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Thursday, May 6, 2021

The messiah tries to purge the woke from South Dakota colleges -- Update on violation of policy

Note:  This post gives an account of faculty directly lobbying legislators.  The author knew that is forbidden, but forgot.  Some former colleagues reminded him that faculty dealing with legislators on institutional matters is expressly forbidden and think it should be emphasized in this account.  The Regents Policy Manual states:

NUMBER: 1:12


  1. Relations to State Legislature

    All institutionally lobbied relationships and negotiations with the State Legislature, including its committees, shall be coordinated through the Board of Regents. No subordinate official representing any of the several institutions may appear before the Legislature or any committee except upon the authority of the Board or when requested by the State Legislature itself.


It is good for a man that he bear the woke in his youth.  Lamentations 3:2

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the woke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness...Isaiah 58:9 

Why did Dr. Tim Downs resign suddenly as president of Northern State University?  It appears that some professors with virulent cases of the messiah complex decided to lift the woke from the campus and free it from the threat of noxious liberalism.  And yes, I am using woke in a pun to replace the word yoke.  But apparently some regarded Dr. Downs as a woke agent and thought it was time to exterminate the wokes.

The part that inspires a snicker is that woke is a figment of their beleaguered imaginations.  It is a word that has entered the popular culture, originally as a satiric word.  It comes from black street language and is a derivative of the word that in traditional English is awake.  Black  people used it to describe people who were awake to or aware of what life is like for black people in our society.  But as white people appropriated the word to describe themselves, it became a sardonic term when blacks used it.  A black person might say of a white guy who thinks he has a total understanding of what it is to be black in America, "He be woke."  Sarcasm is conveyed about the attitude.

As white people used the term, they did not understand that the word conveyed a deprecation of their presumptions.  Black English, sometimes referred to as Ebonics, is laden with words that convey ridicule of white presumptions of superiority.  So, woke names a silly presumption, not an actual state of awareness.

Some faculty think that woke refers to some definite, organized political mission.  They oppose that mission as they think they see it emerging on their campuses.  Although what they see are some inchoate attempts to deal with issues of race and other reasons for exclusion, they choose to interpret them as an insidious effort to impose wokism on their campuses. 

The notion of wokism is an outgrowth of the efforts to encourage diversity.  As universities implement programs and appoint officials to comply with demands for inclusiveness, they announce more measures to expand equal opportunities.  Some faculty felt threatened by those measures and launched a blog which purported to make a record of those threats.  They call it Woki-Leaks South Dakota.  Its stated purpose:  "We have made a commitment not to stand by idly while Woke activists turn South Dakota’s public schools into far-left political organizations."

According to an investigative article by Jonathan Ellis of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the blog printed emails from Dr. Downs that agitated legislators.  He wrote, "Lawmakers drafted a letter accusing Downs of fostering a woke community that suppressed other viewpoints. The letter demanded Downs put an end to the program or resign."  Downs apparently chose the latter option. 

Dr. Downs established some committees to put in place policies and practices that promote diversity on campus.  They are the Diversity Action Pillar Team and the Athletic Council on Community, Culture, and Social Justice.  Those committees issued a notice to the campus that stated:

Students, staff, and faculty who need a space to process the events of the day are welcome to the Multicultural Affairs Center in Avera Student Center room 201 from Monday through Friday, from 9am until 5pm. We acknowledge that the topics of racism and police brutality are complex, with varying perspectives. We ask our community to respect that this space is not the appropriate one for political or philosophical debate.

 The Woki-Leaks blog announced this offer with this heading:   NSU’s Woke Have Created a Safe Space in Which Open Discussion of the Chauvin Trial is Not Allowed

The bloggers stated:  "Note that the email, which can be read here, implies that the Chauvin trial was “just” because it yielded the particular outcome the activist authors were looking for."

We also note that this comment implies that the conviction of Derek  Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd was not just. But the blog chooses to misstate what the committees actually said in regard to their offer of a place to reflect on what the Chauvin trial signifies.  It asked people making use of the room to respect it as a sanctuary free from the angry arguments that erupt over topics like racism and police misconduct.  That Woki-Leaks statement reveals a mindset clouded by racial obsessions.   They take offense at the idea that someone offers a place where people can go to contemplate the George Floyd murder and its implication free from the malice-oozing  chatter from folks like the authors of Woki-Leaks.

If the authors of Woki-Leaks are indeed professors, it is clear why they display  academic cowardice by choosing  to remain anonymous.  (Some old colleagues from NSU, however, say that it is obvious to the faculty who they are.)  Their blog violates one of the three transgressions against scholarship for which tenured professors can be fired:  plagiary, fabrication, or falsification.  Their misrepresentation of a request for respect by stating that discussion of the Chauvin trial is not allowed is a false characterization of what was said.  And that invites further scrutiny into the accuracy of what is represented in the blog.   Even though academic free speech invites critical comment, such speech must not misrepresent another person's words for defamatory purposes.  The characterization of the efforts to promote diversity as "woke" subversion of the academic enterprise steps over the boundary of criticism into falsehood.

Dr. Downs' sudden resignation raised some alarm in the community.  He raised $110 million in donated funds, which is an unusual achievement for a public university.  Some people worry that if the man who attracted that money suddenly left, the donors might have second thoughts about their donations.  When the information about the letter of ultimatum by the legislators was revealed, the worry intensified.   Professors' professional organizations are particularly wary of political intrusions into campus business.  When politicians assert direct control over a state college,  the freedoms to research, study, and teach are endangered.  In this case, legislators threatened to withhold funding.  If that happens or the school responds with an act of conciliation, it could be censured by scholastic organizations for compromising academic freedom to political interests.  Dr, Downs resignation is an accession to the legislator's ultimatum and a signal that NSU has acceded to political interests. 

At NSU the compromised status is compounded by the complicity of faculty members who chose to subvert the independence of the academic enterprise through an act of complicity with legislators who wish have the colleges operate under their will.  Northern State was censured by the American Association of University Professors in the past for not following academic due process in personnel decisions.  This case involves faculty members circumventing the Board of Regents in their complicity with legislators.  Whereas censure is usually placed on an administration for violating academic due process,  in this instance of political co-option the faculty  was involved.  That has a very negative portent for anyone who might apply for the job of president of the university.

Who would knowing apply for a job where faculty take insidious action against a president who was trying to advance diversity? The Northern faculty may have assumed messianic intent in saving their college from wokeness.  But they have demonstrated compelling reasons for why qualified people would not be their president.  Or their colleague. Or their students.



Jerry K. Sweeney said...

Damn straight.

Porter Lansing said...

"a woke community that suppressed other viewpoints"?
Because the "real" victims of bigotry are white people, right?
Because the Critical Race Theory is the only "woke" agenda with validity?
A group of low self esteem, false victimhood, Professors, a movement makes not.

Jerry K. Sweeney said...

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