You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Students’ category.
This story stinks.
At about 2 am on Friday Chris Carter, a campus police officer from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, noticed a student, Robert Cameron Redus, driving erratically near campus. Apparently Redus didn’t stop his car immediately when Carter turned on his lights, instead driving into the parking lot of his building.
There was a disagreement during the stop, and then apparently some sort of struggle. According to a witness, the officer told the student that he was going to shoot, and the Redus responded by asking sarcastically, “Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?”
The officer did, firing four to six times. Redus died at the scene.
There’s a lot still unknown about the incident. But based on the facts available now, it’s a very strange story.
First, there’s the fact that a campus safety officer at a private Catholic college was carrying a gun on routine duty. I’ll admit that I didn’t know that was a thing.
Second, there’s the location of the initial incident — more than half a mile from the college. Since when do campus police make traffic stops at off-campus locations?
Third, there’s the officer’s record — nine jobs at eight different police agencies in eight years.
And then, of course, there’s the incident itself. A student is driving erratically. He doesn’t stop when told to. The cop, who has a checkered record, confronts him, threatens to shoot him. The student gives him attitude. Seconds later, he’s dead.
Maybe there’s a good explanation for all of it. But right now?
This story stinks.
Update | I haven’t found more recent data yet, but as of 2005 only 27% of American private colleges and universities of the size of the University of the Incarnate Word had armed campus police.
Second Update | UIW’s official statement on the shooting refers to Cameron Redus as “the suspect” and praises the officer’s “extensive law-enforcement background.”
Morning Update | Cameron Redus’s family has hired a lawyer.
The praise Nelson Mandela has received since his passing yesterday has been extravagant, well-deserved, and nearly universal. From every corner of the globe, Mandela has been lauded as a world leader without parallel in our era.
Praise for Mandela has been effusive even from many who had little use for him during the apartheid era. Conservative politicians from parties that spurned his struggle for national liberation while it was ongoing have been elbowing each other out of the way to memorialize him now.
This phenomenon has been particularly pronounced — and particularly jarring — at the website of the American conservative magazine National Review. Their outpouring of affection has shocked and dismayed many of the site’s regular readers, who have flooded the posts’ comments sections with expressions of outrage, many of them appallingly ugly, and the naked racism on display there has attracted a lot of attention around the ‘net.
More interesting to me, though, has been the way the writers at NR have dealt with the chasm between their present and past views. The editors’ unsigned editorial chose to avoid the topic entirely, instead tempering their praise for Mandela with criticism of some of his views, while the authors of each of the site’s two signed pieces wrote that their error in judging Mandela had been one of believing he was more of a leftist than he turned out to be. I’m not in a position to judge either of these writers’ sincerity, but the site’s collective representation of its, and the conservative movement’s, history with apartheid is dishonest.
William F. Buckley was the founder of National Review, and America’s leading conservative intellectual for much of the second half of the 20th century. He was also an explicit supporter of white supremacy — throughout the 1950s and 1960s he scoffed at the idea that either black Africans or black Americans were capable of self-governance.
As the years passed Buckley’s public views on the civil rights movement in the United States became more moderated, but his antipathy to popular democracy in Africa remained a constant. Here he is in a 1986 op-ed, writing just four years before Mandela was released from prison — at a time when the South African government had already begun the secret negotiations that would lead to an orderly transition to majority rule in that country:
“Western democratic fundamentalism has made things especially hard in South Africa for one simple reason, and that is that Western opinion has consolidated around the position that unless every black in South Africa over the age of 18 is given the vote, there is still injustice in the land.
“The government will not … grant political equality to everyone in South Africa. Nor should it. It is preposterous at one and the same time to remark the widespread illiteracy in South Africa and to demand the universal franchise.
“Continue our moral pressure, by all means. But … pull back on the one-man, one vote business.”
The open racism on display here is startling, of course. But so is the blatant antipathy to democracy itself. An insistence on the rightness of popular self-determination is, in Buckley’s eyes, a form of “fundamentalism” — if the black majority in South Africa, after generations of white minority suppression, is not prepared to exercise the franchise in the way, and with the results, that Buckley prefers, then it is entirely right and popular for that white minority to deny them the vote indefinitely.
A lot has been said in the last 24 hours about the impulse to water down Mandela’s fierce commitments and challenging beliefs, to canonize a pastel caricature instead of grappling with the man he was and the true fight he fought. But we should be just as wary about revising the history of his antagonists, of pretending that the only racists in power who were fighting to keep him and his people imprisoned were those who ruled his nation.
Not thirty years ago one of America’s most prominent conservatives offered the opinion, unsolicited, that black South Africans would not, could not, and should not govern themselves.
That shouldn’t be forgotten.
Both the City University of New York and Cooper Union are currently considering sweeping changes to their codes of student conduct, changes which — if recently circulated drafts are implemented — would dramatically curtail students’ expressive rights at those institutions.
