easily understood, less easily demonized. So that’s what most of them have done. It’s not viable in the long term, for the same reasons that yesterday’s liberalism couldn’t help morphing into today’s liberalism. And it brings them no closer to appreciating the spiritual pillars of our lost civilization.

      It was only through a series of accidents that I ever went farther myself. I got a history of Christianity as a Christmas present that turned out to be so over-the-top in its anti-Catholicism that I set out to understand the medieval Church sympathetically out of stubbornness. I picked up a library book on Aristotle on a whim. There were several other moments, but they were no longer coincidences, because by then I was looking for critiques of the modern world. It is true that every important moment of my development has been through reading, and I can’t imagine any other way such a development could happen.

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