The University of Minnesota Morris is a liberal arts university — that means that we teach a wide curriculum in which students are expected to graduate with a broad background. Our science students are expected to also get at least an introduction to the humanities and social sciences, and even within biology, we expect that our graduates will get training in both molecular biology and ecology (which is, of course, not as much of a reach as you might think). Our student body also tends to be rather more politically liberal and progressive than the community we’re imbedded within, although that is not a prerequisite for the liberal arts. We do have conservative students here — I expect that the majority are more conservative than I am — but they also trend towards being more the reasonable, rational, educated sort of conservative. Not the kind you’ll see on Fox News, and most unfortunately, not the kind who are likely to get elected to the Republican party.
This is not a story about any of those students. This is about our wingnutty embarrassments. We do have a few of them.
The embarrassments have a weekly student paper of their own, The North Star. We also have a regular campus weekly, the University Register. The Register is the paper we groan over; it’s student run, it’s sometimes terrible, but at least it is representative and sometimes does a good job. The North Star is a disgrace — its one virtue is that it makes the Register look professional. We’ve tolerated the North Star despite its inanity because hey, at least it’s sucking in money from external conservative organizations, and it does a fabulous job of demonstrating the ethical bankruptcy of movement conservativism. But now they’ve stepped way over the line. Their latest crusade is basically promoting racial hatred and discrimination, and I’m ashamed to see their drivel distributed on campus.
Their “new” game — it’s actually old and tired, so add total lack of originality to their sins — is “satirizing” racism. You’d think students at a liberal arts university would understand the actual meaning of satire, but they don’t, despite writing a sloppy disclaimer in their latest issue pronouncing everything they do as satire.
Here’s their most recent exercise in creativity: selling “Affirmative Action cookies,” that old game. White people are offered cookies for $5, while minority students get a discount or are even given money to take a cookie. One incident with John Geiger, the right-wing genius in charge of this demonstration, was described in today’s Register.
Mr Geiger assured me ever so sweetly that an undisclosed portion of all proceeds would go to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Mr Geiger pointed to my Native/female/LGBT friend and roommate standing next to me,she’s probably struggled so much, she could really use a cookie.He then proceeded to giver the cookie, and pay her $2.50, stating,though you’re taking proceeds from the NAACP, you probably struggled $2.50 more than them.How benevolent.
Nauseatingly patronizing, more like.
We are a university in the middle of a very white, very rural part of the country. We have been working hard to open the doors to a more diverse student body; we waive tuition to American Indian students, we want a more representative sampling of what America actually looks like, so we actively recruit students from underserved populations, so we have a large proportion of first generation college students and students on financial aid. We have had disgraceful racial incidents in the past — the Halloween practical “joke” in 1993 by our former wrestling coach Frank Pelegri is still a mark of shame — and we struggle to make this a more inclusive place. Having a group of young Republican assholes-in-training mocking our minority students is not a step forward.
Worse, they have a “satirical” series in their paper in which they call out various faculty and administrators for not doing enough to promote equality and combat racism. These are known progressive workers at our university, and are actually already working hard to create a more inclusive space — so apparently, if this is satire, they’re trying to mock leaders of our non-discriminatory policies, and are apparently opposing the encouragement and acceptance of minority students on campus. And this has taken a particularly vile turn.
On page 9 of the latest issue, they have…
Jesus, it disgusts me to even say it.
…a crime scene photo of Trayvon Martin’s dead face, with the caption
Trayvon Martin, victim of racism and fascism, and what does [administrator] have to say about it? Nothing. Not a single thing.
And with that, they have crossed a line. Free speech is one thing, making light of murder and claiming that our chancellor of student affairs excuses it is another. Using dead black boys to “satirize” equality is contemptible. I would advocate the disposal of their flyers if the Ku Klux Klan started papering our campus, and likewise, the North Star has worn out its welcome and must go. Treat their scattered papers as hate-filled trash and dispose of it appropriately.
Not that it will help much. I’ve been told by one of our students that they’ve made arrangements with our town newspaper, the Sun Tribune, to have their evil rag distributed with that paper every week. I guess I won’t be reading that paper anymore, either, if they’re endorsing this kind of racism. And I guess the community will now get the idea that our university endorses racism, thanks to the racist idiots publishing the North Star.
This is currently our university’s shame. The measure of our commitment to equality will be determined by how we deal with it.