Actually, that’s not quite right. Yes, changes to student conduct rules are being contemplated at the two universities, and yes, the changes under consideration would curtail students’ freedom to speak, organize, and agitate, but it’s not CUNY and Cooper as institutions that are contemplating the changes. It’s their trustees.
This distinction is relevant for two reasons. First, because many students and faculty at both Cooper and CUNY have spoken out against the proposals, and if shared governance were more robust at either institution the discussions would be proceeding in a very different way. And second because the idea of non-students establishing and enforcing conduct rules for students was once much more controversial than it is now.
There are still some campuses in the United States at which some student disciplinary charges are considered by student judiciaries of one kind or another, and some where students have a say in what the disciplinary rules of the campus will be, but such bodies are uncommon and usually quite circumscribed in their ability to act freely.
It wasn’t always that way.
Take a look, for instance, at this quote from Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union, excerpted from a letter that he wrote to the college’s trustees in 1859:
“Desiring, as I do, that the students of this institution may become pre-eminent examples in the practice of all the virtues, I have determined to give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves for their good judgment by annually recommending to the Trustees for adoption, such rules and regulations as they, on mature reflection, shall believe to be necessary and proper, to preserve good morals and good order throughout their connection with this institution.
“It is my desire, and I hereby ordain, that a strict conformity to rules deliberately formed by a vote of the majority of the students, and approved by the Trustees, shall forever be an indispensable requisite for continuing to enjoy the benefits of this institution. I now most earnestly entreat each and every one of the students of this institution, through all coming time, to whom I have entrusted this great responsibility of framing laws for the regulation of their conduct in their connection with the institution, and by which any of the members may lose its privileges, to remember how frail we are, and how liable to err when we come to sit in judgment on the faults of others, and how much the circumstances of our birth, our education, and the society and country where we have been born and brought up, have had to do in forming us and making us what we are. The power of these circumstances, when rightly understood, will be found to have formed the great lines of difference that mark the characters of the people of different countries and neighborhoods. And they constitute a good reason for the exercise of all our charity. …
“I trust that the students of this institution will do something to bear back the mighty torrent of evils now pressing on the world. I trust that here they will learn to overcome the evils of life with kindness and affection. I trust that here they will find that all true greatness consists in using all the powers they possess to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them; and in this way to become really great by becoming the servant of all.”
Peter Cooper envisioned a college in which students would establish their own rules of conduct, a college in which the trustees would merely certify the students’ decisions. The students would review and update those regulations annually, and they would — Cooper hoped — do so in a spirit of generosity and forbearance.
It’s a long way from Peter Cooper’s vision to the university administration’s decision this summer to send armed guards to a peaceful campus demonstration.
The graphic that accompanies this post is an image of a printed version of the Peter Cooper passage quoted above. It was sent to me by Cooper alumna Carol Wolf, who took the photo.
I’d like to say a little more about what I meant last week when I wrote in defense of the principle of free public higher education, and I’d like to say it in the form of a series of annotations to a joke tee shirt.
A few months back I tweeted that education should be free as in speech, free as in beer, and free as in Huey. A couple of days later I expanded on the sentiment:
Free as in speech. Free as in beer. Free as in Huey. Free as in love. Free as in bird. No MOOCs, is what I’m saying.
Folks seemed to like that, and when I noodled around with the idea in an airport bar a while later, the idea of making it a tee shirt was born. (The shirts are currently on sale as a fundraiser for this site. The sale ends tomorrow, on the evening of Wednesday, December 4.)
But what, exactly, does the shirt mean? Turns out that’s a little complicated. Let’s break it down.
Free as in speech.
The speech/beer/Huey tweet that started the whole thing was a riff on a phrase coined by activist Richard Stallman to describe the Free Software movement: “Think free as in free speech, not free beer.” What Stallman meant was that free software is a matter of, as he put it, “liberty, not price” — that the goal of the movement is to create software that can be shared, modified, and adapted, rather than just software you don’t have to pay for.
So when I say that education (primary, secondary, and higher) should be free as in speech and free as in beer, I’m saying that I embrace the liberty goals expressed in Stallman’s slogan while rejecting the idea that access to education should be constrained by your ability to pay, about which more in a moment.
Free speech is, of course, often put forward as a core value of the educational project — the “freedom” at issue in the phrase “academic freedom” is a freedom of inquiry and expression. That freedom has come increasingly under attack in recent years with the erosion of tenure, professorial independence, and faculty governance, and it’s a freedom that’s worth defending.
It’s a freedom that’s worth expanding too, particularly with regard to students’ rights. The concept of academic freedom is often framed as a faculty right, but a campus where students do not have the right to speak and write and organize without administrative restraint is an unfree campus — and that applies in school as much as in college.
Free as in beer.
When I wrote about free public higher education last week, I was speaking primarily in terms of the degree’s actual, material, dollars-and-cents pricetag. Free-as-in-beer public higher ed used to be common in America, and it’s a project worth reviving.
