Editor’s note: All opinion pieces published in The Clerk represent the views and ideas of the author. We at The Clerk are committed to highlighting the work done by BIPOC students to advance justice on campus and beyond. However, we also believe that it’s important that the opinion pieces we publish reflect the diverse set of perspectives on the strike among the community. With that in mind, we want to remind readers of the sit-in on Founders Green tonight at 9 pm. We hope to see you there.
This article is written independently of any organization I am involved in—the words here are mine and mine alone, and I would ask that you direct any disagreement you may have with my thoughts to me, and not to the wonderful extracurriculars and jobs which I am grateful to be involved in.
The parenthetical numbers correspond to footnotes at the bottom of the article.
At home, my father and I debate. He’s a Trump supporter, and thus we deeply disagree on almost everything. It’ll start off with a question “Hey, Nick, have you read this article about (*insert hot button issue here*)!” “No dad, I haven’t…” I know what’s coming. Inevitably, we’re dragged into debate on whatever the issue of the day is, and sometimes that issue is racism in the United States. I’ve spoken for hours with my parents about this stuff. I spent the ride to campus this year explaining to them why it’s not okay for a white high school to have the “Indians” as their mascot. I have always been the most liberal member of my family, the Resident Democrat at holidays and reunions and family dinners (1).
I include these details to provide context. My father is a police officer and, despite my (many) disagreements with him, I believe that he is a good man. He is a PA state trooper, a vehicle fraud investigator for two very rural counties in the western part of the state. He’s run radar and gone on calls, but these days he works mostly on court cases and inspections. He works hard every day and he loves his family. He picks on—and takes immense pride in—his sons. He teases me constantly: a few weeks ago, he sent me a video of a homemade sausage he was stuffing, reminding me to “be safe and use protection.” Police officers were at my parents’ wedding; my grandfather was a State Trooper. A police salary has put food on my table, given me a summer job; it’s helping to pay for my time here at Haverford.
“Really, Nick?” you may ask. “You think you can say anything about injustice? You think you can dream of contributing your perspective to what’s happening on campus? You need to take your privileged blood money and get the hell out of this conversation.” I hear this argument. I don’t claim to have personally experienced injustice. I am a straight, white man; I fit every category of privilege to the tee. I have no right to speak for BIPOC students on campus. I can only speak for myself. But I can speak for myself—and I do believe that some of my thoughts are worth sharing. Perhaps you disagree, but sometimes it’s worth adding something different to the conversation (2).
I gather, here at Haverford, that there is a tendency to demonize and simplify the institution of policing. When I hear “No good cops in a racist system,” I think with disgust to the horror of George Floyd’s murder, and the fact that men and women who claim to be protectors of the public abuse that power. But it also stings to hear that hundreds of my peers believe my father is irredeemable, that he is guilty beyond a doubt solely because of his profession. I am dismayed at racial injustice in America, at the decades of irreparable damage BIPOC have suffered. Yet I cannot bring myself to believe that demonizing the men and women who serve in the police, unilaterally condemning them as morally reprehensible, is the right course of action (3). The truth of the matter is this: police are people. Many are white, some are black. Some of them are lazy, some are selfish. Some of them hold racist views, and propagate violence in the communities they are charged with protecting. And some of them get up every day and bust their asses to protect those same communities. Some of them die for those communities (4).
The situation is nuanced. It is difficult to parse. Why else would I feel the need to make a ton of footnotes and clarify many of my statements? It’s so damn hard, not just for me but for everyone, to be frank and generous in this conversation, not to mention open to the possibility that one may be wrong.
But I worry that we as a college have decided that it is not hard. That the situation is simply easy: all cops are bad. All policing is bad. We should abolish all support of them, down to the last shred of our connection with local police departments. I sometimes wonder what I would be expected to tell my father to do in regards to his job if I ascribed to this worldview. I already spend much of my time with him trying to argue, the long and hard way, that there are deeply problematic ways our society crushes and kills minorities, that cops aren’t required to kill in times of distress, that there are problems that go deeper than a few bad apples. Should I tell him that he, an inspector of rural auto body shops, holds personal blame for the death of Walter Wallace? Should I tell him that he should accept the accusation that he is a bastard as constructive criticism? Should I tell him that the only way for him to become a better person is to give up his job?
