Michigan Students Accuse Celebrated Music Professor of Racism for Screening Othello

Robby Soave
Reason Magazine

Excerpt: Bright Sheng is a professor of composition at the University of Michigan. He was born in China in 1955; when he was a child, the Red Guards took away his family piano. Nevertheless, he grew up to become a widely celebrated musician: He received a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2001, and has twice been a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in music.

His undergraduate students should certainly count themselves lucky to be able to learn from him. Instead, they are demanding the university fire him for rendering the classroom an unsafe space. The administration is looking into the matter, and Sheng has stepped down from teaching the class for the time being. He has apologized profusely for making his students feel wronged, though many have loudly rejected his apology. What was Sheng's transgression? He screened the 1965 version of Shakespeare's Othello in class as part of a lesson about how the play was adapted for the opera.