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It’s time for another foray into hate speech. 22 bathroom adventure, today’s chapter of our ongoing critical conversation concerns Chancellor Robert Jones’ Sunday commentary (“What I’ve learned by listening”) in which he excoriates your humble scribe for daring to suggest that he, as someone who grew up in the really oppressive days of Jim Crow in Georgia, might be less than impressed when hearing today’s students bleating about how oppressed they are by the allegedly hostile atmosphere on campus, particularly as it relates to the memory of the late and longtime UI symbol Chief Illiniwek.

Chancellor Jones says it ain’t so, that his experience as an “outsider” has left him especially attuned to those who feel put upon. As a consequence, he listens “when I am approached by a student who tells me she feels her culture and history are being disrespected and insulted when she watches someone dressing as Chief Illiniwek.”

Jones said he does so “to understand the foundations of their perspectives and to respect the lived experiences that have brought them to these viewpoints.”

In other words, he feels their pain.

The chancellor ought to get outside the university bubble more. If he did, he’d understand that, just as there are those, including Native Americans, who object to the use of Native American imagery in athletic competition, there are many more who do not.

For example, in 2016, The Washington Post, which opposes the Redskins name for the city’s NFL franchise, reported the results of a poll that showed “nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name.”

At the time, the newspaper said the poll reveals “how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team’s moniker.”

Maybe Jones should listen to them, too. Don’t hold your breath.

When people complain they aren’t being listened to, what they really mean is their target audience doesn’t agree. When a speaker tells a group that “I heard your message,” it generally means he accepts it.

Here’s an example of the difference. Last week, UI professors from the Senate’s Faculty and Tenure Committee challenged Jones’ decision to put Rosenstein on administrative leave. They insisted “there are procedures that have to be followed,” that Rosenstein is being disciplined without having an opportunity to be heard.

“I feel comfortable with the course of action as being the best for the institution and Professor Rosenstein,” Jones responded.

What happened to trying to “understand the foundations of their perspectives and to respect the lived experiences that have brought them to these viewpoints”?

Nothing, really. Jones listened and then made it clear he disagreed.

People, of course, are familiar with the clever use of one word to convey the meaning of another.

That’s standard operating procedures in any bureaucracy, and a university is just another bureaucracy.

University administrators can’t bring themselves to ignore the protests of anti Chiefs who complain the pro Chiefs still revere the Chief’s memory.

That’s why Jones hyperbolically opined that Chief Illiniwek’s “legacy throws disruptive shadows across every aspect of our mission” and is “tearing us apart.”

Nonsense. Does anyone in touch with reality think the memory of Chief Illiniwek undermines the daily functions of the UI in any way? Jones’ assertion is not just laughable, but preposterous. Further, to the extent he treats the issue as a conflagration, Jones only ensures more of the hand wringing he wants to go away.
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