What does all this have to do with the strike, and why I’m not participating? The twelfth demand is my sticking point. I reject the idea that the Philadelphia Police and other police groups like it exist “solely to protect capital and perpetrate terrorist violence against those whose trauma and oppression the capitalist system profits from” (5). This frames the institution of policing as an organization so corrupt, so inherently evil, that it is unworthy of any connection to campus. It is clear in its certainty that there is no nuance at play, that cops in the system are fundamentally flawed and complacent in its corruption. It suggests that there is no redemption for their career, and that every single action they take is indicative of injustice—and I just don’t believe that. I’ve been on the other side. There are good people there, people who try their best. People who work to make things better.
I’ve learned a lot from the strike, and I want to learn more. But I will not endorse the idea that all cops are immoral by default. I don’t believe that my father is a bad man for being a police officer.
I am also incredibly impressed by the strike. I am awed daily by what this campus can do, and I admire the passion of Haverford students, even if I don’t agree in this instance. I want each and every student reading this to know that whatever you believe, I think that it’s worth recognition and exploration. Even if we disagree, I hold no ill will towards you for what you’ve seen, how you’ve felt, and the conclusions you’ve come to on this strike. I only hope that you would be kind enough to consider extending the same courtesy to me.
I’m concerned about campus, and the ability of students to express a differing viewpoint on something like this openly. I’m willing to try, if only to show that it can be done. I hope that Haverford is not too absolute, too far gone on this one to accommodate respectful dissent. I have said my bit, and I have said it openly. For better or for worse, my name is on the piece: Nick Lasinsky. I would love to talk further with anyone who wants to get in contact. But I’ll give you fair warning: I think this is a tough nut to crack. If you engage in a conversation with disagreement, you have to accept that it’s not going to be an easy one. It will be gray and unclear. But we have to have a collective hope that our disagreement can be in good faith, in good conscience, and know that it’s much better to stumble through the real darkness than pretend that there’s a clear-cut light.
(1): “You’re no advocate.” That may be one popular response to my anecdote. “Words of tacit support aren’t enough. You’re either with us in all of our demands, or you’re against us.” I recognize this point. I can’t claim to be an unequivocal, constant ally—to my fault, perhaps. But I most definitely do not always support my parent’s beliefs. It seems, on this one, that I occupy the middle ground, a middle ground which does not exist within the strike in the eyes of many. “The middle ground is automatically against the strike. You’re either with us or against us.” I’m uncomfortable with this dichotomy no matter the issue.
(2): Should this article even have been written? Many will say that it’s an abomination in the first place to release a view explaining why one has chosen not to strike. Is there any criticism of this strike written by a non BIPOC student which will be received with the belief that the argument was written in good faith? Perhaps not. But if I accept that every word I say will be discredited no matter the content of my opposition, I’m ascribing to a pretty bleak idea of how Haverford responds to disagreement.
(3): I feel the need to address the line that’s been floated: “Police officers chose their job. They may hold good values at home, but they still uphold a horrifying system.” I don’t agree. Society as a whole has corruptions; we are forced to work within and against them, because we do not live in a utopia. The idea that joining a profession which has contributed to systemic racism automatically disqualifies you from an ability to work within that profession to make it more equitable has always struck me as odd. I don’t believe that policing as an institution is too far gone. You may disagree, but I believe that a concerted effort of systemic reform nationwide of police training and techniques, coupled with increased funding and support for minority communities, would do more good than tearing down the current framework and labeling all of those who have worked within it as morally disgusting in their complacency.
(4): Don’t agree with the value of that last statement? Police do die in the line of duty, and maybe you’d argue that that’s of zero value in comparison to the violence done to BIPOC groups. I personally feel uncomfortable with that. When an unarmed black man or woman dies it is a tragedy. But many white community members I know show no empathy for that death. I am appalled by this. They don’t realize that they leave a spouse, children, that their death is devastating. When a police officer dies honorably on the job, that also strikes me as a tragedy. If my father had been shot while riding in his cruiser, I would have been devastated. And maybe you say that that emotion isn’t validated. Perhaps you would even contend that the loss of his life was justified, warranted, righteous. I disagree. I suspect the family of any other cop killed would feel the same way. Empathy is not limited. Compassion is not a one sided trait—one doesn’t have to pick and choose, and deny sympathy to some deaths. I believe that I can feel great sadness at the murder of BIPOC men and women, and mourn the loss of police lives at the same time. Perhaps you disagree, and I acknowledge that. But my conscience has the capacity for split empathy.
