Let us count the ways privileged college students on American campuses are whining — still! — about the results of the presidential election. At The University of Pennsylvania, even the esteemed Shakespeare is taking a hit.
A group of students removed a portrait of the legendary playwright — widely regarded as the greatest writer and dramatist the world has ever known — and replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”
In her poem, “The Brown Menace or Poem to the Survival of Roaches,” Lorde “likened blacks to cockroaches, hated, feared, and poisoned by whites,” wrote poetryfoundation.org. Poetry critic Sandra M. Gilbert remarked that “it’s not surprising that Lorde occasionally seems to be choking on her own anger.”
So in the name of safe spaces and political correctness — actual education at American universities is once again trampled.
Students took the large Shakespeare portrait from the walls of Fisher-Bennett Hall and delivered it to the office of Penn English professor Jed Etsy, after an English Department town hall meeting on Dec. 1 in which students voted to remove the portrait.
The portrait has resided over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett — home to Penn’s English Department — for years, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Esty emailed English majors and minors on Dec. 8 with a statement.
“We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols,” Esty wrote.
When are parents going to stop paying for colleges that don’t have the strength of any convictions? The adult educators in colleges and universities are there to contextualize current events for students, and to teach their chosen subject matter. They’re not preparing students for the adult world by kowtowing to them.
College sophomore and English major Katherine Kvellestad said replacing Shakespeare with Lorde sends a positive message. “You don’t necessarily need to have a portrait of Shakespeare up,” Kvellestad said. “He’s pretty iconic.”
Following that logic, should we then take down our monuments to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson? They’re pretty iconic, too. (Alas, some of these have been taken down.)
College junior Mike Benz, also an English major, thought the portrait switch was “bold and admirable.” “It is a cool example of culture jamming,” the millennial told The Pennsylvanian. Benz also said college curriculums typically focus on European and Western ideals, and other works can sometimes be ignored or set aside.
That’s because they are not part of the curriculum — but let’s not let that little fact get in the way of student outrage.
Both Benz and Kvellestad said they were pleased that the English department voted to remove the portrait, despite the fact that it was ultimately the students who took it down.
“I think it’s cool that Penn students stepped up and decided to get the ball rolling,” Kvellestad said — adding that students have more license to take bold actions and “get the job done.”