Submitted by Emily Tate on February 6, 2017 - 3:00am
Eleven people were arrested last Thursday after one part of a demonstration at New York University turned violent.
They were protesting the on-campus appearance of Gavin McInnes, a conservative commentator, comedian, actor and co-founder of Vice Media (at right). McInnes describes himself as pro-Trump, pro-West, anti-feminist and anti-Islam. Last December, he started an “anti-racial guilt,” anti-feminist group called Proud Boys that advocates for the return of "Western chauvinism." Of the 11 arrested Thursday night, several were these so-called Proud Boys, according to tweets McInnes posted in the days following the event.
The NYU College Republicans had invited McInnes to speak Thursday night, but dozens of dissenters -- including some students, led by a group called NYU Anti-Fascists, and many nonstudents -- greeted his arrival with chants, fighting and pepper spray.
The New York Police Department had sent officers to the scene, where McInnes was pepper sprayed on his way into the building. He later tweeted about the incident. “Thanks for asking if I'm OK guys,” he wrote on Twitter. “I was sprayed with pepper spray but being called a Nazi burned way more.”
None of those arrested were NYU students, an official with the university said. Most protesters affiliated with NYU were inside the student center where McInnes was speaking and where they held signs and yelled in nonviolent protest. Those who remained outside, where the protests became violent, are believed to be "largely composed of non-NYU protesters," John Beckman, vice president for public affairs at NYU, said in a statement.
On the Facebook event for the demonstration, the NYU Anti-Fascists’ organizers wrote that McInnes “has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy.”
McInnes did end up speaking to students in the student center, according to a video posted to Periscope by a student publication, but he was interrupted repeatedly by a group of student protesters shouting, “Whose campus? Our campus!” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” McInnes would sometimes ignore them and continue speaking, but occasionally he would turn to them and react: “Why are you repeating the same nonsense over and over?”
After about 20 minutes of this, McInnes took the microphone from an NYU spokesperson who had been trying to calm the crowd and called the spokesperson a “dumb liberal asshole” for thinking the protesters are "rational beings." McInnes then abruptly left the podium. He did not come back.
“To be clear: Mr. McInnes's talk at NYU’s student center on Thursday night went forward. … The decision to end the event when he did was his own,” Beckman said.
The NYU College Republicans responded to the evening's events in a statement, saying they were "disappointed that many students on this campus are so disrespectful when it comes to hearing opposing speakers … We understand that his presence was controversial but we didn't expect these outburst [sic] from this institution."
The NYU incident occurred just a day after violent protests broke out at the University of California, Berkeley, which was hosting Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos but had to cancel amid violent protests led by people unaffiliated with Berkeley.
I was horrified reading the latest diktat on immigration from an administration blown into power by the winds of intolerance and resentment. President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States is an exercise in cynical obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.
The obfuscation begins early on with the linking of this crackdown to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when, as has been pointed out by many commentators, those responsible for those attacks had no connections to the countries targeted by this order. The bigotry of the decree closing our borders to refugees from these seven countries is most evident in the exception it makes for religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.
The hard-heartedness of the executive order is unmistakable. Desperate families who have been thoroughly vetted for months have had their dreams of a safe haven in America shattered. Students, scientists, artists and businesspeople who have played by the immigration rules to ensure that they have secure passage to and from the United States now find themselves in limbo. Colleges and universities that attract and depend on international talent will be weakened. So much for the so-called respect for law of an administration that has made a point of promising to crack down on undocumented children brought over the Mexican border by their parents.
Eighteen months ago I solicited ideas from Wesleyan alumni, faculty members, students and staff members as to what a small liberal arts institution like ours could do in the face of the momentous human tragedy unfolding around the world. We discussed the many ideas we received on our campus and with leaders of other institutions. The steps we took were small ones, appropriate to the scale of our institution. Working with the Scholars at Risk program, we welcomed a refugee scholar from Syria to participate in one of our interdisciplinary centers. We created internships for students who wanted to work at refugee sites in the Middle East or assist local effort at resettlement. We began working with the Institute of International Education to bring a Syrian student to Wesleyan. And, perhaps most important, we redoubled our efforts to educate the campus about the genesis and development of the crisis.
In the last few months, I have traveled to China and India to talk about the benefits of pragmatic liberal education, and in both countries I saw extraordinary enthusiasm for coming to America to pursue a broad, contextual education that will develop the student’s capacity to learn from diverse sets of sources. Since returning, I’ve already received questions from anxious international students and their parents about whether we will continue to welcome people from abroad who seek a first-rate education. Students outside the United States are often fleeing educational systems with constraints on inquiry and communication; they are rejecting censorship and premature specialization, and they are looking to us. Will they continue to do so?
Here at home we must resist orchestrated parochialism of all kinds. A liberal education includes deepening one’s ability to learn from people with whom one doesn’t agree, but the politics of resentment sweeping across our country is substituting demonization for curiosity. Without tolerance and open-mindedness, inquiry is just a path to self-congratulation at best, violent scapegoating at worst.
