Virginia Tech unleashed a firestorm of alumni protest last year after it disinvited Jason Riley, a conservative African-American columnist with the Wall Street Journal. The university received numerous phone calls and more than 100 angry emails, recounts Jillian Kay Melchior in a WSJ op-ed piece today.
News of the dis-invitation, prompted by administrators buckling in to the campus forces of political correctness, reached millions of readers on Twitter, where the reactions were overwhelmingly negative toward the university and higher education in general.
“While we can respond to the people who write to us,” wrote one administrator, “we cannot dispel the negative impression created by the media against the president, the university, the dean, and the college and the department.”
Quailing again, this time from the public’s reaction, Virginia Tech subsequently reissued an invitation to Riley. But the university left the engagement off its campus event calendar and marketed only to alumni. Of the audience of about 125 who came to hear the black conservative, only three or four were students, reported the National Review this past April. Wrote the NR: Tech “was more concerned about its public image than about intellectual freedom, and eventually honored its invitation to Riley out of fear for its image and fundraising, not from principles of respect for its promises or for intellectual freedom.”
As I wrote last week (see “Virginia Tech on a Fund-Raising Tear“), Tech enjoyed a banner fund-raising year last year, collecting a record $160 million. If the university suffered any ill effects from its politically correct behavior, it wasn’t reflected in outside donations. But the Riley episode shows that alumni still can influence policy.
Nowhere has the blacklash against campus radicalism and PC run amok been more evident than the University of Missouri. As the WSJ notes, the response to campus unrest and intolerance in 2015 has been a 35% decline in freshman enrollment this year, and a massive falloff in attendance at football games. (I’ll bet donations were off, too.)
It baffles me that alumni open their wallets to their alma maters and ask so little in return. Give them a few tail-gating parties, reunion bashes, and alumni events, and most grads roll over like a dog begging for a belly rub. But it’s clear that alumni can have a tremendous impact if they choose to. Official alumni associations, which function as extensions of the development office, are worthless as mechanisms for resisting radicals. It’s time for outraged alumni to get organized. They need to attend Board of Visitor meetings, set up websites, monitor official communiques, collect and share intelligence, and act as a countervailing force to campus radicals.There are currently no comments highlighted.