Time to Take Back State U
What happened at the University of Missouri last fall could have happened at any major state university save perhaps one: Purdue. In that I live in Missouri (and have a wife on the faculty) and in that I got my Ph.D. from Purdue, I have had a front row seat to this entirely predictable saga.
If, six months ago, you asked the University of Missouri curators which major state university was most likely to melt down, not a one of them would have said, "Mizzou!" But that, I suspect, is because they had long since accepted the reigning absurdity on campus as normative.
In fact, the meltdown commenced many moons ago. For the record, 1968 was the year the university's liberal phase ended, and its progressive phase began. With its official blessing of the Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) – created ostensibly to give "black students a voice" – the university abandoned integration for re-segregation.
In 1970, the university launched a black studies program. In 1971, it opened a "Black Culture House." Over time, MU added new programs for women, gays, Latinos, and just about any other group whose ancestors had once had something bad happen to them. Even after November's mischief, the university continues to boast about its relentless Balkanization on a website cheerfully titled "Multicultural Mizzou."
In its desperate quest to be multicultural, Mizzou adopted another progressive innovation many years back: lowering standards for these select groups. Just about all universities did. As a result, for instance, black Missourians who could have competed successfully at Mizzou were headed to Harvard and Yale. Those who could have competed at a community college or a lesser state college were headed to Mizzou.
Scholars call the phenomenon "academic mismatch." Rather than struggle in science or math classes, many mismatched students have chosen to coast in politically charged programs like black studies or women's and gender studies and act out the ideology in their ample leisure time.
At MU, diversity trumps scholarship, and there is no more impressive testament to the same than the rise (and fall) of 53-year-old Youssif Omar. Last year, the university approved his Ph.D. dissertation and named him managing editor of Artifacts: A Journal of Undergraduate Writing.
One problem, alas, is that Omar cannot write. His is the only dissertation I know of – "Perceptions of Selected Libyan English as a Foreign Language Teachers Regarding Teaching of English in Libya" – whose very title demands a "sic."
Or consider this tongue-twister from the first page of the dissertation: "A few studies and research investigate about learning English in Libya and confirm that learning English in Libya is unsuccessful." That is not a misprint. Refusing to believe that his Ph.D. committee could have approved this butchery, I emailed his supervisor, who, in fact, confirmed that he and his colleagues had done just that.
Omar's Mizzou career came to an unfortunate end in late November, when Columbia police arrested him for visiting a local high school and dragging a 14-year-old relative by her hair down the school's front steps. She apparently had offended Youssif by failing to wear her hijab in class. The New York Daily News reported this story and embarrassed the prize-winning J-School daily to run a tiny piece on Omar days later.
The J-School's urge to protect selected minorities – "Hey, I need some muscle over here" – mirrors that of the media at large. In late 2014, the state and national media uncritically accepted the propaganda coming out of Ferguson. When the lies were grudgingly exposed, the protesting students at MU stuck to the more comforting and empowering anti-white, anti-cop narrative. Having Ferguson sort of nearby gave the MU students a proud claim on victimization other campuses couldn't quite match.
Never mind that on a per capita basis Missouri leads the nation in the murder of African Americans – almost all by other African Americans – or that, on average, five black Missourians were being murdered during each week of the protest. Given their privileged perch at MU, protestors attracted more fawning attention for the teeniest of slights, real or imagined, than did any of those murder victims.
In the one confirmed incident, a drunken white student made a "hurtful" remark to members of the aforementioned Legion of Black Collegians. At the time, the LBC was practicing for its own homecoming ceremony. Did it not occur to anyone at MU that there was something fundamentally wrong about a separate homecoming for black students?
To protest white privilege on campus, grad student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. Butler, whose father made $8.4 million last year as a marketing exec, made the laughable claim to CNN, "I felt unsafe since the moment I stepped on this campus." Coming off a four-game losing streak, the football team may have felt unsafe about continuing to play in the SEC and joined the protest.
This was crunch time for the Board of Curators. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had appointed all nine of them. Like Nixon, the seven white curators are attorneys of, it seems, similar backbone. Nixon had shown his at Ferguson. When asked whether the buck stopped with him, Nixon famously replied, "I don't, you know, I'm more, I just will have to say I don't spend a tremendous amount of time personalizing this vis-à-vis me."
To no one's surprise, the curators were busily accepting MU president Tim Wolfe's groveling letter of resignation before he could finish writing it. Nixon quickly approved, calling Wolfe's ouster "a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus." If Nixon had any idea what Mizzou should be healing from, he did not express it.
Meanwhile, at my alma mater, Purdue University president Mitch Daniels was showing how grown-ups deal with petulant students. He told Purdue protestors he would listen to suggestions but not demands and had no interest in negotiating anything.
Purdue handled its problems, said Daniels, by being "steadfast in preserving academic freedom and individual liberty." He added, "What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale."
If Purdue could stand steadfast for freedom, so can your state U. Don't support it unless the administration proves it can and will.