Friday, February 26, 2021

Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College (VIDEO)

Following-up from the other day, "Whistleblower Jodi Shaw Out at Smith College (VIDEO)."

It turns out that the New York Times, of all place, has published a long and detailed "investigative"-style report on Smith College, and it's a real humdinger. 

Christina Hoff Sommers reacted on Twitter, "Why I can’t yet give up on @NYTimes. Such excellent reporting by Michael Powell."

And Lee Fung, a former far-left "reporter" at Media Matters, wrote, "This story is a must-read, just incredible. Not unique at all to Smith College, though. This kind of cowardice and character destruction is permeating almost every institution dominated by highly educated liberals."

And Batya Ungar-Sargon, the not-very conservative opinion editor of the (Jewish Daily) Forward, also wrote, "A student at Smith got a janitor put on leave and a security officer tarred as racist, both of whom make less than her $78,000 yearly tuition, because she insisted on eating in a deserted dorm she wasn't meant to be in. Wokeness is a smokescreen for class."

It's a long article (link here), so I'll just copy a little, and hopefully the subscription "wall" won't prevent readers from accessing the whole thing: 

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — In midsummer of 2018, Oumou Kanoute, a Black student at Smith College, recounted a distressing American tale: She was eating lunch in a dorm lounge when a janitor and a campus police officer walked over and asked her what she was doing there.

The officer, who could have been carrying a “lethal weapon,” left her near “meltdown,” Ms. Kanoute wrote on Facebook, saying that this encounter continued a yearlong pattern of harassment at Smith.

“All I did was be Black,” Ms. Kanoute wrote. “It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color.”

The college’s president, Kathleen McCartney, offered profuse apologies and put the janitor on paid leave. “This painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias,” the president wrote, “in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their ordinary lives.”

The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN picked up the story of a young female student harassed by white workers. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the student’s case, said she was profiled for “eating while Black.”

Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. Ms. Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed.

Smith College officials emphasized “reconciliation and healing” after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories — as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer — set aside for Black students and other students of color.

But they did not offer any public apology or amends to the workers whose lives were gravely disrupted by the student’s accusation.

This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.

Those tensions come at a time when few in the Smith community feel comfortable publicly questioning liberal orthodoxy on race and identity, and some professors worry the administration is too deferential to its increasingly emboldened students.

“My perception is that if you’re on the wrong side of issues of identity politics, you’re not just mistaken, you’re evil,” said James Miller, an economics professor at Smith College and a conservative.

In an interview, Ms. McCartney said that Ms. Kanoute’s encounter with the campus staff was part of a spate of cases of “living while Black” harassment across the nation. There was, she noted, great pressure to act. “We always try to show compassion for everyone involved,” she said.

President McCartney, like all the workers Ms. Kanoute interacted with on that day, is white.

Faculty members, however, pointed to a pattern that they say reflects the college’s growing timidity in the face of allegations from students, especially around the issue of race and ethnicity. In 2016, students denounced faculty at Smith’s social work program as racist after some professors questioned whether admissions standards for the program had been lowered and this was affecting the quality of the field work. Dennis Miehls, one of the professors they decried, left the school not long after.

Then in the autumn of 2019, the religious studies department proposed a class on Native American religion and spirituality. A full complement of students registered but well before classes began, a small contingent of Native American students and allies pasted bright red posters on buildings on campus reviling the course as harmful, intrusive and disrespectful and attacking the instructor, who was young, white and not on a tenure track. He had an academic background in this field and had modeled his course on that of his mentor, who was a well-known professor and a member of the Choctaw Nation.

The administration declined to challenge the student protesters and had the instructor submit to sessions of “radical listening” with the protesters. In the end, the religious studies department dropped the class...

Still more.