OPINION

Institutional In The Ivory Tower


“You have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.” -R.P. McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey 

Institutions of higher learning are becoming . . . institutions. Places where crazy people are housed. Only instead of being safely tucked away under lock and key and treated, they’re tenured, tartan covered cranks.

Paid to propagate their crazy. 

Like Professor Barry Mehler of Ferris State University in Michigan, who recently posted a video of himself haranguing his students while wearing a Neal Armstrong-style space helmet to ward off the ‘Rona  . . . emanating from the computer screen he was using to interact with them. I thought at first it was an episode of ‘Pigs in Space” from the Muppet Show.

As at The Washington University in St. Louis, where earnest academic attention was given over recently to a forum that “explored” the subject of the “coded language” of professionalism – used, according to the forum’s instigators, assistant dean of community partnerships Cynthia Williams and Jewel Stafford, the director of the field education offices’ racial equity fellowship program, to “silence  and marginalize people of color” in the workplace. 

As by expecting them to show up for work on time, ready to work and appropriately dressed for work.

Apparently it is not racist to take the position that non-white people aren’t capable of adhering to standards of conduct most children have mastered by the time they enter middle school. 

There’s not much left at the bottom of the manufactured racial grievance barrel to scrape, but Williams and Stafford are chipping their fingernails away trying to scoop some up.        

“This presentation will explore dismantling white supremacy and privilege in various contexts while upholding social justice and advancing effective workplaces in which all contributors can bring their full selves to the job site,” they say. 

Well, that’s fine. But if “contributors” don’t show up – if they aren’t on time for an important client meeting – how can their “full selves” contribute or  “advance” anything? Isn’t it necessary to be present to contribute? One assumes Williams and Stafford expect their students to show up – on time – for class. To complete assignments on schedule. To wear clothes appropriate for the classroom. What if one of their students feels clothes – any clothes – are “marginalizing” and “oppressive”? 

It is apparently “racist” to point such out.

Work – for the Woke  – is a flexible concept, including the when and where. But then, is it work at all? How would you be able to tell? Put another way, what is the difference between work – and not-work – when one is not expected to work? And if you’re not working, why would a person of any color expect to get paid for it? 

Well, Willams and Stafford exempted. 

It’s been said that most of life is just showing up – but if you can’t even manage that . . . 

And by the way, those words deployed by Williams and Stafford are pretty big ones. Isn’t it  “marginalizing” to expect that people of color will know what “privilege in various contexts” means? Aren’t they making some very . . . privileged assumptions that might tend to marginalize people who never learned what those words mean? Oh, but there’s a dictionary. All they have to do is look them up and learn what they mean. But like the clock on the wall, that’s just another sly tool of oppression placing burdens in the path of the oppressed. 

Any standard or expectation is implicitly “marginalizing,” to take the logic of the Williams and Stafford thesis to its inevitable get-nothing-done conclusion. If a task requires any effort or skill then those who make the effort or have the skill are “marginalizing” those who don’t. 

And those who don’t ought not to be encouraged to develop the skills and discipline that would end their “marginalization”  . . . by transforming them into competent adults who can be relied upon to show up, on time,  and get things done.  Far better, according to the Williams and Stafford line, that they remain forever . . . marginalized – by their own stunted development.  

Who benefits from all this insolent enstupidation, by the way? Is it the “marginalized” students of color who will one day have to deal with the real world, far away from the institutional world of Williams and Stafford – where work is something you’re expected to do because they’re paying you to do it? 

Well, maybe there will be an opening in the department of field offices’ racial equity fellowship program. 

Curiously – suspiciously – Williams’ bio touts herself as a “skilled and highly motivated professional.” But wait . . . aren’t those the very attributes she and her colleague deride as mechanisms of workplace oppression and marginalization? 

Intellectual coherence has never been a hallmark of race-hustling.

The University of Washington may be nominally an institution of higher learning but it seems to operate as a kind of regression factory, untraining the basic habits most people learned in kindergarten and encouraging the now-18-19-20-year-old toddlers in their care to consider themselves marginalized if any discipline or comportment is expected of them. 

How long will it be before toilet-training is held up as “marginalizing”? 

If you think that’s going too far, consider how far-gone things already are. 

A.J. Rice is author of the book, The Woking Dead: How Society’s Vogue Virus Destroys Our Culture. He serves as CEO of Publius PR, a premier communications firm in Washington D.C.