Conservative Maryville University student fights and wins “behavior” and free expression battle with professors
A conservative Maryville University freshman student fought back against his liberal, leftist professors when when they tried to correct his “behavior” for writing an essay critical of the Tunnel of Consciousness, an exhibit displayed in the university chapel.
The student, Abduah Abrahim, wrote an essay, called a reflection, that criticized the accepted thinking about a display for a required course, University Seminar: Who Am I?, or USEM. Instructors for the course are Brittney Williams, Laura Ross, and Alex Wulff. Peers for the class include Diana Huynh and Bailey Butler.
The Tunnel of Consciousness: A Call to Action is a display put up yearly at the beginning of the fall semester with the ulterior motive of making freshmen feel guilty or upset about circumstances that they have little or no control over, such as illegal immigration, income inequality, discrimination, etc.
After they walk through the display, they then write a reflection on it as part of a class assignment.
Here is the first sentence from his essay:
“The tunnel was what I expected it to be, a concoction of selected injustices and perspectives which only cater to a specific way of thinking where those other than straight, white, wealthy, male people are victims of society.”
“At first I didn’t really care about (Tunnel of Consciousness),” I don’t think it’s wrong to expose people to those incidents, like people being killed because of the lifestyle they choose.”
But it’s wrong when there’s an ulterior agenda being pushed through, and I noticed that there was an agenda, he said.
“(Tunnel of Consciousness exhibit) was inconsistent and it was making a lot of (false) assumptions,” he said.
Abrahim said Maryville University is like lots of other liberal arts universities that promote diversity and inclusion, but not diversity and inclusion of thinking.
“They want us all to look different, but they want us to all think the same,” Ibrahim said.
The trouble with Ibrahim’s “behavior” started during a conference with Ross, when she complained about his reflection.
(Ross) did not like how he wrote that women were not being discriminated against because of the cost of things like women’s condoms and razors
“It depends on supply and demand,” he said.
Ross did not like having her views challenged or proved wrong, so she wrote an email criticizing Ibrahim’s “behavior.” When he challenged her email, Wulff and Ross requested that Ibrahim meet together to discuss his “behavior.”
Ibrahim refused to meet with the professors without legal representation present. Then the Dean of Students, Joseph Fitzpatrick, sent him a threatening email, which included this statement:
“Should you decide not to attend or reschedule, then you run the risk of being charged with a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, specifically, ‘Failure to comply with a directive or request issued by University officials or law enforcement officers acting in the performance and scope of their duties.’ The meeting with your instructors is intended to be educational and to clarify expectations, so it would be unfortunate to have to leverage the conduct process for a single refusal to meet.”
An attorney friend then helped Ibrahim draft a response, which included a reference to Ross' behavior:
"I am contemplating filing a complaint with the University about Laura’s behavior toward me, as well as her seriously unethical actions after our original conversation. The Maryville University adjunct faculty handbook, dated September 2018, provides as follows at page 12, at the section titled Academic Expectation and Academic Integrity; “If a student believes a faculty member has behaved in an uncivil, or inappropriate manner with him/her, the student may choose to file a grievance against the faculty member. ‘ ‘ ‘ Students should pursue an informal resolution process first….”
This email stopped the harassment and completely chanted the attitude of Ross and Wulff, Abrahim said.
Abrahim said he was not sure if he would file the complaint. He did eventually meet with Wulff and Ross, but the tenor of the meeting completely changed and they did not question his behavior or views.
Here is goal of the experience, from a statement by Jen McCluskey, PhD, vice president for Student Success at Maryville University.
“It is anticipated that people who engage in the Tunnel of Consciousness will gain a sense of what it’s like to be discriminated against and be able to recognize privilege and oppression in its many forms, demonstrate cultural sensitivity, understand equal opportunity and create a personal action plan to work toward social justice.”
Here is a description of the Tunnel of Consciousness: A Call to Action on the Maryville University web site: https://www.maryville.edu/mpress/tunnel-of-consciousness-2016/
“The Tunnel of Consciousness: A Call to Action,” an exhibit focused on contemporary social justice issues, was held on the Maryville University campus during the week of Oct. 17. More than 750 people walked through the exhibit, which was designed as an “immersion” experience.
The Tunnel of Consciousness, which supports diversity and inclusion as a core value of Maryville and as a component of the University’s strategic plan, is now in its seventh year as a signature program of the Division of Student Success.
