All posts by Harry Stein

Harry Stein is a contributing editor to City Journal.

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.

Related: A College Guide to Viewpoint Diversity

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.

Related: Another Illegal Diversity Scheme at Michigan

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.

Related: When Diversity Dictates Lower Quality Hires

“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?

On The Right In The Land Of The Tenured Left

What acid rain is to our irreplaceable forests, lakes and streams, leftist dogma is to American higher education. In every corner of the land, it has turned once-flourishing departments of English and history into barren wastelands where only the academic equivalent of cockroaches can thrive. Its corrosive poison – infantile anti-Americanism, hatred of capitalism, scorn for ideological pluralism – spreads far beyond the narrow confines of its source, polluting popular culture, public education, the very laws under which we live. Absorbed in sufficiently high doses, it is morally and intellectually fatal.
While the mind-boggling damage done to higher education by multicultural activists, diversity-mongers, and all-around leftist jerks is a subject very much on the minds of conservatives, liberals seem truly not to care. More precisely, they actually regard it as progress. Shakespeare elbowed aside by Maya Angelou? Hey, education’s got to change with the times, just like the Constitution. Mandatory sensitivity training for incoming freshmen to instill appreciation of transgendered persons? What kind of monster has a problem with sensitivity? Conservative students getting charged with hate speech for daring to take on affirmative action or women’s studies zealots? Exactly – that kind of monster. Even the occasional report in the mainstream press of epidemic ideological conformity on the nation’s campuses fails to elicit a reaction. So what if, as the Washington Post reports, 80 percent of faculty in America’s English literature, philosophy, and political science departments describe themselves as liberal and a mere 5 percent as conservative – with ratios of eighteen to one at Brown, twenty-six to one at Cornell, and sixteen to one at UCLA – or that a study after the 2004 election showed that the Harvard faculty gave John Kerry thirty-one dollars for every dollar donated to George Bush, with the ratios rising to forty-three to one at MIT and three hundred to one at Princeton? (And you think when someone gets around to a comprehensive analysis of the 2008 campaign donations, that will be any less lopsided?) For liberals, the only important question remains what it’s always been: How can I get my kid into one of those places?

Continue reading On The Right In The Land Of The Tenured Left

What Trustees Must Do

Trustees face a quandary in trying to figure out their role in academic governance. As a matter of law, institutional responsibility is squarely in their hands. On the other hand, while few challenge their oversight in matters managerial and financial, they are routinely warned that when it comes to intellectual content, the heart of university life, they should keep their distance.

Trustees should generally avoid getting involved in judgments about intellectual specifics such as individual personnel decisions, the content of courses, and the structure of particular programs, etc. Usually they will be out of their depth here. But they should be actively engaged in matters pertaining to overall intellectual climate, especially the degree to which such core principles of rational discourse as objectivity, disengagement, meritocracy, civility, and pluralism are honored and institutionalized. Here trustee fair-mindedness, ideological coolness, and intellectual distance, can help keep the ideological passions of academics from running discourse off reason’s rails.

Like judges, trustees should see themselves as having a responsibility to ensure that the rules of sound intellectual discourse are recognized, that the academic cultures of the institutions they supervise are “lawful” in a manner that preserves the free and effective exercise of reason. This, of course, is a matter of faculty responsibility too, but since the nature of these rules, in many essentials, simply follow the operating principles of a liberal social order, citizens of that order should be able to understand them well enough to backstop compliance. Trustees need not be scholarly experts to participate meaningfully in the university’s intellectual governance. They need only be intelligent and watchful products of a free society.

What types of rules are we speaking of and why should members of a liberal society be able to recognize and help enforce them?

Continue reading What Trustees Must Do

Racial Quotas Bar Minorites In Brooklyn?

After decades of watching the sons and daughters of black doctors and lawyers get preferencial tretment in college admissions over those of white coal miners and mill workers, and corporate titans kowtow to the Al Sharptons of the world, those appalled by America’s ever-expanding regime of racial quotas will be forgiven for thinking things could not get more bizarre on the quotas front. But now comes a remarkable new twist. It seems that in Mark Twain School, IS 239, a magnet middle school for gifted students in Brooklyn’s Coney Island section, it is minority kids who are getting penalized for the color of their skin.

