Photo Courtesy of Emily Paine, Bucknell Division of Communications

Learning from MLK’s legacy

Princeton professor Eddie Glaude claims ‘race still enslaves the American soul’

January 25, 2018

This year, the University student body and faculty celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by commemorating his impactful work through a week-long reflection entitled “A Critical Reflection on Current Struggles.” Over the course of the week, an array of professors from all over the country held lectures that touched on both MLK’s legacy, as well as social issues that continue to burden the nation. Professor Eddie Glaude of Princeton University sat down in an interview to discuss his thoughts on some of today’s most prominent issues, including free speech, progressive movements, and the latest election. He also presented these ideas in a lecture entitled, “How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul,” which is also the title of the book he published last year.

Glaude first touched on the idea of the value gap, the belief that white people matter more than others. Data revealed former President Obama was the first president elected without the majority white vote in 2008. Although hopeful, Glaude reveals that in “moments of progress there is a reassertion of the value gap, that we [white individuals] matter more.” He continues to describe that “demographic insecurity was deeply felt, [where] there was a sense in which the country was changing, dramatically.”

Glaude explains that Obama’s election signaled to the elites that the country was “no longer what it was,” and so Trump’s promise to “make America great again” would serve as a reassertion of an old vision of who we are as Americans.

Free speech has become a major issue across college campuses. Glaude believes campuses have become a hotbed for illiberalism, because radical thinkers exploit the open-mindedness that colleges purport to foster. Glaude emphasizes that colleges must think more critically about who they invite as a guest speaker, and whether the speaker will present insightful or destructive information to the students.

Black Lives Matter, the Poor People’s Campaign, and other nationwide movements have instilled hope in Americans as they aspire to eradicate the hate in the nation. Glaude, however, discourages Americans from relying on these organizations to solve all of the hateful acts committed, and the disdainful words uttered.

To explain his logic, Glaude referenced W.E.B Du Bois’ novel “Of The Passing of the First Born,” in which Du Bois writes, “It’s a hope, not hopeless, but unhopeful.” Glaude expands to say, “So it is not optimism; the obstacles are serious, the challenges are many, but there is an abiding faith in your or my capacity to stand together to strike the blow of freedom, without any guarantee we will succeed.”

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan speaks on the quest for transgender equality

By Haley Mullen, Assistant News Editor

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan addressed the crowd of students and faculty in the Elaine Langone Center Forum, stating, “there is not merit in denying the uncomfortable truth that we live in precarious times. Many of the issues Dr. King and his contemporaries worked against still impact us today.”

At 7 p.m  on Jan. 17, as part of the University’s 2018 MLK Week, Freedman-Gurspan spoke on the quest for transgender equality. The Director of External Relations at the National Center for Transgender Equality, she previously served as the Senior Associate for Public Engagement and the Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel and LGBT liaison at the White House from 2015-2017. The first openly transgender individual to work in the White House, Freedman-Gurspan says, through her hiring that “the president was sending a resounding message to us: our lives, our communities and our families count.”

However, under the current Trump administration, her position as the primary liaison to the LGBT community has not been reinstated. In fact, she said, “we have been shut out, with this administration, there is hardly any negotiating happening because we are hardly brought to the table.” She believes that to improve relations with the LGBT community, the current administration needs to start by “acknowledging that there are problems and impacted communities.”

Freedman-Gurspan attested to the importance of students to the well-being of the nation, saying, “institutions of higher education are critical vehicles in our democracy.” To her, speaking at the University this week made sense, especially since Martin Luther King Jr. organized with students.

As Raffi Freedman-Gurspan concluded her speech on Wednesday night, she advised the audience to “stand united and walk shoulder to shoulder as we fight for equality for all. We can and we will win, just as we always have.”

First NYU Muslim chaplain speaks on importance of diversity on college campuses

By Kathryn Nicolai, News Editor

Khalid Latif, the first appointed Muslim chaplain at New York University (NYU) as well as the youngest chaplain in history of the New York Police Department (NYPD) spoke on Jan. 16 about the challenges with race and class on the systemic and structural level, in conjunction with how to address these problems.

At NYU, Latif’s roles as the Director of NYU’s Islamic Center, adjunct assistant professor and a NYU Chaplain bear manifold responsibilities. As one of 12 chaplains for the NYPD, Latif serves as a resource for all 53,000 members of the NYPD, whether it be an emergency situation or day-to-day issues.

Being the first Muslim and the youngest individual to hold many of his positions brings Latif a lack of precedent and advice. “Other people will try their best [to give advice] but if they don’t understand the nuance of where you’re coming from or also the nuance of the people you’re engaging it makes it that much harder,” Latif said.

Latif strives toward creating communities and spaces for people to “just be who they are.” Specifically, on college campuses Latif believes it’s important to notice diversity within admission statistics as well as hiring practices from leadership to entry level positions so that all students feel comfortable and welcome.

“Where you have student demographics that don’t find familiarity in leadership, professors, faculty, administrators, essentially just being like them, it creates a bit of a difficulty to then be able to give them an entry point to something bigger,” Latif said.

Two public intellectuals answer the question, “what’s the point of a liberal arts education?”

Elizabeth Worthington, Editor-in-Chief

It turns out that a well-known conservative scholar and a self-described “radical democrat” actually agree on the answer to this question. For Harvard University professor and Democrat Cornel West, it is “learning how to die.” Conservative Princeton University professor Robert George puts it in more delicate language; it’s “acknowledging we might be wrong.” Either way, both professors agree that the point of a liberal arts education is to be exposed to alternative points of view in order to either learn how to defend our own views or to gain “intellectual humility,” in George’s words.

The talk took place in the Weis Center on Jan. 18 as part of the University’s week-long celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of learning how defend his views against intense criticism.

The two professors claim to be concerned with a threat against democracy and liberal arts institutions that champion freedom of  thought and expression. They put out a joint statement affirming their commitment to these values, arguing they are “critical to the success of the democratic experiment and to the project of truth-seeking.”

West and George wrote the statement in the light an incident at Middlebury College, where students protested the speech of conservative Charles Murray, preventing him from even speaking. Similar incidents took place in 2017 at UC Berkeley, University of Washington, and the University of Chicago.

In their statement, West and George argue: “Of course, the right to peacefully protest, including on campuses, is sacrosanct. But before exercising that right, each of us should ask: Might it not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it better serve the cause of truth seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?”

Aside from the value of formal education as an outlet for free speech and expression, George emphasized the inherent value of learning in general – even outside the traditional classroom. He invited the audience to look beyond education as a gateway to a job or to money and to instead regard learning as an end in itself. They stressed how learning is not restricted to an intellectual elite — it is open to anyone.

Within a university setting, the two professors encourage students to view liberal arts curricular requirements as “opportunities” rather than “burdens or irrelevancies.”

When asked to answer the question, “what’s the point of a liberal arts education,” prior to the talk, students reflected on the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplines and to be well-rounded candidates during the job search but none discussed the value of free speech as West and George did.

John Hunter, professor of comparative humanities said of the talk, “Robert George and Cornel West exemplified respectful, principled, intellectual disagreement in a way that the whole Bucknell community could learn from[…]Free speech is a right; but (at its best) it also imposes a responsibility.”

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