With this latest executive order, the White House has provided colleges and universities the occasion to teach our students more thoroughly about the vagaries of refugee aid from wealthy, developed countries that are themselves in political turmoil. The new administration has also unwittingly provided lessons in the tactics of scapegoating and distraction traditionally used by strongmen eager to cement their own power. There are plenty of historical examples of how in times of crisis leaders make sweeping edicts without regard to human rights or even their own legal traditions.
Our current security crisis has been manufactured by a leadership team eager to increase a state of fear and discrimination in order to bolster its own legitimacy. The fantasy of the need for “extreme vetting” is a noxious mystification created by a weak administration seeking to distract citizens from attending to important economic, political and social issues. Such issues require close examination with a patient independence of mind and a respect for inquiry that demands rejection of falsification and obfuscation.
As the press is attacked with increasing vehemence for confronting the administration with facts, universities have a vital role to play in helping students understand the importance of actual knowledge about the world -- including the operations of politics. To play that role well, universities must be open to concerns and points of view from across the ideological spectrum -- not just from those who share conventional professorial political perspectives. At Wesleyan, we have raised funds to bring more conservative faculty to campus so that our students benefit from a greater diversity of perspectives on matters such as international relations, economic development, the public sphere and personal freedom. Refusing bigotry should be the opposite of creating a bubble of ideological homogeneity.
As I write this op-ed, demonstrators across the country are standing up for the rights of immigrants and refugees. They recognize that being horrified is not enough, and they are standing up for the rule of law and for traditions of decency and hospitality that can be perfectly compatible with national security.
America’s new administration is clearly eager to set a new direction. As teachers and students, we must reject intimidation and cynicism and learn from these early proclamations and the frightening direction in which they point. Let us take what we learn and use it to resist becoming another historical example of a republic undermined by the corrosive forces of obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.
The campaign and transition period following the election of Donald Trump have affected our campuses in a variety of ways that challenge our basic values of diversity and inclusion and that demand our response as academic leaders. Incidents involving our new U.S. president -- such as making fun of a reporter with a physical disability, supporting the “locking up” of a presidential candidate with no recognition of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in the political environment, and others too numerous too name -- have apparently made some people on college campuses think it’s OK to express the same disregard for our fundamental rights and lack of respect for our fellow Americans.
Already a range of academics and institutions, including the American Anthropological Association, of which I am a past president, have spoken out against the increasing number of racist and misogynistic incidents and hate speech directed at others on our campuses.
But volatility and uncertainty on these issues seem likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Consider, for example, that Richard Spencer, leader of the so-called alt-right and spokesman for white nationalism, has announced plans to target campuses with a tour conveying the message, among other things, that “we are awesome … We should be trying to expand white privilege, not feel guilty about it.”
So what can institutions and individuals committed to social justice do to keep diversity and inclusion values and programs on the table for the next four years? I believe there are two overarching answers to this question. First, we must equip our students to understand the historical context of today’s social environment, how our democracy got to the point that we are so openly politically divided and focused on blaming our social ills on “others” who do not look like us or have the same religious or political beliefs. Second, we must reinforce the principle that embracing diversity and inclusion is the strength of our democracy, not its weakness, and that respecting difference is a first step.
While the challenges reverberate throughout our campuses, I am seeing at least four areas in which the Trump effect has exacerbated divisions among students, administrators and faculty members on our campuses and has created new, more intense imperatives for those committed to diversity. They are:
Support undocumented students. President Trump has previously said he will terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action signed into law by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2012 that exempts some undocumented immigrants from deportation and provides a two-year renewable work permit. The policy guidelines state that applicants must have been in the United States since June 15, 2007, and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. In California, we have thousands of DACA students in our classes, and we are seeing their anxiety and panic as they try to figure out what is happening to them. The psychological effects are undermining their ability to concentrate on their studies.
At the University of California, Riverside, Chancellor Kim Wilcox has sent a letter to our entire campus confirming that we are not turning away from our commitment to DACA students. The heads of the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems together wrote to Trump “imploring” him to continue the DACA program so that affected students can “pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn.” And on our campus, we are also offering special counseling and flexible test-taking schedules for students who are traumatized by the environment of uncertainty. Such actions go a long way toward reassuring our undocumented students that we are doing all we can to help them finish their education.
Protect protesters on both sides of contentious issues. In light of the increasing manifestation on our campuses of views that are racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, Islamophobic and misogynistic, we must strive to maintain an environment in which views on all points of the spectrum can be heard. At the same time, as faculty members, we must model for our students how it is possible to hold a set of values and beliefs, and how to listen to and acknowledge other points of view, even while not agreeing with them.
It is unfortunate that the words of our new president have sent a signal to some people that seems to validate this type of discriminatory and disrespectful behavior. But it is not acceptable, and we must continue to enforce our long-held policies and practices to counter this ugly and hateful turn of events. Our goal is to make the campus a safe space for all our students, not just for some. Some of the specific ways we can do that are to encourage activities such as teach-ins, campus-community forums, information workshops, vigils and peaceful demonstrations as alternatives to potentially violent public confrontations.
