Category Archives: Essays

Universities, Free Speech and the Rise of the Spit-Viper Left

Free speech on campuses has come on hard times. By now, we are all too familiar with the litany: invited speakers disinvited, talks by honored guests disrupted by shouting protesters, vandalism and riots forcing the cancellation of events, campus security announcing it cannot guarantee public safety.

The disruptions and attacks come almost entirely from an emergent Spit-Viper Left (as I call it), drawn from a motley collection of campus grievance groups that are angry, uninformed, anti-intellectual and uniformly illiberal in their attitudes and beliefs.  They may describe themselves as feminists, defenders of civil rights, or advocates for sexual minorities, but they are very different from the older, and more tolerant versions of such advocacy groups, and far removed from any manner of liberalism by their authoritarian ways and intemperate rage.

Whatever else may be among the concerns of this newly emergent Left, furthering its cause through rational discussion isn’t one of them. The 60s-era radical Todd Gitlin, distraught at this transformation of the campus Left, suggests it may subconsciously feel that reason and argument are no longer on its side. Free speech, a fruitful exchange of ideas, mutual intellectual enrichment — these are not its modus operandi. And those among the most illiberal segments of the Left on college campuses often attract to their protests even more radical and more illiberal supporters from beyond the university, who bring with them a love of violence, confrontation and disruption. Mayhem can be exhilarating for some people — especially young males —  and outside anarchists and nihilists come to join in the fun.

Related: Do Free Speech Students Outnumber the Snowflakes?

It is important to realize just how far this newly emergent Left has strayed from the American Left of the immediate post-WWII decades.  During the Cold War, it was often Social Democrats and other anti-Communist leftists who were leaders in the struggle to defend free speech, whether on college campuses or within the broader society.

People like NYU philosopher Sidney Hook, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, University of North Carolina President Frank Graham, and perennial American Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas were in the forefront of those defending a very broad understanding of free speech in America and its central importance to a vibrant, well-functioning democracy.

Together with influential organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Americans for Democratic Action, these left-leaning defenders of free speech proclaimed in unison the ideal attributed to Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Stalinists and other Communists, of course, never bought into such an ideal, but in the post-war decades, especially after Khrushchev’s famous 1956 Secret Speech denouncing the crimes of the Stalinist era, old-line Communists in America became increasingly marginalized, not least among the democratic Left.  This attitude carried over to the beginnings of the New Left, which in its founding Port Huron Statement praised American universities as “the only mainstream institution that is open to participation by individuals of nearly any viewpoint.”

The New Left first came to national attention in 1964 with a largely peaceful demonstration by students in Berkeley, California, as part of a Free Speech Movement challenging the university to live up to the free speech ideals it proclaimed.

Related: Their Violence Is Free Speech, But Our Speech is Violence

In the Cold-War years, it was usually members of the anti-Communist Right who sought to restrict the range of speakers permitted on college campuses. William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of National Review and America’s leading conservative intellectual, considered it one of his great early achievements when he successfully convinced Yale University (his alma mater) to rescind a previous invitation to a prominent Communist to speak on the Yale campus. Dis-inviting invited guests didn’t start in the current century or with the Left.

The opposition to free speech on campus by the anti-communist Right, however, was hardly comparable in its scope or impact to the broad-based assault on free speech that we see today launched by the Radical Left. The anti-communist Right during the Cold War sought almost exclusively to deny hardcore Communists the right to speak — those seen by almost all Americans as not only odious but as traitors giving aid and comfort to America’s implacable enemies.

Aside from the views of pro-Soviet Communists, there were few views expressed on college campuses during the Cold War years that the Right sought to ban. Controversial speakers routinely came on campus with little opposition from organizations of the Right. There were no campus riots, the shouting down of lecturers, threats of violence, bomb scares and false fire alarms, strong-arm scuffles, acts of vandalism and arson — tactics that have become common among the Radical Left today.

And the targets of such assaults by the Radical Left are typically not those holding intolerant or extremist views like Klansmen or neo-Nazis, but often people of great moderation, decency, and an eagerness to engage those holding opposing views with sympathetic understanding and reasoned argument.

When people like Condoleezza Rice, Christine Lagarde, Charles Murray, Suzanne Venker, Ben Shapiro, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heather Mac Donald and others like them are forbidden to speak on various college campuses — or their invitations to speak suddenly withdrawn — we know we are in a big-time crisis far removed from the minor-league opposition to free speech on college campuses that existed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Elsewhere I have referred to the Spit-Viper Left as “snowflake Jacobins and crybaby fascists.”  This designation was intended to draw attention to the fact that those who comprise the Radical Left on college campuses today — many of whom were brought up in excessively protective and indulgent parental households — manage to combine an overly sensitive and thin-skinned temperament unable to tolerate criticism, with an anti-liberal ideology and fascist-like authoritarianism.  And these Black-Shirted Snowflakes gain the support of at least small numbers of radical faculty members — and the cowardly indulgence of many college presidents.

Related: The Seven Deadly Sins of Higher Education

Most troubling is the fact that there seems to be a significant number of people outside the academy who are not themselves radicals or leftists but who agree with the Radical Left that those espousing offensive viewpoints ought not to be permitted to speak on college campuses.

A recent poll (April 27-30, 2017) by the firm of Morning Consult found an alarming number of Americans who support an extreme speech-restrictive viewpoint.  The following was one of the questions asked of a representative national sample: “Universities should not allow guest speakers to appear on campus if the guest’s words are considered to be hateful or offensive by some.”

If you scratched your head and asked, “Who could possibly agree with such a broadly proscriptive statement?” You are not well attuned to public opinion today. A very significant minority of Americans believe that only speakers should be invited to college campuses whose message does not seriously offend anyone and is not considered by anyone to be hateful.

The poll showed that support for such an “offense-takers veto” differs considerably by demographic groups. Women were much more likely than men to support the “don’t allow offensive speakers” position (36 percent vs. 23 percent), Blacks more likely than Whites (43 percent vs. 28 percent), and Democrats more likely than Republicans (41 percent versus 28 percent).

When gender and political categories are combined, the statistics looked particularly grim: Close to half (47 percent) of female Democrats agreed that offense-giving speakers should not be allowed to speak on college campuses versus only 18 percent of male Republicans. When one considers that females as both students and administrators often outnumber males on many college campuses, that at Ivy League and other elite institutions students identifying as Democrats often far outnumber those identifying as Republicans, and that many of the most politically engaged students are drawn from departments like Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Comparative Literature that are dominated by female Democrats, one gets a sense of the fragility of any free speech consensus on American campuses today.

Why should we worry about free speech on college campuses? How important is free speech on or off campus?  These are perennial questions that need to be addressed now more than ever.  I’ll just say briefly that for answers we could hardly do better than turning to the defense of open discussion and free speech in John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty, or to the defense of the university as the place where people of differing backgrounds can come together and share their differing perspectives found in Ralph Mannheim’s long neglected Ideology and Utopia. A brief word about each.

Mill starts out with the sensible claim that on many issues of public controversy, truth is often not monopolized by any one side.  While the human mind tends toward simplicity and one-sidedness, the fullness of truth, Mill believed, usually requires the interweaving of the partial truths contained in varying and often conflicting positions. Free speech and a vigorous confrontation with viewpoints differing from one’s own are indispensable to realizing this goal. Common opinions, Mill says, “are often true, but seldom or never the whole truth.  They are part of the truth, sometimes a greater, sometimes a smaller part, but exaggerated, distorted, and disjointed from the truth by which they ought to be accompanied and limited.”  “In the human mind,” he goes on, “one-sidedness has always been the rule, and many-sidedness the exception.”

The only way that anyone — even the wisest and smartest — can ever come to know the truth on complex issues of morality and public policy is to listen attentively to the best presentations of the various opinions held on these subjects and then weld together whatever insights can be gained from a fair-minded assessment of each. “No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this,” Mill writes, “nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”  Such a process, of course, requires open, vigorous, and often contentious debate.

Even if an expressed opinion has no truth in it whatever, it can serve an important function in the truth-seeking process, Mill explains, in that its refutation requires understanding why it is not true and why an alternative view is better. Above all, disapproved opinions must not be prohibited if the goal is to know the truth and to know why it is true, and to know why competing views are not true or not the whole truth. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion,” Mill writes, “is that it is robbing the human race — those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

Mill’s defense of freedom of thought and freedom of expression in On Liberty is still the most eloquent and intelligent treatment of its subject in the English language.  It should be on every college reading list for entering freshmen.

Mannheim has a view similar to Mill’s regarding the complexity of truth in the area of controversial political issues and he shares with Mill the belief in the natural one-sidedness and parochialism of the human mind.  And like Mill, he believes that the only way that this limitation can be overcome is by bringing together people representing contrasting viewpoints and integrating the truth within each into a more comprehensive whole.

“It has become incontrovertibly clear today,” Mannheim writes, “that all knowledge which is either political or which involves a world-view, is inevitably partisan. All points of view in politics are but partial points of view because historical totality is always too comprehensive to be grasped by any one of the individual points of view which emerges out of it.”  He continues: “The fragmentary character of all knowledge is clearly recognizable.  But this implies the possibility of an integration of many mutually complementary points of view into a comprehensive whole.”

Mannheim believed that this integration process would be easiest to achieve by university-educated intellectuals who would attend institutions where they could receive a similar educational experience that would enable them to share with one another their varying perspective viewpoints. The unifying bond of such educational institutions would be the shared conviction that all could learn from one another and that a vigorous exchange of contending ideas would enrich everyone’s understanding.

Today the central ideas of both Mannheim and Mill could be used to defend some kind of university focus on “diversity” in its faculty and student body though it would be a very different kind of diversity than what is currently understood by that term in most of today’s institutions of higher learning.  The most important kind of diversity for Mannheim and Mill was ideological or viewpoint diversity, especially in regard to politics, economics, morality and religion. The fact that on many of these subjects contemporary American universities are often among the least diverse institutions in American life would clearly be seen by them as a tragic failure.

The systematic silencing of voices challenging the Left, and even within the Left a narrowing of permissible opinions to those of angry, anti-intellectual grievance groups, is a betrayal of a central mission of a university education. We have allowed the barbarians to destroy what should be one of the citadels of our civilization.  That, at least, would be the judgment of the older liberal defenders of universities and free speech like Mannheim and Mill. The Spit-Viper Left has spread its venom far and wide and paralyzed the work of one of the few institutions democracies rely upon for their sustained vibrancy and good health. There remains for us — whether liberal, conservative, libertarian, or social democrat — the work of reconstruction.

Some New and Narrow Versions of Academic Freedom

The right to breathe is not generally understood as the right to choke others.  The right to move freely is not widely understood as the right to slip into your neighbor’s house in the middle of the night unannounced.  The right to listen to Neil Diamond’s greatest hits is not universally interpreted as the right to make other people listen to “Sweet Caroline.”

And yet these days more than a few people have decided that “academic freedom” guarantees your right to silence other people who are attempting to express views you disagree with.

This sounds like a joke, but it has been put forward in earnest by many student protesters in the last few years.  I first heard the “I’m-exercising-my-academic-freedom-to-shut-you-up” rationale in connection with the Black Lives Matter protesters who invaded the Berry-Baker Library at Dartmouth in November 2015.  But it has since become the common currency of lawless protesters, whether at Berkeley, Middlebury, or Claremont-McKenna.

Perhaps the open letter from Pomona College students to President David Oxtoby demanding that he “take action against the Claremont Independent editorial staff for its continual perpetuation of hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds,” is the perfection of this conceit.  The Pomona students decided that “free speech” has become “a toll appropriated by hegemonic institutions.”

Campus Life Not Like a Baseball Game

Actually, on that last point, they are right.  Colleges and universities are “hegemonic institutions.”  I don’t know if those students understand their own catchphrases, but translated into plain English, this simply means that colleges impose broad control over their community of faculty members and students.  They have rules above and beyond the rules of the surrounding society.  If you go to a baseball game, you are free to boo the other team and scream at the umpire if you think he made a bad call.  On campus—at least in principle—you must listen quietly when someone argues a point you disagree with, and if the moderator in a debate makes what you think is a bad call, your only legitimate option is to explain why you think it is wrong.

Those rules are part of what we mean by “academic freedom.”  Clearly, academic freedom is not the natural way people behave towards each other.  It is an artificial thing, a “social construct,” as we say these days.  And because it is artificial, it only works in special circumstances where people agree to forego their right to boo the other team, shout imprecations at the umpire, or move beyond words to the kind of hard buffets that put professors of political science in the hospital.

Three cheers for institutional hegemony, without which no would have academic freedom.  “Good times never seemed so good,” Sweet Caroline.

But how is it that good old Hegemony U has found itself so incompetent in upholding its most basic rules of the road?   Observers have offered some pretty persuasive answers to why Middlebury President Laurie Patton has been so feckless; why UC Berkley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks displayed the steadfastness of a saloon door; and why Claremont McKenna President Hiram Chodosh has risen to the occasion with the moral dignity of a fidget spinner.

The answers include the continuing descent into postmodern insouciance, where no encompassing principle presides; the swarming animosities of identity politics, which have stung all the beekeepers into submission; and the progressive left’s willingness to kick away the ladder of free speech by which it climbed to dominance, lest anyone else try that ascent.

Up for Grabs for a Century

I have one small addendum to that list of explanations for why our defenders of academic freedom went out to lunch and never came back.  I suspect that some of them got confused by the menu.  “Academic freedom,” an artificial thing, a “social construct,” isn’t amenable to scientific precision.  It isn’t Mars or Jupiter, sitting in the heavens as a definite planet.  It is more like Pluto or one those other trans-Neptunian objects with strange names, such as the dwarf planet Haumea:  detectable but not settled into any plain definition.

Because “academic freedom” isn’t any one, definite thing, it has been up for grabs for over a century.  The grabbing began in 1915, when the newly formed American Association of University Professors offered its “Statement of Principles,” that in twenty-some pages of stately syntax and high-minded declaration laid out a commanding vision of the intellectual rights of America’s university faculty.  The 1915 AAUP statement didn’t settle anything.  For the next 25 years, the AAUP and college presidents went on wrangling, with numerous summits and unsatisfactory attempts to reach

For the next 25 years, the AAUP and college presidents went on wrangling, with numerous summits and unsatisfactory attempts to reach an agreement.  In 1940, they did, at last, reach an agreement of sorts and issued a much shorter and—in many ways—less satisfactory statement.  The 1940 AAUP Statement remains in force at the vast majority of American colleges and universities as their basic position on academic freedom.  But having discovered the fluidity of the idea, the academic world could not stop with just two statements.

There are in fact now many thousands of statements, interpretations, codicils, redactions, and expostulations about academic freedom.  The World Catalog lists nearly 100,000 books on the topic.  “Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely,” Sweet Caroline.

My colleague David Randall and I have undertaken the task of providing a little bit of order to this chaos.  We have just posted a chart that offers an easy comparison of what we take to be the top ten authoritative treatments of academic freedom.  It gives the reader the opportunity to see at a glance which definitions are rooted in the pursuit of truth, which ones connect tenure, and which ones call for sanctions against violators, and so on through 25 categories.  It is a work in progress if we are still allowed to talk about progress in the post-modern anti-hegemonic hegemony.

I offer this in part as a service to Presidents Paton and Chodosh and Chancellor Dirks. They can now pick the definition that best lends itself to doing nothing while their students riot, or imposing “sanctions” on violators that have the permanence of a Snapchat message.  “Charting Academic Freedom: 102 Years of Debate” may also, however, prove to be of some value to others who have found little clarity in the swirl of conflicting claims about academic freedom.

Explore, and find the most compelling definition and sing in your best imitation of Neil Diamond, “How can I hurt when I’m holding you,” Sweet Caroline.  Well, you can and will, but you will still be better off knowing that some definitions of academic freedom are a lot better than others, at least if you care about creating a civilized place for learning.

Printed with permission from the National Association of Scholars

The Withering Away of the College Professor

An excerpt from the book American Heresies and Higher Education

Some conservatives say that the main cost-control issue in American higher education today is tenured faculty who don’t teach enough. It would be better if their lazy self-indulgence could be better controlled by more accountable administrators. Tenure, from this view, is a kind of union, and “faculty governance” is collective bargaining.

It would be better if administrators could be empowered by the “right-to-fire” situation found in our more entrepreneurial states. What the union-taming governor wants, he doesn’t understand that the administrators have already been achieving. In the industrial world, the war against unions is suddenly becoming more aggressive and more effective because unions can’t deliver the goods anyway, given the dynamic realities of the twenty-first century’s globally competitive marketplace.

No Need to Fight Tenure

The same is true of the war against tenure. Tenure is withering away, and astute administrators know better than to launch a frontal assault that would result in really bad public relations and many unnecessary casualties.

The truth is that the number of tenured faculty is rapidly diminishing as a percentage—the tenured and those on a “tenure track” now are a still fairly unoppressed and, I admit, often fairly clueless minority—of the “instructional workforce.” There are doubtless good reasons why, at some places, tenured and tenure-track faculty should teach more. It would be better if more students had their “personal touch,” just as it would be better if they graded their students’ papers themselves at research institutions.

 Teach More, or Teach Less?

But, given how cheap adjuncts are, it’s a big mistake to believe that tenured professors taking on an additional class or two would be a significant saving. It’s often even the case that administrators would rather they not teach more.

At some places, at least, the situation seems to be that the administrations are buying off tenured faculty with low teaching loads and various research perks. That incentivizes them to be compliant with the transfer of instruction to adjuncts and other temporary faculty.

