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To the aggrieved members of Concerned Student 1950:
Thanks to the Internet and several dozen members of the Concerned Students 1950 movement, I am in receipt of your list of demands for changes to take place at your beloved university. Let me begin by suggesting that hurling a list of demands and expecting people to address them is not really the way that responsible grown-ups deal with important questions. Typically, we agree to abide by certain rules that govern civilized dialogue, which include, for instance, that there should be no shouting, spitting, screaming threats, disrupting campus activities, throwing dangerous objects, calling for “muscle” to prevent others from participating, leaving disgusting human debris on the beautiful campus, or otherwise engaging in other activities that stifle the free exchange of ideas. That, of course, is just the short list.
I suppose the first thing to notice is that you succeeded in forcing the resignation of the university president, which I take as more of a statement about the cowardice of academic leadership in our time than a vindication of your methods. However, you’re probably right in assuming that mobs of students and faculty at other academic institutions will mimic your approach, though much to the detriment of maintaining civilized society. Still, don’t count on it. There may be lurking in some academic hideaway a leader with the fortitude required to stand up to student-faculty mobs screaming, 1960s-style, lists of non-negotiable demands. And when that happens, the entire house of cards embodied in your actions will collapse.
I notice that in your first demand, you insisted that the president “acknowledge his white male privilege,” a statement I find very curious, although without question this phrase constitutes one of the more racist fads of our time. However, have you noticed that for the past half century, educational institutions and businesses across the land have labored furiously to recruit members of minority groups, especially African-Americans? Indeed, it is hard to imagine more intense and strenuous national exertions than the ones centered on increasing minority group “representation” in all aspects of our life. In fact, the efforts to assist “persons of color” (your phrase, not mine) rival something like universal military conscription (yes, I’ve been around long enough to know those days). Don’t you think it’s possible that since you belong to the most pampered generation in American history that it’s now time for you to “check your privilege?” It’s preposterous for you to act as though it’s still 1969.
By the way, speaking of conscription, I strongly recommend that you consider enlisting in one of our outstanding branches of military service. Without question, struggling through BCT and learning your MOS in AIT at Fort Leonard Wood or Fort Benning, or some other place, would perform miracles in transforming you into a responsible adult human being and provide you with experiences to make you extremely proud of yourself. Even better, military training would enable you to reflect on your college exploits with considerable wisdom and embarrassment, traits that are sorely needed for today’s youth (and faculty). Not familiar with the terms BCT, MOS, and AIT? Why don’t you enlist and find out what they mean.
As far as your menagerie of social justice claims, I assume that you have been steeped in the great thoughts of our civilization’s deepest thinkers over the course of the past two millennia or so, in order to carry out an intelligent conversation about these matters. If you haven’t done so then, frankly, you’re just wasting my time. If you can’t do a fast-track immersion in the most profound ideas of great thinkers and struggle with the timeless controversies to which they devoted their lives, at least go to class on time, pay attention to your professors, be courageous enough to question their propositions, be respectful to others, and take regular baths or showers. Also, it won’t hurt you to address your betters with such terms as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Doctor” or “Ma’am” or “Sir,” or whatever is appropriate. After all, Missouri still is considered a southern state, isn’t it? Whatever, I think these forms of address should be used everywhere.
In conclusion, I ask respectfully that you give serious consideration to the points raised in this letter. Perhaps, you won’t. Which means, in my view, that you have a lot of growing up to do.
A Concerned American, from a few generations in the past.Published in