Oren Cass ’05 has an excellent post on a rally for a Latino Studies program at Williams.
[I]t is strange that VISTA [Latino group at Williams] would be demanding a Latino Studies department given their reaction to the infamous Machismo Incident of last semester. (Disclaimer: As a member of the Williams College baseball team, I may be biased towards Coach Barnard’s side in order to protect my copious playing time.) At that time, VISTA’s position was that it was outrageous and racist for a faculty member to suggest that there might be cultural roots to some behaviors by Latinos.
Hmmmm… what exactly would a Latino Studies department do? Granted, Barnard was suggesting that the Latino culture might, in this particular instance, have a negative effect. But does VISTA want the Latino Studies department to only discuss the positive aspects of Latino culture and history? (Probably!) What exactly would a Latino Studies program consist of if trying to explain actions through cultural and sociological bases was ruled off-limits?
I blogged on this topic extensively last fall. I thought that I had a great solution to the problem, but, alas Nina Smith ’05 and Lisha Perez ’06 (the student “leaders” on this topic) were too pathetic (stupid? cowardly?) to go anywhere with it.
Cass’s entire post is a good read. I have a lot of faith that Morty Schapiro will deal with these sorts of stunts in a much more intelligent manner than some of his predecessors.
Cass ends with:
More generally, the issue here is with the support for, and creation of, these Ethnic Studies departments in general in a climate where saying anything general about an Ethnic group is off-limits. What do these departments focus on exactly? To justify their existence, don’t they have to at least acknowledge that there is something unique about [Insert Favorite Ethnic/Racial Group Here] literature, or sociology, or politics, or whatever else? And if so, how is that any different from an at least partial endorsement of stereotypes and generalizations as both in theory legitimate and in practice useful for understanding a given group?
Cass should e-mail this question (politely!) to various professors on campus and see what they have to say. With their permission, he could even publish the answers in his blog, along with commentary.
If he doesn’t, perhaps we should.