There Goes Content

It also allows them to accept the emptying out of the content of “general education” as requirements focused on the content and methods of the academic disciplines—such as history, literature and philosophy—are replaced by those based on abstract and empty (or content-free) competencies.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty often come from highly specialized research programs where, even in history and literature, the tendency is to know more and more about less and less. There are also allegedly cutting-edge approaches, such as neuroscience, “digital humanities,” rational-choice theory, and so forth, that take the researcher away from being attentive to the content that’s been the core of undergraduate instruction.

And then there’s the pretension of “undergraduate research” (which originated in the hard sciences and makes a lot more sense there) that it’s best for students to bypass the bookish acquisition of content about the perennial fundamental human issues and questions and get right down to making some cutting-edge marginal contribution.

All in all, it’s often not so hard to convince specialists to surrender concern for merely general education. Or at least to convince them that the imperatives of the marketplace and the increasingly intrusive accreditation process demand that the value of their disciplinary contributions is reconfigured in terms of competencies. That way, they’re led to believe, they’ll be able to hang on to their curricular “turf.”

The study of history (or philosophy or whatever) can be justified, after all, as deploying the skills of critical thinking, effective communication, and so forth. One problem, of course, is that those skills can be acquired more easily other ways, ways that aren’t saddled with all that historical or philosophical content.

And when the disciplines of liberal education are displaced by competencies, institutions tend to surrender the content-based distinctiveness that formed most of their educational mission.

Philosophy and Theology

The biggest outrage in higher education right now, for example, is not this or that report of students or administrators whining about microaggressions or being insufficiently trigger-warned. It’s that Notre Dame might be on the road to surrendering its requirement of courses in philosophy and theology for all students for competency-based goals. What distinguishes or ought to distinguish Notre Dame is the seriousness by which it treats philosophy and theology as disciplines indispensable for all highly literate Catholic men and women, or not primarily by its provision of a Catholic lifestyle.

As institutions surrender their liberal arts substance (while sometimes retaining their classy liberal arts brand), they become pretty much identical in terms of their educational goals. Lists of competencies always seem to me vague and rather random, but they still seem to turn out about the same everywhere. Their measurability usually depends on multiple-choice questions and the sham exactitude of points distributed on rubrics. And, in general, the data gets its veneer of objectivity through the intention to aim at sometimes stunningly low and only seemingly solid goals. It’s easy to mock the earnest redundancy of the competency phrases themselves. “Critical thinking”—well, if it wasn’t critical, it wouldn’t be thinking. “Effective communication”—well, if it wasn’t effective, it wouldn’t be communication.

What Is Being Communicated

In any case, the thought being surrendered is that the dignity of thinking and communicating must have something to do with what is being thought or communicated. It’s just not true that the same methods of thought and communication can be applied in all circumstances. Thinking about what or who is a man or woman is way different from figuring out how to rotate your tires or even maximize your productivity.

Communicating information is different from “winning friends and influencing people” (or persuasion and manipulation) and from communicating the truth through irony or humor or esoteric indirection— through the parables of the Bible or the dialogues of Plato. The forms of communication that distinguish the great or even good books that provide most of the content of liberal education elude measurable outcomes, and it’s not immediately obvious that they have much value in the marketplace.

Actually, the kind of insight they provide can be invaluable in marketing, as anyone knows who’s watched an episode of Mad Men or read one of those eerie, philosophical, uncannily effective pitches of Don Draper. But the administrators would reply, “Well, sure that Don’s a genius, but he’s so damn unreliable. We don’t want professors like that!”

As the low but seemingly solid goal of competency becomes about the same everywhere, the delivery of education can become less personal or quirky and standardized according to quantitatively validated best practices. Courses can become more scripted, and then delivery can be increasingly open to the use of the screen.

So the “intellectual labor” of college administrators—the number of which is “bloating” and the perks of which (at the highest level) are coming to resemble those of corporate CEOs—is directed in much the same way as it is in other sectors of the economy. What’s going on, for example, in the Amazon warehouse or in large chains such as Panera Bread, is occurring on our campuses.

A Class-Based Agenda

The idea of “competency” being enforced by the accrediting agencies—basically run by administrators and following a “class-based” administrative agenda—serves the goal of disciplining instruction through measurable outcomes and then displacing actual instructors, as much as possible, by education delivered on the screen.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Higher Education

About 15 years ago I began writing extensively about the rising cost of higher education, even starting a research center (the Center for College Affordability and Productivity) focused on that topic. I am now convinced that rising costs are NOT the dominant problem facing our universities. There are at least seven deadly sins –not precisely the original Christian deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth—but pretty close.

Let’s start with greed. The first deadly sin is that colleges are outrageously expensive. It takes a larger proportion of the income of the typical citizen of New Jersey to pay the listed tuition fee of Princeton University today than it did in 1840. Whereby the cost of virtually everything else has risen less than our incomes, thereby making them more affordable, college is the unique exception.

The federal government has contributed mightily to the problem: tuition growth has accelerated rapidly since the late 1970s –when federal student loan and grant programs were vastly expanded to the bulk of the college population. In 1987 Education Secretary Bill Bennett claimed federal aid programs enabled colleges to raise fees dramatically, and recent research at both the New York Federal Reserve and the National Bureau of Economic Research confirms it. Higher tuition fees have funded a vast unproductive university bureaucracy (the sin of gluttony) that detracts from teaching and research.

Related: How Students Intimidate Professors and Stymie Learning

Not only are costs rising, benefits are falling. The second deadly sin is that there is far too little “good” learning going on in America’s universities. By good learning, I mean learning that entails the transmission of the knowledge and wisdom of previous generations to the current one and enables us to add to this past cultural and intellectual capital. Today’s college students, typically spending less than 30 hours weekly for 32 weeks a year on academics, are remarkably ignorant about our own past, giving them the impression that they are the Superior Generation, possessing an extraordinary fount of knowledge and moral virtues.

Thus historical and wrathful ignoramuses at Yale insisted that John C. Calhoun’s name be taken off a college, despite the fact he served as Vice-President of the United States under two presidents, was in Congress (elected by the people or the state legislature) for over two decades, and held major cabinet appointments under two other presidents.  Like many others of his generation, he strongly defended slavery, becoming a strong believer of state rights. Times change, and the notion of today’s faux Superior Generation that “only our values are morally sound” denigrates those responsible for America’s exceptionalism.

This sin in not limited to historical illiteracy. For example, I suspect one-third of my students use the word “compliment” when they mean “complement.” A federal Adult Literacy Surveyed some years ago showed declining literacy among college students, an undoubtedly continuing trend. I doubt most college students could name one of John Milton’s works and are clueless on what Aristotle or Rousseau contributed to our culture. Contrary to the contemporary zeitgeist, an appreciation of the contributions of some “dead white men” strengthens the greatest civilization ever created.

There are not only sins of omission (failure to teach the Western canon) but also of commission –the third deadly sin is that political correctness has led to the suppression of many ideas and freedom of expression, robbing students of the vitality associated with questioning conventional wisdom. We increasingly preach ideology –universities often appear to be secular theocracies, with campus bullies – 21st-century Torquemadas–suppressing free expression.  Scientists, for example, are increasingly afraid to suggest that global warming is possibly not quite the threat the establishment believes –the Spanish Inquisition redux.

Why aren’t university presidents asserting their authority to put an end to this foolishness, especially the suppression of First Amendment rights and free expression? To be fair, some do, but far too many let the campus crazies intimidate them. The fourth deadly sin is one of feckless non-leadership –sloth if you will –that enables the barbarians to storm the gates and dramatically diminish the vitality and good coming from the campus experience.

Related: Crime but No Punishment at Middlebury?

Yet the presidents are not alone in consenting to the gradual deterioration of the campus learning environment. A fifth sin emanates from a faculty that too often fiddles with its often non-consequential research while letting Rome (or Berkeley, Missouri, Claremont McKenna, Middlebury or Yale) burn. After all, the faculty do the teaching and usually control the curriculum. It is the faculty that removed required courses in history, language and other foundational subjects while implementing all sorts of politically correct courses devoid of intellectual content to appease vocal minorities.

Also, the governing boards of universities are typically made up largely of excessively prideful folks who combine their lust for recognition with a slothful inattention to what really is happening on campus—a sixth sin, one of neglect. To be sure, the information they receive comes typically from the president, who often fails to inform trustees of wasteful spending and campus scandals.  When trustees occasionally try to fulfill their oversight role by seeking delicate information, they are sometimes ostracized and even sued —witness the sad spectacle of Wallace Hall, a regent at the University of Texas, a man who exposed an admissions scandal– and consequently faced impeachment and vindictive legal proceedings.

Or how about governance in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, where Duke University trustees protected the university president as his administration savagely and unjustly punished the lacrosse team, or where North Carolina’s trustees were either sinfully unaware of a major athletic scandal or hid it from the public they allegedly served. Trustees, indeed,   too often serve as administration cheerleaders rather than overseers.

Related: Troubling News from North Carolina

That brings me to the seventh deadly sin: a lack of transparency, combined with obfuscation, and deception. Universities go to great lengths to hide important information about themselves –the amount students learn or earn (after college), salaries of key employees, or morally questionable activity (remember Jerry Sandusky?) They bury the bad news, exaggerate and promote the good news. They suppress competition and innovation through their accreditation agencies that they claim promote integrity and high quality. I would be very hesitant to buy a used car from a senior university official in today’s America.

To be fair, not all universities are highly sinful, and there are many good people in America’s colleges. But the seven deadly sins mentioned above are prevalent enough to erode public confidence in our universities (as recent New America polling confirms), ultimately leading to reduced support and declining enrollments.

A Judge Catches Notre Dame Acting Badly in a Title IX Case

Notre Dame stands to lose a Title IX case in an unusual flurry of kangaroo court blunders. It “investigated” the case and came away only with the female’s hostile emails, none of her loving ones (knowing that many emails were missing). When the male contemplated suicide, Notre Dame interpreted those thoughts as “dating violence,” and the male was denied a lawyer on grounds that the procedure was “educational” and not “punitive.” The “non-punitive” action cost him a lot of tuition money, banned him from taking two finals and got him expelled.

A narrow judgment in a broad, well-reasoned ruling came from Judge Philip Simon in a due process lawsuit filed by the accused student at Notre Dame. The ruling (which you can read here) was a reminder that in virtually all due process lawsuits, a fair-minded judge can find ample reasons to rule against the university.

A narrow judgment in a broad, well-reasoned ruling came from Judge Philip Simon in a due process lawsuit filed by an accused student at Notre Dame. The ruling (which you can read here) was a reminder that in virtually all due process lawsuits, a fair-minded judge can find ample reasons to rule against the university involved.

The specifics of the case were a little different from most due process cases. The couple had been in an ongoing relationship, for about a year. The male student (who I’ll call JD) suffered from depression in summer 2016, and this past fall, the accusing student (who I’ll call AS) decided to break things off after JD started sending her text talking about how he might commit suicide. She also reported JD to the Notre Dame Title IX office, which concluded that the texts constituted “dating violence,” since they purportedly manipulated AS.

Related: The Title IX Mess—Will It Be Reformed?

The accusing student then indicated a desire not to move forward with any allegations and reconciled with JD, only to change her mind again and reinstitute charges. Notre Dame immediately issued a no-contact order between JD and AS, to which JD responded by deleting AS’s contact information, and all of the duo’s texts, from his phone. AS, on the other hand, retained their full text message history.

Notre Dame conducted an “investigation,” but for all practical purposes, AS was the university’s investigator—she turned over text messages from her cache, but only ones that made JD look bad. As Judge Simon explained, Notre Dame had no idea that—after AS first went to the Title IX office—AS identified as Jane by the judge:

told him to “Come overrrrrr.” [Id.] He proposed that they “take a nap” and she responded that “I‘M SO PUMPED.” [Id. (emphasis in original).] The following week, on November 7th, Jane asked John if he could sleep over. Jane then implored John to “Come to champaign” (sic), which seems to have been a reference to him meeting her in Champaign, Illinois. She also offered to meet him in Chicago. [Id.] Jane then asked John to come over that day because “she was having a really bad week already and I just wanna cuddle.” The following day they planned to get together again. Jane asked John “where you at (sic)” and he responded that he would “be there in 15 minutes.” Jane’s response demonstrated that she was happy to be seeing him. She said “yayyy.” The next day they planned to meet up again at Chipotle around the noon hour. And then later that night they must have planned another get-together because Jane told John that she was coming “to pick him up.” A week later, on November 15, Jane told John to “sleep overrrrrrrrrrr.” She later had a change of mind and canceled because she needed to study and he responded that that was no problem. John told her that he loved her and Jane responded that “I LOVE YOU TOO.” [emphasis in the original.]

Incredibly, Notre Dame never asked AS to turn over all text messages (which only came to light as part of the litigation). According to the complaint, Notre Dame also ignored copious exculpatory information, including a videotape of AS saying, “I want to fuck up his [JD’s] reputation; I want to make sure he never has a girlfriend . . . here or anywhere . . . and I want him never to be able to have a social life.”

Related: Title IX Tramples Free Speech and Fairness, So Now What?

At this stage of the lawsuit, JD asked for very narrow relief—that Notre Dame allows him to take his two remaining final exams, and give him grades for those courses. Simon granted that request. But the judge’s ruling also indicated grave concerns with three aspects of Notre Dame’s investigation, and his wording suggests this lawsuit could be very difficult for the university to win. He focused on three principal issues:

(1) Evidence. “The University’s investigation might have been arbitrary and capricious,” Simon noted, “for failing to obtain and review the entire context of the couple’s texting history.” Indeed, he added, “the text messages that . . . were not available to the Hearing Panel—text messages showing sleepovers, naps together, invitations to go on trips, and lunch dates—strongly suggest that Jane did not feel threatened or intimidated by John.” In some ways, Notre Dame’s conduct was more egregious than that of the foundational text-message case (Amherst), since here, the university knew that a text message history existed, and still didn’t ask for the whole file. AS conceded in a filing to the court. Her attorney, meanwhile, bizarrely claimed that the lawsuit had left her in threat of “physical” harm.

(2) Procedure. Simon criticized multiple aspects of Notre Dame’s procedure. He noted that the university essentially allowed AS to introduce character evidence but denied JD the same right, seemingly lest the accuser be traumatized. He questioned the university’s denial of direct cross-examination; Notre Dame instead used a “stilted method” of requiring JD to submit questions to the panel, which he hoped they would ask, not allowing “for immediate follow-up questions based on a witness’s answers, and stifling [his] presentation of his defense to the allegations.”

(3) Purpose. Judge Simon appeared baffled by the university’s decision (typical in these circumstances) to deny the accused student a lawyer. And he made clear he didn’t like the university’s response. When asked “why an attorney is not allowed to participate in the hearing especially given what is at stake—potential dismissal from school and the forfeiture of large sums of tuition money—Mr. [Ryan] Willerton, the Director of the Office of Community Standards and a member of the Hearing Panel, told me it’s because he views this as an ‘educational’ process for the student, not a punitive one. This testimony is not credible. Being thrown out of school, not being permitted to graduate and forfeiting a semester’s worth of tuition is ‘punishment’ in any reasonable sense of that term.”

This statement was a remarkable denunciation of the kangaroo court structure evident at most universities in sexual assault cases. While Simon termed his comments “conjectural,” it’s hard to see how his mind would be changed on these points, since the facts of Notre Dame’s procedures and text messages already have been established.

Will Notre Dame take from this rhetoric a need to settle? And, more broadly, will other judges learn from this impressively reasoned opinion?

Professor Laura Kipnis–She Faced Title IX Charges for Writing an Essay

It is not too early to say that Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus by Laura Kipnis, professor of film studies at Northwestern University, will be one of the most important books of 2017. Kipnis gained some notoriety two years ago when she was hauled before her school’s Title IX investigators on a complaint of creating a sexually hostile environment because of an essay she wrote criticizing the campus sex panic, with a focus on the case of Peter Ludlow, a Northwestern professor brought down by accusations of sexual misconduct toward an undergraduate and later also a graduate student. (See Minding the Campus coverage of the case.)

Now, Kipnis tackles the same subject in a book that takes an unsparing look at the current campus climate, from the witch-hunts to the trigger warnings. And she does so from a liberal feminist point of view—one of the things that exasperates her most about this new climate is the infantilization of women, reduced to eternal helpless prey—that makes it difficult to dismiss her as a backlash peddler. Even the devoutly feminist New York Times opinion writer Jill Filipovic, who assailed as misogynistic another book on the subject, Campus Rape Frenzy by K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor, described Unwanted Advances in the same double review as “persuasive and valuable” if “maddening.”

CATHY YOUNG: So, the genesis of the book is that you wrote the essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education about the then-ongoing Peter Ludlow case at Northwestern and the excesses of Title IX and what you called the “sexual paranoia” on campus—and then you got hit with a Title IX complaint.

LAURA KIPNIS: I was writing about this increasing climate of sexual paranoia, and I knew about the Peter Ludlow case. But I didn’t know anything about Title IX until I got this letter saying that there was a Title IX complaint against me.

CATHY YOUNG: So at the time you were writing your essay, did it ever occur to you that you could be the subject of a complaint?

LAURA KIPNIS (laughs): Oh gosh, no. I don’t think it would have occurred to anyone that you could be the subject of a Title IX complaint for writing an essay. When I got the letter, I was immediately curious—was this the first time someone had applied Title IX to an essay. But of course, there’s no way to know that, because it’s not public and there’s no centralized database of cases. We’re starting to hear more as these cases hit civil courts. They’re popping up every day and they’re new variations on the theme, which is really capricious prosecutions of people on strange grounds.

CATHY YOUNG: Did you find any other cases in which someone was targeted for a Title IX complaint based simply on something they wrote?

