To the Editor:

Given Baolu Lan’s understandable desire for altruism to be grounded in a firm foundation of research and critical thought (“Liberals, listen and repeat: ‘Dining hall workers are not oppressed,'” 10/02), one wishes she would share the empirical research or at least the reasoning on which she bases her contention that it would be a step backwards in the struggle for economic justice if Yale were to shoulder greater responsibility for its workers and the city on which it depends. (It seems safe to assume that Lan has no research behind her psychological profile of the 65 undergraduates arrested or the hundreds of students who came to witness last Wednesday). In fact, beyond an attack on the straw-man argument that union workers are “oppressed,” the reader of Lan’s piece is left wanting for any insight into her thoughts on Yale’s relationship to its workers or city.

Lan focuses her energies instead on two peripheral issues: guilt as a motivating factor for activism and a “language of nice” that she alleges pervades campus discourse. While guilt in the face of injustice seems hardly inappropriate, we nonetheless share with Lan her wish that Yalies would “confront our discomfort face to face.” For precisely this reason, we have sought out information, come to reasoned conclusions, and, to her chagrin, taken action on them. Lan, it seems, would rather we follow the tired old conservative trope denigrating those students who operate on the principle that action too is part of critique.

Lan coasts on alliteration and the credibility that accusing others of anti-intellectualism can lend to an argument in order to make her incredible claim that — on a campus where unions have seen their actions and legitimacy come under regular assault by administration, faculty and students — public dialogue is “tongue-tied by political correctness and pressured into mainstream nice-speak.” Surely Baolu Lan sees her article fighting the good fight, using “the vocabulary of criticism” and dissenting from liberal nice-speak — as would the host of other conservative columnists our newspapers publish daily. Perhaps Lan and her counterparts should listen and repeat: “Conservatives are not oppressed.”

Josh Eidelson ’06 and Judith Miller ’03

October 3, 2002