President Schill’s Op-Ed in the NYT: “The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism’”

This month, a handful of student protesters at the University of Oregon blocked me from delivering my state-of-the-university speech, one of my jobs as president. I had planned to announce a $50 million gift that would fund several new programs. I ended up posting a recorded version of the speech online.

Armed with a megaphone and raised fists, the protesters shouted about the university’s rising tuition, a perceived corporatization of public higher education and my support for free speech on campus — a stance they said perpetuated “fascism and white supremacy.”

Read more [here].

Note that the Senate and Senate leadership do not necessarily endorse President Schill’s views in this op-ed.  However, I do believe this is an important conversation we need to have as a campus and I am boosting the op-ed in the spirit of continued dialog on the topic. -CDS

2 thoughts on “President Schill’s Op-Ed in the NYT: “The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism’””

  1. Dear Faculty Senate,

    As a University of Oregon student, I am troubled by President Schill’s recent Opinion in the New York Times. I am further concerned that it was posted without comment or qualification to the Faculty Senate webpage. Does this posting indicate that the Faculty Senate endorses Schill’s message?

    What Schill fails to consider in his simplistic appeals to “free speech” and “rational discourse” are the myriad ways free speech and public discourse more generally are inflected and indeed infected with systems of power that privilege some types of speech, spoken by some types of speakers, over others. Those who occupy relatively powerful social and institutional positions have the latitude, resources, and ability to address their speech to broad sectors of society. By comparison, less powerful individuals and groups are often denied such platforms or audiences.

    President Schill’s Opinion is quite literally a product of the primary analytical gap in his argument. Michael H. Schill, by virtue of his position as university president, has the capability to blast his speech – in which he all but outright calls dissenting students Nazis – not only university-wide through emails sent to every university member, but also nationwide through an Opinion which is lent credence immediately because of Schill’s position as president. It would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for student protestors to enjoy the same scope of influence for our concerns about the use of university funds, racism, and sexual violence on campus.

    This is the crux of what President Schill misses in his editorial and what he has missed over the course of his turbulent presidency at the University of Oregon. All forms of speech are not equally available to all individuals and groups. This is the essence of how power operates through speech and discourse in society. By leveraging his platform as university president against students who seek to better our campus, he reinforces a system of public discourse that privileges his speech and concerns over those of the less powerful, rendering any claims he makes to “free speech” immediately suspect.

    Furthermore, though this may not have been the intent of the faculty senate, posting President Schill’s Opinion without comment or clarification extends Schill’s already considerable platform to disseminate his “misguided” arguments. I request that the faculty senate a) release an official statement that condemns Schill’s conflation of student protestors with Nazis and clarifies that the original posting of Schill’s Opinion to the faculty senate webpage did not reflect an endorsement of Schill’s message and b) post individual faculty and student responses to Schill’s Opinion as one small way to amplify the voices of those campus members who do not enjoy the same access to broadly publicized free speech as does President Schill.

    Regards,
    Andrea P Herrera

  2. Dear Senate President Chris Sinclair,

    I am writing in response to a New York Times Op-Ed that was published
    this morning. I am deeply concerned that President Michael Schill used
    the power and privilege of his office at this university to equate
    student protestors on campus (many of whom are currently victimized by
    actual fascist groups) with fascists themselves.

    The protestors at the State of the University address were a small
    self-organized group who brought reasonable concerns to the meeting.
    In response, the President used an inappropriate deflection strategy
    to direct anger and harm to these protestors. International students
    can have their visas jeopardized by the posting of such images and
    marginalized students are already at risk for fascist violence on
    campus and beyond. This editorial never considered them.

    I find it personally disturbing that President Schill would take such
    a public platform to air his grievances with students who have little
    power to defend themselves. Already comments on this article are
    calling for the expulsion of the protestors. He had to have known that
    the burden of his words would fall most on the protestors–students he
    claims to serve.

    President Schill demonstrated that he does not wish to address his
    position, authority, and the potential harm of his actions. I am
    compelled to ask when the UO Senate will be taking a stand against
    President Schill’s continual attempts to discredit and foment harm to
    student protestors. Not only are his attempts disingenuous, incorrect,
    and incredibly misguided, they are incredibly dangerous for the
    students he purports to serve in his role as University President.
    Schill is abusing the power given to him to reframe a conversation
    that should be about how the UO can be a safe community for scholars
    of all types, including those scholars who belong to marginalized
    groups.

    Here is a link to the article:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/opinion/fascism-protest-university-oregon.html

    I greatly appreciate your attention to this matter.

    DAN MICHAEL FIELDING
    Pronouns he/him/his
    University of Oregon
    Sociology Department
    PLC 620

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