All posts by John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding The Campus, dedicated to chronicling developments within higher education in an effort to restore balance and intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years, and was syndicated to 140 newspapers through the Universal Press Syndicate.

Pundit Wages War on Campus Correctness, 2001

The speech below was delivered on March 19, 2001, by then U.S. News & World Report columnist John Leo, who is the founder and editor of Minding the Campus. Leo has spent much of his career reporting on the vicissitudes of campus political correctness, many of them recorded in his latest book, “Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture.”

The following excerpts are from the speech Leo gave  at the National Press Club at a gathering sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum. They were reprinted in The Washington Times and are published here with permission.

I want to say a few words on how I got interested in political correctness. I’ll start off with the famous Goya nude that was molesting and harassing the women at Penn State. It had been hanging on the wall for 10 or 20 years before it decided to molest this teacher and she made a big fuss about it. So the painting was moved.

Then there were stories like the columnist for the Boston Globe who was having a private conversation with another male about basketball and he used a vulgar synonym for being henpecked and a woman was walking by who was of course affronted. He was fined $1,200 by the Globe and suspended for weeks. I said, “What’s going on here?”

My favorite was the Beethoven story when the feminists in charge of trashing music by white males announced that most Western music was pelvic pounding. And that Beethoven’s Fifth symphony was the murderous rage of an impotent rapist. I thought, “College has changed a bit since I was there.”

I know we’re all concerned about racism and sexism, but this list of “-isms” started to get longer and longer and attract my attention. One was “ableism,” maybe not having a ramp in your home. “Homeism,” which is not treating homeless people with the same respect as people with homes; “adultism,” which is when your parents tell you what to do; “majoritarianism,” when it comes to a vote and you lose; “borealcentrism,” this was on “West Wing” last week– that’s when you have white nations at the top of the globe instead of the bottom of the globe.

One of the campuses said you could not exclude anyone in conversation, so conversational exclusionism became a campus sin. At Smith College, they had an explicit warning against “looksism,” which is creating a standard that some things and some people are more attractive than others, which doesn’t fly at Smith.

And there’s “faddism” and “faceism.” I looked this up and not only is there such a thing as “faceism,” it is legally banned in Santa Cruz, California. You simply cannot hire a pretty receptionist in Santa Cruz if a homely one is available.

I got this up to 75 “isms” and I wondered if there was such a thing as “breastism,” you know, the unwanted male gaze at a female upper torso. And sure enough, I checked Lexis and there was “breastism.” The total rose to 78 isms. So now I’m deep into PC.

My next step was to notice what happened to Linda Chavez. Now this was 10 years ago. Linda Chavez was canceled out of a speech at the University of Northern Colorado. Now why was she canceled? She was the wrong kind of Hispanic. How did they know? She had worked for a Republican president.

This was 1990. It proved for the first time that a small number of agitators could make the president of a university grovel and impose identity politics, and it’s become a pattern in the culture, at least the campus division. They said she wasn’t a real Hispanic because she didn’t speak Spanish. My father told me he was Irish, but he must have lied because he doesn’t speak Gaelic.

Then there was the Egypt business. The story was pervading the campuses that the pyramids weren’t built by Egyptians; they were built by sub-Saharan blacks. So, believing in the journalistic method, I thought it was a good idea to call seven Egyptologists and ask them who built the pyramids. And they all said, “Well, the Egyptians, of course.”

So I wrote that down. And then they all said, “Well, don’t use my name.” So here are these specialists in Egyptology who are afraid to say the Egyptians built the Egyptian pyramids. I thought that was pretty telling. It was the beginning of double bookkeeping in the academic world, where you have one reality you think is true and one you tell people because it is “correct.”

I was at Time Inc. before I came here and I noticed Time Inc. put out a poster to celebrate Black History Month and on the border [of the poster] were real achievements by blacks and in the center of the poster were the pyramids. I knew the guy who had put this out, so I called him up and said, “Michael, you just sent out a million posters saying the blacks built the pyramids?” And he said, “Yeah, I know.”

“Isn’t that wrong?” “Yeah, I know, but they felt so strongly about it.” So this means that if you feel strongly about it, you too can get credit for building the pyramids.

Next, I started to notice the itch to censor on college campuses. I started collecting these speech codes. At Colby College, any speech that caused a “loss of self-esteem or even a vague sense of danger” was illegal. At North Dakota State, it was “intentionally producing discomfort.” At Minnesota, “insensitivity to the experiences of women”; at West Virginia, “feelings about gays, which evolve into attitudes.” At Connecticut, it was “inconsiderate jokes.”

At Sarah Lawrence, it was “inappropriate laughter.” Someone called an ex-roommate, who was gay, a nasty word for gay. And this fellow snorted, whether out of nervousness or laughter, and he was brought up on snorting charges. And I think he got 100 hours of community service and he had to write an essay on homophobia.

The [American Civil Liberties Union], which has not been good on these cases, woke up and defended him and he got off.

