Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is Claremont McKenna's President Hiram R. Chodosh this Generation's Father Hesburgh?

The 1960’s and early 1970’s witnessed demonstrations and violence on our campuses, starting with the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in 1964. Anti-Vietnam War fueled most of the subsequent demonstrations, riots and sit-ins, followed by Kent State and Cambodia in 1970. Other causes were the CIA, Dow Chemical, disinvestment in South Africa, and civil rights. Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, UCLA, Maryland, Indiana, San Francisco State, Kent State, Dartmouth. University leaders were seemingly helpless, although supine is a better word. The great Catholic University of Notre Dame was not immune to the student’s outpouring of rage. The campus experienced demonstrations, sit-ins, and student strikes. Notre Dame’s President Father Theodore Hesburgh led the University for 35 years, guiding it into a great academic institution. Father Hesburgh was sympathetic to the students. He also opposed the war. He believed in academic freedom. He issued a letter on February 17, 1969. His words were clear and simple. He promulgated the 15 minute rule: “Anyone or group that substitutes force for rational persuasion, be it violent or non-violent, will be given fifteen minutes of meditation to cease and desist.” They would then be asked for their ID and face suspension. They would be expelled if they persisted for another five minutes. Decisive leadership! His intent was to preserve freedom of speech and a diversity of expression at Notre Dame in a peaceful manner. The past two years has witnessed a return to riots, sit-ins on our campuses, starting with the University of Missouri, a state with underlying racial issues from Ferguson. Allegations of racism led to protests. The losing football team joined the protests, supported by their coach. Melissa Click, a communications professor, became the public face of the protesters as she was caught on video asking for some ”muscle” to muzzle against a student reporter. The University of Missouri has encountered a large backlash among students, potential students, parents, and alumni. Freshmen enrollment has plunged 35% in two years. Overall enrollment has dropped 7.4%. Faculty have been laid off, dorms closed, and the Republican legislature reducing funding. Professor Click was terminated. The craven response at Missouri was the resignation of the President and Provost, thereby emboldening the left both at the University of Missouri and nationally. Claremont McKenna students last year blocked the entrance hall in which Wall Street Journal columnist and Thomas S. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Heather MacDonald was scheduled to appear. Ms. MacDonald is a staunch supporter of police and has criticized Black Lives Matter for its anti-police rhetoric and actions. She has published “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.” Social media was used to shut down her event, calling her an “anti-Black Fascist.” Police led her into the near empty lecture hall for livestreaming. Her speech was interrupted by protestors banging on the windows. University President Hiram R. Chodosh promised disciplinary against the demonstrators. The University fulfilled his promise a few days ago. Five students were suspended and two placed on probation. Four of the students were seniors, whose graduation was postponed pending the completion of their suspensions. Four students from other campuses were barred from non-academic activities on the Claremont McKenna campus. Attorney Nana Gyamfi, lead organizer and co-founder of Justice warriors 4 Black Lives, protested: “Universities should be places where students learn about the power and limitation of civic engagement and this completely shuts that down with the hot-button issues of our current time.” She accused the college of “over reacting to a minor incident” with “cruel and unusual punishment.” Civic engagement does not include the right to violent demonstrations and shutting down speakers one disagrees with. The demonstrators had earlier forced on November 132 the resignation of Dean of Students Mary Spellman who had emailed a Latina student during campus protests seeking greater diversity and concerns about “marginalized” diversity students that she would work to help students who ‘don’t fit out CMC mold” I don’t think she meant it the way it was construed, but she resigned in the uproar that followed. By way of comparison to Claremont McKenna we have Middlebury College in Vermont. Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, was scheduled to speak on March 2, 2107. He was met with violent demonstrators who assaulted and battered both him and his faculty interlocutor, Professor Allison Stanger. She suffered a concussion as her hair was pulled and neck twisted. No arrests were made. College President Laurie L. Patton promised accountability while issuing a public apology. The college announced sanctions on May 23 against 67 students. The sanctions raged from probation to written sanctions of the students’ transcripts – in short, a slap on the wrist for violent violence resulting in personal injury. No academic discipline has been imposed against the rioters who shut down Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley on May 2, 2017. The University, the site of the Free Speech Movement, also muzzled Ann Coulter by denying her a reasonable time and place to speak on April 27, 2017. Yale, Ithaca College, Smith, Evergreen State, have also failed to support academic freedom and administrators. This fall promises to be hot, fueled partially by anti-Trump animus, unless other campuses follow the lead of Claremont McKenna making sure consequences follow violent action and disruption of speech. Peaceful demonstrators are appropriate, but stifling debate through violence is unacceptable.

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