I Helped Shove My College Downhill

Not long ago, I wrote a piece for City Journal about my alma mater entitled, unsubtly: How My Friends and I Wrecked Pomona College. I saw it as a very belated mea culpa, for it detailed the malicious glee with which, back in the Sixties, we student radicals forced well-meaning, weak-willed administrators to abandon the standards, both behavioral and academic, that had sustained Pomona since its founding; leading, inevitably, all these years later, to an institution depressingly in the grip of all-encompassing PC.

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In fact, the article was prompted by events in Claremont (Pomona is one of five schools in the so-called Claremont consortium) just this past fall, as other campuses from Missouri to New Haven were experiencing their own paroxysms of madness. Claremont’s crisis, (in the comic bouffe fashion common to such affairs), was touched off by a do-good progressive; in this case, a Claremont-McKenna administrator who sent a sympathetic but ineptly worded email to a Hispanic student; and whose resignation in disgrace prompted the Social Justice Warriors at the other schools to in turn start howling about racism and present their presidents with the inevitable lists of non-negotiable demands. Pomona’s cry bully contingent demanded, among other things, the hiring of full-time counselors “specially trained in queer and trans mental health issues” and a department of disability studies.

I don’t know how people felt reading it, but I can assure you it was a depressing piece to write, noting, as it did, some of the key markers in the school’s ever more avid embrace of leftist dogma since my own sorry day. A curriculum that once guaranteed the school’s graduates a broad overview of the Western culture and philosophical tradition slowly gave way to one top heavy with departments of group grievance and entitlement.

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In 2004 — long before ‘safe spaces’ were a fixation on campuses nationwide, — students in Claremont were so fragile that a visiting professor’s claim that her car had been smeared with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti sent the campuses into a frenzy of grief and panic, with classes suspended for a day of reflection and protest.  Indeed, even after the revelation that the supposed “terrorist act” was a fraud perpetrated by the professor herself, Pomona’s president seized upon the prevailing hysteria to declare the school would redouble its efforts against “racism, homophobia and religious intolerance.”

Today. as elsewhere, free speech and thought are increasingly under threat, with the banal, all-too-familiar pieties on race, gender, sexual preference and environmentalism having taken on the status of baseline assumptions. Leftist dogma is so entrenched (and so enforced via a mix of school policy, social convention and activist faculty) that to challenge it constitutes an act of moral courage.  Not for nothing were the heroes of my piece the intrepid students who write and publish the conservative student paper, The Claremont Independent, who risk not just social pariah status, but retribution at the hands of their professors.

In any case, by the end, I figured I’d pretty much hit all the low points. But no.

Recently there appeared the following headline in Inside Higher Ed: Diversity as a Tenure Requirement.

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“Pomona College’s faculty has voted to change the criteria for tenure to specifically require candidates to be ‘attentive to diversity in the student body,’” it begins. “While many colleges and universities encourage faculty members to support diversity efforts, and a few have encouraged tenure candidates to reference such work, Pomona’s requirement may go farther in that it applies to all who come up for tenure…(t)he Pomona policy outlining the preparation of a tenure portfolio by a candidate says that the faculty members should ‘specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.

This may include describing classroom practices used to encourage the participation of a diverse student body, or to cultivate an awareness of differing backgrounds, focuses, and needs among the student body and broader community. Techniques such as communities of learning and community partnerships are relevant here, as are the inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups, or any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.’”

There they are, the magic words, (and the dead giveaway): inclusivity and diversity.

In the piece, Ashley Thorne of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), identifies this policy for exactly what it is: an ideological litmus test for Pomona’s faculty hires. Indeed, notwithstanding the school’s laser fixation on diversity and inclusion, the report never makes so much as a nod toward the need for ideological diversity.

It is hardly, as we also learn, that this particular bit of noxious leftist mischief on the part of Pomona’s faculty, which overwhelmingly endorsed it, was initiated in concert with activist students, who had presented the faculty with a petition demanding tenure criteria that would meet “the needs of a diverse student body.” As admiringly observed one of their faculty allies, an associate professor of psychology and Africana studies, these students were after more than mere tinkering, they wanted serious “structural change.”

Is any of this surprising? Of course not. It is entirely of a piece with all the rest. In fact, though I didn’t get into the tenure question in my article, I did discuss it with one of my sources, someone with deep and long standing ties to the school, who told me that activist professors, especially those in the various grievance studies department, made a practice of attending the classes of up-for-tenure colleagues, monitoring them for ideological reliability. “The word for it,” he said, “is Stalinist.”

Like many campuses, Pomona is headed in an ominous direction, sacrificing learning for grievance and now linking tenure to ideology. How long will non-ideologues want to go to this kind of school?

3 thoughts on “I Helped Shove My College Downhill”

  1. >>“specially trained in queer and trans mental health issues” and a department of disability studies.

    So they admit that the LGBT have mental health issues. Finally.

  2. Higher ed today is like the railroads were in 1970, dying legacies of an earlier era, unaware that a new technology had eliminated their gateholder/logistical monopoly status.

    When the concept of “homeschooling” comes to higher education, the bottom will fall out and the whole thing implode.

  3. At least the writer has the intestinal fortitude to do a self-inventory and admit their part in what was coming.

    It heartens me to hear this – as many folks I have known, who have followed progressive / PC ideologies and ended up miserable and alone do not have the emotional maturity to admit to themselves it is the philosophy / ideology they have followed that has landed them, and their lives, in their current state.

    This especially is true of so many women I knew in HS and college who fell into the claws of feminists and who, by their late-30’s and mid-40’s (my age) are now bitterly divorced and they cannot see the common denominator of their misery is the philosophy towards men and marriage and life that has caused them to forget that pride is a tool, and not an alter.

    Or the folks I saw who long into their 20’s and 30’s got onto the welfare train and when they (if they) got off of it, are now 10-20 years behind their peers in building an independent life.

    Without smugness nor snark – it saddens me.

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