To the editor:

If President Levin offered a plan for financial aid reform last night (“Levin states plan to alter financial aid,” 2/23), I must have missed it. Levin made no specific proposals and maintained his refusal to sit down at the table with students who have. He asked students to choose between unspecified reductions in the family contribution and the student contribution, on the grounds that Yale can’t “be a leader along every dimension.” Yale students, including the over a thousand who’ve pledged support to the UOC’s financial aid reform platform, expect better. It’s time for Yale to eliminate the family contribution for low-income families and halve the student contribution for everyone as a step towards equality of access to Yale and equality of experience for students here. Asking students to choose one reform or the other is an impossible choice. And for the many students working additional hours to help close the gap between what Yale thinks their families can afford and their actual circumstances, it’s a meaningless one. That’s among the things Levin might have learned last night if he had taken students’ stories seriously rather than dismissing them as exceptions or questioning their honesty.

Josh Eidelson ‘06

This post has sparked some strong disagreement from Errol and Jamie. Errol writes:

Why shouldn’t that student or students like him be able to go to a school where he feels comfortable expressing his opinion on campus. This is a very widespread opinion because it’s almost uniformly ignored by liberals on college campuses around the nation. We simply ignore that while making our campuses an open forum for almost every liberal, progressive, leftist or whatever you want to call left of center opinions, that we impose an almost tyrannical speech code on our more conservative students. They’re not only often afraid of being relegated to being pariah by speaking their minds in class about what they might see as the negative effects of an encroaching welfare state, the evils of moral relativism, or the value of tradition in human interaction, but they must constantly be bombarded with propaganda with which they disagree. The implication of your post seems to be that conservative students or others that feel very much marginalized on college campuses should just suck it up. Why should they? Is it because they’re in the minority? Or is it because you have such a firm control over the truth or over what’s right and what’s wrong that you can suddenly feel comfortable excluding certain voices from discourse? Because ultimately that is what lost when people feel so uncomfortable, when people feel strongly enough about the social pressures that they feel to evoke “the Nazi button policies” as a way to explain to others the level of oppressiveness that they feel.

For sake of time, I’ll reprint here my response in the comments: I’m not clear on how it is, Errol, in your argument, that “an almost tyranical speech code” is imposed on “our more conservative students.” Is it simply by nature of disagreeing with these more conservative students that the majority is teetering on the edge of tyranny? What I labelled as immature in the piece I linked was the contention that merely being asked by peers to support a social cause that one disagrees with is oppressive. The natural end point of this argument, it seems to me, would be that no Yale Law student should ask for another Yale Law student to join a cause unless she knows that he already is aware of and supportive of it. That seems likely to translate into very few causes getting off the ground at a school which prides itself on – and attracts students through – its reputation for cultivating students concerned about their surrounding and national communities and prepared to use the law in support of social justice.

As someone who tends to come down pretty far on one side of the spectrum of opinion at Yale, I’ve often been in the position of being an ideological minority. But while I’ve certainly been critical of policies – like police seizure of leaflets in the Woolsey Rotunda – which restrict my expression of those views, I’ve never argued that my views are being stifled simply by not being widely shared. The past few years have provided endless chances to watch the same national and local figures relentlessly bemoan a “culture of victimhood” amongst historically marginalized groups while raising alarms over the supposed oppression of campus conservatives who are stuck, for example, having liberal commencement speakers. Few of them have gone so far as to compare solicitations to support a cause to Nazism.

We’re told that “there was very little opportunity to express alternative opinions at the law school,” but we get no account of any dissent that was stifled, or any attempt to express those alternative opinions. He offers no evidence that he tried to do so – or to identify himself as an intentionally “non-button wearing student” rather than someone who hadn’t had the chance to get one. Democracy is messy. Sometimes it involves being asked to do things one doesn’t want to. If he had said no and discovered as a result that his grades were being lowered or his posters were being torn down or, say, his door was being slammed with a 2 by 4, that would be more like persecution.

As for the enforcement of the non-discrimination policy, if you have evidence that it’s going unenforced in other cases, or questions about its parameters, there’s a phalanx of lawyers and futures lawyers on this campus much better equipped to respond.

