Recently, students at the University of Missouri in Columbia forced the school's president to resign. Several of the football players refused to play until he resigned. One student, Jonathan Butler, went on a hunger strike. Several other students, as well as a professor, Melissa Click, were overly aggressive with a reporter and literally pushed him away, claiming their right to a "safe, private" space.
They were (and still are) protesting because of several racist incidents on campus, including black students being called racial slurs by white students and a swastika made out of feces (though I should think that's more offensive to Jewish students than black students).
Jonathan Butler received a lot of praise from people for going on a hunger strike. It made me think of all the people in the world who are literally starving right now and who don't get to choose to be hungry. I doubt that they would praise Butler for what he did. I certainly don't.
Now students at other universities are protesting, and at Columbia University some undergrads reported feeling intimidated and pressured into protesting. Students at other schools are demanding to be excused from classes so that they can participate in protests. It reminded me of a "movement" at Oberlin College a while ago. Students who were skipping classes in order to go to protests against police brutality wanted to be exempt from failing grades and demanded nothing less than a C for their final grades, regardless of what they earned. (The school refused.)
All of it makes me angry. I can understand their anger at feeling discriminated against, excluded, and treated unfairly. But I do NOT agree with their actions. On the one hand, NO ONE should call anyone racial slurs or leave swastikas for them to find. But on the other hand, it's gotten to a point where everyone's "offended" by everything these days. For example, once a student accused me of being racist towards minorities because I didn't call on him every time during class. He disregarded the fact that I called on him MOST times he raised his hand, but I wanted to give other students a chance to talk in class.
It makes me feel like professors and university administrators have to tiptoe around students' feelings all the time, because if we don't we'll be forced out of our jobs. Yes, racism is a problem at many schools, but that doesn't mean that students should be able to force people to quit. It doesn't give them a right to prevent reporters from doing their jobs (it's ironic and hypocritical that those Mizzou students demanded the right to free speech but prevented that reporter from exercising HIS right to free speech). It also shouldn't mean that professors have to give them a free pass from doing their work and giving them grades they didn't earn. I have never done that, and I WILL never do that. I'd rather give up my entire career than do it.
Honestly, I don't think that making university presidents or professors resign is going to solve the problem. I think they'd make a much bigger difference by tutoring students at inner city schools, volunteering at soup kitchens, or building affordable housing for the homeless.
Yes, students have the right to speak out against racism and discrimination, and they should. But they don't have the right to tell me how to do my job, or to accuse me of being a racist if I do something they don't like or they disagree with. I have rights too, and I refuse to back down to anyone, just because he or she was "offended." I read more than one article where the authors also disagree with some of these students, because they claim that the students are restricting or prohibiting any free speech that they think is offensive. (I'm sure the ACLU would have a problem with that.)
If I and all the other professors gave in every time, we'd be sending the students the wrong message. Can you imagine what their future bosses will say if they demand promotions they haven't earned or blow off work so they can go "fight for the cause"? I think that if they want to "fight," they have to be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices, not expect everyone else to cater to them.
What about you? Did you ever participate in any protests when you were in college? What do you think of the protesters' belief that they have the right to make school officials quit and that they should be exempt from classes and failing grades?
Side note: By the way, I decided not to change my URL after all; sorry about the confusion! I just figured it would be too complicated to try to change it to a different URL, since then I'd have to contact everyone about it.
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