Palermo’s Confronts Student Activists in Campus Forum
It happens very infrequently on this campus that people on two sides of any debate face off before an audience that gets to hear both sides.
The carnage, in fact, was considerable.
The representatives from Palermo’s Pizza were Chris Dresselhuys, Vice President of Marketing and Tom Branigan, who teaches part time in the College of Communication. They faced a student audience, a substantial portion of which consisted of activists from Youth Empowered in the Struggle, a branch of the leftist, pro-illegal immigration group Voces de la Frontera, which has been trying to force Palermo’s employees into a union.
Also present were two members of the Marquette administration, Vice President for Administration Arthur Scheuber and Vice President for Student Affairs L. Christopher Miller.
Given that the discussion was dominated by questions from student activists, the intellectual level was . . . well, not the most erudite.
Student activists asked the same questions over and over, appearing not to have noticed that they had been answered two or three or four times already. They often rambled incoherently during their stint at the microphone. And they made some absurdly bogus arguments.
One young woman, for example, stated that, since the Palermo’s representative was constantly denying wrongdoing, that indicated that Palermo’s was indeed guilty of wrongdoing!
Franz Kafka, call Palermo’s and place your take-out order.
Scheuber and Miller explained that they had examined all the charges against Palermo’s and found them to be without foundation. Palermo’s had been forced to fire workers who were in the country illegally (or at least, could not prove their right to be in the country to the satisfaction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had audited Palermo’s).
Voces de la Frontera lied to the fired workers, claiming that if they joined a union, their immigration problems would go away.
Chris Piszczek, a member of Voces de la Frontera who approached the microphone in attire reminiscent of Berkeley, Class of 1968, insisted that the mere fact that allegations were made should cause Marquette to want to distance itself from the company.
Piszczek claimed to have been thoroughly immersed in Catholic Social Thought, with its concern for the poor and the marginalized. After the event, we asked him whether he thought abortion ought to be illegal, and he responded that “that’s not part of Catholic social thought.”
Miller and Scheuber gave coherent answers to student questions – and indeed repeated them multiple times as questions were repeated multiple times. Miller, unfortunately, pandered a bit to the activist students. Actually, he pretty much kissed ass. He commended the students for their “passion,” when they should have been scolded for their callow, uninformed moral preening.
It’s not clear any minds were changed. The Youth Empowered in the Struggle contingent, easily identified by the applause they gave the standard activist talking points, numbered perhaps 15 students. The rest of the audience was hard to read, but at least one member said it was embarrassing how poorly the student activists fared.
According to the Marquette Tribune:
Marisa Galvez, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and one of those who called for the panel, said the administration still needs to take more notice to the issues students have with Palermo’s as a company.That’s the standard activist way of thinking: “our position is so obviously right, and our arguments so obviously good, that if somebody doesn’t agree with us, it must be because they are not listening.”
Typically, people are listening, and think you are wrong.
The activists claimed to represent “the students,” but there is no evidence that any majority of Marquette students even know or care about the issue. And if they did, it’s not at all clear they would agree with the activists.
Marquette in 2013Marquette in 2013 is not Berkeley in 1968, but there are ghettos of leftist activism on campus, particularly around the Center for Peacemaking, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Residence Life, the humanities departments, as well as Sociology and Psychology.
Within these cocoons, critical thinking is not encouraged, and students can luxuriate in a smug sense of righteousness, without worrying too much about complex issues in the real world. Do unions really help workers? Is racism the main problem blacks face? Is anybody who doesn’t think that abortion should be legal sexist? Is anybody who opposes gay marriage a homophobe?
Asking these questions is not encouraged, and indeed not even really allowed. The answers are assumed to be obvious.
Moral SeriousnessBy coincidence, yesterday afternoon just a couple of hours before the forum, we talked to a student who is going to serve with Teach for America this summer, working in a poor school in the Mississippi Delta. He won’t bring World Peace, but he is devoting a few months of his life to something that may make things just a bit better for some children.
That’s a morally serious choice. Whining about the evils of Palermo’s Pizza isn’t a morally serious choice. It’s a cheap way to feel self-righteous.