College President on Harassed Student: 'Appropriate All of Us of Privilege Feel Uncomfortable'

Student physically and verbally harassed by anti-racism protesters on campus

Albion College observatory
Albion College observatory / Wikimedia Commoons
October 22, 2017

The president of Michigan's Albion College told a student who said his girlfriend was physically and verbally harassed by anti-racism protesters on campus that it was "appropriate that all of us of privilege feel uncomfortable from time to time," according to audio of the meeting obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

President Mauri Ditzler made the comment to student Trevor Hill about his girlfriend, identified by the student paper as Ashley Witowski, during a Sept. 25 student senate meeting at which Ditzler fielded questions from students about the campus's increasingly fraught race relations.

Hill spoke on behalf of Witowski, who the Albion Pleiad reported was sitting near him, and recounted what took place earlier that day during a demonstration by student and staff outside the dining hall, part of a protest of a document produced by the College Conservatives club that some thought contained "racist and violent remarks."

Hill said Witowski was shoved and verbally berated as she tried to enter the dining hall, a violation of the student handbook's rules for peaceful protest.

"Are you aware of this harassment and what are you going to do about this," Hill asked Ditzler, who had stood in solidarity with the demonstrators.

The president responded vaguely that he heard reports of incidents and "mistakes were made," but that protests are only effective if they get people to listen.

"Obviously, on a busy day, lots of protests, on a hot day, lots of things happening, people are going to make statements they regret," he added.

Ditzler said he expected the protest organizers would have an "after action" session to discuss "things they wished they could have been done differently to be more persuasive."

"What I hope we do is become a community that understands how to articulate our positions and understands where the limits are," he said.

Witowski reportedly left the room "visibly upset" after the president's remarks.

Ditzler has previously refuted such accounts of his comments. He told The College Fix earlier this month that he had only "noted that peaceful demonstrations were designed to make us feel uncomfortable" and that his response to the alleged assault was "an example of how privilege (mine in this example) causes all of us to view events differently when we are in a privileged position."

Students who attended the meeting said it was clear to them Ditzler was referring to Witowski, and that he disregarded her alleged assault as a learning experience for a person of "privilege."

One student told the Fix she was so disturbed by Ditzler's comments at the forum that she withdrew from Albion the next day.

Ditzler would not comment. A spokesperson said, "Since the demonstration and Student Senate meeting Sept. 25, [Ditzler] has made a point of talking with students, staff, and faculty who have wished to discuss the situation and he will continue to do so."

The College Conservatives document that sparked the protests contained right-wing views, primarily talking points from conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, on how to discuss white privilege.

The bullet point that garnered the most backlash was not taken from Shapiro, but written by an Albion student, reading: "Take the liberal tears from the idiot you just destroyed in your debate, dissemble your American made Springfield M1911 .45 caliber handgun and apply the tears in order to clean the mechanism, reassemble and proceed to purchase Antifa and ISIS hunting permits and max out on tags."

Other students at the senate meeting expressed their concern that Ditzler exhibits a double standard, vigorously condemning the College Conservatives for the document, but showing leniency to protesters who used crude language.