At Michigan State, “eye contact or the lack of it.” That pretty much throws a damper on what you can do with your eyes at Michigan State. At the University of Maryland, it’s “licking lips or teeth; holding or eating food provocatively.”

This is the public face of a movement that pretends to be elevating us to the next stage of truth and justice. What’s behind PC is a therapeutic ethic. It wasn’t just about equality, women and minorities, it’s about feelings and how important those feelings are. When you criticize women or minorities, you do a great disservice, because their self-esteem is threatened. It’s very important to have mandatory niceness on campus.

A lot of this came from the beginning of sexual-harassment theory. Catharine McKinnon says rape is when a woman has sex and feels violated. As soon as you put it into the “feeling” category, you take it from sex that is an actual violation to sex that didn’t turn out well and you feel bad about the next day. The “feeling” of being violated is more important. Negative feeling creates and defines the offense. You abandon all communal standards and everything becomes subjective.

Sexual-harassment theory became the jackpot for the PC movement. It was a decisive turn away from anything objective. When [society] created the “hostile-work-environment climate” argument, it sprang loose from the traditional American approach in law that you had to prove something harmful; that something had happened. But once you talk about environmental things, you erode all common standards and the only standard becomes the subjective feeling of being hurt by the person attacking. So, on college campuses, the indictment became the conviction.

We are in the heyday of censorship. The PC culture says: We are right; our opponents are wrong. Why should we let them speak? Oppressors should have no rights, anyway. This is our college, these people are backward, so let’s just get rid of them. So there is no give and take in argument or debate. The PC job isn’t education. It’s simply to root out villains.

Why Evelyn Waugh Became a Female

This is an age of gender fluidity, when many are embarrassed to be caught occupying one of the two traditional gender identities year after year, as if no progress at all has been made on the gender frontier. Not Evelyn Waugh, however. The great British evelyn waughwriter lived 63 years as a man, and if he is still paying attention, he undoubtedly has noticed that Time magazine listed him last week as the 97th most-read female writer on campus today.

Though nobody knows why Waugh did it, it’s fair to say that changing one’s sexual identity 50 years after one’s death is still considered unusual. A few wags have suggested that Waugh headed for the female list of all-time writers out of cowardice: he feared he wouldn’t make the top 100 if he had to face big-time male writers like Shakespeare and George Eliot.

That would have been unworthy. Still, we all know that Time rarely makes things up, so there must have been some indication that Waugh was ready for a change, even after so many quiet, basically decision-free years.  For evidence, Time likely looked to Waugh’s autobiography, which reveals him/her fretting that people took Evelyn as a girl’s name. Didn’t Freud teach us that things often mean their opposite? So it fair to deduce, as Time’s editors obviously did, that fretting=yearning.

Also, Waugh tellingly had a long romance with a woman named Evelyn. This was no coincidence but a clear indication (how did we miss it?) that he/she identified so immensely with the girly name and considered marriage as a way of possessing even more of it, until internal conflict forced him to put off the big gender decision until the quieter time after death.

Besides, the writer’ full name was Arthur Evelyn Waugh, so if he wasn’t committed to a long and exhausting 116-year march toward  a fresh gender identity, as now seems likely, why didn’t he just call himself Artie Waugh? No, Time magazine is right. Waugh wanted change and sought it boldly, though perhaps a bit slowly.

Worst College President of 2015—Who Wins the Sheldon?

We are reviving the Sheldon award for worst college president of the year. It is named for the late Sheldon Hackney, who presided over many college disasters, including Penn’s water buffalo controversy and the theft of a complete edition of the University of Pennsylvania student newspaper that included a column criticizing affirmative action. The thieves were not reprimanded or otherwise punished but the campus cop who caught them was—a nice touch.

Here are the four finalists for 2015:

Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri, 4th runner up: Wolfe couldn’t seem to cope with racial protests based on three reported racist remarks and a swastika drawn on a campus wall in feces. Wolfe fumbled the issue for months without taking any action. Then a black graduate student went on a hunger strike, the football team refused to play, and politicians demanded action. At an emergency meeting, on the brink of tears, he quit, saying he hoped his departure would alleviate the pain on campus. “This university is in pain right now … and it needs healing,” President Tim Wolfe said in the university-approved language of feelings. Then he quit, saying his departure might help alleviate the pain.

Related: Campus Turmoil Begins In High School

Michael Lovell, Marquette, 3th runner up: A student who opposed gay marriage attempted to discuss the issue in a philosophy class, but the graduate student who taught the class refused to allow it. She said that the gay marriage issue had been settled and that class discussion of it would hurt the feelings of gays. John McAdams, a Marquette professor and conservative gadfly, wrote about the incident on his blog, which resulted in hostile mail and reported death threats to the graduate student. McAdams was suspended (though Marquette quibbles about the word), forbidden to set foot on campus, and still remains suspended more than a year later. In discussing the case, President Lovell has talked generally about disrespect and harassment. What he hasn’t said is why the Catholic position on gay marriage can’t be discussed in class on a Catholic campus.

