November 3, 2017

SIGNS OF LIFE AT REED COLLEGE: Activists are disrupting lectures to protest “white supremacy,” but many students are taking steps to stop them.

This school year, students are ditching anonymity and standing up to RAR in public—and almost all of them are freshmen of color. The turning point was the derailment of the Hum lecture on August 28, the first day of classes. As the Humanities 110 program chair, Elizabeth Drumm, introduced a panel presentation, three RAR leaders took to the stage and ignored her objections. Drumm canceled the lecture—a first since the boycott. Using a panelist’s mic, a leader told the freshmen that “[our] work is just as important as the work of the faculty, so we were going to introduce ourselves as well.”

The pushback from freshmen first came over Facebook. “To interrupt a lecture in a classroom setting is in serious violation of academic freedom and is just unthoughtful and wrong,” wrote a student from China named Sicheng, who distributed a letter of dissent against RAR. Another student, Isabel, ridiculed the group for its “unsolicited emotional theater.”

“Unsolicited emotional theater.” I like that. Plus:

Two days later, a video circulated showing freshmen in the lecture hall admonishing protesters. When a few professors get into a heated exchange with RAR leaders, an African American freshman in the front row stands up and raises his arms: “This is a classroom! This is not the place! Right now we are trying to learn! We’re the freshman students!” The room erupts with applause.

I caught up with that student, whose name is Pax. “This is a weird year to be a freshman,” he sighed. Pax is very mild-mannered, so I asked what made him snap into action that morning. “It felt like both sides [RAR and faculty] weren’t paying attention to the freshmen class, as it being our class,” he replied. “They started yelling over the freshmen. It was very much like we weren’t people to them—that we were just a body to use.”

Next I met the student who shot the video. A sophomore from India, he serves as a mentor for international students. (He asked not to be identified by name.) “A lot of them told me how disappointed they were—that they traveled such a long distance to come to this school, and worked so hard to get to this school, and their first lecture was canceled,” he said. He also recalled the mood last year for many students of color like himself: “There was very much a standard opinion you had to have [about RAR], otherwise people would look at you funny, and some people would say stuff to you—a lot of people were called ‘race traitors.’”

Political Correctness is just another form of privileged Western bullying.

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