All posts by Robert Paquette

Robert Paquette is Professor of History at Hamilton College.

The Sorry State of Hamilton College

On the evening of 19 September, about two weeks before the scheduled appearance of Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “Great Names” speaker at Hamilton College, members of the Hamilton College community received an all-campus email from Amit Taneja, head of Hamilton’s Days-Massolo Center. Mr. Taneja, who had been recently elevated to the position “Director of Diversity & Inclusion” by President Joan Hinde Stewart, had designed a provocative, multi-staged event that would begin on September 26 with an assemblage, “open to people of color only” so as to provide a needed “safe space” for “dialogue” on “internalized racism.”

Mr. Taneja came to Hamilton College by way of India and is a citizen of Canada.  In 2007, he published an essay entitled “From Oppressor to Activist: Reflections of a Feminist Journey.”  In it Mr. Taneja speaks loudly and clearly about himself and his politics.  He identifies as a gay activist and sees oppression everywhere in the United States, although, he admits, because he “was born with a penis” he still has “[a] lot of power.”  Sounding very much like any number of left-wing educrats who, having swilled the same Kool-Aid, now populate almost every college campus in the country, Mr. Taneja pronounced that corporate types, apparently just like those who while sitting on the Hamilton College board of trustees decided to enshrine him as head of the Days-Massolo Center, had done “little to make us examine our assumptions and merely gives us license to continue to exercise our power while maintaining a superficial front of understanding and tolerance. True social justice work starts with grassroots activism and extends in scope from local to national to global.”

In the essay, Mr. Taneja’s peroration demanded social-justice activists to undertake a kind of grassroots immediatism to remake the world in the constructivist image Mr. Taneja rather vaguely outlined for us. Although the two trustee namesakes of the Days-Massolo Center assured the world years before its headquarters was opened in 2011 that the lavishly funded center would devote itself to a wide array of programming related to “cultural education,” the events sponsored by Mr. Taneja and his many allies on the faculty and the administration have predictably navigated a rather consistent course to the left and far left.  It’s as if no culture anywhere around the globe has any conservative representatives worthy of educating the Hamilton College community about culture. Lest there be any doubt, almost every member of Hamilton’s trustees had ample information about Mr. Taneja’s political commitments before he was elevated to the position of Director, Diversity & Inclusion; they cannot hide under their desks and claim ignorance of the very serious educational issues at play here.

One undergraduate, a senior history major named Dean Ball, surfaced to express concern about Mr. Taneja’s segregated event.  He did not dispute the importance of intensive campus conversations on racism, but had problems with the fashionable campus idea of “safe zones” or “safe spaces” to be used in excluding certain campus citizens according to arbitrary and undefined criteria like “persons of color.”  Mr. Ball, co-leader of a campus organization affiliated with my independent Alexander Hamilton Institute (AHI), acted on his own.  He went directly to Mr. Taneja to express his concerns as a student leader, about the organization of the event.  Mr. Taneja brushed off Mr. Ball, saying that his opinion reflected that of “a minority.”  As Mr. Ball pointed out subsequently, Mr. Taneja’s response raised questions as to whether Taneja, and by implication Hamilton’s administration and trustees, pay attention to their own words, for the Days-Massolo Center was supposedly created “to support minorities of every variety on this campus,” not just those whose politics are largely congruent with Mr. Taneja’s own.

Having failed to get Mr. Taneja to alter course, Mr. Ball acted with several other students to express their concerns publicly. On 22 September, Mr. Ball, as leader of the AHI’s Undergraduate Fellows Program, sent out an all-campus email announcing that the AHI would sponsor an alternative dialogue on campus. The conversation would be held on campus, Mr. Ball announced, and, he added, it would not be “in a safe zone.”