LAURA KIPNIS: I did have a case—sometimes, you’re not clear, is it precisely a Title IX case. I had a case of a professor of intellectual history [where] a student complained about his assignments on gender. Sometimes these complaints go through various administrative offices and I’m not sure they’re precisely Title IX. One of the problems in writing about this stuff is, you don’t always know—you know what somebody told you. You don’t have the documents, you don’t have the whole picture. So I’m not sure, off the top of my head, if I know of another case where it was simply speech. But sometimes speech would get brought into these cases—like, a poet who was asked, why are you teaching poems with sexual content, that sort of thing.

CATHY YOUNG:  Did you have any concern that you could get in trouble again because of the book?

LAURA KIPNIS: Oh yes, definitely. I think I could be subject to some of the same charges of retaliation [against Ludlow’s accusers]. Although, since I was already found innocent on the retaliation charges, it would be difficult to bring those charges again. But they could.

CATHY YOUNG: What has the overall reaction been to your book? Are there reactions that have surprised you, pleasantly or unpleasantly? 

LAURA KIPNIS: I’m obviously pleased that the reviews have been so overwhelmingly positive. The first review from an explicitly feminist site also just came out—Broadly—which was a subtle and positive reading of the book. What’s most surprised me is that I expected a lot of discussion—and a lot of pushback—in the feminist media and blogosphere and I haven’t seen that. You tend to see what’s posted as people usually tweet things once they’re up, though there may be things I’ve missed.

Maybe the pushback is to come. What’s been great is that even reviewers who say they’re to some degree irked by the book—the two New York Times reviewers—have been honest enough to say that it’s also persuasive and “necessary.”

CATHY YOUNG: This climate of what you call sexual paranoia today—in the 1990s, there was, as I’m sure you know, a lot of debate about the sexual climate on campus, about sexual assault, sexual harassment. Then this discussion more or less dropped off the radar and lay dormant for a number of years, and now it’s back. Do you see a difference between the way this issue played out in the nineties, as compared to today? Did you pay attention to it in the nineties?

LAURA KIPNIS: Oh yes, particularly to the anti-porn feminist contingent, [Andrea] Dworkin and [Catharine] MacKinnon. I think that is a lot of the difference—[in the 1990s] a lot of the energy and mobilization had to do with pornography under their auspices, and I think the same impulses are persisting now, but without pornography. I think most students—that I encounter, anyway—think that porn is benign, but this issue of campus rape culture is having such an ascendant moment now. I think the impulses are the same.

CATHY YOUNG: Is there a difference in the level of support from students? Obviously, anti-rape activism on campus existed then, but it seems that there’s a much larger percentage of the student body that is swept up in this today. Is that your impression as well?

LAURA KIPNIS: That’s what’s so hard to gauge. It’s not like we have data on this. There’s a lot of attention being paid to rape culture activism, and maybe in some ways, it’s seen to dovetail [with] or have the same kind of constituencies as, Black Lives Matter and the racial justice movements, whereas I think they’re politically different sorts of movements. But I don’t know how much support there is on campus! My own students—I should backtrack and say, the students who marched against me during that campus protest and the students who brought a complaint against me, these were not my students; these were students I didn’t even know.

My own students—they have social concerns, but I don’t think, for the most part, they’re activists. What percentage of students [on my campus] would say they’re in support? I don’t know. There are a lot of students who feel like they need to be on the right side of the issue. So there are people—say, people in student government—it’s a [big] concern to them to make sure that they’re known to be on the right side of the issue. And even frat presidents make all those public statements to indicate that they’re on the right side of the issue, that they support survivors, that they take sexual assault very seriously.

CATHY YOUNG: How did your students react to the charges against you? Were you allowed to discuss the case with them?

LAURA KIPNIS: Yeah, sure. No one would have disallowed it, it’s just—my own students didn’t bring it up, so it’s not like I would have devoted a class to talking about my own situation.

CATHY YOUNG: Were they aware of what was going on?

LAURA KIPNIS: Oh, yeah. My students—they’re sort of sweet. I actually did say to some students that I knew—we were talking in a casual way, and I said, “How come nobody ever brought up the fact that there has been this protest march against me?” They treat me with some irony, and one of them said, “Oh, Laura, we knew about it.” But nobody said anything! (laughs) Maybe they thought it would be impolite.

CATHY YOUNG: Some polls show that there’s a lot more support among students today, compared to ten or twenty years ago, for the idea that you shouldn’t express things that are hurtful to someone else—that offensive speech which triggers someone or causes them emotional damage should be regulated. Is that something you’re seeing? Do you think there is a troubling level of support for censorship, in that sense, on campuses?

LAURA KIPNIS: I’m probably a frustrating interviewee, because I have a hard time generalizing. (laughs) I don’t know. Is there a general level of support for something? I haven’t seen any polls on this. With my own students, they are very much individuals. I think because of the kind of education they’ve had, they’re very attentive to issues about minorities, about discrimination, about social justice, about using language that would make minority people feel stigmatized—any kind of minorities. I remember a discussion recently in a class where somebody used the word…

I remember a discussion recently in a class where somebody used the word… (pauses) What was it? It was some synonym for… maybe somebody said “mentally handicapped,” and somebody said, “I don’t like that term.” Or maybe it was some other term, and he preferred “emotionally handicapped” or “intellectually handicapped.” You have things like that crop up, where somebody thinks someone else’s language is problematic. So yes, I have seen that happen in my classes. Certainly on things like gender, sexual orientation. At the same time, I think they’re very open-minded to the difference, which I think is an upside.

CATHY YOUNG: Speaking of campus speech, your appearance at Wellesley caused quite a controversy, with some professors publicly stating that speakers like you are harmful and shouldn’t be invited. Do you have any further campus appearances planned? Obviously, you’re not Ann Coulter, but are you concerned about protests getting out of hand?

LAURA KIPNIS: I’m going to the University of Oregon and Simon Fraser University at the beginning of May, but not expecting trouble. I’m obviously not as deliberately incendiary as someone like Coulter or Milo [Yiannopoulos], who clearly want to provoke a reaction and are invited for that purpose. So I’d be surprised if anything like that arose, especially since so many of the reviews have made persuasive arguments on behalf of the book.

CATHY YOUNG: Moving on to sexual misconduct, there’s been a lot of debate about whether Title IX is a good way to handle accusations of sexual assault on campus, or should we be channeling those complaints into the justice system and try to refer them as much as possible to the police for a real investigation. Where do you come down on that? Do you think the Title IX system just needs reform so that it doesn’t run roughshod over the rights of the accused the way it has recently, or do you think that we should be working toward deemphasizing it as much as possible and try to work within the actual justice system?

LAURA KIPNIS: The problem is, both sides are a mess. The obvious thing to say is that the campus system has been a kind of overcorrection in response to the feeling, and the actuality, that the justice system and the police have overlooked rape and sexual assault too much, and that it was too difficult for students who’d been assaulted to work their way through that system. The problem is that the on-campus system seems to be very unprocedural. They obviously don’t have the rules of evidence that you would want to see, but they also don’t have real fact-finding capabilities.

When a Title IX officer on campus does an investigation, she or he doesn’t have subpoena power, that kind of thing, and is free to ignore evidence that they want to ignore. I’m not a policy person; I’m a cultural critic. I was in a discussion the other night with Seamus Khan, who’s at Columbia and he’s a sociologist who works on these issues. So I said I thought, if you’re talking about rape, forcible sexual assault, these should be handled by the police—because, for one thing, to expel somebody is not sufficient punishment for assault. And he made the point, which is a good point, that one reason to avoid that system is that it’s often been very unfair to minorities, we know the situation of black men in the criminal justice system. So either way that you come down, there are huge problems.

CATHY YOUNG: Obviously, a lot of the cases that you’re discussing don’t rise to the level of criminal sexual assault, but they may involve one student behaving badly toward another. Do you think there is a place for some sort of campus system that could handle non-criminal but damaging conduct within the community, without necessarily labeling it as rape? 

LAURA KIPNIS: I think that’s a really interesting idea. Because I do think campuses are communities, and the idea of some sort of community judgment or community standards where grievances are brought forward and heard—it’s a really interesting idea. Because the fact is that there is a lot of shitty sexual behavior that goes on, and the majority of it is by men toward women, and anybody who thinks that’s not the case I think has their eyes closed. So, I’m very much in favor of emphasizing an educational approach to this, and especially educating women in how to get themselves out of situations that aren’t going well, out of situations that don’t feel good.

I really do think, the more students I talk to, that there are a lot of women having sex in ways that are either physically uncomfortable or emotionally injurious or some combination, or things have happened that they didn’t want to have happened, people are drunk out of their minds. And honestly, having some drunken guy on top of you who outweighs you by 80 lbs. may not be the world’s best experience. So, I think all that should be talked about more openly, in ways that stress education over regulation.

CATHY YOUNG: So, in a way, this whole debate over “is this rape or is it not rape” is taking us in the wrong direction, isn’t it?

LAURA KIPNIS: I would have to say, and maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned on this point—I think the dividing line is the use of physical force to [make someone] have sex, and I do think that’s a criminal matter.

CATHY YOUNG: Or if we’re talking about someone who is not just intoxicated but physically incapacitated, to the extent that they are unable to remove themselves from the situation.

LAURA KIPNIS: Absolutely true. But then you get into questions that are complicated—how drunk is too drunk to consent, the fact that people can be in a blackout state and seem conscious. I think people are trying to draw hard and fast lines, and Title IX investigators are in that position of making pronouncements in fuzzy situations.

CATHY YOUNG: One of the things that the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter [from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights] did with regard to sexual assault on campus, besides requiring a lower standard of proof for Title IX complaints, was to prohibit mediation in such cases. Yet it seems that in many of those gray-area situations—for instance, where someone felt pressured into sex but didn’t feel able to speak up—mediation would be a much better way to go. What’s your opinion on that?

LAURA KIPNIS: It seems like a strange mistake, and I don’t understand it at all. Some of these measures really push in the direction of policing and turning campuses into increasingly carceral atmospheres—where mediation I think would make much more sense, and would also be educational as opposed to punitive.

CATHY YOUNG: You mentioned before that there’s a lot of bad behavior going on sexually on campuses and most of it is by men toward women, and it includes women feeling pressured into things they don’t really want. To play devil’s advocate: do you think the way we see this is also partly rooted in very traditional ideas about sex being something men get from women? For instance, if it’s a guy having sex with a woman he wouldn’t have had sex with when he was sober, it’s difficult for people to see him as a victim, even if he feels bad about it the next day. There are studies where almost as many young men as women will say that at some point they went along with a sexual situation they didn’t want, but it’s not part of our cultural language to see these men as having been done wrong.

LAURA KIPNIS: My sense is that there are a lot of contradictory ideas or subjectivities floating around when it comes to gender and sex. I have the sense there are a lot of women students who have three or four different positions on it at once: on the one hand, they want to have sex like the guys, and this could be meaningless and they’ll be the aggressors in the situation and then they’ll ditch the guy, and that’s all fine, and then that kind of competes with this other position of feeling you have been wronged and that sort of thing.

I also do think there is a lot of gender traditionalism that comes out—I say this in the book—when people drink. The more people drink, you get the sense that men become more aggressive and women become more passive, partly because they’re just more incapacitated by alcohol. So it may be that there are guys who have sex in circumstances when they didn’t want to, I’m sure that’s completely true. I do think that men—maybe this is stereotyping, but men are the ones who are more willing to force a situation, to pressure somebody, to coerce, to plead, to persuade. Maybe women have other tactics that they use—that we use to get sex from a reluctant guy. But the problem is, you’ve got this gender traditionalism in the mix with this supposed gender neutrality—we’re all equal here, and girls and guys are all on an equal playing field.

CATHY YOUNG: Still, in some of the situations you discuss in your book—including the one with Ludlow, especially his relationship with the graduate student—the women are very aggressive at times, and may even be in a quasi-dominant position. So isn’t it a lot more complicated?

LAURA KIPNIS: With the grad student, I feel on firm ground saying that, because I read their text messages and emails. I definitely think that was more in love and she had more power in the relationship, partly because she had another [boyfriend]. That’s not something that gets taken into consideration in these proceedings.

CATHY YOUNG: You also mentioned this one case in which the woman sued [claiming she was too drunk to consent], and there was evidence that she had made aggressive sexual advances toward the accused and his friend—

LAURA KIPNIS: Yes, in Colorado.

CATHY YOUNG: And she did get a disciplinary finding against her, because the other man, the friend, made a complaint about her making non-consensual advances toward him.

LAURA KIPNIS: Yes, but that’s a case where she got a $800,000 settlement also.

CATHY YOUNG: And the accused man, in that case, another grad student, was expelled?

LAURA KIPNIS: Yes, he was.

CATHY YOUNG: That was another interesting example that seemed to go against a pattern of intoxicated women being more passive—she was anything but.

LAURA KIPNIS: That’s true—good point.

CATHY YOUNG: Are you familiar with the Amherst case where they were both drunk but he didn’t remember anything, and her text messages showed that she made advances toward him? It seems that in a lot of cases this is very complicated.

LAURA KIPNIS: I like the position that you take on it—in some ways, I agree with you, in other ways, I’m trying to balance all of this out. But I like that that’s what you stress—female agency.

CATHY YOUNG: A number of social conservatives, such as Wendy Shalit in A Defense of Modesty, have argued that the real problem is that we have been chasing a utopian idea of equality instead of recognizing that traditional norms served women best by assuming that they will not have sex in casual situations. Their argument is that those norms empowered women to say no [without having to justify it]. Do you think there is anything to this argument? Should we be more sensitive to traditional notions of sex differences, or go forward to more equality?

LAURA KIPNIS: I don’t find Shalit’s argument compelling at all. I don’t know where to even start with this. (laughs) The version of feminism I would subscribe to looks at historical structures as opposed to inborn [gender differences]. Maybe propensities are inborn, but I also think that these are social structures, and if you’re a feminist you want to push toward ones that allow for women and men to have equal lives and equal versions of autonomy and equality in personal lives. This idea of gender traditionalism as something to [aspire to]—this could not be more inimical to what I think.

CATHY YOUNG: Well, the argument some would make—in the book, you referred to an incident your mother had in which a professor was literally chasing her around the desk and she was batting him away, and you were saying it’s ironic that a woman in that pre-feminist era seemed to be more assertive in fending off unwanted male advances than many women seem to be in our feminist age. And this is where some would argue that partly, in that era, it was presumed that women would reject male advances; there was a social framework in which women were supported in say no or even slapping a man in the face if he was sexually aggressive.

LAURA KIPNIS: Oh, come on—there were also women getting raped, there wasn’t access to birth control. There has certainly been a tremendous amount of progress on the gender front. It’s not like you want to look backward with nostalgia at the good old days when professors were chasing women around [the desk]. I don’t, anyway.

CATHY YOUNG: One area that you didn’t really get into in the book is that there’s a racial angle to a number of these campus cases—minority men who are accused of sexually assaulting white women, and some of these accusations definitely have questionable circumstances. Do you find it odd that at a time when there is so much sensitivity to minority issues, and especially to the issue of minority men being mistreated by the police, there doesn’t seem to be much awareness of that in the progressive community on campus?

LAURA KIPNIS: I’ve heard that there are some student groups that are aware of that. There was some kind of conference—a student conference at Brown, I believe, a couple of years ago, and it was under the auspices of “fight the carceral versions of Title IX.” The term “carceral feminism,” I think, gets brought up by people—and I think it is feminists on the left, who call themselves leftists—who are trying to make that issue be known.

CATHY YOUNG: Do you see the situation [with regard to Title IX] changing at all under the Trump administration?

LAURA KIPNIS: I think everyone is waiting to see what [Betsy] DeVos and these new people in the OCR are going to do. I can only think that they’re going to dial back on the “Dear Colleague” letters. But the question is what that means on the ground because these infrastructures are already so much in place, and with the student activists there is so much pressure to keep the adjudication machinery going—the Department of Education might dial back and it still might not change on campus. I think what will change [the situation] is these cases moving through the civil courts, and some of the decisions that are coming down are really, I think, forcing campuses to review the due process issues. It does seem like it’s all heading for some kind of clash. When we all assumed that [Hillary] Clinton was going to be President, that’s what I assumed—that this would end up, perhaps, in the Supreme Court, over the constitutional issues that are raised by Title IX. At this point, I don’t know—I don’t think anyone is really predicting.

CATHY YOUNG: Perhaps the flip side of this is that the cultural left—for lack of a better word—has been incredibly energized by Donald Trump’s election. Could this lead to more pressure from campus activists? In the current atmosphere where so many people feel there is a “war on women” coming from Washington, do you think there is going to be more of a backlash against anything that’s seen as rolling back protections for women? 

LAURA KIPNIS: That’s a good point; I hadn’t really thought about it, but it makes sense to me. [But] like I said, I think that with more and more of these cases hitting the courts, I think that will achieve some kind of turnaround. Maybe Congress will also subject this to congressional review at some point.

CATHY YOUNG: With your book among others, do you that we will see more of a pushback in the liberal and progressive community against some of the overreach—not only on Title IX but on “safe spaces,” with regard to both sex and speech?

LAURA KIPNIS: I think there will be rethinking,  particularly as more information gets out. I think the issue is that, in terms of Title IX, the information isn’t out there because it’s all confidential. The book by [K.C.] Johnson and [Stuart] Taylor, I think, puts more information out there. I wish it had had a different title—Campus Rape Frenzy seemed to be appealing toward a certain crowd, toward right-wing or anti-feminist sensibilities. [But] it was really thoroughly researched, far better than my book on explicating the tangled history of Title IX.

