Fire Tara

By Guest Contributor

The first op-ed I ever wrote for the Campus was titled “Keep Affolter.”  Her anti-racist protest at last week’s affirmative action panel, however, “pushed [me] overboard.”  I am “done beating around the bush.”  It was a “destructive demonstration of [a professor] hijacking what could have been a constructive conversation and turning it into something isolating and embarrassing.”

“Enough is enough.”

I must retract the words I penned two years ago by pejoratively using her first name and advocating for the opposite.

Fire Tara.

My “major issue is not the message [she] was sending, but the means by which [she] chose to do it: [she] used a platform that was not [hers] from which to preach and showed zero respect for an opinion that differed from [her] own.”  This “self-proclaimed” visiting professor has warped the notion of standing up for justice “into something contrary to its spirit.”

“True activism should (and must) come from a place of love: of love for a people or a nation or a place or a community … from a deep and intense desire to not only change the mindset of a group of people, but to change with them, to grab hands and dive into something new together.”  Tara stole the microphone from the person circulating it to those patiently waiting to make well reasoned remarks, stood up, and indoctrinated the audience.  She had no desire to change with those she was speaking against.

“In this great community we have cultivated, we are pushed to believe that our solution is the only solution and that those who argue otherwise are not simply of a different opinion — they are wrong.”  We must stand against professors perpetuating this notion.  She disrupted the panel to step onto a soapbox where she sermonized that it was not necessary for admissions to choose between social justice and families that valued books when considering applicants of color.

Her statement was a clear refusal to “grab the hands” of the panelist who was speaking when she hijacked the event.  Her actions “alienate an incredible swath of people on this campus … [and] do far more damage than they do good.”

“There is a place for dialogue and action, a place for pushing one another to challenge the status quo and there is a place for constructive criticism.  However, there is no place for the kinds of disrespectful [anti-racist] activism that has been demonstrated by [Tara] this semester.  [She] do[es] not listen, [she] do[es] not attempt to push or challenge or grow with the community; instead, [she] demand[s] attention and villainize[s] anyone who stands in [her] way.”

Let it be known that we as a community will not tolerate this.  Tara’s contract is set to expire at the end of the year; a fact we certainly must cheer.  However, unfortunately, her department has selected her as one of three finalists for a tenure track position.  We must stand strong to ensure she is not selected.  “To waste that opportunity” to fire her would be “an affront to our community and an embarrassment to our college.”

Tara will be giving a lecture today at 4:30 in the Twilight Auditorium titled “Tell Them You Saw Me: Invisibility, Race and Racism in the Liberal Arts Classroom.”  Let us show up and use her tactics on her.  Let us make our message clear: at Middlebury College, if you are going to make us feel uncomfortable to examine our own privilege and challenge the marginalization of people at this bastion of liberal consciousness, while unrelentingly advocating against oppression, even when it means disrupting white males espousing and practicing racism in our community, we are going to be against you.

[Thanks to my fellow community members, including those who composed the brilliant op-ed for Middblog, “Enough is Enough: Reflections on Campus Activism,” from which I quote extensively. Your keen anti-activist insight has provided tremendously influential in pushing me to stand for order over justice and paternalistically set the timetable for another person’s freedom, as King derided. Abiding by a mythical concept of time has inspired me to recognize that human progress rolls in on the wheels of inevitability and that those disrupting unjust order simply knock the wheels out of their tracks. I look forward to working with each of you to get those wheels back where they are comfortable; to rid this community of those who are not simply sated at being “lucky [to be] here at Middlebury.” Language is a forte of our College. It is time that Tara learns to expand her vocabulary.  Instead of merely stating “no” to injustice, she should learn how to say “thank you” for the four years we have allowed her to stay here. We will all be able to collectively mirror that phrase, sighing a “thank you” of relief, when the department courageously decides that after four years, enough is enough.]

Written by JAY SAPER ’13 of East Lansing, Mich.