For years, the AHI, ever since its founding in 2007, has been billing itself as an unsafe zone to indicate that students (and adults) who come to partake of AHI programming will not be patronized and spoon-fed cheap sentiment but rather forced to defend their positions by adducing evidence and argument.  The term was coined by a now retired Hamilton professor, allied to the AHI, who had had a bellyful of political posturing from a former dean, Joseph Urgo, the recently cashiered president of St. Mary’s College in Maryland, who had openly endorsed the idea of “safe spaces” on campus for students in various groups organized by the activist left.  By not clearly defining what he meant by “unsafe zone” in his all-campus communication, Mr. Ball came immediately under harsh fire.  He responded quickly in another all-campus communication to explain what “unsafe zone” meant:  “We would also like to clarify that a ‘safe zone’ in which segregation is enforced is not a safe zone at all. Our school has a proud tradition of preparing students to succeed in the highest levels of politics, business or whatever field they choose. These arenas are not ‘safe spaces.’ An important part of any good education is learning how to articulate a position and defend it against substantive challenges. It is a difficult skill, and no one learns to master it in the confines of a safe zone.”  Too late.  Mr. Taneja’s angry supporters had mobilized and were unwilling to listen.

The segregated event elicited some national media attention. For reasons never made public by Hamilton’s administration but perhaps related to the approaching visit of Hillary Clinton, who might have been plunged in roiling waters, the Days-Massolo event was cancelled.  Mr. Ball, however, came under verbal attack, with words that included anonymous death threats. To the best of my knowledge, and I asked Mr. Ball point blank on this question, not one Hamilton administrator bothered to make an inquiry into his well-being knowing full well that he was under considerable duress.

At a student assembly meeting of 23 September, Mr. Ball, in an extraordinary act of courage, sat on an island facing an aggregation of dozens of angry students, with Mr. Taneja there to direct the chorus, to explain himself to persons who had no desire to listen.  Mr. Ball apologized if he had been misunderstood.  “Almost every comment made by [these assembled] students,” wrote Mr. Ball, “either implicitly or explicitly attacked my character”  Mr. Taneja’s supporters, calling themselves “the Movement,” then proceeded to decorate the campus with various signs and slogans declaring Hamilton to be a place full of racial bigotry.

In the midst of the excitement, President Joan Hinde Stewart decided to call for an all-campus forum to air views on the subjects of race and racism and on Mr. Taneja’s preempted segregated event.  President Stewart, as a scholar of eighteenth-century French literature, began by asking the assembled throng to remember that they were children of the Enlightenment and that as such their “mission was to challenge ignorance.”  Perhaps if there were more intellectual diversity at Hamilton, someone might have asked President Stewart which Enlightenment she had in mind since it was precisely the excesses of eighteenth-century French rationalism and its hubris in trying to “transform the world,” as she put it, that decisively contributed to the modern idea of race and the virulent form of racism she detests. Myself, I prefer the Scottish Enlightenment to the French.  No matter. The event allowed Mr. Taneja to explain himself and to show everyone that faculty and administration backed him to the hilt.

As the controversy died down, debate continued in the pages of the campus newspaper.  Mr. Ball wrote a thoughtful letter explaining his actions.  To the Hamilton community, one alumnus–I repeat, one alumnus–published “a plea” that was critical of Mr. Taneja.  The recent graduate who identified himself as a gay Hispanic male pointed out that the recent controversy was nothing new at Hamilton College.  He openly asked:  If the center as conceived by Drew Days and Arthur Massolo were meant to be a cultural education center and not a cultural indoctrination center, why then was someone of Mr. Taneja’s radical political stripe appointed to lead it?  “From the beginning,” the alumnus argued, “the Days-Massolo center should have been run not by someone who is a militant activist with an ax to grind, but by someone genuinely dedicated to the whole community.  Not someone who is focused just on the grievances of the marginalized, but who genuinely seeks to incorporate them, and foster love throughout Hamilton College.”

