The farce at St. Olaf

No sooner did we take a look at the alleged racial incidents at St. Olaf and the related rituals than the latest such incident — the one that gave rise to all the action — was revealed as another hate crime hoax committed by the black student in the middle of the matter. The college continues to investigate similar reported incidents that have occurred on campus since last fall.

The College Fix’s Nathan Rubbelke has an excellent story on today’s developments here. The Star Tribune’s Paul Walsh and Jennifer Brooks report the story here. I want to add five notes.

1. This latest incident giving rise to the hysteria on campus fits a pattern. The college nevertheless canceled classes and appeased the mob in advance of a resolution of the matter.

2. Leading with this latest incident, the Star Tribune also jumped in to support the mob at St. Olaf with the customary brain-dead editorial. Here it is, for the record:

One student found a piece of paper with a racial slur on his car windshield. Another discovered a note that read “Go back to Africa” tucked into her backpack. And a third received this vile message on her car: “Glad you are leaving soon. One less [N-word] this school has to deal with … You have spoken up too much … Shut up or I will shut you up.”

A rash of those kinds of racist incidents this school year prompted an estimated 500 St. Olaf College students to rightly say “Enough!” In demonstrations over the past several days, students rallied against racism and hate at the Northfield, Minn., campus.

One black student who had received one of the notes told the crowd that he no longer felt safe or welcome at the school. “The only thing I could think was … what can I do to stop this from happening to the next person?” said junior Don Williams.

After a day of listening to painful stories, passionate speeches and hours of talks between students and the administration, St. Olaf President David R. Anderson signed off on some student demands, including creating an autonomous task force to examine the issues.

“The demands reflect a whole set of concerns that students have about their experience at the college and the environment it provides. Let’s get them named, let’s talk about how they can be addressed,” Anderson said. “Let’s find a way to move forward together.”

White students outnumber minorities 4-1 at St. Olaf, which has a total enrollment of about 3,000, according to the school’s website. St. Olaf is not alone in dealing with racism — it’s just the most recent Minnesota college to address the issue. In November, a racial epithet was scrawled on a sidewalk at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. And late last year, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education said in its 2016 annual report that it received 198 complaints related to racial harassment at colleges and universities across the country.

Wherever hate speech occurs, fair-minded people must speak up. Whether directed at a Jewish center, a Muslim mosque or students of color, the best way for communities to respond is to stand together in solidarity. Like the hundreds of St. Olaf students who did the right thing, all Minnesotans should call out racism and discrimination, take collective action against bias and let the haters know they will not be tolerated.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the editors of the Star Tribune, who presume to instruct us on a daily basis in the way we live now, are fools.

3. The alleged “hate speech” now revealed as a hoax was something other than it appeared, but the students pressing their demands on St. Olaf themselves showed genuine bigotry when they collectively demanded the removal of “Christian Zionist” Arne Christenson from a college advisory board. Christenson’s crime is of course his faith along with his support of the right of the world’s only Jewish state to exist. We await the day when the powers that be at St. Olaf and the editors of the Star Tribune will sit up, take notice and call out the bigots for what they are. Their names are appended to the document posted online here.

4. I contacted St. Olaf President David Anderson by email this morning to ask what he had agreed to with the students appearing at the conclave on May 1 when classes were canceled. President Anderson promptly responded: “I agreed to pen a response to the demands made by a group of students by May 20 and to appoint a task force to give them further consideration.” I appreciate his taking the time to respond to my question on what must have been a busy day for him.

5. President Anderson wisely gave himself a few days to respond to the demands. Pending further developments he should now tell the students to take their demands and shove them.

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