The Tunnel of Consciousness provides an opportunity for students to recognize and better understand privilege, power and oppression in its many forms,” says McCluskey. “The Tunnel experience has served as a powerful venue for students coming from a variety of backgrounds to discuss these important and sometimes difficult topics.
Topics such as religion, race, gender, ability, class and LGBTQ are explored through news articles, photographs, videos of Maryville students sharing personal stories and interactive displays, among other resources.”
The following is a description of the USEM course:
“Maryville’s University Seminar is more than a required course. It provides a distinctive opportunity to work closely with peers and a trio of instructors on an important topic of mutual interest. The trio of instructors include a full-time faculty member, staff member, and a Life Coach who will serve as a resource to support you in achieving your success. This is a hands-on, discussion-oriented course requiring engagement with texts, your own writing practices, and the work of your peers.
Additionally, our section of University Seminar is an opportunity for you to explore who you have been, who you are, and the Maryville Saint you will become through reflections about yourself, your current views, and Maryville experiences. Through telling #yourtruth and creating a #youthquake, you will engage in team building activities and explore your worldview through interactive activities fueled by music and current events.”
Here is Abrahim’s expression or essay:
“The tunnel was what I expected it to be, a concoction of selected injustices and perspectives which only cater to a specific way of thinking where those other than straight, white, wealthy, male people are victims of society. In exposing the injustices and mishaps that have occurred among colored people, women, and LGBTQ people, no definitive conclusion is drawn in the tunnel, and students are left to make their own conclusions about why these sad instances and situations occur. I have noticed that often when presented with these situations and injustices, the only conclusion drawn is blame.
Blame on another group. It's important to differentiate between blame and causation. Blame is not definitive or objective, while causation can be objective with a valid premise or grounds of holding a group or object accountable for something. No good comes out of blame, and when the conclusion drawn is blame on another group of people, an injustice has been created out of the attempt to make people more aware of initial injustices.
I want to point out that I am aware that the intention of creating and executing this project is not ill-willed. There is obviously good intention existing throughout the bounds of such a curriculum, but it is important to note that good intention doesn't necessarily result in good reality, and good ideas aren't always good realities either.
I believe projects like this are an example of a contradictory practice. I'm writing a book called contradictory government and it highlights the different government policies that were intended to do one thing, yet they did the opposite and/or only made things worse. I am lead to the conclusion that this project is a contradictory practice because in the attempt to make students more aware of injustices and perceived flaws in different peoples ideologies which have resulted in alleged discriminatory practices, and with the intention to enlighten students on issues in our country which affect select groups while simultaneously making everyone more “conscious”, what really happened was a bunch of kids got uncomfortable hearing and seeing things which carry the potential to change their thought process, and the students who felt this discomfort shared their discomfort and feelings amongst each other, solidifying their feelings of discomfort and disapproval by being with others who think like them, while those who can relate to the subjects in the tunnel of consciousness or feel like victims too all shared their similar feelings and solidified their own feelings and thoughts as well. What does this mean?
This means the people who cant relate or agree with certain things in the tunnel or who have a perspective and knowledge base that contrasts with the information presented in the tunnel, along with the discomfort that was brought to them only felt even more like they did before, and those who can relate and agree likewise only remained in their comfortable thought process. This was a contradictory practice because nobody was unified, nobody was more “woke”, and I'm willing to bet money that students who give feedback saying they are more well-informed and enlightened only say so because that is what is easiest to say, or easiest to accept, or the various facts presented likely only added onto their thought process and solidified their already-present beliefs.
I also can't help but acknowledge the lack of economic knowledge that existed throughout the consciousness tunnel. There was a photo of Jeff Bezos in the “one percent” category, with pictures of Oprah and 2 other people who are known as wealthy Americans in a 2nd “class” after the one percent category. I want to know what conclusion is supposed to be drawn from that information presented? Also, why (was) the information presented in the digital information about “classes” in America was so inaccurate?
Your favorite celebrities likely have more spending money than Jeff Bezos. How can that be even though he's the “richest man in the world”? Well, it's quite simple, Jeff Bezos's annual salary is only roughly 1.6 million dollars, and his net worth is only so great because of his 16% share in Amazon which happens to be worth that much money. He doesn't “make” 19 million dollars a year as the digital information described as part of the criteria for being in the one percent. Multiples of millions and even billions are added to his net worth and assets annually, none of which he easily just has access to and can use when he feels like it. Only a small portion is given as a salary, which is the 1.6 million mentioned earlier.
