Virtue Signaling Follies


Jon Reisman

A great deal of resources, freedom and integrity are sacrificed daily in support of policies that advertise moral superiority but accomplish little or nothing promoting their supposed goals and, in fact, are often counterproductive. Climate change, Covid and assorted Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mandates all offer excellent examples of authoritarian moral preening that damages the country without actually averting any global warming, infections, or racial animus.

In promoting (never defined) “social justice” DEI advocates “good” racism (called anti-racism and affirmative action) as the necessary vaccine to historic “bad “racism. Like the Covid vaccine and mask mandates, we are discovering that despite the moral preening, the mandated medicines have noxious side effects and offer much less protection than their progressive proponents initially claimed. For the left, two wrongs apparently do make a right.
DEI ascendance over the last decade plus has taken America from a majority of whites supporting Barak Obama to tribalism and the worst race relations in 50 years.  The “Equity” in DEI means abandoning the ideals of color-blindness and equal opportunity in favor of color and gender conscious quotas, mandates and Marxist notions of race and gender based oppressor classes.

The University of Maine System, led by the Chancellor (the former Democratic Governor of Connecticut) and the President of Orono and Machias has gone all in on DEI and social justice. I am not aware of any Board of Trustees or faculty resolutions supporting this, or any careful definition of “Equity” or “social justice”. I am toying with presenting the Trustees a resolution defining “social justice” as the government transferring resources from oppressor to oppressed groups until things are “fair” or “equitable” as defined by the poorest amongst the oppressed. In practice, white heterosexual males are the oppressor class that must be punished/regulated/diminished to promote “equity”. Not surprisingly, this group no longer comprises a majority or even a plurality of the academy. Diversity also most assuredly does not include right of center ideological and political views. Across all of higher education, the expanding class of highly paid DEI Deans and apparatchiks is overwhelmingly (very) left of center, with a disturbing patina of Marxist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

The UM administration, in violation of academic freedom, has mandated the following “indigenous land acknowledgment” statement on all syllabi: “The University of Maine at Machias recognizes that it is located in the homeland of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, where issues of water and territorial rights, and encroachment upon sacred sites, are ongoing. Passamaquoddy homeland is connected to the other Wabanaki Tribal Nation — the Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac — through kinship, alliances, and diplomacy. The University also recognizes that the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the other Wabanaki Tribal Nations are distinct, sovereign, legal and political entities with their own powers of self-governance and self-determination.”

I dutifully included this virtue signal on my syllabi. I’m not a member of the faculty union, having been freed from servitude by the Supreme Court of The United States, but the union still, by law, represents and negotiates for me, and it would be delusional to believe that an affiliate of the National Educational Association, full throated backers of critical race theory, DEI, school closures, mask mandates and progressive virtue signaling, would actually fight to protect academic freedom, particularly of a conservative white heterosexual male. I may be old, but I am not senile.

In reviewing the syllabus virtue signal, I might ask my students what the University might actually do to address this encroachment and inequity. The obvious answer is to give the land back, but that would probably be taking the virtue signaling a reparations bridge too far. We would have to let a lot of DEI Deans go to afford such a gesture….or we could use some of the Covid and climate change research funds to put our money where our mouth is. Alas, firing all the remaining right-of-center faculty and staff would not free up enough money to fund a windmill or solar array, so some other way to remove the conservative carbon footprint defiling indigenous lands will have to be found.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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