(5): Some may say that disagreeing with one demand is not reason enough to oppose the strike. Fair point, though I’d argue that one’s support or lack thereof does not “need” to meet any outside qualifications imposed on it. There are other things about the strike that I disagree with, but I feel much less qualified to speak on them. For me, the twelfth point is difficult not only in its pragmatic challenges (I am unsure if refusing to interact with local police is even a legal option), but also in its ideological implications. For me, personally, the twelfth demand is what pushes my decision over the line.
How clueless do you have to be to go from basically saying “I argue with my dad all the time because I’m the only member of my family who isn’t racist” in one paragraph to “not all cops are bad, my dad’s a cop” in the next?
First, I want to thank you for taking the time to comment on the article, and I wanted to offer a response. Personally I don’t agree that having disputes with my father is the same thing as automatically believing that he must be a bad man or a racist. I believe that he is, in fact, a good man, in spite of some of the political disputes we do have. I genuinely don’t think that my father is a racist. Do I wish that he had a better understanding of the current political climate and how Trump has encouraged systemic injustice? Absolutely, and I try to explain those things to him all the time (and he does listen). With that said, I would add that I think one can believe that somebody needs to update some of their ideas without believing that they must a bad person. I’m sure I’m not the only one with parents or grandparents who you wish were more sensitive, more educated about things – and who you love dearly in spite of that. People are complex; I both respect my father and wish that he was better, and I work to try and influence him in that direction, much in the same way that I both respect many police officers and wish that the institution as a whole were fixed in crucial ways, as I hope we as a country can work to fix it. Denouncing either my father or the police as unilaterally “racist” is, I think, the wrong way to go about it, and sort of sets us up into an “either/or” “yes/no” framework that I don’t agree with. Many words to your short comment, but I thought that was worth clarifying.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one with parents or grandparents who you wish were more sensitive, more educated about things”
Nick, would not a truly open minded person consider that one’s parents might be neither insensitive or uneducated but actually more experienced in life and possibly correct? You make a classic young persons mistake in believing your own, very limited, experience of the world is more relevant or in tune with reality than that of people who have lived and experienced so much more. Do you really believe that your own parents are so clueless as to have been able to go through life so much longer than you and not been able to see what seems to clear to you? Would it not be more likely that your father who has experienced a side of life you have not, might actually be the one who is “woke” to reality?
You might actually be the clueless one.
Hello Cultivating Man,
I wanted to address your comment, because I feel that it’s important to stress that I do think that younger generations have the opportunity to see things that their parents cannot. The world changes; my parents are indeed more experienced in the world, but in some ways they are attuned to a reality that no longer exists. Structural racism in this country is real, and I strive to work on getting them to see that (and I have made progress in that attempt). At the same time, I hear you: listening to collected wisdom is also important. The answer, I think, relies on finding a mix between unabashedly believing everything your elders tell you and automatically discounting their combined wisdom as useless. The activism of people my age is incredibly powerful, but sometimes I think it smashes things that don’t need to be smashed. The experience of my parents and grandparents is powerful and solid in its own way, but sometimes it stands in the path of change that is deeply needed. I really try in my life to listen to what my elders have to say, consider it, file it away, and proceed to make my own choices. I think that that balance is the only way anyone could avoid becoming the clueless one.
Your response to a thoughtful, passionate piece is sad and disappointing. Nick is clearly not “clueless”, and your putting your interpretation on his words does not make him clueless. Nick has shown strength, grace and maturity. In response, you offer a snide comeback……
Nick, the time and effort you put into this piece is clear. Even though I am an abolitionist, I agree with you that we should never “decide that it’s not hard” to grapple with these ideas. There is no set agreement on what “abolish the police” means, and even many people most affected by police violence don’t all support abolition, or at least certain meanings of abolition. It’s a complicated movement.
I would say that while the hashtags and slogans can make it seem that way, I don’t think dissolving relationships with police departments, or even abolishing police, is about the character of individual officers and whether or not they are immoral (compared to who, right? Like you said, society has corruption). It’s about protecting each other from violence, especially those of us who have been marginalized, even if it means making big changes in our lives.
