The Corner


Why Do College Presidents Always Fall for Claims of Racism?

Oberlin College (Wikimedia)

American college presidents seem unable to react with calm and deliberation when there’s an accusation of racism on campus. Any such claim, even if obviously a hoax, sends them into Full Crisis Mode instantly.

The most recent case is at Smith College, where one student’s complaint of being harassed because of her race caused the school’s president to tar and feather the two employees who were accused, plus strap the campus down for a blast of “training” to root out all of their latent racism and other insensitivities. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Lee Trepanier of Samford University reflects on the case.

He writes, “This case should provoke outrage at the college administration’s lack of due process and respect for facts. President McCartney’s conduct reminds one of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: ‘Verdict first and trial afterward!’”

It ought to have been her first response to find out what actually happened. Unfortunately, she was eager to leap to the conclusion that the two workers (a security guard and a janitor) were guilty of racism. Later, an investigation showed that the student’s version of events was not true. But would President McCartney issue an apology to the two? No.

Furthermore, the “training” that was imposed on everyone was so odious that one white woman who worked for the school felt compelled to quit. She intends to sue over the racially toxic environment that she experienced.

Trepanier points out that the 2019 Oberlin College case should remind college presidents that it’s dangerous to act in “woke” ways that are apt to create legal trouble for their institutions. “If President McCartney cannot see that her rush to judgment has put the college in legal danger, she is not a competent leader,” he concludes.

Instead of “anti-racism” training for everyone, college presidents ought to have to take some training in the elements of fairness and due process.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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