Protest response seeks to avoid PR disaster

In a show of solidarity for black students at the University of Missouri — and an acknowledgement of the shared experience of students of color at USC — hundreds of students gathered in Hahn Plaza Thursday, eventually protesting at Provost Michael Quick’s door and inciting an impromptu meeting with Quick and Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry. The surprise forum, which indicates an unprecedented and important move that students are finally being heard, created tangible impacts that cannot be understated. Promises for bi-weekly meetings, open forums, office hours, shortened Title IX response times and formal assignments of different administrators to address parts of the diversity resolution passed by the Undergraduate Student Government earlier this week are all essential steps to engaging students in a productive dialogue about improving the campus climate.

But still, the actions of the University administration in response to the protest — and protests across the country — indicate more that they are scared of additional negative publicity about USC’s campus climate, and quite frankly, for their own jobs following the resignations of top officials at other colleges across the country. In fact, earlier on Thursday, the Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna College resigned after students protested that the administration had failed to adequately address issues of racial discrimination. And according to student organizer Denys Reyes, that drastic step was taken because of mountains of negative publicity.

“The institution has only now started to respond to our efforts because it’s a PR crisis,” Reyes told KPCC.

Thus, in light of the resignations both at Claremont McKenna College and at the University of Missouri earlier in the week, it’s hard to believe that the University choosing now to finally respond to student advocacy is an issue of remaining accountable to students as opposed to avoiding a publicity disaster.

The administration’s mixed intentions manifests in its continuation of muddled promises to students advocating for diversity. At the meeting Thursday, Quick and Carry were insistent on repeating that they are “committed” to diversity, that they are “committed” to having these conversations and that they are “committed” to making students feel safe on campus. But if the administration is truly — truly — committed, it shouldn’t have to tell students that. It should have proven to students that it has an action plan to address the issues students have brought to the forefront of advocacy. And though administrators took responsibility for their lack of transparency about possible developments, they continue to be unclear whether the promises that they have made are concrete or will result in tangible change.

Maybe administrators are responding to students now because they’re afraid of the consequences that have unfolded at other universities that ignored calls for reform. But, if their efforts result in concrete changes for students on campus, maybe it doesn’t matter whether or not the administration is sincere.

It’s easy for students of color to feel exhausted, invisible and unheard by a University administration largely dominated by old, white men who don’t seem to know or care about the minority experience at USC — though, to be fair, that dynamic may be changing soon. But the national publicity of resignations of top positions at universities nationwide, combined with the show of support from students across the country, indicate that the nation is undeniably on the cusp of a historic movement about how race is being treated in higher education.

So it’s a good time to be a diversity advocate at the University. To the hundreds of students who skipped class to rally for solidarity, spent countless hours drafting and arguing for the difficult passage of the USG diversity resolution and continued to advocate for fostering a climate of real acceptance: Your work does not go unnoticed, and it is not over. And advocates must seize the political momentum now to hold administrators accountable.

Student leaders have done more than their fair share of figuring out what the administration should do to make students feel welcome. And though it is commendable that the administration is concretely allocating time to meet and discuss with students about diversity issues, it is now the time — no, it is far past the time — for them to be a pioneer of navigating the complex and difficult task of making higher education welcome for everyone.

4 replies
  1. Teddy Edwards
    Teddy Edwards says:

    “Campus crybullies”. They exist at USC now.

    Crybullies have learned to weaponize their status as a victim, a coveted label of the Left. They have two calling cards, race and gender. They have the unsophisticated ideological wiring of a Rev. Al Sharpton or a Michael Moore.

    Race came first. In 2001 Harvard president Larry Summers suggested that Cornel West— an African American Studies professor — get serious after West produced a rap CD called “Sketches of My Culture.” Summers also asked West fight a then-growing grade inflation scandal at Harvard, where one of every two grades was an A or A-.

    Chaos erupted. Black professors at Harvard threatened to leave— Mr. West moved to Princeton. The leftwing editorial board of the New York Times criticized Mr. Summers, who quickly recanted, calling it all “a terrible misunderstanding.”

    Then came gender. In 2005 Mr. Summers spoke at MIT about diversity. He speculated on why there aren’t more women scientists at elite universities. He touched on several possibilities: Maybe there were “patterns of discrimination” at work.. Maybe women preferred family over career. Or maybe, just possibly, it had something to do with “different availability of aptitude.”

    Women professors blew a fuse. “I felt I was going to be sick,” wailed Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT, who left. “My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow, low,” Ms. Hopkins said. “I was extremely upset.”