I do think that people who consider themselves liberals are concerned, certainly, about speech issues. Any classic liberal is concerned about speech [and] due process issues, for sure.

CATHY YOUNG: As far as getting more information out there, do you think the confidentiality rules for Title IX cases should be relaxed?

LAURA KIPNIS: Yes, absolutely. I don’t see a reason for it, particularly since these cases are hitting civil courts and a lot of them under “Doe” directives, where it’s “Jane Doe” and other pseudonyms in the cases. There should be far more transparency than there is. That doesn’t mean people’s names have to be used. But I do think that, as I exposed some of this information because these documents were not, as far as I understood it, confidential—I think just people reading about how these decisions are made and how preponderance is achieved has been shocking for some people, who thought this was all a fair process.

CATHY YOUNG: That was one of the fascinating things in your book—you shed a lot of light on what exactly goes on with the preponderance standard, where it seems to be a matter of, as you put it, either guesswork or caprice.

One final question: at one point, there was an active group called Feminists for Free Expression, which did a great deal to counteract the Dworkin-MacKinnon anti-porn feminism. Is there a need for a group, either feminist or more broadly progressive, in opposition to some of the speech and sex regulations that we’re seeing now?

LAURA KIPNIS: I would love that. You know, my sense is that there are a lot of people who are afraid to say what they really think. People have said that to me personally and in emails. They want to be seen as being on the right side of these issues. But the more people speak out about the bizarre experiences that they’ve had, the sort that I’ve had, and talk about what’s going on behind closed doors—maybe more people will come forward, and such a group would be a possibility.

Racial Conflict on an Unlikely Campus

St. Olaf, a tiny Lutheran college in rural Minnesota, a very liberal campus where four of every five students backed Hillary Clinton for president and where conservative and pro-Trump students have been cursed and threatened, is the improbable site of the latest campus racial conflict. Black students took over the cafeteria during dinner, blocked entrances and boycotted classes Monday to protest seven typed and written racist statements discovered on campus in recent weeks.

Over the weekend, a black student reported having found a note on the windshield of her car that read: “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less n‑‑‑‑‑ that this school must deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up, or I will shut you up.” Students gathered Saturday night inside a student union building, chanting: “This ends now.”

“The students have taken over the campus like a coup,” Kathryn Hinderaker, vice president of the College Republicans, told The College Fix in a telephone interview Monday.

A source who reached out to The College Fix on Monday via email said a friend of hers was working in the library Saturday evening and was allegedly pushed aside by a throng of student protesters who demanded she turn over the library intercom for them to make an announcement.

Related: THE FLAW IN THIS RACIAL HOAX: SHE SPELLED ONE NAME RIGHT–HER OWN

“When she refused, they stormed the circulation desk and forcibly grabbed the intercom mic to make their announcement,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous for safety concerns. “They also ripped the phone out of her hand and off the wall when she tried to call the police.”

Though the reported racist statements, including “go back to Africa,” may have been the work of one or two individuals, the protesters insist that “these racially charged reported and unreported hate crimes are not driven by individual incidents or students, but an ideology that is continuously supported by the administration’s lack of action and the student body’s harmful attitudes.”

College President David Anderson met with protesters in the afternoon and signed an agreement on how to proceed with addressing issues of racism. The agreement seemed to accept the protesters’ view that institutional racism is the core problem at St. Olaf. As part of their terms, students demanded the creation of a task force led by “two faculty members of color” and “three students and one alumni member of color.”

Related: ADD BABSON TO THE LIST OF CAMPUS HOAXES

In addition to their terms and conditions, students put together a separate list of demands, which includes the creation and enforcement of “a comprehensive racial awareness and inclusiveness curriculum” and a revision of the school’s general education requirements to include “mandatory introductory courses in Race & Ethnic Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies departments.”

On March 21, the student newspaper Manitou Messenger interviewed 12 St. Olaf students and several reported having been violently threatened because of their political beliefs, and almost all of them said they felt as though they can’t speak up about politics on campus – in class, online or with their friends.

On the night of the election, a student threatened to beat up College Republicans President Emily Schaller, calling her a “f***ing moron.” Over the next couple of days, she said she overheard multiple students threaten to hurt the next conservative or Republican they saw. Vice President of St. Olaf College Republicans Kathryn Hinderaker said she had a similar experience.

Related: A CONSERVATIVE HATE CRIME HOAX

In the past few days, several anti-white posters appeared on campus.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the AP, and The Washington Post all covered this story, but none mentioned how unlikely it is that a remote liberal campus with only 30 or so black students should be the site of an anti-black crusade. One site, Legal Insurrection, mentioned the possibility of a hoax: “The racist notes at St. Olaf could be real, but this situation is unfolding in a manner similar to the great Oberlin College racism hoax of 2013, in which racist posters were placed on campus by liberal students who wanted to start a dialogue. If you wanted to force your school to mandate race and gender classes, planting racist notes on campus then expressing outrage about it and making demands would be one way to achieve it.”

At other colleges where racist statements or attacks have been reported, many have turned out to be hoaxes, as here, here, here, here, here and here.

Self-Censorship Is Easy to Learn, Particularly in Dormitories

William Deresiewicz is an essayist and author of two books, Excellent Sheep, the Miseducation of the American Elite and A Jane Austen Education:  How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. He was born in Englewood, N.J. in 1964, graduated from Columbia, taught at Scripps and Yale and now is a full-time writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is a contributor to The Nation and The New Republic. This interview, conducted by Minding the Campus editor John Leo, took place on April 13.

John: You wrote a recent article on political correctness in The American Scholar which drew an unusually high amount of traffic and focused on the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.

Bill: The high-profile disinvitations of conservative speakers are probably the best example of PC. But much more pervasive is the constant policing of what everybody says on campus. Mainly the policing of peers by other peers. What they say, things they wear, the language they use. My students understood that there was always something new that they weren’t supposed to say, but they often didn’t find out what it was until after they said it.

John: You said that self-censorship is an easy thing to learn, particularly in dormitories.

Bill: Yes.  Self-censorship sets in very quickly once you’ve been censored. And in the hothouse environment of a college campus where people are living in close quarters and very invested in the good opinion of their peers, it can be very intense.   What’s missing is the core purpose of a liberal education, inquiry into the fundamental human questions, undertaken through rational argument, not the “ustalk” of PC consensus.

John: And then rather quickly in the article, you come to the conclusion that selective private colleges have in effect become religious schools. Explain.

Bill: I think one of the central ways this phenomenon can be understood is that those schools, in particular, are enforcing a certain ideology which has many of the characteristics of religion. And I mean I think it’s a useful way to understand it. I think it’s also an intentionally provocative way because part of that ideology part of that religion is itself to be anti-religious to be militantly secular and very hostile to religion and especially to Christianity.

John: Explain that dogma. I was just going to say you list some aspects of the dogma of this religion.

Bill: I mean obviously there’s a strong emphasis on identity categories and identity politics particularly the categories of race, gender and sexuality. There is also as I said the secularism itself and I think the last element I lift is environmentalism. Now I should say, I mean some of these things are things that I share. I mean I believe that environmental concerns are extremely urgent. The problem is how it gets translated into a dogma rather than what should happen in college which is that people have genuine arguments and you might actually change your mind about things.

John: You say students seldom disagree with one another anymore in class. Why is that?

Bill: As one student said, we all have more or less the same set of opinions, so there isn’t that much to disagree about. Obviously, another aspect is this enforcement of a consensus so that if you do disagree, you’re often very reluctant to say so. And then I think that there’s a general sort of generational attitude that it’s really important to be nice and not confrontational and to support everybody. And you know disagreement, and certainly, the argument is seen as a form of aggression rather than disagreement.

John: And you say where there’s dogma there’s going to be heresy. Right?

Bill: Yeah. I mean one aspect of seeing these places as religious communities or religious institutions is how they deal with defense. When I say that there’s going to be heresy, I  mean that that disagreement will be perceived not as a minority opinion but an impermissible and morally offensive opinion.

John: Right. And you say any challenge to the hegemony of identity politics will get you branded as a racist. As in don’t talk to that guy, he’s a racist.

Bill: Right. And again, I’m using a certain amount of hyperbole. But I’ve heard over and over again from students themselves that this has happened to them, or it’s happened to people that they know.

John: Talk about virtue. You mention there’s a sense that not only is the truth possessed but that the group or the religion is in full possession of virtue– we don’t just have perfect wisdom we embody it with perfect innocence. How does that work?

Bill: Well I mean again and let me also say that this is hardly something that’s confined to the left or to college campuses. I mean we certainly see this on the right. But I’m specifically concerned that it’s happening in colleges. And college is where it should not be happening.

So what I’m talking about is the very clearly embodied attitude, that we don’t need to argue about a large range of fundamental issues because we already know the right answer. But also, that because these tend to be social issues like identity, because we possess the right answer we are morally superior to those who disagree, and that’s why we are entitled to have content for them, to silence them, even to demonize them.

John: And you also say I’m jumping a little bit here that there is less interest in a critical mentality and learning about how to live a good life and how to develop and what you should do in life there’s less emphasis on that.

Bill: And what I’m talking about is the core purpose of a college education is to debate, to debate within yourself, what is true and good. So instead of debating, the questions that political correctness regards as settled are precisely the questions that college should open up to debate. And again for everybody, not just for people on the left but also for people on the right.

John: And the people who are unapproved or demonized on campus are conservatives, religious students, particularly Christians, students identified as Zionists, athletes and white males in general. Right?

Bill: Broadly speaking that’s correct.

John: How did that come to be. Why is the white male a demonized figure?

Bill: Well I mean this sort of grows out of a lot of the thought on the left for decades and it’s implicit in the premises of identity politics. It’s the idea that we live in a society that’s dominated by white racial supremacy and male gender domination. I actually agree with those premises. I do think we live in a society where there is still great systemic racism and great systemic sexism, and I think it’s foolish to deny that. The problem is what you do with that.  I think one of the unfortunate things that political correctness does, especially in college campuses does, is that it stigmatizes individual white people and individual males and especially white men, especially straight white men. As if they were responsible for the systemic situation and that somehow by treating them as lesser it would it would actually help the systemic situation. This is revenge. This is confusing equality with revenge, but equality is not revenge.

John: And you say that race, sex, and gender are the dominant categories, of course, but what happens to class? In your opinion, class has not really been considered, right?

Bill: So what I go on to say here, I mean we can talk about everything we just talked about and the development of a kind of religion on the left, but in the second half of the piece I connect this to things I’ve written about with higher education before. Which is that what this really is about especially at elite college campuses is concealing the role of class, because class is the one identity category that we never talk about– not in society in general and not in a system of political correctness in particular.

But it is the purpose of elite colleges to reproduce class. They mainly enroll affluent students. And the purpose of affluent families sending their kids to those schools is to make sure that their kids remain affluent, so we’re reproducing the class. But obviously,  if you are a liberal, if you’re a progressive, that would cause enormous cognitive dissonance. You would be embodying the thing that you’re pretending to fight — inequality. So political correctness provides a cover, and it enables you to say you’re actually morally virtuous because you’re against racism and you’re against sexism and unable to conceal the fact that all that may be true, but you are embodying classism.

John: I just wanted to say the politically correct culture, in lumping all whites together loses all nuance. You lose the Appalachian whites and other struggling whites who may have voted for Trump in rebellion against this regime.

Bill: That’s exactly right. Even before we get to working-class whites, as a Jewish person, I resent being lumped together with all of the white people because of my historical exposure; my personal experience is not the same as every white person. But you were talking about this other thing. So there’s a whole missing class on elite college campuses. The college campuses have, and I think admirably made an effort to include historically marginalized groups, people of color. I think that’s good. But then they can point to the socioeconomic distribution of their student bodies and say look, you know 10, 15, 20 percent of our students come from lower-income groups. Which isn’t very many anyway but, fine, it’s better than nothing. But the vast majority of those are non-white.

So 40 percent of America, which is the white working class, is essentially excluded from elite college campuses. You know, here or there you’ll meet someone from that background and they tend to feel extremely alienated. Because that class is absent from the campus, it’s possible to pretend they don’t exist. Which I think was the huge liberal mistake in 2016, or it’s possible to demonize them which was the other liberal mistake in 2016, they can be dismissed, they’re deplorable, whatever. So I think that there are real social and political implications of raising an elite in complete ignorance of this huge chunk of the country.

John: Your theme seemed to shift a little bit. Your theme that on the whole, the PC-infected people don’t study to learn about the human condition or to find their place in the world. Since they have a sense that they have all the truth they need. Is that fair? I mean I interviewed Harvey Mansfield last year, and he said something very similar about the kids at Harvard. He said they don’t think there’s anything more for them to learn. Which I thought was surprising then, but now it seems to make more sense in light of your views.

Bill:  I think that that’s absolutely right. I mean listen let’s differentiate. They’re there to learn certain chosen and specialized body of knowledge I don’t think they would ever say that there are more to learn about biology or economics or English literature if that’s what they’re studying. But that’s sort of the technocratic education. That’s education to become an expert. That’s kind of said over again on one side. The side that I’m talking about that I imagine Mansfield was talking about is sort of self-knowledge is sort of social wisdom for lack of a better word. It’s moral knowledge. The sense that your own exploration about what a good person and a good society are has more room to go. I think that’s what’s not being, let me say, listen, I don’t think that’s anything new about being eighteen. I mean I was like that when I was eighteen. What’s new is that the colleges aren’t doing anything to disrupt it, for a variety of reasons some of which we haven’t really talked about.

John: If you were to project reform what would it consist of? What should we do about the condition we are in?

Bill: There are so many things. Partly because as we’ve been saying these things are rooted in some pretty broad problems. But you know, what I say in is that if we’re going to talk about campus speech, I think the rule of thumb should be the First Amendment. OK, so no speech codes. No disinviting speakers. If it’s permitted by the First Amendment, it should be permitted on campus. And if it bothers people that’s part of what free speech means.  It means tolerating the speech of others even and especially when it bothers you.

Beyond that, I certainly think that we need admissions policies that give preferential advantage not just to marginalize racial groups but also to class. I think we need class-based affirmative action in addition to or instead of race-based affirmative action. And then more broadly, and this is sort of what my last book, Excellent Sheep, was about. We’ve entrusted the training of our elites to a set of private institutions that will have their own interests that they will serve first. That training should involve broader leadership.

Instead, what we really set out to do in the 1960s and did all the way through the 1970s was have great, free public higher education. And if you look back at the colleges that each of the major party presidential candidates went to since Harry Truman in 1948, and for the first few decades after the war, almost all of them went to public universities. A few of them, like Truman, didn’t go to college at all. Since ‘88 they’ve all gone. Almost all of them have gone to private, basically Ivy League or equivalent colleges and graduate school.

This is a problem, but it’s a problem essentially created by the tax revolt. You know we decided that we weren’t going to pay for other people’s kids to get a good education. So you only end up screwing yourself, because you’re going to have kids some day too. And you’re going to want them to be able to go, not take out $50,000 in loans to go to college or not have to go to a public university that’s desperately underfunded.

John: Say something if you will about the leadership at the colleges. I run this site on the universities. We have a lot of articles on Yale, and we watch it pretty carefully. They run kangaroo courts, let the feminists expand the definition of sexual assault and investigate a professor without telling him and for some reason, have a major disruption over Halloween costumes–just amazing that a major university could behave that way. Do you know about that?

Bill. Yeah. Sure.

John: Well I thought what you said about the students being in the saddle all these days was what made me think about Yale right away because one of the students really abused the Christakises — husband and wife professors — threatened them, cursed them, and got no penalty at all for that, no suspension, no expulsion. Whereas the two Christakises were driven off campus. That sort of made me think of your comment that the kids are in the saddle now and the teachers are teaching with their tails between their legs.

Bill: That’s absolutely right. Take the Middlebury incident where their teacher was assaulted. I haven’t been following the aftermath carefully, but I don’t think anyone was expelled or maybe even suspended over that.

John: They said something would happen. They always say that. They said that at Berkeley. “Just you wait and see what we do.” That sort of thing and then there’s often a special commission that reports just the day before Christmas. I don’t think anybody’s been expelled anywhere. And the current routine is not to make any arrests, so nobody gets punished that way. So what do you think about that system?

Bill: Well here’s what I think about it because I dealt with it as a professor, at Yale and elsewhere. But it’s not specifically about what we’re talking about -– abusing teachers. But for instance, when students plagiarized they were never properly punished. And I remember one case where a student (it was the most cut and dried version of plagiarism you could possibly imagine). And when I reported it to the Dean, I said promise me that this time there’ll be consequences.

And of course, in the end, there were no consequences. These schools have come to treat their students as customers. They will almost never throw a student out, no matter what they do. They don’t want students to feel like they’re not going to graduate. Graduation rates are also a part of the U.S. News & World Report statistics.

No one’s ever going to flunk out at this point. Not going to happen. Even just giving students an F in one class is more or less impossible. And that’s the process. Once you’ve done that and once it’s become clear to students that they can basically get away with anything

John: Back up a little bit. It seems to me that in your analysis you’re really saying that the kids at the elite colleges are not really getting an education. Are you saying that?

Bill: Well. Yeah. I’ve said that.

John: Well then that’s a serious problem. If you can’t get a good education at Yale, Harvard or Princeton, where are you going to get it? And if something is that radically wrong, what should we do about it?

Bill:  Well again let’s say a couple of things. First of all, if we’re talking about education in a narrow sense and a technocratic sense, I would not say that that’s not true. I mean they certainly are producing very well qualified scientists and blah blah blah. So that’s not what I’m saying. I’m talking about education of a different kind. Outside of the sciences, it’s often very difficult to really have an intellectually rigorous education. There are some schools still do it.

