Wednesday, April 18, 2018

NYU Asserts Authority, Stops Disruptive Protest

Here’s some good news to brighten your day. It comes to us from New York University, one of the most respected and most expensive schools in the nation.

What happened at NYU should be an object lesson for universities around the country. Kyle Smith reports on a student protest that took place in the Kimmel Center for University Life. The “woke” protesters declared that they would shut down the center until their demands were met. You can guess what they were demanding. I do not need to rehash them here.

What happened next, Smith reports, showed how best to deal with such adolescent antics. University administrators took to the phones… and placed calls to the parents of the protesting students. They informed said parents that their children risked being suspended from the university and also risked their financial aid. Quickly, the assembled group of activists disbanded.

Smith has the story:

NYU administrators showed little patience for the activists disrupting the proceedings at the Kimmel Center for University Life. But how to dissolve the protest? It turned out that there was no need to bring in the police. Ringing up the students’ parents was all it took. The phone calls advised parents that students who interfered with campus functions could be suspended, and that suspensions can carry penalties of revoked financial aid or housing. The students “initially planned to stay indefinitely,” notes the Voice’s report. “Instead, the students departed within forty hours.”

The university administration did nothing more than to assert its authority. Remember that we have all been told that exercising authority is a bad thing. In the past university administrators have tended to back off, to bend over, to refuse to punish any students who disrupted speeches.

Smith explains:

Higher ed’s decades-long policy of backing away from acting in loco parentis was, at least momentarily, reversed. What else might happen if other universities and colleges rediscovered the positive effects of asserting authority rather than recoiling from it? What if, for instance, Middlebury had withdrawn financial aid and/or housing from dozens of students for disrupting the speech of an invited scholar, Charles Murray, last March? What if Middlebury had even hinted at the possibility it might do so? Middlebury would almost certainly become a much more welcoming place for the free exchange of ideas, hence almost certainly more in line with its supposed ideals as an institution of learning. Instead, after the debacle in which Murray was subjected to (in the words of PEN America) a “lawless and criminal attack” that “marks a new low in this challenged era for campus speech,” the college merely issued a meaningless pile of paper reprimands ranging from probation (just the ordinary kind, not even the double-secret variety) to disciplinary letters being placed in the students’ files.

Universities that demonstrate courage set limits and boundaries. Students respond appropriately. Smith concludes that NYU has taught students a good lesson in how the real world works:

NYU shows us that it’s possible to maintain order on campus, even in the face of the strenuously aggrieved, with a tactic as simple as a phone call. If it disabused the protesters of any notion that the world must stop and listen to them any time they’re feeling feverish with injustice, it did them a favor. Undergraduates often joke about how ill-prepared they are for life after graduation, “out there in the real world.” Colleges and universities should seize the opportunity to teach the real-world fact that being woke is not a license to interfere with other people’s business.


Anonymous said...

I spent a number of years in the military as a senior NCO. This was at a time when instead of the professional officer we got the Entrepreneurial officer with an emphasis on management. Little thought was given to the idea that many a young person came into the military to get the one thing they were not getting outside of the military, DISCIPLINE. So the military hurt a number of people.
To really succeed in life one has to have discipline and the ability to solve the exigencies and challenges that come with it. It is really easy to see why so many of these student have little respect for those who are in authority in academe. A person who cares about your future will not allow you to run amok. Not challenging these students is the same as saying I don't care about you enough to ensure you meet the rigorous academic pursuits that are requisite.
When one looks back on the people who have, or had, the most affect on them it is almost always the person who was willing to challenge you and "kick your ass" when it was needed. Current academics deserve no respect because they are doing nothing to prepare most of these students. Benign neglect.

Sam L. said...

It's good to know that one U. is willing to use its power over the students. I do wonder if this is a one-off or the beginning of the return of sense to other universities.