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J. KARL MILLER: MU revisits fraternity alcohol ban, diversity requirement — with mixed results

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 | 3:24 p.m. CST; updated 11:11 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 24, 2011

The past week's news from our flagship university, MU, reopened two issues.

I could not agree more with one of them. The other should be deposited in the landfill of bad ideas.

The first, legalizing alcohol consumption in fraternity houses by students of legal age, of course, overturns the no-alcohol policy instituted in 2003. 

Although cloaked in the very best of intentions, that edict proved not only impossible to enforce but also led to unintended but predictable consequences.

Let's face it: Young people, particularly young males, are going to indulge in and experiment with alcohol when they first leave the umbrella of parental supervision. 

Having been there myself, I can attest to the truth of the matter stated therein. And, with human nature relatively unchanged since Adam bit into the apple, admonishing young people that certain acts are taboo is akin to waving a red flag at a bull.

The worst of the unintended consequences of banning alcohol in fraternity houses is that it did nothing to curb either binge or underage drinking. 

Instead, the ban merely relocated the imbibing to off-campus locales where party goers created dual problems: infuriating East Campus neighbors with their noisy antics and causing hazards to motorists and pedestrians by returning to quarters driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Interfraternity Council's authorization of the policy change does not indicate blanket approval of alcohol in Greek houses. 

Individual fraternities must seek approval from alumni, advisers and property owners, along with maintaining appropriate academic standards, before a permit is granted. There are also restrictions on types and amounts of alcoholic beverages, e.g., no beer kegs, etc.

That there is risk in easing the rules is understood; however, the potential gains of no longer alienating neighbors with wild parties and reducing the number of drivers under the influence on our roads constitute a plus. 

But, the real benefit could be realized by the actions of the over-21 fraternity members. With a real stake in the game, they should be expected to step up and police the consumption.

The second issue is the apparent intent by the MU Faculty Council to establish a "diversity course requirement" for students. 

I don't really know anyone who is "anti-diversity," particularly when the diverse makeup of the student body is obvious to anyone with eyesight. Accordingly, it is disappointing that the council won't take no for an answer.

Defeated in May by vote of the general faculty, one must ask, "What has changed in student attitudes or academic necessity to revisit the establishment of a course/courses in diversity training?" 

Has there been overt or increased insensitivity shown to minorities, cultural differences, religious denominations or ethnic groups?

Admittedly and inexcusably, ignorance, bigotry, racism and various other forms of intolerance of diversity will always be among us, but they are increasingly the exception rather than the rule. 

No measure of legislation, ordinances, condemnations or well-intentioned programs will divest society of the narrow-minded behavior of a few highly visible and vocal moronic malcontents. There is no lesson plan for tolerance.

The creation of specific "diversity" studies or the designation of certain courses of study as satisfying the requirement for diversity training is nothing more than a "feel good" exercise in social engineering.  

The curricula of our higher education facilities have already been watered down by extraneous and "nice-to-know-but-not-very-useful" courses. There comes a time to question their academic utility.

Accordingly, before embarking on a program designed to influence student behavior, the university must first determine if it is really necessary. 

The next step is to determine the venue or vehicle to best accomplish the mission. 

Finally, there must be a medium to measure success or failure with some accuracy.

When the answer to the first is an unconditional no, why proceed farther down the path?

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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Comments

Greg Allen November 23, 2011 | 4:28 p.m.

As usual, Col. Miller shows that he is more than a single-track thinker. Some interesting things to consider.

Since higher education teaches critical thinking skills and inquiry is a necessary part of it, it's natural that courses are introduced that are part of the public discussion of issues. If we can screen out teachers who are activists on either side of an issue and only use the issue to teach the thinking skills, these courses can be useful, and society can benefit from it.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop November 25, 2011 | 11:58 a.m.

Colonel, perhaps they should start with faculty diversification. I'm sure there are far fewer conservatives in the classrooms and lecture halls than the Missouri population at large. If that were a criteria, I wonder how important diversity would be to the university?

