Monday, April 07, 2014

Phil Hanlon's Challenge

The following rant was recently posted on another of my blogs: Fletcher's Castoria.


The new president of Dartmouth College, Phil Hanlon was recently initiated into the ways of hyphenated student protests when the“Concerned Asian, Black, Latin@, Native, Undocumented, Queer, and Differently-Abled students” aka, Freedom Budget (a name as nutty as these students), recently occupied his office with a list of 72 demands … which apparently include some knee-slappers. For instance they insisted that Dartmouth must include one "queer studies" class in every department (such as “Queer Projective Geometry” and “Queer Inorganic Chemistry”). I say “apparently,” because I started doing research, trying to find their full list of 72, but then said to myself, “why should I indulge these children with my efforts? Isn’t this protest just an infantile cry for attention … which they clearly don’t deserve?” So I didn’t.

Anyhow, this was not a shining moment for Dartmouth’s pixy prexy … a Dartmouth-graduated math major like myself. He did not literally kick these militant students out of his office and have them sent to Coventry. Instead he and his Dean of the College, Charlotte Johnson, pampered these wing-nuts with negotiations and then let some of them bivouac in his office for 48 hours. How humiliating for him and for Dartmouth College … not a shining start for his new presidency. If you want to read more on this tempest in a teapot see the following from the Wall Street Journal.
I think that the real lesson to be drawn from this disruption … and other recent travesties … like the forced resignation of Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich, for a single political donation (see:Information Week Story) … is that acceding to the irrational demands of those hyphenated groups only makes matters worse. Arthur Miller had it right when he compared the McCarthy era to the Salem witch trials in his play, "The Crucible." There are times when an illogical fervor grabs a society’s psyche and, if nobody pushes back, can result in very scary consequences. The unwillingness of us (I’m talking about you and me, friend … and President Hanlon) to push back against such blatant silliness only causes more silliness … and eventually, if not checked by some courageous souls, much more dire consequences.
My suggestion to Dartmouth’s Phil Hanlon is don’t be cowed … do your best to purge your campus of such “diverse” detritus and start emphasizing a new diversity … a diversity of true liberal (small “L”) thought. Encourage rational and studied debate on any subject … but do not pamper the childish confrontations and loopy demands of any hyphenated radicals. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference.

Afterthought: Some might say that all this carping on my part is easy since I do not have to deal with a self-perpetuating and incestuous Board of Trustees who might deny me my next budget request. True, but then, if those in lofty positions are not willing to stand on principle, then their imagined positions are really not that lofty after all.

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