Vermont Law School’s Craven Art Censorship

Slavery mural

In 1993, artist Sam Kerson painted a mural depicting the progression of American slavery from the slave trade through to the Underground railroad. “The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave” celebrates “the efforts of black and white Americans in Vermont and throughout the United States to achieve freedom and justice,” as Kerson explains on his website. Here’s the second panel of the artwork…

Kerson Panel two

Funded by a grant from the Puffin Foundation, the mural was mounted at the Chase Community Center at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont. African-American students had periodically taken offense at the artist’s style, and that reaction became a substantial movement after a white cop with a history of equal-opportunity bullying in Minneapolis managed to contribute to the death of a criminal resisting arrest who happened to be black. Naturally, this immediately affected what kind of art could be exhibited in public. I’m not being sarcastic: that’s what happened, as bizarre as it is.

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From The “I Don’t Understand This At All” Files…

Dem classroom ad

The Glenn Youngkin campaign—he’s the Republican running for governor of Virginia–has been circulating this campaign sign for McAuliffe, endorsing the statement that the Democratic candidate made in a televised debate that has his poll numbers in a freefall. (What McAuliffe said was “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”)

Could this possibly be a Democratic party-approved sign? I wondered if it was a “false flag” by the Republicans. The message contradicts what McAuliffe has been saying in recent days about supporting active parental involvement in public school education.

If the sign is genuine, what kind of person would approve of such a message? It’s stunning what goes on in some classrooms, everything from child abuse to mis-instruction to indoctrination. Parents who don’t monitor how and what their children are taught are irresponsible and negligent; it’s as simple as that.

Could the Democrats in Virginia be this stupid? How is that possible?

Why I’m Skipping My College Class Reunion…

Harvard strike

I already noted here that I would not attend my 50th College reunion next year because my alma mater has repeatedly embarrassed me, causing me to (literally) turn my diploma to the wall. I wrote an explanation for my boycott for my class’s reunion book, which will be published in 2022. Some of you asked that I post what I wrote. Here it is…

***

This is a depressing report to write. My family was always besotted with Harvard. We lived in Arlington, Mass., a short bus ride from Harvard Square. My father, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. (the Greater) graduated from the College after WWII on the GI Bill. He met my mother on campus, waving to the young Greek beauty looking at him from her office window in Mass Hall, where she was a secretary. My sister, Edith Marshall ’74 and I both attended the College after my mother returned to work there, eventually becoming the Asst. Dean of Housing.Despite all Harvard has meant to me and my family over the decades, and despite all of the special friends I long to see again, I won’t be attending the class reunion.

The university has repeatedly embarrassed and angered me over the last decade (and before), causing me to turn my diploma face to the wall. The school has become a hyper-partisan, ideologically extreme institutional shill, less devoted to educating its students and upholding its role model status than to following progressive cant regardless of the consequences or the core values trashed in the process.

I’m a professional ethicist these days, having finally abandoned the other half of my career as a stage director (The American Century Theater, 1995-2015, RIP). Most of my work is in legal ethics as a trainer and consultant. Thus I was horrified when, in 2019, Harvard’s Dean of the College announced the firing of Prof. Ronald Sullivan as Winthrop House faculty dean because he was defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution. The Winthrop House students ignorantly declared Sullivan insufficiently virtuous, but instead of using the episode to teach them (and others) what lawyers are ethically required to do, the dean joined the sit-in protest calling for his removal. To be clear about how wrong this was, by firing Sullivan, Harvard was endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. From the Massachusetts Bar’s ethics rules (I taught the Rules section of the introductory and mandatory course for new bar admittees)…

“Rule 1.2 (b): A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.”

This is a crucial principle. Fair trials and our criminal justice system depend on it; it is embodied in the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. But Harvard students found the principle insufficiently “woke,” and the college agreed. The fact that Harvard undergrads haven’t learned the importance of guaranteeing all citizens legal representation, and the fact that Harvard hasn’t taught it, apparently because its own leadership doesn’t agree with the principle itself, indicates that Harvard has devolved into more of a left-wing indoctrination machine than a liberal arts college.

That was the proverbial last straw, but there was much more before and since. Harvard’s announcement that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s was unconscionable. Before that, the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was the students’ choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. Harvard joined other venal institutions with lesser resources to refuse tuition refunds to students robbed of in-person teaching and the campus experience during the pandemic lockdown—odd, since I distinctly recall being told in orientation that it was the contact with other students, midnight bull sessions and extra-curricular activities (like my beloved Gilbert and Sullivan Players) that provided the real value in attending Harvard (and they were).

There are many more such betrayals on my list, but describing them all would be as tedious for you as it is upsetting for me.

