Ethics Dunce, China Olympics Ethics Train Wreck Division: Mark Wrighton, President Of George Washington University

I wonder how the Board of George Washington University felt as it watched its newly hired President make a complete ass of himself. This is what is technically known as “a bad sign.” His botched and ominous response to his first test also may well be signature significance for a political correctness addled boob. We shall see.

Last week, well-conceived satiric posters, appearing to promote the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing until one looks closely, began going up on dorm doors and elsewhere around the Washington, D.C. university campus. The artwork pointedly depicts Chinese athletes in “events” representing human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government. In one poster, a biathlon competitor points her rifle at someone who is blindfolded and wearing the Uyghur flag. Another shows a snowboarder atop a surveillance camera. The posters were created by a Chinese dissident artist based in Australia.

The George Washington University Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a local chapter of a Chinese student group overseen by the Chinese Communist Party, reacted true to their corrupt culture while adopting one of the worst habits of ours. It attempted to censor the posters, calling them “seriously racist”—they learned that trick from Democrats here— and said the art “insulted China” in an email to students last week and a letter to university officials, including GW President Mark Wrighton.

“Racist” and “insulted China”—you know, like calling a pandemic virus that China unleashed on the world a Chinese virus was racist and insulted China. Indeed, The student group was most upset by the poster that shows a Chinese curler pushing a Wuhan virus instead of a curling stone. Good.

Given an opportunity for a teachable moment, Mark Wrighton defaulted to the anti-free speech “if anyone is offended, the speaker is wrong” formula. The lesson he chose to teach was “Most American university administrators are woke weenies.” Wrighton wrote in an email to a student, which the dissident artist, “Badiucao,” circulated on Twitter,

“Please know that I am personally offended by the posters. I treasure the opportunity to work with talented people from all over the world, including China. Your reaching out to me directly is much appreciated, and we are working to have all of these offensive posters removed as soon as possible.”

Wrighton also shifted into full pander mode, adding, “I treasure the opportunity to work with talented people from all over the world, including China . . . I, too, am saddened by this terrible event, and we will undertake an effort to determine who is responsible.”

He did this, it appears, without looking closely at the posters. That was part of the lesson: what counts is pandering to the aggrieved. Facts Don’t Matter. Welcome to the U.S.!

Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (but no Democrats) immediately criticized Wrighton’s reaction. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also was on the job, while the ACLU remained too busy trying to find ways to help the Democrats survive the 2022 mid-terms. Consider the response of the political Left to a promise of outright censorship of political speech the next time you read one of those “Republicans are a threat to democracy” op-eds, which will probably be today.

At least Wrighton reversed his position quickly in a statement this week, saying in part,

“Upon full understanding, I do not view these posters as racist; they are political statements. There is no university investigation underway, and the university will not take any action against the students who displayed the posters. I want to be very clear: I support freedom of speech—even when it offends people—and creative art is a valued way to communicate on important societal issues. I also support the many students and faculty at our university who are engaged in researching, and actively advocating against, all forms of discrimination, marginalization, and oppression….Every member of the GW community should feel welcome and supported, but I should have taken more time to understand the entire situation before commenting.

…as in “actually looking at the posters before agreeing that they were racist.”

GW law professor Jonathan Turley correctly assessed the unethical episode.

Someone at the university decided to rip down political posters. The university should have some process of review before such an extraordinary act is ordered by any official or office. Indeed, it should have a committee that can be called upon to review such an emergency request and allow members to advise the President before the university censors speech…I am thankful to President Wrighton for admitting his error, but the university needs to recognize the lingering concerns over this incident. It is hard to assure people that you are a supporter of freedom of speech on the heels of an impulsive act of censorship. We need to explore reforms, including the suggested committee, to offer more than personal testimonials to support free speech at George Washington University.


Source: Inside Higher Ed

7 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce, China Olympics Ethics Train Wreck Division: Mark Wrighton, President Of George Washington University

  1. “Please know that I am personally offended by the posters.
    He lied. He had not seen the posters, so how could he be offended?

  2. Agh, what despicable reality. We champion the cause of every sexual preference and lust while squelching the cry of the truly oppressed who just want to live. Far worse, we did so much to create and fortify this tyrannical machinery.
    Thank you for posting this.

  3. The only thing U.S. university presidents worry about is the Chinese government cutting off the torrent of tuition and “research money” they are sending to U.S. universities in connection with all the Chinese kids they’re sending over here to get educated (and pirate all our technology).

    • Much like the situation between Hollywood and China. They don’t want to lose Chinese film revenue so they play nice. A good documentary I saw many years ago called “Hollywood and the Holocaust” illustrates how this desire for foreign markets has affected film content in the past.

  4. I don’t have data for GWU, but foreign student revenue, particularly Chinese student revenue, is a huge portion of University budgets in many places. A knee jerk reaction that avoids biting that hand that feeds is typical, especially when that hand is ultra sensitive to any form of criticism.

    An institution like GWU would not want to get on a (I want to say black list but Jack told us the other day that term is not acceptable) list of unapproved/disapproved foreign universities in China.

    The about face is welcome but also sad for the many reasons discussed here.

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