A Bucknell professor instructed students to “impose a steep and lasting price” on me and my peers for our political beliefs in an email addressed to our campus community. Here is how I responded.
On Monday, January 16th, Bucknell Professor Marcellus Andrews wrote an open email to the Bucknell community addressing his concerns about discrimination on campus in light of the rise of Donald Trump to the White House. In his email, the professor specifically singled out the conservative and libertarian students at Bucknell, calling us “racists and fascists” for arranging a guest lecture event that occurred almost a year ago.
Alarmingly, Professor Andrews claimed that students who felt targeted by last February’s speaker needed “to be able to impose a steep and lasting price on the racists and fascists” that organized the event. In the same email, Andrews claims that in his younger days, when he was “extremely skilled at combat,” he would respond to fascists and racists by rearranging their faces and snapping their bones in order to change their minds.
As conservative and libertarian students, we believe that Professor Andrews deserves the intellectual space and academic freedom to say and write what he pleases. But we believe instructing students to “impose a steep and lasting price” on students for organizing a guest lecture event isn’t protected by the same academic freedom that we fight for.
Although I don’t believe this professor was instructing students to use violence as a tactic against me or my conservative and libertarian peers, his email could have easily been interpreted in such a way.
After I politely asked Professor Andrews, who I have never met, in an email to explain what he meant by “impose a steep and lasting price,” he claimed my doing so had confirmed for him his suspicion that there was a collaboration between “students who hate dark folks” and the Bucknell faculty.
But what was Professor Andrews so alarmed about? Was our event truly racist? Or fascist? That night the speaker argued that “there is stuff left to do on race in America…(African-Americans) are still owed something.” Then, speaking much like an intersectional feminist, the speaker addressed the struggles faced particularly by African-American females, who he suggested are on the receiving end of cross-sectional institutional/systematic discrimination.
Just a few weeks ago, this speaker condemned white nationalists, arguing that “you should be focusing on what unites people and not what drives them apart…You shouldn’t give a shit about skin color, a shit about sexuality,” he said. “You shouldn’t give a shit about gender, and you should be deeply suspicious of the people who do.”
What was perhaps more alarming than Professor Andrews’ conduct in his emails to me was the administration’s response. In a meeting held with the administration, an administrator refused to call Professor Andrews’ conduct inappropriate, choosing instead to say that the administration would have preferred that he had used different language. The administration accepted Professor Andrews’ cheap explanation that by “impose a steep and lasting price” he merely meant that marginalized students were to engage me in calm and peaceful discussion.
The administration’s response confirmed for me that conservative and libertarian students won’t be protected from mistreatment as long as that mistreatment is delivered in the name of social justice.
I want to be clear: Professor Andrews’ conduct and the university’s weak response is not acceptable. I will do everything in my power to ensure that every living conservative and libertarian Bucknellian and their wallets know that our university finds Professor Andrews’ ugly public threat to be an acceptable form of conduct for our faculty.
I have never met Professor Andrews. I have never sat in his classroom. Because of this, in a sense, Prof. Andrews has become the monster he has spent his life hoping to destroy. As an African-American, Prof. Andrews has likely faced a lifetime of discrimination – but this provides him no justification to pass a collective judgment on me and my peers based upon political beliefs that we hold.
The incident with Professor Andrews’ certainly isn’t the first of its kind. In a recent survey of over 2,000 Yale students, over 75% of those surveyed agreed that Yale “does not provide a welcoming environment for conservative students to share their opinions on political issues.”In the past few weeks, violence has erupted at several guest lecture events around the country featuring moderate conservative and libertarian speakers. Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes was pepper-sprayed before an event in which he was set to speak at NYU. Violent riots erupted at UC Berkeley last week in response to an event featuring the same speaker we had here on this stage last February.
There is concern on this campus on the faces that you don’t see, in the corners of this campus that you don’t visit. It is in those corners where you find those of us that constantly have our moralities brought into question, in the classroom, by our peers, friends, and family for daring to believe that the state shouldn’t be used as an apparatus to cure society’s injustices.
Conservative and libertarian students can’t argue against the passage of a $15 minimum wage law without being considered cold and unfeeling. Despite the volumes of economic research that makes the reasonable case that a $15 minimum wage would actually hurt low-skilled workers by pricing them out of the labor market, it’s the unflinching arrogance of campus leftists that allows them to skip the debate on the issue and go right to labeling their detractors as selfish and cold-hearted cynics who would rather people die in the streets than force employers to put a few extra dollars in their employee’s pockets.
Because of this lack of intellectual freedom, Bucknellians only speak non-progressive thoughts in hushed tones, behind closed doors, and under the assumption that everything said stays between the two parties of the politically incorrect conversation.
In an email addressed to the Bucknell community, a professor smeared and gave explicit instructions that students should lash out at me and my conservative and libertarian peers for inviting a speaker that brought a strong anti-racist message to campus.
And although the administration addressed the incident quickly, their repeated refusal to call Professor Andrews’ conduct inappropriate speaks volumes about the disdain that they have for Bucknellians that don’t submit to our campus’ progressive orthodoxy.
This attitude that conduct that would otherwise be considered unacceptable if not done in the name of social justice presents a dangerous slippery slope. Just last week, protesters at UC Berkeley seemingly took the advice of Professor Andrews, and elected to rearrange the faces and snap the bones of students waiting in line to hear the same speaker we had here on campus last February. Student attendees were beaten with flag poles, punched, bruised, and pepper sprayed. Windows were broken. A UC Berkeley administrator allegedly bragged on social media about punching an attendee.
Despite the violence, only one arrest was made. Influential comedy film producer Judd Apatow celebrated the violence at Berkeley, claiming that this was “only the beginning.”
I am often told that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, that it’s not possible for a member of a demographic group that is not traditionally considered to be marginalized to be discriminated against in the university. But Professor Andrews’ conduct and the administration’s response has proved to me otherwise. The violence at Berkeley and the inaction of the police and in arresting the organizers and perpetrators has convinced me otherwise.
A slate of editorials released by the independent student newspaper of UC Berkeley, The Daily Californian, entitled “violence as self-defense” not only justified the violence but even claimed that it was necessary to protect student safety. Safety from ideas. It should be a concern for us all that some of our nation’s brightest students, attending one our nation’s best public universities, the same university that gave birth to the free speech movement, believe that violence is an acceptable response to an inflammatory guest speaker.
This is what helps to create white identitarian groups, white supremacist groups – both the legal system and our institutions, our universities, setting different standards of expected decency for people based on the way that they look or the political beliefs that they hold.
My time as a student activist is coming to a close. Above all else, I’ve learned in these four years that the American political landscape is in desperate need of individuals who have the capacity to bring us together and remind us of our common humanity, regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, or political persuasion. As Bucknellians, we should all strive to be this kind of person.
Tonight we continue the practice of promoting intellectual diversity at Bucknell by welcoming Christina Hoff Sommers…
Written from prepared remarks.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about social justice and libertarian issues for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org