You talked about feeling like your dad shouldn’t have personal blame for the death of Mr. Wallace. But what if we reoriented from “blame” to “responsibility?” We all have a responsibility to make a better society where Black people and non-Black people will be treated with dignity and respect and where killings like this won’t happen. If we see that police organizations are propping up and defending this kind of violence, we have to seriously consider cutting ties with them and looking for alternative meanings of safety. Not because every officer is a bad person, but because it’s our responsibility to end historic wrongs and defend each other from violence and abuse.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Thank you for taking the time to engage with the article. Your points are compelling and I will absolutely meditate on them. I especially think that reframing the problem from “blame” to “responsibility” is a great way to think about it, and I’ll bring that up next time I talk with my father. Your generosity in your response means a lot to me, and I thank you for sharing these thoughts.
Thank you for your thoughtful, well-written words. I respect your bravery and commitment to standing up for the principles that you believe in.
In response to footnote #1: Your discomfort with the dichotomy does not delegitimize it. Your discomfort is not an infallible objective measure.
In response to footnote #2: Good faith is not the end all be all. You can write with the best intentions in the world, but your intentions will never be sufficient to ensure your impact is positive.
In response to footnote #3: Please do some research on the incredibly racist history (and current reality) of policing in America. Here’s an article to get you started: https://time.com/4779112/police-history-origins/
In response to footnote #4: A cop signs up for a risk of death, normal citizens do not. It’s not even remotely the same thing and policing isn’t even in the top 10 most dangerous professions in America. Of course you have a right to be sad if your father dies at work but you can also take solace in knowing his killer almost certainly will not get away with it to kill another day, nor will it make it more acceptable to kill any other cop. Also, you have fully made a conversation about cops murdering black people and Haverford allowing students the space to grieve the fact that cops are murdering black people all about you without a shred of shame. Talk about a lack of concern or respect.
In response to footnote #5: If this one demand is enough to stop you from supporting the strike you are quite literally saying you care more about Haverford being partnered with police you don’t have any personal ties to (unless your father works with this particular department as well) than your peers of color who you enjoy extracurriculars with, attend classes with, and share a campus with, being treated as well as you are treated. You are literally choosing your ideological comfort or over their emotional wellbeing and physical safety. How can you possibly not understand why they are telling you there is no middle ground on an issue like that?
I appreciate the time that you took to respond to my article and footnotes, and I wanted to address your thoughts in turn.
(1): You’re right—my discomfort does not delegitimize the dichotomy; I never mean how I feel or do not feel to be an all-knowing decree. Instead, I wanted to argue against exactly that rejection of nuance and gray areas, because I don’t believe that campus as a whole benefits from that kind of shut-down of discussion.
(2): I suppose that my goal with this footnote was to grapple with the fact that if I don’t have my good intentions or my own perspective, what do I have when I go to critique the strike? I can’t make certain that my impact will be positive; is that reason to not offer any critique at all? Could any of my words against the strike ever do any good? If the answer is no, then it really doesn’t matter what the content of my argument is, but I’m not willing to reject every potential personal criticism right off the bat because of that reason.
(3): I recognize and understand the racial history of policing in America, but I don’t see that history as being every aspect of the identity of American policing. American policing has systemic racism—but is it “just” systematically racist? Policing is filled with different groups, state, local, national influences, rural and urban differences, individual officers and their responses. I know that police have saved American lives too, including BIPOC American lives. For me, limiting and condemning policing to being a monolithic protector of racism is another simplification, and I hope that the article has helped to clarify why I think simplifications like that are unproductive.
(4): Police do take on risk, and that’s a good point, even if it is accompanied with an attack. I never want to intrude on the grief of my fellow students here at Haverford. I do disagree with some of the responses born of that grief, as well as with some of the destructive emotions boiling in the strike, but I don’t intend for the article to be a shutdown of others’ emotions as much as it is an explanation of my own.
(5): For me, this demand epitomizes my concerns over the strike. If the strike was a different sort of movement, one where I could be sure that my criticisms were being taken in good faith, maybe I would have felt welcomed to air them within. As the situation stands, I haven’t felt that criticisms of the strike would have been well received, and so I was left with either throwing all of my concerns expressed in this article out the window, or not joining, and I couldn’t bring myself to reject all of my own responses to things I disagreed with in the movement. I believe that I can agree with the intentions of the strike without agreeing on every aspect of it; it was the strike that made it clear one needed to join with all or nothing, not me.
