The top 7 ways schools were inclusively exclusive in 2015
Over the course of the past year, the conveniently nebulous term “inclusivity” has been among the most prominent social justice buzzwords on college campuses. Yet in our coverage of the trend, Campus Reform has noticed that with shocking regularity, those who advocate for inclusivity tend to support measures that are, if anything, exclusive in nature.
Indeed, in the name of inclusivity, colleges and universities have cancelled events, banned the display of the American flag, and even attempted to censor the opinions printed by student newspapers. For your reading pleasure, we have compiled the seven most egregious examples of “exclusive inclusivity” from 2015.
TRIGGER WARNING: Individuals who read this section with the expectation of finding a sincere trigger warning may wish to skip over the remainder of this article. All others may proceed apace, but for those with heart conditions or quick tempers, we recommend consulting with your physician first.
In March, the University of California, Irvine student government passed a resolution banning the display of all flags—especially the American flag—in its main lobby, which it has designated as an “inclusive” space.
“The American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism,” the document asserts, though it also notes that all flags “construct paradigms of conformity and sets [sic] homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.”
According to the resolution, “freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech,” and therefore the measure stipulates that any other decorative item must also be removed if concerns are expressed that it might be offensive.
For the crime of publishing opinions that some Wesleyan University students found distasteful, The Wesleyan Argus was faced with the threat of a student government resolution in September calling for severe cuts to its funding.
Two separate incidents gave rise to the defunding effort, the first having to do with insufficient coverage of an event held by minority student groups, and the second pertaining to an op-ed condemning the violent fringes of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which the author argued were undermining its legitimate objectives.
In May, The Argus ran a staff editorial apologizing for its coverage of Usdan Takeover, an event organized to call attention to racial injustices in the wake of the Baltimore riots. The newspaper published a photo with a two-sentence caption describing the nature of the event, but faced criticism from two of the event’s organizers, who claimed the paper “took no measures to get any context for what took place.”
The editorial explained that the decision to run the photo without an accompanying story was simply due to the fact that the demonstration took place on the same day the paper is finalized, and rather than ignore it completely, the staff wanted to “at least show to readers that the event happened.”
Even so, the editors sought to rectify the situation by belatedly publishing a story on the demonstration, and resolved to make “coverage of student of color events, groups, and life a top priority for next semester.”
When The Argus proceeded to follow through on that commitment, however, activists seized upon a single editorial that the paper published in September to berate the editors for covering minority issues incorrectly.
The op-ed in question asserted that the extremist elements of BLM that had been caught on video gleefully encouraging horrific acts of violence against police officers threatened to undermine popular support for the entire movement. The author explicitly stated that he supported the legitimate purposes of BLM, and suggested that leaders of the movement should condemn the extremists to avoid being associated with their distasteful messages.
Despite immediately publishing an apology for “careless fact-checking” and for running the op-ed without a contrasting viewpoint, outraged students began circulating a petition calling for a boycott of the publication and the revocation of its student group funding unless it agreed to meet a list of demands.
Among other things, the ultimatum demanded the creation of work study/course credit positions, a monthly report from the editors on allocation of funds and leadership structure, a requirement that staff complete “Social Justice/Diversity” training once per semester, active recruitment and advertisement for minority staff, and the creation of a permanent section on the front page dedicated to “marginalized groups/voices.”
In September, the student government at UC Berkeley withdrew the nomination of fourth-year sociology student Meghan Warner for the position of Sexual Assault Commissioner in the name of inclusivity.
Although Warner was indisputably qualified, having previously served as a director for the Commission, and despite the fact that she was the only applicant, student senator Alana Banks said some members had concerns that minority candidates were not given sufficient encouragement to apply for the position.
“I really want this to be as inclusive as possible and it wasn’t at first,” Banks said. “So this is why this is really important to me, that this process is really fair and that it reaches out to people of color. So moving forward, I think that we should rethink about how we can make this more inclusive, i.e. reaching out to people of color, that are actually color [inaudible], that are part of the colored community, that are people of color, that also know what it feels like to be personally [inaudible.]”
After rejecting Warner’s nomination, the student Senate extended the application deadline for the position, promising to make specific efforts to reach out to minority candidates during the month-long process.
Student activists at the University of California, Irvine successfully prevented the Border Patrol from setting up a table at a career fair in October with a petition that led the agency to conclude that it was not welcome on that campus.
“Organizations like the US Customs and Border Patrol are the organizations that are tasked with various roles including targeting Undocumented Communities, which is against the nature of our campus’s values for welcoming communities regarding their background,” Associated Students of UC Irvine (ASUCI) President Parshan Khosravi wrote in an email to the Career Center prior to the event.
“This message right now is saying that undocumented students are not welcome,” he asserted, adding, “That’s the type of message that I do not want to see as someone who is a student on this campus, as someone who is a student leader on this campus, and [as] someone who believes in [sic] the values of our campus are inclusivity and a safe space.”
After the Career Center refused to disinvite Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the fair, the students proceeded to take their grievances online, starting a Change.org petition in the hope of creating public pressure against the agency’s participation.
The gambit worked, convincing CBP to announce that it would not be participating in this year’s career fair, though it would continue to maintain job postings on the school’s online portal.
Mount Holyoke College cancelled its annual Valentine’s Day production of the Vagina Monologues this year after determining that the play offers “an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.”
Specifically, representatives from the school’s Project Theater Board were concerned that the show did not adequately address the issues faced by transgender individuals, and said they planned to replace the production with a version that is more “trans-inclusive.”
“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” board member Erin Murphy wrote in an email explaining the decision. “Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”
An LGBT student group at George Washington University cancelled its annual drag show fundraiser in February after deciding the tradition was “homophobic and counterproductive.”
In place of the popular event, the “Allied in Pride” group spent a week touring fraternity and sorority houses, where members dropped off information pamphlets and stood ready to answer questions about the school’s LGBT community.
To help members of Greek organizations be more tolerant toward LGBT classmates, the “Queer Guide” included not only an extensive list of the many types of gender and sexuality with which individuals may choose to identify, but also advice on the use of “preferred pronouns” so as to avoid inadvertently offending those individuals with heteronormative assumptions.
The top spot in this category is shared by the multitude of schools that issued guidelines this year with advice on how to have an “inclusive” holiday season, generally by omitting any decoration or activity that could possibly be associated with Christmas.
Deserving of special mention are Cornell University, Ohio State University, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, each of which took the concept to absurd extremes.
At Cornell, even mistletoe made the list of problematic decorations, with the university asserting that the plant is not conducive to creating an “environment of inclusion.”
UT-Knoxville, meanwhile, informed faculty that “Secret Santa” gift exchanges are not appropriate, suggesting they instead be referred to as “secret gift exchanges” or “practical joke gift exchanges.”
Ohio State went even further, telling students and staff that the school would prefer they avoid using decorations with the colors red and green as part of an effort to convey an “inclusive holiday spirit.”
Other schools were perhaps less enthusiastic in their promotion of inclusivity around the holidays, but nonetheless took steps of their own to cleanse the season of Christmas, renaming holiday celebrations, hosting “unity tree” lighting ceremonies, and even preventing a student a cappella group from performing a religious-themed Christmas song.