August 5 2013
Report from Hillsdale: Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Recently, Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, a private, conservative university in Michigan, received flack and a call to resign because of his comments related to Michigan Department of Education inspections of his college. According to the Detroit News, Arnn told lawmakers during testimony last Wednesday that “his college had been approached by the Department of Education because it ‘didn’t have enough dark ones,’ referring to minority students.”
Articles have been written saying no one should be offended by those remarks; opposing reactions range from mere rebuttals to Progress Michigan’s petition calling for Arnn to resign.
Both of these are extremes positions.
The fact is that Hillsdale doesn’t accept federal or state money, rebuffs federal or state-attempted influence, and it was probably offensive to Mr. Arnn’s sensibilities to see a bunch of bureaucrats roaming his school marking down the color of his students’ skin. As the Huffington Post reported, Hillsdale "was the first American college to prohibit in its charter any discrimination based on race, religion or sex, and became an early force for the abolition of slavery.”
But Arnn's remarks were definitely, well, a weird way to phrase his objection. It’s weird and therefore it’s not surprising that it pulled some people up short. Maybe Arnn was was trying to be clever and failed.
Arnn was objecting--ironically--to the bureaucrats who were themselves marking down race of Hillsdale students on a clipboard; he objected to the state mandating diversity on a campus with a long and sterling history of equal standards. He said something that doesn’t sit right with a lot of people, including me. But it might have been that who Dr. Arnn is and what his college stands for is what made detractors so eager to attack him.
This is anti-liberal. What defines intellectualism is the pursuit of truth, not arriving at a comfortable location and shaking your fist as people speed by with legitimate questions and concerns about our society.