1. Unfortunately, the University of Chicago is not typical of American educational institutions. Smith College is. When Jodi Shaw, a Smith administrative staff member, criticized the college’s critical race theory-based “sensitivity training” required of all staff members and posted here own YouTube videos on the issue, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, felt it necessary to issue a formal statement that said in part:
This past week, an employee of the college posted a personal video to express their concerns about the college’s programming to promote racial justice….This employee does not speak for the college or any part of the college. Further, we believe the video mischaracterizes the college’s important, ongoing efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive living, learning and working environment.
You should know that the employee has not violated any college policies by sharing their personal views on a personal channel. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in concerted activities, including speech, with respect to workplace conditions. All members of any workplace, including Smith College, have the freedom to criticize the policies and practices of their employer.
Nevertheless, I am writing to affirm that the President’s Cabinet and I believe we have a moral responsibility to promote racial justice, equity and inclusion at Smith College. To the people of color in our community, please know our commitment is steadfast. And especially to our students of color, please know we are here for you always.
All members of Smith College, have the freedom to criticize the policies and practices of their employer; they just risk having the president call them racists.
“Racial justice” is now an Orwellian phrase and euphemism (like “black lives matter”) to avoid discussion and to cut off dissent before it starts. After all, what kind of person objects to “justice”?
2. But wait! There’s more! In an open letter to the Smith community authored by an alumnae group, Shaw is being targeted for “re-education”:
The existence and deleterious effects of White privilege and implicit bias have been well documented and established. That this staff member, despite being employed at a top U.S. college, remains ignorant of such documentation––in service, we presume from her video, of maintaining a guiltless understanding of her own Whiteness––only reinforces the need for ongoing education at Smith.
In the face of uncomfortable learning and change, there will always be those whose insecurity manifests as a digging in of heels. It is clear that this staff member, whose video evinces both a staggering lack of self-awareness and a deep preoccupation with disavowing the idea of White privilege, is indeed in need of further training before she can safely interact with students and fellow staff in the course of her employment.
Shaw’s non-conforming views “perpetuate an environment that is unsafe for BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of color] Smith community members,” the letter says. [Pointer: College Fix]
3. An addendum to the previous post about epidemiologists wanting us to wear masks and socially distance forever: the New York Times reports that two studies suggest that people working out wearing masks are not as miserable as they expected to be, and “may” even do some good. As you know, “may” is officially good enough to justify making life crummier forever. Says one scientist to the Times,“Covid-19 changes almost every aspect of our lives and makes simple things more complicated…But we can learn how to keep doing the essential things, such as exercise….I believe we can get used to going to the gym with a mask.”
Isn’t that wonderful?
4. Are you ready for the coming riots? Because they are coming...Last month, a Minnesota judge ruled that all four officers who were involved in the George Floyd incident will be tried together, and that the trial will be held in the Twin Cities as long as an unbiased jury can be selected. Despite the ambiguity around the causes of Floyd’s death, the officers are being prosecuted for political as much as legal reasons. This is the 1992 Rodney King fiasco all over again, and the likelihood that the officers, any of them, can be convicted on a legitimate “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in a verdict that will stand up on appeal is distant at best. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison, continues to make public statements referring to Floyd’s death as a “murder.” A prosecutor, indeed any Minnesota lawyer, can’t do that. Minnesota Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 3.6 says that “A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a criminal matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement about the matter that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a jury trial in a pending criminal matter.” That language is incorporate by reference in Rule 3.8, governing prosecutors.
Statements like Ellison’s, coming from the top lawyer in the state, rob the defendants of a fair trial.
5. Time to open up the ol’ Ethics Alarms mailbag! Reader and frequent commenter Steve Witherspoon (whose excellent blog was just added to the Links here) asks if Barack Obama’s recent comments in an interview warrant Ethics Hero status.
In an interview with historian Ron Chernow in conjunction with Obama receiving the “Voice of Influence Award” from the literary organization PEN, he said, among other things,
“The lines have blurred now between propaganda and what we would consider journalism in a way that has been described as truth decay. You’ve got an epistemological problem where people don’t know now entirely what’s true and what’s not, and the old authorities and curators of what is factual are greatly weakened. And that’s dangerous for our democracy, and I don’t think that that’s going to be solved just by a new president. I think, internally, news organizations and all of us, culturally, are going to have to think about what to do about that.”
The ethics Alarms answer to Steve’s question is an emphatic “no,” because:
- If he’s trying to say journalism no longer is journalism, he picked a mealy way to do it.
- It’s not exactly an original or perceptive observation.
- He used “epistological.” Pompous and intentionally vague, but darn, he sure speaks purdy…
- “Fake news” is clearer and more to the point.
- He waited 12 years to state what he benefited from directly for eight, and what President Trump was burdened with for four.
- He’s not really say that journalism in general has become propaganda, he’s saying that sources that don’t follow “the old authorities and curators”—you know, like CNN, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post, all part of his cheering section—are the problem.
- As usual, Obama offers no solutions, but expects applause anyway.
I will add, as a tangential point, that those who argue that the Presidency of Joe Biden will just be “Obama, the Sequel” should understand that Biden’s defenders won’t be able to stifle criticism by calling his critics racist.