The majority of Hamilton’s faculty, however, disagreed, and quickly so.  In a remarkable rejoinder, a “Letter of support for Amit Taneja and the Days-Massolo Center,” published in the campus newspaper a week later with more than ninety signatures at the bottom, Hamilton faculty accused the recent graduate of “maligning” Mr. Taneja in the context of pronouncing their undying love for everything he has done and intends to do.  Mr. Taneja, the letter declares (even though the evidence is clear that he has never once brought a conservative speaker to his cultural education center), “has been executing his job in a thoughtful and responsible way.”

Below is my response to the faculty’s paean to Mr. Taneja and the Days- Massolo Center:

In the 10 October issue, more than ninety members of Hamilton’s faculty signed a letter giving “full support” to the way Amit Taneja in his dual roles as head of the Days-Massolo Center and Director, Diversity& Inclusion, has been engaging members of the Hamilton community in “difficult conversations.”  Such a burst of applause recalls the heady days in 2006 when a similar number of faculty, many of them signatories to this letter, voted 77 to 17 against the creation on campus of what was then called the Alexander Hamilton Center, citing concerns about how it would adversely “influence the reputation of Hamilton College.”  The majority’s concern about Hamilton’s reputation at that moment followed shortly after its ringing endorsement of the on-campus presence of the felon Susan Rosenberg and of the fraud Ward Churchill.

Assuming that the signatories are doing more than breast-beating, one wonders precisely whom they are trying to reach.  President Stewart and key members of the board have not backtracked in their support of Mr. Taneja.  Indeed, they have defended him.  They have had on hand, after all, ample knowledge of his identity, politics, and commitments from, if nothing else, a serious, quasi-autobiographical essay he published in 2007.  He was elevated to Director, Diversity & Inclusion, not despite this essay but, in part, because of it.

Was this impressive mobilization of support really meant to defend Mr. Taneja against one letter published by a recent alumnus two years out of the chute? Or was it meant to fire a warning shot across the bow of unnamed others, showing in effect who owns the campus?  Intentionally or not, the faculty letter sends a forceful message to undergraduates.  It resonates with intimidation.  Remarkably, the letter shows not a whit of concern for the kind of abuse and threats that Dean Ball suffered as a result of his surfacing to criticize what Mr. Taneja was doing.  Despite the unattributed quote from Mr. Ball at the letter’s end, its tone is “God forbid we have any more like him.”  The intention seems less to promote difficult conversations than to chill them.  Many, if not most, of Hamilton’s right-of-center students already practice in the classroom a degree of self-censorship that responsible leadership should, at the very least, find disconcerting.

One cannot have difficult conversations on this campus–and the evidence on this is incontrovertible– if a range of alternative views opposed to those of the majority faction is systematically excluded to the point of near extinction. Faculty activists of the left wanted in 2006 to keep the campus their sandbox and with the help of certain trustees, succeeded in doing so. Along those lines, I note that students involved in Hamilton Divests had the door opened for them at the recent trustee meeting to speak at length to the investment committee. A few years before, the student group known as the Social Justice Initiative, a driving force behind the creation of Days-Massolo, was allowed to present their views to a specially formed sub-committee of the board.  But when a group of gifted right-of-center students and recent alums, many of whom were getting advanced degrees at prestigious law schools and graduate programs, courteously sought a meeting, a conference call, a tiny drop of time from the much ballyhooed A.G. Lafley, he brushed them off with one vapid sentence.  (Trust me:  I won’t be buying a box of Tide in the near future.)

On the matter of intellectual diversity, by the way, I throw down the gauntlet to anyone willing to compare the AHI’s commitment to that of Days-Massolo, the Diversity and Social Justice Project, or any other analogous group on campus.  The AHI has a gallery room with a framed poster of almost every event we have sponsored across the country since 2007.  I invite visitors to come for a guided tour.

Peter Cannavo, whom I know to be a sincere man, calls for reflection, not calumny.  But he knows better than most that numerous signatories to the faculty letter dump bucket after bucket of smears on the AHI in front of their students, including advisees.  It even gets comical at times, as in the case in the fall, 2012, when a government professor tried to discourage one of his students from attending a major panel discussion at the AHI by heaping abuse on it, not knowing that the student’s own father was on the panel.

