“Well-Beings Are Being Put On The Line”: Berkeley Protesters Interrupt Class To Protest The Midterm Exam As Too Stressful

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 9.13.44 PMUC Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken  probably did not expect to be denounced as a tool of the racist establishment when he came to class recently.  After all, he was simply giving a midterm exam when protesters appeared to demand that he checked his “privilege” and cancel his exam due to the stress that it was causing for students.  Instead, the students demanded that he assign a “take-home essay with significant time to prepare.”  The scene was truly Felliniesque but whatever humor might be found in the moment was lost by the fact that this is not an isolated occurrence on our campuses, as we have previously discussed.

The protesters insisted that their “well-beings are being put on the line because of the emotional, mental, and physical stress that this university is compounding with what is already going on in [their] everyday lives.”  Shaiken (who is an expert on Latin American studies) balked at the notion that Berkeley was an oppressive environment: “This is a campus that is truly related throughout Latin America to the notion of free speech.”  The effort to dialogue with the protesters only made things worse and one shouted: “Have you ever checked ‘unlisted’ or ‘undocumented immigrant’? I don’t think so!”  The students further objected that Shaiken could not teach workers rights in Mexico as a white man.

Shaiken begins by trying to say that he “admires” their passion, but the protesters quickly cut him off.  He then tried to give his own bona fides as a regular protester and denounced right-wing protesters on campus. He said that he is part of protests on the left all of the time but refuses to let “right-wing demonstrators” shut down the school.  When he mentions the “integrity” of the school, the protesters smirked and dismissed him. Shaiken offered to give them a forum in the Thursday class to discuss this issue (though it is a bit unclear why the other students have to sit through another diatribe on the issue as opposed to setting aside time outside of class).  He then tried to get the students to let the other students complete their exams and speak with him outside.

When other students objected to their disrupting their class they were then attacked and told to shut up and listen: ” Are you trying to silence us right now? Is that what you’re trying to do? . . . you need to listen to us.”

Finally, rather than speak with Shaiken outside of class, the protesters took their complaints to the Department of Ethnic Studies.  However, they remained long enough to denounce the students who waited to take their midterm exams as fostering white supremacy  . . . because they were at Berkeley for an education.  The student insisted “I don’t know why you’re still, like, sitting down, y’all. I don’t understand. I really don’t understand. Y’all can take your fucking test, but people are dying out there.”  She added “you can take your f–king exam but people are dying out there.”

We have seen students openly block speakers and disrupt classes on campuses across the country without any discipline from their schools. I recently discussed how students prevented a Northwestern professor from teaching a class with a visitor from INS — leading only to an expression of disappointment from the university.  I do not view such disruptions as exercises of free speech but the denial of free speech and free thought.  Universities have always protected free speech and fostered debate and dialogue.  Schools like Northwestern are not only undermining academic freedom but free speech in not taking action against students who disrupt classrooms and events on campus.  These students at Berkeley did not hide their faces or identity.  They felt . . .  well  . . .  privileged in disrupting classes.  The response from schools should be clear.  Students should be suspended for such actions and, if particularly egregious or repeated, they should be expelled.  As this video vividly demonstrated, there are students who worked hard to get to Berkeley and want an education.  Shaiken clearly wants to give them an education.  As educators, we do not run our classes by plebiscite or subject to some “heckler’s veto.”  The fact that students at Berkeley and Northwestern feel entitled to disrupt classes is a chilling statement about our priorities as academics.  They are clearly being reinforced in these views by university administrations have fail to protect the sanctity of classrooms and the principle of academic freedom.

As a final note, Shaiken does not actually fit the image of a tool of white supremacy and has been recognized for not just his work but his teaching:

Harley Shaiken looks at the role of schooling and skills in the global economy. He explores issues at the intersection of information technology, work organization, labor, and globalization. In particular, he has examined issues of economic and political integration in the Americas, with a focus on the United States and Mexico. He is currently the recipient of grants from the Ford and Hewlett foundations. Since 1998, he has been chair of the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley. In 1991 he was presented with the Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of California, San Diego. He has served as an adviser on globalization to key leaders of the United States Congress and to policy makers throughout the Americas. His article, “The New Global Economy: Trade and Production under NAFTA,” was published in the Austrian Journal of Development (2001). He is also the author of several books, including Mexico in the Global Economy (1990); Automation and Global Production (1987); and Work Transformed: Automation and Labor in the Computer Age (1985).

