Those of us who thought higher education could do little damage while it was shut down were sadly mistaken.
As Antifa-led demonstrators burned and looted American cities in the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, academia, like the rest of the American Left, never let a crisis go to waste, even one they helped engender.
“Fittingly, the ideological handmaiden of this violence — academia — has already sprung into action,” Heather Mac Donald wrote in City Journal on May 31, 2020. “The chancellors and presidents of Harvard, the University of Arizona, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale, among others, released statements over the weekend assuring their black students of their schools’ commitment to racial equity, in light of the George Floyd death — an event wholly unrelated to the academic.”
“No college leader denounced the violence.” City Journal is published by The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
In fact, Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) saw in the riots an opportunity to bash police everywhere. “The AAUP supports the right of all citizens to engage in peaceful protests and calls for an end to police violence against protesters,” he wrote on the Academe blog maintained by the AAUP.
Notably, the avowedly progressive John K. Wilson, a contributing editor at Academe, took a markedly different position: “Too many people on the left revere the street protest as the epitome of working for social change,” he wrote. “They harken back to the days of the Civil Rights Movement and imagine that protests on the streets are an effective tool for social change. That’s rarely the case anymore. The truth is that most street protests are useless, and the rest of them (like all of the protests this week) are usually worse than useless.”
Another contributing editor to Academe, Hank Reichman, downplayed the violence and tried to apportion blame across the political spectrum even though conservatives present at the demonstration are really hard to find, unless they’re cleverly disguised as Antifa organizers.
“No right-thinking person can fail to condemn the looting, arson, and window-smashing that have marred the overwhelmingly peaceful protests that have swept the nation for the past week in the wake of the brutal slaying of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers,” he wrote. “These criminal actions may have been carried out by a handful of political extremists, left and right, who probably envision these events as prelude to some fantastical revolution or civil war.”
For his part, Fichtenbaum did take blame for the violence, sort of, and offered academia as a solution to the problem it helped create: “We also recognize that our institutions of higher education have been part of the problem, but they can be part of the solution by marshaling the expertise of faculty and the energy of students in developing meaningful approaches to mitigating racism and inequality in our society.”
Apparently, academia sees in the riots a more reliable source of cash than a federal bailout. “UCLA’s chancellor Gene Block, as well as the school’s $400,000 a year Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and a parade of deans, announced that the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the school’s legions of Equity Advisors would be coming up with new programs for ‘virtual reflection spaces’ in which to ‘humbly acknowledge the pain,’” Mac Donald writes. “The school’s Resources for Racial Trauma would be beefed up.”
“The academic diversity bureaucracy has now been given a whole new excuse for existence and can be assured that it will escape the cost-cutting chopping block, even as universities beg the federal government for more coronavirus bailout money.”
Malcolm A. Kline served as executive director of Accuracy in Academia for 15 years and had many occasions to debate members of the AAUP.