SENIOR COLUMN: UA and the cult of "do something"By Jordan LaPorta | 04/26/2017 9:52pm
In America, we live in a society driven by results. Whether it is on the football field or in the board room, success and tangible accomplishment make and break careers. Most of the time, this is a good thing. A society based on genuine merit is sure to yield more positive outcomes than one based on other, subjective criteria. However, when it comes to politics this achievement arms race generally leads to poor results and less liberty for everyone involved.
People love to see their leaders get things accomplished – even if those accomplishments only facilitate the illusion of progress. The demands of the public on the government operate on a predictable cycle: something bad happens, the public gets outraged and then people call on the government to create some new bureaucracy. People rarely pay attention to see if the solution offered up by politicians and bureaucrats actually works, but not doing something in the face of crisis is the public relations kiss of death.
The governmental cult of do-something is present at all levels of society, and it is on full display at The University of Alabama. Students at UA, like many across the country, demand that the administration enforce the uniform code of social justice every day of the week. More often than not, students ask the University to perform functions that it is not legally or logistically equipped to do, putting UA in an awkward position.
This is not to say that these students do not have a fundamental right to protest, or that the problems from which they seek refuge are not serious – they do and they often are. But these students would find greater success in appealing to the appropriate authority, which is frequently someone outside of Rose Administration Building.
A perfect example of poorly channelled outrage is the heartbreaking issue of sexual assault among college students. The University has a duty to keep its students safe and protect them while they are on campus or under the supervision of any of its programs. No sane person would dispute this. However, some activists seek to expand the University’s role into a quasi-judiciary, wherein it – rather than real courts – would hear the cases of alleged rape victims.
President Obama’s Department of Education 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter urged colleges across the country to better investigate and adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault. In these campus trials, those accused are not protected by the due process criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, accused students are subject to a preponderance standard, which simply means that he or she more likely than not committed a crime.
Instead of placing students in kangaroo court, it would be far better for those involved to make students formally charged of such crimes take online classes, while real legal authorities ascertain the truth. But those types of solutions don’t get headlines; they don’t appease the cult of do-something.
Another instance of such lobbying is the recent push for mandatory “diversity classes” that would be required of all students at UA. On top of having an insignificant effect on the people most in need of exposure to different cultures, diversity classes give agents of the Alabama state government the power to define what “diversity” is. Those keenly aware of this state’s troubled past should be careful when ceding control of an important narrative to the same government that enforced Jim Crow, passed a stiff and unconstitutional anti-immigrant law and shut down DMVs in certain parts of the state with high black populations.
The issue of diversity promotion also comes up every year in the spring, when the Greek-dominated Machine is typically on its way to winning another SGA election cycle. Historically, critics of The Machine have attacked it for being exclusionary – and for good reason. Groups on campus, including We Are Done, have called for the administration to step in and essentially dismantle the Machine. While The Machine’s secrecy and blatant disregard for the rules are troubling, it has as much of a right to exist as any other private club.
At the end of the day, The Machine is no more than an over-hyped interest group. Other organizations have attempted to form similar “parties,” but they just have not been nearly as successful. If The Machine is to be defeated, it should be by the ballot, not the administrative bullet. This has happened during my time here, and there is no doubt that it can happen again.
Universities are neither sufficient judiciary systems nor incubators for social experiments; they are institutions of higher learning. State driven social control is a double-edged sword. Sure, it can be used to force people to be progressive. But if the wrong people are elected or appointed, it can also force people to be regressive. Any coercive system dependent on the will of the majority makes all of us less free and will inevitably fail to solve the largest problems facing our campus, state and nation.
Jordan LaPorta is a senior majoring in history and political science. He was News Editor of The Crimson White.