Rich Lowry: The Mizzou meltdown
It was doubtful that the University of Missouri would stand up to a left-wing pressure campaign targeting its president, but when the football team joined the campaign, it was all over.
Missouri is an SEC school, where even a mediocre football program — Mizzou is 1-5 against the rest of the conference — has formidable financial and cultural power.
If anyone running the university had any guts, the school would have told the team, “Come back and talk to us when you can beat sad sack Vanderbilt, or at least score more than three points against them.” Given the team’s performance, the proper rejoinder to its threatened boycott should have been, “How would anyone notice?”
Instead, Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri system, is out in one of the most parodic PC meltdowns on a college campus to date. The Missouri episode shows how the political climate on campus falls somewhere between a Tom Wolfe novel, a Monty Python skit and the French Terror.
A reasonable person will find it difficult to identify what Tim Wolfe stood accused of. The fact of the matter is that Missouri’s social-justice warriors forced him out simply because they could.
There were a few alleged racial incidents on campus, all involving racial slurs or symbols, including one where a drunken student verbally harassed a group of black students (he has been removed from campus, pending disciplinary procedures). Even if Missouri had a president straight out of an episode of “Portlandia” — the show lampooning exquisite progressive sensibilities — it would be beyond his power to prevent all rudeness on campus, especially drunken rudeness.
Nonetheless, the administration in general and Tim Wolfe in particular were held responsible. The list of supposed offenses was long (and very vague).
The Missouri Student Association complained that there wasn’t enough hand-holding after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson (when he attacked a police officer, but that’s always left out). “In the following months,” a statement whined, “our students were left stranded, forced to face an increase in tension and inequality with no systemic support.”
To read the association’s indictment, you’d think that the University of Missouri exists in a small enclave of Klan-dominated, Reconstruction-era Mississippi: “The academic careers of our students are suffering. The mental health of our campus is under constant attack. Our students are being ignored. We have asked the University to create spaces of healing and it failed to do so.”
This is the insatiable voice of children who object at the insufficiency of their coddling. In another outrage, no one powders the bottoms of Mizzou students after they go potty.
Once the grievance machinery got going, there was no right way for Tim Wolfe to respond. When he ignored protesters at the school’s homecoming parade, he had to grovel and ask for forgiveness: “I am sorry, and my apology is long overdue.” When he tried to engage protesters at another event, they asked him what “systematic oppression” means and, when he ventured an answer, screeched at him that he was blaming blacks for their own oppression.
An activist group came up with a list of demands. The first was that Wolfe write “a handwritten apology” to be read aloud at a press conference, and that it “must acknowledge his white male privilege.” The second demand was that he be fired. So they were merely demanding a rote confession of guilt before execution, a nice totalitarian touch.
Wolfe is lucky he got away with merely quitting, without having to agree to go through an arduous program of re-education. After decades of mockery, political correctness is stronger than ever on campus and has to strike fear into the hearts of every professor and administrator, who are potential victims no matter how much they kowtow to the children. It is an ongoing cultural revolution, and common sense and rationality are its natural enemies.