Anti-'Christian Privilege' Activism in Academia
At “Christian” colleges too.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a neighbor who revealed to me that, insofar as she would like to exercise her right to bear arms, she doesn’t consider herself especially “liberal.” For this reason, she would eventually like to leave our painfully blue state of New Jersey.
Yet during the course of our exchange, she also shared that her daughter is away at college. I responded: “I hope that she doesn’t come home hating you.” I was half-joking, of course, but only by half. It was then that I told her that, being an academic dissident, I make it my mission to inform otherwise uninformed parents of what their children can expect to experience during their time in today’s university.
A glance at a couple of recent events from two schools, one secular, the other Catholic, suffices all too easily to leave an indelible impression of the contemporary academy:
At George Washington University, just days after much of the Christian world celebrated Easter, a training session was held for faculty and students. The purpose of this “diversity workshop” is to expound upon the thesis that Christians “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”
The seminar is titled: “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!” According to the seminar description, Christians have “built-in advantages” over non-Christians.
Upon their completion of the workshop, participants should be able to “describe what is meant by privilege overall and white privilege especially;” “describe the role of denial when it comes to white privilege;” “differentiate between equality and equity;” “list at least three examples of Christian privilege;” and “list at least three ways to be an ally with a non-Christian person.”
Over at Providence College, a Dominican-founded, Roman Catholic institution, the school has succumbed to what Anthony Esolen, one of its former faculty members, characterizes as the “Totalitarian Diversity Cult.” Esolen is a practicing Catholic, a scholar who famously translated Dante’s Divine Comedy, who left Providence nearly a year ago because of what he insists is its abandonment of its Catholic Christian mission.
A year later, it no longer seems possible to doubt Esolen’s analysis.
Michael Smalanskas is a senior at Providence and a Resident Advisor. He is also a conservative Roman Catholic. Consistent with his job description, Smalanskas, shortly before spring break, placed a flyer on a dormitory bulletin board. It read: “Marriage: The Way God Intended It…One Man, One Woman.” The flyer also included quotations affirming marriage from both Pope Francis and the Gospel of Mark.
Smalanskas informed National Review that his intention in hanging the flyer was “to expose a double standard on campus that certain positions—mainly conservative and Catholic positions—are not welcome here and are treated with hatred.”
Furthermore, conservative and Catholic views “are just not protected in the same way” as the beliefs of others.
But within hours, Smalanskas was besieged by “all sorts of harassing text messages,” and, according to The College Fix, even his fellow RAs “keyed into his building after hours to undo his work as a Providence employee.”
When a mob began forming outside of Smalanskas’ room, campus security insisted upon escorting him to another building as “a precaution.” During his interview with LifeSite News, Smalanskas supplied a glaring example of the moral divide separating traditional conservative students from the campus left. “There had been a pro-lesbian bulletin board up for the entire month of February in one of the female residence halls,” he remarked. “But nobody was rioting outside of the girl’s door.”
Things got so bad for Smalanskas that he “couldn’t even go brush my teeth for several nights without facing a mob” in the hallway.
Smalanskas’ fellow RAs and other students are calling for his termination and, eventually, someone posted on the wall of Smalanskas’ dormitory bathroom a drawing of him about to be raped by a man.
Despite all of this, however, Providence College has allegedly done nothing so far to aid Smalanskas except to offer him “mental health services.” After he was whisked away in a squad car to an undisclosed location for his own safety from the left-wing mob, Smalanskas called the chaplain’s office for support. Yet the priest “didn’t even want to come. When he did finally show up,” Smalanskas recalls, “he basically begged and pleaded with me to ‘graduate in peace,’” and “told me that I was ‘throwing culture bombs.’”
To this priest’s credit, though, Smalanskas says that he is now “overcompensating” for the manner in which he treated the beleaguered student on the evening that he was targeted.
Not everyone has been willing to repent. In March, Smalanskas and his faculty advisor, James Keating, met with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Kristine Goodwin, the Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Father R. Gabriel Pivarnik, and Providence’s attorney. Smalanskas and Keating asked for the school to publicly condemn the treatment to which Smalanskas had been subjected; publicly reaffirm the Catholic mission of Providence, underscoring that Smalanskas’ exhibit comports with traditional Catholic teaching; and publicly insist that Providence is a safe space for “free speech.”
School officials refused to take any of these measures.
The Vice President of Student Affairs, Ms. Goodwin, did send out a rather lengthy email to the student body imploring for all of its members to treat one another with respect. She also mentioned that while Smalanskas’ position on marriage was consistent with that of the Church, it is “only a part” of Catholic teaching that, “when taken out of context,” “can have detrimental consequences, especially if it ends up alienating people from the truth that it serves.”
Goodwin then urged students to “walk in solidarity with SHEPARD” as it holds its demonstration to promote “unity, affirmation, and inclusion even amidst controversy.”
SHEPARD, you see, is the organization that called for the Providence community to “stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ*” in a “march against homophobia and transphobia.”
After nearly a month’s worth of outside pressure by those disgusted by Providence’s refusal to publically defend one of their students, the president of the college finally responded to Smalanskas’ request to repudiate the treatment to which the latter has been subjected while reaffirming the Church’s position on marriage. Father Brian Shanley sent out a lengthy campus-wide email. Three paragraphs into it he condemned the attacks against Smalanskas as “odious and reprehensible.”
Michael Smalanskas puts the point well. While he “appreciate[s] that he [Shanley] addressed the issue more thoroughly,” his “hesitation to speak forcefully on the matter speaks volumes [.]” Smalanskas adds:
“It took the president over three weeks to try and do something that could have easily been addressed immediately. He seems to suggest that his only reason for doing so was in response to the negative publicity and criticism from concerned Catholics, once again insulting anyone who is concerned about Catholic identity as uncharitable and angry.”
The hard left, stories like this should make obvious, has even taken control of many traditionally Christian institutions of higher learning. Fewer and fewer places are immunized against it.
This being so, parents who wish to send their children to “Christian” colleges should take care to insure that they aren’t the victims of false advertising.
Tragically, the odds are greater than not that they will be.