Dad died in his sleep in 2009, exactly the way he wanted to go. I found him in his favorite chair. It was my birthday, and I will always suspect that my father thought of his timing as a good joke. It was a gift, really: he had just started to show his age (at 89), and he was determined not to ever burden Mom or his family. My mother never recovered from losing the love of her life, and died almost a year to the day of my father’s magnificent funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, with all the honors due to a Silver Star recipient. They are both resting there now, not far from my Alexandria home where I live with my wonderful wife Grace and, in a downstairs apartment, my 26-year-old son Grant, who does what he knew he wanted to do from childhood: he’s an auto mechanic and tech. I, in contrast, never could decide what to do with my life.

To Dave, Skip, Nels, Dick, Dennis, Mike, Howie, Greg (Thanks again), Ollie, and so many others, I have missed you, and wish I could come to Cambridge.

I just can’t do it.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/2021: Morning’s Not The Only Thing That’s Broken…

On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter became effective, marking this date as the international organization’s official birthday. What a disappointment the U.N. has been! The idea of a body made up of representatives of the nations of the world dedicated to promoting peace and mutual cooperation for the good of humanity was always a quixotic and probably doomed mission, one shared by the U.N.’s ill-conceived predecessor, Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.

I am old enough, however, to remember when the American public believed in and respected the U.N. Its meetings were broadcast regularly by PBS; the U.N’s second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was one of the world’s most admired men, and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (ironically, since his father had effectively killed the League of Nations by blocking the U.S.’s membership in the new body in the Senate), was immensely popular. The U.N. has had its moments, notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but it squandered the public’s trust with outrageous committee appointments, placing brazen human rights violators on its Human Rights Council for example (currently Russia, China and Cuba are members), persistent efforts at world government, which is and should always be an offense to the U.S. Constitution, and corruption at the highest levels that have become impossible to excuse. Today the United Nations’ existence is largely symbolic. Maybe that’s enough to justify the expense, but we once thought the United Nations would be so much more.

1. Searching for an ethical news aggregator...but I can’t find one. I visited the Drudge Report for the first time in months, and saw this link: FACEBOOK Faulted by Staff Over Insurrection…

Drudge has been abandoned by many conservatives over the site’s decision to spin anti-Trump, but continuing to call the January 6 riot an “insurrection” after the FBI’s report conclusively showed it wasn’t one is signature significance for a propaganda site. Over at the aggregator that has snatched away Drudge’s Trump-supporting audience, Citizen Free Press, the coverage of the unfolding Alec Baldwin gunfire accident includes this headline: “PHOTOS — This is the woman Alec Baldwin put in charge of firearms for his low budget film…” and this image of the film’s armorist:

shooting armorist

Oh, I see! Based on her looks, we know she must have been incompetent! This is nothing but bigotry, and it is why so many people detest conservatives.

2. Until more people show some courage and principles, this kind of thing will only become more frequent and get worse. Witness the revolting development from Coastal Carolina University. The College Fix reports:

“On September 16, students filed into a classroom, and some students noted the names of several students of color were written on a whiteboard at the front of the class. Thinking this was some sort of list singling out minority students, the offended students planned a campus protest on September 21 instead of going to class.But the names were actually part of a list of students who may want to hang out together, drawn up by a visiting artist who had been counseling two students of color after the previous class. One of the students had said she felt isolated and wanted to get to know other minority students in the theater department, so the group brainstormed a list of potential friends. The school later admitted the list was “a resource for newer students who are looking to be in community with other BIPOC students.”

Never mind; Facts Don’t Matter! The school apologized to the mistakenly offended students with a statement that “faculty and students involved as well as the Theatre Department as a whole are deeply sorry to anyone who was affected by this incident.” That’s right: the school apologized to the students for the students leaping to conclusions and protesting before they knew what they were protesting about. Not only that, the visiting artist who created the list to help the minority students also apologized, calling her actions “thoughtless and careless.” Yes, it is certainly careless to assume that students in the era of The Great Stupid will be capable of being fair, responsible, and reasonable when they have unlimited power to make administrators and instructors lick their metaphorical boots on a whim.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education

Yale intimidation

Following through on its criticism of Yale Law School administrators’ attempts to threaten student Trent Colbert and intimidate him into signing a pre-drafted apology for an email that violated no policies and was both benign and constitutionally protected, The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The F.I.R.E.) has offered its own pre-drafted apology for the offending individuals [Director of Diversity Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ellen Cosgrove (above)] and Yale’s leadership to sign and present to Colbert, as well as any other students who have been treated similarly but who weren’t as careful as Trent and did not surreptitiously record their meetings:

Pre-written apology

And The Great Stupid Figures Out How To Feed Itself: The NCAA’s Brilliant Plan

brilliant

I saw this coming. Didn’t you see this coming? Once colleges were told that they could and should treat college athletes as professional athletes, any effort to ensure that they might leave college able to do anything but run, throw, and dunk was on the way out. And so it is.

