Question: When is a college’s “diversity program” full of fail?

Answer: When a group of liberal students in Massachusetts boycotts it.

According to an article by Megan Patoskie, a student at Bard College – Simon’s Rock, in The Llama Ledger:

Students boycotted the 7th annual Diversity Day on Wednesday, Nov. 14 outside of the campus library and classrooms and distributed grievance fliers in order to express their views on how diversity is approached on campus. Approximately 50 students boycotted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but attracted a larger audience throughout the day as other students and faculty proceeded to the annual scheduled workshops.

Diversity Day is an annual campus event during which students are required to attend three workshops from a selection of 40 offered. These workshops focus on social justice issues related to race and gender, religion, body image, and sexuality. The event replaces classes for the day.

The protest was actually in response to one student’s distribution of “The Diversity Day Challenge”, which questioned the value of diversity.

“I came here because over the past couple weeks, you’ve had this individual running around campus questioning the importance of our diversity,” Mohammed Adawulai ’09 said. “In doing so, I think when you question the importance of diversity in a community, especially when you’re doing it from a position of racial, gender verbiage, you tend to undermine the very existence of the people who look different from you; it questions the very importance of your well-being, the contribution you make to society. I thought that was wrong.”

In a video featuring the boycotters, one student says the event makes her feel like a “token spicing up a cultural narrative”, while another complains that a “white supremacist” would not get sent home.  As one man succinctly puts it, “Diversity Day has not worked”.

A snippet from the boycott statement provided by student Julia Griffin gives further insight to the complex, quasi-First Amendment-oriented thinking behind this action:

 … We feel that Diversity Day operates, at best, as a consolation prize where the actual needs and rights of oppressed students have been ignored. Things we wish to bring to public attention are:

    • We have been asked to justify our feelings of being unsafe and threatened in response to a white supremacist ideology
    • We have been further victimized, we have been called “bullies,” and we have been told to tolerate intolerance
    • We have been given the message that the first amendment right of one student overrides the right of students to speak out in their own defense
    • We were publicly told by the provost, Peter Laipson, to “be mindful of strong emotions,” and have been told by the community at large to be complacent in the face of our own oppression as an ongoing defense of first amendment rights
    • The suggestion that an emotional response to harassment and hate speech is wrong or uncalled for, simply because it does not mirror the apathy of the oppressor, is a notion which necessarily arises from a position or influence of privilege or denial—It is impossible for us to not be emotionally affected and any suggestion otherwise invalidates our lived experiences and dehumanizes us…..

But what protest is complete without a counter-protest?  From Patoskie’s report:

During the protest, an anonymous flier entitled “Boycott the Boycott” was copied and circulated, arguing that by holding a boycott, the students were siding with those who disagree with having any Diversity Day. The flier claimed the boycott and those involved were “selfish in thinking that [their] opinion is the only one that isn’t being heard” and questioned “whether the movement causes greater disruption in the body of this campus than it attempts to solve.”

Circular firing squad, indeed!