‘Victor Davis Hanson Ph.D. ’80, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, blogged last week that, for a variety of reasons, the American university is the “the most politically intolerant and monolithic institution in the country.” While addressing his wide range of criticisms, some of which hold merit, is beyond the scope of this editorial, we direct your attention to a particular set of complaints regarding the behavior of various racial groups in higher education:
…“Latin Americans add an accent and a trill and they become victimized Chicanos,” Hanson wrote. “One-half African Americans claim they are more people of color than much darker Punjabis; the children of Asian optometrists seek minority and victim status.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, we would like to point out this passage for what it is: absolute trash. If Hanson wants to engage in discussion about affirmative action or the role of race in higher education, we would applaud that and welcome his viewpoint. But this sort of homogenous denigration is no intellectual commentary. It is at best vitriolic ignorance. Combining the toxic assumption that all members of an ethnicity group act the same way with the mocking reference to “an accent and a trill” veers dangerously into bigotry.
There is incredible value in examining the current university structure in this country, and race and class issues should not be ignored in that temperate and thoughtful discourse. Hanson’s words, tragically, not only hinder this discussion, but deride stakeholders and concerned parties with callous and shrill remarks. If he was trying to draw attention to the topic, he has instead shifted the focus onto himself.
Worse yet, Hanson’s words reflect badly on Stanford through his association with a research center supported by this university and housed on this campus. The editorial board understands the Hoover Institution cannot be held responsible for all the public statements of its scholars, but strongly urges the institution to repudiate or, at the very least, review Hanson’s remarks. Surely, gross generalities couched in racially charged language cannot fit with Hoover’s mission.
It is worth stressing that the Hoover Institution includes preeminent scholars in a variety of disciplines. From Nobel Laureates to former high-level public policy officials and advisers, many of the foremost minds at Stanford and other universities contribute to Hoover’s work. These professors offer serious academic research that adds significant value to policy discussion and to the intellectual community on campus.
Hanson’s despicable words provide the Hoover Institution the perfect opportunity to clarify its role in American politics. Purposeful academic research or derisive, unfounded cheap shots: which will it be? The editorial board expects and hopes that an institution producing distinguished research to inform policy debates will wholeheartedly reject the sort of remarks Hanson made.
Thus, we issue this editorial as an open challenge to the Hoover Institution. If you find fault with Hanson’s grossly generalizing remarks and wish to be a leader in the discussion of modern American universities, then please: let us know.
If you do not, we hope you realize the damage you do to this university’s standing and to the well-being of higher education in America.