Like the Northwestern professor, Shaiken was extremely supportive of the students despite their disruption and he openly identifies with the causes of the left. That does not matter.  These students repeat terms like “privilege” like some mindless mantra that shuts down any dialogue and dismisses the arguments of the speaker.  Indeed, as previously discussed, some members of groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa have expressly denounced free speech and the liberal democratic model.  Such  views reject the very foundation for learning and higher education on our campuses.  Yet, too many university officials are cowed by these protesters and evade their responsibilities of protecting academic freedom.  The videotape below shows vividly the inevitable result of such academic acquiescence:




121 thoughts on ““Well-Beings Are Being Put On The Line”: Berkeley Protesters Interrupt Class To Protest The Midterm Exam As Too Stressful”

  1. “Shaken begins by trying to say that he “admires” their passion, but the protesters quickly cut him off. He then tried to give his own bona fides as a regular protester and denounced right-wing protesters on campus.”
    Love that scene in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when the daddy Leftist alligator is eaten by its kiddies. Get out of the water, Jim.

  2. Their parents dreamed of living in the U.S.A. without doing the hard work required to be a legal immigrant and now these particular students dream of a degree without the hard work required.
    Its time for them to grow up and realize their problems were caused by their parents not Americans

    1. Could not have said it better. So true. We are an immigrant nation, but the immigrants who came here and built this country came with a work ethic that few — immigrants and native-born — Americans of their generation have today. It’s not immigrants people are against, it’s immigrants who come here expecting a free-ride. We’re so screwed because college administrators and professors are buying into the guilt being foist upon them.

  3. Those who “can” will do. Those who “can’t”: teach. Those who can’t teach: teach teachers. Those who put up with this Berkeley itshay need to move to Russia.

  4. Prof. Shaiken was evidently born in 1954 or thereabouts and the only degree he lists on his vita is a BA in economics from a state college in Michigan. Over my stupid life, I’ve had some sort of association with three different institutions and the only people I can recall with a background like that were lab instructors in the science departments and language departments, athletic coaches, ancillary faculty teaching courses auxilliary to the ROTC program (at one school), music department tutors, and a couple of writing professors.

    Some years ago, Hamilton College was raked over the coals for hiring someone for the position of “Artist / Activist in Residence” who was exposed in the media as having a history of Bernadine Dohrn – style domestic terrorism for red causes. There’s a certain amount of patronage for red haze twits in academe and it looks like this fellow Shaiken is the recipient of a handsome slice of it.

    Academe is corrupt.

    1. I am shocked that someone with only a B.A. would be hired at Berkeley as a “professor” and/or “economist.” I know a young woman who earned a Ph.D at Berkeley in Electrical Engineering and was teaching at a local community college while doing post-doc research at Berkeley. Without sufficient publishing, she wasn’t even eligible for an assistant professor position in E.E.

      1. The same is true of a friend who was in the Ph.D program in Berkeley’s math dept. He was working as a teaching assistant and not yet qualified for a faculty position. It appears that Berkeley doesn’t take its Ethnic Studies dept all that seriously, given the quality of instructors and students. I have a B.A. in Econ myself, and would never call myself an economist without obtaining an M.A. at minimum; nor would it ever occur to me to consider myself qualified to teach at a university with Berkeley’s reputation.

        1. TIN – without a Masters you have not mastered your subject. And the difference between the information I got in my masters made all the stuff I got when I was getting my B, A. sound like a lie. Now you were reading the original texts, so you had to throw out some of the old knowledge you had relied on for several years and replace it with the new and then you could never be sure the professor had or was going to read the texts he had assigned. I always asked pertinent questions about each text so see if they had. I have no idea why my professors found that uncomfortable, they should have been happy somebody actually read everything they assigned.

  5. Like the Northwestern professor, Shaiken was extremely supportive of the students despite their disruption and he openly identifies with the causes of the left.

    What a maroon. He owns this situation.

  6. perhaps if the parents of the students who are there to recieve an education threatened to withold tuition checks, maybe the the university would be forceful in dealing w/these intolerant whiners

  7. The exam tests

    I had a full plate. Engineering Physics, Engineering Graphics, Advanced Calculus, Differential Equations, Three Dimensional Vector Analysis, Advanced Analytical Chemistry, Robotics, Materials & Technology, Computer Science, Technical Writing, Industrial Psychology & Political Science. No calculators were allowed during the tests. Just pencil & paper.


  8. Wonder if they are there tuition free, could this be the so called “dreamers”.

  9. What do they say about, if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like nail?

    It seems like the regressive left has discovered a new game, the oppression olympics.
    If something, anything, bothers you in course of living your life, just pull out the the multi-purpose tool of claiming that something “oppresses” you.
    Then amazingly, all of society will respect your claim and bend over backwards to accommodate you.

    When this tool stops working, then maybe they will stop trying to use it.

  10. “If a midterm exam is too stressful then you don’t belong in this class.”

  11. Expel them, they are going to flunk anyway. At least by nipping the problem in the bud the university will preserve the education and future earnings of the normal students who simply want to learn.

    1. Whatever the penalty for classroom disruption. But unlikely that they will flunk out. Berkeley students are bright and capable.

      1. If a mid-term test is too emotionally devastating for them, I don’t see much academic success in their future.

        1. I don’t either, but it might be just this class.

          Some counseling is in order.

