Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Happened to Washington University?

When I was in high school, I remember being impressed by the cleverness of a t-shirt I saw emblazoned "Harvard University - the Wash U of the East" (this was in the mid-70s, before I had seen similar shirts from other schools). The cheeky comparison of Wash U to Harvard demonstrated the circles that Wash U was aiming for.

Well, break out the new line of clothing! "Bob Jones University - the Wash U of South Carolina"! "Wash U - Like Liberty U without Lynchburg"! Optional hoods sold separately.

Wash U has apparently decided to give up on being one of the best universities in the United States and focused, instead, on being one of the most right-wing universities.

A couple years ago, Wash U made headlines by wildly overpaying Jim Talent - then a failed, out-of-work political hack - to the tune of $90,000 for a two hour class. Wash U allowed the right-wing republicans to subsidize Talent's senate race through their faculty payroll.

Last year, a member of the Wash U College Republicans reacted to an article about the group by publishing a letter to the Editor in the college paper dismissing a fellow student as a "nigger".

Now, it comes out that Wash U refused to host a national convention for the College Democrats because of its "partisan" nature. SLU will host the group, instead.

What in the world happened to Washington University? It used to be such a decent place . . .


Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Dan, Dan, Dan,

I've just read the letter in question. I am not aware of the context in which it comes, and the incidents which the letter outlines which lead up to it. However, I'll have to nit-pic a bit. OK, more than a bit.

1) the letter is from an identified individual, not from "College Republicans." There is NO indication that the "College Republicans got a letter printed in the college paper calling a fellow student a 'nigger'." To so write paints with a unjustifiably wide brush.
2. While the term is certainly one of the most offensive in the English language, it doesn't appear to be used in its usual offensive manner. That doesn't necessarily justify the term's use; I would rarely use it. Again, I (and I suspect you) don't know the history and context of the letter.

There's more.

Having read the article you linked to, I don't see anything particularly unusual about declining a political convention; it appears that SLU routinely holds such events, and the article makes no implication that declining to hold one is unusual for WU.

On the same page that you link to to get the damning "headline," you ignore a more recent headline that WU became a top 10 school in the US News rankings.
Did that not fit with your planned and designed slam?

In short, there is little if any evidence in the items you link to that WU has become "one of the most right-wing universities," even assuming that doing so is a bad thing.

Dan - I know you're a partisan hack, but you gotta be more subtle than this.

6/06/2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous Me -

You have a point about who wrote the letter, and I'll change my wording on the post. But I don't think calling a fellow student "the nigger" in response to an article accusing the group of racism is any nicer than I painted the picture. That's enough context for me.

Why a university that has aligned itself with right-wingers fringe elements like Talent would suddenly develop a squeamishness when it comes to hosting a convention is beyond me. They hosted a presidential debate, so their fear of controversy sounds like a cover-up for a fear of liberals, to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, they have a US News and World Report ranking - those things are handed out like invitations to be listed in Who's Who of High School Students. Big deal.

I'm just wondering why a prestigious university like Wash U is tilting so far to the right that they subsidize a Senate race for Talent, and they're afraid to have a few College Dems on their campus.

I wonder if they'll be banning interracial dating soon.

6/06/2006 5:31 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Anonymous Me - "2. While the term is certainly one of the most offensive in the English language, it doesn't appear to be used in its usual offensive manner. That doesn't necessarily justify the term's use; I would rarely use it."

I don't know you. But In My Humble Opinion, if you are white, that word should NEVER cross you lips.

In fact, even if you are a person of color, that word should never cross your lips.

It is a word filled with hate, history, racism, bigotry and violence.

I refuse to utter the word in any context.

6/06/2006 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I went to SLU and knew plenty of people at Wash U and the only unfair generalization I can make about Wash U is that they are all rich Jews.

6/06/2006 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

1. Do we, in fact, know that the young man in question is a member of the College Republicans? And given that he made a point to clarify his meaning and intent, how can you possibly argue that the use of teh word was racist? Would you argue that Senator Byrd's "white niggers" comments of several years back were racist -- especially given his history of membership in a REAL white supremacist organization (actually two, since he was not just a member of the Klan, but also of the West Virginia Democrat Party)?

2) I'm white and I teach several works of literature (Of Mice and Men, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Raisin in the Sun, etc) that use the word "nigger". Is its Xavier's contention that I must bowdlerize the text because of my race? Would he argue that in my own personal writing I should not use the word, even when contextually appropriate because of my race (see the use in section 1 of this comment)?

3) Is it your contention that conservatives are unfit to be permitted in academia?

6/06/2006 7:14 PM  
Anonymous f said...

The identified individual is identified on conservative blogs as a Washington University College Republican:


Quote: "Maybe we should ask Steven S. Hoffmann, a member of the Washington University College Republicans, since the comment originated from a computer he used when posting here using his real name ("

6/06/2006 10:06 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


1. Yes, he's a republican.
1A. No, Byrd does not appear to me to currently be a racist.
2. No. That's stupid.
3. No.

6/07/2006 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

XO -

I'm not disagreeing with you at all. The word is nasty, offensive, and like you, I hate it. No, I don't think that it was proper or appropriate in the letter. Never is a long time, however.

Dan -

I still don't see any evidence presented that WU is "tilting so far to the right." OK, so they hired a republican to teach some classes, and perhaps paid too much. So what? If WU is like most campuses I've been on, ANY conservative on the faculty is an endangered species.

And you may not think that breaking the top 10 school list in US News is a big deal, but I'll guarantee the school did. The benefactors did. The alumni did. The recruiters certainly did.

No, Dan, you'll have to do better. It takes far more than this "one of the most right-wing universities."

6/07/2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

- should be
"It takes far more than this to be "one of the most right-wing universities."

Check, check, check.

6/07/2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous Me -

I agree they aren't yet one of the most right-wing Universities. Harvard didn't really call itself the Wash U of the East, either.

Bob Jones University seems to be Wash U's aspirational goal these days, as opposed to Harvard. I don't think they have the level of insanity to get there, though. The Loop, with Blueberry Hill and dozens of other fun places, is too much fun and too close.

6/07/2006 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

So now you concede that breathless overheated rhetoric is stock in trade.

Could this be more of the same?

"Bob Jones University seems to be Wash U's aspirational goal these days, as opposed to Harvard."

Again, I see little evidence of that from what you've linked to.

6/07/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Did I concede that? I certainly didn't intend to concede such a point. I was merely pointing out that I had been careful in my writing not to say that Wash U is quite as bad as Bob Jones or Liberty yet. I kind of admire the fact that they set goals for themselves that they will never reach.

Me? Use overheated rhetoric to make fun of Wash U (or Jay Nixon)? No way.

6/08/2006 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

Still no evidence of your basic premise. Just a lot of overheated rhetoric.

And by the way, your "correction" still paints with an unjustifiably wide brush; the implication is simply unspoken but still clear. The letter reflects the point of view of the writer - period. That the writer may be a member of College Republicans says nothing about Republicans in general, nor about their policies. I have little doubt that "College Republicans" condemned his use of the hated word as much as you do.

It's still a smear. A more subtle one, but a smear nontheless.

And further, the letter speaks to the view of a student, NOT to the university or its aspirations. Thus, a double smear.

Let me guess . . . WU was the hated rival of your alma mater?

You may be wondering why I care. I simply get so tired of the smear attack on the "other" side, constantly, over and over.

Both "sides" do it. I wish Ann Coulter would shut the hell up. But I don't have a way of responding to her (except to not buy her book - and I won't).

But others need not take the same tactics. And I'll say so, when need be.

6/08/2006 8:33 AM  

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