Shall We Talk about Emory? Sure, Let’s Talk about Emory!
[guest post by JVW]
In the never-ending chronicle of campus lunacy, we have this week’s developments from Emory University in Atlanta (fun fact: Emory is the academic partner for the nearby Carter Center). Students awoke last Monday to find that someone had chalked graffiti supporting a certain Presidential candidate on several sidewalks and walls about the peaceful and bucolic (yet urban) campus. Not unexpectedly, a certain subset of the campus activist culture found this calcium carbonate-based advocacy to be absolutely terrifying. From the campus newspaper:
Students protested yesterday at the Emory Administration Building following a series of overnight, apparent pro-Donald Trump for president chalkings throughout campus.
[. . .]
“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added.
[. . .]
Grievances were not restricted to shortcomings of the administration. “[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues [related to having safe spaces on campus].”
The article then goes on to add that the activists presented the usual list of demands, including more minority faculty hires and the creation of safe spaces. Emory President James Wagner, who surprisingly appears to have initially defended free speech rights, was later bullied into sending a mealy-mouthed email message to the campus community promising to review procedures for advocacy postings and increase “social justice opportunities” throughout Emory. The administration at first promised to review security footage to see what dastardly rapscallions may have had the temerity to sully the campus grounds with chalk, but it appears that they have since backed down and now consider the matter closed.
Reaction, as one might imagine, was swift and generally withering. Emory and its cowardly leadership were lampooned far and wide, with unmerciful scorn coming from all quarters, from the obnoxious right to the insufferable left and all points between. Conor Friedersdorf devoted his usual 10,000 words (jeeze, I’m one to talk!) on the topic, centered around the off-campus leftist consensus that these students might be well intentioned, but they were making progressives look silly by carrying on so.
And right now, Emory’s chalk-focused activists and its president are the worst allies imaginable for anti-Trumpism. They’re not just ineffective, they’re doing all harm and no good. They’re focused on how Trump supporters make them feel rather than opposing his rise as effectively as possible. And their abandonment of liberal values bolsters the false belief of Trump supporters that such values are only ever invoked cynically.
That is fuel for more illiberalism. And insofar as America becomes a zero-sum game to see who can do the most to suppress the speech of whom, the campus left will not win. Why aren’t more tenured faculty members who understand that speaking up?
Because it just seems self-evident to the left that their opponents will gladly adopt these same anti-Constitutional tactics should they be given half a chance, despite there being virtually no evidence suggesting that this is so, apart from one candidate’s bizarre and fatuous claims that he is going to make the media pay for their insolence.
These crybully kerfuffles, whether at Mizzou or Claremont or Yale or Amherst or points yonder and afar all seem to have the same defining characteristic: students understand that in the 21st Century campus climate, grievance-mongering works! Have you ever been in a store and seen some young child whining for some toy? It’s easy to look at the kid and think, “Man, what a little brat,” but if you knew that the kid had a perfect record of having his parents give in and buy him the toy you might feel a little more understanding of the power structure dynamic at play. That’s exactly what we are seeing on campus today. Sure the crybullies are annoying and pathetic, but this goes on because there are far too many adult authority figures on campus who will eventually reward the whining. Emory is fixing to be just the latest overmatched and lily-livered parent helplessly shelling out for the toy that the kid demands.