          1. If the students don’t care for the way a professor is teaching ‘his’ class the simple solution would be to withdraw from the class and find another more to their liking. No?

            1. surimike – if an individual student had relatives in PR and was really worried about them, you go to the professor in advance and see if you can work out a deal of some sort. Most are pretty nice about it if you just ask. BTW, did anyone check to see if that lead girl was related to Che?

              1. Paul – Not likely the girl is related to Che. He was a physician, a graduate of the medical school at the University of Buenos Aires, and the author of numerous books. Fidel was a lawyer, BTW. These were accomplished revolutionaries who could have had successful professional careers. This girl is just a poseur.

          2. Counselling? Good heavens, no. I have little faith in most counselors to actual help them get straightened out. Give them a taste of the real world. Send them to dig ditches or put in roads for a couple months.

        2. How about, I don’t see much a̶c̶a̶d̶e̶m̶i̶c̶ success in their future.

      2. There’s always people on the left side of the performance distribution because they were marginal candidates for admission or they’ve got issues. These particular students look like the sort who get mulligans in the admissions process.

        It’s a reasonable wager they’re not all that capable.

        And I betcha Prof. Shaiken’s courses are guts to begin with.

      3. David,
        Being bright and capable does not mean you won’t flunk out. Application and effort are required, too.

  12. I hope that these memes are not contagious enough to spread to here.

  13. I think the monster has turned on its creator.

    There are several issues in play. The victim mentality has been encouraged, and this was the inevitable result. There have been no consequences for disruptive behavior and the repression of speech with which they disagree. Perhaps Professor Shaiken may realize that this exemplifies why the government must never have the power to censor speech. He may not agree with that censorship. You treat an education far differently if you pay for it yourself than if, for example, your parents pay for it. There is less value in something that’s simply handed to you. If you work to pay for your own tuition, then you show up in class to take the midterm exam because, damn it, you can’t afford to pay for another quarter if your graduation is delayed.

    Universities need to determine if they are in the activism business, or the education business. Activism should take place on the side. Universities are supposed to be centers of higher learning, and the honing of the mind to more complex rational thought. No matter what major you complete – mathematics, literature, anatomy…your and is supposed to be sharpened and changed from when you arrived.

    These students seem to be too busy ranking themselves on the victimhood self valuation scale, demanding entitlements, and making racist, bigoted statements. They fail to realize that condemning the entire Caucasian race is racist. If they showed up to class, they might learn critical reasoning.

    There is a price to pay when the majority of academics believe, and preach in class, in socialism, the restriction of speech, conservatives are all evil and stupid, if you hear a conservative speak you’ll turn into a toad, if you don’t like the results of an election you can fight the legal voting process, cis gendered men are evil, and every other pet personal belief they failed to check at the door.

    They politicized every subject taught in universities, except maybe mathematics. This was the inevitable conclusion. When you teach people from an impressionable young age that every single problem they have is someone else’s fault, then one day, they are going to turn on their professors when it’s time to take a test or turn in a paper or conduct the day’s experiment in chem lab.

    Learn from this mistake. Stick to the subject matter at hand. Make your classroom equally welcoming to students of all political backgrounds. Call campus security and report disruptors and discipline them according to the student handbook.

    1. I have heard that mathematics is a tool of the patriarchy.

      Like science, it seeks to ‘penetrate’ our supposed ignorance, and then inject the seed of knowledge into our fertile minds, and then force rape a conception of enlightenment.

      How despicable.

  14. Well, I am glad he is eager to stop right-wing activists, but he should have thrown their s$$es out first thing. He had a midterm going. I hope those students all get a failing grade on the midterm they missed. There is a certain thing called “classroom control” and he lost it.

    1. Paul C. Schulte,..
      – A “failing grade” would really put their ” well-beings on the line”.
      I doubt if we will see any follow-up on this story, but my guess is that they’ll all pass, to avoid damaging their “well beings”.

      1. Tom Nash – now I know this prof failed in classroom control, but those students did achieve one thing, they forced him to identify all of his leftist bona fides. To this point, he may have been suspect to some students, but now he has outed himself. And there is no student in there who is going to look at him the same again. He has lost the respect of the students who were taking the test and I don’t know if he has enough time in the semester to earn it back. His conservative students will never trust him and he may have trouble with moderates.

    2. Yes, he lost it. He accepted the whiners’ premise for the conversation and was put back on his heels throughout the ridiculous conversation. The whiners forced everyone to shut up, then interrupted Shaiken when he tried to respond. Lack of disrespect on their part should have been met with an immediate call for campus security to come remove them from the space, with the result of grades of 0 on their midterms. The next class day, all students should receive printed copies of the student handbook, with no verbal discussion of the event taking away class time, other than a reminder from Shaiken that such a disruption would not be tolerated, and if the students protested, they would immediately be given a failing grade for the semester. Gary T is right, you cannot accommodate this behavior one iota.

Comments are closed.