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.

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

st-102314

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

 ***

“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)

***

“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.

Bowdoin: Is Religious Freedom Discriminatory?

Last Monday, Bowdoin College made page one of the New York Times with its decision to de-recognize an evangelical student group for refusing to sign an anti-discrimination pledge. This meant the group could not use the chapel, the multicultural center, any room at Bowdoin, or even campus bulletin boards. The pledge said all campus groups and their leadership positions must be open to all students. The group said it would accept non-believers as members, but not as leaders, because leaders are the custodians of doctrine, so religious freedom is at stake.

Bowdoin managed to change its mind twice during the week, rebutting the Times story on Tuesday,  (“Religious freedom and spirituality are alive and thriving at Bowdoin. Contrary to the Times article, the College continues to recognize the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF) and has no plans to drop that recognition after this summer. ”) then switching again on Friday to acknowledge that the Times had been right, saying that the BCF is “discriminating and that is a violation of our policy, …so they would lose their recognition.”

Continue reading Bowdoin: Is Religious Freedom Discriminatory?

‘Nearly Choked to Death’==Two Versions

In the Brown University rape-charge scandal, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has declared that the complaining student was “nearly choked to death.”

The male involved says the “choking” was minor and meant to be affectionate:

“Both (the female and male students, Lena Sclove and Daniel Kopin) acknowledge that Sclove had an intensely negative reaction when Kopin put his hand on her neck while they were kissing and touching each other in the street….According to Kopin, he (again) put his hand on her neck, in a “gentle manner,” while she was giving him oral sex–at which point she stopped and told him she did not want to be touched that way, and he apologized.

The Secret Colors of Graduation

Columnist Mike Adams reports that at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where he is an embattled conservative professor, graduating students can get commencement cords in three colors: gold for good grades, purple for being a homosexual and lavender for being supportive of homosexuals. We had no idea that they gave out tassels for orientation and orientational support, but there seems to be some debate about the color lavender. Honors Graduation, which sells the cords, says lavender indicates “quiet determination,” not support for gays, and purple “often is symbolic of royalty, and “also often signifies divinity and therefore identification with “many religious schools, seminaries and theological clubs and societies.”

Adams says that UNC-Wilmington might want to give out white cords to identify students who got through college without claiming victim status to get ahead. But again the cord-seller has a different view. It says white indicates, “a new beginning and a safe journey…simplicity, calmness and ease.” This sounds to us as though white is for new grads who don’t understand the economy they are getting into.

Another cord seller, Tech Marking, says white is the color for those who studied English, history and literature, possibly another way of pointing to poor economic prospects. Gold is said to be the color indicating hardcore science, and “drab”– no illustration of what that color might be–“typically represents college courses that deal with industrial and business fields like commerce, accounting, commercial science, business management and so forth.” We get it.

Cords are available in orange (both vibrant and burnt) and burgundy (both old and vivid). Two other wine colors are available, claret and “wine dregs” (unillustrated), which ought to be the color for dropouts, but apparently isn’t, though an upsurge of interest in wine dregs cords would surely be surprising.

The most interesting color must be teal, which is said to reflect talent in the social sciences, respect for tradition, participation in a band or choir, and “students who have shown their ability in the academic world in a special way.” This covers a lot of ground, but the term “special way” makes us think about one recent grad, a University of North Carolina basketball star who maintained an A- grade average and even made the dean’s list, all without going to a single class. Now that’s truly special. Give him teal.

The Modern Campus Goes After Its Christians

Is it reasonable for a university to insist that campus Christian groups accept non-Christian or anti-Christian students as group leaders? Ask a hundred ordinary Americans and you would very likely get 99 or 100 noes. Ask the same question at our most politically correct colleges and universities, though, and you’d get a different answer. Because of campus anti-discrimination codes, all campus groups must accept all candidates for leadership–a Democratic club must allow a Republican, a Jewish group must allow a Holocaust denier, a science group must accept a flat-earther and a Muslim group must accept a leader who believes in Christianity, animism, or voodoo.

Bowdoin Christian fellowship members. Credit: The New York Times.
Bowdoin Christian Fellowship members. Credit: The New York Times.

