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A college campus protest addresses the hardest issues by demanding the softest sheets…???

I believe it was the comedian Gallagher, who once said “College kids walk around like they are so smart — but they are in school, so something isn’t right.” That rare dose of pithiness from the famed fruit assaulter cuts to a reality we frequently see on college campuses these days. There is a large amount of self-importance eclipsed by by a lack of self-awareness.

At Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, the campus is currently in turmoil. A protest has been in full swing as a result of an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times last fall. However as we have been shown frequently in recent cases the current generation of students harbors an entitled and belligerent class. Case in point, this protest has led to a list of demands that exceeds concepts and agendas, and includes items like free tampons, and fabric softener.

No, I am not kidding.

What kicked off these contretemps was Professor Samuel Abrams wrote a piece on the lack of diversity found in college faculties, “Think Professors are Liberal? Try School Administrators”. Abrams was noting the lack of diversity among the administrators at his college, and in others across the country, and how it leads to a lack of diversity in thought.

To students who are in their first semester at school, I urge you not to accept unthinkingly what your campus administrators are telling you. Their ideological imbalance, coupled with their agenda-setting power, threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.

And as we have come to expect, this call for diversity has led to a wave of intolerance, effectively proving Abrams correct in his column. Immediately after publication Abrams found the door to his office postered over with protest signs. One declared “Our right to exist is not Ideological A***ole”. That the Abrams column did not deny anyone a right to exist was immaterial to the outrage.

The current dust up is covered by Legal Insurrection and the amount of insipid thought on display is amazing. “The vandals covered my door and surrounding hallway area with hateful paraphernalia intended to intimidate me into leaving the school,” Proferssor Abrams detailed.  “I received subsequent threats, and an alumna I have never met claims to be actively working on ways to ‘ruin my life’ while many others are demanding that my tenure be stripped.

This, over a call for diverse thinking and open-mindedness. Abrams has been targeted in this fashion before, as when he was a guest speaker at Vassar college. Like the current outrage, his visit provoked signs to be posted and propaganda distributed smearing his reputation. At that time the reaction was over his talk regarding his support for free speech.

In the wake of the current outrage Professor Abrams turned to the President of Sarah Lawrence for support, but was instead met with the very mindset that leads to these students into believing they have this outrage justified. The President, instead of condemning the vandalism and threats, said Abrams had attacked the community, and he created a hostile work environment.

By writing an op-ed column. About the need for diversity in thought.

The students meanwhile have echoed the position of the President. Not happy that not enough has been done regarding their collective snit, a group of student activists have taken over a building, and they have issued a nine page list of demands. In this document they talk about why their group was “established this fall in order to address the pain of marginalized students as well as to advise the administration on how to best address this pain.” They command the faculty stands as a “school for the students and against hate,” as well as the need to “support all students against an international rising tide of white supremacy and fascism.”

We demand that Samuel Abrams’ position at the College be put up to tenure review to a panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color. In addition, the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students, whilst apologizing for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed. Abrams must issue a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.

Again, this is all in response to a column about a call for tolerance and diversity. This column written by Professor Abrams leads to a list of demands. Among the required mandates:

  • The College will designate housing with a minimum capacity for thirty students of color that is not contingent on the students expending any work or labor for the college
  • We demand a mandatory first-year orientation session about intellectual elitism and classism
  • We demand the College provide free storage to international students as part of the College’s commitment to student welfare.
  • All campus laundry rooms are to supply laundry detergent and softener on a consistent basis for all students, faculty and staff.

This is the response to an opinion they feel caused them pain, and that the best way that they “advise the administration on how best to address this pain” is through providing free fabric softener. These sound like wounds that run very deep.

In a sane world the college President would take appropriate action. That demand letter was signed by 140 students. The best course of action would be an expulsion letter sent to those 140, with a list of area community colleges provided as a coda. But, as we have already seen, this will never happen because like so many other campuses across the country sanity is not a prevailing mindset at Sarah Lawrence College.

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