Reed College in Portland is one of those schools. There are other schools that I can name. It’s rare. It tends to be bad for business. But listen, I’m not sure that American society cares that much. People go to college to get credentialed. If it’s a prestigious college, they want a leg up. They want to be injected into the elite at high speed. These colleges still serve those purposes. I don’t think people care whether someone’s getting a rigorous education. Sometimes employers will complain, and employers have complained in surveys and studies that relatively few people they hire are really equipped to do the kind of thinking that they want them to be able to do.

John: But aside from the scientists, who have to deal with ideas and technical training, a lot of kids just float through the four years and then do nothing. Manhattan Institute, where I was for several years, got drawn into concern about education because employers in New York City couldn’t even hire kids for drudge work out of college. They just couldn’t function at all. So the quality problem stretches from top to bottom of the spectrum of brains.

Bill: It certainly isn’t a problem just at the fancy expensive schools. I don’t think that our public universities or third-tier schools are necessarily doing a good job either.

John: I wanted to ask you one or two questions about the earlier book Excellent Sheep, out in 2014. You were saying in effect that we have been churning out blinkered overachievers and conformists.

Bill: Yeah. Again there are exceptions but I mean, that’s right.

John: If you were doing that book again, how would you change it? Is there anything different that you would put it in now?

Bill: No, because I mean I’ve been thinking and writing, speaking, listening, reading about this for years before I wrote the book. Since then I would say the main thing that I’ve learned is just how widespread the things I described are. I mean I was talking about elite private and even elite public colleges. Say a hundred, hundred fifty institutions in the United States. Now it’s a broader trend.

What I’ve discovered is that a lot of what I’m talking about is true at many colleges in other countries and in K through 12 education as well. That is sort of a systemic problem. I blame the admissions process, still a big culprit. But really I think it’s about the way our ideas globally about education and what it’s for have changed. And if we see education simply as being in the business of producing workers for the job market, this is where we’re going to get. I mean it may be paradoxical because as you said, we’re not even doing a good job doing that.

I think it’s because we’ve set the terms so narrowly that we think that if we have kids solving equations 5 hours a day from the time they’re 6 years old we’re somehow going to produce good engineers. That’s not how it works. You need to produce a human being, and a human being is also going to be the best worker because there are going to be able to think for themselves. But we have you know we’ve tried to make education as efficient as possible. It’s like if a Martian were asked to design education that didn’t really know anything about actual human beings. So you try to leave out all the parts that supposedly aren’t necessary, but they are necessary.

And ironically you know we’re doing a lot of this because we feel the heat from our East Asian and South Asian competitors. They seem to be doing a better job. But actually, those very countries are looking at us and saying how can we become innovative? How can we move up the value chain so that we’re not just assembling products that are designed in California? And their answer has been we need our students to get more liberal arts. We need to be able to think flexibly and creatively. But we’re going in the opposite direction because we somehow think that those things are frills.

John: OK. Let me switch back to the earlier discussion. Isn’t there a long-term price to pay when you allow a culture to dominate the elite institutions and maybe even some of the publics based on racial antagonism toward whites. And sometimes Jews too because the BDS stuff has really gotten out of control. Don’t we pay a price letting that go on and not doing anything about it?

Bill: To me, the left just paid an unbelievably large price for this last year. I mean I’m not saying this is solely responsible for the election of Donald Trump. But you saw in Hillary Clinton in her campaign in the Democratic Party establishment the consequences of exactly what we’re talking about. People who really do think that the Democratic elite is out of touch not just with the people who voted for Trump, they’re out of touch with a lot of people who voted for them.

Among the elites are a lot of people completely ignorant of anybody who isn’t exactly like them, and they can’t understand how anybody could have a different opinion once you’ve explained things to them clearly enough. And I think it’s because their whole life their whole training their whole education has been in this bubble of other liberal elites whether it’s at the colleges or before that at the private schools or the wealthy suburban public school.

John: But I’m thinking in terms of the whole of American culture.. All my friends say don’t worry about these kids that are shouting down speakers once they get out in the real world, they’ll learn. What if the real world is like these kids, grown up? Maybe they can carry the adult world with them. What if there’s a huge lobby for the Supreme Court to find a big hole in the first amendment for hate speech.

Bill: Yes. I mean whether we’re actually going modify the First Amendment, I’m skeptical. I would say that we already see it in the culture at large. We see it in those parts of culture that are dominated by liberals. We see it in Hollywood. We see it in the conversation the liberal media. Listen, I don’t think conservatives have anything to feel smug or complacent about with respect to this because I think they enforce norms just as ruthlessly on their side.

But obviously, we’re all suffering from the fact that American society has largely been divided into two mutually hostile religions. Each of which is self-contained in this way. So yeah, I mean I think we’re paying that price. I don’t think left political correctness is solely responsible for it, but I certainly think it bears a lot of the blame.

John: Last question:  Do you have any ideas for reform or to obliterate or at least dent this tendency of partisanship and the antagonism behind the PC ?

Bill: Well, I mean you asked me before about what colleges can do in terms of admitting more white working-class students, changing their own attitude about speech on campus, about how they treat their students as customers. I think the larger sort of polarization in American culture is going to be very difficult to address.

And I don’t think that there are easy solutions. I think that we need to I think probably on each side the left within itself and the right within itself we need to change the norms. And like I said in The American Scholar piece, radical feminists are attacking other radical feminists. So I think in general we need to listen even within our own camps as a way to start to begin to listen to each other. But the way you begin to listen to other people is by starting with a recognition that you don’t know everything and that you aren’t the most moral person in the world and we seem to be so addicted to moral superiority. I mean I think there’s some truth to the idea that this is America’s sort of Puritan nature coming out again. You know, everyone is a member of a tiny group of the elect.

John: Good. Thanks very much for your time, Bill.

Colleges Still Lack Integrity on Canceled Speeches

At Middlebury, where Charles Murray was prevented from speaking about the disintegrating white working class, college president Laurie Patton made some appropriate comments on the need for free speech. But her remarks seemed slightly out of focus, as if the crisis revolved around discord between two groups of students, not basic freedom of expression, and that the job of Middlebury was to help guide disputing factions into getting along.

In a March 4 statement to the campus, Patton wrote: “The protests and confrontations in response to Charles Murray’s appearance laid bare deep divisions in our community. The campus feels different than it did before. It will take time and much effort to come together, and what the future ultimately looks like may not be anyone’s ideal—at least not for a while. We have much to discuss—our differences on the question of free speech and on the role of protest being two of the most pressing examples.”

This is verbal dithering. Free speech is not a “question” for discussion. It’s an essential need of any college or university. Without free expression, a college or university becomes a seminary for the dominant campus faction. Or as liberal scholar Robert Reich, puts it, “colleges become playpens.” Patton calls for everyone to submit community-building ideas for consideration. Compare Patton’s meandering comments to this focused one from a column by John Daniel Davidson of the Federalist:

“Our college students have come to this impasse in large part because their parents, high school teachers, college professors, and school officials have all failed them. They have not only refused to instill in them a reverence for the First Amendment, they have taught them to despise the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the very things that protect their right to protest. In so doing, they have turned them into the thing they claim to despise most: fascists.”

Note that 65 of Middlebury’s professors signed a statement strongly backing free speech. Good. But that’s just one-fifth of the faculty; 240 didn’t sign. Nationally, faculties have not been a factor in supporting free speech. As in most issues of college decline, they have been quiet onlookers. Meanwhile, a few people on the left dream of a hate-speech exception to the First Amendment, or think the exception has already been made. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean tweeted on April 20, “Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.” He is quite wrong.

Another concern is the endless delay.  Patton warned that sorting out the facts of the March 2 shout-down of Murray would take time. Nine weeks later, with classes at Middlebury ending in mid-May, many are concerned about the administration running out the clock without suspending or expelling any of the perpetrators.

Since February 1, when violent and masked demonstrators, canceled Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, starting fires, tossing Molotov cocktails, beating people in the crowd and giving at least two people concussions, we count ten campus speeches or events disrupted or canceled on campuses. The responses by the colleges and universities has been meek with little taste for standing up to the visiting thugs.

When Yiannopoulos attempted to speak at Berkeley, police kept inside a building making no attempt to take control while the riot proceeded outside. Primary administrators (Patton at Middlebury, Chancellor Nicolas Dirks at Berkeley) have let us know at length what they think of Murray and Yiannopoulos. But nobody cares what their opinions are, just that they will act responsibly to keep the peace and let free expression proceed.

Meeting no resistance, violent agitators are likely to push further each time, though the end of the school year may postpone increasingly disastrous behavior. But college administrations will have to change and defend their campuses. That will mean a willingness to make arrests, to expel anyone showing up for a campus talk in a mask, to film the disruptions and to make decisions on penalties before months of delay have passed.

The disruptions and violence aren’t going to fade without some show of resistance. Keep in mind that the University of Missouri, after offering no resistance to Ferguson-related riots on campus, had to close four of its dormitories because many fewer students cared to attend a university that couldn’t keep the peace.

The University of California, Berkeley, after canceling Anne Coulter’s scheduled speech and hearing that she was determined to deliver it on April 27, announced that she would have to deliver it on May 2, a dead time on the academic calendar. This is gamesmanship, showing only the university’s disdain for the speaker. Having flubbed the Yiannopoulos speech, the university plays games with the Coulter talk. When will the colleges and universities act with basic integrity?

Some Faculty Say Diversity Lowers Academic Quality

Harvey Mudd College has been roiled by a self-study, informally titled the Wabash report, that referred to some anonymous faculty declaring that efforts to promote diversity in the student body had lowered the quality of the school.  At first, the school tried to block publication or censor parts of the report, completed in 2015, but leaks began and The Student Life, the school newspaper, ran what it said was the full report on March 24 of this year.

In a letter to students four days later, the Faculty Executive Committee wrote: “A small number among our faculty have expressed their concern that the admission of women and marginalized students has led to a lowering of standards, but a majority of faculty members disagree. One only has to examine student performance in a wide range of courses to see that the intellectual richness we love at Harvey Mudd has been enhanced by a diverse student body.” The report has still not been officially released.

Science and math are important at Harvey Mudd, one of five liberal arts colleges in the Claremont consortium that also include Pomona, Scripps, Pitzer, and Claremont McKenna, plus two graduate schools.

A committee examining the Harvey Mudd classroom environment commissioned a study from the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College in Indiana. Two representatives from the center visited campus and conducted focus groups with students and faculty members. The reference in the Wabash report to possible student decline from diversity efforts is low-key, vaguely attributed and brief:

“…a significant number of faculty thought that Harvey Mudd students had, over time, become less capable of, and less interested in, meeting the challenge of Mudd’s difficult curriculum. While it is not unusual for us to hear faculty lament ‘the decline in the quality of students,’ what was unusual, in our experience, was that many students had heard and felt this sentiment from some of their faculty. The students had also heard that they weren’t as good as Mudd students in the past because there are more women and underrepresented ethnic minorities at Mudd now. While some students brushed off these comments, others either resented them or took them to heart.”

The report spends a good deal of time discussing the lack of student interest in the college’s honor code and even more time on students’ feelings that the pace and the amount of work required at Mudd are too heavy and relentless. The long list of student complaints included these:

“I realized there would be more flexibility in college, but it was much harder than I thought it would be.” • “You’re always thinking, what’s the next thing to do?” • “I have no extra time for anything really.” • “I know I’m not procrastinating because I don’t have the time. I worry that my shower takes too long.” • “I want to have time to go to the store, buy food, get a haircut, do laundry, but I can’t because anytime I spend doing that is time I’m spending not doing homework.” • “Usually I stop when everything is done for the next day, but there’s always more stuff to do.” • “The first semester is hard but doable. It’s not as bad because it is pass/fail. The second semester is horrible. I was working so much, and I don’t remember anything.” • “I felt like I was being clubbed in the head by problem sets.”

Faculty comments about student workload and its impact included: “Mudd has an oppressive curriculum.” • “‘Happy’ is not a common way of describing Mudd students.” • “When they graduate, a good chunk of Mudd students aren’t sure if they would do it again. • “There are no role models for students here. HMC seniors are burnt-out. They’re not inspiring students to develop good habits.” • “All students can do physics here. They just can’t do it with all the other things they have to do.” • “Play is not an institutional value here.” • “Students don’t have time to reflect or relax. “Students are stretched so thin that if any little thing goes wrong, it all blows up.”

Student protesters concentrated on more mental health services, possibly because the faculty comments on diversity lowering school quality were tucked away in an unreleased report run only in the school paper. They wanted funding for mental health services to be boosted every year by 25 percent until the 2021-22 academic year. They called for a release of the student affairs office’s budget, and additional money — $3,000 each — for six student groups that represent minority interests on campus.

The administration also should carve out dedicated spaces in the college’s new academic building for each of these six groups, they wrote. When administrators didn’t respond to the demands, the students staged a sit-in April 12.

Later that week, students organized a march around campus and presented administrators with their demands. They want five new counselors for the coming academic year, with three of them being people of color. “When administrators didn’t respond to the demands, the students staged the sit-in April 12.

Maria Klawe, the college president, compromised on some of the student requests at the sit-in. She will provide $1,500 to each of the six minority student groups, a one-time allocation, with the administrators willing to consider more in the future.

DePaul—The Worst University for Free Speech?

In February, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) named DePaul University as one of the worst 10 universities for the protection of free speech. It was not the first time that DePaul has been on FIRE’s radar.  Most recently DePaul University was in the news for actions which have blocked conservative speakers and limited the ability of the College Republicans and the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to get their message out to the DePaul campus.

No Milo, No Shapiro

Over the summer DePaul denied permission for the conservative students to host a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial Breitbart editor whose talk the previous spring at DePaul had been closed down by protesters. Permission to invite Ben Shapiro to give a talk in the fall was also denied, in this case, because of fears of disruptive protests.

At the start of the school year, the school administration required the DePaul Socialists to spend about $360 for security personnel because it featured a talk about Marxism. According to the administrators, the topic was controversial. A request to put up a poster advertising the College Republicans featuring the slogan Unborn Lives Matter was denied permission by the university which claimed it was an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement. In November at a talk by Christina Sommers, the conservative students arranged for Shapiro to attempt to join Sommers at the event. When he was blocked by campus police from joining the event, there was a prearranged walk out and reassembly at a nearby off- campus venue where Shapiro could be heard.

Fear of Chalkings

The latest round of conflicts started in April 2016, when conservative DePaul students chalked pro-Trump slogans around campus, including “Build the Wall,” “Blue Lives Matter,” “Stand with Israel,” “Abortion is Murder” and “Trump 16.” The following morning the chalkings had all been cleaned off, and the administration banned further chalkings on the grounds that they could threaten DePaul’s status as a tax-exempt 501 (3C) institution. In response, the conservative students arranged an on-campus talk by the Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos that was ended by rowdy protesters who wrested away his microphone and refused to let the event continue.

Administrators had forced the conservative students to pay a considerable fee for security. As the event unfolded, not only did the DePaul security not intervene to halt the disruption, but the university administration instructed police not to interfere. So conservative students had been forced to pay a lot of money for a security force that in essence participated in the cancellation of the event.

The protesting students used the social media response as the central point of their protest over the president’s handling of the issue. First, as reported by the school newspaper, he was widely criticized at a meeting with angry students. Later, at a meeting with faculty, he was viciously assailed by a group of activist professors, many of whom called for him to resign. Somehow, in the space of a few days, the student disrupters had gone from aggressors to victims and the conservative students had gone from victims to victimizers.

‘Too Conservative’

These events have not occurred in a vacuum. I recently retired from DePaul after 27 years, and I can say without hesitation that DePaul has a nasty habit of suppressing views which are considered “too conservative.” The university president disingenuously says that DePaul only forbids speech that is intended to wound.

There is an activist core of faculty and administrators who believe that the purpose of education is to instill a set of liberal talking points in its students. This is done through its hiring practices, both academic and administrative, its curriculum development, its regulation of student groups, and when pushed, through the outright suppression of contrary views.

The university president is quoted above in the school newspaper saying “As we experienced last spring, it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the quad, or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall. In both recent cases, the first, we encourage; the second, we abhor.” With all due respect, this quote is a perfect example of a straw man argument. No group was asking permission to chalk up the sidewalk with bigoted slogans or place nooses in residence halls. What has been banned is Ben Shapiro who expresses conservative positions and a poster that borrowed its phrasing from the slogan “Black Lives Matter” to express opposition to abortion.

The recent events didn’t happen in a vacuum. DePaul has a long history of using its resources to promote one-sided positions on gun control, the Iraq War, American foreign policy, the Arab/Israeli conflict, gay rights, immigration, crime and police accountability. At times it has shown hostility towards students and faculty who run afoul of the prevailing campus orthodoxies. What has made DePaul stand out is there is no pretense of objectivity. There is an influential body of faculty and administrators who believe the core mission of the university is to promote what could be summed up as “The Progressive Agenda.” While they claim to be promoting dialogue on issues such as race and gender, the easy use of terms such as racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, sexist, and ableist guarantee that there will never be an honest discussion of such issues.

DePaul’s free speech controversies over the years cannot be extracted from the political climate that has been promulgated as part of its mission.

An Urban Mission

I started teaching at DePaul in 1987, and though initially I heard comments about an urban mission, the school seemed basically normal. This began to change in 1990 with the acceptance of a several million dollar Lilly Foundation grant to develop programs in multiculturalism. In the fall of 1990, a series of workshops were held, mostly around themes of identity.