I must also confess to a bit of confusion caused by the letter on the mission of Days-Massolo since I know something of its history and of the principals involved in its creation.  Days-Massolo flourished on the ash heap of the on-campus Alexander Hamilton Center and was marketed initially, at least until approval by the board, as a “cultural education center.” Are there no Catholic leaders in Africa?  No conservative Jewish intellectuals?  No champions of capitalism in Asia? Or are they excluded from what Hamilton’s leadership considers a proper cultural education?  Let it be said that many foreign students attending Hamilton have conservative sensibilities and come from far more rigorous high schools than those that exist in most places in the United States.  Some have told me that they find the programming of Days-Massolo clearly politicized, presumptive, and even patronizing.

From the beginning, a few members of the board worried that such a lavishly-funded center under a certain kind of leadership would “silo” students into a narrow range of politically preferred identities.  Hence in a 2010 Class-and-Charter- Day address, trustee Arthur Massolo assured the world that the proposed CEC would do no such thing.  In a communication to me of 17 January 2011, he iterated, “I will do all in my power to see that the center becomes a platform for the airing of differing positions and ideas and not another silo.”  Yeah, right.

The Campus Assault on American History

As a professional historian at Hamilton College, I teach my students that the United States was founded on the principles of limited government, voluntary exchange, respect for private property, and civil freedom.  Does any sane parent believe that more than a tiny fraction of students graduate from college these days with a deep and abiding appreciation of the worth of these principles? 

For Doubting Thomases, look no further than the eleven elite liberal arts colleges that comprise the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes Amherst, Williams, Trinity, and Wesleyan.   Not one of these eleven colleges requires undergraduates to take a single course in American history.  Even worse, a substantial majority of these eleven elite colleges do not even require that students majoring in history take any American history courses. And none of the eleven history departments requires a two-semester American history sequence for its majors.

Non-Western history, however, has a privileged status in a majority of the departments.  Amherst requires of history majors that they take only “one course each in at least three different geographic areas.” The United States is but one of six geographic areas from which students can choose.  Bowdoin College’s history department offers eight fields of study.   Four “non-Euro/U.S. courses” are required, but not one US history course. In 2007, one-third of all history majors at my college, Hamilton, were graduated without one course in American history. 

As the American historians in my department battled to remedy this disgrace, the majority voted a minor concession: Starting with the class of 2012, majors must take one course in US history, although the non-Western requirement would remain: “Three courses must focus upon areas outside of Europe and the United States.” The downgrading of American history continues.