On the modern campus, this system is considered rational. Bowdoin College in Maine has just disenfranchised its Christian Fellowship, a campus presence of more than 40 years, denying recognition to the group, disabling key cards of longtime volunteer advisers, and forbidding use of campus space and even bulletin boards by the group. Responding to pressure from gay students, the college insists that the Christian group allow candidacy of gay leaders. The group says it will gladly allow gay members but not leaders, because leaders must uphold the group’s religious doctrine. In effect, Bowdoin is insisting that the Christian group either get off campus or accept a system under which the beliefs of the group could be distorted or overthrown by non-believers. “It would compromise our ability to be who we are as Christians if we can’t hold our leaders to some sort of doctrinal standard,” said Zackary Suhr, who just graduated from Bowdoin. Robert B. Gregory, a lawyer and minister who with his wife Sim serves as a volunteer leader of the Christian group, put it more simply: “We now have Bowdoin College defining Christianity.”

Continue reading The Modern Campus Goes After Its Christians

Bloomberg’s Speech Not Fit to Print

We noticed no reporting in the New York Times on Michael Bloomberg’s notable commencement address at Harvard. Google couldn’t find any Times coverage either. Very strange. Bloomberg had been mayor of the Times’ home city for twelve years and except for the nannyism over big sodas and his clear support for stop-and-frisk, he has been a nearly  flawless liberal in the Times mode. Maybe the paper tucked away a paragraph somewhere online, or is saving the news for a commencement roundup, but it’s more likely that the obvious is true:  that the Times blew the story off because it disagreed with its content. And his talk at Harvard was clearly news. It was the first time since Lawrence Summers in 2002 that an important, well-known liberal has offered strong and blunt criticism of disturbing trends on campus.

Funding only campus research that conforms to a particular view of justice, Bloomberg said, is a form of censorship that amounts to McCarthyism. Campus liberals are “trying to repress conservative ideas,” particularly in the Ivy League, he said. Shifting from gently reproving to openly caustic, he noted that 96 percent of Ivy League faculty and campus employee donations in the 2012 presidential election had gone to President Obama, adding that “there was more disagreement in the old Soviet Politburo than among Ivy league donors.” This was surely the first time a commencement speaker had unfavorably compared faculty of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, et al. to old-time Communist hacks.

Bloomberg had criticism for conservatives and others as well–the blocking of the mosque at Ground Zero, the refusal to deal with evolution in some schools, the opposition to federal research on gun violence. But the most vehement criticism dealt with the liberal stranglehold on the universities and the disdain for free speech. On the silencing of NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at Brown last fall, he said “What were the students afraid of hearing? Why did administrators not step in to prevent the mob from silencing speech?”

On the pressuring of commencement speakers to withdraw at Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers  and Smith, and last year at Johns Hopkins and Swarthmore, Bloomberg said, “in each case, liberals silenced a voice…That is an outrage and we must not let it continue.” Yes, silencing a voice is appalling, on campus and in famous newspapers as well.

Survey: Privileged Harvard Students Feel Marginalized

Number One finding in the annual survey of Harvard seniors: about 60 percent of African-Americans and more than 40 percent of Latino and Asian-American students have felt marginalized because of their race while at Harvard. “Marginalized,” an invitation to aggrievement, is now a mainstream college term, raising the question, “How marginalized can you be if they let you into Harvard?” Another survey finding provides a rough answer to that query: “Seniors are nearly unanimous in the view that, if given the chance, they would choose Harvard again.”

 Other findings: 42 percent of seniors and 67 percent of homosexual or LGBTQ students have sought mental health support; 90 percent support same-sex marriage; 38 percent are agnostic or atheist; 44 percent want Harvard to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies; 21 percent of students say they are virgins; 12 percent of women were sexually assaulted; 12 percent have had ten or more sexual partners, and the median number of dating partners while at Harvard is one. Nearly half of the senior class, 758 students, responded to the survey, conducted this month.

Striking Back at Commencement Censors

Reaction is beginning to set in against the campus trend of letting angry protesters act to remove commencement speakers they don’t like. In one of the three graduation speeches at Haverford College yesterday, former Princeton President William G. Bowen criticized both Robert Birgeneau for withdrawing as a commencement honoree, and the activist students and professors who pressured Birgeneau to withdraw. Bowen called the student protesters “immature” and “arrogant,” and faulted Birgeneau, a former chancellor at Berkeley, for a heavy-handed response to the protesters. Bowen said Birgeneau had “failed to make proper allowance for the immature, and, yes, arrogant inclinations of some protestors,” Bowen said. “Aggravated as he had every right to be, I think he should be with us today.”

Reacting to a series of commencement speaker cancellations and withdrawals, the Richmond Times-Dispatch said that colleges are supposed to foster openness and tolerance, but “instead they resemble bastions of intolerance, places with minds closed to ideas beyond their ideological preferences.”