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop November 25, 2011 | 1:22 p.m.

Perhaps they could also recruit more conservative minority students.

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 26, 2011 | 1:57 p.m.

First, I would like to know what being conservative has to do with this article? The students have options and choose to attend the university. If they wanted a conservative education, there are many religous and private institutions availible to choose from. It might be something other than coincidence that educated people, IE professors, are more likely to have a well rounded outlook as opposed to those that strictly claim to be "conservative".
Second, I realize that the world is becoming more and more connected, therefore increasing the need to understand cultural differences and norms. It would make sense to present these areas of study at the University where young people are trying to get ready for the real world which includes all types and is not white christian dominated like the midwest.
There have been racially motivated problems at the university in the recent past. Why this writer doesn't know this is odd.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why would anyone have a problem with a diversity course being required? Seems like a good thing to me. People should be free to be who they are, and offering information on other peoples perspectives would only promote that idea.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 26, 2011 | 9:23 p.m.

matt arnall - Sorry to likely upset you again, but without using the term, you have shown your inability to recognize any philosophy to be identified in education, except liberalism. You exempt conservatism from "a well rounded outlook", needed by "educated people, IE professors". Those expecting an education that includes conservatism should attend the "many religous and private institutions availible to choose from."? Are you kidding?

Then you gave us, "I realize that the world is becoming more and more connected, therefore increasing the need to understand cultural differences and norms." This, imo is easily done with the honest intermingling of all our people as has been happening for decades in this country, without forcing opinions of and about each other, (such as yours "which includes all types and is not white christian dominated like the midwest.") as is and has been done by Diversity "training"

"Diversity" as presented in this country, imo, does only one thing ( black citizens have publicly agreed). It keeps us all aware of the differences between us and stops the great effect of the "melting pot" that America has been known to be from the first and is destroying the patriotism for our Country that has made it great. I understand that much of what I have written is exactly opposite of what you write and expect for our country.

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 27, 2011 | 10:55 a.m.

Yeah Frank, I am sure you are intermingling with all types. I never exempted conservatism from anything. A well rounded outlook would include conservatism. I am not kidding when I suggest that if a person wants a specific type of education they should attend a specific type of school. What would the punch line be to that joke? I don’t think that most people have a real understanding of other peoples cultures and religions. I have a sister-in-law that is jewish and I learn something new everytime I visit with her. Again, what is bad about understanding other peoples paths better? It seems ignorant to act like there are not differences between people from other walks of life. It seems to be smart to be accepting of those differences and open to learning about them. I do agree with one thing you said, Frank. I do think that you and I’s opinions are about as far apart as they can be. And honestly, that makes me happy. Wouldn’t want to think your way.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 27, 2011 | 3:28 p.m.

matt a - I'll try to explain your writing to you, again. "The students have options and choose to attend the university. If they wanted a conservative education, there are many religous and private institutions availible to choose from. It might be something other than coincidence that educated people, IE professors, are more likely to have a well rounded outlook as opposed to those that strictly claim to be "conservative". This from you refuting need for a suggested, "faculty diversification" at the Univ. of MO. You recommend that Missourians, preferring that the faculty of their State University not be totally liberal, obtain their education somewhere else, since "educated people, IE professors, are more likely to have a well rounded outlook as opposed to those that strictly claim to be "conservative".

I have repeated you here. I don't suppose there ever has been a bigot that knew they were, or would admit it if they did.

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 27, 2011 | 5:26 p.m.

You explained nothing. You said nothing. I do believe you called me a bigot. And with that, I will excuse myself. State a differing opinion if you have one, but name calling is a waste of time. Why shouldn’t the university require a diversity course. Stay on task.

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 27, 2011 | 5:35 p.m.

I was sarcastic in my response to Don’s suggestion concerning recruiting “conservative” professors. I am arguing IN FAVOR OF a faculty being diverse at a public university, racially, religiously and politically. I am arguing AGAINST tilting a faculty to the conservative side to appease people like you. Try writing a statement that consists of your opinion. Don’t mix my words, use your own.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle November 27, 2011 | 5:55 p.m.