In June 1994, then President of DePaul Jack Minogue authorized the creation of a large task force (The Multiculturalism Committee or MIC) made up of faculty, administrators, and students, to make recommendations on how DePaul could start to infuse multiculturalism into all of its activities. On February 7, 1995, Minogue sent out a memo to the entire university community with the report of the MIC and a statement pledging the university to work to implement its recommendations.

The recommendations began with a discussion of how to define multiculturalism including the reports working definition:

Multiculturalism is an approach and praxis that seeks to eliminate prejudice and bias of any type, conscious or unconscious, individual or institutional, which serves as a barrier to the survival and self-determination of individuals and communities. For example, a multicultural approach to scholarship and teaching is one which gives priority to the inclusion of those communities and cultures which have been historically disenfranchised, oppressed or excluded; seeks to equalize unequal power relations between groups, and strives to lessen the disparity between the privileged and those less privileged. Reaffirming their humanity and cultures as creators of knowledge and makers of history, these communities then redefine power relations and as such forge the transformation of knowing and place.

Uprooting Prejudice

The report describe the committee’s task as “not to impose a new orthodoxy, but to uproot the traditions of prejudice, exclusion, bias, racism, classism, ageism and homophobia, embedded in the academy as a whole and within our respective fields, in part by advancing an agenda that is by definition constant and critical.”

An extensive set of recommendations followed that segmented into General recommendations, faculty subcommittee recommendations, student subcommittee recommendations, and staff subcommittee recommendations. The various subcommittee recommendations were further segmented into very specific timelines for implementations. There were, for example, a total of 35 recommendations from the student subcommittee, 25 for the first year alone.

Among the first year recommendation for faculty was the proposal to enhance opportunities for faculty needing protection (i.e., women, racial ethnic and religious groups; non-heterosexuals and the physically disabled) to participate on committees with authority to affect change in the institution or to advance to positions of leadership on specific committees; and include for participation those perceived as aggressive and/or radical.

The student recommendations for the first year included the demand that the student newspaper be used as a forum for making the DePaul community aware of issues facing students regarding multiculturalism, increase student aid and scholarship money for minority students, and add a question on the instructor/class evaluation form to inquire regarding the sensitivity of the instructor and the extent to which the course attempts to address multiculturalism. Among the 25 recommendations, the most Orwellian were to “offer financial incentives to the diverse populations through a mandatory, universal, ongoing and continuous program of training workshops and retreats which are sensitive to the different levels of awareness of university employees (faculty, staff, and students) and provide an opportunity for growth and development.

25 Recommendations

In his memo, essentially accepting the recommendations, President Minogue said, “The university is deeply indebted to the members and leadership of the Implementation Committee for their fine and timely work on bringing previous initiatives and work on multiculturalism and diversity within the DePaul community, as well as recommending new initiatives.” The faculty as a whole either approved of the recommendations or basically ignored them. A charitable assessment is that they were simply a way forward to make the university a more tolerant and inclusive place. A more cynical and probably mere realistic view is that the report was a recipe for dividing up the benefits that could be extorted from the university and distributed among a collection of “underrepresented” subgroups claiming various degrees of victim status.

To be fair, not everyone liked the recommendations. A guest column by two students in the student newspaper in March 1996 asked, “Is it just us or have others noticed DePaul’s secret agenda to divide us, masked as multiculturalism?” Their complaint was summed up by the statement “Multiculturalism is what an ideal world would be; tolerant of all people. DePaul’s version is exactly the opposite. It divides students into separate groups and magnifies their differences.”

The MIC report is a blueprint for how the culture of political correctness would come to dominate the handling of conflicts that involved questions about free speech. Almost all the PC insanity that has exploded on college campuses in the past couple of years-safe spaces, micro-aggressions, speech codes, diversity bureaucrats, freshman orientation indoctrination, diversity training- can be found in embryonic form in this document. Almost immediately, clashes with students over free speech started occurring.

In the spring of 1995, the school newspaper the DePaulia reported on an arrest at a dance sponsored by Housecall, a DePaul student organization sponsored by Multicultural Student Affairs that published a quarterly magazine centered on African American issues.  According to the police, the dance had been advertised on at least 16 area campuses as a “booty call.” The trouble started when two groups got into a conflict. Police were called, and two people were arrested. The DePaulia story quoted the police report that said when police arrived they “learned there were several fights and the crowd refused to leave.” Once again relying on the police report, the DePaulia article stated “after the reporting officers began to disperse the crowd, another fight ensued, and officers ‘observed several M/Bs [male blacks] throwing chairs and trash into the crowd.’”

In reaction to the story in the DePaulia, the Association of Black Students (ABS) demanded an apology from the student newspaper. The next edition of the paper covered the black students’ version of the event and published an editorial in which the newspaper stated, “We empathize with the people who were offended or felt that the article damaged the reputation of Housecall, as this was not our intent.” This response by the DePaulia did not satisfy some students who took it upon themselves to destroy the entire press run of the newspaper.

Punishing the School Newspaper

A letter that appeared in the paper the following week reported that the President of the university, Jack Minogue, stood and watched them do it and did nothing to stop them. The ABS then staged a sit-in in the DePaulia office. In a reversal of reality, the administration temporarily suspended publication of the newspaper, blamed the event on the staff of the DePaulia, punished the paper by forcing the staff to abandon their office in Lincoln Park and make do with facilities at the inconveniently located downtown campus, accept a faculty advisor for the following year, submit to diversity training and agree to publish an issue entirely devoted to diversity. The ABS students were given amnesty for their actions, letters were sent to faculty asking them to forgive any missed work by the sit-in participants and an administrative position was created for a director of diversity with a salary of around $70,000 per year.

In the aftermath of these events, there were numerous columns and editorials in the local newspapers criticizing DePaul for refusing to stand up for the freedom of the press. At DePaul, such criticism was muted, and for many who are still around, it is pointed to as a great step forward in the school’s mission of promoting inclusivity and social justice.

Over the next few years, a new liberal studies program included a menu of freshman seminars, a sophomore course in multiculturalism, a junior year experiential learning requirement and a senior year capstone course in the student’s major that would weave together the various threads of the program. Many of the first-year courses had themes of social justice. Of the first twenty freshman seminars in the program, I counted thirteen that were related to themes of race, gender or some other form of oppression

I volunteered to be on a committee that set guidelines and referred course proposals for the sophomore seminar in multiculturalism. In an email to the dean offering my services I told him I was concerned that critics of multiculturalism such as Shelby Steele and Christina Sommers would not be considered for the classes. I was told that my services would not be needed. At the time I was chair of the math department, and as such, I attended the monthly meeting of chairs and program directors run by the dean. In a discussion of how we award transfer credits, I asked what type of course would be accepted as transfer credit for the sophomore seminar. The dean exploded and screamed at me “you’re the chair of the committee, you decide.” In retrospect, I should have simply immediately walked out; but I sat there, and the meeting proceeded without getting an answer to my question. The point was made that questioning the appropriateness of the school’s social justice agenda would not be taken kindly.

The political climate at DePaul would be on full display following the events of 9/11. In the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and United 93, the DePaul administration reacted by sending a series of emails to the entire DePaul community warning about blaming Muslims for the attacks. In language that included reference to the internment of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, it reserved its concern for the possibility that someone might make an insulting remark to one of the DePaul students of Arab background.

On 9/13, two days after the destruction of the Trade Center, the political science department held a forum that advertised itself as getting to the deeper meaning of the events. What actually occurred at the forum was one faculty member after another getting up to denounce American foreign policy as the cause of the attacks. The forum was attended by a large crowd including many of the college’s administrators who applauded loudly as the newly appointed visiting professor of political science, Norman Finkelstein, said that “difficult as it was, it was important to empathize with the hijackers” and “Americans care only about their consumer products.” I eventually stood up and yelled “God Bless America, Goddamn DePaul” and walked out.

Three years later, at a student activity fair at the start of the school year, an adjunct professor at the school for New Learning, Tom Klocek, got into an argument with a group of students from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). They were handing out leaflets claiming that Rachel Corrie had been deliberately murdered by an Israeli bulldozer when she lay down in front of it to prevent it from destroying tunnels used to smuggle terrorists into Israel. To put the event in context, one week before this event, there had been several horrifying terrorist attacks including the slaughter of 350 school children in Beslan, the blowing up of two Russian airplanes in midflight and a bomb placed on the Moscow subway. In response, El Arabiya published a statement decrying Muslim violence against others that included the widely quoted statement “that while not all Muslims are terrorists, it is extremely painful that almost all terrorists are Muslim.”

Upon encountering the SJP leaflet, Klocek got into an argument with the students about who was responsible for the violence in Israel. In response to the students comparing actions of the IDF to those of Nazi Germany, Klocek quoted the comment from Al Arabiya. Further arguing ensued, Student Affairs was alerted, and Tom made a gesture of flicking his thumb under his chin and left. The students complained that their ethnicity and religion had been insulted and Tom was suspended with pay for the rest of the quarter and a letter was sent to the DePaul community mentioning that there had been a couple of incidents of DePaul not living up to its values. I wondered what that was about until an article was published in the DePaulia describing the incident and its aftermath. A week later the dean of the School for New Learning, published a letter in the DePaulia apologizing to the students for the incident.

One year later the DePaul Cultural Center, an entity created as part of the response to the MIC recommendations, sponsored a two-day event that featured Ward Churchill lecturing to students about diversity. The DePaul Conservative Alliance (DCA) was upset about the school spending a good deal of money to bring in Churchill for an official DePaul administratively sponsored activity to educate students. They confronted the director of the center rather aggressively about their choice of speaker. They also got a letter from the governor of Colorado suggesting that Ward Churchill was not an appropriate person for the school to sponsor. The DePaul Conservative Alliance put up posters with some of Churchill’s quotes, and they were removed by Student Affairs who claimed that they violated a school policy against propaganda (no such policy ever existed). The DCA was banned from the workshop with Churchill.

In the winter quarter of 2016, the DCA staged an affirmative action bake sale in which they set up a table in the student center and sold cookies with different prices that were determined by whether the students were male or female, white or black, an obvious satire of affirmative action. This was done by a women’s liberation group in the 1970’s to protest unequal pay for women. This bake sale was shut down by Student Affairs, and the DCA was banned from using university facilities for a year because they had not informed Student Affairs of the political nature of their event.

Shortly afterward, DePaul was hit by an apparent hate crime hoax in which the campus was vandalized by racial and anti-Semitic graffiti that included a comment that it was “brought to you by the College Republicans.” It was generally assumed that the graffiti was a hoax, an attempt to frame the College Republicans, perhaps in response to the bake sale.

As a result of these events, FIRE picked out DePaul as one of the worst violators of free speech among all universities and colleges in the US. DePaul received two separate awards for being among the most politically correct institutions. Its president, Dennis Holtschneider, was named as the second worst college president for protecting free speech rights.

During spring quarter, 2008, a group of conservative students brought a speaker from the citizen border patrol group, the Minutemen, to campus. In response to widespread criticism of the impending talk, the school administration imposed a $2500 fee for security at the event. In addition, they changed the location three times, banned media from attending and capped the audience at 200. At the event, a large crowd of protesters paraded outside including one with a sign calling one of the student organizers a fascist.

In the fall of 2008, Natan Sharansky was invited to speak on campus. The sponsors of the group were asked to provide a copy of his speech in advance which they did not do. However, the administration insisted that they be shown a copy of the introductory remarks to be made by a student speaker. Later on in the year, during the spring quarter, 2009, the announcement of a speaker from Israel to talk about rocket attacks on southern Israel included a plan to display an unarmed Qassam rocket to help illustrate what the Jewish state was up against. This prompted a letter to the DePaul faculty from nine student groups asking them to prevent the use of the rocket as a prop.they Nine student groups on the left argued that the weapon would be dangerous both physically and emotionally even though it would not actually have been armed. Secondly, they argued that it would support the Israeli side of the Arab/Israeli conflict without input from the Palestinian side.

In January 2013 Kristopher Del Campo and other pro-life students received permission from the university to erect a pro-life display featuring 500 flags. The flags representing aborted babies were displayed on an open area central to the DePaul campus. A group of students from a gender studies class vandalized the flags, throwing many of them into a trash basket.

The university’s public safety department investigated and identified 13 students who confessed to the crime and admitted that their actions were inappropriate. Those names were then published online. Del Campo was then charged by the university for releasing the names and found guilty by the university on two counts – “Disorderly, Violent, Intimidating or Dangerous Behavior to Self or Others” and “Judicial Process Compliance.” Once again, a way was found to turn the conservative student victims into oppressors and the offending pro-choice students into victims.

The Free Speech Task Force

In response to the controversy around the Klocek matter and the bake sale, DePaul created a free speech task force to try to reconcile the need to preserve a community that allows for vigorous uncensored speech and the demands of some to prevent speech that they deem offensive. The committee came up with a proposal that was a vigorous defense of free speech. Unfortunately, a subcommittee of the Presidents Diversity Council (PDC) claimed that they were the ones who decided speech policy and managed to intimidate the task force into rescinding its proposal. One of the task force members, a student Nick Hahn, published two articles in Frontpage Magazine, here and here that described what happened to the task force’s proposal As a result, hysteria followed in which Nick Hahn was denounced for violating confidentiality, the PDC subcommittee members declared they felt unsafe and threatened, Nick was kicked off the task force and the whole attempt to guarantee free speech rights was abandoned. In the recent DePaul discussions about the Milo incident, there are numerous references to the free speech task force, all from the perspective of the people who sabotaged it.

As regards the current controversies at DePaul over free speech, the administration is sponsoring an ongoing series of discussions on the issue of race and free speech. Some of its recent efforts can be seen here and here. The school has also assembled a group to look at considering university policy regulating speech. Needless to say, some of the biggest opponents of free speech are now on this new task force.

DePaul’s Political Climate

In light of the numerous times DePaul has been on the radar of FIRE, an obvious question to ask is why. Was there something unique about DePaul’s culture that made it particularly prone to attacks on free speech? DePaul is a Catholic school with a student body that comes from backgrounds that are not particularly liberal. Chicago is firmly in the camp of the Democratic Party but Chicago Democrats are not especially left-wing. Is DePaul more politically left than other colleges and universities? Clearly, it is overwhelmingly liberal but no more so than hundreds of other schools.

Many schools recently have had their fair share of attacks on free speech. In many cases, the administrative weakness has wittingly or unwittingly enabled disruption of talks given by conservative speakers and in some cases led to infringement on the political rights of conservative student groups. In most cases administrators have operated out of a kind of cowardice, believing that the disrupters are best off appeased rather than confronted. DePaul is different because much of the political bias is coming from the administration itself.

What struck me as unique about DePaul is that the administration made no effort to conceal its political biases. Rather, it reveled in them. In its public relations, it displayed great pride in producing public intellectuals, faculty who contributed their views to local media or gave talks in the community. Invariably, while such activity was described as using expertise to contribute public service, it was generally representative of a strong liberal agenda. In its hiring practices, there was an emphasis on hiring women and minorities as well as a preference for those whose research agendas contained the buzz words of gender, race and class. In addition, the school was very proud of its choice of very liberal graduation speakers because they helped advance the university’s mission.

There was a tremendous push to promote multiculturalism. Money was allocated to create a variety of programs and centers that were identity oriented. Administrative staff was hired to support agendas associated with identity. This sounds relatively benign. Minority cultures make up part of the United States. In some ways, we are a nation of minority subcultures. But at DePaul, multiculturalism was always centered on grievance.

There is a problem with this approach. It becomes difficult to criticize minorities. From this point of view, their grievances are real, particularly historically, and so people don’t really have the right to comment on them unless their comments reinforce an appropriate narrative. When conservative students confronted the director of the Cultural Center about spending a lot of money to bring in Ward Churchill to educate DePaul students about diversity, they were deemed bigots. When they staged a protest of affirmative action, they were told they were racist. When pro-life students on the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade put up flags to protest all the abortions since the Supreme Court decision, they must have been anti-women. Hence, after students outraged by the flag display vandalized their protest, a way was found to make the pro-life students the villains rather than those who destroyed their flags.

Tracing events at DePaul all the way back to the Lilly Foundation grant and the recommendations of the Multicultural Implementation Committee in the mid-90s, one can see the conflict between the administration and its conservative students as driven by a political agenda. It is a view that sees the world as separated into protected classes and their oppressors. Over the years the school has developed rules regarding various forms of harassment. These guidelines are codes which essentially say that in conflicts between a member of a protected class and its opposite, favor the member of the protected class.

When the university administrators say they are banning Milo from speaking on campus because he is a provocateur who strives to wound rather than persuade, they are being disingenuous. They banned Ben Shapiro as well as Milo. Though Holtschneider acknowledged that the differences with Shapiro were basically political rather than his style, he was banned anyway because they were afraid of more disruptions. The bottom line is that speech codes, anti-harassment rules and regulations concerning speakers are about political repression. Conservative students understand this very well.

Shouting Down Speakers—a Regular, Organized Campus Business

Last week a mob of chanting students prevented author Heather Mac Donald from speaking at Claremont McKenna College. After the students prevented entrance to the assembly hall, Mac Donald managed to give her talk by remote livestream for a while, until police cut her short out of concern for security; students had discovered her whereabouts and blocked all exits to the building. A noted author on a wide range of subjects (and former colleague of mine at the Manhattan Institute), Mac Donald has drawn particular ire of late by defending police departments against claims of racism brought by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Will the Colleges Even Try to Cope?

The campus attacks on speech are getting bolder and more organized, aren’t they? The night before Claremont, Mac Donald’s speech at UCLA had been disrupted, though with less physical obstruction. At Middlebury College last month, the assault on the American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray came near to injuring him and did injure faculty member Allison Stanger. Nor are conservatives the only targets: last month Princeton philosopher Peter Singer was shouted down at the University of Victoria, in Canada, by disabled-rights activists accusing him of “able-ism.”

