Dear Mica Taliaferro,

When I was a student, I probably would have been likely to respond to your defense of the trans* community with one thousand words of pure snark, revulsion, and theatrical hand-wringing about the rise of Stalinism/Maoism on campus. But now, I must admit I can’t really muster anything but confusion while reading it. I don’t think this is an accident, because you yourself appear to be highly confused.

To begin with, you appear to be confused about tactics. You write, “My primary objective in organizing around this issue is to support the accused students. But I am compelled to act in solidarity by my core beliefs, not by a disagreement with the technicalities of this hearing as an isolated incident.” This passage comes shortly after you admit that I am right that your compatriots meant to exclude me, and people like me, in your letter, because “[the letter] was not intended to advocate for a Burkian (sic) ‘fair and consistent rule of law.’”

So let me get this straight. Your primary objective is to support the accused students (and, I presume, to call attention to the injustices done to them). So why are you not only passing up arguments that call attention to those injustices, but openly announcing your willingness to exclude allies for being insufficiently pure in their objections? As someone who works in politics, I can guarantee that this sort of approach never ends well. And I should know. My party (Republicans) ended up at our lowest approval rating in the history of the Gallup poll for pursuing it during the government shutdown. As someone who sympathizes to a limited degree with those you are trying to help, I should hate to see their representatives employ similarly self-defeating tactics.

Secondly, you appear confused about morality. You write, “I reject your passive invocation of some sort of universally accepted, or, even worse, ‘objective’ moral authority that Wesleyan ‘ought to’ abide by.” Yet at the end of your piece, you write, “That is clearly not how the world works. But unlike you, I do believe that it is how the world should work, in Wesleyan AND out.” What is more, you cite “social justice” as your moral polestar throughout the piece.

I have reread these passages again and again, and cannot for the life of me understand how they fit together. If you reject any notion that moral law is objective, how can you make claims about how the world “ought” to be without an objective moral framework to support your position? Moreover, what is this “social justice” you speak of, if not a moral law intended to objectively define justice? I am happy to debate what “social justice” means with you until the cows come home, but the concept of “justice” is a meaningless one if no moral law exists to support it, and so I worry that any such debate is impossible. What is more, if you are right that no objective moral law exists, then we are left in a world where might makes right. And I doubt that you would want to live in that world, since the University administration unquestionably has more might than you or your friends.

And finally, you are confused about the University’s values. You write that “The #thisiswhy campaign implores me to give my money to Wesleyan because I believe in changing the status quo for the better, because Wesleyan taught me how to fight for and win the causes I believe in, and ultimately because Wesleyan itself is my cause.” In suggesting that this is a moral mandate to agree with you, you are mistaking what the campaign is trying to say. Yes, it is saying that Wesleyan produces students who fight for and win the causes they believe in, but it does not say what causes they ought to believe in. By way of example, I want to change the status quo for the better just as much as you do, Mica, but I suspect our definitions of “better” are different. Wesleyan merely claims that it teaches students to effectively pursue their visions of a social justice, to use your phrase. It does not claim to act as an enforcer for any individual student’s vision. Nor should it. Wesleyan is an institution of education, not indoctrination. And if that stops you from donating to it, Mica, then I submit that you are entirely right when you write, “Wesleyan is not my cause.”

Holt is a member of the class of 2010.

  • Oh my god, no.


    I’m sure “social justice” in regards to this case seems like a very ambiguous mystified issue to you—probably because you do not spend every day in a world where something as simple and common as public restrooms denies the legitimacy of your identity as a human being; where every instance of simply “needing to pee” requires confronting the blatant alienation of your selfhood that society exercises upon you *every single day.*

    It’s really very sad that you honestly cannot see how absurd it is to persecute people for challenging a system that violently oppresses them, tells them they don’t exist.

    • likeomgyes

      They’re not being persecuted. They’re being held accountable for their actions. It’s unfortunate that the system needed to be challenged in the first place, but that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for what they did.

      • ugh

        Your response to an oppressive transphobic system is “it’s unfortunate”??? I think that says a lot.

        So in the 60’s there was nothing wrong with rounding up black people and throwing them in jail for sit-ins? But hey, they have to “held responsible” for their actions, right?

        Basically what you’re saying is this: if you want to change a system that everyday says “you’re not a human being,” you can—as long as you pay $5000 and agree to being prosecuted.

        Saying “it’s ok to throw civilly disobedient activists in jail” is pretty easy when you never have to be one yourself. Easy for you to say when your place in society doesn’t come with a price-tag and the threat of legal prosecution if you challenge its denial and alienation.

        Wesleyan had the choice of prosecuting or not prosecuting them. They chose the former, and that’s absolutely disgusting.

      • Breasonable

        Your usage of hyperbole does not help your case.

  • johnwesley

    Yay, Mythos! A little Burke, a little Locke. I’d like to see a little more Rousseau, but I’ll take what I can get. Welcome back.

  • Never Give a Cent

    “Wesleyan is an institution of education, not indoctrination”


    Otherwise, good piece.