The Cave-Dwellers of Shimer

20071204_Shimer_color_trans_bckgrd.jpgOn 19 April, the board of trustees of Shimer College in Chicago, by an 18 to 16 vote, ousted Dr. Thomas Lindsay from the presidency after little more than a year of service. For sixty years, tiny Shimer (about ten faculty and 100 students) has touted itself as a Great Books college on the Robert Maynard Hutchins plan. Students converse about the content of texts with one another, guided by a professorial facilitator employing the Socratic method. The experience, it was believed, would “sustain a life-long passion for learning.” Accordingly, Shimer constructed and reconstructed its mission statement to reflect—and to extend— Hutchins’s ideals. Since 1996, the ambitious Shimer educational experience purported to prepare students for “active citizenship,” not just in the United States, but “in the world.” After four years of matriculation, Shimer’s graduates would learn to shun “passivity” for “responsible action” by moving “beyond either unquestioning acceptance of authority or its automatic mistrust.”
Dr. Lindsay came to Shimer from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) where he served as deputy director and oversaw We the People, a well-regarded program designed “to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles.” There he attracted national attention with impressive publications and lectures on how to teach the principles of the founding to the American people. Inaugurated as Shimer’s thirteenth president In January 2009, he set to work trying to elevate an institution possessed of noble goals but gasping from slipping standards, radical egalitarian governance structures, a bare-cupboard endowment, and a long history of financial distress, including several bankruptcies. Re-accreditation itself was hanging in the balance. Dr. Lindsay expanded to thirty-four the number of sitting members on the board of trustees to include educators and philanthropists who could help Shimer out of its chronic fiscal woes. Raising money in good times requires persistence and long hours to persuade prospective donors. During a recession, the task can seem Sisyphean. Dr. Lindsay says he spent two out of every three days during his first year at Shimer on the road with tin cup in hand.
Many at Shimer made known their dislike of Dr. Lindsay from the outset. Despite his obvious relish for the Great Books, many saw him as an outsider with a suspicious agenda. They complained when they discerned that he might be moving to make the founding documents of the United States more central to a Shimer education. In The Federalist Papers, a work that Dr. Lindsay would have liked Shimer’s undergraduates to read cover to cover, Publius devotes the majority of the eighty-five essays to the republican character of the Constitution. Of the two species of popular government, republicanism had refining, insulating features that democracy did not. In fact, in The Federalist Papers, the word democracy appears less than a dozen times and when discussed in its pure form draws a pejorative contrast. In a society composed of a small number of persons, Publius warns, the “citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction,” and they “are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues” of others. One would be hard-pressed to find in the United States an institution of higher learning with a more radically egalitarian and democratic structure than Shimer’s. Three faculty members and two students sit as voting members on the board of trustees. Shimer’s representative assembly consists of all students, faculty, and staff, with one vote each. Dominated by activist students, the assembly has set itself up as the moral authority of the college, and members reference the Assembly’s majority votes as if they were exquisite expressions of Rousseau’s general will. When dissidents protested that Dr. Lindsay was not sufficiently steeped in Shimer’s traditions read that he refused to kow-tow to the majoritarian voice of the predominant element in Shimer’s Assembly.

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The Modern Academic Cauldron

In the 1950s, Hamilton College, where I now teach, had no marketing arm to speak of, but the New York Times provided a good deal of favorable coverage. A few years ago I stumbled upon one such item in a June 1950 issue. The headline said “Hamilton Program: College Curriculum Is Revised to Provide the Basic Musts.” The article reported that the Hamilton faculty, led by President Robert McEwen, had completed an intensive five-year study to answer a rather obvious but nonetheless vital question to a liberal arts college: “What basic musts in the way of intellectual and moral equipment should a college give its students to prepare them for effective living during the next fifty years.” Led by President McEwen, the Hamilton faculty determined that forty-five percent of the class time of every student would be devoted to foundational courses that would provide undergraduates with what was called basic intellectual equipment to reach six objectives: 1. written and oral command of English; 2. fluency in a foreign language; 3. a command of logic and its application to the understanding of the natural world; 4. understanding and enjoyment of the creative arts; 5. knowledge of the principal ways human beings have constructed and interacted with society; and 6. “an understanding of the intellectual bases of ethical judgment.” Bracing stuff that.
Now let’s turn the clock ahead almost sixty years and create for consideration an imaginary liberal arts college shaped by what seem to be fashionable trends. It’s no longer a shining little village on the hill, but an academic cauldron. I’ll stir the pot. The imaginary campus costs more than $50,000 a year to attend. Grade inflation is so bad that an average of eighty-five would rank a student in the bottom fourth of the class; an average of eighty would plant you pretty much in the root cellar, like Mr. Inconsequential, the last man drafted in the seventh round by an NFL team. The college not only doesn’t require one course in Shakespeare for graduation, it doesn’t require one course in English, or in any other discipline for that matter. Recent valedictorians receive awards without ever having taken during their four years of matriculation a single course in English and history. Many students who depart the place after four years possess a far greater understanding of the intricacies of sex toys than of the complexities of the Constitution. Because of the adverse incentive provided by an open curriculum–that is, a curriculum with no disciplinary or core requirements–the number of double majors, once almost non-existent in the early 1980s, has soared. Indeed, the evidence from recent crops of Phi Beta Kappas, the canaries in the mine at this imaginary college, reveals that the number of double majors in this class of the so-called best and brightest more than doubles the average for members of the junior and senior classes as a whole. Many students are graduated with transcripts so manicured that seventy percent and more of all their courses are taken in only two disciplines, which could be as closely allied as math and economics, or English and creative writing. In some cases students avoid entire realms of knowledge because they prefer to play toward perceived academic strengths or to attend an increasing number of soft courses in programs created to satisfy academic fashion. Student tour guides who work for the admissions office openly tout the open curriculum in avoiding difficult classes as a way to lure high school students to the college.
The college has a “Great Names” series, richly endowed, but uses the money to import a comedian who charges more than $100,000 for his performance, a fee that exceeds that charged by former presidents of the United States who have spoken at the college. On this imaginary campus, a college official who lauds the satire of this comedian and who anonymously lends his prose to a student publication that regularly derides Catholics, berates a fraternity as unthinking and insensitive for using a satirical image created by that very comedian.

