Campus Reform’s top 15 stories of 2015
As another calendar year draws to a close, the Campus Reform staff has been reflecting on the craziness we’ve witnessed over the past 12 months—from demands for “safe spaces,” to students taking offense at Mexican food, to college administrators literally shredding a copy of the Constitution because it was allegedly “triggering”.
Rather than relying on our own considerable intuition to select the top stories of the year, though, we decided to leave the decision in the hands of our readers. So, without further ado, here are the top 15 Campus Reform stories of 2015, as determined by you.
Students at the College of DuPage were accosted by campus police in September and told they would be “locked up” if they did not desist from distributing pocket Constitutions and free speech literature on school grounds in honor of Constitution Week.
As seen in video footage obtained by Campus Reform, an unidentified officer confronts the students as they are standing in an open area of campus and informs them that they are not allowed to “solicit” without securing a permit in advance from the Student Life office, explaining that “otherwise you’d have stuff lined up all along here, everybody having a different view and a different point, so you can’t do that.”
When the group protests that they are merely exercising their free speech rights, the officer retorts that they are actually “soliciting [their] opinions” because they are handing out literature, telling them they would have to take the matter up with Student Life, or “otherwise I’m going to have to lock you up.”
In response to the flurry of negative media attention generated by Campus Reform’s coverage of the incident, the college’s Board of Trustees committed during a special meeting at the end of the month to reforming the school’s speech policies so that they conform to the First Amendment.
The undergraduate student government at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities rejected a resolution in November calling for a campus-wide moment of recognition for the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Although the measure involved no policy changes or expenditures of funds, several members of the student Senate “were militant in their opposition to it due to a perceived bias toward Muslims,” according to student senator Nathan Amundson, who is also president of the school’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter.
“The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe,” asserted student senator David Algadi, “Islamophobia and racism fueled through that are alive and well.”
Despite the student government’s rejection, and perhaps motivated in part by the negative reaction to that vote, the UMN Board of Regents and University President Eric Kaler subsequently announced that the university would move forward with implementing the moment of silence even in the absence of Senate support.
A social media movement was started at Valdosta State University in April in support of a black student who was wanted by police after his gun was found at the site of a campus protest.
Eric Sheppard, who in addition to being a Valdosta student is also a member of the New Black Panther Party and a self-described “terrorist against white people,” was one of the organizers of an event at which a group of African-American protesters walked on the American flag to protest white supremacy and the “genocide” of African-Americans in the nation.
After Sheppard went missing following the discovery of his gun, several locals started the “#EricSheppardChallenge” on Twitter, urging supporters to upload videos of themselves stomping on the American flag as a show of solidarity with Sheppard.
At the height of the nationwide student race protests in November, a group of about 150 Dartmouth students gathered to march on the Baker-Berry Library with their message of racial harmony:
“F*** you, you filthy white f***s!”
“F*** you and your comfort!”
“F*** you, you racist s***!”
Students who attempted to ignore the disturbance and continue their studies were reportedly subjected to individualized taunts and alleged physical intimidation.
One anonymous student even reported having a group project interrupted in a private study room by an undergraduate advisor, who demanded that the group abandon their work and participate in the protest.
In an effort to assist male students in making a seamless transition to female students, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers “voice feminization therapy” through its Speech and Language Clinic for “male-to-female transgender clients.”
The offering is just one of the many ways that UWM has embraced the transgender-awareness, along with offering “gender therapy” at its Norris Health Center and providing more than 50 gender-neutral restroom and locker room facilities throughout campus (transgender students are not required to use the facilities, of course).
For students who choose to “explore their gender” in unconventional ways, the school also offers resource guides with advice for how to break the news to parents and family members.
As part of feminist artist Sophia Wallace’s “CLITERACY” project, through which she hopes to destigmatize the female genitalia, the University of the South hosted a giant golden clitoris statue in the school library for several weeks in February and March.
The Minnesota Republic, a conservative student publication at the University of Minnesota, was threatened by student government representatives with having their funding cut in March after members of the Student Service Fee Committee “came across material that demonstrated an overt lack of sensitivity to the portrayal of members of the Arab world.”
The material in question was an advertisement on the back cover of an issue published four years earlier featuring a man with a gun burning an issue of the Minnesota Republic with the words, “Terrorists hate the Minnesota Republic.”
Although the committee backed down marginally when it was brought to their attention that none of the individuals responsible for the ad were even students at the school any longer, they could not resist admonishing the current staff for their association with the publication, warning that, “In the future, close attention may be paid to the content published by Students for a Conservative Voice to ensure that any material that is produced with student fee funds does not compromise the cultural harmony of the campus and to ensure that the material that is produced is not at odds with the criteria in place for receiving this funding.”
After being found guilty of sexual assault in a “trial” that probably would have embarrassed Joseph Stalin, an Amherst College student identified only as “John Doe” sued the school in June for denial of due process and ignoring potentially exculpatory evidence.
