James Thomas, an assistant professor of sociology at Ole Miss otherwise known as InsurgentProf, took to Twitter Tuesday night to share his thoughts regarding President Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina. Thomas described millennials who support the president as “modern day Hitlerjugend” and declared that “any and every humanities and behavioral/social science teacher has an obligation to put these racist remarks in proper context.”
That’s awfully strange rhetoric for a professor who teaches at a university where a large portion of the student population identifies as conservative, even if the leadership and most professors don’t share that view.
While Thomas’ rhetoric may seem like standard fare for the everyday woke leftist of 2019, Thomas has a long history of inflammatory statements regarding conservatives. The most notable of which was last year when he called for liberal activists not just to disrupt the meals of Republican lawmakers but rather to “put your whole fingers in their salads. Take their apps and distribute them to the other diners.”
Though Thomas is free to have his views, as I’m sure they’re shared by many staff members in his department, Thomas now finds himself in the upper echelon of academia with his recent accomplishment of reaching tenured status. While outspoken and at times brash, Thomas isn’t the problem with Ole Miss. He is merely a symptom of the larger academic culture of the university itself.
Ole Miss has become so dedicated to the ideals of fabricated diversity, identity politics, and social justice, it celebrates and advances professors like Thomas to the highest levels of the university power structure. Would an equally dedicated conservative professor enjoy the same opportunities of advancement?.
It’s important to remember that it wasn’t too long ago that well-respected, Oxford businessman Ed Meek was forced to sacrifice his $5 million donation to the university and suffer harm to his professional reputation after making social media comments that were deemed politically incorrect and generally “problematic” by the established academic class of leadership in Oxford.
Considering that people like Thomas put such an emphasis on “equal justice,” it’s odd that Thomas’ comments weren’t met with the same strong condemnation by his peers. In fact, one might call it hypocritical – assuming one were not worried about energizing the thought/speech police of the progressive movement.
Ole Miss is at an inflection point and needs now, more than ever, to return to foundational basics.
This starts by encouraging an environment where opinions contrary to Professor Thomas, or any other academic ideologue, are welcomed – even encouraged – as long as such opinions are delivered in respectful and responsible ways. It starts by encouraging true diversity of thought and reasoned debate that comes from the academic tradition of the scientific pursuit of truth. It starts by emphasizing a culture which prioritizes assertive citizenship participation on issues rather than demonstrations of outrage. It starts by recognizing the value of each individual within the university rather than focusing on the rights of a collective group
The University of Mississippi has an opportunity to reclaim its former position as the preeminent academy for a classical, liberal arts education in the state and in the South. It wasn’t so long ago that people like William F. Buckley, Jr. came to Oxford to host nationally televised, Socratic debates between the nation’s best thinkers of the left and right.
If we don’t move back toward the center, we may slowly disintegrate into the University of Nowhere.