At the Daily Beast, Olivia Nuzzi noted that two powerful women, Condoleeza Rice and Christine Lagarde, withdrew under pressure as commencement speakers this year at Rutgers and Smith “because of opposition from a seriously uptight and holier-than-thou student body.”

At Haverford, protesters had asked Birgeneau to meet nine conditions, including publicly apologizing for calling in campus police to handle an Occupy protest at Berkeley in 2011. One condition was a penitent Birgeneau letter to Haverford students explaining his position on the events and “what you learned from them.” Bowen’s remarks to his Haverford audience of about 2,800 drew a standing ovation.

An Open Letter to an Earnestly Wrong-Headed College President

Dear Azusa President Jon Wallace,

I read with interest that you have disinvited the distinguished scholar Charles Murray as a speaker tomorrow at your university, Azusa Pacific. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Cancelling speeches is a hallowed campus tradition, like pantie raids were in the 1950s.

But have you done it the wrong way by blaming the calendar?

Your point that the April 23rd speech would have been late in the school year is absolutely accurate. But most people tend to believe you knew all along that late April is closely followed by early May, when Azusans are traditionally released from the occasional but dreaded school pressure of having to read and listen to people they don’t already agree with. As Dr. Murray pointed out, the speech had been planned for months, with the April-May proximity fully understood by seasoned calendar readers, one of whom should surely be on your staff.

Try not to blame the calendar while smearing the disinvited in the same sentence (“Given the lateness of the semester and the record of Dr, Murray’s scholarship…” Most presidents would argue that the smear belongs in a sentence of its own, quite separate from calendar issues.

When informing the speaker that he has been canceled, remember to send the note to the speaker himself, not to his publisher, bookmaker, barber, mother-in-law—or, as you did—to his employer. Using Google is a good way to find the address of each cancelee.

Instead of complaining about the calendar, or the bad lighting or weakness of folding chairs in the auditorium, why not try any of these proven techniques to rid your campus of unwanted conservative or libertarian speakers:

  • Cite the danger of violence as a reason to cancel (Columbia treatment of anti-jihadist Walid Shoebat, for example) This is the pre-emptive heckler’s veto.
  • Let hecklers drown out and cancel the speech, then put out a pious pro-free-speech statement, but don’t punish the protesters and don’t invite the speaker back (Brown University’s treatment of Ray Kelly).
  • Charge a security fee too high for the sponsoring organization to pay (pioneered at Berkeley).

Or simply say that diversity is a religion on this campus, and since that is the one true faith, why should you allow a heretic to speak?

Oberlin Pulls the Trigger Warnings

In an unexpected burst of common sense, Oberlin College has tabled its new policy on “trigger warnings,” the alerts that were scheduled to be given to sensitive students about upcoming class material that might traumatize them. The warnings directly concerned sex, violence and racism, but were called for across the board “to anything that might cause trauma,” the Oberlin policy said. “Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”

Given this broad mandate, it was not clear how professors could teach at all without delivering a blizzard of warnings to ease student discomfort. And like many college policies these days, it’s not entirely clear whether the text was inadvertently close to satire or just satire itself.

Dartmouth Survives Diversity Takeover

Sensibly enough, the Wall Street Journal berated Phil Hanlon, the president of Dartmouth, for mishandling the two-day takeover of the university administration building by a small group of diversity-obsessed students. Instead of the obvious move–having the protesters tossed out–Hanlon met with them, then announced: “Their grievance, in short, is that they don’t feel like Dartmouth is fostering a welcoming environment…I deeply empathize with them.” He welcomed a conversation about their list of 70 demands, which included free sex-change operations under the campus health plan, a mandatory ethnic-studies curriculum, more “womyn and people of color” on faculty, censoring the library catalogue for offensive terms and gender-neutral bathrooms in every campus facility. The students also complained about “micro-aggressions,” those tiny slights that render sensitive students uncomfortable and therefore militant. Oh, and they asked that college officials stop referring to them as “threatening,” apparently yet another micro-aggression.

After Hanlon said that he welcomed conversations, the protesters explained that talking had a serious flaw;  it  would led to “further physical and emotional violence enacted against us by the racist, classist, sexist ,heterosexist, transphobic, xenophobic and ableist structures at Dartmouth.” Joe Asch, editor of Dartblog, a running commentary on life at Dartmouth, said “members of the faculty are wondering whether Phil Hanlon has a spine.”