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An Epidemic of Discontent

4 minute read

The new millennial morality

By Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

From racist insults to political disagreements to terms that trigger unpleasant memories, campus activists believe words cause great harm. Students thus take to social media, stage demonstrations or, in extreme cases, starve themselves. Their cause is just, their plight is severe, and others must help. We might refer to these variations as different moral cultures. But what accounts for the increased sensitivity and dependency? It likely matters that student populations include members of multiple cultural groups interacting as equals. Social media provide ready access to the court of public opinion and to officials who might not otherwise notice that a student was offended. Moral sensitivity combined with moral dependency means that nothing is beneath concern, nor can concerns be handled without calls for official action.

Campbell and Manning are the authors of Microaggression and Moral Cultures

Zero tolerance is the only way to stop racism

By David Boren

Last Spring at the University of Oklahoma, a video went viral of a small group of our students singing a violent racist chant. We were shocked. We thought such an event could not happen here.

I was hosting a group of American historians for dinner when a staff member showed me the video. I immediately decided that the fraternity would be closed within 24 hours and its affiliation with the university canceled. The next day the windows of the building were boarded up, and the Greek letters were pried off the building. The two students found most accountable withdrew permanently from the university. That morning, while it was still dark, I spoke to several thousand students on campus and marched with them as they chanted, “Not on our campus.”

One of the most important conversations took place in private in my office. About a dozen African-American student leaders met face to face with the officers of the responsible fraternity. The African-American students felt excluded, endangered and disrespected. The fraternity officers seemed stricken by what they heard and apologized. It was a moving experience for all of us. Today, we are a better university and an even stronger community.

Quick, decisive action must be taken to confront racism. There is no time to advise with lawyers, vice presidents and others. There is only time to consult one’s own conscience and moral compass. We cannot remain silent. Often we say to ourselves, “Why can’t we all just love and respect each other?” We can–but it’s up to each one of us to take action.

Boren is the president of the University of Oklahoma

Prepare for more protests

By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

What we saw in Columbia, Mo., was different from the protests of the 1960s and ’70s. The new student protesters are shaped by the startling contrast of the nation’s first black President and the Black Lives Matter movement. They have seen the viral videos of police brutality, and many have watched family and friends struggle to recover from economic devastation. They have witnessed, some even participated in, the convulsions of Ferguson and Baltimore.

And they have taken to heart the lessons of those protests. Today’s students revealed a kind of power in coalition that the first wave of black student activists in the 1960s simply did not have but whose labor made possible. What’s more, these activists have given students at other schools a blueprint for change. Can you imagine what would happen at Ohio State or the University of Alabama or UCLA or any other major institution if similar coalitions dared to act in a similar vein? The nation has been put on notice. We should brace ourselves for more protests to come.

Glaude is the author of the forthcoming book Democracy in Black

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