An Ohio liberal arts college has been criticized for attacking “liberal education” after a faculty member canceled a production of a play she wrote that discussed illegal immigration over criticism from students and faculty.
According to The Weekly Standard, Wendy MacLeod’s drama, “The Good Samaritan,” centered on the experience of illegal immigrants from Guatemala working on an egg farm near the Kenyon College campus northeast of Columbus. The play focuses on the misadventures of a 15-year-old immigrant who escapes the egg farm and ends up at a school resembling Kenyon.
MacLeod, who is white, circulated the script in an email to the campus last month. The college’s own newspaper, The Kenyon Collegian, described it as a “comedy [where] much of the play’s humor is told through the cultural insensitivity of the white students.”
Nevertheless, students and faculty called for the play to be withdrawn, citing insensitivity toward immigrants.
According to the Kenyon Thrill blog, one student emailed administrators complaining that “The Good Samaritan” was “yet another narrative written about a person of color from the uninformed perspective of a white academic,” and “an exercise in cultural hegemony with heavy notes of white savior complex.” A teaching assistant called it “act of violence, dehumanizing and degrading the suffering that immigrants endure in coming to this country.”
Faculty were not immune from the hysteria. Spanish professor Clara Román-Odio told The Kenyon Collegian that she had identified 40 instances of ethnic insensitivity, including multiple references to the main character as “illegal,” and the mistaken impression by the white characters that the Guatemalan immigrant was from Argentina.
On Jan. 31, MacLeod announced that she was canceling a production scheduled for this April “out of respect for the concerns of students and members of the faculty.”
The following day, political science professor Fred Baumann defended MacLeod and the play at a campus forum. He said that the criticism of his colleague had become “too personal, far too personal,” and added that “today is the end of Kenyon as a school where liberal education goes on.”
The Thrill reported that his remark prompted laughter from students in attendance.
The cancellation of “The Good Samaritan” coincided with the creation of a “whiteness group.” According to The Collegian, the rules of the group founded by a junior, Juniper Cruz, include the following: “No white person can ask a person of color questions; white people must try to answer their questions for themselves.”
The paper reported that abouty 50 students, most of them white, attended the group’s first two meetings. The second gathering included a discussion of MacLeod’s “Good Samaritan.”
“White allies have a reputation of talking a lot, putting a lot on social media, but not really doing anything about it,” Cruz told the paper. “Not doing much besides default sharing. I’m really pleasantly surprised so many came to take a good hour out of their day to come here.”
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