Hillsdale College rejects calls from 'leftist mob' to 'virtue signal'

  • Despite mounting pressure to address current racial conflicts, Hillsdale released a letter highlighting its history of working for justice and standing against racial discrimination since the 1800s.
  • Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race and still doesn’t factor race in admissions.
  • The college stopped accepting all federal and state funding in 1984 in order to stay true to offering education regardless of race.

Across the campus of Hillsdale College stand statues of figures including Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and a Union soldier.  Hillsdale sent a higher percentage of its students to fight for the Union in the Civil War than any other western college.

Despite the school's history, Hillsdale has faced mounting pressure in recent weeks to comment on current race issues. Online postings and letters have said the “college’s silence is deafening.” On June 18, the administration posted a statement explaining its silence — and outlining the decades of action it's taken in the realm of race equality. 

“Everything the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agitator, is for the moral and intellectual uplift of all"   

The letter, released in the Hillsdale Collegian, says “the College is pressed to speak. It is told that saying what it always has said is insufficient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mistreatment of Black Americans in particular.” 

Featured in the Wall Street Journal’s Notable and Quotable section on June 21, the letter goes on to say that these ideas are exactly what the college has always stood for, not just in recent times for the sake of conformity like some school’s recent statements

“Everything the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agitator, is for the moral and intellectual uplift of all,” the letter says. 

“Any student who has spent any time in any classroom at the college knows that we deal with the dignity of the human person in all of his/her manifestations, attempting to see the essence of the person, rather than the accidents of a person,” Hillsdale Professor of History Brad Birzer told Campus Reform. “If a student does not know this, the student wasn’t paying attention.”

[RELATED: College removes word ‘freedom’ from ID cards after student demands citing slavery}

The letter describes the many "statements" the college makes through consistent action. 

“Helping private and public schools across the country lift their primary and secondary students out of a sea of disadvantages with excellent instruction, curricula, and the civic principles of freedom and equality — without any recompense to the College — is a statement,” the letter says. 

The college’s founding, curriculum, “unparalleled financial help” for students struggling to pay, as well as postgraduate programs centered on justice and human dignity are also listed as ‘"statements" the college constantly makes. 

“All of these statements are acts, deeds that speak, undertaken and perpetuated now, every day, all the time,” the letter says. 

The letter was widely shared by the student body and met with praise. 

“Hillsdale did not give into the temptation to virtue-signal like so many other academic institutions in the U.S.,” Hillsdale Senior Victoria Marshall told Campus Reform. “Hillsdale doesn’t need to make a statement condemning the unjust murder of George Floyd because it has always stood against injustice. The College has always fought against racism, even when that was unpopular.”

[Related: UC-Berkeley: Criticism of Black Lives Matter 'goes against our values']

Michigan Federation of College Republicans Chairman and Hillsdale Junior Brandt Siegfried agreed with Marshall, telling Campus Reform, “Hillsdale has always been courageous, especially in this moment.”

“When so many other schools across the state of Michigan have capitulated to leftist mob rule, Hillsdale stands by its timeless principles,” Siegfried said. “The ‘silence is violence’ culture disregards the College’s actions, both past and present, that speak louder than words meant to appease the masses.”

Founded by abolitionists in 1844, Hillsdale immediately began admitting black students and women. 

“[Hillsdale] was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, and became an early force for the abolition of slavery,” according to the school’s site. “It was also the second college in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.”

This commitment to justice, equality, and human dignity showed itself when the time for enlistment in the Civil War came. 

“A higher percentage of Hillsdale students enlisted during the Civil War than from any other western college. Of the more than 400 who fought for the Union, four earned the Congressional Medal of Honor,” according to the school. 

More recently, Hillsdale showed this commitment in the 1970s when “the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare attempted to interfere with the College’s internal affairs, including a demand that Hillsdale begin counting its students by race,” according to Hillsdale. 

To avoid going against its mission and standing for true opposition to race division, the college engaged in a legal battle and eventually stopped accepting all federal and state money. As a result, Hillsdale is now run solely on private donations.

“The history of the college is not something fleeting and merely usable, but something vitally energizing, pulsating and full of verve,” said Birzer. “I can state with certainty that not a day has gone by in my 21 years at the college, when I have not thought about the sacrifices of the 4th and 24th Michigan Regiments in the Battle of Gettysburg.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenDavisWilson



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Ben Wilson
Benjamin Wilson | Michigan Campus Correspondent

Ben Wilson is a Michigan Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse on college campuses for Campus Reform. He is a sophomore at Hillsdale College studying Politics and Journalism. He is an Assistant News Editor for the Hillsdale Collegian and co-hosts A Fresh Perspective, a weekly radio show centered on politics and faith, broadcasting from 101.7 Radio Free Hillsdale. Additionally, he is a board member of Hillsdale’s Alexander Hamilton Society chapter and a representative on the school’s Student Federation. Ben hails from Palatine, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago.

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