Many socialists believe that education is a universal human right. But evidently, not Arizona State University's (ASU) Students for Socialism. On Wednesday, they staged a protest to pressure campus administrators to expel Kyle Rittenhouse, the recently acquitted Kenosha shooter.
"Join us and rally against racist murderer Kyle Rittenhouse being permitted on our campus," said the student group on Twitter.
If video footage of the event on social media is any indication, it seemed sparsely attended. In fact, pro-Rittenhouse counterdemonstrators appeared to outnumber the socialists. When a leader of the protest—who was equipped with a megaphone—denounced Rittenhouse as a white supremacist killer, spectators pointed out that all three of the people he shot were white; this did not deter the protester, who responded that Rittenhouse was a descendant of white colonists who had murdered black and brown people.
In any event, there is little chance of Rittenhouse setting foot at ASU: He is not currently enrolled as a student. (He was, at one point, signed up to take online classes while awaiting admission.) But if he did, the public university would have no reason to evict him, and it should consider his hypothetical application as if he were any other student. He is a free man who was deemed innocent by a jury of his peers—a jury that agreed he acted in self-defense when he shot three men after each had allegedly attacked him. He is neither a murderer nor does he appear to be a racist; he has publicly declared that he supports Black Lives Matter and lamented that prosecutors can use their power to mistreat defendants of color.
Leftist students have free speech rights, and they can exercise those to protest Rittenhouse if they wish. But a great many university administrations—whose formal stances on public policy matters unrelated to education would be better left unsaid—have also taken sides against Rittenhouse.
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf noted in a recent article that the Universities of California at Santa Cruz and Irvine, as well as The New School in New York, all released statements protesting the outcome of the trial and suggesting that Rittenhouse's not-guilty verdict was evidence of the power of white supremacy in U.S. society.
"We are disheartened and dismayed by this morning's not guilty verdict on all charges in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse," wrote U.C. Santa Cruz in a statement. "We join in solidarity with all who are outraged by this failure of accountability. Trials such as these that have race-related implications can cause our BIPOC communities distress and harm. This is harm that is endured everyday through acts of racism, the pervasiveness of white supremacy and a flawed justice system."
At U.C. Irvine, the vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer said in his official capacity that "the conclusion of this trial does not end the reckoning about systemic racism in the United States. If anything, it has simply made it more legible."
It's difficult to understand why the chief diversity officer of a school thousands of miles away from Kenosha felt the need to weigh in on this matter on behalf of the school, and in a manner that suggests any student who disagrees might be an accomplice to racism. But weigh in he did.
The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system said the verdict was a reminder "that systems of inequity were not built in a day or a moment—they have been manufactured, crafted, and honed through generations of practice and reinforcement." And Fitchburg State University's Center for Diversity and Inclusiveness set up racially segregated safe spaces—separate spaces for students of color and white students—to process their trauma regarding the outcome.
It would have been entirely proper for colleges and universities to foster vigorous debate on Rittenhouse's acquittal, and to make it possible for students and professors dismayed by the verdict to speak up and explain their perspectives. But when administrators treat the outcome as obviously and undeniably wrong—and in fact, racist—they are more likely to render such a discussion impossible.
ASU's administration, to its credit, did not join in. A spokesperson confirmed to the media that Rittenhouse wasn't actually enrolled, but said nothing about keeping him off campus—to the disappointment of the socialists, undoubtedly.
Some conservative and libertarian students, on the other hand, said that they would welcome Rittenhouse. The student organization Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) released a statement chiding the left for hypocrisy.
"How ironic that the same socialists who call higher education a 'human right' also want to deny Rittenhouse that fundamental human right," said Sean Themea, YAL's chief of staff.