Should Trump Declare A “University Holiday”?

Everyone will recall that Franklin Roosevelt’s first act as president in 1933 was to close the nation’s banks to prevent a full-scale panic and a collapse of the banking system. It was called a “bank holiday,” probably because the legal basis was more than a bit shaky: it was based on the “Trading with the Enemy Act” of 1917. Recognizing that this legal basis was ridiculous, FDR prevailed on Congress to pass a statute just five days later to make the move legal retroactively.

I wonder whether President Trump ought to consider closing some of the nation’s universities on the simple ground that they’ve become a public nuisance, are in danger of collapsing entirely, or perhaps are becoming a clear and present danger to public safety. This would hoist the universities by their own “safe space” petard. I can think of any number of legal pretexts that are more plausible than FDR’s bank holiday. At the very least, the Trump Administration ought to suspend student loan eligibility for every student majoring in any of the politicized “studies” programs (women’s and gender studies, etc) on the simple grounds of consumer fraud—this isn’t education, and it is not providing students with any skills for the workplace. Why not? It’s essentially the same legal basis by which the Obama Administration went after for-profit vocational colleges. (Of course, the Obama Administration was motivated to attack for-profit colleges precisely because they weren’t reliable nodes of ideological instruction. . .)

It is getting hard to keep up with the latest epic failures of universities to stand up for the civilized values and serious education for which they supposedly exist. Scott writes below about the case of the total meltdown at Evergreen State College in Washington. I’ll add to Scott’s account the statement of Evergreen’s president, George Bridges, that is beyond parody:

I’m George Bridges, I use he/him pronouns.

I begin our time together today by acknowledging the indigenous people of the Medicine Creek Treaty, whose land was stolen and on which the college stands. I would like to acknowledge the Squaxin people who are the traditional custodians of this land and pay respect to elders past and present of the Squaxin Island Tribe. I extend that respect to other Native people present.

In response to Native Student Alliance requests, we commit to opening every event with this acknowledgement.

Let’s just stop right here for a moment. If Evergreen State College truly sits on stolen land, then why doesn’t Bridges demand to give it back? The mob clearly lacks imagination here, and I hope they will step up their game right away. Demand reparations as well as returning the land to the rightful owners.

Anyway, from here Bridges goes on more or less to capitulate to most of the student demands in the usual groveling way:

“We demand that no changes to the student code of conduct be made without democratic student consent.”

Immediate actions:
As of today, we’re not contemplating any action associated with the demonstrations of the last two weeks, but we can’t control what complaints we might receive. If we receive complaints, we’ll need to follow up on them. . .

“We demand Bret Weinstein be suspended immediately without pay but all students receive full credit.”

We do not and will not fire any employees in response to a request. We do take complaints seriously. We have a college non-discrimination policy which applies to all members of our community. Following any complaint of discrimination, we will conduct a full investigation. If it is found that discrimination occurred, action is taken. The nature of that action is not released because in order to protect the privacy of those involved. We recommit to the progressive discipline processes established with our union bargaining units and the State of Washington.

Immediate action:
We must increase our capacity to investigate instances of alleged discrimination. Therefore, we have decided to increase the college’s Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Officer to full time today. In addition, if we need to hire outside investigators, we will.

In other words, Weinstein is going to be investigated. He should sue Evergreen for a civil rights violation.

“We demand mandatory sensitivity and cultural competency training for faculty, staff, administrators, and student employees.”

Immediate action:
The United Faculty of Evergreen and the College have executed a memorandum of understanding committing to mandatory training. I’d like to Invite Grace Huerta to speak about the agreement we’ve reached today. It reads:
“Now, therefore, the parties agree as follows:

“We share a mutual interest in ensuring that all Evergreen students receive an education that is culturally competent, culturally relevant and free from the negative effects of bias.

“To achieve this, we recognize that Evergreen faculty members must have access to, and take advantage of, professional development opportunities to address subjects including but not limited to institutional racism, and the needs of students of color, LGBTQIA students, undocumented students, victims of sexual assault, and students with disabilities.

“We commit to annual mandatory training for all faculty beginning in fall 2017.

“This agreement was ratified today by both parties”.

“We demand the creation of an equity center.”

Immediate action:
Today we commit to establishing a new and expanded equity and multicultural center with design plans finalized for student review by the beginning of fall quarter this year. You will have the space that you seek and deserve.

Next steps:
The design of the center will be informed by students. Over the summer, we seek to hire students to design and plan for a new equity and multicultural center in collaboration with staff. They will be compensated for their time. A final plan for implementation will be developed following the work completed this summer.

“We demand for the coordinator of the Trans & Queer Center to be permanently hired full time.”

Immediate action:
Prior to this week’s events, we had initiated the process to appoint Amira Caluya on a permanent basis as Coordinator of the Trans & Queer Center. We expedited this process and confirm that they have been appointed on a permanent basis effective today.

“We demand that the video created for Day of Absence and Day of Presence that was stolen by white supremacists and edited to expose and ridicule the students and staff be taken down by the administration by this Friday.”

Next steps:
Based on conversations with the Attorney General’s office, the most likely course of action requires an investigation. We commit to launching an extensive forensic investigation of the theft of this video and to determining who stole it from the student. If that investigation yields a suspect, we will seek criminal charges against the individual in consultation with the Attorney General.

There’s more, but this is enough. Even for me, and I have a strong stomach.

P.S. Now that I think about it, perhaps the “Trading With the Enemy Act” is the fitting legal justification for shutting down some American universities.

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