Jamie also argues that I should have more sympathy for the Patrick P:

And yes, Yale is an “oppressive” place to be if you’re a conservative, er, rather, not a leftist. I often have to ask myself if those who think not being a liberal at Yale is easy live on the same planet as I do. When I ask myself this question, the answer I always come up with is, no, these people do not live on this planet. And don’t even try to tell me that you’ve felt unfairly marginalized as part of the “ideological minority.” You haven’t. For people who use the word “Nazi” and “fascist” so freely to describe your political opponents, its clear that you’ve lost any and all ability you might have once had (which probably wasn’t all that much to write home about in the first place) to recognize literary devices like facetiousness or overstatement. To act as if being one of 90 people not to sign a petition that the other 500 of your professors and peers have deemed to be a moral necessity is an easy situation to live with flies in the face of reality.

Look, it’s never easy to disagree be surrounded by people who disagree with you, as generations of college students on various parts of the political spectrum on various campuses have discovered over the past several generations. Fortunately, many choose to speak up anyway. Hopefully, all of us are at college looking to encounter articulate advocates for positions we disagree with, and hopefully we’ve each been successful. Jamie’s quick to dismiss the claim that those of us to the left of the Yale center may also have it less than easy sometimes. I think it’s worth noting that the major instance of violent response to dissent while we’ve been on campus was targeted against a girl hanging an upside-down American flag. And I think it’s worth noting that it’s been students criticizing University policy from the left who’ve been stopped or detained by the police. To read some of Jamie’s earlier posts you’d think that left-wing critics of University policy represented a tiny fringe; to read ones like this you would think that the student body was a massive cohort of far-left radicals. I’d say the truth is somewhere in between.

To argue that Yale oppresses those to the right of the left simply rings hollow. For copies of Light and Truth to be confiscated by administrators back when because they suggested skipping sex-ed lectures was certainly outrageous, although I’m not fully persuaded that can be chalked up to left-wing bias rather than a generally spotty record on protecting dissent from administration policy. Of course, it’s usually been students on the left who’ve borne the brunt of Yale’s failures in this vein. On the other hand, a student who chooses to attend a political rally supporting a candidate but claims he can’t release his name out of fear of intimidation doesn’t persuade me that it’s the liberals creating, in Jamie’s words, “an environment in which students are meant to keep their opinions to themselves.” And I’d say there’s something twisted in students arguing that professors and students who make strong criticisms of the Republican President, Republican House, or Republican Senate are responsible for othering those students who support the party running our government, or doing some other verb to them which Jamie and others don’t believe in when it’s used to describe the experience of, say, a black female student marginalized by the presence of only one black woman with tenure at Yale. I’m sure that there are situations in which professors overly antagonize students they disagree with on the right, or wrongly let disagreement affect how they grade students on the right, or in which students are rude or dismissive towards students on the right, just as all of these cases are experienced in reverse by students on the left. But that does not oppression make. And if we hear more about the marginalization of conservative students nationally, it may be in part because conservatives have been very effective in using the think tanks and media they dominate the perpetuate the idea of an oppressive liberal university to complement the supposed oppressive liberal media, and to bring accounts of said oppression to light and onto the airwaves.

The account I responded to isn’t even a borderline case. Here the supposed oppression consists simply of the articulation of a viewpoint by a majority of other students, and the appeals of some of those students that he join. It’s ridiculous to claim that as persecution. And it’s that much more ridiculous to compare it to Nazism. Contrary to Jamie’s implication, I’ve never referred here, or in any other venue I know of, to my peers as Nazis. I also haven’t called him a “homophobe” for opposing the activism of Yale Law students. If there are examples to the contrary, let me know. I do believe that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is soaked in and perpetuates bigotry in a similar manner to the racial segregation of the military not so very long ago.

Errol and Jamie are also disappointed that I and others in what Jamie sees as “Yale’s ever-so-righteous corps of lefty bloggers” haven’t gotten around to critiquing this column. What is there to say? Instead of exploring the divide Bush’s cabinet appointments have demonstrated between descriptive and substantive representation of ethnic minorities, or assessing the destructive impact of Bush’s policy on black communities, or considering the frightening implications of another four years of this foreign policy, she launches an offensive, outrageous, and useless attack on Rice as secretly being a white man. It’s a terrible column. I think we can all agree there.

