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Hamilton College student: Why I stood up against segregated diversity program

Hamilton College student: Why I stood up against segregated diversity program

Hamilton’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion initially rejected my objection as “in the minority”

On Thursday, September 19, 2013, every Hamilton College student received an e-mail invitation to a racially segregated event.

Entitled “Real Talk: A Dialogue About Internalized Racism,” the discussion would have centered on ways in which minorities, “may have accepted racist attitudes towards other racial groups and [their] own racial/ethnic communities.”

Hamilton College Real Talk Brochure

(Hamilton College Real Talk Brochure)

In order to create a “safe zone,” the event was open to people of color only. A subsequent event next semester would have been open only to white students and faculty and the program would have culminated in a non-segregated discussion of the same topic.

I do not dispute the importance of the topic.

Internalized racism exists and there should be a forum to examine it. But I felt that the structure the Hamilton Days-Massolo Center chose has no place in a country with a not-so-distant history of racial segregation.

Even forgiving the remarkable historical insensitivity that Days-Massolo demonstrated, segregation is not the path to enriching discussions, especially on the issue of race.

Hamilton bills itself as, “a national leader in teaching students to learn from each other.” Our school has a proud tradition of preparing students to succeed in the highest levels of politics, business or whatever field they choose.

These arenas are not safe zones. An important part of any good liberal arts education is learning how to articulate a position and defend it against substantive challenges. It is a difficult skill, and no one learns to master it in the confines of a safe zone.

The defense of these events by Amit Taneja, Hamilton’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion, betrays a troubling lack of leadership at the Days-Massolo Center.

Before going public, I met privately with Mr. Taneja to voice my concerns. I was speaking not just as an individual student, but as a leader of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (the AHI), an independent, off-campus organization with membership of more than 150 Hamilton students dedicated to the study of Western Civilization.

Mr. Taneja alleged that my opinions were “in the minority” of the student body. Mr. Taneja had not conducted a survey of the student body’s feelings on this issue, so he had no position to make this claim.

Even accepting the truth of his defense, Mr. Taneja’s response makes it unclear if he understands the stated mission of his own organization. The Days-Massolo Center exists to support minorities of every variety on this campus. Mr. Taneja’s title of Director of Diversity and Inclusion implies a duty to address the concerns of not just religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, but every Hamilton student.

After my meeting with Mr. Taneja, the Hamilton students active at the AHI collectively decided to publicize our concerns on a number of media outlets.

We prepared a petition to Hamilton’s board of trustees and op-ed for the school newspaper. We also made plans for an alternative, non-segregated discussion on race, to be held at the same time as the Days-Massolo Center’s.

On Sunday evening, September 22, we sent an all-campus email advertising both Hamilton’s segregation, and the AHI’s discussion. The email mentioned that the college was segregating the event in the interest of creating a safe zone, and that we believed no safe zone was worth the price of segregation.

“RACIAL SEGREGATION AT HAMILTON”

On Thursday, in the name of creating a “safe zone,” Hamilton College will officially sponsor a segregated discussion about race.

The Alexander Hamilton Institute believes that no safe zone is worth the price of segregation.

All are welcome to join us for a conversation on race. Thursday (9/26) in the Sadove Conference Room (112) at 4:15.

It will not be a safe zone.

Within minutes, Mr. Taneja announced in an email that he had decided to open the event to all races. Shortly thereafter, we cancelled our event.

I knew that our protests were controversial, but I was not expecting the eruption of anger, frustration, and even hatred that ensued.

That night, I was threatened with violence and accused of white supremacy, almost entirely by students I had never met. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with both fury and support over what the AHI had done. Since the emails were sent from my personal account, much of the emotion was directed at me. I had never seen my school so divided.

On Monday, September 23, I attended the Hamilton Student Assembly meeting (which, according to the SA President, was the most widely attended such meeting he’d ever seen) to clarify and reiterate what I said in my emails.

I did so in the face of an audience that was overwhelmingly biased against me. Almost every comment made by students either implicitly or explicitly attacked my character.

On Tuesday morning, the campus was littered with hundreds of pieces of paper posted on trees, windows, doors, and everywhere else imaginable with various quotes and slogans about social justice.

Hamilton College poster - Racist

(Poster on Hamilton College campus)

One urged students not to be the victim of “somebody else’s ignorance.”

Hamilton’s campus was no “safe zone” for me or anyone sympathetic to what the Alexander Hamilton Institute did.

I’m proud that the AHI’s actions led to the event being opened to all races. I’m proud that what we did helped to spark a conversation Hamilton quite clearly needs to have.

I’m ashamed, however, at the way in which the conversation has unfolded. Every one of the fliers posted on Tuesday was anonymous. Much of the community’s public discussion has taken place through an anonymous Facebook forum called Hamilton Secrets.

And sadly, even what has been said anonymously has been dogmatic and uncivil.

This is a conversation that needs to happen respectfully, face-to-face. Until it does, Hamilton College will not be a safe zone for anybody.

——————————–

Dean Ball attends Hamilton College and is President of the AHI Undergraduate Fellows.  Dean previously was featured in our post, a Hamilton College student speaks out against the real diversity problem on campus.

