At long last, we learn about Oberlin: As we’ve often noted, the New York Times adores certain themes about race.
We don’t mean that as a compliment. In our view, the Times enjoys the fatuous stuff, especially if it lets them lord it over their lessers in the benighted South.
The great newspaper tends to be AWOL concerning more serious themes.
We were struck by the Times’ two reports about race at Ole Miss last week. In the process of musing about those reports, we even learned what happened at Oberlin last year, in the Klan sighting the Times ballyhooed, then dropped.
The Times never reported how that one turned out! Last weekend, we finally learned, or at least we came close. But first, consider the front-page report in the Times this Tuesday.
The headline stirred our soul, and suggested a serious problem. This time, the Times was working the race beat way up North, Tanzina Vega reporting:
VEGA (2/25/14): Colorblind Notion Aside, Colleges Grapple With Racial TensionRacial tension isn’t good, especially among younger people. On the brighter side, we were relieved to see that the Times had managed to work in Ole Miss.
A brochure for the University of Michigan features a vision of multicultural harmony, with a group of students from different racial backgrounds sitting on a verdant lawn, smiling and conversing.
The scene at the undergraduate library one night last week was quite different, as hundreds of students and faculty members gathered for a 12-hour “speak out” to address racial tensions brought to the fore by a party that had been planned for November and then canceled amid protests. The fraternity hosting the party, whose members are mostly Asian and white, had invited “rappers, twerkers, gangsters” and others “back to da hood again.”
Beyond the immediate provocation of the party, a sharp decline in black undergraduate enrollment—to 4.6 percent of the student body in 2013 from 6.2 percent in 2009—and a general feeling of isolation among black students on campus have prompted a new wave of student activism, including a social media campaign called “Being Black at the University of Michigan” (or, on Twitter, #BBUM). Members of the university’s Black Student Union have petitioned campus administrators to, among other things, increase enrollment of black students to 10 percent.
Similar episodes and tensions have unsettled colleges including Arizona State; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Mississippi; and Dartmouth.
Can anyone convince college students to stop throwing their brainless “back to da hood” parties? Possibly not.
That said, there’s always someone doing something stupid somewhere in this very large nation. And the Times is famous for front-page “trend stories” which don’t involve actual trends.
As Vega continued, we’ll have to say she didn’t seem to have an enormous number of racial incidents to discuss. That said, her report used Ann Arbor as its base, and she quoted a black student saying the feeling on campus was bad.
At this point in her piece, we tore our hair over the quality of standard old New York Times journalism, whatever the topic might be:
VEGA: Tyrell Collier, 21, the speaker of the Black Student Union, who is majoring in sociology and Afro-American and African studies, said racial tensions on campus had been mounting for months.Collier is an important young person. (So is everyone else at Ann Arbor.) He said racial tensions on campus had been mounting for months, that the party was just the peak.
“There was a very tense climate brewing all semester, and I think the party was just the peak,” he said. Mr. Collier added that his group, which spearheaded the popular social media campaign, had received inquiries from other black student groups around the country looking to use similar tactics.
We’ll bite! Why had racial tensions been mounting? Why had the climate at Michigan been very tense?
If Vega asked these obvious questions, Collier’s answers didn’t make it into her front-page report. Later, a professor of science and engineering gave his explanation for “the recent spate of activism on diversity.” But Collier, who said the climate had been very tense, never got to say why!
In our view, that was a frustrating front-page report, right out of the New York Times can. Tomorrow, Mississippi and Oberlin.