Teresa Sullivan, University of Virginia, 2rd runner up: When Rolling Stone broke the story of the brutal (and bogus) rape at the university, Sullivan misjudged the impact and boarded a plane to Amsterdam for a conference three hours after the rape story lit up the Internet. Then, with no investigation or hearing, she suspended the allegedly offending fraternity and all other campus fraternities and sororities as well, extending the suspensions well past the time when the hoax started to unravel. She has issued no apology for the suspensions and offered no reimbursement for fraternity members forced to move into motels and hotels because of the suspensions. The activists and their allies who vandalized the accused frat drew no criticism from her or her administration. She imposed credible new rules for frats, but otherwise every move she made on this issue was wrong.

Janet Napolitano, Chancellor, University of California (Runner Up—If for any reason our winner can’t fulfill his duties as winner of the Sheldon, Ms. Napolitano, would wear the crown: Janet Napolitano, chancellor of the University of California, approved and issued a long list of statements that could no longer be uttered by university faculty because they are considered hurtful microaggressions. The list included, “America is the land of opportunity,” “America is a melting pot,” “There is only one race—the human race” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”

Related: Too Many Hollow Men on Campus

Like most campus controversies these days, this one pitted free speech versus hurt feelings, a struggle that colleges typically resolve in favor of feelings (as long as those doing the feeling are non-Asian minorities, gays or women).

Napolitano’s effort to quell positive remarks about America was so strikingly risible that in a normal year she would have won the Sheldon award hands-down. But she had to settle for a silver medal because of what happened at Yale.

Peter Salovey, Yale: In the biggest collapse of the year, Yale President Salovey committed millions of dollars to appease racial protesters with a basket of goodies likely to enlarge the stature of the “diversity” movement on campus and its drive for mandatory courses in race and ethnicity. Those goodies included five years of conferences on race and diversity, four new minority professorships and a doubling of budgets of the four student minority centers that Yale probably shouldn’t have at all unless it wants to keep furthering separatism—one each for Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian- Americans.

Salovey managed to produce a major victory for protesters complaining about strikingly weak and vague issues (a teacher’s opinion that Yale shouldn’t have told students what Halloween costumes to avoid, a feeling of racial discomfort among some blacks on campus, and a false report that a black student had been turned away from a fraternity party).

Related: North Korea Has Taken Over the Modern Campus

When a group of protesters confronted Professor Nicholas Christakis, husband of Erika Christakis who wrote the controversial costume memo, one student is heard saying, “Walk away. He doesn’t deserve to be listened to.” When Nicholas started to explain himself, a student yells, “Be quiet!” and then proceeds to lecture him. When Nicholas calmly and politely says, “I disagree,” the protestor explodes, screaming, “Why the fuck did you accept the position?! Who the fuck hired you?! You should step down!” Then, finally, “You’re disgusting!” Had the protester been a white male, he likely would have been expelled or suspended. But the perp was a black female. So no action.

The trigger for the protests was also peculiar. For a large number of students to go berserk over a mild and non-racist email dissenting from a Yale instruction on Halloween costumes was remarkable and Salovey might have politely said so.

As Peter Schuck said on this site, “University officials like us bear some responsibility for the aggressive, obsessive ethnic emphasis practiced on our campus. Through some mixture of cowardice, complaisance, and genuine conviction, we cater to the sensibilities of the most outspoken, politicized students by donning a kind of “kick me” sign. In this atmosphere of identity politics, students have strong incentives to dramatize their wounds as proof of the authenticity of a larger, more heroic social agenda….”

Missing from Salovey’s performance was any sense of authority. When the protestors demonized Erika Christakis for her costume memo, and when protesters cursed and threatened her husband, Nicholas (“We know where you live”), Salovey didn’t seem to notice or care. He declined to fire the husband-wife pair, as protesters demanded, but made no effort to keep them when Nicholas went on leave and Erika quit teaching at Yale because, she said, the university lacks civil dialogue.

Worst of all, the transformation of universities from actual places of learning to institutions primarily obsessed with race and identity has advanced mightily through Yale’s defeat. For demonstrating weak leadership and incomprehension at an elite university, the Sheldon goes to Peter Salovey.


John Leo is the Editor of Minding the Campus

Sustainability, the New Campus Fundamentalism

Back in 2008, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, wrote here that on campus, the word ”sustainability” was moving away from its normal English meaning (prudent use of resources with the needs of future generations in mind) toward a usage with heavy ideological baggage: “sustainability” (definition 2) – a condition that arises when capitalism and hierarchy are abolished; individuals are made to see themselves as “citizens of the world;” and a new order materializes on the basis of eco-friendliness, social justice, and new forms of economic distribution.

On Thursday in New York City, NAS released a 260-page report on how far the new version of sustainability has spread, particularly on campuses: credentials can be earned in 1,438 distinct college programs and its message now extends to such unlikely subjects as English composition, mathematics, art history  and psychology—all without any transparency on what is happening or why sustainability is being pushed so hard on students who should be examining and debating ideas on their own, not guided or nudged  toward a pre-packaged ideology.