Once again, I want to genuinely thank you for taking the time to join into the conversation, and I hope that this response has been helpful in some way.
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I appreciate your thoughtful discourse on this subject. That said, you yourself don’t seem to have educated yourself on the racist history of policing, nor on the arguments, reasons, and processes behind police abolition.
You say that labeling all cops as bad is disingenuous to the good people in the police force. Yet how can someone be good in police force when the police force commits such atrocities? By calling people out! By reporting them! By trying to embody what they believe is the morally correct way to be a police. And yet when they do that they lose their jobs. So you either have bad cops, complicit cops (who are bad due to them being complicit) or good cops who call out the bad cops and are subsequently kicked out of the police force and are no longer cops at all.
Also, have you done much research into the history of policing? The way the police force has been used to systemically oppress BIPOC in this country for generations? The way it’s been used to crush civil rights movements? The way it is CURRENTLY BEING USED to crush civil rights movements? I don’t claim that every action a police has ever taken has been “bad” but I would stand by the statement that the police, throughout their entire existence (and even before if you count certain groups of slave catchers) have been tools aimed at maintaining the status quo and oppressing minorities.
Finally, in my opinion, if one demand has caused you to not support the efforts of BIPOC to FINALLY get recognition and basic human rights, you’ve lost a lot of respect from me. You don’t have to agree with every aspect of the demands and the strikers in order to participate and fight for the basic human rights that have been denied to BIPOC students at this institution since its founding. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Denied basic human rights? Wasn’t this strike kicked off by not getting institutional support for participating in a protest? My understanding is that students wanted something like Swarthmore provided regarding quarantine space following off-campus protesting. That doesn’t strike me as going to the heart of basic human rights like freedom of speech, food security, housing security and basic (primary) education. I’m sure Haverford has a ways to go regarding equity and anti-racism but I think arguing that the college denies basic human rights is hyperbole and plays into an unwillingness to see any students not participating in the strike as possibly acting in good faith or worthy of respectful consideration.
Nick, thank you for writing such a courageous and thoughtful article. I sincerely appreciate your good-faith argument. Please know that there are those in Haverford’s community who can deeply empathize with your viewpoints; you are not alone. There are also those who share the value of open, civil discourse grounded in Haverford’s values of trust, concern, and respect – a value which your article so eloquently embodies. Take care
Also, I’m sorry to come down so hard on your dad, but you write that “I already spend much of my time with him trying to argue, the long and hard way, that there are deeply problematic ways our society crushes and kills minorities, that cops aren’t required to kill in times of distress, that there are problems that go deeper than a few bad apples. ”
This implies that your dad thinks that there isn’t a problem with the way our society crushes and kills minorities and that cops are required to kill in times of distress, and that there’s no institutionalized problem. If that wouldn’t make him a “bad” cop, I don’t know what would.
Furthermore, you yourself contradict your own argument when you say that you try to argue that the problem is deeper than a few bad apples. If you have argued this point then you should realize that the idea of a good cop/bad cop dichotomy isn’t real, and that police as an institution are corrupt and that, due to this, all cops are complicit.
I wanted to thank you for taking the time to engage with the article, and I thought I would offer a response in the hopes that it would be beneficial (I hope you don’t mind if I just respond to both of your comments with this one). The first thing I would emphasize is that you are right that policing has had a long and problematic history in America, and I absolutely recognize the damage that the institution has done. With that said, a common practice I’ve seen in the strike is to extrapolate out from this to the idea that all policing in America is unilaterally bad; that policing as a force in America is always corrupt, a sort of omnipresent evil of the country, and there I disagree. Recognizing that something has a problematic racial history (even present!) and condemning that institution as worthy of destruction are two different things. Haverford has a problematic history with race, but there remain things that I love about the college; to me, it is not simplified down to being “just” an institution of racism. Instead, it’s a complicated place, filled with a lot of different ideas, some bad, others quite good. I simply don’t believe that policing as a whole is a fine-grained and well-tuned machine of racism, designed to methodically root out those officers who express dissent. Police and police departments are cosmopolitan groups, with a lot of differences between them, i.e. rural vs urban, elected vs appointed, state vs local. As I wrote in the article, I get the impression that Haverford wants to simplify this down to the idea that the problem of police is just easy, that all cops are bad and all policing is too, and I just don’t agree with that.
