Hochschild and Others Respond to his Article
In reaction to Dr. Joshua Hochschild’s American Mind article, two Mount professors created a petition on change.org, “A response to Joshua Hochschild’s ‘Once Upon A Presidency.’” Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Kim Hansen and Associate Professor and Director of Human Services, Dr. Timothy Wolfe expressed that they oppose the views expressed in Hochschild’s opinion piece. Although they point out that it contradicts the university’s mission statement, they acknowledge that he has the academic right to publish his personal opinion.
“On my part, I was just trying to give people the option of signing on to some pretty uncontroversial ideas, including, we accept the results of elections and we don't fire people for what they write. Unless they're critiquing globalization or capitalism, white men who think they're oppressed come across as tone deaf,” Hansen stated.
Wolfe said, “He supports the right of Dr. Hochschild to express his views. This is a fundamental right we all should honor. Dr. Hansen and I are expressing our views, which are obviously different from Hochschild's. I wanted to give members of the Mount community a chance to read our views and sign on if they wished. I am hopeful there will be reconciliation and healing. I love our community and all of our members.”
Lyndsey Saunders (C’20), who worked in the admissions office and was the Diversity and Inclusion Training Specialist Intern, shared:
“It is a different feeling for me as an alumnus observing this from outside, especially because how invested I was when I was on campus. The hardest part for me is the underlying expectation that all of the prominent Black student leaders on campus who are speaking up need to be on the same page. I saw this within our alumni committee chat as well as between the differences of the two powerful senior voices of Laura Danielle Johnson (C’21) and Brea Purdie (C’21). This assumption is not uncommon, but it is counterproductive and limits the individual goals of Black students as it is not one universal idea. The Black student population on campus is not just Black as our country views Blackness. It is Caribbean, African, Latinx, African American and the intersections of every student's identity outside of race leads to the need for a very multi-dimensional approach to racial equity. This translates to multiple student leaders with different approaches, and all should be acknowledged, respected and amplified, rather than primarily considering one voice over the other or boosting one approach over the other.”
Below a Q&A with Hoschild where he explained his reasoning and gave a response to the criticism he has been receiving.
Echo: Did you attend the rally on Jan. 6 and what was your intended purpose for being there?
Hochschild: I went with a group of local families and we all considered it a huge civil rights event, supporting free and fair elections.
Echo: What was your intended purpose for writing the article?
Hochschild: My article describes and tries to address a polarization and breakdown of political discourse. After Jan. 6, rally attendees were portrayed as dangerous, ideological and treasonous. I trusted there would be readers willing to understand better and wanted to help them see what they were missing.
Echo: Your article spoke about how the media manipulated situations and lied. Do you believe that is currently happening in your case?
Hochschild: Yes, whether because of malice, laziness or desire for attention, the first journalists to cover reactions rushed to publish with scandalous falsehoods. Later journalists who actually investigated didn’t publish because the truth was more complicated and boring.
Echo: How do you feel about the two petitions that have been started calling for your resignation?
Hochschild: The petition that called for my resignation expressed genuine hurt. That saddens me and I take it very seriously. Still, the petition’s wording misrepresented me and it was hard to know whether signatories had read my article or even had personal stake in our academic community. I believe the other petition, which didn’t call for my resignation, was meant to show solidarity with the first while teaching about the standards of the academic community.
Echo: How have you been feeling about student’s criticism of your work? How are you dealing with it?
Hochschild: I’ve heard student criticism mostly indirectly or on social media. Both are hard to address and I wish I had been able to engage personally with those students most upset by the article. I sense that some criticism reflects larger frustrations with the Mount, many of which I am quite sympathetic with.
Echo: Is this the first time it happened? Would you change anything about it? Would you take it back?
Hochschild: I wish some of my other writing got this much attention from students! I’ve been criticized on social media before and either ignore or discern a chance to engage. I’m kind of a romantic about academia and even about social media, so I actually welcome disagreement as an opportunity to model responsible, respectful dialogue.
Echo: Do you believe that your article has been misunderstood?
Hochschild: Any piece of writing can be misunderstood, especially one touching politics. The most common misreading of my article was as a partisan opinion piece, presenting my political views or defending Trump. I also found racialized interpretations odd since I don’t think the story’s perspective fits into neat racial categories.
Echo: What have you learned from having conversations with members of the Mount’s student body about how your article affected them?
Hochschild: Students who have conversed with me, from diverse backgrounds and political viewpoints, have mostly thanked me and encouraged me. I’ve been heartened that even some who find fault with the essay have given me the benefit of the doubt. I would actually like to hear from those most offended and would welcome a chance to learn from them.
Echo: What one thing you want to clearly express or make clear to the student body/news outlets?
Hochschild: I hope people now trust that I didn’t intend to offend and regret any hurt. I think the article speaks for itself, but I would humbly invite anyone who was upset by it to do two things: (1) try to get to know me, my interests and priorities, from my record as a teacher and writer; and (2) think about why my strange story was so widely described as giving voice to a marginalized perspective and how we can improve our civic discourse moving forward.