Rachelle Peterson of NAS, co-author of the report with Peter Wood, said the movement “represents  a significant shift away from giving students access to rational and moral knowledge that prepares them for wise, conscious choices, ands toward training operations that elicit automatic responses.”

Under the argument that true sustainability requires an end to social oppression, the report says, the movement embraces identity politics, calls for the overthrow of patriarchal systems and misogynist bias, the virtual elimination of extraction of energy from fossil fuels, an end to industrial development in the underdeveloped world and a return to subsistence of near subsistence standards of living.   The need to overthrow capitalism, though not supported by all, is common and much discussed theme in the movement.

At the release of the report, Peter Wood called Continue reading Sustainability, the New Campus Fundamentalism

Campus Hypersensitivity—at Last a Pushback

A campus debate on sexual assault was too much for Emma Hall, a junior at Brown, She had to retreat to a “safe space” because “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” Exposure to ideas you don’t already have is problematic on the modern PC campus, as Judith Shulevitz explained Sunday in a New York Times article, “In College Hiding from Scary Ideas.” We are in the midst of a flurry of articles on the fear of ideas, the discomfort with disagreement and the infantilization of college students. Some of the articles are appearing in outlets that almost never tell readers about such things, such as the Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the Chronicle, Northwestern professor Laura Kipnis, discussing a ban on teacher-student sex, objects to campus codes that depict women  as quivering and vulnerable in the face of male  power. She writes: ‘’’what do we expect will become of students, successfully cocooned from uncomfortable feelings, once they leave the sanctuary of academe for the boorish badlands of real life?…The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method.”

On the left, Continue reading Campus Hypersensitivity—at Last a Pushback

Free Speech Even for Racists

Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School spoke up quickly on the expelling of  University of Oklahoma students for  their racist chants—it was an impermissible violation of free speech rights. On his blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, he wrote: “[R]acist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions.”

The campus, of course, has become one of the most censorship-prone segments of American society. Speeches are routinely canceled. Unconstitutional speech codes re-appear as harassment guidelines or rules guarding against a hostile environment. Hurting the feelings of someone in a protected group is grounds for punishing speech as harassment. Marquette University, one of the worst offenders, defines harassment as “verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on color, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning, or which could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.”

“Embarrassment” and “emotional discomfort”? Samantha Harris of FIRE writes: “How on earth are students expected to discuss anything remotely controversial when they can be charged with harassment for causing another person’s ‘emotional discomfort’? Almost any discussion of a difficult or sensitive issue inevitably causes someone some discomfort.”

In effect, the campuses are imposing a policy of mandatory niceness to protect certain groups, and in the process encouraging hypersensitivity and tolerance for censorship.

Frat Sues Wesleyan for Discriminating

Members of Wesleyan’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter are suing the school for discrimination after being forced to accept women in order to remain on campus. For the record, the university has an array of other residential houses and halls, none of which, it seems, is required to accept students of other genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, identity groups, interests, or religions as the price of being allowed to exist.

These include Womanist House, Women of Color House, Malcolm X House, La Casa (Latinos), Turath House (Arabs, Muslims), Buddhist House, Asian/Asian American House, Light House (Christians), Bayit (Jews), Japanese Hall, Chinese House, and Open House, which is for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” Missing from this protected list: hetero males who wish to live with other hetero males in a fraternity.

The Strange Effort to Get Jameis Winston

The headline is unusually blunt: ‘Is the New York Times Smearing Jameis Winston?,’ a reference to the Heisman-winning quarterback of Florida State, who has been accused of rape, a case discussed in 40 New York Times articles. Stuart Taylor, Jr., author of the blunt article today on Real Clear Sports, is an attorney and veteran journalist who has worked for National Journal and the New York Times.

Taylor, co-author (with KC Johnson) of the classic analysis of the Duke lacrosse hoax, “Until Proven Innocent,” thinks the Times’s many articles on Winston are “all pointing to a single conclusion: He is guilty, and the state of Florida and his school have excused his crime because of his football prowess. But there is a large body of evidence that The Times has kept from its readers that would lead a discerning reader to another conclusion: that Winston has been cleared by three separate investigations because the evidence shows that his claim that his accuser consented to have sex is as credible as her often-revised account.”

A Plan to Remake Dartmouth

This is the headline today on Joe Asch’s Dartblog, an established and very readable blog about Dartmouth:

Breaking: Frats Survive (for now); Hard Liquor Goes; Moral Education Returns

The reference is to a plan by University president Phil Hanlon to deal with Dartmouth’s outstanding reputation for binge-drinking, feminist accusations of “rape culture,” and angry faculty demands that fraternities be eliminated. The frats can stay, at least for now, but each must have “active advisors of both genders,” and “third-party” bartenders must be hired for parties. Hard liquor not be served on campus in an effort to eliminate ”extreme behaviors.”

