BAD bell! BAD BELL. Nobody likes you, Bell. You’ve been bad!
Apparently Louisiana’s Tulane University believes in curses, or maybe it is the irredeemability of inanimate objects. What ever you want to call it, its theory is bats.
In a letter emailed to the Tulane community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz said they were informed last week that the “Victory Bell” was originally used to direct the movements of enslaved people on a plantation. This means, apparently, that the bell itself is no longer fit to be seen or heard by decent people.
“It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past,” Fitts and Hertz wrote. “Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”
What values are those, exactly? No wonder substantial numbers among recent generations of Americans think that we are obligated to eradicate all images, symbols, memorials and references to the Confederacy, slavery, Jim Crow or other aspects of racial discrimination, if a piece of metal has to be banished because of what it was rung for over a 150 years ago.
The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 and donated to the school by a former Louisiana governor and Tulane law school graduate. Beginning in 1960, the bell stood in front of Fogelman Arena and was rung after Tulane basketball victories for decades. In 2011, the bell was refurbished and moved to the front of the university’s McAlister Auditorium, where, at least as far as anyone can tell, it has not been proselytizing students about the joys of slavery, ringing out “Dixie” all by itself, or attacking unwary students with its clapper. Nonetheless, I’m certain students would tell you that they won’t feel “safe” with a plantation bell around.
It’s a bell.
A bell isn’t good or bad, and it had and has no control over what it was rung for when it was rung. The fact that this bell once was used to manage slaves is called history. Tulane itself was founded as a public medical college in 1834 and became a full university in 1847. It was operated by and its students were taught by supporters of “the peculiar institution;” it graduated slave owners and the sons of slave owners. It was part of the Confederacy. If the bell isn’t fit to be rung because of the racism of those who rang it, how does Tulane reach the conclusion that its buildings from that era shouldn’t be razed and its grounds sowed with salt?
Educators are supposed to teach rationality, not brainless, faddish emotionalism. Treating a bell as if it’s the spawn of Satan is the latter, and shows an administration devoid of judgment or responsibility. If a mob of students demanded that the Victory Bell be “cancelled” because of its bad taste to let itself be rung on a plantation before the Civil War, I would expect a university worth graduating from—I can’t think of any right now— to be capable of explaining to the teachable students why this was idiotic, and to give the remaining mouth-breathers 60 seconds to get back to their dorms or to find another place to attend.
My wife and I honeymooned at a lovely Charlottesville inn that had been established on the site of a plantation. We spent our nights in a little cottage that had begun as the slave overseer’s lodging. Funny, it never occurred to me or my wife that by staying there we were endorsing slavery, and that the structure itself was bad.
I’m going to file this depressing story in the “Is We Getting Dummer?” files. It is strong evidence that we is, and why we is. Our colleges are being run by politically correct, logic-impaired, conflict averse ding-dongs.