A few days ago, I awoke to a mass email from Minjoo Kim, the student body president at Scripps College, condemning a “racist incident” that had taken place the night before. The incident in question? A Mexican-American Scripps student had awoken to find the words “#trump2016” written on the whiteboard on her door. The email claimed that the student was targeted because of her race and described the Trump presidential slogan—nay, hashtag—as an act of violence, and a “testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses.” This email was followed shortly by a message from our Dean of Students, Charlotte Johnson, chastising those students who believed that Kim’s email had been an overreaction to the incident. Johnson pointed out that Scripps (in theory) respects the First Amendment rights of its students and community members, but that in this case, the “circumstances are unique.”
Since the same sort of thing happened a week earlier at Emory University, with great cries of racism and threats against students who advocate for particular presidential candidates, it seems that there may be a special, more flexible version of the First Amendment for college administrators.
Scripps’ need to constantly respond to hurt feelings and incidences of racism—whether real or imaginary—meant that residents of the dorm where this happened had to go to a mandatory meeting in which Resident Advisors gave out instructions on how to behave if you see something offensive written on a student’s whiteboard. We were told that if we see something “offensive,” we should not erase it; that would be like pretending it never happened. Instead, we’re supposed to take a paper towel and tape it over the offensive message so that others walking down the hall need not be affected (see: triggered) by the message, then report it. Indeed the student who experienced this “act of racism” did not simply erase the whiteboard drawing and move on with her day, she wrote a notice calling attention to her status as a victim, hung it next to the #trump2016 message and posted it on Facebook. The takeaway? At a college for independent women, victimhood bequeaths status. But that’s nothing new.
For the past few evenings I have been taking part in an immensely detailed congressional simulation, for a government class at neighboring Claremont McKenna College. For this exercise we are simulating a congressional session taking place during the first year of a Donald J. Trump presidency. The simulation has been labor intensive, extremely informative for the students participating, and lots of fun. It plagues me to think that there are students on my campus who would not only be uncomfortable with the simulation, but deeply offended. How is it possible to teach politics and government in an atmosphere like this? How will my classmates survive the upcoming California primary?
Personally, I am a Cruz supporter. I’m just as perturbed as the next person that Donald Trump is a legitimate candidate for President of the United States. But he is just that, a legitimate candidate. Seeing his name (or a dopey political slogan) should not be enough to send an intelligent college student running for her safe space in tears. Scripps, like most women’s colleges, claims to pride itself on educating and shaping women to bravely go out and face a tough world. Does administrative coddling of behavior like this not devalue the Scripps brand? Surely I cannot be alone in believing this event is an embarrassment, and hopefully not representative of the institution as a whole. I would hate to see my school become another nutty, culturally Marxist institution, pushing this bizarrely weak, fainting couch, victim-feminism. Bizarre and coddled reactions like these legitimize the campaign of someone like Donald J. Trump.
Image Source: Flickr