Will Wokism Cancel Hardin-Simmons University?

I reported previously how Hardin-Simmons University forced out a student who had published disparaging but accurate material about the Black Lives Matter movement. This is far from the only controversy that has happened on the watch of President Eric Bruntmyer.

The Baptist Standard reports that, prior to the "canceling" incident in question and for unrelated reasons, Jeff Sandefer, a member of the family of former President Jefferson Davis Sandefer Sr., asked the university to remove his family's name from campus buildings and to also move the remains of Sandefer Sr. to another resting place.  "This is a letter I never thought I would write; however, I believe HSU is headed for financial and spiritual bankruptcy due to poor leadership, unwise financial decisions and a disregard for HSU faculty, students and alumni." Sandefer did not use the word "disowned," but the extreme step of asking a university to remove the name of one's family from campus comes across as exactly that. The letter also alleges that 64% of the faculty and 550 alumni have stated that they have no confidence in President Bruntmyer or the board, and cites low graduation rates and poor starting salaries for graduates. "American Council of Trustees and Alumni Weighs In on HSU" adds that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) cited issues such as threats to academic freedom and "ballooning construction costs." ACTA's own website elaborates further on these issues, and see also this page.

In fairness to Hardin-Simmons, its graduation rate actually seems a little better than the national average. The same goes, however, for Texas A&M (Central Texas) whose in-state tuition for 2021-2022 appears to be less than $7500 per semester ($15,000 per year) for most if not all majors versus roughly $29,500 for Hardin-Simmons. Hardin-Simmons does offer a religious focus as a premium for Christian students. When I last heard, however, it is Jesus and not Eric Bruntmyer, who depicted the student's social media post as not reflecting Christian values, is the ultimate authority on this subject. While I cannot speak for Jesus, I think he also would have had trouble with Black Lives Matters' silence (as in, you know, "silence is violence") about all but conveniently-selected incidents of white-on-Black violence including a white cop who shot a Black man, Hakim Littleton, who is on bodycam video pointing a gun at the head of the cop's partner. Terrence K. Williams has raised almost identical concerns about this movement and I doubt HSU's wokesters are in any position to contend that Williams doesn't like Black people.

Jesus also said to love your neighbor as yourself, he did not specify the utility of your neighbor's life to your movement, and BLM falls far short of this standard when it remains silent about incidents of Black-on-Black violence such as the killings of retired police captain David Dorn and eight-year-old Secoriea Turner. The latter was killed at an illegal roadblock, the kind typical of BLM's extreme elements in Atlanta last year.

While the Sandefer family's actions are unrelated to the university's decision to force out a student for disparaging BLM, they do reflect on the same administration that was involved in this decision. Regardless whether HSU was within its rights to discipline the student, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) appears to question whether HSU violated its own free speech policies by doing so, the decision was controversial. "Controversy" means that some people support your actions while others find them sufficiently repugnant to disqualify you from serving them and, even if the split is 60:40 in your favor, you've just thrown away 40% of your prospective customers, students, career opportunities, or whatever. The split is however probably 40:60 or even worse when it comes to toleration of those who interfere with the educational or professional careers of others over political and social media disputes.

HSU may practice its customs and we will practice ours. Our custom is that cancelers that "go woke" should also go broke due to loss of business. This does not necessarily mean that I want HSU to go under, as it might indeed do given the number of private colleges that must compete for a declining number of high school graduates, but rather that HSU's trustees need to correct this situation and also the issues raised by the Sandefer family before matters reach that point.

Bruntmyer added, "Hate speech or racist comments by anyone are completely unacceptable and we do not want to condone behavior that questions people’s worth, their value, their dignity or their equality," which comes across to me as a public accusation that the student in question is a racist, and one I perceive as false. It is far from racist to question the agenda of a movement to which, to paraphrase George Orwell's Animal Farm, some lives matter more than others. BLM and not the student therefore questions people's worth, value, dignity, and equality on the basis of skin color and also convenience to the movement. The "canceled" student also posted, as I understand, her belief that all lives matter which includes all Black lives, not just those whose names BLM finds it convenient to say.

It is meanwhile to be remembered that Nicholas Sandmann sued several media entities over far less explicit allegations of racism. I would encourage the student involved to contact a Texas attorney who specializes in this field before the statute of limitations runs out. She should also investigate whether a complaint should be filed under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) which may prohibit public disclosure of disciplinary actions by universities that receive Federal funds. Bruntmyer said that he could not disclose the specific steps of the disciplinary process, and then added that the student was no longer enrolled in the school. I believe regardless of whether FERPA applies to HSU and/or this specific situation that any university whose president talks about why a student withdrew or was separated from the institution should be avoided, period.

I would not recommend that anybody attend this institution as long as the problems remain uncorrected.. HSU can practice its customs but needs to understand that others may practice their own in response.

Civis Americanus is the pen name of a contributor who remembers the lessons of history and wants to ensure that our country never needs to learn those lessons again the hard way. He or she is remaining anonymous due to the likely prospect of being subjected to "cancel culture" for exposing the Big Lie behind Black Lives Matter.

Image: Hardin-Simmons. Univ. 

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