After two weeks of unrest at St. Olaf College in rural Minnesota, during which a group calling themselves “The Collective for Change” shut down classrooms and barred access to campus buildings, the casus belli -- a note using the “n-word” left on a student’s windshield -- has turned out to be a hoax.
Andrew Morales, an economics major at St. Olaf’s reached today for comment is not surprised. After voicing reservations last week over what he saw was a rush to judgement, he’s been ostracized: “I’ve been called every name in the book: bigot, sexist, racist, homophobic — everything. It’s silly.”
In a scene reminiscent of recent violence at the University of California at Berkeley, Morales describes how his roommates Andrew Salij and Dionicio Luna were locked inside the main Buntrock building on campus by protesters. Another student was punched in the face for trying to escape. Students later rallied to another building preventing people from coming and going and in the process manhandled an elderly lady. You can listen to my full interview with Morales here.
Interestingly, The Collective consistently downplayed the importance of the notes from the beginning of the entire charade. They went to great lengths to emphasize that the focus should not be “individual incidents or students, but an ideology that is continuously supported by the administration’s lack of action and the student body’s harmful attitudes.”
Their aim: “to hold the administration and students of St. Olaf College accountable for the institutionalized racism that is embedded within the structures of this campus.”
The administration fell all over themselves to comply -- first by signing The Collective’s “Terms and Conditions of Negotiation,” then by taking under advisement the rabble rousers “List of Demands," ranging from mandated “racial and cultural sensitivity training” to changes in curricula and stipends for International Student Counselors.
Morales, a Mexican-American economics major from Pasadena, cried foul, insisting that The Collective was “using these incidents to progress their own lefty agenda.”
Topping the list of that agenda is the removal of Arne Christensen from a university advisory board. Christensen, Managing Director of Policy and Politics for the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC,) is objectionable because of his “political views and values as a Christian Zionist,” according to The Collective.
The group also demanded a “strategic 10-year plan” of affirmative action to hire more “Indigenous, Black/African-American, Latinx-American, Asian-American, Multiracial, Queer, Female, and international faculty and staff members.”
But from Morales’ point of view, hiring teachers based on the color of their skin or their sexual preferences misses the true point of diversity.
“They want diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, whatever, but they never touch upon diversity of opinion.”
He describes how one of his professors simultaneously acknowledged and discounted the pervasive campus bias against libertarian and conservative students. The professor agreed “that conservatives were demonized on campus,” but snarkily added: “It’s really difficult to change your race or ethnicity, but you could always shut up if you’re a conservative.”
Shut up, and show up for “a mandatory Sustained Dialogue participation for all Student Athletes (more specifically varsity athletes).” Show up at “events that are held by organizations that fall under the Diversity Celebrations Committee” -- attendance to be mandated by the administration. Show up for new “mandatory introductory courses in Race & Ethnic Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies departments.”
The pace reminds me of the daily indoctrination of students portrayed in Ayn Rand’s We the Living: “The Komsomol Club at noon; a committee on day-nurseries in factories at one-thirty; the Marxist Circle at two; demonstration against illiteracy at three...lecture on electrification at four…”
The students in Rand’s semi-autobiographical novel were given no time to learn, no time to think, which is why they became students in the first place. They were force fed a party line in a sustained and largely successful campaign to numb the mind and stunt the spirit.
Ayn Rand and her associates intended irony when they named themselves “The Collective.” Rand’s themes of individualism, freedom and self-determination were the very antithesis of collectivism -- the idea that the individual must be subordinated to the group, the tribe, the state.
The Collective of St. Olaf, by contrast, appears to have aptly chosen a name that reflects a view of society as a collection of groups of individuals. In collectivism, groups are prime movers of society, not individuals.
I suppose I should have reached out to The Collective, collectively, for comment on the campus brouhaha. Instead I reached out to Udeepta Chakravarty, a St. Olaf student from South Delhi, who helped craft The Collective’s demands.
His response to my query was, “‘Prime movers’ have no time for interviews.” Yep, that’s what he said on the neatly typewritten note on my car. Actually, LinkedIn.
Ignorance, irony or arrogance….or perhaps, an oblique admission of authorship.
In a statement this afternoon, St. Olaf’s President said, “Federal student privacy laws prohibit the College from disclosing the identity of the author of that note and from disclosing the actions taken by the College now that we know the author's identity,” but did reveal “that we learned from the author's confession that the note was fabricated. It was apparently a strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”
More will undoubtedly be soon revealed, but what should be clear is that further indoctrination with leftist victimology, identify politics and postmodern collectivist claptrap will only perpetuate a climate in which students focus on perceived differences, disadvantages and imagined slights. The students who exploited, knowingly or not, relatively trivial and ultimately fabricated threats should be condemned, not coddled. And the very rare students like Andrew Morales, who spoke out against the mob and spoke up for rationality, should be commended for his courage and commitment to reality.
Jennifer Anju Grossman is the CEO of the Atlas Society.