It seems like déjà vu all over again.
Radical students occupy an administration building, forcing it to shut down. Radical students present a list of non-negotiable demands. Pusillanimous administrators try to placate the student radicals.
It happened in the 1960s, as part of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the counterculture. It’s happening today at no less an institution than Dartmouth College.
The Wall Street Journal describes the scene in an editorial:
On Tuesday Dartmouth's finest seized the main administration building and disrupted college business. The squatters were allowed to remain until Thursday night, when the dean of the college negotiated and signed an exit settlement assuring them the non-dialogue would continue.
The demonstrators had a 72-point manifesto instructing the college to establish pre-set racial admission quotas and a mandatory ethnic studies curriculum for all students. Their other inspirations are for more "womyn or people of color" faculty; covering sex change operations on the college health plan ("we demand body and gender self-determination"); censoring the library catalog for offensive terms; and installing "gender-neutral bathrooms" in every campus facility, specifically including sports locker rooms.
The demands read like a pot pourri of today’s radical cultural politics. And, it is fair to say, the list makes you wonder how these students ever got accepted into an Ivy League college. If they feel that they are out of place at Dartmouth, perhaps they have a point.
It used to be that radical students wanted to end the Vietnam War… because it was preferable to being drafted into the military.
Nowadays, coddled college students are manning the barricades to fight for gender-neutral bathrooms in sports locker rooms. And, they will not negotiate their demand that insurance cover sex-change operations.
After all, if Brown can do it, shouldn’t Dartmouth follow suit?
And let’s not forget the “micro-aggressions,” a new and trendy term for offensive behavior that no one can see without, the Journal says, a microscope. Something is seriously wrong with the minds of these students.
Dartmouth’s president essayed to have a conversation with the fired-up young radicals. They were having none of it:
They responded in a statement that conversations—to be clear, talking—will lead to "further physical and emotional violence enacted against us by the racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic, xenophobic, and ableist structures at Dartmouth." They added: "Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack."
In one sense, the student radicals are right. There is nothing to negotiate. They should, as the Journal suggests, all be expelled.
Mr. Hanlon [the college president] might have told the kids occupying his office that most of mankind—forgive the micro-aggression—would love to be as oppressed as they are. Few young men and women in the world are more "privileged" than those admitted to the Ivy League. The takeover's benefit to Dartmouth is that it might inspire the small minority of like-minded high schoolers to find another college to terrorize. Most elite U.S. students are well adjusted and grateful for their opportunity.
Dartmouth and any other school in this position should tell the students they have an hour to leave the premises, and if they don't they will be arrested for trespassing and expelled. Since Mr. Hanlon missed that chance, he and the school's trustees should now tell the students that if they are so unhappy they should transfer. Surely the occupiers would be welcomed by at least one of the other 4,431 universities or colleges in the U.S. But they may discover the problem is their own sense of privilege, not Dartmouth's.
It’s tempting to see this as a joke. Unfortunately, it isn’t. As the case of Mozilla CEO Brendon Eich showed well, and as the many other instances of political bullying of Prop 8 supporters showed, the night riders of the radical left are just getting started.
They have discovered that terrorism works. They have learned that threats and intimidation against people who do not think the right thoughts can have an effect.
In the Citizens’ United case Justice Clarence Thomas asserted that the tactics of same-sex marriage activists in California were a threat to liberty. He wrote:
The director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater gave $1,000 to support the initiative; he was forced to resign after artists complained to his employer. Lott & Smith, Donor Disclosure Has Its Downsides, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2008, p. A13. The director of the Los Angeles Film Festival was forced to resign after giving $1,500 because opponents threatened to boycott and picket the next festival. Ibid. And a woman who had managed her popular, family-owned restaurant for 26 years was forced to resign after she gave $100, because “throngs of [angry] protesters” repeatedly arrived at the restaurant and “shout[ed] ‘shame on you’ at customers.” Lopez, Prop. 8 Stance Upends Her Life, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 2008, p. B1. The police even had to “arriv[e] in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob” at the restaurant. Ibid.
Justice Thomas wrote these words in 2010. This week the nation finally took notice when Eich was dismissed from his position for having committed the thought crime of offering some financial support for California’s Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative.
Most importantly, an Ivy League education is not the only privilege deserving of respect. So too, is democratic governance. Democracy requires civility. It requires that people respect differing points of view. It even requires that people accept the results of elections, regardless.
In a famous Supreme Court case from 1949, Terminiello vs. Chicago Justice Robert Jackson inveighed against the majority opinion. The Court had overturned a Chicago breach of the peace ordinance because that ordinance had been used to prosecute a priest whose rants had fomented a riot. Thus, the court extended free speech protections to people who were shouting fire in a crowded theatre.
Justice Jackson wrote:
The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.
Compare this to the principle enunciated by Mozilla Chairwoman, Mitchell Baker:
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.
We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.
This means that Mozilla does not respect differing points of view. Yet, you cannot have either a democracy or free speech without that respect.