According to the lawsuit, Amherst was under “intense pressure to demonstrate that it is now willing and capable of prosecuting sexual assailants” amidst several well-publicized assault allegations around the time of the investigation, and therefore pursued a guilty verdict with single-minded tenacity.
The lawsuit also includes text message transcripts that allegedly discredit testimony given by the accuser during the school’s investigation, showing that contrary to her original claim of having felt violated after the encounter, her first reaction was to express regret for having made a bad decision and ask a friend for help in concealing the escapade from another male friend.
During the raucous opening stages of the Mizzou protests in November, a white professor at the University of Missouri came under fire for refusing to cancel a previously scheduled exam when students complained that they felt “unsafe” coming to class because of the demonstrations.
Dr. Brigham was duly vilified in the liberal press, leading him to belatedly cancel the exam and tender his resignation.
In a rare display of backbone, the University of Missouri refused to accept the resignation of a professor described as “beloved” by numerous students, but the episode was nonetheless a clear setback for the cause of academic freedom.
The University of Vermont faced two potential objections to its three-day retreat designated “specifically for white students.” First, there was the question of whether such a designation wasn’t just a bit redundant; and second, there was the need to avoid the perception that the event was in some way discriminatory.
The first they deftly ignored, applying all their energies instead towards ensuring that the event would not offend those students who do not identify as white. As such, the retreat was titled, “Examining White Privilege: A Retreat for Undergraduate Students Who Self-Identify as White,” and was billed as an opportunity for participants to confront their own “white privilege.”
The event was described as a “safe space,” presumably meaning one in which white students would be able to examine the racism inherent in their very existence without fear of offending an “individual of color” (can we say “colorful individual”?) with an insufficient display of self-flagellation.
The university also hosts another retreat exclusively for women of color (who are similarly allowed to self-identify as such), but interestingly, its goals are to “empower” attendees and “build leadership,” rather than asking them to reflect on their own rottenness.
James O’Keefe, the undercover journalist whose sting videos embarrassed ACORN into obscurity a few years ago, took on the outrageous oversensitivity on college campuses in a series of videos reported exclusively by Campus Reform (see the second and third installments, as well).
The videos feature a young reporter from Project Veritas, the non-profit run by O’Keefe, posing as a student at various public and private universities and complaining to administrators about feeling “triggered” by seeing copies of the Constitution on campus.
In each case, she brings a copy with her as “evidence,” and at some point asks the administrator whether they would be willing to destroy it for her as a form of “therapy” to help her recover from the trauma of seeing such an offensive document in a supposedly safe space.
Over the course of three videos, officials at Vassar College, Yale University, Cornell University, and Syracuse University all agreed—in some cases enthusiastically—to put the reporter’s copy of the Constitution through a shredder, all the while uttering consoling platitudes and expressing sympathy for her terrible ordeal.
The employees at Oberlin College and North Carolina State University were equally consoling to the reporter, though they stopped short of destroying the document in her presence, but the real standouts were the administrators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, who unequivocally refused to either shred the Constitution or pursue limitations on its distribution, reacting with abhorrence to the very suggestion.
At Washington State University, several professors began the semester by informing students that “oppressive and hateful language”—defined broadly so as to include not only controversial terms like “illegal immigrant,” but even such seemingly innocuous ones as “male” and “female”—would result in consequences ranging from loss of attendance points to failure of the course, based on the severity of the offense.
Meanwhile, other professors at the same university instructed students to “[defer] to the experiences of people of color” and “acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist.”
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.
Although most students enthusiastically embraced the “Maximum Mexican” night hosted by Clemson Dining in October, a few exceptionally sensitive students managed to ruin the festivities for everyone.
Alongside numerous laudatory comments about the event on Twitter, two students deemed “Maximum Mexican” night to be “#CulturallyInsensitive,” complaining that it somehow conflicted with Clemson’s “focus on #Diversity.”
The complaints failed to gain traction among students—one even responded that “I’m offended that you’re offended”—but sent university officials into panic mode, leading Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Doug Hallenbeck to post an apology statement on the school’s website.
“It is the mission of University Housing & Dining to create supportive and challenging environments that enrich and nourish lives,” Hallenbeck wrote. “We failed to live out our mission yesterday, and we sincerely apologize,” he added, promising that Clemson “will continue to work closely with [its] food service provider to create dining programs that align with Clemson University’s core values.”
Progressive efforts to engage with Millennial voters foundered spectacularly at the College Democrats of America’s annual conference in July, which attracted a mere handful of attendees despite featuring several high-profile speakers.
Photographs of the event, which were obtained by Campus Reform, reveal that the organizers were barely able to fill the first few rows of an auditorium they had reserved to host speeches by former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile.
The speakers urged audience members to participate in the political process by getting out the vote, supporting Democratic Party policies, and eventually running for office, but as Rock the Vote president Ashley Spillane noted at an earlier panel, Millennials have been reluctant to engage because they feel that “the current political landscape isn’t that inspiring and people are frustrated with politics.”
Happy New Year from all of us at Campus Reform!