Having long ago tired of hearing apologies for such attacks on speech, I’m also tired of efforts to dismiss them as scattered incidents blown out of proportion. “You keep talking about six or eight episodes but there are thousands of campuses.” Think of all the books we aren’t burning!

In Britain, where “no-platforming” has been going on for some years, they’re franker about these things: of course, it’s an organized movement with goals. Early on the distinction began to blur between urging campus officials to disinvite someone, and physically preventing them from speaking once invited. By now it is accepted that the goal of no-platforming is to stop hated figures from speaking not just on campus but to audiences more broadly — before public assemblies, on broadcast media, you name it.

They Won’t Even Debate Free Speech

Rather than equivocating on the question of whether their adversaries should be free to be heard in public debate, student activists will now just flatly say no, they shouldn’t. (This is beginning to happen in America too.) And once “direct action” against wrongheaded speakers comes to be accepted, the terrible trio of institutional risk aversion, security expenses, and insurance considerations tends to do most of the rest of the practical work in disposing of targeted speakers.

At Claremont, as at some other campuses in comparable episodes, there has been bold talk of consequences. “Blocking access to buildings violates College policy,” announced Claremont McKenna president Hiram Chodosh. “CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable.”

Well, that’s good. But if the script runs as before, his comment will stand in retrospect as the peak of any tough administrative response by the institution.

The working partnership between college administrators and security personnel, while successful in this instance at preventing injuries, will not turn out to have been optimally structured to gather the evidence needed for either criminal charges (should any be pressed) or college disciplinary action.

The College Censors Have Lawyers

The in-house process of investigation and discipline will be slow, while the national spotlight moves on. Affluent parents will hire lawyers to minimize consequences. The wider campus community of faculty and administrators, assuming it was privately on board with a hard line to begin with, will wobble. Time is on the disrupters’ side.

What’s particularly notable is that the Claremont action was planned in large part openly, on Facebook and other social media posts with visibility levels set to “public.” “Bring your comrades, because we’re shutting this down,” declared a Facebook event shared not only among students but by officially supported campus organizations like Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault. (Pitzer is one of the five Claremont colleges.)

A training session for “accomplices” to the action was announced for the Scripps Student Union (Scripps is another of the five) with the advice, “For white accomplices: Please keep in mind that your role at this protest, aside from acting in solidarity with POC students at the 5Cs, particularly Black students, is to serve as a buffer between students of color and the police. That means, if the police come, it is imperative that you stay at the protest with fellow accomplices and engage with cops should it come to that.”

Training sessions for disrupters and allies are an important element of direct action, and they usually follow formulas closely informed by lawyerly knowledge of how to skirt the line of later-provable illegality. (Just because persons showed up in response to a call to “shut down” a speaker, can you prove they’re an unlawful assembly?) With the players prepared ahead of time, lucrative counter-claims can also be generated should police or authorities respond with too much force or the wrong kind of it or with the wrong timing.

Even if it doesn’t come to that, the university may find it difficult to establish precisely which students were responsible for what — and in this context, unlike that of a Title IX trial, federal agencies will not be in the background pushing for the use of standards more favorable to guilt-finding. Video evidence, if it exists, will be scantier than one might wish; reportedly angry demonstrators rushed student journalists from the conservative Claremont Independent whom they saw trying to videotape the events.

Why Not Ban Direct-Action Training?

If the will and the staying power were there, universities could fight back. Given advance word of an attempt to shut down speech, as they had in this case, they could make sure experienced videographers were there under university sponsorship to document what happened for the sake of both guilty and innocent. They could declare direct-action training (including for “accomplices”) contrary to university policy and deny meeting space to it. They could note as evidence students’ social-media promotion of calls for disruption, and strip university funding and official recognition from groups that openly promote such actions.

Failing such will, this is not going to stop with Mac Donald, Murray, Singer, or whoever is the next target after that, or the next, or the next.

Walter Olson is senior fellow at the Cato Institute

Diversity Oaths: Another Step Away from Honest Scholarship

When I was nearing the end of my Ph.D. studies in politics at Princeton University in 2006, I was invited to interview for a job at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Midway through the interview process, I was asked by graduate students how I would change my curricula to “accommodate the needs of people of color.” My response, as best I can remember, was, “I would never do such a thing. It undermines the universalism of education and knowledge, demeans people of color with assumptions about their inability to master cutting-edge research, and permanently consigns them to second-rate status in society.” That answer did not go down well at the department hiring meeting, junior faculty there later told me.

The view was that my “incorrect” response to the question indicated that my presence would upset the solidly left-leaning harmony of the department: “I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and I will not work in a dysfunctional department!” the very left-wing senior department member declared. The job went to another candidate who, as best I can tell, failed to make tenure.

Related: Paycheck Unfairness under Cover of Diversity

The experience of failing an ideological litmus test at UC Santa Cruz dwells with me still. Last month the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Scholars, of which I am president, issued a report on the subject: “The Imposition of Diversity Statements on Faculty Hiring and Promotion at Oregon Universities.” It looks at how four Oregon universities are slowly imposing declarations of support for the ideology of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” onto faculty hiring and promotion decisions.

It argues that this implicit ideological litmus test is both a betrayal of public funding for universities and an abandonment of the idea that scholars should be protected from ideological impositions from any part of the political spectrum. The report documents how universities are engaged in what we might call “diversity-baiting”: accusing, denouncing, attacking and persecuting current or potential faculty based on their lack of support for the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” dogma.

Statements at all four universities show that campus diversicrats believe fervently that this ideology must be enforced through university-level sanctions as well as department-level choices. I was discouraged to read my own university’s “Chief Diversity Officer” declare to one news site: “I’m one of those that deeply believes that compliance work is an important engine of the bigger diversity bus, because if you can’t change their hearts and their minds, you will govern their behavior and hold them accountable.” The “diversity bus” is an apt term: reeling down the road, crushing all beneath its tires, and hurling dissenters into the ditch.

To be sure, an acceptance of American pluralism is a core American value. But, as the report shows, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” are always defined on campus in rigidly left-wing terms: an emphasis on group (not individual or national) identities; a focus on group victimization (not on cultural norms or individual behavior); and an insistence on group entitlements (not individual responsibility or equality). It is also no surprise that much of the epicenter of this movement is California.

The report quotes Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Merced and during 2016-17 the Vice Chair of the UC System-wide Committee on Affirmative Action, Diversity, & Equity, advising job candidates that their diversity statements should focus on “commonly accepted understandings of diversity and equity” such as “racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or some other commonly recognized form of oppression.” She then suggests that candidates who do not agree with this approach should not bother to apply for jobs: “Note that if you do not care about diversity and equity and do not want to be in a department that does, don’t waste your time crafting a strong diversity statement — and you need not read any further in this essay.”

Related: How a University Moved from Diversity to Indoctrination

Two responses are typically given to criticisms of the diversity statements. One is that “our faculty support this.” But this begs the question of whether issues like this should be decided by majority rule. Even if university faculties were remotely balanced politically, I doubt those majority decisions on ideological conditions on employment would ever be appropriate.

But given the extreme imbalance of political viewpoints – roughly 15 Democrats for every one Republican or moderate on most campuses – the argument for majority rule is laughable. The argument for academic freedom, like the argument for religious freedom, is simply to protect minorities from the theocratic rule of the majority.

A second response is this: faculty can respond to the diversity statement in any way they please, including by not responding at all. But as my experience at the University California at Santa Cruz demonstrates, and as several documents cited in our report show, this is disingenuous. Left-leaning senior mullahs will easily detect deviant behavior from current or prospective faculty and once the fatwah is issued, junior faculty waiting for tenure and promotion will quietly fall into line.

Why does all of this matter? Because at the heart of the crisis in higher education is a slow departure from the university as a pluralistic site of research and teaching excellence. Everything else – growing bureaucracies, rising tuition, union Bolshevism, falling state fiscal support, and declining learning outcomes – revolves around this. Diversity statements are the final, fatal blow that will institutionalize ideological discrimination and render the already-tenuous status of many departments and faculty members as “scholars” permanently on the side of political activism and ideological agitation. No one is safe from the diversity bus. It needs to be driven to the junkyard.

A UCLA Law Professor Spills the Beans on Free Speech

Our friends at Reason.com and Reason Magazine share many of  MTC’s concerns, not the least of which is the threat to free speech, sanctioned by America’s colleges and universities. They invited Eugene Volokh, a professor of free speech law at UCLA to speak at Reason Weekend, the annual even held by Reason Foundation.

Reason says, “Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. ‘Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,’ Volokh says. ‘Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.'”

Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg.

Racial Preferences–Time to End Them?

A New book by Peter H. Schuck, One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us, focuses on five issues: poverty, immigration, campaign finances, affirmative action, and religious objections to gay marriage and the transgender movement. This excerpt deals with affirmative action.


Institutions argue that a “critical mass” of favored minorities assembled through preferences is crucial to achieving educational diversity, and the Supreme Court has accepted this notion. But what does it mean? It must be a function of either the number or proportion of students needed to produce it, yet the Court, as explained below, has flatly barred any numerical or proportional quotas; even Fisher II demands individualized assessments.

Moreover, the critical-mass criterion is only intelligible if one specifies the level of university activity at which racial assignments are permissible to achieve the critical mass. Is the level campus- wide? academic program–wide? each major, or only some? seminars? lectures? dormitories? sports teams? Neither the schools nor the Court says which it is. Finally, what constitutes a critical mass depends on the individual school, yet the Court in Fisher I emphatically refused to defer to schools’ judgment in this matter.

Related: Dismissing the Reality of Affirmative Action

Stereotypes. In Grutter, the Court majority saw a very close link between critical mass and stereotype destruction: “[W]hen a critical mass of underrepresented minority students is present, racial stereotypes lose their force because nonminority students learn that there is no ‘minority viewpoint’ but rather a variety of viewpoints among minority students.”

But just the reverse is much more likely. A school cannot prefer students on the basis of skin color or surnames without at the same time endorsing the notions of ethno-racial essentialism and viewpoint determinism. By admitting minority students with academic records that are much weaker (whatever the school’s metric) than those of their competitors, the school can only reinforce the stereotype of academic inferiority. The faculty and non-preferred students notice what is going on and draw the logical and stigmatizing inference that the preferred innuendo about the deserts of almost all but the most unquestionably superior performers in the preferred group—and, as the “lemon” phenomenon suggests, perhaps even of them.

This innuendo tends to perpetuate the very stereotypes that affirmative action is supposed to dispel. A group qua group (which is how preferences treat it) can confer diversity value only if it possesses certain desired qualities—and it can only do that if those qualities inhere in all of its members. (If it doesn’t, then the program should redefine the group to exclude those who lack those qualities, but affirmative action programs do not do this.) But to affirm that a quality inheres in a racial group is to “essentialize” race, utterly contradicting liberal, egalitarian, scientific, and religious values.

These values hold that all individuals are unique and formally equal regardless of genetic heritage and that their race per se causally determines little or nothing about their character, intelligence, experience, or anything else that is relevant to their diversity value. Indeed, if an employer used racial stereotypes in this way, it would clearly violate the law—whether or not the stereotypes were generally true

Related: Is Affirmative Action Micro-Aggressive?

The Size of the “Plus Factor.” The Court majority in Grutter held that “each applicant must be evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes an applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application.” This, the Court reasoned, will place members of all groups on the same admissions track, where they will compete “on the same footing.” Race and ethnicity can be a “modest plus factor” in a system of “individualized assessments,” but this must not constitute either a “rigid quota” or “racial balancing.”

Fisher II reaffirmed this. But are the ethno-racial plus factors merely “modest”? In fact, they are huge. In the program at issue in Grutter, as the dissenters showed statistically, the plus factor was weighted so heavily that it effectively created a two- track system, tantamount to racial balancing to reach its racially defined “critical mass.” And what was true in Grutter is essentially true of most if not all other affirmative action programs. In 2003, I reviewed the empirical studies on the size of preferences, which showed that the programs gave enormous weight to ethno-racial status—much larger, for example, than the preferences given to legacies and athletes.

This situation is unchanged, judging by more recent analyses of admissions patterns. For example, a study of all students admitted to the nation’s medical schools in 2014–15 found that blacks and Hispanics were vastly more likely to be admitted than whites and Asians with comparable MCAT scores and GPAs. And this was true in every credential range: average, below average, or above average. Writing in 2009, researchers Thomas Espenshade and Alexandra Radford reported that the admission “bonus” for being black was equivalent to 310 SAT points relative to whites and even more relative to Asians. The GPA differences are even greater than for SAT scores. An earlier analysis by another researcher, Thomas Kane, found that black applicants to selective schools “enjoy an advantage equivalent to an increase of two- thirds of a point in [GPA]—on a four-point scale—or the equivalent of] 400 points on the SAT.”

That enormous preferences-conferred advantage seems to have grown even larger since then. In a review article commissioned by the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature and published in March 2016, Peter Arcidiacono and Michael Lovenheim found virtually no overlap between white and black admits’ credentials, especially but not only at law schools: The median black admit had an academic index at the second percentile of the white distribution, and the seventy- fifth percentile of the black admit distribution was at the eighth percentile of the white distribution.

Related: Will the Supreme Court Stop Racial Preferences?

The difference between the black and white admit distributions is not all due to affirmative action: if the African American academic index distribution is below the white distribution, this would produce a difference in the incoming qualifications of black versus white students even in the absence of affirmative action. However, the fact that these distributions are almost non-overlapping is suggestive of a large amount of race- based preferences in admissions being given to African American students. . .

The data also reveal that affirmative action works differently for blacks and Hispanics. While affirmative action is very much present for Hispanics (the median Hispanic admit at Michigan is at the 9th percentile of the white admit distribution), the median Hispanic admit is at the 78th percentile of the black admit distribution. Hispanic admission rates were also lower than those for blacks, despite having on average better test scores and undergraduate grades.

Moreover, the SAT test, which has long been criticized as culturally biased against blacks, is actually an overly optimistic predictor of how they will perform in college. Once on campus, they do worse than the SAT would predict. Finally, 2015 data on SAT scores, broken down by ethnicity, show that the scores of whites and minorities have declined significantly since 2006, while Asians’ scores have risen in all three skills categories, not just math. (The National Assessment of Education Progress [NAEP] scores, while less discouraging, are nothing to celebrate either.)

This suggests, ominously, that those who administer preferences will have to increase their size even more in the future in order to admit low- scoring minorities. These findings raise a crucial question: Are the students who receive these enormous preferences to be admitted to elite schools likely on average to be in over their heads academically? This phenomenon, known as “mismatch,” is discussed below.

Race-Neutral Alternatives. The Court majority has repeatedly insisted that ethno-racial preferences may not be used if workable race- neutral alternatives exist. In an earlier opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court also refused to endorse race-based assignments to public schools where race-neutral assignment methods are available to accomplish the same end. In Fisher II, Justice Kennedy reaffirmed this principle, while concluding that no such alternative existed there. Race-neutral criteria are no panacea, of course, especially when the question is not the one that the Court asks (i.e., whether the Constitution requires it) but instead is about which criteria make the most policy sense if the goal is increasing opportunity for the disadvantaged—which Americans overwhelmingly support.

Given this goal, the most straightforward criterion is to determine disadvantage directly rather than use ethnicity or race as an extremely crude proxy for disadvantage. This approach is more difficult than it sounds for conceptual, administrative, and target efficiency reasons—and it might not yield the ethnic mix that those favoring race-based affirmative action want; indeed, one analysis finds that it would increase the share of whites and Asians on campus and reduce blacks by almost 50 percent! Conceptually, we generally equate disadvantage with economic deprivation, usually measured by income or assets—but disadvantage can be social, not just economic; they are not always congruent and social disadvantage is harder to define and measure.

Related: 25 Years on the Affirmative Action Firing Line

Administratively, determining economic need directly for a very large number of applicants would be at least as challenging as it has been in the operation of need- based social welfare programs. And the difficulty of targeting the neediest is captured by questions posed by Michael Kinsley (a supporter of affirmative action): “Is it worse to be a cleaning lady’s son or a coal miner’s daughter? Two points if your father didn’t go to college, minus one if he finished high school, plus three if you have no father? (or will that reward illegitimacy which we’re all trying hard these days not to do?

Determining who is truly needy is difficult, surely, but not impossible. Richard Sander, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, reports that he actually devised and implemented a sophisticated system of preferences for UCLA law school based on economic need and that the system worked “exceedingly well. Audits of financial aid statements showed little abuse; the preferences substantially changed the social makeup of the class and never to our knowledge, prompted complaints of unfairness.”

Such approaches need to be tried and assessed more broadly, of course, but they may offer one kind of race- neutral alternative to ethno-racial preferences. A second kind of race-neutral alternative is a program that automatically admits students in the upper echelons (say, the top 5 or 10 percent) of their high school classes. Texas, Florida, and California have adopted such percentage programs (although Texas, unsatisfied with the number of minorities its percentage plan yielded, added to it the race- based program challenged in the Fisher litigation).

Percentage programs do seem to increase racial diversity on college campuses, but two realities about such programs should be kept in mind. As Justice Kennedy noted in Fisher II (quoting Justice Ginsburg’s point in Fisher I), these programs, far from being race- neutral, are designed and adopted with race very much in mind. And, given differences among the high schools in different communities, such programs inevitably bring to these campuses many students whose academic preparation is relatively poor.