Joe Asch writes: “The Greeks will not be abolished (what chaos that would have brought us — a full two thirds of upperclassmen are in a house), nor will they be forced to go co-ed (over the years co-ed frats have occasionally made it onto the College’s list of problem houses, too, and Phil understands that sorority women decidedly do not want to move into fraternities). Phil also wisely noted that schools with/without Greeks, and those who have abolished their fraternity/sorority system, all suffered from the same social pathologies as the College.”

All students, including those in fraternities, Continue reading A Plan to Remake Dartmouth

Free Speech Too Scary for Student Paper

The University of Chicago, on January 6, released a strong report on free expression “articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.”  Good.  But what did The Maroon, the student newspaper, think of a call for robust free speech? You guessed it—not much. The editorial board thinks free speech is fine, unless it turns into “hate speech” which “offends, threatens or insults” anyone in a protected group. Mustn’t offend. Hurting the feelings of anyone on campus (except white males, people opposed to abortion or gay marriage and a few other categories) is a definite no-no. What’s left of free expression if sensitive folk get a veto over criticism?  But the Maroon cloaks the obvious in diversity babble, insisting that “fostering a culture of inclusivity will serve to increase the quality and diversity of discourse on campus.” No, it won’t.

A Plea for Political Diversity in Research

The lack of political diversity among researchers in social psychology is skewing findings and alienating students who find conservative and libertarian views regularly ignored or denigrated, according to an article featured on the Pope Center site today.  In social psychology, self-identified liberals outnumber conservatives by about 10 to 1.

The Pope report refers to a forthcoming academic article by six researchers which says, “We focus on social psychology because it is the subfield of psychology that most directly examines ideologically controversial topics, and is thus most in need of political diversity.” It adds, “The collective efforts of researchers in politically charged areas may fail to converge upon the truth when there are few or no non-liberal researchers to raise questions and frame hypotheses in alternate ways.” The six authors of the article include one liberal, one centrist, two libertarians and two hard-to-classify academics.

No Free Speech at Marquette

Marquette University, the Jesuit school in Milwaukee, has shot itself in the foot again. Weeks ago in a “Theory of Ethics” class, philosophy instructor Cheryl Abbate listed several possible topics of discussion, but said one of them –gay marriage—could not be addressed because any opposition argument would offend homosexual students, and besides society has already agreed that gays can marry. This is a strong pattern for the campus left: topics they want to talk about (e.g., the Keystone pipeline, abolishing fraternities) are discussed endlessly, even in classes where the topics have little or no relevance. But topics they don’twant discussed are banned as “already settled” or as harassment.

Did Marquette overrule Abbate and say that gay marriage can certainly be discussed in class?  Or that Catholic Continue reading No Free Speech at Marquette

Misspeak, Then Grovel

Lawrence Summers lost his job as president of Harvard partly because he failed to grovel quick enough and hard enough for a harmless remark about a possible obstacle to female success. Smith College president Kathleen McCartney , on the other hand, has just performed a state-of-the-art grovel over an even more harmless comment. At the end of an email on protests about Ferguson and Staten Island, she appended the thought that “all lives matter,” which would have been fine and proper in the real world, but dangerously askew on the PC campus. What she should have said is “black lives matter,” the mandatory mantra of the day, non-black lives not being worth defending, at least for the time being.  Get that mantra right or lose your job. The agile McCartney kept hers.

Let’s Not Say ‘Freshman’ Any More

You can’t make this stuff up. Elon University in North Carolina has dropped the word “freshman” and replaced it with “first-year,” according to The College Fix. ”Freshman,” of course, has the deadly word “man” in it. Can’t have that. But there’s another reason for the change: “f——n” ” may contribute to sexual violence on campus because it labels the youngest students, causing them to be targets. (Whereas “first-year,” which also labels most new students as young, apparently does not increase the odds of sexual violence.)

Feminists have been explaining for a year that drinking yourself into a stupor does not have anything to do with rape, but apparently the word “f——n” does. That’s the analysis of Leigh-Anne Royster,  Elon’s “Inclusive Community Wellbeing Director.” (Irrelevant question: why do women with hyphenated names seem to gravitate to weird PC job descriptions?)

Continue reading Let’s Not Say ‘Freshman’ Any More

An Actual Debate at Brown

Debates on campus are now as rare as white truffles, and the reason is fairly obvious: as essentially homogeneous liberal outposts in a center-right nation, the campuses see no need to allow adversaries and dissidents to speak. So it’s a surprise to see that Brown University hosted a debate on “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” The event, held yesterday, featured author Jessica Valenti, late of Feministing, who believes “Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny,” and Libertarian Wendy McElroy, an editor of  ifeminists.com and author of “The Big Lie of a ‘Rape Culture”.”

Since this is Brown, where then NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down and prevented  from speaking, the planning for the debate came with several indicators as to how students are supposed to feel:

Continue reading An Actual Debate at Brown

The Times Allows Criticism of Campus Sex Hearings

The New York Times has followed the issue of campus rape for a number of years without mentioning the shaky procedures and lack of due process  in college  hearings on sexual assault. The first acknowledgement we have seen in the Times that these hearings  are basically unfair came in a Sunday Review opinion piece November 16 by Jed Rubenfeld, a professor of criminal law at Yale Law School.

