The “woke” movement often specializes in rewriting history. Its followers cast themselves as the long-suffering victims of “structural racism” that are often the figments of their overheated imaginations.
They commonly forget that their campaigns usually begin in universities. Usually, those universities were founded and paid for by people that the “wokesters” despise. However, these leftists are quite willing to use that money to attack Western society.
“Spitting On the Graves of My Family”
A minor skirmish in that battle was the removal of T.C. Williams’s name from the University of Richmond School of Law.
A scion of the family has had enough. Virginia lawyer Robert C. Smith, great-grandson of T.C. Williams, released an open letter to the university’s president, Kevin Hallock. In the letter, he compared his family’s contributions to the university with those of the current university president.
“Exercising quiet humility and modesty, the Williams family’s contributions have served the university for nearly 200 years, and the City of Richmond much longer. You moved to Richmond two years ago. Besides being a carpet-bagging weasel and spitting on the graves of my family, what have you done for the University or the City of Richmond?”
Interest on a Massive and Unacknowledged Debt
Mr. Smith itemized the Williams family’s many contributions to the university over the decades. He then adjusted the amount of the gifts for inflation.
“[T]he present value of these gifts is $ 3.6 billion. One hundred fifty-plus years of compounded returns add up. Numbers don’t lie.” Mr. Smith then added a bit of advice. “It might be worthwhile for you to require every woke activist to take a course in finance to appreciate those for whom they want to cancel.”
The open letter ends with a challenge. “The university’s endowment is $3.3 billion. Since you and your activists went out of your way to discredit the Williams name, and since presumably the Williams family’s money is tainted, demonstrate your ‘virtue’ and give it all back.”
Mr. Smith then suggested payment terms. “I suggest you immediately turn over the entire $3.3 billion endowment to the current descendants of T.C. Williams, Sr. We will use it all to fulfill the charitable purposes to which it was intended. We will take a note back for the remaining $300 million, providing that it is secured by all the campus buildings and all your woke faculty pledge their personal assets and guarantee the note.”
An Important Symbolic Point
University President Hallock has not responded to the open letter. That fact matters little. No one assumes that the university will pay the money back to the family under any terms. Once donated, the money legally belongs to the university, and universities don’t usually part with their endowments.
Nor do the “woke” show any interest in listening to moral arguments that go against them. Undoubtedly, many of them feel that the Williamses should not have had the money in the first place. For them, the fact that leftists control that money today is simple social justice. Many of these people were willing to argue that looters deserved to keep the Rolex watches they swiped during the harrowing summer of 2020.
However, Mr. Smith’s point is one well worth making. He explained that position in an e-mail to the British Journal¸ the Daily Mail. “Our fight is not just about money, it is a fight against historical ignorance and standing up for Western values.”
Indeed, education is one of those Western values. Schools and universities exist today due to the Western commitment to education. The long process began with cathedral schools that eventually blossomed into Medieval universities. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the focus shifted to ever larger groups of students.
Halting the “Long March Through the Institutions”
Unfortunately, many of these universities were the seedbeds of Herbert Marcuse’s “long march through the institutions.”
Over the generations, thousands—perhaps millions—of people have donated small and large amounts to the schools from which they graduated. For generations, this was an almost automatic process. These donors were the unwitting facilitators of a Marxist-inspired social revolution that delivered education to the propagandists.
While, as noted above, Mr. Smith’s attempts to force the University of Richmond to return his family’s money will likely fail, university alumni must learn a much more important lesson. His attitude could save American education.
This task will be difficult because the university system is wedded to leftist ideologies. This stubbornness exists even though many American universities are in dreadful financial shape. Over the last thirty years, many built unnecessarily expensive buildings to attract students who paid the increased tuition with borrowed money. The student loan situation has already reached crisis proportions. Growing numbers of young people conclude that the meager rewards of a college education fail to justify the rapidly increasing costs. The Covid crisis accelerated this trend.
Even so, most universities continue to behave as though the flush financial times of the recent past will never end. This waste of money is especially present in the offices of “diversity, equity and inclusion.” This author’s alma mater, the University of Michigan, employed 163 DEI officers in 2021. There is no reason to believe that number will decrease any time soon.
A Simple Pattern for Effective Action
Asking for a return of donations is a dramatic way to protest, especially when the amount is $3.6 billion. However, denouncing the woke activities and ideologies embedded inside the universities is much more effective. The more radical programs only advance because they are hidden from the public. Exposure creates controversies that administrators try to minimize.
University alumni—and this writer places himself in that category—have stood still while woke personalities and attitudes took over America’s universities. Generally, alumni have access to websites and even magazines that spread information about upcoming programs. Looking at that information and registering protests against objectionable events can be effective, especially if done in groups. Letters, e-mails and telephone calls can be helpful. Don’t forget to inform local media, which loves covering conflicts. Even dismissive or sneering coverage tells potential allies a defiant group exists. A far more potent strategy is for those who still live near their universities to hold group protests or rosary rallies with prayers, banners, posters and appropriate music.
Such action informs the “wokesters” that there are those in the area who are not afraid to stand up and be counted. Sometimes, that knowledge is enough to prevent the worst outrages that increase in the absence of resistance.
Photo Credit: © Alfred Wekelo – stock.adobe.com