In a speech I gave to a group of student activists yesterday, I said that part of how the culture moves from seeing campuses as quiet to seeing them as hotbeds of student protest is by simply beginning to pay attention to what’s been happening all along.

Student protest has always been a feature of American college life. There’s always something going on. Sometimes there’s more stuff going on, definitely, but there’s always something. Always quite a lot, actually. So when you start to pay attention, when you start looking, you’re bound to see stuff you weren’t expecting to see.

Which makes it hard to know how to interpret the stories that have been coming to my attention today.

Anyone who’s been following this blog recently knows about the string of racist incidents at UC San Diego over the last couple of weeks. First there was the “Compton Cookout” party invitation, urging attendees to dress and act as caricatures of black America, then there was the vile defense of that party presented on student-run campus television, and then there was the noose that was hung from a light fixture in the campus library late Thursday night.

Yesterday I heard of another bias incident on a California campus — a swastika drawn on a Jewish student’s dorm room door at UC Davis, earlier this week. This morning I learned that the LGBT center at Davis had been vandalized with anti-gay slogans. And just an hour or so ago, I found out that someone dumped a bunch of cotton balls in front of the Black Culture Center at the University of Missouri on Friday morning.

Are all of these incidents related? Probably not. Are they just coincidence? Maybe.


But maybe I’m just seeing them because I’m looking. Maybe this isn’t a weird coincidence at all, but just a slightly-more-disgusting-than-average week in campus hate crimes.

Or maybe it’s somewhere in between.

I don’t know.