A black Vanderbilt University professor’s op-ed critical of Islamic terrorism has touched off a wave of protest by Muslim students and other critics.
The op-ed author is Carol Swain, a longtime professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt and a self-proclaimed political conservative. Her op-ed, entitled “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam,” appeared in The Tennessean (Nashville’s main newspaper) on Jan. 15.
Swain, who opposes burqas and advocates stronger efforts at assimilation for American Muslims, argued that radical Islam “poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration.”
In response, Muslim students, led by Vanderbilt undergraduate Farishtay Yamin, took great offense.
Yamin told The Vanderbilt Hustler, the campus newspaper, that she “could not believe her eyes” when she read Swain’s column. The student also quickly labeled Swain’s opinion as “hate speech.”
She then used Facebook to set up a “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech Published in the Tennessean” on Saturday afternoon.
Attendance at the fairly brief event was in the low hundreds, The College Fix reports. Students who showed up brought signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Better a brat than a bigot.”
Yamin, who is the publicity chair for Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association, told the audience in no uncertain terms that a black female professor’s speech must be restricted if she says “these kinds of things” in the future.
“What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant,” Yamin declared.
Swain “used a platform of murdering people to gain publicity,” Yamin charged.
“There is no way the students here are going to allow further attacks on their own peers,” the Muslim undergrad also threatened, according to the Fix.
“And if the university respects us as human beings, it has to come out and condemn these statements and promise us that it’s not going to happen again in the future.”
Mark Bandas, the dean of students at Vanderbilt, also got into the act. He appeared at the “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech” to offer encouragement.
“Ensuring that this campus is welcoming to, and supportive of, all of our students” is important, he told the assembled dozens. He also urged students to “engage in dialogue” when presented with “polarizing speech.”
Exhibiting an understanding of the First Amendment roughly at the level of Yamin’s, eccentric tea party favorite and 1980s-era “Saturday Night Live” cast member Victoria Jackson also attended the Vanderbilt event — carrying a “ban Sharia” sign. She was with some guy holding a red, white and blue guitar.
This two-person counter-protest fizzled dramatically.
Swain, a professor at prestigious, pricey Vanderbilt since 1999, was once both a high school dropout and a teen mother. Since then, she has earned multiple degrees from fancypants schools and written a number of scholarly books published by leading presses, notes Inside Higher Ed.
The price for one year of undergraduate tuition, room and board and mandatory fees at Vanderbilt is about $54,600 (not including a $704 “first year experience fee”).
The ritzy school’s endowment of over $4 billion equates to $317,179 per student and is larger than the entire annual gross domestic product of Belize and Liberia — combined.
Vanderbilt receives significant amounts of state and federal money each year.
The school has been a hotbed of interesting news lately. This spring, philosophy professor Lisa Guenther is teaching an undergraduate course this spring semester called “Police Violence and Mass Incarceration.”
The course involves discussions of recent violence in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City and how the elite, well-off students feel about allegations of police brutality in the deaths of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Course readings include the writings of philosophers such as John Locke as well as musings by a bunch of contemporary bloggers. (RELATED: Fancypants $54,600-A-Year Vanderbilt Professor Will Teach Cop-Hating Course)