Last week, an NCAA task force recommended that incoming freshmen in Division I and II sports should no longer be required to meet minimum scores on standardized tests for initial eligibility.

Do you realize how ignorant you have to be to fail to meet the minimum scores?

The recommendation was made by the NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force, was formed as part of the NCAA’s eight-point plan to advance racial equity. Yes, one sure way to advance racial equity is to let student athletes remain as dumb as marmots.

The Division I Committee on Academics and Division II Academic Requirements Committee will consider the recommendation at their next scheduled meetings in February. “This work reflects the NCAA’s commitment to continually reviewing our academic standards based on the best available data and other relevant information,” task force chairman David Wilson, president at Morgan State, said in a press release. “We are observing a national trend in NCAA member schools moving away from requiring standardized test scores for admissions purposes and this recommendation for athletics eligibility aligns directly with that movement.”

Everybody’s doing it! Now there’s a good reason for abandoning higher education for athletes! The ball started rolling in July 2020, when the National Association of Basketball Coaches called for the NCAA to permanently eliminate standardized test scores from eligibility requirements. Naturally, the main concern of basketball coaches is the educational achievements of student players.

“The days of colleges requiring the SAT or ACT are passing rapidly: more than half of all four-year colleges and universities will not require these tests for admissions in 2021, and more are dropping the requirement every week,” the NABC said in a statement at the time. “These tests should no longer be required in the initial-eligibility standards. The tests are again being recognized as forces of institutional racism, which is consistent with their history, and they should be jettisoned for that reason alone; moreover, pragmatics also support this change.”

Writes education blogger Joanne Jacobs, “So the plan is to admit unprepared students who will play football or basketball and leave college without a degree.”

Exactly. After all, a thuggish Minnesota cop accidentally killed a lifetime black hood without any racial motive, so this is a perfect response. And I am Marie of Romania.

The disgusted Ms Jacobs appended a relevant literary reference to her report…

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Doug Glanville’s Internal Debate And The Student’s Slavery Petition

40 acres and a mule

I highly recommend this essay by Doug Glanville, an African-American sportscaster and blogger who has frequently distinguished himself with perceptive commentary on matters relating to race and sports. In a long, Mobius strip of a personal reverie—you get the impression that Glanvilles wasn’t certain what he thought until he read what he was writing, he reflected on how he would have, and should have reacted if he was in the broadcast booth when Jim Kaat made his ill-considered “40 acres” comment, which Ethics Alarms discussed here. Glanville weaves his way through several options and impulses:

  • “Faced with this reference during a baseball game, I found myself stuck on pause, wondering how we touched on reparations for slavery during the [American League Division Series] while discussing the value of a Latin player. At least, I hoped, it was done so unknowingly. For almost a week, I have grappled with whether I should say anything at all — whether the lessons from it are worth pursuing on a public scale, or if it’s just better to move on. I answered my internal debate by deciding I should at least try.”
  • “So what if I were covering that game, with Showalter and Kaat, as the field reporter or a second analyst? What would I have done? What would I have said? It is an obligation sharply felt by the only Black voice in any room, let alone during a baseball game, where you are expecting to just talk baseball.”
  • “I could have responded indirectly. I could have hit the talkback button and taken my issue to the producers off-line, in order to go through the proper channels. From experience, I know that calling a game is hard. You have to talk for over three hours, and your brain is crammed with information. Data, analytics, interviews, inside information, you name it. And every so often, it just simply comes out wrong, or you react with your mouth before your mind. You don’t have time to dissect the nuance of what someone has said without the risk of making the same kind of generalizing mistake…”
  • “I could have responded directly. I could have interjected on live television to express my consternation — even knowing how that might be taken…. how do you address it while upset, without coming off a certain way?”
  • “I could have stayed silent. I could have internalized it. There is an etiquette to broadcasting. You have to think long and hard about whether you are going to contradict someone or call them out, on Twitter or live during a game. It doesn’t have to be because of insensitive content — it could be about a mistake on a call or simply getting a player’s name wrong. The default is that you don’t do it. And if you do, you do it with care, smoothly, out of respect for your colleague.”
  • In the end, Glanville settles on the Golden Rule: “We all need to be better and more aware, more educated about history so we don’t make bad analogies. Yet we also have to see how understanding is an evolutionary process and grant people the bandwidth to grow, including ourselves. I certainly would want to be extended the same courtesy.”

