The Director of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt University says college administrators should encourage more students to protest, even if they disrupt functions.
Privileging social justice warriors over every other tuition-paying student at Vanderbilt, administrator Chris Purcell argues that student protesters should be “championed,” “celebrated,” and “rewarded” for their disruptive activities, even if they prevent others from speaking.
In an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed, Purcell categorizes activism in either “builder,” or “burner” activism. Both, he says, are “vital work.” As Campus Reform notes, the administrator’s audience at Inside Higher Ed caters toward college professors and administrators.
Purcell, whose office encourages the use of special pronouns and offers resources for professors to teach “beyond the gender binary” describes “burner” activism as seeking to “burn down” oppressive structures, which can be conducted by “taking over the offices of campus leaders, shutting down streets, [and] holding sit-ins.”
In contrast, “builder” activism seeks to “build new structures that work differently (often more inclusively) for one particular group of students,” citing the founding of new student groups “around an emergent campus identity.”
The progressive college administrator argues that both forms of activism “are essential for forward progress,” and crucial for the pursuit of justice, even if it means inconveniencing other students and school administrators.
Purcell says that administrators usually shun burner activism because they can organize their own coalitions to drive change, whereas entry and mid-level administrators, “particularly those from marginalized groups,” discourage disruptive strategies for fear of losing their jobs.
“Therefore, when oppressive structures stand in the way of creating equitable campus environments, it may be useful to solely encourage burning strategies for students to get the job done,” Purcell argues, adding that in doing so, administrators “can be ready to pursue building strategies when the figurative ashes are clear.”
“It is our job to encourage this quest for justice, even if it challenges our power and our comfort,” Purcell concludes.
Purcell’s views may seem outlandish to many outside of college, but his suggestions are steadily becoming the norm as more professors encourage their students to protest and disrupt free speech, libertarian and conservative-held events.
In November, students disrupted an event on “healthy inter-group communications” intended to bridge the political divide at the University of California, Irvine. Earlier in October, Black Lives Matter activists shut down a Republican lawmaker’s speech at Texas Southern University with the help of college administrators.
Photograph courtesy of Vanderbilt Hustler.