This week in the Slate Magazine published a column from a professor at Ripon College saying that their campus doesn’t need a 9/11 flag memorial.
Ripon College Professor Steven A. Miller wrote in a column for Slate Magazine this week stating that his campus doesn’t need its annual 9/11 memorial. Breitbart News covered the controversy surrounding the alleged censorship of the 9/11 memorial project put on by conservative students. Ripon College officials allegedly pushed back after students proposed a poster that included images of violent acts committed by terrorists. The poster, which was plastered around campus last year, was never officially banned by school officials, but they strongly encouraged the students to choose a different design.
In his column, Miller argued that the memorial doesn’t accomplish its intended goal of remembering the victims of the 9/11 tragedy.
These campus commemorations aren’t unique to my college. Though student-led, they’re organized and supported by a national organization, Young America’s Foundation, whose website lists more than 200 schools where comparable commemorative events take place. The YAF was around in a similar form 17 years ago, when the towers fell, but my students weren’t. The point of memorials is to remember, but few of these students have memories of 9/11. In fact, some of the youngest didn’t yet exist. What value is there in trying to remember an event that one, in practice, can’t recall?
Miller goes on to argue that students don’t need the memorial to understand that there are still important issues facing them and the rest of American society.
My students don’t need memorials to remind them to be hurt and afraid. They’re struggling to figure out what matters as they live through political instability, their economic prospects increasingly questionable even as their student loan balances climb. They’ve been through years of schooling not only in math and science but also to hide, run, and fight in case of a shooter. The increasing peril caused by climate change is, for them, a foregone conclusion. They know many of their peers are dying of opioid abuse, and they’re well aware that youth-suicide rates are skyrocketing. They don’t need to look back to a moment from their toddlerhood to understand the world is unsafe and hostile. Expecting them to do so, year after year, is asking them to enact our trauma, not theirs.