After George Floyd’s killing last spring, protests have flowered on many campuses, and so have manifestos demanding that the schools fully commit themselves to an anti-racist agenda. More are likely as the school restarts and we move into spring. Some may feel that the enlightened course is to simply satisfy these demands out of a commitment to America’s ongoing racial reckoning. However, just as many will see a mismatch between actual conditions on these campuses and the nature and tone of the manifestos, as well as the protest actions usually accompanying them. Administrations must decide where racial reckoning becomes racial wrecking ball, even amid a sincere commitment to addressing racism both open and systemic.
At Princeton last summer, 350 faculty members signed an anti-racist manifesto that described the school as founded upon the pillars of its oppressive past, requiring an overhaul of faculty, curriculum, and admissions procedures to fumigate the campus of an all-permeating racism. Its nearly 50 demands included “exponentially” increasing the number of faculty of color; mandatory anti-racist training focused on identifying participants’ “vulnerability” and fostering “productive discomfort”; rewarding the “invisible work done by faculty of color with course relief and summer salary;” and most controversially, the formation of “a committee composed entirely of faculty that would oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty.”