Racism, Sexism, and Overreaction at UIUC

When I got in my car this morning to head to school, my dashboard thermometer read 0 degrees. It had warmed up a bit by the time that I actually arrived at school, to a blustery 3 degrees, but it was still pretty cold. However, these low temperatures were something that I was expecting after selecting to attend graduate school in the Midwest; I’m smart and rational enough to understand that when winter rolls around, it is going to get cold and I might have to wear an extra layer or two to keep myself warm as I moved between the two buildings that house the majority of my classes.

The last time the Polar Vortex moved through Champaign, we were on our winter break, so you didn’t have people complaining about having to go to school. However, with the second batch of Polar Vortex coming down the horn over the weekend, and with temperatures expected to dip below zero on both Monday and Tuesday this week, I’m sure a lot of the students that were still recovering from weekend hangovers were expecting to be able to stay tucked into their widdle beds and not have to go to school like adults.

Unfortunately for them, we have a chancellor that is pretty smart and one that chose not to cancel school, regardless of how cold it was going to be. In a campuswide e-mail sent out Sunday night, Chancellor Phyllis Wise stated that “classes and operations” would “proceed as scheduled” on Monday despite the pending cold weather. Not to be ignored, the whiniest of students decided to create a hashtag on Twitter to attack the chancellor, and soon some of those tweets turned particularly personal, with many offenders bringing up Chancellor Wise’s race and gender. Buzzfeed, the maker of lists and stupid quizzes to see which <insert pop culture character> you are, picked up the story and pointed out the absurdity. That article can be found here.*

*I will also note that of the negative tweeters embedded in the article, only three currently have a Twitter account, and two of those accounts have been protected. If you are going to say something, at least have the courage to challenge the people that might interact with you after you make a veiled threat of violence at a semi-public official. 

Then, primarily because of the article’s use of a lengthy response (which happened to mention the Chief) by UIUC alum Suey Park, the narrative of the situation shifted from the anger and hate directed at Chancellor Wise to a narrative about “white privilege” at the University of Illinois. Smile Politely, Champaign-Urbana’s Online Magazine, published an editorial about the situation, painting the student body at UIUC with a fairly broad brush. While I would agree that the majority of the 40,000 students on campus probably came from “predominantly white school districts” and “see themselves reflected on campus nearly everywhere they go,” they fail to address that the obnoxious students complaining about Chancellor Wise using the #fuckphyllis Twitter hashtag are not representative of the school at large. While many students probably didn’t want to go to school for whatever reason this morning — and over 8,600 people have signed the change.org petition asking for the day off — the majority of the students at the school did precisley what that Smile Politely editorial said to do: “(shook) off their hangovers, put on their damn North Face jackets, and head(ed) on over to class.”

In the end, the day ended up not being that cold. By the time I arrived home at 11 am after my one class today, the temperature had risen to nearly 10 degrees, and with the sun shining and minimal wind, it was actually not too terribly bad outside. Then again, I have made it a personal rule this semester to drive when the temperature is under 10 degrees, and driving may be a luxury that many students don’t have because of all their “white privilege” and living in the dorms and whatnot.

In a few days (or weeks), this will all be forgotten, especially once the weather returns to normal, and the whiny children that go to this school can find new things to complain about, like not knowing about the best party until after it was over that weekend. Hopefully. the offending students can spend the remainder of their time at UIUC preparing for the real world, where bosses don’t cancel work when it’s too cold and where making threats to real people on social media can lead to losing your job and/or other punishment.

Until next time…

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