The latest fad in college campus virtue-signaling is an “indigenous land acknowledgment,” in which a speaker or writer will preface a statement (though typically after declaring their pronouns—got to have the priorities in the correct hierarchy) with “We acknowledge that this university sits on the un-ceded land of the [fill in the local Indian tribe name here].” It has gone beyond pro-forma public announcements in many places, with faculty encouraged to include an “indigenous land acknowledgement” statement in the signature line of their emails, and even, at some universities, on course syllibi.
If afforded the opportunity (maybe someday), I want to ask: “If the land the university sits on rightfully belongs to an Indian tribe, why don’t we give it back?” At the very least, justice demands that Indians be compensated for the wrongful expropriation of their land. Failing that, how about some back rent? Or current rent? We’re talking justice here. If nothing else, at least allow the local Indian tribe to open a casino in the middle of campus, and call it “ongoing reparations.”
Needless to say the “land acknowledgement” is the cheapest and most embarrassing example of campus virtue-signaling yet.
Which brings me to my Hero of the Week: Stuart Reges, who is a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. UW encourages faculty there to include a land acknowledgement statement on their course syllibi, and Prof. Reges decided to do so, though with a twist: he decided to ground his “land acknowledgement” statement in Marxist economics with the following version:
“I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.”
To be sure, the labor theory of value originates with Locke, but Marx’s application of Locke’s idea held that the value of the land over time should justly accrue to the people who added value to it, and that for the owners of the land to claim that value was to expropriate that value unjustly from the laborers who improved the place—in this case the builders and faculty of the University of Washington over a century.
Well as the internet click-bait cliche goes, you’ll never guess what happened next! Actually of course you do: a campus uproar over Prof. Reges’s “offensive” and “hurtful” statement, which somehow makes his classroom less “inclusive.” The director of the school of UW’s computer science ordered Reges to remove the statement from his course syllabus, because “it is offensive and creates a toxic environment in your course.” Reges refused, whereupon the director of the school removed it online without Prof. Reges’s permission, violating the first principle of academic freedom in the classroom. Further, the university is now saying that professors who include a land acknowledgement statement must use a university-approved version. In other words, at UW the land acknowledgement has become yet another coerced Maoist confession of collective guilt.
“I decided to see whether it was acceptable to present an alternate viewpoint,” said Reges. “Obviously their version of diversity does not include conservative viewpoints.” Of course not. “Diversity” on campus now means that while people look different, they must think the same thing.
UPDATE: This is not Prof. Reges’s first brush with the UW campus Stasi.