The other 84% of Amazon is owned by thousands of people, who can be folks like me and you. In the digital information presented there were various instances where it is insinuated that the wealthiest people came or come from wealthy beginnings and backgrounds when this is simply inaccurate. In 2006, out of the 400 richest Americans according to Forbes magazine, only 2% inherited any of their wealth, and 20 years before that, only 20% of the 400 richest Americans inherited their wealth. Moreover, it is a disservice to people to present information that we are separated into social classes in America.
There was a study done on the United States and 11 European countries, all of which have what is supposed to exhibit a free market system, and what was found was that in America 3 quarters of those receiving the bottom 20% of income were in the top 40% in 5-10 years, while in the 11 European countries 2⁄3 of those in the bottom 20% income bracket were no longer there in as little as 3-8 years. Over half of the people in the one percent in 1999 were no longer there in 2001, and this is common every year. What this tells us is there is not really “classes” in America, people are in different stages in life. It is unempathetic and misleading to insinuate that we are designated to “classes”, when really everyone is just in a different stage in life. There is no unity in being divided into classes. Teaching us this contradicts the intention of wanting to unite us.
Women in America receiving less income, while simultaneously having to pay more for certain things doesn't necessarily mean discrimination has happened or is happening in that matter. Discrimination is just the easiest conclusion that can be drawn. There are factors like supply and demand as well as behavioral practices and quantitative actions of women in different areas which contrast from the east coast to the west coast and from the north to the south which produces higher prices and lower-income for women. This is not me trying to justify the instance I’m simply explaining that it is not necessarily discrimination, inequality, or one group doing something bad towards another just because women receive less but have to pay more for certain products. There are too many factors that play into this for such conclusions to be drawn. Ignorance is not good grounds to build consciousness on, especially when part of the intention is to abolish a perceived ignorance in the first place.
In conclusion, I watched an interview with economist Dr. Thomas Sowell, where he presented the fact that it is always at the most liberal, and “diversity driven” universities that the student body is always most divided and unity is always stagnated. He exhibited this in ivy league schools and regular universities across the country. I notice the same results at Maryville when I walk around and always see black people only sitting with other black people, white people only sitting with other white people, and Muslim girls only walking with other Muslims.
Of course, this is not definitive, but there is a significant amount of this occurrence exhibited and existing. Again, I want to note that I'm aware there is no ill-will in the practices, and that good intention is all that is present, but adjusting realty to fit into subjective theories as well as presenting economic results of factors likely beyond discrimination or interpersonal belief just to propose a narrative that can be construed in any manner is a sure way of creating contradictory practices and results...as was seen in my peers in the tunnel, as is seen throughout Maryville, and as you will see in your feedback when certain students display their discomfort, others display how they can relate to what was in the tunnel, while others will say what they think you want to hear.”
An obvious problem with the Tunnel of Consciousness is that it may unnecessarily victimize students and create a sense of unease and misplaced guilt - feelings that are not necessarily productive or essential for scholastic achievement. In fact, if many of the assumptions inaccurately described by the Tunnel of Consciousness are taken seriously, they may cause a student unnecessary emotional distress, since they generally describe traumatic events and situations.
As well, many of the situations described by Tunnel of Consciousness are distortions of actual events that can easily be researched and confirmed. An example of this is the claim that there is a Rape Culture in United States or on any college campus. This claim is not born out by reality or actual rape claims or statistics. In fact, many claims are fabricated by campus females for undetermined reasons.
Further, there seems to be an effort to claim moral superiority from professors by highlighting the suffering of any one people group, without considering that some of the suffering is the result of poor life choices, and that no other people group are generally responsible for their suffering of another at the present time in the United States. No student or racial group should be made to feel guilty or at fault for the actions of other ethnic groups represented on a campus.
Worse of all is the idea that students should be forced to adhere to a thought process that does not allow differing opinions, or a robust intellectual discussion among students, as is evidenced by this incident. No student should be made to feel bad or condemned for pointing out flaws in a professors arguments. Rather, students should be encouraged to challenge and debate the merits of any and points of contention.
© 2019 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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