Friday, October 08, 2021

Snowflake Culture Strikes Again


Bill Maher was not only accurate and honest, but prescient when on Real Time on September 10 he remarked

When people say to me sometimes "like, boy, you know you go after the left a lot these days," boy, I'm like "because you're embarrassing me, that's why I'm going after the left in a way you never did before because you're inverting things."

Twenty-five days later, The Michigan Daily reported

On Sept. 10, Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Olivia Cook attended her first composition seminar with (Professor Bright) Sheng. This semester, the course focused on analyzing Shakespeare’s works, and the class began with a screening of the 1965 version of “Othello.” Cook told The Daily she quickly realized something seemed strange, and upon further inspection, noticed the onscreen actor Laurence Olivier was in blackface.

 “I was stunned,” Cook said. “In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (people of color) in America, I was shocked that (Sheng) would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space.”

It is telling that Cook came to college neither to learn nor to be challenged, but for the comfort of a space space. We learn

The 1965 version of the film has been a topic of controversy since its initial release when The New York Times wrote a 1966 article criticizing Olivier’s use of blackface as well as his stereotypical performance. 

 According to Cook, the students were given no warning or contextualization prior to the viewing.

The context was presenting college students a glimpse of one of the most famous plays by the most celebrated playwright in world history.  However, she was not warned that she might learn something from it.  TMD continues

Sheng sent out an apology on Sept. 10 shortly after the class ended, noting that the casting and portrayal “was racially insensitive and outdated.” A copy of this email has been obtained by The Daily. A planned “Othello” project was then canceled by Sheng.

In an email to The Daily, Evan Chambers, professor of composition, wrote about the importance of properly preparing students for possible instances of racism in film.

“To show the film now, especially without substantial framing, content advisory and a focus on its inherent racism is in itself a racist act, regardless of the professor’s intentions,” Chambers wrote. “We need to acknowledge that as a community.”

If showing- not producing, directing, or acting in- a film presented as it was made is racist, there is little that cannot be construed as racist by those whose feelings are so easily scarred.  Accordingly

Five days after Sheng showed the video, on Sept. 15, Gier sent a department-wide email acknowledging the incident and apologizing for what students experienced.

“Professor Sheng’s actions do not align with our School’s commitment to anti-racist action, diversity, equity and inclusion,” Gier said.

The email also stated the incident had been reported to the Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX.

Free inquiry and free expression are discarded as universities undermine its employees and destroy their credibility with students. The relationship between student and teacher is, well, "inverted," if students are encouraged to condemn professors who make them uncomfortable when presenting a subject honestly.  Excessive sensitivity should not be rewarded.

It gets worse. But if you follow woke culture on college campuses, you knew it would.  Thus

On Sept. 16, Sheng sent out a formal apology to the department. He wrote that after doing more research into the issue, he realized the true extent to which racism impacts American culture, adding that he failed to recognize the racist connotation of blackface makeup.

“In a classroom, I am a teacher representing the university and I should have thought of this more diligently and fundamentally; I apologize that this action was offensive and has made you angry,” Sheng wrote. “It also has made me lost (sic) your trust.”

However, the apology has been another source of controversy among students. Students have taken particular issue with the section of the letter where Sheng lists multiple examples of how he has worked with people of color in the past.

“At the world premiere of my opera The Silver River in South Carolina in 2000, I casted an African American actress (for the leading role), an Asian female dancer and a white baritone for the three main characters,” Sheng wrote.

After a few more examples, Sheng concludes by writing that he has “never thought (of himself as) being discriminating against any race.”

Cook told The Daily she felt the letter was shallow. By listing out all of his contributions to people of color, he failed to understand the gravity of his actions, Cook said.

“He could have taken responsibility for his actions and realized that this was harmful to some of his students that are within his class,” Cook said. “Instead, he tried to make excuses. Instead of just apologizing for it, he tried to downplay the fact that the entire situation happened in the first place.”

Professor Sheng has learned the hard way that unreasonable people will not be reasonable, and too rarely are there adults who will not buckle under to pressure.  And defending oneself (unless arrested while committing a crime) will simply not be tolerated.

After the incident, the composition class was suspended and Sheng stepped down, and reportedly "is still teaching students in his studio, serving other departmental and school-wide duties and working on research projects."

The Michigan Daily touts its "one hundred thirty-one years of editorial freedom." It's only appropriate, then, that it has described a serious blow to academic freedom.





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