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Competence, Cultural and Other

Last Friday, the following missive (sent, I believe, to the entire George Mason University “community”) landed in my inbox:

Dear Patriots,

Racism has no place at George Mason University.

We are not isolated from race-related incidents occurring across the nation. Just last evening, a racially offensive image was found in one of our residence halls. The image was demeaning, dehumanizing, and unfit for our community. University authorities are investigating this incident.

But the work of our community must go beyond dealing with specific incidents. It is everyone’s responsibility to create and sustain an environment that affirms and supports every member of this community so that we can thrive together.

That students of color are speaking up, speaking out, and raising serious concerns on their campuses underscores the continued need for dialogue followed by action.

Students, faculty, and staff at George Mason University are expressing similar concerns as conversations about campus climate, classroom environment, cultural competence, and recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color are on the minds of many.

These dialogues are important to have. I don’t expect they will be easy, but we will create a stronger campus community by having them and taking action as a result. I am working with my leadership team to develop a series of dialogues to inform appropriate policies and actions.

I encourage you to actively engage in this work.

Ángel Cabrera

Mr. Cabrera is GMU’s President. To the extent that I understand his sycophantic burble, I hope it doesn’t apply to the law school. For starters, he has not a word to say of free speech and inquiry, which is what we practice. We don’t have to be told that “racism has no place at GMU”; but no, I myself do not practice “affirmation.” Students deserve, and get, my respect and my support in preparing them for the bar exam and for legal practice. They paid for it; I’m contractually and morally obligated to deliver, which means I’ll get in their faces. Law is a “dialogue” alright; but it involves a bit of contentiousness, in class and around it. Even my syllabus contains a lot of stuff that’s “demeaning and dehumanizing.” Like Dred Scott, up next week. I invite President Cabrera and his diversity team to attend the class, to investigate whether it’s “culturally competent” and I have “actively engaged” in his agenda.

Apropos which: it would be competent for a university president to speak up when a highly paid faculty member publicly demands a federal criminal investigation of people who have voiced “misleading” opinions about climate change. This circus act made national news, in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. Its ringleader is GMU professor Jagadish Shukla. In my view this is damaging to GMU’s brand. Any word from President Cabrera? Nope.

Our president promises unspecified “action.” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that: the words are bad enough.

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