Who's the Boss: Student Successfully Orders Her Professor to Recite an Apology, Attend Racial Bias Training

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Chicago once sang that it’s hard to say you’re sorry.

But that was 1982, and the difficulty level looks to have lowered — just consider how common it is.

Add one more public apology to the pile, courtesy of a predicament in Portland.

But first: As I covered in October, an instructor at the University of Michigan caught the ire of the offended by introducing his class to a 1965 film.

The cinematic iteration of Shakespeare’s Othello starred Sir Laurence Olivier.

Just before the National Theatre Company’s production, Sir Laurence must’ve gotten some sun:

Not everyone in two-time Pulitzer-finalist Bright Sheng’s class took to the tan.

Professor Bright had survived Mao’s China, but he couldn’t escape America’s social conscience.

Speaking to the school paper, a frazzled freshman sounded off:

“I was stunned. In such a school that preaches diversity and making sure that they understand the history of POC (People Of Color) in America, I was shocked that [Bright] would show something like this in something that’s supposed to be a safe space.”

Despite the teacher’s letter of apology, he was replaced as head of the class.

And now, the blackface-ish controversy continues its carnage.

At Oregon’s Lewis & Clark College, Associate Professor of English William Pritchard showed students a clip from Othello for discussion.

Five days later — on October 11th — he shared with the class an article about Bright Sheng.

But a safe space had been breached, and select students were aghast — among them Claire Champommier.

In a letter, Claire clobbered her teacher.

As reported by The College Fix, eleven of her peers co-signed.

She delivered the missive to Associate Dean and Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies Daena Goldsmith, Dean of the College of Arts and Science Bruce Suttmeier, and Associate Professor of English and Department Chair Karen Gross.

Claire demanded William attend racial bias training.

Additionally, she ordered, he must compose “a well-written apology, two pages in length or longer” and read it aloud in class.

Her reasoning, as stated:

“The discussion he facilitated took about half our class time, so we have reasoned there can be room made for a 3-4 minute apology.”

“This is non-negotiable,” Claire clarified.

Her professor did as she told — he emailed his mea culpa on October 14th, reciting it the next day.

Here’s some of what Professor William wrote:

“My purpose in providing a glimpse of [Othello’s use of makeup] was not to endorse the artistic or ethical choices that the film made, but I see now that giving it any screen time at all was a first step towards imparting the message that many of you took away from that day’s class, namely, ‘a message from our professor that, to him, it was sometimes okay to do blackface and other forms of whitewashing.’ …. [H]ere I apologize again for misguidedly ‘play[ing] devil’s advocate,’ as your letter puts it.”

He supposed he knew what he was doing, but now he’s better informed:

“I was, I suppose, trying to consider and understand the reasons that led Olivier to make these artistic choices. I now see why many of you took that as my ‘making room to excuse blackface.’ I was mostly interested in the broader question of authenticity in casting. Under what circumstances does an actor need to actually ‘be’ some aspect of the character they play? … The point I was trying to convey is that there are problems with the authenticity model of casting as well.”

William also claimed there is racism embedded into America’s systems, though — as seems the perplexing par for the course with such assertions — he didn’t reveal any so they may be removed:

“[T]here are huge asymmetries and structural inequalities in our systems of race and gender, and there are important reasons why opening up traditionally ‘white’ roles to actors of color should not therefore lead to white actors gobbling up the relatively few lead roles that have traditionally been available to people of color.”

Per the professor, his discussion about Bright Sheng was meant to “acknowledge that [he himself] had made a mistake in the previous class.”

“[B]ut it’s clear to me now that I messed up in my own way.”

As part of his penance, William agreed to attend “racial bias training workshops.”

Moreover, he hoped “conversations with” Claire and the rest might “help [him] avoid [messing up] in the future.”

Even so, his distressed student wasn’t wooed.

As Claire confided to the Fix:

“[H]alf of it was dedicated to defending himself, trying to reason his side once again that this wasn’t even the worst thing that could’ve been done in a classroom.”

So will William retain his class? His job?

That remains to be seen.

The academic — who’s been teaching at Lewis & Clark for 18 years — thought he’d follow in the steps of the school’s namesakes and explore…ideas.

But he learned a brutal lesson in showcasing Shakespeare: Around any corner, progressive and painful enlightenment may await.

Just when you think you’re free of the mob, “What light through yonder wokeness breaks.”

And to be or not to be canceled, it appears, is no longer left up to adults overseeing our institutions.

These days, the youngsters are in charge.

And while it may be easy to say you’re sorry…it’s hard to be forgiven.

Maybe William’s anti-bias training will do him some good. After all, “Everybody needs a little time away…”

-ALEX

 

See more content from me:

Is College a Racket? New Study Links a Surge in Graduation With Greed and ‘Grade Inflation’

University Performs an ‘Antiracism’ Experiment — on Four-Year-Olds

The Seven Deadly Sins Must Have an Amazing Agent: Church Hosts ‘Pride’ Drag Show

Find all my RedState work here.

Thank you for reading! Please sound off in the Comments section below.