This past February a group of faculty, staff, and students at Oregon State University was given the task of designing social justice training modules for incoming students, and according to an email I recently received, they’re asking for input from the OSU community. The goal is to create a component for new student orientation that would help promote the “[establishment of] expectations for an inclusive and equitable university community,” and provide students with tools to “amplify their learning experience and incorporate the pursuit of social justice within their university experiences.”
There’s a lot more to it than that, but basically it’s a system to help foster a safe, egalitarian university environment, free from all of the bigoted and hateful ^#$#@!*$ that has no place on a college campus to begin with. With these initial modules being just the first step, the email stated the intent to eventually add active engagement elements in the future, creating opportunities that will make a free and diverse campus something everyone can engage in. So far the plan is looking good, and certainly continues the tradition of OSU’s commitment to diversity and mutual respect. However, some people are, shall we say… cranky.
One such dissenter is the prolific Robby Soave, of notorious veiled-bigotry-factory Reason.com. Once a bastion for fair Libertarian thought, it has in recent years been hijacked by social conservatives, still under the Libertarian flag, for the purpose of attacking exactly these sorts of initiatives. In Soave’s piece he refers to what OSU is doing as “pernicious and questionably legal,” stating that it is an attempt at left-wing academic brainwashing. He also likes to put quotation marks around terms like “diversity,” “social justice,” and “inclusivity.” These terms are, after all, dangerous. Soave says that this system will force incoming students to agree with those dangerous terms, against their will, because they will feel like it is a precondition of attending the university. He must be clairvoyant, considering the final protocol and implementation of these modules doesn’t exist yet… but that aside, I have a couple of quick notes on this:
1. First of all, if you are a bigoted butthole intent on voicing hate, you are going to have trouble finding a college anywhere that will tolerate your shenanigans.
2. These training modules seek to reinforce a school environment that already exists. It’s clearly stated that the intention here is to bolster the orientation experience and let kids know what to look forward to from campus life. For many, seeing this coming directly from the school will feel like a breath of fresh air.
3. Nobody is saying you can’t disagree, and those like Soave who suggest otherwise are being disingenuous. Here’s the actual message: if you violate school policy and hold a “Down with the Trannies” rally in the quad, your a*s is going to get bounced up outta there like 10 kinds of beach ball.
4. Yes, OSU is firmly planting themselves on the side of freedom from hate, and they have every right to take that stance. If your concern is that it seems unfair there can be a demonstration supporting gay rights, but not one that says homosexuals are all going to hell, you are clearly confused.
Soave’s ramblings eventually mention the Bias Response Team (whose name is admittedly awful and needs to change), which is basically just a website where students can safely report offensive “stuff” happening on campus. For example, recently someone wrote a bunch of Trump 2016 stuff all over campus in chalk. It was removed shortly thereafter, leaving Soave and a lot of others convinced that it was reported as anti-Muslim. So what? Trump is blatantly anti-Muslim. So Bob’s your uncle on that one, bro.
Soave also inevitably unloads this gem: “Students are no longer merely required to grapple with leftist ideas in the classroom, they must live, sweat, and breathe ‘oppression studies.’ It is no wonder so many of them have developed a healthy disrespect for the First Amendment.” And there it is, folks! I was wondering when the first amendment would show up, being hidden behind as a way to justify hate speech without actually getting one’s hands dirty.
Ending the rather sloppy diatribe is the claim that we’re being trained to think everything offensive is a “bias incident.” Because we’ve never heard that one before. Yes, we’re in a hyper-sensitive age with a lot of people questioning what “identity” means, what their identity is, and how it applies to their place in the world. College communities are at the most chaotic part of that storm, and of course the “I’m offended!” rallying cry will be abused now and again to cause a stink over nothing. Conservative bloggers treat this like it’s a big “gotcha” argument, but… nope. Everybody knows this goes on. And nobody cares, because it’s one hell of a small price to pay for a campus environment that is literally proactive against bigotry. For a group of people that really like to tell everyone else to “suck it up” when they’re ridiculed and harassed for just being who they are, you’d think these militant social conservatives could take their own advice now and again.
Anyway, there’s always going to be a Soave, or some other clone of David Spade’s character from PCU (as he has been previously referred to by Craig D. Schlesinger of Spatial Orientation) attempting to subvert these sorts of initiatives. There’s a lot of them, even if most are like that unintentionally. The fact is, they’re more dangerous to social policy progress than anyone else, which is exactly why institutions of higher learning need to be active participants in the climate they want to foster for their students. OSU managed to get on their radar, and as far as I’m concerned, that means they’re headed in exactly the right direction.
The effort to develop these training modules was put in place by Dr. Susie Brubaker Cole (Vice Provost for Student Affairs) and Dr. Susana Rivera Mills (Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies). Questions for the Development Team can be sent to Jennifer Dennis at jennifer.dennis@oregonstate.
To read Soave’s piece, visit http://reason.com/blog/2016/
By Johnny Beaver