You have worked, implicitly and explicitly, directly and indirectly, to make Wesleyan a hostile environment for people of color, students with disabilities, trans students, survivors of sexual assault and pretty much any student who does not fit into your image of the “conservative oppressed by the liberal arts.” What’s more, you have repeatedly refused to engage with students in any meaningful way about the ways in which you’ve created this hostile environment. So I have resorted to engaging with you on your own terms: in a blog post.
In your infamous blog post “On Intellectual Diversity”, posted on May 19, 2017, you asserted that, “It should be clear that I do not regard the president’s incoherent leadership—which is so often driven by impulse, resentment and prejudice—as belonging to significant streams of conservative thought, even broadly conceived.”
Now that people have been murdered, their aggressors egged on by the president’s “incoherent leadership,” will you acknowledge that such “impulse, resentment and prejudice” do in fact comprise mainstream conservative thought?
You support the notion that “all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views… we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses.” Yet, is this not the exact attitude that lead to the death of Heather Heyer and the injury of 19 others in Charlottesville? How can you justify allowing these people, who advocate systemically prejudiced violence, a platform on campuses like our own? If you would have protected these “Unite the Right” fascists’ right to protest at UVA before it lead to death/injury, you are complicit in the violence and destruction of human life that occurred.
What happened in Charlottesville this week is part of the “full range of conservative ideas and traditions” that you say “deserve…sustained, scholarly attention.” By proposing an “affirmative action” for conservatives, you actively invite these Neo-Nazis onto our campus. Yet as soon as the white supremacists kill someone, you immediately backtrack and send an all-campus email saying, “As educators and students, as participants in our local communities and in our national polity, we must unite in condemning the poison being spewed by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.”
So which is it? Where do you draw the line? And what are you planning to do regarding that line, once you’ve stopped waffling on the question of so-called “free speech”? Because we all know it’s not really a question of free speech, it’s a question of whose lives, safety, and comfort matter more to you.
Sarah Chen Small ‘18 speaks for many of us when she responds to your latest attempt to smooth over legitimate harms with blog posts and all-campus emails:
“Says the man who is trying to use a twisted version of affirmative action to inundate Wesleyan with the same conservative rhetoric/people that emboldened these nazis. The logic of his project relies on the idea that white conservatives are discriminated against (sounds an awful lot like a White Nationalist sentiment).
Says the man who told rape survivors they were only unhappy with the system bc they didn’t “win” a fair trial, never mind the child predator who sat on those trials and harassed victims.
How about he starts with doing literally anything tangible to help his students instead of helping himself with pull quotes and screen time. We are so far past the time for nice words, we need action. I’m paying attention and I’m outraged at YOU Roth.”
Not your friend,
The full text of President Roth’s all-campus email (including a link to his blog post about Charlottesville) can be read below:
Many of you are still away from campus, and you may not have seen my blog post from Sunday in response to events in Charlottesville. We stand in solidarity with the city of Charlottesville and those outraged by the terrorist actions that took a life and injured many who stood up against hate. As educators and students, as participants in our local communities and in our national polity, we must unite in condemning the poison being spewed by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis; we must come together in support of those threatened by hatred and racism; we must stand up for our democratic values; we must persevere in our efforts to promote a more just and courageous community on our campus, and beyond.
Michael S. Roth