About that New York Times story on Hamline University.
"Insufficiently sensitive?" Wait until the student enters the workplace. Haha! Yet just another elaborate attention getting device.
Something I didn't see addressed in other comments: Non-religious people always seem to assume that the fundamentalist version of a religion is somehow the most traditional, conservative, or authentic. (Sam Harris, for one, makes this mistake.) But nothing could be further from the truth. Fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, and it could not have arisen in a premodern context. Every fundamentalism begins by condemning the inherited tradition as corrupt, and then it proceeds to introduce "reforms", which reinterpret the religion in rationalistic ways.
The Hamline dean, who is clearly not a Muslim and probably not religious, uncritically accepted an extreme form of Islam as the real Islam, implicitly dismissing all other forms of Islam. This error is replayed constantly in the DEI industry, resulting in the ironic spectacle of self-proclaimed proponents of diversity acting as enforcers for the most fundamentalistic, oppressive forms of Islam, and sidelining more moderate, traditional Muslims, who are presumed to be compromised and inauthentic because they lack the fanaticism of the fundamentalists. Thus, the DEI ideology creates a ghetto for Muslims (and other religions) that does not allow for diversity within the religion.
Unfortunately, Saudi oil money has subverted traditional Islam worldwide. The Saudis fund their fundamentalistic sect in an effort - usually at least somewhat successful - to displace other forms of Sunni Islam. CAIR is a Saudi front organization, which poses as a representative of all American Muslims while quietly pushing the Salafist/Wahhabi agenda. CAIR has learned to exploit the DEI industry to advance the Saudi agenda. CAIR's involvement at Hamline is typical of its efforts.
You are spot on: This is as much a story of the mistreatment of at-will adjunct professors by profit mongering universities as it about academic freedom. If part-time teachers across America went on strike the entire university system would collapse in two weeks. Where I teach, the cost of a single student to take a class pays for the entire pay of a part-time adjunct to teach that class, and yet those fully fungible teachers must teach classes of no less than 25 students. Where are all the so-called leftists on this issue?
As I understand it from elsewhere, having been warned twice about the upcoming content and then again as the lecture started, he stayed anyway which many saw as wanting to be “offended” so they could go complain about it.
I agree completely with your analysis JVL. Two additional points.
First I think we have to realize that there were heavy economic incentives for the university administrators to do what it t did. Hamline is fine university but it’s not Harvard. It’s a very small university in Minnesota which needs to keep its enrollment up and also keep its enrollment of minorities up if it wants to keep its student body reasonably diverse. So the last thing they needed was a national story about a student protest from Muslim students. The easiest thing to do was apologize and not renew the teacher. Sure they risk Fox News going after them or even a lawsuit later but doing what they did solved their immediate problem whereas standing up to the students would have prolonged it. That does not excuse it but my point its not just an ideological problem butvan economic one.
Second while I agree that your religious beliefs should not give you a pass from tte ordinary demands of a university education, we send miixed signals. The Supreme Court has essentially ruled for example that having conservative Christian beliefs allows you to exempt yourself from health care laws applicable to other employers and deny adoption and certain commercial services to gay couples. So that makes it a little harder to tell Muslims no we don’t need to accommodate your beliefs by taking one picture out of the class room presentation and make it available online. You could draw a distinction but it might look hollow. So I kind of understand how the university could decide going forward it would be better not to show the picture in class, but that hardly justifies firing the teacher after the fact.
I just can't believe this is real.
Although I realise it's probably the least important of today's topics, I really enjoyed Cory Doctorow's piece on the "enshittification" of social media. I'm a committed social media teetotaler, but his description of the dynamic exactly matches the complaints I hear from friends and family and describes perfectly the gradual screw-over I've experienced from other tech providers (not to mention shrinking leg room, having to set aside a half day for a 15-minute cable install, and other indignities heaped on us by "service" providers).
