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.
“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.