Seen in a certain light, in fact, the idea of paid public higher ed is a historical anomaly. Today more than 30% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree. Before World War II fewer than 30% of Americans had high school diplomas. And yet while free, public, universal high school is a political and cultural given in the United States, not a single state makes even community colleges accessible to those same young people a couple of years later under the same conditions.
If a college education is as essential today as a high school education was in 1940, and it is, then it seems to me that a college education should reasonably be as free today as a high school education was then.
So yes, education should be free as in speech and it should be free as in beer. But that’s just the beginning.
Free as in Huey.
Huey Newton was, with Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party in the mid-1960s. In October 1967, at the height of police harassment of the Panthers, two Oakland cops rolled up on Newton and a friend while they were returning from a party. Soon one officer was dead and Newton critically wounded. Testimony about what happened that night was muddled at best, but despite indications that the officer might have been accidentally shot by his partner, Newton was placed on trial for first degree murder.
The subsequent prosecution was a mess, exposing police misconduct, bias in the court system, and clear evidence of a frame-up. After three trials, Newton was vindicated and freed. ”Free Huey” was the rallying cry of Newton’s supporters during the 22 months he spent in jail and the two years of legal wrangling that followed.
So what does all that have to do with education? A lot. Free education is liberatory education, opposed to bigotry and institutional oppression. The campus should be an incubator not just of ideas but of organizing as well. (Not every member of the community will share the same values, of course, but that diversity of opinion is itself a strength of the campus environment.)
And as Jacob Remes pointed out on Twitter after I first published this essay earlier today, there’s another way in which education should be made “Free as in Huey” — it needs to be let out of jail. The ever-escalating police presence on campus (and in schools) needs to be reversed, as does the ever-increasing criminalization of protest and other unsanctioned behavior.
One last footnote: It’s not often remembered today, but Huey Newton and his Panther co-founder Bobby Seale met through the Afro American Association at Merritt College, an Oakland community college which was, until 1984, tuition-free. The Black Panthers would likely not have existed if California did not at the time offer its residents free-as-in-beer public higher education.
Free as in lunch.
At first glance, “free as in lunch” reads as reiteration of “free as in beer,” and it is that, up to a point. The idea that public education shouldn’t carry a price tag is important enough to mention twice.
But there’s more to it as well. The phrase “free as in lunch” here operates as a rebuke to the expression “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (often acronymized to TANSTAAFL) which was popularized by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein and conservative economist Milton Friedman in the mid 20th century.
The idea behind TANSTAAFL is that nothing is truly free. If a bar is offering you a free lunch, they’re doing it to get you to buy drinks. If a service is offered to the public without charge, it’s being paid for by taxes or some other hidden mechanism. If a system is putting out energy, it has to be getting that energy from somewhere.
All this is true, up to a point. Someone has to pay the professors and RAs and janitors even in a free university. Perpetual motion machines are, strictly defined, a hoax. And yet the hard-nosed “realism” of the phrase masks other equally compelling truths — truths about voluntarism, and communal effort, and the social benefits that accrue to all from investment in public goods.
The universe may be a zero-sum game on the level of physics, but the world of human endeavor is not. There is such a thing as a free lunch, and we shouldn’t be afraid to demand one.
Free as in bird.
People request Freebird at concerts because it is awesome and preposterous.
Education should be awesome and preposterous.
Free as in love.
I am, of course, tempted to quote Che Guevara at this point, but instead I’ll reach back further to an earlier, more flamboyant, and ultimately more revolutionary thinker — the 19th century feminist Victoria Woodhull:
“Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it.”
I’ve always been enamored of the phrase “free love,” which was first coined a few decades before Woodhull used it here. Simultaneously archaic and modern, it packs a tremendous amount of meaning into each of its two short words. As articulated by Woodhull here it also has the virtue of audacity, a characteristic that every education activist requires.
Yes, I am a free lover. Yes, I am a free speecher. Yes, I am a free beerer. Yes, I am a Free Hueyer. Yes, I am a free luncher. Yes, I am a free birder. Yes, I believe in speech and beer and Huey and lunch and bird and love.
Yes, I believe in free education for all.
The last couple of weeks have seen students launch occupations of campus spaces in at least three British universities in the lead-up to a national strike of campus personnel slated for tomorrow.
This morning several dozen students at the University of Edinburgh stormed the offices of the university’s finance director demanding an increase in staff wages and a cap of high-ranking administrators’ salaries at ten times the pay of the university’s lowest-paid employees.
Last Tuesday students occupied a building at the University of Sussex in a protest against higher education privatization, particularly the outsourcing of food, maintenance, and security services on campus and the impending privatization of student loans in Britain. Students occupied the same building for two months earlier this year before being forcibly evicted. That occupation is ongoing, though the university will appear in court tomorrow seeking permission to roust the students.
And on Thursday administrators at the University of Birmingham sent police to break up a week-long campus occupation in support of democracy in campus governance and opposition to high fees, low wages, and student loan privatization. The Birmingham administration is seeking a court injunction banning protest on campus for the next twelve months.