In regards to your thoughts on my dad, my point with that part of the article was to emphasize that I am able to convince my father of some of these things by embracing the nuance that exists. It’s a lot easier to explain to him why something like banning chokeholds is necessary whenever I talk to him like he’s a human being with good intentions, intentions I absolutely believe he holds, than if I were to demonize him as just another complicit “part of the system.” There are officers in policing who want to reform, to make it into a better institution from the inside. This may be a radical claim, but I think that the vast majority of police do not want to be racist, or part of a racist system. Now you may say, “Obviously they do, Nick—look at how they react to reform. Look at how they vote for Donald Trump, like your father.” But that sort of pushback isn’t because they somehow relish racism; it’s because officers (black and white alike) worry about their jobs being taken away, and the family they have to go home and feed, and they see the kind of rhetoric used in the Haverford strike, the claims that they work for a “terrorist organization,” as a personal attack. The way to convince those officers that they hold a responsibility to help fix that system is not to call them bastards or “no good”—it’s to explain to them, patiently and genuinely, that problems do exist. And maybe you don’t buy that approach; fair enough. But I look at my community back in western PA, at the fact that almost half of this country just voted for Donald Trump in spite of his failures, and I worry that demonizing and compartmentalizing all policing will end in failure for actual reforms where they matter.
In regards to your final note about the 12th point being my sticking point, if I’m being blunt, I didn’t feel that my perspective would have been welcome within the strike. The rhetoric that there are no gray areas is not very friendly to someone who is wavering about whether or not to reject their own experiences and ideas; it demands that you conform to every aspect of the strike, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. This strike has asked for all or nothing ideologically, and I just couldn’t throw out all of my thoughts and criticisms in good conscience.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to comment on the article; I’ll definitely be considering your points, and I hope that this response has been helpful in some way.
Sorry Rafi for the blunt words, but you’re expressing an incredibly simplistic point of view that’s far below the acceptable threshold for a student (or alum in my case) of a world renowned college. Please think this through. Do police universally exist to suppresses racial and ethnic minorities, including police organizations in both similar and non-western countries? How has the human experience informed the decision of societies, for thousands of years, to invest so much power in the state to enforce laws?
Nice job with your article. I respect your approach, even though we don’t agree 100%. I’m in the 4th quarter of my life and have seen both the good and the bad of mankind. Watching our cities being burned in place of dialogue saddens me. You are a glimmer of hope because you’re thinking, reasoning and postulating, rather than reacting. Don’t change that approach. If I can offer one addition to your mental arsenal, checkout Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell. This book changed my understanding of discrimination in our country. I hope you and your father reach that middle ground. Best wishes.
Thank you for your response, and I will be sure to give the book a look!
Nick, ask yourself, what is the purpose of Haverford? Refer to the founders of the school, the Quakers, who themselves were a religious group exiled from England. They articulated this motto:
“Not more learned, but steeped in higher learning.”
Haverford is filled with world-class faculty members so that the students can learn from them. This transfer of knowledge, from the more learned (them) to the less learned (students) is the purpose of the school. Without faculty, the students are a mere unlearned collective.
The idea that Haverford should cancel classes, or rather, that those who wish to attend classes not be permitted to, is an epic misunderstanding of the purpose of Haverford, its history, and its purpose for broader society. There have been countless times in the almost 200 year history of the college where students have demonstrated against injustices; indeed this is their right. But the notion that this protest must involve excising, however temporarily, the faculty-to-student classroom interaction is a failure to understand what Haverford is and what purpose it serves. Those in the administration who fail to point out these intellectual contortions are themselves complicit because their job is to be virtuous leaders. Cancellation is not virtuous, no matter how sonorous.
Recall that nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $6 a day, and that the total cost to educate a Haverford student is close to $100,000 per year. Think of all the people in the world who would trade away everything they have in exchange for the opportunity to come to Haverford and learn from the great faculty available to you and your peers. As Steve Prefontaine said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Indeed, Haverford, like many of its peer institutions, is a gift – a gift bequeathed to you and a very small number of people on this earth. To think, even for a moment, that it is OK to throw away the classroom experience is an insult to the billions of people on this earth who will never have this opportunity, no matter how hard they try to obtain it. I applaud you for speaking out, and for signing your name to your writing. However, I strongly condemn, and I think your peers should strongly condemn, anyone who is afforded the gift of a Haverford education but squanders it by rendering it lifeless through forced cancellation, not only for themselves but for others. The learned among us are disappointed in all of you.
