Last month, SUNY Trustee member Dr. Candace de Russy expressed her concernover the content of material in many humanities programs throughout the SUNYsystem. After all, it is her job to criticize what she sees as detrimental totrue higher learning, right? According to some narrow-minded pundits, she’#146;swrong because one of those humanities programs was the Black Studies program.Not all black studies programs fell into de Russy’#146;s negative category,but most do.
One would think that any reasonable objectors to her comments would ask her,’Dr. de Russy, would you please tell us what you think is wrong with ourBlack Studies programs? Also, which schools exemplify your idea of substantiallyeducational Black Studies programs?’ Of course, nobody asked these questions.
It is much easier to label de Russy as a racist and call for her terminationas a SUNY Trustee. Never mind that de Russy didn’#146;t call for the eliminationof Black Studies programs. Never mind that she didn’#146;t use derogatory terms,or personally attack the faculty that presents the programs. All that matteredwas that the Black Studies program came under attack. The mere threat of reformationwas enough.
It appears that some people are advocating that SUNY trustees, and other influentialpeople, be watched closely by the thought police. No longer are trustee membersallowed to voice their opinion (which is their job) if it will offend someone’#146;sfeelings. Forget progress if it means taking a look at Black Studies programs.Maybe something is wrong with them, and then maybe not. But we won’#146;t knowif we simply cry racism any time someone questions the quality of any program.
In response to accusations, de Russy commented that the faculty’#146;s union’does not want a board with diverse opinions, but one that has to passits political litmus test.’ De Russy brings up a good point. Aside fromChancellor King, my former County Executive, de Russy is probably the only conservativetrustee. Canning her would quell the opposition for most union members.
If these faculty members were serious about progress, they might volunteerto work with de Russy in determining if many humanities courses are counterproductive.
The Chairman of the SBU Africana studies department, William McAdoo, was quotedin both Newsday and the Statesman as saying that, ‘Her statements are racist.To say that most Black Studies programs are anti-American smacks of McCarthyism,smacks of the whole fascist kinds of repression that took place in the 1950’#146;sin the US.’
Well, neither paper presented evidence that supported Mr. McAdoo’#146;s criesof racism. His own scare tactics, intended to silence his ideological opposition,smacks of McCarthyism far more than a woman questioning a group of academicprograms.
I am not the lone voice in support of Dr. de Russy. Stony Brook College RepublicansPresident, Brian McCue had something to say about the matter when I spoke tohim. ‘The criticism and evaluation of all programs at SUNY schools arecritical to maintaining high intellectual standards and that is exactly whattrustee de Russy did. De Russy serves as the chair of the Academic StandardsCommittee of the SUNY system and she was only stating her beliefs on the programby making valid points describing how group identity-based studies such as theBlack Studies program only leave the undergraduate curriculum fragmented, leavingdisadvantaged students out of solidarity with the campus as a whole.’
With ridicule comes progress. The Black Studies departments within the SUNYsystem and the faculty’#146;s union are doing themselves no favor by blockinga thorough look into the Black Studies curriculum. In defense of free speech,freedom of thought, and intellectual progress, the Stony Brook College Republicansstand 100 percent behind Dr. de Russy.