Columbia College has had a multicultural course requirement for years; I'd hardly call that college a liberal institution! It also has an ethics course requirement. Both are required for *any* student obtaining a bachelor's degree.
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It seems odd to politicize MU's effort as somehow, ipso facto, an expression of "liberalism gone mad."
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Perhaps MU senses that its graduates will be better prepared to compete in their future careers, if they have had exposure to, and some study of, cultures "different" from their own. If I were running a company that had *any* sort of international presence (even if only in its workforce), I'd probably find a candidate more attractive if I could sense that s/he was not someone who had difficulty seeing past his/her own cultural assumptions. That's not a *liberal* attitude--it's just basic, pragmatic common sense. (Heck, one of the courses that meets the multicultural requirement at CC is Macroeconomics--again, not a course one would associate with the pot-smoking, commie-loving liberal faculty that rule some people's [some on this board, too] imagination of contempory college life!
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Bottom line: it's just a minor effort to tweak a general education curriculum, folks. Nothing to get excited over, Mr. Colonel, Sir. (Ouch! That whip hurts!)

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 27, 2011 | 6:23 p.m.

"State a differing opinion if you have one, but name calling is a waste of time. "A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from their own or intolerant of people of different political views,"etc. Accept it or not, your reference to"to those that strictly claim to be "conservative", fits the definition.

"Why shouldn’t the university require a diversity course. Stay on task." It is a waste of time.

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 27, 2011 | 7:08 p.m.

Its a waste of time in your opinion. Like I thought, you have nothing to say.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 27, 2011 | 7:47 p.m.

I thought I wrote much about your intolerance, but you never touched it. You were serious, not sarcastic about conservatives on the faculty and then write "I am arguing IN FAVOR OF a faculty being diverse at a public university, racially, religiously and politically. I am arguing AGAINST tilting a faculty to the conservative side to appease people like you." Oh, the hypocrisy!

(Report Comment)
matt arnall November 29, 2011 | 7:56 a.m.

Frank, you make no sense. There is no hypocracy in my writings. A balenced faculty would include conservative types. You are terrible at debating a point. You have made none. You say nothing. It is similar to arguing with a child. What I write is my point of view. You have a different point of view that for whatever reason you are not willing to state. Maybe you don't have a point of view and are just agruementative. I don't know what it is, but this back and fore is really a waste of time. I state my points, you hurl insults. That is not a debate. Sorry you dislike what I say. Wish that this was more fruitful, but you can't seem to stop yourself from saying nothing. Take care and have a good day. I am going to stop wasting my time.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop November 30, 2011 | 7:41 p.m.

Matt writes: "A balenced faculty would include conservative types."

But then based on the voting records of most university faculties, they are not balanced. Conservative students and positions taught in politics, public policy, and historical viewpoints get the short end of the stick. The spelling isn't mine. I just did a cut and paste.

(Report Comment)
Vega Bond November 30, 2011 | 8:14 p.m.

Should that imply that there is a preponderance of right leaning academic instructors who are unemployed because of their viewpoint? If not, what else might that imply?

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson November 30, 2011 | 11:45 p.m.

I am thankful my own fraternal experience at MU was pre-Prohibition. I considered the one seven decades prior, a failure. I assume the neo-one has been, also.

And I recall successful diversity efforts there, 20 odd years ago. I seem to remember grooving to both country, and western.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 1, 2011 | 4:44 a.m.

It's been noted that in a sea of liberalism at American universities and colleges there are exceptions: the four federal military academies (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy), at least two state-supported military academies (VMI, The Citadel), and three dozen or so public and private technical institutes where 50% or more (typically 70+%) of the student body is studying engineering or related subjects (mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.). These institutes have some faculty members with liberal views, but the majority of the faculty is politically concervative.

One such institute exists in Missouri, further proof that University of Missouri System is far from being homogeneous.

(Report Comment)

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