The nation’s eyes were on the small college of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia last night for hosting the one-and-only vice presidential debate for the 2016 election. However, despite an impressive history of students fighting for civil rights, the school’s current diversity and inclusion efforts look like nothing more than politically-correct, anti-freedom of speech culture run amok.
Longwood spent $5.5 million and made a school-wide push to host the debate. It paid off because the school was chosen from among a dozen other applicants. A factor in being selected was Longwood's debate-themed curriculum, according to officials with the Commission Presidential Debates:
“Longwood University is finding ways to involve students in the debates in many innovative and exciting ways,” Eyre said.
“One of the things about Longwood that the Commission recognized is this incredible energy of our student body and the fact that they’re very active in their community,” said Matthew McWilliams, director of communications and media relations at Longwood University. “One of the things that we did was we asked faculty members to think about how they could create a course or realign their lesson plans for an existing course to explore some of these themes about the debate. There are more than 30 courses that were created to incorporate the debate themes here this semester.”
Senator Tim Kaine opened his first answer during last night’s debate touting the history of Longwood.
This is a very special place. Sixty-five years ago, a young, courageous woman, Barbara Johns, led a walkout over high school. She made history by protesting school segregation — she believes our nation is stronger together, and walkouts led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that moved us toward equality.
The past is one thing, the present is another. As with many other colleges, Longwood appears to be eroding students' First Amendment rights of free speech, free expression, and even assembly, under the guise of diversity and inclusion.
Just earlier this year, Longwood administrators started cracking down on what they consider are micro-aggressions on campus. For example, challenging pro-choice views is a macroaggression, as is articulating “negative opinions” about someone’s religion. Even worse, if you dislike another student because they misbehave in class and are disruptive to your own learning experience, you have committed a microaggression. Listed on the Diversity and Inclusion Resources page there are three types of microaggressions: insults, assaults, and invalidations. A presentation with examples has since been removed.
With such a broad definition, nearly anything can fall into the category of microaggression, rendering natural discourse and debate of ideas that may be unpopular difficult, if not impossible. Campus Reform reported back in June:
An “educational presentation” on Longwood University’s website claims that challenging someone’s pro-choice views or assuming they smoke weed are both microaggressions.
“Residents assumed I smoke pot because of the way I dress.”
Disliking a fellow student who misbehaves in class is considered an invalidation, which is defined as “comments or behaviors that exclude, negate, or nullify a person’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences related to their unique qualities.”
Other alleged invalidations include, “Working in a group in class, the thoughts I expressed were put down,” and “Being told that I am too short to participate in something.”
Some of the examples were legitimate, such as the getting your tire slashed by another student being an example of assault. That's not even micro! However, an assault is not “an anti-abortion person attacked my pro-choice beliefs.”
Reading the presentation, you would think microaggressions are rampant. Some 83 percent of the 461 students surveyed reported having experienced microaggressions during their time at Longwood, with 46 percent of them saying they had experienced all three types. Given the broad definition, they are probably right. However, it didn’t mean much. Some 82 percent of students said microaggressions had not negatively affected their experience at Longwood at all, compared to 17 percent who said it negatively affected them “somewhat.” Seems like a lot of nothing.
As a black woman, I find the hyper focus on silencing freedom of speech to prevent young people from being offended is not only absurd, but it spits in the face of those like Barbara Johns and civil rights leaders who truly faced discrimination, physical harm, and physical and verbal assault because of their race. What we have today are too many victims in search of a crime against them.
So kudos to Longwood for landing the VP debate, but perhaps they should learn how to foster a place for debate of ideas that don’t come with tv cameras and media attention.