Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ole Miss desperately needs a change, but it's not the name that needs changing

    I was glad to read the news that Coliseum Drive on the Ole Miss campus would be named in honor of Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins, who was paralyzed and died a few years later following a tackle-gone-wrong in the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt.
    But how sad that Ole Miss Chancellor – oops, University of Mississippi Chancellor – Dan Jones made the announcement as part of a press release on plans to increase campus diversity. In other words, Jones’ message is that Mullins isn’t being honored for his sacrifice on the playing field, but because he’s black.
    I don’t believe in diversity just for the sake of diversity, but Jones does. But would it have hurt to have announced the renaming of the street a couple of months ago? The renaming could have still been mentioned in Jones’ press release.
    That’s one of the many problems with the “diversity” industry. Once in place there is no way to know whether favored groups have received honors on their own merits or merely because of a special status granted to them through their ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or whatever.
    Jones said the university now plans to create a new vice-chancellor position for diversity and inclusion. Such a post might as well be called Vice-chancellor for Grievances and Quota Demands. Throughout academia such posts invariably work to limit academic excellence, free speech, and just about everything that universities should strive to support.
    Once these diversity pot-stirrers become entrenched the list of grievances never ends. No complaint is too trivial, and no one is ever happy. Some people can’t be made to be happy: Give them buttermilk, they want sweet milk; give them sweet potato, they want white potato; give them white bread, they demand wheat bread.
    The University of Wisconsin faculty senate recently approved a diversity plan for that school which calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high-status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.” You read that right: the distribution of grades.
    The university has now denied that it is ordering professors to implement race-based grading, and says that the diversity plan is merely a long-term goal, But since the Supreme Court outlawed racial quotas in the 1978 Bakke decision, we all have been able to observe that goals operate as de facto quotas. If there is a goal in place people are expected to meet that goal or suffer consequences. Goodbye academic integrity.
    An organization called Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) repeatedly goes to bat for students and professors who are persecuted for exercising their right to free speech or denied their due process rights. Some of these cases would be funny were they not so sad, such as Indiana University’s 2007 finding of racial harassment against a student seen reading Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan, which celebrates the defeat of the Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But the cover featured a photo of a Klan rally, and thus reading it in public was considered an act of racial harassment. Goodbye freedom of inquiry.
    Jim Crow laws mandating legally enforced segregation came into being because people started voluntarily integrating when it served their interests, and lower-class whites felt threatened by this gradual integration. So they sought to prohibit it. Today it’s the reverse. Although there has been a progressive increase in racial integration based on shared interests, those who feel they have nothing to offer in the way of shared interests want to force diversity through law or regulation.
    Both forced segregation and forced “diversity” are wrong. If the university wants to increase social interaction among those from diverse backgrounds, the way to do it is to encourage or even require campus involvement in clubs, organizations, and committees having nothing to do with diversity. The wrong way is to create a Diversity Gestapo to try to micromanage student lives.
    Jones covered a lot of ground with his press release. He said he plans to change the name of the short lane leading to the Confederate cemetery from Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane. Apparently it’s not enough for Jones to irritate those of us who are living; he’s got to desecrate the memory of the dead as well. This would seem to be an area where the legislature should step in, as it has traditionally helped to ensure that our Confederate dead were properly memorialized.
    The university also plans to erect plaques at various locations around campus, such as next to the Confederate Statue on the Loop, explaining the complexities of Southern history. It’s great that the complexities of Southern history can be reduced to just a few sentences. Why not just create a plaque for each course offered by the university? People could get a degree in a day!
    I think it’s important to take a look back at Jones’ mis-administration over the past several years:
    ■ In the "From Dixie With Love" battle with the students over the shouting of the chant “The South Shall Rise Again,” Jones created a one-time showdown with the students to give himself the opportunity to demonstrate that he was the boss all at the expense of the school. He could have easily prevailed by working behind the scenes, yanking the song for one game, then two, then three, and so forth, until the chant simply would have gone away. But he has a character flaw that doesn’t allow him to behave rationally in this type of situation.
    ■ During the mass alumni protests seeking to have Pete Boone removed as athletic director, Jones shared a podium with two speakers who compared members of the Forward Rebels group to segregationists, Citizen Council members, and speech censors. Although Jones didn’t make these comments, he used their comments as talking points, thus ratifying their defamatory remarks. It was a stunning lack of civility and a violation of the Ole Miss Creed. Jones has not apologized.
    ■ Also during the Pete Boone protests Jones issued a letter to alumni in which he stated that there had been threats to expand the protests beyond the football program. The letter was so poorly worded that newspapers across the nation ran news stories based on the letter that Jones and Boone had been physically threatened, which apparently never happened. Jones never corrected the record, preferring to be known as a martyr than an incompetent communicator.
    ■ The poorly written letter cited above is not an isolated example. Jones seems to be unable to communicate effectively. When he sends a letter to alumni hoping to calm them down, he angers them. Despite months of preparation he was unable to effectively communicate exactly what the plans were for the use of the phrase “Ole Miss,” the delightful English phrase used to describe both our campus and the wife of a gentleman. We have an administrator who can neither communicate nor administrate effectively. But he certainly does a good job of sowing seeds of despair and dissension.
    Ole Miss doesn’t need a new name. It doesn’t need a Vice-Chancellor of Grievances and Quota Demands. It doesn’t need to rename the short road leading to the Confederate cemetery.
    What Ole Miss does need is a new chancellor. Soon.

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