This first came to light back in June, when a story in The New York Post – to date, The Times has not deigned to cover this remarkably revealing case – reported that the parents of a very bright 11-year old of Indian descent named Nikita Rau were up in arms because their had been denied admission to the school, though her test scores would have been more than adequate had she been Caucasian. It turned out the policy of discrimination on behalf of whites had been in place since 1974, when it was put in place to comply with a federal court desegregation order. The aim of this bit of social engineering was to maintain a 6-4 white-to-minority ratio at the school, but in practice, as always, the effect was to punish the innocent. “I feel bad because I would have gotten in if I was white,” the paper quoted the girl. Meanwhile, her outraged parents, saying it could adversely affect her chances in life – including her shot at getting into Harvard or Princeton – announced they were hiring a lawyer to challenge the decision.

Soon thereafter, it appeared a happy ending was in sight and legal action would not be necessary, when the Supreme Court ruled against such racial quotas in a case involving schools in Seattle and Louisville. Yet in the intervening months, schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who earlier described the quotas as an “anachronism,” has left them in place, and the parents are now proceeding with their suit against both Klein and New York’s Department of Education, represented by Terrence Pell of the Center for Individual Rights.

Among the ironies here is that in many jurisdictions, young Nikita Rau, in the bizarre, Orwellian logic of diversity bureaucrats, would not even be officially find herself in the same category as blacks and Hispanics; and, indeed, might actually be lumped in with whites. In California, for instance, prior to the passage of a state initiative banning such discrimination, Asians were classified as an “overrepresented minority,” and thus deemed inelligible for preferential treatment.

If Americans are baffled and outraged by the current system, its hardly surprising that those drawn to this country as a beacon of freedom and equality are even more so. “We should not face this in America,” as the girl’s father, Dr. Anjan Rau, who emigrated from India in 1982, proclaimed to The Post. “I think it’s morally wrong!”

The Unchastened Radicals

Among the many lovely qualities that define today’s student radicals – their smugness, their historical ignorance, their blithe contempt for the rights of others – perhaps the most galling of all is their sense of total invincibility. They know full well they can go about the business of mayhem and general anti-intellectual thuggery with the utter certainty that they will never face any serious consequences. It may have been Columbia that got a little unwelcome publicity when its president, “free speech expert” Lee Bollinger, let off students who assaulted a Minuteman spokesman with a tap on the wrist, but more or less the same thing likely would have happened on countless campuses across America. Indeed, it is by no means even an American phenomenon; the Parisian students who recently celebrated the election of their new president are equally assured as their brethren across the sea of getting off scot-free.

How did such indulgence become the norm? How did our most prestigious institutions of higher learning become so astonishingly weak-willed and craven?

Continue reading The Unchastened Radicals

Henry Lewis Gates: Ward Connerly’s Latest Supporter?

Henry Lewis Gates, renowned Harvard professor of African-American Studies – which is to say, someone about as deep as can be gotten in the belly of the diversity-obsessed academic beast – said something quite remarkable the other day. Invited to address the graduates of Kentucky’s Berea College, founded in 1855 as the first integrated college in the South, from the speakers platform Gates trod very familiar territory. He lauded the benefits of affirmative action, and instructed the grads that it isn’t enough to “pay lip service” to diversity. But in an interview he gave an enterprising reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, things got interesting. Gates allowed that while he, the son of a janitor, had needed affirmative action to get ahead, his own privileged children did not; nor should they benefit from it. But poor white children should. “We need to get more black people into the middle class,” he concluded. “We need to get more white people into the middle class.”

One cannot help but wonder whether the learned professor realizes that such a position -support for economic affirmative action, but opposition to the kind based merely on skin color – is identical to that held by the nation’s leading crusader against racial preferences (and a man much detested by campus liberals and leftists), Ward Connerly. Indeed, in his successful fights on behalf of state initiatives to end race-based college admissions and government hiring in California, Washington and Michigan, Connerly has been bitterly denounced as a race traitor and worse for saying the very same thing; demanding, for instance, how affirmative action supporters can fail to see the elemental unfairness of a college admissions officer giving preference to the child of a black surgeon over the child of a white coal miner who would be the first in his family to go to college.

Continue reading Henry Lewis Gates: Ward Connerly’s Latest Supporter?