Rubenfeld wrote that “colleges are conducting trials, often presided over by professors and administrators who know little about law or criminal investigations. At one college last year, the director of a campus bookstore served as a panelist. The process is inherently unreliable and error-prone.”

He also wrote that  many colleges maintain that “intercourse with someone “under the influence” of alcohol is always rape.

“In fact, sex with someone under the influence is not automatically rape. That misleading statement misrepresents both the law and universities’ official policies.”

And under Yale’s new policy and California’s new law, sexual assault includes any sexual contact to which someone has not given “positive,” “specific” and “unambiguous” consent…” “(So) under this definition, a person who voluntarily gets undressed, gets into bed and has sex with someone, without clearly communicating either yes or no, can later say — correctly — that he or she was raped. This is not a law school hypothetical. The unambiguous consent standard requires this conclusion.”

Perhaps predictably, Rubenfeld’s article has been denounced by dozens of Yale Law students.

Total shock—Casablanca and Chapel Hill

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Move over Captain Renault. Like the Claude Rains character in Casablanca who was “shocked, shocked” to learn that there was gambling at Ricks, Carol Folt  seems terribly surprised that athletes at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she is chancellor, were attending (or not attending) bogus classes and getting high bogus marks. How could she know? The practice of  make-believe marks for jocks had been going on for only 18 years. Who could figure things out that fast?  But she had an explanation: “The fake classes thrived for so long because it was hard for people to fathom that they could even exist.”  What? Or as Joe Asch explained on Dartblog, this is a chancellor’s version of a comment by philosopher Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Michael Kimmel Is at It Again

Suppose you follow the tortured treatment of gender politics on campus, and someone told you that a male “gender expert” funded by the MacArthur Foundation had just published a Time essay strikingly  hostile to men. Could you identify the author? Why yes—that would have to be Michael Kimmel, in this essay  arguing that fraternities should be banned from having parties—sororities should have the parties instead. Hostility to males is one of the sure-fire paths to a lucrative campus career, especially when approaching the MacArthur Foundation for funding.

Here is Cathy Young, discussing Kimmel  in an essay on this site a year ago: “When Kimmel talks about men and boys–at least ones unreconstructed by feminism–it is often in a tone that ranges from ironic condescension to scolding rebuke and outright antipathy….(His book Guyland) offers such a relentless catalogue of male deficiencies and iniquities, such a parade of misogynistic, entitled, videogame-and porn-obsessed jerks that the concern eventually looks a lot like defamation.” Yes, it looks that way to us too.

Wow—Three Academic Groups Dislike Israel

“As employees in institutions of higher learning, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians… As anthropologists, we feel compelled to join academics around the world who support the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. In responding to the Palestinian call, we seek to practice what the AAA calls an “engaged anthropology” that is “committed to supporting social change efforts that arise from the interaction between community goals and anthropological research.” –Anthopologists for the Boycott of  Israeli Academic Institutions

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“As employees in institutions of higher learning, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians… As Ivy League janitors, we feel compelled to join academics around the world who support the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. In responding to the Palestinian call, we seek to practice what the AJA calls an “engaged janitorial  services” that is, we ae committed to supporting social change efforts that arise from the interaction between community goals and sweeping janitorial efforts around the world.” — Janitors for Global Justice (forthcoming)

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“As latte cart operators in faculty lounges, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians… Of course, we don’t know any more about the Middle East than the average anthropologist or janitor, but as professional latte specialists, we feel compelled to join campus baristas  around the world  in “engaged latteology” that is “committed to supporting social change brewing well outside of our range of knowledge but that persistently arise anyway from the interaction between community goals and the pursuit of expensive coffee.” – -Faculty Lounge Baristas for Social Justice (forthcoming).

What’s Wrong with This Picture? (Eight Things)

marquettes-bizarre-training

This illustration is part of an anti-discrimination training policy presented as a game or puzzle. All faculty and graduate assistants at Marquette, the Jesuit university in Milwaukee, must take the test. It gives the test-takers 50 seconds to spot eight objects that are harassing or potentially harassing.

Not to keep you in suspense, (spoiler alert) here they are:

  1. “Risque” desk photo of teacher and spouse in bathing suits. Overly sexual.
  2. Anti-war poster, potentially hurtful to military personnel and veterans.
  3. “Over the hill” book or leaflet—ageism.
  4.  Small statue of female nude.
  5.  “Adult” magazine.
  6. Joke book of insults, which could hurt a visitor’s feelings.
  7. Picture of topless male as screen saver.
  8. “Men Working” poster—sexist.

Other scenarios in the test focus on different behaviors, including vulgar language, which “can contribute to a hostile work environment and is frequently one of the components of unlawful harassment claims,” light-hearted joking about age at a 60th birthday party, any comment about a colleague’s weight (Hey, Brad—you look great. Have you lost some weight?) and even phone ringtones that bystanders might find offensive—such as  obscene song lyrics or the sounds of guns or bombs.