    Once again, Summers recanted. He published an open letter. “I deeply regret the impact of my comments,” he wrote, “and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully.” It was too late. By May 2005 his faculty had returned a vote of no confidence 218 to 185, with 18 abstentions. By February 2006 he was forced to resign.

    These two incidents,having happened at Harvard, marked a turning point. The pleasures of aggression now were added to the comforts of feeling aggrieved, or victimized.

    The toxic fruits of this development are on view not only at Yale and Mizzou, but throughout the higher-educational establishment, where spurious charges of “systemic racism,” “a culture of rape” and sundry other imaginary torts compete for the budget of pity and special treatment.

    Amherst College is currently exploding with nonnegotiable demands from a student group that the president apologize for white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latin racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.” Really, you can’t make it up.

    Weak, liberal university presidents are capitulating. Yale’s president told “student crybullies” who complained that they did not feel “safe” at Yale that “we failed you.” Yale College dean found himself “surrounded by a sea of upturned faces and fighting back tears” so he apologized for the administration’s silence on allegations of racial discrimination.

    When the brilliant conservative lawyer Amy Wax spoke at the Yale Political Union last week, a group of students stood up, turned their backs on her, and raised their fists in the air in protest. “Several students,” the Yale Daily News reported, “cried during her speech.”

    A few days later, Dean Holloway and other university administrators met with about 100 students at his home and sacrificed his self-respect to serve the progressive “crybully” culture. “I have disappointed you and I’m really sorry,” he said.

    The confrontation “just broke my heart,” Mr. Christakis added. “I care so much about the same issues you care about. I’ve spent my life taking care of these issues of injustice, of poverty, of racism. I have the same beliefs that you do . . . I’m genuinely sorry, and to have disappointed you. I’ve disappointed myself.”

    Groveling by progressive administrators to crybullies with far-fetched social justice claims is the “cool” response.

    These episodes—embarrassing to any person of self-respect and many of which might be inspired by Maoist public-shaming events—underscores the surreal and silly quality of life at some American colleges now.

    For the “campus crybully”, reality takes second place to progressive ideology.

    The truth is that American universities are the safest and most coddled environments ever created by man. But “campus crybullies” have given up any hope of acquiring an education — they are often liberal arts majors who see no hiring once they graduate — so they focus on staying at college to push grievance and hoax racism, even manufacturing and growing slights into major race bigotry.

    “Campus crybullies” are about timid moral self-indulgence.

    There are encouraging signs. When a dean at Claremont College resigned on Thursday after “camopus crybullies” accused the dean of racism because of a carelessly worded email, some brave students at the Claremont Independent published a dissenting editorial in which they berated hypersensitive students for bringing spurious charges of racism and the dean and the president for cowardice in not standing up to the barrage.

    “Lastly,” they wrote, “we are disappointed in students like ourselves, who were scared into silence. We are not racist for having different opinions. We are not immoral because we don’t buy the flawed rhetoric of a spiteful movement.”

    Courage is nearly non-existent on campuses today. Operating under the rubric of “progressive saviors”, these “social justice warriors” lack such courage. They are shallow masquerading as something more serious. Open-minded students at Claremont provided a breath of fresh air. It will be interesting to see if it penetrates the fetid atmosphere that has settled over so much of American academic life.

  2. j metaphor
    j metaphor says:

    It’s time to demand that the position of Athletic Director that is rumored to open soon be given to a woman. So far there is only secrecy surrounding the search for a successor to Mr. Haden and I suspect that is because no women are being considered.
    In light of the current state of affairs on campuses throughout our country, it would be wrong for USC to exclude women from this process

    • Teddy Edwards
      Teddy Edwards says:

      Discrimination via gender quotas? Seriously? How about giving it to “the most qualified”? You know, as in fairness, not discriminatory balance.

  3. ConcernedTrojan
    ConcernedTrojan says:

    I really appreciate this article and the author brings up good points. However, the line “…a University administration largely dominated by old, white men….” is disingenuous. Dr. Carry, Vice President of University Affairs, is black and young. Provost Quick is also young. President Nikias is an immigrant. The Provost for Faculty is a woman who is in her 40s, the youngest in the country for the job, and black. Also, the President for Admissions and Planning is a woman. Our Dean of Religious Life, Dr. Soni, is one of only a handful of campus religious directors that isn’t white and is the ONLY one that is of Indian descent. In fact, 7/16 of senior campus administrators are woman. Seth brings up some good points but quick, judgmental statements about the age and gender of senior administrators without any research brings questions of validity to some of her other claims as well, unfortunately.

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