It’s easy for readers to dismiss major news that doesn’t affect them, anyone they know, or anyone from the town where they live. Case in point, the news articles about and television footage of racially-based protests at the University of Missouri and several other major colleges last week. People who don’t live in those states, or have kids in those colleges, can look at these protests and feel comfortable that the complaints being leveled really have nothing to do with them.

However, those protests have grown and snowballed into different states, including right here in Kansas. Currently, protesters are making noise at the University of Kansas, which has the potential to directly affect someone from our community.

Chanute High School alum Jessie Pringle is the current KU student body president, a very distinguished honor that she earned with more than 60 percent of the vote in April.

Protesters are now demanding that Pringle, and other students who serve as the KU student government’s Vice President and Chief of Staff, resign their posts by 6:30 pm on Wednesday or face impeachment proceedings.

Pringle and her fellow student-government leaders aren’t being accused of any specific rule-breaking or criminal behavior. They didn’t burn a cross outside of anyone’s dorm room, graffiti Nazi symbols on any campus buildings, or even do something relatively harmless like wear a Halloween costume that offended anyone’s delicate sensibilities.

Instead, as far as I can tell from reading about the protests, Pringle’s main crime seems to be that she’s white. Plus, when protesters hijacked the university’s Forum on Race to present a list of 15 diversity demands, asking all students who agreed to stand in solidarity, Pringle apparently was among the students who dared not to stand up.

Looking at the list of demands – which includes reopening the investigation of a 40-year-old murder case having absolutely nothing to do with the university – it’s easy to see why any smart and savvy student would have some reservations about offering full support. Some of what they want seems pretty reasonable, and some of their demands seem pretty ridiculous. I wouldn’t stand in support of any agenda that struck that kind of balance.

Pringle’s apparently egregious, impeachment-worthy act was having the ability to think for herself instead of agreeing with every agenda item presented by a random group. It’s easy to follow the crowd, to agree with anything put in front of you as to not offend anybody, but Pringle refused to do so. That sounds like the kind of independent thinking that I would want in a leader or an elected representative. Yet, this group apparently wants to attack Pringle and some of her fellow students for having their own thoughts and opinions.  

I am not saying that all of the complaints being raised at these protests are invalid, or that even the most politically misguided of radical students aren’t capable of making a good point every once in a while. I absolutely agree that college campuses should always make an effort to be more diverse and welcoming. However, threatening to purge anyone who doesn’t hold the same exact views as every politically-oriented campus list-maker seems like an awfully poor way to achieve any diversity. In a truly “diverse” culture, people from all backgrounds and with all political views could come together and try to find common ground. No “diversity” is ever going to be achieved if everyone has to be in lock-step at all times, on all issues.

A student who doesn’t learn to get along with those who may hold vastly different views of the world than they do probably isn’t going to do too well once it comes time to leave the “safe space” of a college campus and enter the real world.

To her credit, Pringle has yet to give in to these demands calling for her ouster. Instead, she and her fellow student leaders released a statement apologizing for not responding in a timely manner at the forum. The letter also endorsed ideas to make the student Senate more diverse to address the points being raised by protesters. It was a much nicer gesture than I would have shown towards a group of easily-offended individuals trying to throw me out of an esteemed position.

It doesn’t seem like these protesters have much ground to impeach Pringle, if they can’t prove that she’s actually done anything wrong. I hope that our hometown heroine Student Body President stays strong in her position and doesn’t back down. It would also be nice to see university officials, professors and alumni start standing up to and combatting the efforts of protesters who try to use the principles of free thought and free speech to stifle the free speech of others. Doing that to modern college students who have been too coddled and are too easily offended seems like the only way to actually teach them anything.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or invitations to address upcoming college protests to brian@chanute.com

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