Phi Beta Cons

Rehnquist Professorship: A Punch in the Stomach

Middlebury is establishing a professorship to honor alum William Rehnquist. Of course many are displeased. Middlebury Campus reports that “students and professors opposed to the new chair last week called the professorship everything from a lapse in the College’s support for diversity to an act of “symbolic violence.”

“Since Middlebury has been making a concerted effort to address issues of diversity in creative ways, it is quite stunning that a professorship has been named after a person who has systematically ruled against those who have historically occupied a very fragile perch with respect to issues of franchise,” said Sujata Moorti, associate professor of women and gender studies.

Another professor:

“There are all sorts of ways of making someone feel insecure, you could punch them in the stomach or you could name a professorship after a justice whose decisions made many people in this country feel less secure.”  “When you name a professorship after someone like [Rehnquist], you commit an act of symbolic violence against people. You make them feel insecure, as if they’ve been punched in the stomach.”

The College President has happily resisted such protests. A professor noted that Renhnquist’s decisions were based on “respectable” constitutional interpretations. As if that matters much to these types.


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