Much thanks for your response to the article! I agree with you on some points, and disagree on others – but that’s the nature of discourse! You clearly put time into your response and I appreciate that. Many students have had their Haverford education damaged by the strike – some moved home early, others lost class material they will never get back. I hope that students at Haverford do have an appreciation for the opportunity they have, an internal gratitude for their position in life. To be at Haverford is to be at a generous institution – one which will support and work with such a strike. Many other colleges would do no such thing. It’s easy to demonize those other institutions, but it’s hard to justify that demonization when even Haverford, a college actively trying to improve and adopt the strike’s rhetoric, is also demonized as a school which will never be anti-racist, and one which can never become something more than its roots of white supremacy. There’s plenty of food for thought down here in the comments, and I hope people are taking a look. Thank you for adding to the table.
Nick, you are to be commended on your courage and open mind. Who is this Jonathan Galt guy? He makes good points too. I propose creating a new seminar for the Spring semester and beyond entitled “Policing in America” to be moderated by a few faculty members from a cross section of departments. Each week, a police officer or senior leader in police administration would be invited to spend 3 hours sitting with students to discuss the current state of how police are trained to interact with civilians. Ideally, this would bore into great detail about interaction protocols, particularly around the use of force and discharge of weapons. The history of how and why these protocols came to exist would be covered, including the inherent tradeoffs of using more or less force. The full national database of police interactions would also be analyzed to uncover key trends. The students could then separate into smaller teams to develop and propose new alternative rules for police engagement and then present them to the entire group of police guest speakers at the end of the semester. The police group could them analyze the proposals and discuss/debate them with students to determine whether a new model for policing could be devised that is superior to the status quo. Instead of shutting down the classroom, we would utilize the classroom!
I absolutely agree with you in utilizing the classroom, and I think that the faculty are more than ready to take on that challenge. It is frustrating to see students striking from a faculty which is actively trying to incorporate some of these themes into their materials. I genuinely hope that the strike will positively impact that classroom process, but I question a claim that the strike was necessary for that improvement. Though I would love to see such a course, I don’t expect it any time soon. The police have been demonized beyond redemption on campus, and such a course would be unthinkable to most students, in the same way that a class on LGBTQ history would be unthinkable at Liberty University. In both cases, it is a regrettably one-sided conversation. Much thanks for your response!
Love the article! I really appreciate the complexity and nuance of your thinking. I think it’s really important that we have these difficult conversations while maintaining mutual respect –and you’ve definitely modeled that here.
Thank you very much! I’m glad you felt that you got something out of the writing.
Nick, Thinking back to my own time at Haverford, I especially value the many (mostly) respectful debates I had with classmates about the issues of the day. Among the values I took away from Haverford are the importance of listening to others, honest self-reflection, and respectful dialogue. I truly admire your perception of nuance, own self-awareness in a cacophonous environment, your willingness to listen to others, and your commitment to respectful dialogue. Those are timeless qualities.
Thank you for your words; they are truly appreciated. I’m glad you got something out of the article.
Wow, I was surprised to find this level of dissent in the Haverford Newspaper. I think giving your opinion here, and seeing just how many qualifiers you needed to be able to give your opinion in the first place shows how unaccepting a place like Haverford can be under the intention of being open-minded. For that reason I find it incredibly courageous of you to say something like this.
I have similar thoughts myself, confused at how any group (Haverford students) could deem another as entirely “bad people”, and it scares me the way many like to simplify these issues, so I am glad to hear and see your nuanced viewpoint.
Thanks for creating a place for honest and open discussion, listening and open-mindedness. It is what we strive to do here at Haverford, but too often what we really encourage is self-censorship and convergence on a single viewpoint.
Seriously, thank you
I thank you deeply for your kind words, and I really hope that we can keep up this sort of nuanced debate at Haverford. The world is in a period of pretty deep crisis, but it’s at those moments especially when it’s easiest to simplify and demonize. Hopefully we as a community can avoid that trap.