Related background posts at Legal Insurrection regarding the diversity program controversy:

Prior posts regarding the Alexander Hamilton Institute:

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Comments

See, thing is, college students know everything. Just ask them. And they are so completely, unequivocally, irrefutably right about everything that it is impossible to disagree except as from a position of evil.
Most learn better after graduation except if they become professors, certain individuals excepted.

So proud of you! Please continue the good fight. We need millions more like you in our colleges.

No surrender, no retreat.

Firstly, I would ask the event coordinators, and the schools administration why every event on campus is not a ‘safe zone.’

Assuming they even acknowledge the existence of safe zones I would then ask what the criteria are for determining what activities qualify for ‘safe zone’ status, and why those not qualifying are treated differently.

But beyond all that, the question is not whether you “dispute the importance of the topic” the question is whether the event coordinators, by their own willingness to engage in racial segregation understand the very nature of the topic.

Or, was the purported nature of the topic nothing more than a smokescreen for an event that would have proven to be something else entirely? Perhaps a forum for division and grievance mongering.

Frankly the more I think about it, and the more I envision any such meeting of racial exclusion it smacks of racial fascism. Minus the white sheets of course.

“Mr. Taneja alleged that my opinions were “in the minority” of the student body. Mr. Taneja had not conducted a survey of the student body’s feelings on this issue, so he had no position to make this claim.”

This alone illustrates the inconsistency and hypocrisy. They are concerned about minorities having a voice? No. They are not. Not to mention the issue is what is right, just, and in keeping with the principles of the college. Sometimes the majority is dead wrong.

    ThomasD in reply to rick67. | September 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

    What the ‘in the minority’ remark reveals is that these people are not concerned with protecting the rights of individuals.

    They are about privileging chosen identity groups via the language of civil rights.

    it’s the old, “Minority Inclusion for me and mine, but not for thee and thine.”

I agree that segregated meetings held by the college should never occur, especially about race, because they are self defeating.
I do understand why some would want them, however. Assertions could be safely made without fear of challenging opinions and decades old grievances can be aired as if they still existed and no dissent would be heard. The problem is it would do nothing to promote harmony and understanding between people but would exacerbate existing tensions.

    ThomasD in reply to arnonerik. | September 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    They are self defeating if your goal is “to promote harmony and understanding between people.”

    If your goal is something else they may be the cat’s meow.

    The question then becomes, what might those other intentions be?

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to arnonerik. | September 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    ….and therein lies their true purpose – to keep the pot stirred. The black-run American machine must keep their youth boiling the cauldrons of hate. That is a difficult task because their subjects, black college youths, have had so many privileges and excuses afforded them during all their formative years.

    I fear that the hate and fear mongers fear that black youth of privilege and an easy life do not harbor enough hatred of whitey. They need to get more ghetto rats on campus to cure that ailment.

You are to be commended, Mr. Ball.

Be that as it may, I DO dispute the importance of this topic. It’s the epitome of counter-productive.

You goin’ straight t’ hell, son.

They exploit differentials and gradients to advance their political, economic, and social standing. The incorporation of human and civil rights movements has obstructed and significantly organic integration.

    n.n in reply to n.n. | September 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    significantly delayed organic integration

    They are not only not addressing latent prejudice, but they are actively promoting prejudice in succeeding generations.

With job titles like “Director of Diversity & Inclusion” it is no surprise that the education system in the United States is in danger of collapse (for further information see Instapundit). My immediate impression is that this job was created to “check the box” and enable Hamilton College to receive additional government funding. Likely outcome: turning out more people whose skills will never meet needs in the real economy, and who will become either wards of the state (or their parents), unfortunately.

I bet Tupac wasn’t shot by a white guy.

I do dispute “the importance of the topic.” It’s not important at all! There is NOT a serious problem with “racism” today. Relative not only to our past, but to most of the world in the present, we have no problem.

I speak of course of actual racism being used to unlawfully deprive people of rights due to their race, not some manufactured “disrespect” that “hurts feelings.”

If you feeling are hurt, you can either get over it, or die from it. That’s up to you, but you have no “right” to be liked, much less to be deferred to because of your skin color. That, IMHO, is just as much “racism” as anything.

If you want to be liked, be nicer, and not so loud and obnoxious.

And cut off all taxpayer funding for institutions that waste it on garbage like this.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Estragon. | September 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Everyone has a First Amendment right to be offended – or not be. If they choose to be offended, the “offender” is somehow required to suffer for the choice made by the “offended.”

[…] This pricey liberal arts school scheduled an event called “Real Talk: A Dialogue About Internalized Racism,” about how minorities “may have accepted racist attitudes towards other racial groups and [their] own racial/ethnic communities” and, in order to create a “safe zone,” the event was open to people of color only. […]

[…] Fellow Dean Ball recently wrote an article on a controversial event at his college entitled “Hamilton College Student: Why I Stood Up Against Segregates Diversity Program,” which appeared in the publication Legal […]

[…] bad weather, a sorry football team — Hamilton lost to 23-7 to Amherst – and not knowing the difference between segregation and “diversity,” it appears that Hamilton College’s problems also include coeds who don’t know how to […]

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