Why Professor Stuart Reges can do better than University of Washington
It’s the conversation that made local headlines and catapulted a University of Washington professor into the spotlight, albeit, this might as well have been more of a red-dot sight.
One quote has plunged Professor Stuart Reges into the halls of Progressive infamy after he decided to – GASP – have a conversation with someone across aisle at the affirmative action bake sale hosted by the UW College Republicans. Whether you agree or disagree with the position of affirmative action, one can acknowledge the only way to cut through to the root of the issue is to have a conversation.
However, if you don’t listen to talk radio, what you will have likely seen in the media is one of two possibilities: A short, four-second quote from Reges on the absence of “rampant racism” on the UW campus, followed by a response from a student whom he was debating; or a story from The Stranger that painted a picture of the conversation, that eventually led to an anonymous student calling for Reges’ job.
It must have been a very insensitive, rude, explosive and profanity-ridden conversation for a computer science professor to face dismissal. How will we ever know the context of that conversation and what was actually said and debated? Oh, that’s right, I was there to record it!
The Jason Rantz Show attended the event to talk to some of the attendees and get a grasp on their positions. When I, Producer Tom, saw this dialogue occurring, I rushed over with my recorder. The full five minutes of what I recorded is embedded above, but for those who want the highlights, here it is.
Conversation with Professor Stuart Reges
The recording begins with Reges trying to explain the difference between race and class issues as it pertains to GPAs in lower, socio-economic areas. This leads to the student obnoxiously repeating the word “intersectionality.” You’ll find throughout the audio that this student was not willing to listen to anything Reges says.
“You’re emphasizing the group aspect of it and I care more about emphasizing the individual aspect of it,” Reges said, highlighting his over-arching position.
“There is always a group aspect in it when you are not considered an individual in this country,” the student replied.
First and foremost, if you’re not treating people individualistically, that’s messed up. Don’t do that. But this student is clearly caught up on the idea that the University of Washington should let people into the school based on the group they identify with. Fair enough. That’s her position. But this conversation takes a nosedive.
At this point, most sane people would see that no ground will be made between the two platforms in this discussion, and the best thing to do would be walk away. That’s exactly what Reges tried to do — the first time.
“If we calmly talked about it, we would just have to agree to disagree,” Regus said, subtly hinting at the discord during the conversation. “This is one of the big points of the disagreement, should you evaluate people as individuals or should you evaluate people based on their identity?”
“You should identify a person as to how they identify,” the student replied. “Their individualism is tied to a group identity when their group identity is put first before anything else.”
That doesn’t make any sense.
Reges looked and sounded like he was done. He was probably tired of the conversation going in circles. He said that he’s in opposition to the student using group identity to evaluate people. This is when the student dropped the bomb. The argument to end all arguments, the walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
“That’s because you are a white man,” the student said. “And you are allowed to be an individual.”
At this point, a crowd had gathered, and Reges found himself in a 20 vs. 1 situation. Students had surrounded him like vultures ready to tear apart anything he said. But being a diplomat, Reges showed he’s willing to find common ground with the student, and acknowledged something the two had talked about before the recorder came out, in that this bake sale wasn’t the best way to start discourse. The student agreed and the conversation appeared to conclude.
“Until the point when people are willing to sit and discuss issues not based on their personal agendas is when we’ll be able to make a solution, but today, this is a personal agenda,” the woman said.
And there it was: Everyone on the same page. Except here was when Reges missteps. He encouraged the student to host an event to talk about the issues. A rookie mistake from a wily veteran. The student lost it, saying she works two jobs because of social and race-based standards, and doesn’t have the time nor the megaphone to host an event. She berated the professor for only working one job and falsified his stance, saying that he believes every person has the same level of opportunity.
Despite not being able to host an event herself, the student hatched a golden idea.
“Would you be willing to have a conversation in your classroom about this?” the woman asked.
Stuart Reges is a computer science professor. He said didn’t think that would be appropriate. This is when the sharks smelled blood in the water.
“If you’re willing to give one hour of your classroom, I will come and have a conversation,” the student said, believing this was a substantial selling point. “You’re in a position of power, you’re a faculty member, you can choose the time. That’s a solution. I’m offering a hand.”
The crowd was anxious. They were lions who hadn’t been fed in days.
“There is no reason to bring a political conversation into a computer science class,” Reges replied.
Of course, Reges is right. That would be unfair to the students, and students’ parents, paying money for Reges to teach about computer science. If I could interject, I might point out that the “conversation” the student eagerly sought just happens to be what she was engaged in at that very moment. Alas, she was never listening, though. Reges told her that this was another moment where they’ll just have to disagree. This time, the woman wasn’t hearing it.
“I will not agree to disagree with you on this one,” the student said. “This is a position of power you have.”
One woman yelled out it was his responsibility to bring politics into his course. Reges was puzzled.
“Bring politics into my computer science class?” Reges asked.
The mob was waiting for this very moment.
“YEEEESSSS,” roughly 20 people yelled.
This is another example of mob practices taking out perfectly good discussion and a college student unable to hear a differing opinion. Throughout this whole conversation, the student was eager to speak, but reluctant to listen. This is happening all around Western Washington at institutions of education and Reges is the latest victim. Nothing he said was ever controversial, but the fact he opposed group think placed him in hot water.
Sorry you had to go through that, Professor Reges. That kind of stuff isn’t happening at every university across the state. There are a bunch of eager tech students who would love to take a course from you and who can actually engage in proper debate and discussion. Just hop on I-90, jump off at Vantage and let the road take you to the promise land. You don’t need Seattle. Seattle needs you. Seattle needs people who can thoroughly present their views and equally listen to others. That’s not happening at the University of Washington.