Reading between the lines: Over at The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez is gleeful at the prospect of nasty weather depressing Democratic turnout. She quotes one of their readers:

Considering how unenthused Kerry-ites are for their candidate and how revved up Bush supporters are for theirs, I wonder how much the weather is going to play a factor next week.

And Lopez sees fit to add:

Michael Moore’s free Ramen Noodles to register wouldn’t be enough to get me out of bed if I were a lazy, hung over college student, that’s for sure.

This is coded language, and not very well coded either. The real reason better weather (read: a more representative sample of voters) is better for the Democrats is that our voters are the ones who have the most trouble getting to polls. Because they make less money and live in poorer neighborhoods, they’re likely to have fewer voting machines, longer lines, less access to transportation, and more difficulty getting time out of work, childcare, and such to go vote. But even the National Review knows it’s impolitic to actually root for monsoon weather to keep poor Black voters from the polls. So they take potshots at college students as proxies.

Last summer, the New York Times magazine ran a cover story on “The New Hipublicans” – college Republican activists. The article, despite seeming to bend over backwards (likely cowed by the ever-present specter of “liberal media bias”) to paint the kids in as positive a light as possible, came under attack from all corners of the conservative press as another example of how out of touch the Times was when it came to conservatives. As I said at the time, if there was something leery and out of touch about the magazine’s coverage of conservative activists, it was an outgrowth of the Times‘ leery, out of touch approach to activists of any stripe, not to conservatives. One classic example would be the NYT cover story on the Howard Dean movement that so bugged me in December. Another would be today’s front-page piece on anachists, which introduces them by listing off protests at which they’ve been blamed for violence:

Self-described anarchists were blamed for inciting the violence in Seattle at a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in which 500 people were arrested and several businesses damaged. They have been accused by the police of throwing rocks or threatening officers with liquid substances at demonstrations against the Republican convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and at an economic summit meeting in Miami last year. Now, as the Republican National Convention is about to begin in New York City, the police are bracing for the actions of this loosely aligned and often shadowy group of protesters, and consider them the great unknown factor in whether the demonstrations remain under control or veer toward violence and disorder.

No discussion, of course, of the role of New York City police in determining whether demonstrations veer towards violence and disorder. Instead we get this implication that civil disobedience is something to be ashamed of:

But even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience…

And to top it off, a couple paragraphs for John Timoney, who oversaw the unfortunate violence of the police treatment of protesters in Philly and Miami, to blame it all on the activists without anybody to refute him.

Needless to say, a book like Starhawk’s Webs of Power gives a much more grounded, nuanced, relevant portrayal of anarchists and their relationships with other activists. Maybe someone at the Times should read it

The Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Review, the campus publication which launced Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza, shares a “hilarious” story. Given that I’m apparently too dense to get the joke, maybe some intrepid reader can explain it to me.

A group of Cornell students sets up a mock-up of Camp X-Ray at which they act out detaining passing students in order to demonstrate the illegality of American human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay (a position I’ve taken here before).

The Cornell Review sends a group of counter-protesters dressed up as Muslim terrorists to pretend to kill passing students, hoping to demonstrate that if not for America’s handling of inmates in Camp X-Ray, all of those inmates would be out killing people.

A group of other students, whom we’ll call the counter-counter-protesters, begin mingling with the counter-protesters and yelling “All Muslims are terrorists! Kill all Muslims!” hoping to demonstrate what they see as the real message of the counter-protest.

Then in comes the counter-counter-counter-protester. According to Paul Eastlund, Editor-in-Chief of the Review,

Nick is an uber-conservative who we’d never met before, but who hung out with us pretty much all day, and he is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met…Nick stayed around and helped deal with jerks and hecklers all day. Occasionally he shouted things like “Support the Middle East Glass-Making Program” and “They don’t deserve 3 meals a day, they deserve a bullet to the head.” At one point, a few hecklers decided to pretend they were with us, and shouted “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” Before we could insist that we weren’t saying anything of the sort, Nick responded by shouting “All Muslims are terrorists!” and “Kill all Muslims!” They were dumbfounded. It was pretty hilarious.

In other words, the Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Review is glad that his guys showed those hippies a thing or two by responding to the allegation that labelling everyone in Camp X-Ray as a terrorist who should be shot to death demonstrates racism by…yelling racist things. You get it?

Me neither. But maybe Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-Large of The National Review, who linked the piece, can explain it to me.

Update: Here