July 13, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

KU student targeted by sorority for conservative views

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A KU sorority member who was put on probation for “conduct unbecoming” — i.e., conservative views — has apparently had her restrictions lifted by the national sorority.

Late last month Katherine Lauer, a member of the University of Kansas chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, was placed on probation by her sorority’s “Diversity and Inclusion Committee,” not for any violation of actual bylaws, but for “argumentative communication (verbal or otherwise) with members as a result of your social media posts that disregards different opinions,” and ordered by letter to take a week-long “social media posting holiday” for a “personal reflection and cleanse.”

Additionally, she was ordered to have a conversation with the organization’s chief operating officer to give her a “broader education of America today,” Fox News reported.

In an interview with Kansas City Star Columnist Michael Ryan, Lauer says the sorority wouldn’t specifically say what triggered its action.

“I was never told at all what exactly I did wrong,” Lauer told Ryan. “I, to my knowledge, was the only one being pulled in for a political post, or any post in general. And I’d seen a lot of other posts that made me feel uncomfortable. So I definitely feel like I was being targeted and suppressed.”

She thinks it was her retweeting of a social media post by conservative African-American commentator Candice Owen that was critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Following a campaign by the KU chapter of the Kansas Federation of College Republicans and a Change.org petition, chapter president Paige Harding told the Sentinel late last week the probation had been lifted — “ish.”

The Sentinel reached out to Kappa Alpha Theta’s national organization for comment, but a phone call was not returned.

Ryan, on Monday, wrote a scathing column about the issue, noting: “Mercifully, though only meagerly so, a board of Theta alums later reduced Lauer’s sentence to allow posting on social media if she self-censors, to wit: Think about whether your considered opinion hurts your ‘personal brand,’ the sorority and people of color,” Ryan wrote. Oh, and check your facts.”

What facts Owens — or Lauer — allegedly had wrong, are unclear, however; Owens’ original post simply questioned where the money BLM has been raising was going, writing: “Black Lives Matter is an organization of white men, using the faces of dead Black people, to raise millions of dollars toward electing White Democrats into positions of power. It is the most flagrantly racist organization in America.”

Lauer apparently incurred the wrath of the Diversity and Inclusion committee by ruminating how much good that money could have done in communities of color.

Lauer told Ryan that one of her sorority sisters informed her she was not allowed to have an opinion on the matter because — well, she’s white.

As Ryan noted, enforced homogeneity of opinion is hardly unusual on college campuses:

“Out of tolerance for others’ opinions, we’re not going to tolerate yours, comrade. Don’t just scrub your posts. Cleanse your mind.”

Four years ago liberal New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about the frightening group-think in places that are supposed to be bastions of free-thought.

“We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives,” Kristof wrote. “Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.”

Kristof pointed to the case of African-American Sociologist George Yancey, who had the bad taste to not only be a conservative black man but also to be an evangelical Christian.

“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” Yancey told Kristof. “But inside academia, I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

For conservative students, the issue is starker. Do they speak up in opposition to a liberal professor and risk a failing grade that could torpedo their education and future? Do they risk losing friends, for the sin of harboring a different view?

Writing in The Atlantic in February of 2020, staff writer Conor Friedersdorf, noted that students — as happened to Lauer — are actually more worried about being censured by their peers.

Friedersdorf said a 2019 study on the campus of the University of North Carolina found:

  • While majorities favor more viewpoint diversity and free-speech norms, an intolerant faction of roughly a quarter of students believe it is okay to silence or suppress some widely held views that they deem wrong.
  • Students across political perspectives engage in classroom self-censorship.
  • Students harbor divisive stereotypes about classmates with different beliefs, and a substantial minority are not open to engaging socially with classmates who don’t share their views.
  • Disparaging comments about political conservatives are common.

Lauer remained firm in her beliefs and refusal to back down to liberal orthodoxy, retweeting a Trump get out the vote video on election morning.

This isn’t the first time that a version of the ‘cancel culture‘ hit Kansas universities.  Earlier this year, Wichita State University president Dr. Jay Golden caused an uproar by cancelling a speaking engagement with Ivanka Trump.  Golden has since resigned for unstated reasons.

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