Tuesday, March 16, 2004

There are joyous moments and there are proud moments, but few are more joyous and proud than when the Medium Lobster can cast a lofty eye down upon his alma mater of Brown University (PhD in Advanced Superiority, Class of Alpha Null) and smile blessedly upon its bold new initiative to overturn centuries of social inequality and racial discrimination with a blue-ribbon panel.

Some would balk at such a weighty task, but not university president Ruth J. Simmons, who has decided to hit the problem of social injustice head on: by appointing a Committee on Slavery and Justice to undertake "an exploration of reparations for slavery and specifically whether Brown should pay reparations or otherwise make amends for its past." Lesser university presidents might attempt to reform the college's admissions and financial aid programs to make Brown more affordable for poor students. More cowardly leaders in academia might overhaul the school's legacy admission policy to stop what amounts to an affirmative action program for rich, white, often feeble-minded blue-bloods.

But not Ruth J. Simmons, a president who says "if I have something to offer Brown, it's the fact that I am a descendant of slaves." She's ready to take on the toughest challenge to social equality facing higher education today: Brown University's 240-year-old connections to the slave trade.

And how! The 16 member-committee will include not just faculty and staff, but in what is certainly not a nakedly cynical attempt to demonstrate how a hidebound bureaucratic body is connecting to "the youth," will include undergraduates too! And not just any undergraduates - they have Seth Magaziner, the son of former Clinton staffer Ira Magaziner! Now if only they had Danny DeVito's daughter involved, the insights would be exploding.

But what will come of this bold display of displayed boldness? Well, the Medium Lobster is probably stating the obvious when noting that the results of one Ivy League university's navel-gazing into its slavery-speckled past will no doubt unleash a torrent of racial harmony throughout the country. After all, as goes Brown, so goes Alabama!

Some members of Brown's committee have had their doubts, such as philosophy professor Felicia Nimue Ackerman, who says "I think it's very important that this does not degenerate into a bunch of people congratulating themselves for thinking slavery is bad." Heaven forfend, Professor Ackerman. Heaven forfend.
posted by the Medium Lobster at 11:04 AM



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