The University of Missouri administration is right to take the cotton ball incident seriously, but that includes taking a proper sense of perspective. Here’s Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton on the incident, as reported by campus newspaper The Maneater:
“While this wasn’t done to anyone specifically, it wasn’t even done to the facility itself, it undid progress that has been made at the University of Missouri-Columbia,” Middleton said.
“Middleton referenced Lloyd Gaines, the black student who won a Supreme Court case in 1938 to gain entry into the MU School of Law and disappeared the following year.
“It undid the progress we have made, that we have fought for, the progress that Lloyd Gaines died for,” Middleton said.” [emphasis added]
Excuse me? Two malcontents, who have been arrested, suspended, and their actions universally condemned in the campus community, have not undone “the progress that Lloyd Gaines died for,” or that has been fought for and won since that time. Beyond a few activists or ideologically-motivated professors, I don’t anyone on this campus who actually believes something like that or would indulge in such ridiculous rhetoric.
Such hyperbole suggests Middleton is out of touch with reality, and lacks perspective on this incident and the larger contextual issues. It also suggests he feels a need to project ultra-sensitivity on the part of the university towards the concerns and demands of those parties most active in response to the incident.
As I have said earlier and will repeat here, the university should be sensitive to student sentiment right now. What it should not be is so sensitive to any perceived or declared demands that it throws out proper perspective and proper procedures in dealing with this issue.