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War Over A Trojan Horse

A few weeks ago, the Delta Phi fraternity at Hamilton College distributed on campus fliers welcoming students to attend “the 53rd annual Mexican Night” party. The invitation, which was intended to be symbolic of spring-break excursions to Cancun and other vacation spots south of the border, contained the image of a Trojan Horse in the shape of a Mexican pinata towering over an armed guard in front of a stout U. S. border fence. The words “Proper Documentation Required,” a spoof of the usual language for proper identification at parties that serve alcohol, ran to the left of the image. In a flash, student activists and their faculty allies had mobilized in ginned-up outrage to protest this latest alleged example of institutionalized racism and to demand action by the administration and trustees on a laundry list of particulars that includes a speech code (masked as a “social honor code”), mandatory diversity courses, and the establishment of a multi-million dollar cultural education center to provide “safe spaces” for aggrieved student groups. Administrators competed with each other to see how artistically they could grovel to protesting students. Acting President Joseph Urgo and the college’s “diversity ombudsman” called the fraternity to account and pressured its leaders to cancel the party. In an all-campus email, Urgo claimed to have extracted from the contrite fraternity leadership an expansive confession that the image not only “hurt and offended many members of the Hamilton community,” but that it “trivializes a contemporary political crisis and reduces the complex history and culture of Mexico to a simple stereotype.”
Urgo and other administrators then joined protesting faculty and protesting students in holding a candlelight vigil. Speeches, poetry, and spiritual songs of the Kumbaya variety expressed feelings of solidarity with the disrespected, vulnerable, and marginalized on campus and around the world. Fraternity leaders rained apologies from all directions to no avail. The dean of students, standing in like a kind of sacrificial lamb, bleated enough mea culpas to elicit God’s forgiveness of a rash of mortal sins. Unforgiving students, however, led by a group called the Social Justice Initiative, followed by commandeering another faculty meeting. Looking anything but vulnerable and threatened, they seized the microphone and threateningly wagged the finger of blame at college officials for their “lack of response” and “lack of action” to the fraternity’s benightedness. Dozens of sympathetic faculty, including leaders of the Diversity and Social Justice Project, signed on to a proposed resolution that would signal to posterity “Our profound appreciation and affection… for our international students and students of color who may have felt marginalized by recent events on campus.” The faculty eventually passed overwhelmingly a resolution that supported the creation of a cultural education center on campus, that urged—Hamilton College’s recently imposed open curriculum notwithstanding—mandatory “educational and programmatic initiatives” to intensify diversity training, and that directed administrators to expand the powers of existing harassment and grievance boards to “raise critical awareness of different forms of harassment.” Stay tuned, for the full extent of the concessions by the guilt-stricken have yet to be determined.

