Last Wednesday, in what one may call a stump speech, Jennine Capó Crucet spoke on the issues of diversity on college campuses. This presentation is based on the content of her book, Make Your Home Among Strangers. Her invitation from the University was due to much discussion that the book has caused in several arenas.
Jennine Capó Crucet, Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska, had to cancel a second scheduled talk at Georgia Southern University last Thursday amidst hostilities, book burning, and possible intimidation.
The book is a common assignment at many schools for freshman students. Capó Crucet was also to read from an essay in her latest work, My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education, which builds on the prior book. However, things did not go as planned!
The ruckus at the first talk during the question and answer period was more of parties opposed politically than any substantive discussion. Some students were concerned and in advance of her arrival had written in the College newspaper, The George-Anne, accusing Capó Crucet of generalizing about “the majority of white people being privileged.” The predominantly white student body, sixty percent of Georgia Southern’s 26,000 enrollment from last year, included some that were intent on giving this Latina a hard gig!
Reflecting later on Twitter, Jennine Capó Crucet indicated that the exchange included “aggressive and ignorant” comments. She later said it ended with students shouting at each other across the auditorium. Hostile and divided as the attendees were, this became a warning sign. The university had her switch hotels amidst claims that some students were gathering outside her window. University spokeswoman Jennifer Wise declared that Capó Crucet was meant to stay at Georgia’s Bed and Breakfast before changing hotels. The manager at the original venue said that she knew of no people gathering outside.
Afterward, the decision to cancel her next follow up presentation was not about the content of the book as it was the result of the burning of her book by students on the college campus. This frightened Crucet.
An email sent to the faculty, staff, and student body. “while it’s within the students’ First Amendment rights,” said University President Kyle Marrero, “book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas.” This is a soft critique designed to save the reputation of the school. Whereas, Professor Russell Willerton, chair of the Department of Writing and Linguistics, said in a statement on behalf of his department, “We assert that destructive and threatening acts do not reflect the values of Georgia Southern University.” This appears to be a stronger challenge to the nature of dissent to Capó Crucet’s presence to address the students.
Georgia Southern University spokeswoman Jennifer Wise said Crucet canceled the second appearance, but Crucet wrote on Twitter on Thursday that the event was canceled because “the administration said they could not guarantee my safety or the safety of its students on campus because of open carry laws.” She finally bailed.
This episode surely reveals the division in the culture. The educational establishments of this nation have plummeted as standards have lowered. College education was an end in itself and was designed to make one able to expand horizons and develop personally into a fully functioning human being that would benefit society. Today, Colleges are businesses and the bottom line is most important among all concerns of boards and trustees.
Charles Murray spoke of the “calling of education,” and that it was not for everyone. The dumbing down and lowering standards to a low common denominator has surely swelled the ranks of student bodies across the nation. However, as indicated in this episode, students appear more indoctrinated than educated. Instead of having a discourse that fosters understanding we are apter in our colleges to get into shouting matches where there is abundant heat but hardly any light. No matter which side of the divide you may be concerning opinions on social justice, race, economics, etc., we can all agree that our educational institutions need a major upheaval and restructuring. Would to God that theology was returned as the Queen of the Sciences.
[Author’s note: to see Crucet’s estimation of the incident, click here]