A new academic year is upon us and, already, the world of Higher Education is being true to form.
For example, the University of Maryland-College Park created a new “diversity” group intended to carve out a “safe space” for those white students who are interested in sharing their reflections on their encounters with “racial and ethnic minorities.”
The school assigned to the group quite the catchy label: “White Awake.”
According to Campus Reform, a watchdog site, this “support group” will assist white students who “sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during, or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities.”
According to the description: “This group offers a safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings. Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world.”
After Campus Reform published its article on “White Awake,” the University of Maryland decided to change the name of its most recently created “diversity group.” “White Awake” is no more. In its place is the “Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group.” The description reads: “Do you want to improve your ability to relate to and connect with people different from yourself? Do you want to become a better ally? Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world.”
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Prof. S.J. Miller, a faculty associate, wants to “liberate gender identity.” Self-identifying as “agender,” Dr. Miller expressed desire for this objective in a paper, Reframing Schooling to Liberate Gender Identity -- published in the journal, Multicultural Perspectives. Campus Reform reports that Dr. Miller offers educators ways in which they can create an environment that will supply students with “equitable opportunities for success.” Dr. Miller implores them: “Invest emotionally in the well-being of students so they can exist in schools without redress for gender presentation.”
Dr. Miller continues:
A committee can be formed to put up gender identity expansive posters, signs, billboards, and art throughout the school; to generate recommendations for classroom rearrangements; to ensure that more books with diverse gender identity representations are in classrooms and the library; to invite speakers; to host movies and videos; and to work with others to rename spaces in the school where all gender identities are recognized.
Dr. Miller wants to both identify the source of “gender identity subjugation” as well as to resist violence. Violence, though, means something different for Dr. Miller than what it means to the average person:
By violence, I mean how beliefs and mindsets create prejudice and reinforce practices that take the form of denied or diminished access to material and economic goods, public and social services, schooling policies (i.e., lack of protections and a hyper-focus on cisgender-based curricula), and political protection.
But at Syracuse University, things are looking up as the school plans to open its $5 million “Social Justice Center!” Unsurprisingly, the new center exists within the School of Education.
According to Campus Reform, the Lender Center for Social Justice “aspires to foster proactive, innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to issues related to justice, equity and inclusion.” It will also “provide symposia, student and faculty fellowships, and research aid.”
The center will be directed by two faculty members, Marcelle Haddix and Kendall Phillips. Haddix is the School of Education’s Chair of Reading and Language Arts and Dean’s Associate Professor. Phillips is a professor of communication and rhetorical studies professor.
Haddix is an activist affiliated with Black Lives Matter. Phillips taught a course on President Trump’s “celebrity presidency” and once told Huffington Post that, in contrast to Ronald Reagan, who “knew how to play the presidential role,” Donald Trump “doesn’t even pretend to play” that role. “There’s almost no difference between Trump now and when he was on TV [as a Reality TV star].”
The Social Justice Center, in other words, is directed by people located solidly within the political left.
However, Phillips insists that his Center will not promote a single ideological perspective. “We want to inspire new ways of thinking about old problems and…create a place where people can rise above old ways of thinking, partisan politics, and disciplinary blinders and, instead, work across different points of view to develop new approaches.”
That said, the speakers who are lined up to address the Lender Center for Social Justice in the months ahead have backgrounds in such things as “reproductive justice,” Black Lives Matter, “anti-oppressive education,” and “queering elementary education.”
No one even remotely affiliated with anything that can in anyway be described as “conservatism” is scheduled to speak.
Yes, the 2018-2019 academic year is off to an exhilarating start!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.