Racial slur sparks student revolt against `PC' notions

"IF YOU LIVE by PC, you die by PC." Thus spoke John Ambrose, 20, president of College Republicans at Rutgers University, a student radical in the vanguard of America's conservative crusade against political correctness. Mr Ambrose coined the phrase with relish. It was his political epitaph for Francis Lawrence, president of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. His sin, as a local newspaper put it, was to have done "something very human: he misspoke".

In the course of a two-hour address to faculty members in November last year, Mr Lawrence, known as `Fran' to his friends, let slip three words. Black students' below-average performance in university admission exams, he remarked, was a function of their "genetic, hereditary background". The slur could not have been worse timed, rekindling as it did the furore generated in the autumn by The Bell Curve, a book which cited the evidence of IQ tests to propound the notion that people with black skins were biologically inferior to the rest of the species.

Black Rutgers activists responded by disrupting a university basketball match and calling for Mr Lawrence's resignation. Civil rights groups and black political leaders in New Jersey joined the clamour, prompting newspaper pieces denouncing his words as a poison that "bubbled up from somewhere deep in the unconscious". Soon, the case acquired such national notoriety that the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times felt obliged to publish weighty editorials counselling forbearance and forgiveness. For Mr Lawrence had quickly - and tearfully - apologised, comparing his discovery of what he had said, but allegedly forgotten, to hearing news of a death in the family.

The record shows that his life has been a monument to political correctness. A long and distinguished career promoting the cause of America's racial minorities in education reached its peak in 1990 when he was appointed president at Rutgers.

During his tenure Mr Lawrence opened a $1m African-American cultural centre on campus; he spearheaded a drive to raise $5m of scholarship funds for black and Latino students; he gave his blessing to the introduction of a "speech code" which, as a university document has it, makes it an offence punishable by expulsion for students to discriminate verbally "on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status".

Clutching the document, student John Ambrose sneered. "Lawrence has been kowtowing to those engaged in the PC war, catering to those with far left, far PC agendas. And now this!" He stopped short, however, of rejoicing at the fate of a man who fell foul of the liberal orthodoxies he himself helped create. "It puts me in a tough situation," he reflected, "because on the one hand it's good if he's forced to quit. On the other he'd be another sacrifice in the cause of PC.''

As the leader of the Rutgers chapter of College Republicans, a nationwide university campus movement, John Ambrose finds himself on the cutting edge of what Newt Gingrich describes as America's libertarian revolution. Radical chic at Rutgers resides with the Republicans, whose membership has soared from 50 in the summer of 1993 to 450 today.

In contrast with the caricature of a college Republican, Mr Ambrose does not wear jacket and tie, but looks much like any other student, in T- shirt and sneakers and sensible Nineties haircut. The difference is that he has a rare political energy imbued not with the knee-jerk prejudice of many Republican voters, but with novelty and flexibility of thought.

"For me far left and far right are the same thing, really," he explains. "What I favour is libertarianism, what I oppose is totalitarianism." How would he define the difference between libertarianism and the liberalism he so decried? "Some time back it meant the same thing. Equal rights for women - that's undoubtedly a good thing. But then it snowballed into this `date-rape', sexual harassment mania. Civil rights - the same. It's a good thing, but it snowballed into this ridiculous mania for affirmative action.

"What I object to about PC is its intolerance of free expression of ideas as it pertains to relations between the sexes and the races. It gives way to preferential treatment and creates fertile territory for damaging social attitudes and government policies. I'm for individual rights. That's what I want and it pisses me off that we conservatives are portrayed as racist and sexist."

And what did he think about Mr Lawrence's remarks? "I think it was stupid because I don't believe that group thing is true. But the truth is that what really pissed liberals off was that he spoke the unspeakable, breached the taboo, the PC thing that certain things are unspeakable and should be censored. I find that far more frightening than anything Fran Lawrence said."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments