Recent weeks have seen a chancellor, university president, faculty members and numerous faculty members resign in the face of student protests and backlash against campus racism and insensitivity.
At the University of Missouri, President Tim Wolfe resigned after students protested his poor handling of several recent racial incidents including swastikas and racial epithets launched at black students. At Yale University, students are protesting a racial climate that they perceive as hostile toward African-American students, and two faculty are in the spotlight after suggesting to students that the allowance of regressive or even mildly aggressive speech is a necessary aspect of free speech and discourse.
The urge to editorialize and offer advice into these situations is dangerous because each situation is specific. We are unable to discern whether there was a better way to handle these situations or a more peaceful path that could have been taken by protestors. However, looking back, there is always a better way of doing something.
But a few constants that run through these student protests have caught our attention. The trend today is to have a distinct personal identity that is defined by the group identity. This system casts out those that seek a personal identity separate from the pack’s notion of the correct identity. This has become a common trend that, in our opinion, hinders the primary function of the university setting: the exercise of unfettered discourse and debate.
Academic growth will always collide with uncomfortable and offensive topics that one cannot ignore if they desire the full realization of their academic experience. The academic realm must be protected from censorship because it is one the last remaining bastions of unfettered debate and discourse in America.
The second thing the Optimist Editorial Board is concerned about is the dangerous precedent set by the protests at Missouri University. In our opinion, yes, the university administration was undoubtedly in the wrong and needed to be removed. In other situations, though, we believe the situation should be looked at thoroughly before any severe actions are taken, from a protester and administration point of view.
The student protests did a powerful and noble job of doing that which needed to be done. Racism has no place anywhere, especially a college campus.
The Optimist Editorial Board supports the continual unearthing and removal of racist bastions in academic institutions. But we urge ACU students to first consider the nature of the situation and ask themselves if what they are doing limits academic discourse and the marketplace of ideas within the university setting.