That’s good, as far as it goes. In the process of getting there, Glanville still managed to blow Kaat’s comment out of proportion, writing at one point,

“In this instance and in so many others, the intent behind the statement becomes beside the point. Kaat apologized for his “poor choice of words” four innings later, but by then, it felt too late — you don’t have to be malicious to negatively impact someone….The pressure is often on Black people to bury their feelings and carry on…We can brush off slavery or we can recognize the vestiges of it and how it still plays a role in our systems. Just last week, a petition to bring back slavery circulated through a school in Kansas City, so I am not talking about 1865.”

Hold it, Doug. When someone is claiming offense, intent is always relevant. This is the great “gotcha!” game in the age of cancel culture: someone makes an innocent misstep, an a social justice mob sets out to destroy them, or at least force them to pathetically confess their sins and beg for forgiveness. Those who are so easily “negatively impacted” that an obviously botched spontaneous comment referencing “40 acres and a mule” while discussing ‘ the value of a Latin player,” want to be “negatively impacted” or at least to be able to claim to be, because it gives them power. Commentators like Glanville enable such political correctness bullies and agents of the cancel culture.

But I want to look at Glanville’s reference to “a petition to bring back slavery” circulating “through a school in Kansas City.” I had missed that episode, and with good reason: it wasn’t newsworthy, it was exploited by exactly the kind of “gotcha!” purveyors I just described, and Glanville’s facts were wrong. Continue reading

To Be Fair, MIT Was Probably Corrupted By Being Too Close To Harvard….

MIT

Dorian Abbot, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, wrote in an op-ed on New York Times exile Bari Weiss’ Substack last weeky that MIT, just a few bocks beyond Harvrad on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Mass., had informed him that his Carlson Lecture was being canceled to “avoid controversy.” He wrote in part,

“In the fall of 2020 I started advocating openly for academic freedom and merit-based evaluations. I recorded some short YouTube videos in which I argued for the importance of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity when they apply for a position as well as allowing them to express their opinions openly, even if you disagree with them. 

“As a result, I was immediately targeted for cancellation, primarily by a group of graduate students in my department. Whistleblowers later revealed that the attack was partially planned and coordinated on the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program listserv by a graduate student in my department….

“That group of graduate students organized a letter of denunciation. It claimed that I threatened the ‘safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department,’ and it was presented to my department chair. The letter demanded that my teaching and research be restricted in a way that would cripple my ability to function as a scientist. A strong statement in support of faculty free expression by University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer put an end to that, and that is where things stood until the summer of 2021. 

“On August 12, a colleague and I wrote an op-ed in Newsweek in which we argued that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as it currently is implemented on campus “violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment” and “treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.” We proposed instead ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’ We noted that this would mean an end to legacy and athletic admission advantages, which significantly favor white applicants. 

“Shortly thereafter, my detractors developed a new strategy to try to isolate me and intimidate everyone else into silence: They argued on Twitter that I should not be invited to give science seminars at other universities and coordinated replacement speakers. This is an effective and increasingly common way to ratchet up the cost of dissenting because disseminating new work to colleagues is an important part of the scientific endeavor. 

“Sure enough, this strategy was employed when I was chosen to give the Carlson Lecture at MIT — a major honor in my field. It is an annual public talk given to a large audience and my topic was “climate and the potential for life on other planets.” On September 22, a new Twitter mob, composed of a group of MIT students, postdocs, and recent alumni, demanded that I be uninvited

“It worked….”

Observations:

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No Professor, You Must NOT Apologize For Showing Students Laurence Olivier Playing “Othello” [Corrected]

Olivier Othello

Oh, great: a fake blackface controversy again.

Composer and musician Bright Sheng, is the Chinese-born Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan. When he received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2001, the Foundation described him as “an innovative composer whose skillful orchestrations bridge East and West, lyrical and dissonant styles, and historical and contemporary themes to create compositions that resonate with audiences around the world.”

Sheng screened the 1965 film version of Shakespeare’s “Othello” in his class as part of a lesson about how the tragedy was adapted for the opera. It stars the late Sir Laurence Olivier, widely regarded as the greatest living English actor of his day and a definitive interpreter of Shakespeare, as the tragic hero Othello, a Moor. Some students who saw the film—hell, maybe all of them: they’ve all been indoctrinated into knee-jerk progressive conformity– were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in black make-up, though he was white and the character he was playing is black, so such a disguise would seem to be obligatory. This is the function of what actors call “make-up.”

Students complained to the administration that Olivier’s make-up made them feel “unsafe.” Unsafe from what? From the make-up? From Olivier, who is long-dead? From Iago, the white villain of the play?

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