Prevent and enforce policies against sexual assault. Under the leadership of the Obama administration, especially with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, colleges and universities across the country have been strengthening their policies and practices to encourage students to report sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents. We are trying to deal with deeply misogynistic values and rape culture that discourage victims from reporting incidents and often results in failure to prosecute cases.
The campaign atmosphere suggesting that “stars” can get away with any sexual behavior they want sent a very negative message to our students, both to those who may commit assaults and to victims who are afraid to report them. We need to double down on our efforts to show all students, whether they are athletes, or members of fraternities, clubs or other organizations, that there is no place for sexual harassment or assault on our campuses. We need to provide opportunities, such as forums and other activities mentioned above, where students can ask the questions that are on their minds and express their anger, frustration and concerns.
Reinforce global learning and teaching. We have been preparing our students to live and work in the global community for at least two decades through our liberal arts curriculum. There is no going back! Our students are steeped in both local and global acts every day. Through their courses and other campus experiences, our job is to continue to help them see and understand those connections, as well as to understand and interact with people of other cultures, religions and worldviews.
One thing we have learned from the election is that families from the Rust Belt, the Deep South and the heartland believe that they have been denied participation in a positive vision for the future of this country. I am involved with two very promising international programs, the Global Citizenship Alliance and the Mellon Global Citizenship Program, that aim to educate working-class and first-generation students from those regions (both historically black colleges and universities and Appalachian colleges and universities working together) about how directly they are tied from their local communities to the wider world. The types of on-the-ground experiences that these programs offer are producing different thinking about empowerment and the ability to chart one’s future.
At the same time, we need to continue to encourage international student exchanges. This works in two directions. First, we need to take steps to ensure that students from other countries (for example, those from the Middle East who may be concerned about Islamophobia) will feel comfortable here. Second, we need to prepare the students we send abroad to stay safe and respond if they are challenged about our country’s and Trump’s policies. In other words, in an atmosphere where “globalization” is too often narrowly interpreted as an economic policy to destroy American jobs, our goal should continue to be to make teaching and learning about globalization beneficial for all.
Why We Must Act Now
It is important for us to act now because, foremost, the mission of our colleges and universities is quite different from the narrower two- or four-year agendas of a particular political administration. We are entrusted to create new knowledge and to educate the next generation of Americans to be the citizens who will lead this great experiment in inclusive democracy to the next level.
We need both collective and individual action. In California we have the commitment from leaders of our institutions. This provides us with the environment that we need as individual faculty members to support students who are caught up in the uncertainties of what the new administration will mean to them. But for all of us, throughout the landscape of higher education, we have to keep our focus on these goals of the value of diversity, inclusion and social justice and be the change we want to see -- regardless of who is at the helm of our country. The longer we wait, the more difficult the task will become.
Yolanda T. Moses is professor of anthropology and recent associate vice chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity at the University of California, Riverside. She is a past president of the American Anthropology Association.
A man wearing a swastika armband appeared at the University of Florida on Tuesday and Thursday, with his second visit setting off a sustained protest by students and faculty members who chanted their anger at him, The Gainesville Sun reported. The man stood silently as students said, "No more Nazis" (see video below). The Sun reported that the man, whom it did not name, was ruled incompetent to stand trial in 2013 on the grounds that he was mentally ill. After several hours, the man asked the university police department to escort him off campus. After he left the campus, two men in a pickup truck approached him and snatched his jacket with the swastika armband. Authorities are looking for the men.
Kent Fuchs, president of the university, issued a statement condemning the wearing of the swastika on campus. But he also said that the man's conduct was protected by the First Amendment. "Many people have contacted the university to ask that the individual be removed from campus," Fuchs said. "While I decry and denounce all symbols of hate, the individual, who is not a faculty, staff member or student, was expressing his First Amendment rights, and we could not legally remove him from public areas of campus."
An analysis published in Nature shows the gender gap in peer reviewers in journals published by the American Geophysical Union. The study found that, from 2012 to 2015, women accounted for 20 percent of all peer reviewers for the association's journals. This was lower than the percentage of women who were accepted as first authors on journal papers -- 27 percent -- and lower than the percentage of AGU members who are women (28 percent). Jory Lerback, the lead author, is a graduate student at the University of Utah.
The University of Oregon will not remove the name of its founder from the oldest building on the campus despite his historical ties to slavery, officials announced Wednesday. Black students at the university had included among a list of demands in fall 2015 the renaming of Deady Hall, which honors Matthew Deady, who helped found the university and held pro-slavery views. (The university last fall dropped the name of Frederic Dunn, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, from a dormitory.)
In a statement Wednesday, President Michael Schill sought to distinguish Deady's history from that of Dunn. He called Deady's historical accomplishments "exceptional" and noted that, while Deady supported slavery when it was legal (holding views that Schill called "abhorrent and contrary to the principles of our university"), he underwent a "metamorphosis" and "embraced the new constitutional order" when laws changed.
In the same statement, Schill announced that Oregon was committed to establishing a new cultural center for black students, another of the 2015 protesters' demands. "I have been convinced that, particularly in light of their small numbers, African-American students need a place that will provide them with an opportunity to gather, reinforce their academic pursuits, enhance connective bonds that support recruitment and retention, and discuss their shared experiences and needs," he said.