Friday, August 19, 2016

Snowflakes, Town & Gown, and Human Rights Task Forces


“What do you get when you cross a …….”  On second thought, we won’t stoop so low as to make a joke on this.

Besides, what happens here in official Brunswick when said Task Force finally fights their way out of the box they’re in will in all likelihood be far more yuk-worthy. 

And wouldn’t you just know it, we got a glimpse into this just today:

Let’s look at a few passages:

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council accepted a report from the Human Rights Task Force Monday, and authorized the panel to continue working on its mission through the end of the year.  The 7-1 vote approved eight recommendations and initiatives that the task force will undertake in the upcoming months, many of which build on or complete  work the group has already begun.

Translation: “Whooh!  We managed to kick the can down the road, and avoid having to be decisive, conclusive, or judgmental in any way.”

The Human Rights Task Force was established last December in response to an increase of racial and gender-specific slurs downtown and near Bowdoin College. Soon after its inception, the task force expanded the scope of its inquiry to include all classes protected under the Maine Human Rights Act. Brayman called the conversations “open and informative,” and an opportunity to sit down and listen to the community. Most notably, the conversations have resulted in the Police Department’s implementation of an online bias report page, which has had two submissions to date.

Translation:  “In keeping with bureaucratic tradition, we immediately expanded the agenda to muddle the original impetus for the effort.  Our PD has established an on-line reporting portal, whose use to date has been underwhelming, but we still consider it a major step forward.”

According to the report, “the Task Force was not presented with evidence of widespread bias. The incidents reviewed by the Task Force appeared to be isolated, individual acts.”  The task force’s inquiry was originally supposed to take six months. But Brayman said the group believes the town will benefit from the continuation of the conversations they’ve started, especially because it has since widened its scope.

Translation:  “Yeah, we got swept up in the heat of the moment and over-reacted.  But now that we dug this hole we’re in, we’re hoping to find some prescious stones to make the effort seem worthwhile.  And come up with post facto reasons for why acceding to campus demands will eventually look like the right thing to have done.”


Beyond granting the task force more time, the council also accepted a list of recommendations to encourage community organizations to participate in the dialogue. The recommendations include workshops and web pages devoted to the issue, as well as promoting lines of communication between the town, Bowdoin College, and the Police Department to identify and deal with incidents of bias.“We met people from different parts of the community that we don’t usually talk to,” Wilson said Monday. “I think the relationships (the task force) is building with organizations in the town will be worth” the effort.

Translation:  “More workshops, more web pages, and encouraging dialogue.  Leadership 101, making it clear ‘this is who we are.’  Besides, we met some more people, and we’re hoping they can offer up some new complaints to make the task force seem worthwhile in retrospect.  They may even give us reasons to turn this into a never-ending effort, with no need to reach a conclusive result.”

We’ve written about the Task Force, as you likely know, in cautionary terms, and wondered when we would hear something decisive.

We submit that the use of the term “bone-headism” by one of our town leaders may be the most piercing and prophetic observation to date on this subject.

Enough said.  Our purpose tonight is to pass along a ‘learned article’ to provide some context for the task force.  Written by a faculty member from Princeton, it provides some ‘insider’ insights into the campus activism of  our age, along with an interesting theory on what is behind much of it.  We found the article informative and rational.


We caution you not to assume from the title that it’s ONLY about black rage.  You’ll see as you read it that it covers virtually every type of ‘snowflake’ currently inhabiting IHE’s like Bowdoin.  Here’s a key passage:

I believe that much of this recent frustration can be explained—and the perplexing question “Why now?” answered—by a phenomenon long known to historians and social scientists that might be termed the “Tocqueville Effect,” after its first extensive description by Alexis de Tocqueville in The Old Regime and the French Revolution (1856). In this work Tocqueville explains why extreme anger and hostility are often the result, not of the most objectively oppressive conditions under which people may live, but of what has been called a “revolution of rising expectations” in which people come to entertain exaggerated hopes of a better future that the actual conditions of life inevitably disappoint. Unfulfilled social expectations lead to painful frustration, frustration leads to bitterness and anger, which, in turn, lead to social and political unrest—up to and including riots and revolution.[1]

The article is a bit of a slog, but we believe that those who read it all the way through will be much better informed in the atmospherics of our ‘community.’  And when you do, keep in mind that the physical borders separating the campus from the town are indefinite and confused.  So when you read the words ‘campus community’ in the article, we think it’s fair to interpret that more broadly to include in town neighborhoods surrounding the campus.

The article is well foot-noted.  And it may cause you to wonder whether what transpired in Cape Brunswick isn’t part of a larger, orchestrated effort to show ‘solidarity’ with other campus activists across the nation by ‘joining up,’ rather than an organic initiative arising from within.

Here’s the link:

We’ll be interested to hear your reactions and comments, though our readers are historically loathe to post actual thoughts.

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