This is an excellent companion piece to the recent Ted Gioia article. It comes on the heels of my extended rant (which my incredibly patient wife had to tolerate) at this problem in general and how the value of Amazon Prime Music in particular has been whittled down to what a friend likes to call "the square root of f**k-all."
Being treated like an afterthought by everyone from airlines to Amazon to my cable provider to the GOP is perhaps the most persistent irritant of modern society. Cory's article reassured me that the problem isn't JUST that I'm a cranky curmudgeon (although I'm sure that's a lot of it). Thank you for connecting me to it!
I'm reading Cathy's piece on the incident now, and realized a completely obvious point that escaped me as I read this yesterday: The Bulwark showed the painting, and I appreciate that you did. Otherwise, I would have had to try to find the painting for myself to see what it was that was so catastrophic for this student to see, the student who was given ample warning and every opportunity not to voluntarily expose herself to it. Furthermore, you all showing it will invite the same sort of vitriol and danger if the wrong people find out that you showed it; South Park, some time after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, wanted to depict the prophet Mohammed in an episode but was censored from doing so out of fear of retribution.
Right wing Christian cancel culture c. 1989--- Andres Serrano--- "Immersion (Piss Christ)"
Christian activists and Senators Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms, outraged.
The National Endowment for the Arts budget was slashed.
Serrano received death threats and hate mail, and he lost grants.
No one was unwillingly exposed to the art (same with the Mapplethorpe S/M photos of the same period) but even the knowledge that such images existed was unbearable...
I'm always hesitant to criticize actions of others while being ignorant of their lived experiences. But the comments of the complaining student seem extraordinarily overwrought... especially about being taken totally by surprise, given all the warnings given by the Prof. I'm Muslim, anyone who claims that Islamophobia doesn't exist is (imo) pretty much an idiot - but this is no Islamophobia. I'm glad the national CAIR took a different and reasonable-sounding tack (for now, anyway).
Cory Doctorow: "a flywheel that gets faster and faster."
All of a sudden, lots of people are thinking that flywheels ever-accelerate, yet the whole purpose of a flywheel is to resist changes in speed and rotate at a constant rate.
@ Rusty Vandura
I take yout point that it is impolitic for an adjunct professor to ruffle academic feathers, but apparently worshippers of Mohammed in every age have not believed it blasphemous to make graven images of the Prophet:
"The painting shown in Dr. López Prater’s class is in one of the earliest Islamic illustrated histories of the world, “A Compendium of Chronicles,” written during the 14th century by Rashid-al-Din (1247-1318)." NYT 1/10/23
And, of course, the Second Commandment has been observed by some Christian (and Jewish?) sects:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”
So I guest the message is that we need better employment protections for teachers of every grade. And also that a little more investigation into context and intent is needed before sectarian preferences are accorded a protected status that includes the power to proscribe.
Now, back to more earth-shaking issues....
Writing as an aspiring ‘woke’ professor at a large midwestern public university with a reputation for liberal faculty and students, I can assure you that the Hamline administration was not acting as a progressive vanguard. They acted in a manner familiar to administrators in large bureaucracies both public and private: CYA! They were wrong, but their crime was cowardice, not ‘wokism’
PS I don’t think wokism is a crime.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Your comments are thought provoking. Wish I was better at summarizing my perspectives, because this is an important topic. The action by the administration gives the impression we should hesitate to learn and discuss those topics that are new and unfamiliar; what is the point of college if not to challenge one's paradigm?
Thank you again
👏👏👏 for your Hamline University / NYT segment.
A few observations:
"My real contempt is for the grownups in the administration, who did not act with a surplus of either wisdom or courage."
Yes. *Yes.* YES!! This doesn't get said enough. Most of the problems with liberal institutions boil down to the abject cowardice of its administrators. It's mostly white administrators, terrified that they are going to end up as a target of the racist witch hunters on social media and other "activist" groups who punch far above their weight in society.