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What Is It About The Liberal Arts?

Imagine for a moment that you are a senior professor at an elite college with a proud 200-year tradition in liberal arts education. You attend a monthly faculty meeting in the fall 2007 and find yourself for the first time in a quarter century surrounded by seventy or so undergraduate activists who are staging a demonstration for social justice. Several incidents that in all likelihood have little or no connection to the behavior of members of the community precipitate the protest. Faculty sympathizers move to allow one of the student leaders to speak. She issues demands that the college “must make a stronger commitment to diversity in … structure, institution, and most importantly curriculum.” The small college of 200 faculty and 1700 undergraduates, claim the students, needs to do more to promote diversity, although the campus already boasts a Diversity and Social Justice Project, Social Justice Initiative, Associate Dean for Diversity Initiatives, and Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Accessibility, along with a host of well-funded multicultural groups, with access, in aggregate, to hundreds of thousands of dollars of annual funding.

The lengthy student wish-list includes a place of their own, a “Cultural Education Center” that will educate the benighted in “systems of privilege and oppression” and provide a “safe space” in which to “privilege the experiences of non-dominant individuals.” The faculty applauds the student initiative like trained seals. The discomfited president and dean of the faculty commend the protesting students for their “powerful and respectful demonstration.” The dean, poor chap, who unwittingly doubles as a syndicated columnist for higher learning’s lexicon of loonery, endorses diversity as the great “hedge against obsolescence,” dismisses talk of political activism in the classroom, and speaks approvingly in the campus newspaper of the idea of “parallel safe spaces”—whatever the hell that means– for the allegedly marginalized. The senior professor asks him point blank if he is concerned about the lack of intellectual diversity at the college, given that it hosted not one—that’s right, not one—conservative speaker on campus during 2007-2008 academic year. In a word, he replies, “No.” A few weeks after the faculty meeting, a breathless president, alluding to unnamed threats to inclusiveness, publishes a list of all the benefactions the college is providing and will provide in the name of diversity, a word that she, like her immediate predecessors, refuses to define with so much as a modicum of intellectual clarity. The activist students demand and receive a meeting with the board of trustees, a self-congratulatory, ostrich-like group, whose favored measures of judging the college’s well-being revolve around the size of the endowment and the college’s rankings in the annual educational issue of US News and World Report. One trustee comes to the rescue and antes up 4 million dollars to renovate an existing building for a new student center to serve as a kind of multicultural “hub” for “expanded collaboration among all student groups.” Whether the renovated building will contain sacred spaces for the secret rituals of the diversity cartel remains to be seen, but don’t bet against it. The building sits next to an impressive village of yellow buildings previously dedicated to student activities. Diversity, the president insists, “is not a problem to be solved, but “a fact and an ideal.” Yes, a non-scholarly ideal, on which, it appears, you shower as much money as necessary to buy political peace and garner favorable headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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What Happened At Hamilton

By Robert Paquette

On 17 September, Constitution Day, my two co-founders (professors Douglas Ambrose and James Bradfield) and I unveiled the Alexander Hamilton Institute in a historic mansion about a mile from the Hamilton College campus. Our goal is to promote the study of American ideals and institutions. This was not our first try. A little over a year ago , we were celebrating its founding at the college, as the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization. We intended to offer a rich menu of extras – conferences, colloquia, internships, fellowships, and awards – to Hamilton College undergraduates. In August 2006 we were toasting a signed agreement with the President and Dean of the Faculty; several weeks later, the initiative collapsed, only now reborn outside of the college. What happened?

The opposition was partly bureaucratic, partly ideological. On the modern campus, programs to study Western institution and culture tend to meet quick resistance. The activists win subtly and incrementally, in several different ways: by choosing the people who teach such courses; by abolishing core curricula that contain a strong American history or Western civilization component; by insisting that Western thought cannot be “privileged” at the expense of other offerings on, say, race, gender, class and sexuality.

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