Trinity Students Protest Western Civilization Club Named After Churchill

Students at Trinity College voted recently to block a club purportedly dedicated to the discussion of the values and works underlying Western Civilization. The 10-member club is named after Winston Churchill as “dedicated to the preservation, dissemination and extension of the Western moral and philosophical tradition.” The group met the underlying criteria of the school but was still blocked by the student government. It is another example of intolerance shown rivaling values by many students and faculty today. To her credit, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney overruled the vote of the student government. However, that decision was met with the same unhinged, intolerant protests that we have seen on too many colleges and universities.

While the group insists that it “stand[s] firmly against racism, discrimination, and white supremacy, as well as any and all other insidious ideologies,” critics oppose its views and its association with former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, who has a daughter at the school.

Protesters massed at the administration building after Berger-Sweeney stood with free speech in recognizing the club. Roughly a 1000 people have signed a petition to ban a club that they disagree with. Students like Shamarah Patnett posted on Facebook a call to ban the club for “promot[ing] white supremacy and has targetting [sic] marginalized students on campus.”

Some of the protesters objected to a club focusing on Western Civilization as hostile for students of color. Indeed, Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams, who we previously discussed in relation to his controversial statements bout “whiteness is terrorism,” supported the protests. Stephanie Bravo, a Trinity sophomore with the group Justice 4 Marginalized Persons, insisted “We think that having a group like that is causing further … harm to marginalized students on campus.”

Rather than ban a group with which you disagree, it is also possible to organize your own events and advance your own ideas. Instead, faculty are encouraging students to focus on silencing those with whom they disagree.

We have been discussing the rising intolerance and violence on college campuses, particularly against conservative speakers. (Here and here and here and here). Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over mob rule on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, even including a few speakers like an ACLU officials and James Comey.  Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech.  At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.  In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek also insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech is free speech

recently wrote how Antifa and other college protesters are increasingly denouncing free speech and the foundations for liberal democracies. Some protesters reject classic liberalism and the belief in free speech as part of the oppression on campus.  The movement threatens both academic freedom and free speech — a threat that is growing due to the failure of administrators and faculty to remain true to core academic principles.

As shown at Trinity College, students have faculty support in efforts to silence those with opposing views. It is a lesson that is antithetical to the very core of our academic mission. I knew nothing about the Churchill Club but ten students found common values in this club. If students disagree with those values, they have speech rights that are no lesser — and no greater — than their fellow students.

19 thoughts on “Trinity Students Protest Western Civilization Club Named After Churchill”

  1. Winston Churchill was a complex man. He does not fit neatly into modern narratives, but his work in the British military helped win both World Wars – so he can fairly be given credit for defending Western civilization as very few other humans have. But he also had a dark side.

    Churchill – himself – made decisions to arm Britsh warships with fifteen-inch guns just prior to the First World War, which was the decisive factor in several battles in both World Wars, and he cleaned up the mess that
    Neville Chamberlain left after “peace in our time” rapidly turned into blitzkrieg across Europe.

    Churchill, not Saddam Hussein, was also the first man to use poison gas on Iraqi villages. He handled a bloody Mau Mau uprising in Kenya whose tactics were typified by murdering white settlers and black sympathizers of the colonial government with a military response using area bombing, torture and concentrartion camps against many natives, including the man who’d become Barack Obama’s grandfather.

    What probably stings the protesters worst, however, is Winston Churchill’s remarks about Islam in an out-of-print volume of his 1899 military history The River War:

    ““How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

    It’s crucial to realize this edition of The River Warwas condensed from two volumes into a single book in which this quote does not appear, well over 100 years ago.

    No one, friend or foe of Churchill now quotes from that same book what I believe to be what the mature Churchill’s thoughts:

    “A wide humanitarian sympathy in a nation easily degenerates into hysteria. A military spirit tends towards brutality. Liberty leads to licence, restraint to tyranny. The pride of race is distended to blustering arrogance. The fear of God produces bigotry and superstition. There appears no exception to the mournful rule, and the best efforts of men, however glorious their early results, have dismal endings, like plants which shoot and bud and put forth beautiful flowers, and then grow rank and coarse and are withered by the winter.”

    Looking from the idiocy spouted in our city, state and national legislatures and governments to the world at large, it is very hard to say Winston Churchill was far wrong when he said that. It’s not the uplifting thing that our current poltiicians like to quote in their speeches, but it is more nearly true than in its context than the aspriational phrases of FDR and others quoted when World War Two comes up.

    I can’t say I’d be very upset if Trinity College chose to exclude a club that lifted Churchill up based on his dismal humanitarian record – he used poison gas against civilians in Iraq and would have used both poison gas and anthrax againt Germany in World War Two if they’d been ready in time. A multi-million dollar plant to make four-pound anthrax bombs clustered in huge munitions to kill Germans was built just outside Terre Haute, Indiana mainly to fill British orders for those weapons, but fortunately didn’t produce any live weapons before the war in Germany ended.

    1. I left off my closing thought: “It’s clear, however, that what those who wish to ban the Churchill Institute want is to foreclose freedom of expression and free exchange of ideas. Any organization seeking to push organizations off campus for ideas which are not objectionable to the “reasonable man” of jurisprudence ought, itself, to be thrown off campus as a public nuisance.

