Haverford College students bully peers to support racism strike; school meets students' demands

haverford college
Haverford College in Pennsylvania |

At one of America’s top colleges, students threatened each other to sign onto a campus-wide strike against racism, Twitter posts and interviews show. 

Of Haverford College’s 1,350 students, 650 signed a spreadsheet committing to “disrupt all of the college’s daily functions,” according to Quillette. The student strike offered the school a list of demands, including canceled classes on Election Day, continued payment for striking students who don’t work and university praise for groups taking part in the strike.

Students who didn’t sign the spreadsheet faced bullying and intimidation by their fellow peers, some students told Quillette. On Twitter, strike supporters called them “scabs” and threatened to “find every last one of them.” University administrators, meanwhile, publicly praised the strikers while apologizing for racism.

The events at Haverford show a pattern often found in violent revolution, said the article’s author, Jonathan Kay, to The Christian Post. Revolutionaries attack people who slightly disagree with them more fiercely than they do their opponents.

“The methods of the French Revolution became more vicious as society became more purified of nobles and opposition,” Kay said. “There’s a sense that apostasy is worse than never having been a member of the tribe.”

The events of the strike started on Oct. 26, when police officers in a Philadelphia suburb near Haverford shot Walter Wallace Jr., a knife-wielding bipolar man in a state of crisis, according to local news. The man was African American. 

Violent riots broke out in Philadelphia in response to the man's death, and the school's president, Wendy Raymond, sent students a mass email on Oct. 28, expressing grief while advising them not to enter the city. 

“We are sad and troubled—as individuals and as Haverford leaders dedicated to anti-racism and social justice at Haverford and beyond,” she wrote. 

Noting that there are “other actors afoot” who are seeking to cause harm and sow division, Raymond advised, ”While we all might be tempted to join protests about this tragedy, we are imploring you to temper that impulse.”

She encouraged students to instead express their voices and demands on campus and to work together.

Some students responded to the email with outrage, with one student, Soha Saghir, writing in the student newspaper, the Clerk, that the school’s leaders were being “terse” and “tone-deaf.”

Students then went on strike from classes, jobs and extracurricular activities, and published a list of over 50 demands to fight the school's racism, arguing, “We, the students of color at Haverford, are responding to the egregious email you sent to the student body Wednesday afternoon. Your email is a continuation of a long tradition of anti-Blackness and the erasure of marginalized voices that have come to characterize the experiences of students of color at Haverford.”

Demands include “academic leniency for BIPOC and/or FGLI students who are traumatized by the effects of COVID and constant police violence in their communities” and working toward “police and prison abolition.”

The school has responded in the affirmative to nearly all the demands.

On Haverford’s campus, very few people oppose the dominant worldview, according to Kay of Quillette. Campus surveys show 90% of students hold left wing political beliefs. Only 3% of the student body holds conservative beliefs. Most students who disagree with the strike disagree only with its methods, not its purposes, he said. Professors, administrators and students all tend to share the same politics and philosophy.

"At least half the students wanted to get back to school but social media makes it very difficult to dissent. If you look at the comment threads under articles, as soon as a person expressed opposition to the strike, the accusation of racism was weaponized against them," he said.

Social media creates conformity, he contended. Before social media, people lived in different social bubbles. They all conformed to their environments in some ways, but were conforming to different environments. Social media creates one group which everyone joins and conforms with.

“It all becomes one big group and if 60% of that group decides the other 40% is wrong and bullies them, you don’t have compartmentalized intellectual ecosystems. That’s one of the problems you see in society in general. You can get ideological manias that sweep the entire system overnight,” Kay said.

At 51 of the nation’s top 66 liberal arts colleges, Democratic professors outnumbered Republican professors almost 10 to one, according to a 2018 study. Surveys suggest that on campuses, students often try to act left-wing to gain peer approval, Kay noted. Strikes against racism on a campus where African Americans serve as prominent campus leaders come from the same instinct.

“Everybody is projecting a more doctrinaire version of their progressivism than they actually feel,” he contended. “We’re all tribalistic. We all want to feel we belong. We all want approval.”

When university leaders get accused of racism they haven’t committed, they apologize for it profusely and praise students because they’re playing a role, Kay said. Students have long been told by social media and high school that they will change the world by engaging social justice issues. In school, they get the chance to do so whether the racist structures exist or not.

“It sounds paradoxical, but how can you fight racism if you don’t have any around you? [Administrators] internalize their role as they’re producing a product for consumers, and students are the consumers," he said. "If you come to college thinking you’re going to be a protagonist in this big social justice struggle, that becomes part of your mentality as a consumer.”

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