Oddly, the established Marquette harassment policy is perfectly sane and provokes no giggles. Instead of fretting about ”Men Working” posters and Don Rickles joke books, it says that for harassment to take place the action or incident must be unwelcome, severe or pervasive and offensive to a reasonable person. But the training program Marquette has bought goes well beyond this policy, finding new grounds for potential harassment.

samesex1With increasing government pressure to micromanage sexual behavior and harassment on campus, look for more mandatory training and very broad rules that can be stretched to cover acts that many of us, perhaps most, do not consider  discriminatory at all. One odd scenario in the harassment program  features two fictional women (Becky  and Maria) discussing their opposition to same-sex marriage and being overheard by a man (Hans)—maybe gay, maybe not– who turns them in for harassment. The program says they could be guilty, but Marquette misses the irony here: the two women might be ruled guilty for privately approving  a Catholic doctrine at a Catholic university.

John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, said this on his blog about the Becky-Maria conversation: “Thus employees of Marquette are clearly warned that expression can be harassment even if it’s…discussion of a political issue…. one is not surprised to find, in the course, the following statement: ‘Liability Avoidance Tip: It is best not to discuss any of the protected categories at work.’”

McAdams noted that after a department chairman tore down a harmless quote by humorous Dave Barry because it offended him, Marquette backed the professor who tore it down.

McAdams added: ”So enclaves of authoritarian intolerance exist at Marquette, and doctrines of “harassment” are a tool they will happily use. A genuinely Catholic university would be tough on real harassment (and without being bullied by the Federal Government), but would tell the perpetually offended and aggrieved “people are going to disagree with you; live with it.” And it would honestly say so. But that’s not the Marquette we have.”

The training program was created and sold by WorkplaceAnswers, a profit-making operation which distributes the program to thousands of workplaces.  The strange nostrums in the panels of the training “module” (i.e. the peril of leaving a “Men Working” sign in your office) go well beyond federal law and any social consensus, and elevate minor irritations and legitimate political discussion to the level of discrimination.

The program also warns against any comments about people with protected status (“It’s best not to discuss any of the protected categories at work.”) Nobody wants workplaces to become cauldrons of political controversy, but coming down hard on  an overheard hallway remark on a mainstream issue is  bit much. The program even warns those taking the test to be careful about body language in the workplace, the better to censor yourself: “Be alert to nonverbal clues indicating a colleague might not welcome certain conduct.”

This remarkably  combines  exquisite sensitivity with an authoritarian tone. Call it mandatory niceness.

What Happened to the Environmental Movement?

Marches and rallies against global warming once catered to broad middle-class concerns that cut across partisan lines. No longer.  Peter Wood’s account of last Sunday’s climate march in New York City noted the signs that pointed to the dominance of the cause by extremists: “Capitalism Is a Crime,” “Capitalism = Ecocide” and “Turn Everything Off,” and “We Need a Revolution—Nothing Less.”

The same thing happened to the anti-war marches of 2003, when understandable and not very radical concerns were overwhelmed by extremists who admired Mao, Castro and other assorted dictators. But those marches were organized by the far left. The environmental movement wasn’t. It was just steered that way. Here is a column I wrote in 2004 on the subject of how the environmental movement closed itself off from moderate Democrats and Republicans. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club sat on important committees of the Democratic Party (itself not a very bright idea for an environmental activist seeking  a broad coalition) and was busy that year sliming Dick Lamm, former Democratic governor of Colorado, for running  independently for the Sierra Club board, animated mostly by concern over what uncontrolled immigration would do to the environment. Lamm’s campaign, and that of two other candidates–a black former foreign service officer, and a white scientist–Pope insisted, was one of “hate” and a “virus,” connected somehow to Nazis or Nazi rhetoric. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, another useful and moderate group headed for extremism at the time, dismissed the three candidates as examples of ”the greening of hate.”

Question: how did the non-extreme environmentalists think the movement could prosper by driving out moderates and non-haters?

Let’s Go to the Library and Nap

This has been a big year for sleep at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The Shapiro Undergraduate Library cleared away some dusty and disposable books on the first floor and six cots were installed, offering weary students “a safe place for brief spells of restorative sleep,” or “naps,” as they are known in campus shorthand. These brief spells have been limited to 30 minutes, and the space, in a well-trafficked area on the first floor of Shapiro, was equipped with vinyl cots, disinfecting wipes, disposable pillowcases, and lockers.

This development was greeted with much joy on campus, as can be seen at @UmichNaps, a wrenching site showing the many odd places and ways that exhausted Michigan students had been falling asleep on campus, due to studying all night, or perhaps overcommitting to mid-week beer pong marathons. Library assistants say sleeping in the library is so common that they regularly have to tour the premises, checking on curled-up students to make sure they haven’t passed out or passed on.