This is what made me reject political correctness many years ago (outside of the fact that I generally don't like presuming offense where likely none was intended). Hearing on NPR from a Native American activist that they actually preferred the term "Indian" made me realize that most PC fussing is a two-way bargain between an unrepresentative faction of a minority and their disproportionately white, affluent, overly-visible peers: we get attention and validation, you each get to think of yourself as "one of the good ones" without actually doing anything of real value.
Here is a typical, condescending, insultingly stupid proclamation from a university head in response to a woke outcry that was blissfully oblivious to facts and reason. The demand was the removal of the name of a civil rights crusader and historic ally of blacks from a building – because it was found that he briefly belonged (for a few months) to a college organization named the Ku Klux Klan. (The school club was formed a year before the KKK's 20th century resurgence, at which point it immediately changed its name. A comprehensive investigation found no evidence of the club harboring white supremacist ideology.). Here's the quote:
“I no longer possess — and this institution should reject — the privilege of nuancing explanations as to how a person even tangentially affiliated with an organization founded on hate has his name honorifically posted on a public building.”
For context, this was criticized by both historians and activist organizations, including the NAACP. As for the dean issuing the statement, note the pathetic cowering behind his intellectual self-castration as "privileged", so that he can, in good conscience, insult the intelligence of blacks and everyone else by claiming overwhelming evidence of wrongness to be "nuancing explanation" because it contradicts a knee-jerk presumption. Also, note the abuse of "tangentially associated" to mean "superficially likened".
"But also the ballooning of administrative staff, which has put downward pressure on wages for faculty. Which has made adjuncts—who are underpaid, fire-at-will serfs—increasingly attractive to institutions.
It’s a scandal."
This is a criminally under-discussed part of the ever-inflating cost of college. The ratio of administrators to faculty and to students has become so absurdly bloated that last year Yale had a 1:1 ratio of administrators to *undergraduate students*. Yeah, you read that correctly. And if you think professors are liberally biased, the administrators make the faculty look like the American Enterprise Institute by comparison.
This is why colleges nowadays seem to view their goal as less about education and more about creating a "vibrant" and "inclusive" (and of course, "safe") campus culture. Sounds nice, except that in order to achieve this they lower standards for middle class black and Latino students so that they can serve as tokens on a college campus while clustering at the bottom of class rankings rather than excel at less demanding institutions.
Because again, this isn't about helping minorities. It's about helping ourselves feel like we're the good guys. It's about earning our Excellence in Social Justice merit badges – the talisman that will hopefully ward off the demons of denunciation.
A key point that I have seen elsewhere, regarding the student's complaint about the painting, is the narrow focus of the "adults" blindly abetting our culture of victimhood. In this specific incident the admin took the side of the victim/student with no thought to the situation. I don't often agree with CAIR, but, as Mr Mitchell pointed out, context matters.
1) The painting was commissioned by a Muslim ruler making the case for Islamophobia very difficult to believe.
2) The admin decided that all of the trigger warnings were insufficient because 1 student ignored them and was thereby triggered.
3) Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is not a monolithic religion: there are different sects with different interpretations of the Q'ran (as heretical as those others might be). Between the 2 dominant ones, Sunni and Shi'a - there is a split opinion on the depiction of the Prophet: the Sunni (I think) find these depictions sacrilegious entirely, the Shi'a don't (although they will usually blur the face out of respect).
4) The admin sided with a *single* student from the class because: victimhood.
5) It seems that the powers that be never spoke to the professor so it didn't have a clue as to why the painting was used, nor the history of the painting, nor, apparently, that even within Islam there are differences of opinion on these depictions.
Etc etc etc.
This kind of bovine scat will continue ad nauseum until these adults remind the students of who actually is in charge of the university. Sure, professors' salaries come from the tuition parents pay (yeah, right... parents), but they pay for their kids to get an education in something other than how to be a casualty of perceived slights or "attacks" on their core beliefs - which will likely change several times over the next several years of their lives as reality assaults them. Given the choice, I must believe that a vast majority of these parents would prefer that their children get the education paid for without the turmoil of the admin trying to micromanage to avoid the occasional student's hurt feelings.