The Danger Of Institutional Wokeness

The Danger Of Institutional Wokeness


Leonard Zwelling

This is getting scary.

On Sunday, January 8, The New York Times ran a story by Vimal Patel that shows the lengths to which liberal arts institutions will go to discipline faculty viewed as having offended someone.

The story goes like this.

Erika Lopez Prater is an adjunct professor of global art history at Hamline University, a private school in St. Paul, MN.

In the course of her teaching, she wished to show a picture of what is considered a masterwork of 14th-century art that depicts the image of the prophet Muhammed. She told her class of this fact in the course syllabus and requested that any student with a concern about her showing the image contact her beforehand. It is prohibited in Islam to show such pictures and is found offensive by SOME Muslims.

The day of the lecture, she again went out of her way to tell her class of what was about to be shown allowing anyone who objected to leave. She showed the image. She was fired.

The thought among the leaders of the university was that the dismissal would solve the problem of protest among some Islamic students. It only made things worse.

The university called the showing of the image Islamophobic after the protest of Islamic students and the president of the university, Fayneese S. Miller claimed that any possible offense caused by showing the image should outweigh the issue of academic freedom.

The dismissed adjunct professor is being supported by various free speech advocates.

Here’s what President Miller said:

“It is important that our Muslim students, as well as other students, feel safe, supported and respected both in and out of our classrooms.”

Give me a break. Does that mean I should be offended by my sixth-grade teacher showing an image of Adolph Hitler giving his famous Nazi salute before a large swastika? I hope not. I think I can handle it. I even could when I was twelve let alone twenty.

I may not agree with Governor Ron DeSantis on much, but when he says Florida is where woke goes to die, I am with him. Just like offensive language that appears in great American literature (e.g., Huckleberry Finn), offensive images and language is part of a good curriculum that sets out to display what humans have done in history. Apparently, the taboo against images of Muhammed is not even in the Quran. No, it was a student, Aram Wedatalla, president of the Muslim Student Association, who filed the case against the instructor saying she was not prepared to see the image. Why not? You were given enough warning.

This blog has had enough of trigger warnings, offended students, and organizations blackmailing universities into behaviors that are to their liking.

One of the great freedoms of the United States is the freedom to offend. If you don’t like what you hear, get up and walk out, but don’t try to deny others from hearing something that speaks directly to how previous generations viewed art, history, and religion.

Hamline University made a grave error in firing the instructor and making a big case out of the fact that despite more than sufficient warning, some students were offended. Get over yourselves.

This is also true of speech that some feel is unprofessional. That, like the showing of the image described above, is in the eye of the beholder. It is unreasonable (and not at all human) to have people constantly pre-edit what they say because it may offend someone. Offending someone is what made Groucho great. If I have to choose between trigger warnings and Groucho, I’ll go with Captain Spalding every time.

The freedom to offend is wholly American. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you can’t take ideas that may offend, you don’t belong at a university.

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