Detractors observed that throwing out all those books so that students could sleep during the day was an unfortunate bit of symbolism, particularly since most students on this massive campus (though not commuters) already had safe places for brief spells of restorative sleep, usually known as “dorms.” Some wags argued that a restorative nap might be accompanied by a restorative snack next to each cot, and one student, not entirely serious, asked for a nearby pool for a restorative swim.

Last month, the university library started testing a MetroNaps EnergyPod (in English: a nap machine) that looks like a dental chair encased in a plastic egg and sells for just under $13,000. It can vibrate gently and wake you up slowly to soothing music. Google and several colleges have them. St. Leo College in Florida has installed them in dorms so commuters can use them and dorm-dwellers don’t have to go all the way upstairs to take a nap. After all, what is college without a $13,000 vibrating nap machine?

More on the Flap at the U. of Wisconsin

Does the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a plan to introduce diversity in grading—making sure that African Americans, Hispanics and other non-Asian minorities get the same proportion of good marks as whites and Asians? No. “Nothing could be further from the truth,’ said Professor Patrick Sims, UW Chief Diversity Officer and interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate. “Regrettably, Hansen’s assertion that the campus’s most recent strategic diversity framework embraces a quota system for apportioning grades by race, is a gross misrepresentation of our current efforts.”

That comment was in response to an article by emeritus Professor W. Lee Hansen, pointing to this definition of “Representational Equity” in the “Inclusive Excellence” diversity framework: “Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.” Hansen did not say that the controversial definition was in the new diversity plan. He wrote that “unbeknownst to faculty senators” voting on the plan, five goals and recommendations were based on the old plan–the UW System Inclusive Excellence framework, which contained the definition of “representational equity.” It seems clear that UW is broadly supporting “Inclusive Excellence.” Here is a webpage of the UW System, containing the grading-quota definition and carrying the copyright of the UW Regents. In a message to colleagues and campus officials, Professor Donald Downs, who differed with Hansen in an essay here, wrote that the definition has not been endorsed by the university, “but the wording is lurking out there in the system, and the diversity chair has pointed to it. So we are right that it has not been formalized, adopted, or even encouraged. But it has some presence in the system, and this must not be.”

An Amazing Diversity Plan at Madison

A remarkable article on the University of Wisconsin (Madison) appeared yesterday on the John William Pope Center site. In it, UW economics professor W. Lee Hansen writes about a comprehensive diversity plan prepared for the already diversity-obsessed campus. The report, thousands of words long,  is mostly eye-glazing diversity babble, filled with terms like “compositional diversity,” “critical mass,” “equity mindedness,” “deficit-mindedness,” “foundational differences,” “representational equity” and “excellence,” a previously normal noun that suffers the loss of all meaning when  printed within three words of any diversity term.

But Professor Hansen noticed one very important line in the report that the faculty senate must have missed when it approved this text: a call for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high-status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.” So “representational equity” means quotas at all levels. And let’s put that last one in caps: GRADES WILL BE GIVEN OUT BY RACE AND ETHNICITY.

Professor Hansen writes: “Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, ‘underrepresented racial/ethnic’ students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.

“At the very least, this means even greater expenditures on special tutoring for weaker targeted minority students. It is also likely to trigger a new outbreak of grade inflation, as professors find out that they can avoid trouble over ‘inequitable’ grade distributions by giving every student a high grade.”

So diversity, quotas and social transformation of the campus are more important than learning anything.  The faculty senate, professors, administrators and students who signed off on this are either OK with the plan, or haven’t been paying attention.

Anti-Bias Rules vs. a Conservative Christian College

The news media took little notice  when 14 organizations and religious leaders, including Rick Warren, Christianity Today and Catholic Charities, sent a letter to President Obama last week seeking religious exemptions from his forthcoming executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.  But the Boston Globe and gay activists noticed the name of D. Michael Lindsay as one of the signers, and sounded an alarm. Lindsay is president of Gordon College, a small Christian institution near Boston with behavioral standards forbidding all sex outside of marriage including “homosexual practice.” It also forbids profanity, drunkenness, dishonesty, use of illegal drugs and tobacco, and mandates respect for the Sabbath.

As Lindsay tells it, his signing of the letter was somewhat perfunctory, largely a show of support for religious exemptions in general—his college has had a religious exemption since 2002 under an executive order from President Bush, he cites a similar exemption is in the ENDA bill , and, he insists, Gordon doesn’t discriminate. But after protests, on campus and off, Lindsay put out a statement saying this: “Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community…Be assured that nothing has changed in our position regarding admission or employment. We have never barred categories of individuals from our campus and have no intention to do so now.”

The content and wording of President Obama’s planned executive order are still unknown, but the issue of religious liberty versus anti-discrimination rules is very familiar. In many such campus confrontations, gay activists have managed to defund or ban Christian groups by citing rules that require the groups to be open to non-Christian or even anti-Christian student leadership.  Twenty years ago, few realized that apparently anodyne anti-bias rules could be used as effective political weapons against traditional church groups. Now they do.