David Lewis Schaefer, a professor at Holy Cross College, has written a must-read article about double standards at the college that appears on today’s edition of National Review Online. According to Schaefer, toward the end of last year, someone set fire to a copy of the college’s conservative newspaper outside the newspaper editor’s door. This incident came in the midst of a “Hate: Not Here!” campaign at Holy Cross intended to challenge “intolerance and ignorance” at the college. When Shawn Sheehy, the newspaper editor, asked Holy Cross President Michael McFarland to respond to the arson, he received the following reply from McFarland:
Whether this incident was a response to your political views is a matter of speculation. Many students and faculty have expressed quite conservative views without receiving any threatening response. It is just as likely, if not more so, that the incident was a response to some of the very personal attacks on individuals and groups that appeared in the Fenwick Review last year. If that is true, it still does not justify what happened. No one should be subject to harassment or threats for any reason. Nevertheless, it would not be accurate to say you were harassed for your ideas or political views. One can, I think, be a conservative without demeaning other people.
Schaefer writes that Sheehy’s plea to President McFarland also included the observation that, in light of the “Hate: Not Here!” campaign, “it would be ‘strange’ for the college ‘to zealously pursue students who write heinous words and not pursue students who commit heinous actions’ such as arson.” McFarland’s response?
The "Hate Not Here" protocol was introduced specifically to protect groups who are vulnerable and regularly subject to harassment and prejudice. Because of their marginal status in society and the history of disrespect and mistreatment they have suffered, they are seen as needing an extra level of protection and support in order to have the same opportunities to flourish as other members of the community. I understand that not everyone agrees with that, but that is the rationale for the program. In any event, conservatives are not seen as particularly vulnerable or in need of the extra support and protection. Neither are liberals or other groups that represent large and powerful parts of society.
In other words, all victims of arson are not created equal. Sadly, the type of double standard that Schaefer describes is all too common in academia today. To give you just a few examples:
- FIRE’s own Luke Sheahan had a similar experience when he was the editor of Oregon State University’s (OSU’s) conservative student paper, The Liberty. When flyers supporting a ban on gay marriage were posted in OSU’s Pride Center, university administrators issued a swift condemnation of the action, expressing dismay “that these actions occurred at an enlightened institution of higher learning such as OSU.” Shortly thereafter, The Liberty’s distribution bin–and hundreds of copies of the paper–were stolen on OSU’s campus. Luke asked the administration to issue a similar publication condemnation against the newspaper thieves, but the university refused.
- In late 2004, FIRE intervened at Indian River Community College after the college prevented a Christian student group from screening The Passion of the Christ. The college claimed that the ban was because the movie had an R-rating, but allowed a live performance entitled “F*cking for Jesus” to take place on campus. The college finally reversed the ban after extensive public pressure from FIRE.
Schaefer’s article is worth reading in full. The situation he describes is truly appalling, and as described above, is symptomatic of a larger problem on college campuses. FIRE is fighting these abuses every day, and we hope that you will join us.