The campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison erupted this week after the release of two studies documenting the heavy use of race in deciding which students to admit to the undergraduate and law schools....I didn't see the Facebook page. I'd like to see the specific text of what was said. Chavez also talks about the debate that took place on campus that evening, but that event, as I've blogged — here and here — was pretty sedate, so Chavez limits herself to quoting a professor's tweets that called Clegg a "racist" and said he sounded "like the whitest white boy I’ve ever heard."
[The Center for Equal Opportunity] has published studies of racial double standards in admissions at scores of public colleges and universities across the country with similar findings, but none has caused such a violent reaction.
Instead of addressing the findings of the study, the university’s vice provost for diversity, Damon A. Williams, dishonestly told students that “CEO has one mission and one mission only: dismantle the gains that were achieved by the civil-rights movement.” In fact, CEO’s only mission is to promote color-blind equal opportunity so that, in Martin Luther King’s vision, no one will be judged by the color of his or her skin.
Egged on by inflammatory comments by university officials, student groups organized a flashmob via a Facebook page that was filled with propaganda and outright lies about CEO wanting to dismantle their student groups. More than a hundred angry students stormed the press conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Madison, where CEO President Roger Clegg was releasing the study.
Ironically, "whitest white boy" was probably an attempt to convey the very calm and bland recitation of facts and principles that characterized Clegg's presentation. As I've said, the event was sedate. There were no Doubletree antics [at the debate]. Perhaps it was a reverse flashmob, and social media were used effectively to let the students know that they needed to be respectful, allow the speakers to speak, and engage in rational dialogue that makes our university look like the institution of higher learning that it purports to be.
Indeed, Chavez concludes:
You’d think that a responsible university would denounce the intimidation and lack of civility by its students and faculty. Instead, Vice Provost Williams told the student paper, “I’m most excited about how well the students represented themselves, the passion with which they engaged, the respectful tone in how they did it and the thoughtfulness of their questions and interactions.”
It appears that not only are the university’s admissions policies deeply discriminatory, but also that university officials applaud name-calling, distortion and outright physical assault.But Williams's characterization of the debate was correct! Chavez conflates the shameful incident at the Doubletree hotel with the beautifully run event that took place on campus.
If Chavez intends to call citizens to a rational, serious debate about affirmative action, then she must be clear and fair and accurate about all the facts. To do that, she must scrupulously avoid demagoguery.
ADDED: The tweeting professor is Sara Goldrick-Rab, who writes an education blog called The Education Optimists. Here is her post about the CEO and Roger Clegg. It concludes: "The organization is not only dead wrong, it is unashamedly racist." Here is her Twitter feed, and I can see that she's responded to my post: "Look at my actual tweet - which was misreported- I was commenting on the very odd way he said the word Latino. Nothing more." Okay, so my speculation about what her tweet meant — which I've amplified in the comments — was completely wrong. He just used the whitest possible pronunciation of the word "Latino."