The Power of an Alumni Revolt

College alumni need to go from tummy-rub dog…

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.”

… to guard dog.

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.

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7 responses to “The Power of an Alumni Revolt”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Oh brother. At least now I understand the earlier post a little better….

    Having enjoyed a great deal of delicious outrage provided by my own alma mater and its political correctness outbreaks (I will not turn in my feathers, laugh out loud at the griffin, and was furious about the cross in the chapel), it passed and I still write checks. W&M was also the scene of an egregious example in the other direction, when during my time there the school dis-invited a liberal coming the the law school faculty, a lawyer who later changed his name to Saad El-Amin. He ended up giving guest lectures instead, which I remember covering. They were reacting there to complaints from an individual state legislator.

  2. CrazyJD Avatar

    >>a lawyer who later changed his name to Saad El-Amin.

    Who I recall went to prison and was disbarred. Was W& M prescient?

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Who knows how is life might have changed if Senator Willey had not intervened to block his W&M job! But his later problem doesn’t change my point, as counsel knows….sadly this PC stuff works both ways.

  4. Fortunately the cross was still there when my bride and I were wed there. BTW, I still call myself an “Indian” (class of ’49) as in the old days.

  5. That’s sad and true. Or maybe they don’t even look.

  6. DLunsford Avatar

    I see where Angela “Shot-gun” Davis was a speaker at my old school (VCU) back in February. But having given up on the alumni association many years ago and managing to stay one step ahead of the student phone solicitors over the years, I no longer have a dog in the fight. Except for certain parts of the MCV campus, its really not the same school I went to in the late 70s-early 80s. And with their Qatar campus operations, I’m baffled by the lack of feminist outrage either from the faculty or student body. I doubt the alumni even notice these things.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    yeah… why does Bacon think that all Alumni think like him and would base their support on that one viewpoint? 😉

    Alumni ALSO run the gamut on political (and other) philosophy.

    In fact, poll after poll that breaks out the demographics and more often than not, shows marked difference in perspective between those at higher education levels and those not .. and in infrequently more “liberal” tendencies… apparently not well recognized by folks of the Conservative persuasion.

    I also find the idea that any and all speech should be “welcomed” at Colleges because they’re supposed to be about “liberally” accepting all avenues of thought… or some such … but apparently that’s only actually supposed to be guaranteed by publicly-funded higher ed not ones like Liberty (which also received public dollars in various ways…but I digress).

    But let me point something out that might be a fly-in-the-ointment thing for the purists who seem to believe it’s about any/all speech at any/all public universities.

    When someone goes to a hearing, a City or County government meeting… you cannot get up at any time and talk about any subject for any length of time… you cannot stand up in the middle of the consent agenda and start spouting some nonsense about the “right” of people to engage in sex for hire or the societh of Foot Fetish Lovers.. etc.. it ain’t going to happen..

    the point is that “free speech” for whatever the purists want to think is not about getting up anywhere at anytime and spouting whatever is on your mind and believe me most of us don’t want to know what is on the mind of some folks to begin with.

    the question goes back to what “free speech” actually means if it is not about getting up anytime, anywhere to “educate” others on what you know.. or think you do.

    The key word here is “invite”… and yes.. there are indeed rules in the”invite”…like it or not.

    So some fool that advocates ..say animal sacrifice as a way to ward off evil – is simply not going to get an “invite” unless it is from some similarly-warped matriculating pseudo-student..

    We don’t allow child-porn as “free speech”.. we don’t tolerate snuff-videos on You-Tube and I can go on but the point is that is not anyone being able to say anything at any venue… never was..

    and then when you do talk about “rules” keep in mind that Liberty U’s “rules” are different from say.. some liberal private college… and indeed even among public colleges there are variations in the “rules”..

    I don’t have a “final answer” here … just pointing out that the anyone/anywhere/on any subject is not the standard rule that applies to all “free speech” .. any more at public colleges than govt meetings.. or in govt building and other govt-controlled venues.. so why would you expect different at public colleges?

    You COULD have on EVERY public college a designated venue – a park or a small amphitheatre where anyone COULD come at anytime to speak about anything – and whoever wants to come and listen – great… but the speaker is accorded nothing more.. no special or particular venue with no particular group or other “special” treatment. They get their free speech – according to the rules.. just like you do at a govt hearing…

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