by Robby Soave · April 17, 2017
Pomona College OfficialA coalition of marginalized students at Pomona College are demanding that the president of the Claremont McKenna Colleges (which include Pomona) take disciplinary action against student-journalists who write for The Claremont Independent, a conservative paper.
That’s not all. The students’ letter to the president also stridently rejects the very mission of a liberal arts college. The search for truth is little more than an attempt to silence marginalized people, in the view of these students. Accordingly, the campus administration must revise its commitment to free speech such that no one who espouses hateful views—as defined, in incredibly broad terms, by the offended parties themselves—is allowed to speak at Claremont.
“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions,” the students wrote in their letter. “It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.”
The students refer specifically to Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald’s recent visit to campus. MacDonald, a conservative critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, was prevented from speaking by student protesters. The students surrounded the doors of the building and denied entry to other students who wanted to hear from her. Multiple news outlets, including Reason and The Claremont Independent, wrote critically about the students involved in the incident, and Claremont President Chiram Hodash expressed dismay about the censorship.
The students’ letter demands that MacDonald—falsely labelled a “white supremacist”—never be allowed back on campus. In fact, all hate speech should be proactively banned from Claremont.
“The idea that we must subject ourselves routinely to the hate speech of fascists who want for us not to exist plays on the same Eurocentric constructs that believed Black people to be impervious to pain and apathetic to the brutal and violent conditions of white supremacy,” wrote the students, who apparently believe, mistakenly, that MacDonald is a white supremacist.
Worse, the students’ letter comes out swinging against the Enlightenment itself, and brands the search for truth—the mission of a liberal arts college—a false, Eurocentric concept that only serves to embolden white supremacy:
Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth–’the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.
Emphasis mine. I recommend reading the entire letter. Though poorly written, it is one of the more transparent rejections of liberal values from self-professed liberals that I have ever had the displeasure of reading.
The authors are correct that the Enlightenment was an imperfect philosophical movement, and that some of its adherents were racists, or enshrined racial thinking. But the Enlightenment made several important contributions to modern thought: including the separation of words and actions (which students are working tirelessly to undo) and the embrace of reason, logic, and the scientific method (which students are also working tirelessly to undo).
If the truth does not exist—if it is merely a construct—what’s the point of attending university? What’s the point of accruing knowledge? How is a liberal activist movement ever going to counter President Trump’s ceaseless and worrying hostility toward basic facts if it rejects the existence of object reality?
More than 20 students boldly attached their names to this document, which also calls on the administration to expel any member of The Claremont Independent who publishes the list of names—doing so would “endanger the well-being” of the marginalized students.
Since these students see no difference between words and actions, it seems more than fitting to turn their own language against them: in penning a letter that disparages objective truth, mocks free speech, and smears all dissenters as racists, the student-authors continue to endangered the well-being of the entire higher education system.