    2. Though there were numerous reform movements within Islam that were crushed violently during periods of conservative resurgence, 1923 marks the beginning of a modernist reformation that will not likely ever be turned back. Mustafa Kemal in Turkey launched a successful schism when he rose to secularize the nation state government, Westernizing the alphabet, dress, laws and customs of a budding industrial power. A less ambitious reform movement took root in Indonesia. By 2019, only those uninterested in geopolitical reality, or misled by Islamist (and progressive) infowarfare would fail to acknowledge the ongoing reformist schism within Islam. The militant fundamentalists dominate the sensationalistic news cycle, while the reformists are quietly, methodically winning the battle for the soul of modern Islam.

      So, the timing of young Churchill’s observations in 1899 must be judged in historical context as accurate, though somewhat naive about the existence of reformation movements throughout history.

      The college students are young and naive, but there is no excuse for their professors being equally out of touch with historical reality.

      1. Secularism in Turkey is being dialed back considerably under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who apparently has discovered the benefits of being an Islamist strong man. Indonesia has also retreated from whatever secularist reform exists there to a large extent. But reform does exist in Islam, and it would be wrong to deny that.

        Churchill was a man of his time. His actions in Iraq and Kenya, to be fair to him, were within wide national norms of the time (European colonial powers were reacting violently to challenges to their power throughout the 1950s). His influence helped define the Anglo-American special relationship not only during his time in power, but even between those times, and long afterward.

        My second quote from The River War is, I think, an uncannily accurate criticism of democracy and its excesses, and deserves much more contemplation than a swipe at Islam that didn’t survive the second edition of that book.

        Trinity College can’t condemn Churchill or groups which convene under his name without doing violence to the concept of intellectual freedom. They don’t know what they’re doing – because no influential leader is free of skeletons in his or her closet.

        Would Trinity College ban or fail to recognize a group which placed Mohandas Gandhi at its masthead? It’s highly unlikely Gandhi would do well in the age of #metoo – his “spiritual practices” routinely included lying naked with young women. Furthermore, Gandhi was a notable proponent of British imperialism when it suited his goal of bettering India’s chances within it. But Gandhi would likely not raise any red flags at Trinity College.

        I have no issue with intellectually consistent criticism of Winston Churchill, but Trinity College’s complaints aren’t consistent. They’re just as racist as criticisms leveled, say, at Jomo Kenyatta or Mao..

  2. There is a Leftist trend to lobotomize our history of Western civilizations. This is common in tyrannical regimes. Erase history, and erase the product of thought of thousands of years.

    Humans build knowledge on what came before. The Western catharsis that slavery should be abolished, and leading the charge to do so, was a product of all of the centuries of philosophical thought leading up to that moment.

    Western civilization is considered to be the birthplace and repository of freedom. Compare and contrast with individual rights in the rest of the world, present or contemporaneous with our past. Western countries espouse Western values. Western is not a race, but rather a culture. Americans can have Asian, African, or European heritage, and none of that matters. It’s the culture of Western civilization, not the color of it, that matters.

    It is intolerant bigotry to oppress a club celebrating Western civilization.

    It is false logic to declare that if you love Western civilization, you must therefore be racist. I love much about international travel, but prefer to live here. Obviously, it’s the best place to be as a female on Earth during this time period.

  3. Heil Hitler! Or is it Hiel Hitler? Those in the youth group will know.
    My only complaint about Churchill is the fact that he had to show off himself smoking a cigar all day long in all photo opportunities. Millions thought smoking was neat. Millions died. Dumb smokers. Just using the word smokers is enough to say dumb. Only dumb people don’t understand that. These complainers in the youth group at this school are probably all smoking and vaping as they creep.

  4. I was once a college student. The student council types I can remember were above-the-median on the oleangenous scale and, as far as I can recall, building a resume. The ones I knew years later as an employee seemed less oily but otherwise people-pleaser types. Just where did these obnoxious ideologues come from?

    And now we have 200 students protesting a small discussion club founded for unremarkable purposes and b!tching and moaning about one member due to some addle-pated conception of what her relatives advocate. Again, where did these obtuse, shallow, and pushy twits come from? I can imagine this was egged on by the worst elements on Trinity’s faculty (there’s a horrid sociology professor there who is quite a notable), but it doesn’t explain how nearly 10% of the student body at this ordinary private college located in a provincial city of ordinary dimensions came to a conclusion that a 10-person discussion club was intolerable.

    (You don’t know whether stupidity or malevolence induced this crew to present themselves as paladins for ‘the marginalized’).

    1. DSS,
      “You don’t know whether stupidity or malevolence induced this crew to present themselves as paladins for ‘the marginalized’”

      It is a nasty combination of the two.They are bitter, nihilistic narcissists.

  5. All of these “students” who want to silence a club relating to Western Values should realize if it wasn’t for Western Values and Winston Churchill they’d probably all be in jail!

    Winston Church wasn’t perfect but then show me the human who is. He is probably one of the main reasons we aren’t enjoying the tender mercies of the 1000 year Third Reich!

    1. Before you enthuse any further about Mr. Churchill’s “tender mercies,” I suggest you google “Operation Impossible” and be prepared to be surprised. You may recall that in 2010, the British Government released some of Mr. Churchill’s wartime secret documents that were classified for 65 years and there are a few surprises that have finally come to light. The above mentioned document is one of them.
      Verrrrry Interrrrrresting!

        1. It doesn’t surprise me at all. At the time, Churchill was trying to avoid exactly the situation Neville Chamberlain left him with in 1939. He had to explore all alternatives, and was aware that if military action was indicated against the Soviet Union, it was best done whle the US and UK were still moblilized for war.

  6. Hitler Youth alive and well.
    How unfortunate for them they didn’t read the part in history books about what good people are willing to do to stop such Hitleresque marches toward death cult tyrranny.

Leave a Reply