Learning Well the Ways of the World at URI
Back when I was a student at the University of Rhode Island, campus activists misinterpreted (deliberately, I’d say) a cartoon published in the student paper, The Good 5¢ Cigar, with racial undertones and secured funding for additional positions and student groups for minorities. At least the hook, in that case, came from an official publication, if erroneously accused. Now, another minority interest group is pushing for the same rewards based on less specific, and less institutional, offenses:
University of Rhode Island officials have responded to a student sit-in at the library by acknowledging that gay and lesbian students have endured discrimination. …
Brian Stack, president of the Gay Straight Alliance and a volunteer at the center, said the group has been trying to get the administration’s attention since January. “We have had students throwing used condoms into students’ rooms, drawing offensive images on people’s doors and an epidemic of people yelling ‘faggots’ as they drive by the GLBT Center,” Stack said. …
The group wants better facilities, a bigger budget for programs and better pay for staff members, a handbook of policies for reporting bias and hate crimes, sensitivity training for resident assistants, and regular meetings with Dooley. …
He said a Bias Response Team was created for students to report harassment, funding was added for diversity programs, and the GLBT center was added to freshman orientation. And he noted that Ron Suskind’s book “A Hope in the Unseen,” about overcoming discrimination, was chosen as the book every freshman must read.
The lesson, learned through numerous previous incidents, is that protesting a sympathetic organization based on sometimes unverifiable incidents can be very rewarding. Granted, according to the Cigar, a student has been arrested for “writing anti-gay comments on several residence hall doors,” although no details about the targeted locations of the slurs (if any), the actual content thereof, or the perpetrator’s explanation are provided.
The oddity is that I keep hearing, during discussions about same-sex marriage, how tolerant younger generations are. Why should expanded programs to combat a growing wave of intolerance be necessary?
My suspicion is that they are not, but that once an organization (or society) makes it clear that it will take a particular interest in protecting certain identity groups, including recourse to indoctrination on their behalf, it will find increasing petitions to be counted among those groups and to expand and deepen the methods of shaping others’ views. Moreover, having infantilized protected victim groups with the promise that the world will be made to feel safe, for them, authorities have established a very narrow range of acceptable responses that they can make.
More precisely, they have disallowed boundaries beyond which it is not their institutional responsibility to go. They cannot, that is, suggest that the university will do everything it can to ensure physical safety and equal opportunities, but beyond that, students should take the quasi-sheltered environment as a chance to learn to deal with disagreement and insults without recourse to a central authority.