A third alternative, which has attracted much interest, would not only increase the number of minority students attending selective institutions but also ameliorate a different, more tractable, and even more socially wasteful kind of problem—the substantial pool of high school students who are perfectly capable of performing well at selective colleges but do not even apply to them—or indeed to any college at all! Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues have shown that applications by these students, many of whom are minorities, can be increased through better information about how to apply, about available financial aid opportunities, and about other assistance available on campus. Moreover, increasing applications from this group can be accomplished at trivial cost—as little as $6 per student. Finally, as Justice Alito tartly observed in his dissent in Fisher II, “The most obvious race-neutral alternative” is “race-blind,

Caroline Hoxby and her colleagues have shown that applications by these students, many of whom are minorities, can be increased through better information about how to apply, about available financial aid opportunities, and about other assistance available on campus. Moreover, increasing applications from this group can be accomplished at trivial cost—as little as $6 per student. Finally, as Justice Alito tartly observed in his dissent in Fisher II, “The most obvious race-neutral alternative” is “race-blind, holistic review that considers the applicant’s unique characteristics and personal circumstances.

Related: Are Racial Preferences Now Entrenched for Decades?

The Duration of Preferences. Writing for the Grutter majority, Justice O’Connor expressed hope that “25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” Much has been made of her expectation. In his dissent, Justice Thomas recited the grim statistics on comparative academic performance, evidence that makes Justice O’Connor’s hope seem very unrealistic. And the studies of ethno-racial preferences in other societies provide no support for it either, as the economist Thomas Sowell has shown in his cross- national studies.

To the contrary, the studies show that such preferences, once established, tend to endure and perhaps even expand to new groups and new programmatic benefits. The Court’s blessing of affirmative action in Fisher II seems more likely to perpetuate it than to herald their eventual demise. It is true that six politically diverse states (Arizona, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington) have banned these preferences by voter referenda, while New Hampshire has done so through statute and Florida through executive order.

But California’s experience after its voters banned the preferences suggests that such bans do not end them but simply drive the preferences underground. The California system engaged in a series of stratagems in the early 2000s expressly designed to circumvent the state’s ban. Some of the more egregious ones involved channeling minority students to new “critical race studies” programs with lower admissions standards; awarding special admissions credit for foreign language fluency to minority students who were already native speakers of the language; adopting “percentage” plans; and using unspecified (and unspecifiable) “holistic” criteria as well as winks and nods by admissions officials.

The evidence suggests that affirmative action advocates will never abandon it but will always find new ways to preserve it. And their arguments will always have a surface plausibility so long as full equality eludes us, which in the real world it surely will—however we define it.

The Role Model Rationale. Affirmative action advocates commonly argue that it is effective in producing a cadre of black professionals who can form a nucleus of group leaders and serve as role models for other group members, especially the young who need to have high aspirations and confidence that others have succeeded despite their common legacy of group disadvantage. This rationale, which has its skeptics even among ardent liberals, applies most strongly in the domain of higher education, which of course is an important training ground for future leaders of society.

Studies on how well such programs perform this function have been chewed over by proponents and opponents of affirmative action alike. There is something to the role model argument. Group members who have succeeded are surely a source of encouragement to young people thinking about their futures. If this is true, however, it is true not just for the groups preferred by affirmative action but for all low- status groups, not just the preferred ones.

This argument, moreover, cannot be separated from questions about the other social signals that youngsters receive from role- modeling. A role model might signal: “If you study hard and work hard and keep your nose clean as I did, you too can succeed.” But in a society in which preferences have become both pervasive and normative, another signal might be: “You get points for having a certain skin color or surname, so you should emphasize that identity and learn to play the ethno-racial card.” How do youngsters in such a society read role-model signals, and how do they integrate conflicting ones? These are important questions to which we have not really sought, and as a methodological matter may not be able to obtain, reliable answers.

The Representation in Elite Institutions Rationale. Like the other rationales, this one has some force. Most Americans want to see disadvantaged minorities better represented in major firms, select universities, high public office, nonprofit organizations, and so forth—if these minorities earn this recognition by meeting the institutions’ legitimate standards, whatever they might be. Affirmative action proponents believe that admitting minorities to these prestigious and advantageous precincts will level the playing field, reducing inequality by providing the advantages that these institutions can confer, including greater satisfaction and future advancement.

To what extent are these hopes actually borne out? The answer has a lot to do with the size of the preferences. In elite institutions, as we have seen, they are very large indeed—so large that they may do more harm than good to many of the putative beneficiaries. An important body of empirical research suggests that this unhappy outcome is occurring, at least in higher education, as a result of a mismatch between the institution’s demands and the preferred students’ academic performance. It indicates that although some affirmative action beneficiaries will surely succeed at the select institutions to which preferences gain them admission, on average they will perform relatively poorly, yet they would probably have succeeded at less select institutions.

In their book-length analysis of this problem, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts the Students It’s Intended to Help and Why Universities Won’t Admit it, Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., conclude that mismatching largely explains “why, even though blacks are more likely to enter college than are whites with similar backgrounds, they will usually get much lower grades, rank toward the bottom of the class, and far more often drop out.

The Real Defense of Charles Murray: Truth Not Free Speech

The Middlebury College incident in which Charles Murray was forcefully prevented from speaking about Coming Apart has generated a mini-industry of brilliant responses on behalf of academic freedom. Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, these high-sounding admonitions are misdirected and paradoxically give comfort to disruptors. Murray’s champions uniformly embrace the classic let- a-thousand-flowers-bloom, anti-censorship argument so vital to a democracy. Surely a noble sentiment but it is content-free and herein lies the problem.

Murray’s lecture should have been defended on substantive grounds: he is a highly qualified expert who has something important to say, and those who shouted him down represent the forces of darkness. The Middlebury fiasco was more than just a generic attack on free speech, though it was certainly that; it was the triumph of the barbarians—the town folk with torches marching up to Dr. Frankenstein’s castle– who substitute feelings for science as a method to discover truth. That this anti-science assault occurred at a college only compounds the harm.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with the venerable argument that free speech, save some special exceptions, should be tolerated even if views expressed are noxious, factually incorrect, and hateful or makes people uncomfortable. This Hyde Park Speaker’ Corner crackpot defense would certainly apply to Middlebury if the college invited, say, somebody promoting astrology.

But, this all-encompassing defense hardly applies to Charles Murray. He is not a crank needing a safe space or extra legal protection; his books and articles are models of social science analysis making major scholarly contributions and as such his presence need not be justified by some catch-all free speech protection. Yes, not everybody accepts his methods and conclusion, but to intimate that he should be lumped together with soapbox orators preaching the likes of creationism is a grievous mistake and, to boot, a personal insult.

Unfortunately, this generic approach is the safe path taken by Murray’s academic supporters—we should permit him to speak just as we might allow a wacko creationist to present his evidence. It is, indeed, an alluring and 100% safe defense: embrace the First Amendment and escape any suspicion that one might actually agree with his “racist” views. All gain, no pain for these apostles of intellectual freedom.

Those going to bat for Murray should have directly confronted the accusation that Murray is an incompetent who traffics in pseudo-scientific racism, classism and all the rest. Don’t retreat to a web-based safe space and quote from J. S. Mill’s On Liberty yet one more time; one should have been there to expose the disruptors (especially Middlebury faculty joining the fray) for what they are—ill-informed enemies of science, albeit of the social science variety.

This science-based defense hardly entails embracing Murray’s contentious conclusion. Rather, it calls for Murray’s arguments to be tried in the court of science, not affirmed or rejected by whether somebody, somewhere is offended. Defenders should have confronted the shouters and asked for a show of hands on how many protestors members have actually read The Bell Curve or any science-based rejoinder?

Similarly, how many of these noisy social justice warriors can briefly summarize the core argument of Coming Apart? Here’s a trick question: what does Coming Apart say about African Americans? (Answer: nothing, it’s only about whites). I suspect that even a few simple questions would expose the protestor as anti-knowledge airheads.

Better yet, stand tall and let it be known that you are not intimidated by masked disruptors and their snowflake auxiliaries. Openly ask for reaction to The Bell Curve’s most controversial data (p. 279) that African Americans on average have IQ’s 15 points lower than whites.  This gap explains numerous educational and economic outcomes, including the failure of myriad government imposed, well-funded measures to close the academic gap between blacks and whites.  In other words, do not concede the science to those silencing Murray. The real cranks are the ones in the black masks and students with signs saying, “No Eugenics” (Murray has never advocated eugenics). Protestors, not Murray, need an unrestricted Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner soapbox to explain why IQ tests are meaningless, why there is no such thing as “intelligence” or why spending trillions more will surely cure poverty.

Going one step further, the post-incident reaction should skip the empty rhetoric about needing yet more free speech protection etc. etc. How about demanding that Middlebury require all liberal arts majors take one course in scientific methodology? In this “Science for Snowflakes,” students will learn that science moves forward via falsification and shouting “racist” is not falsification. This would certainly be an improvement over a compulsory course celebrating multiculturalism (and I can only imagine the give and take when those learning about scientific methods enroll in fantasy-filled PC courses).

Sad to say, a substantive defense of Murray—his so-called noxious, arguments rest on solid science and can only be rejected scientifically—is unlikely to be offered on today’s PC-dominated campuses, at least in public though, I suspect, some Middlebury faculty and even a few students will agree in private with the doors locked, the shades pulled and only among trusted colleagues. In fact, the very idea of an objective, scientifically verifiable truth regarding racial differences might be deemed “too controversial” to even discuss.

If this event proves anything, it demonstrates that the Left now dominates the campus, and speaking the truth on contemporary taboo topics is career-ending; offering up a day late, dollar short celebration of the marketplace of ideas is not about to upend this control.

The power to silence those who believe in science has been metastasizing for decades. Those seeking a professorial career, at least in the humanities and social sciences, have long been socialized to accept that saying anything “disrespectful” about certain minorities and women is professional suicide no matter how strong the evidence and endless qualifications. And, with so many safe research topics available, it makes perfect sense to drink the Kool-Aid and insist that 2+2=5.

In the final analysis, Murray’s “talk” given electronically from a secure location was highly educational to those contemplating intellectual honesty, though not in the way Murray intended. The real bad news is not the silencing of Murray (he will convey his ideas elsewhere); it is the example given to younger academics.

They will see that if they should, even accidentally, stray over the academy’s invisible fence, dozens of fellow professors will write brilliant defenses of intellectual freedom on their behalf on countless websites. To recall a saying when growing up in NYC during the early 50’s: that and ten cents will get you a ride on the subway (today it would be $2.75).

Language Tricks on the Quad

What is “symbolic violence”? A popular PC language maneuver, taking something non-violent and associating it with danger and crime. A rhetorical trick that creates and magnifies a sense of crisis among campus activists. Here is a guide to proper usage. You too can translate from PC to English.

Visual Rape. Peeping or ogling. Checking a woman out without getting her written permission.

Cultural appropriation. Sartorial theft. Wearing hoop earrings or any garment invented by someone in another culture.

Intellectual harassment. Criticism, disagreement. The gravest version is “anti-feminist harassment. Prof. Annette Kolodney at the University of Arizona says “This serious threat to academic freedom” occurs when any statement or behavior has the intent or effect of devaluing (feminist) ideas about women.

Non-traditional violence. Criticism, disagreement (see intellectual harassment). Lani Guinier says she became a victim of non-traditional violence when the media attacked her novel plans for proportional racial voting in 1993. Husbands who argue with their wives are behaving in a non-traditionally domestically violent manner.

Mental Rape, emotional rape. Paula Jones said Bill Clinton’s unzipped behavior was “almost like a mental rape.” Monica Lewinsky said she felt emotionally raped by Kenneth Starr.

Symbolic and low-tech gang rape. Feminist Catherine Stimpson’s term for Anita Hill’s treatment by the Senate Judiciary Committee. A rebuttal to Clarence Thomas’s ‘high-tech lynching” (a nontechnical non-lynching.).

Economic violence. Jesse Jackson’s term for abrupt plant closings, home foreclosures and other economic dislocations.

Economic censorship. Any boycott against any product or person associated with your side of a political issue. Also a familiar complaint by artists, meaning “Nobody is buying my work,” closely related to censorship by omission, which means ‘Why am I never on TV? “Why don’t I get invited to big parties?”

Retinal chauvinism. Flashy internet graphics that totally disregard the visually impaired.”  Web design is primarily driven by retinal chauvinists,” said Jerry Kuns, a technology specialist for the California School for the Blind. “Pictures are great, but they are stumbling blocks to me.”

Emotional intelligence, bodily intelligence. Harvard’s Howard Gardner, who concocted the theory of multiple intelligences, was once asked, ‘why?’.” If I had called them talents, no one would have paid any attention,” he said. So now, everybody is smart in some way, even if they can’t read or write. And thanks to Gardner no athlete can ever be called a dumb jock. If they are athletic, they can’t be dumb—they have bodily intelligence.

Semantic violence. Northwestern University professor Regina Schwartz says the biblical covenant between God and the Israelites committed semantic violence by cutting the Israelites off from any sense of common humanity with other peoples. She has said that religions with only one god induce violence behaviors.

Cultural genocide. Intellectual genocide. Complete destruction of one culture by another. Or an easy but vague way of complaining about American public schools. “Public school students (in Washington) are being subjected to a particularly insidious brand of intellectual genocide—Columnist Courtland Milloy.

Environmental racism. A racialized version of NIMBY. No dumps or incinerators in my backyard, please.

Symbolic hate crimes. Noncriminal incidents with doubtful connections to hate or bias. At Swarthmore College years ago, feces was discovered at a table in the Intercultural center. Outraged critics didn’t miss a beat when the offending substance turned out to be chocolate cake because the cake “had the symbolic effect of a hate crime.” This proves that baked goods can be hate speech if you think about them hard enough.

Crime But No Punishment at Middlebury?

Two weeks have passed since a student mob shouted down visiting lecturer Charles Murray at Middlebury College, injured a professor, and jumped up and down on Murray’s car. But college President Laurie Patton still hasn’t acted to deal with any of the perpetrators. The action necessary was laid out clearly and forcefully by Rod Dreher in the American Conservative: “Middlebury College is on trial now. Its administration will either forthrightly defend liberal democratic norms, or it will capitulate. There is no middle ground. “

The normal and disappointing college procedure in cases like this is to wait several weeks, issue a vague statement on free speech and a mild and nonspecific penalty that lets the issue slide. The announcement is customarily issued quietly around 5 p.m. Friday of a long holiday weekend. We note that Good Friday and Easter are coming up.

Possible Criminal Charges

In fact, before Murray rose and tried to speak, Bob Burger, a college VP and head of PR for Middlebury, did announce penalties—including suspension–for shouting down a speaker, but video shows he did so in an amused way, as noted by Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, writing in the Federalist. Burger omitted one point from Middlebury’s rules that would soon seem applicable: “Disruption may also result in arrest and criminal charges such as disorderly conduct or trespass.”

Related: Middlebury Will Either Defend Democratic Norms or Capitulate

By the time Murray arrived on campus, Middlebury was in an explosive state. Disdain rose to hatred. Much of that atmosphere was the work of 450 Middlebury alumni who asked that the speaker be disallowed, and some 70 professors who protested the lecture and called Murray a “discredited ideologue paid by the American Enterprise Institute to promote public policies targeting people of color, women and the poor.”

This was an unusually tawdry account of Murray’s long career, including his 2012 book on the collapse of much white American culture, Coming Apart, which might have explained the rise of Donald Trump to Middlebury students had they read some of the book or listened to Murray’s speech instead of shutting it down.

“Both groups cued the anger of undergrads, few of whom had read Murray or even heard of The Bell Curve. Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury, under pressure to endorse free speech while identifying with the crowd’s anti-Murray emotions, accomplished both goals in much the same way that Lee Bollinger did when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007. Bollinger introduced the leader and excoriated him for “exhibit[ing] all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.”

Patton said of Murray in her introduction:” I would regret it terribly if my presence here today, which is an expression of support I give to all students who are genuinely seeking to engage in a very tough public sphere, is read to be something which it is not: an endorsement of Mr. Murray’s research and writings. I will state here that I profoundly disagree with many of Mr. Murray’s views.” Though Patton had put out an advance statement on free expression, Peter Wood pointed out that her 6-minute introduction of Murray contained no clear mention of the need for free speech.

Related: Charles Murray on Why He Was Silenced at Middlebury

As Wood observed, Patton positioned herself almost identically to how Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at UC Berkeley had positioned himself before the Milo Yiannopoulos event and riot, emphasizing his extreme dislike of the speaker’s views and his temperate allegiance to free speech.

The anger and hatred by alumni and some faculty may have affected students who apparently knew little or nothing about Murray, beyond the awareness that liberals in good standing are expected to detest him. Many of the protesters dismissed the speaker as “anti-gay,” perhaps because it fit the rhyme scheme of a popular left-wing chant, though Murray has not written anything anti-gay and has come out for same-sex marriage.

What ‘The Bell Curve’ Said

Peter Wood offered this brief account of the argument in “The Bell Curve”:

*The book has very little to say about race. But it argues that a considerable portion of intelligence—40 to 80 percent—is heritable; and it also argues that intelligence tests are generally reliable. Those ideas irritate people who have a deep investment in three beliefs: extreme human plasticity; the social origins of inequality; and the possibility of engineering our institutions to create complete social justice.

*Murray’s 1994 argument that intelligence is mostly fixed at birth runs afoul of the hope or the belief that children who have significant intellectual deficits can overcome them with the right kinds of teaching.

*Murray’s argument can be interpreted to mean that social and economic inequality are rooted mostly in biological inheritance—though Murray never says this, and to the contrary has often argued for social changes that have nothing to do with biological inheritance.

*Murray is broadly on the side of pragmatic steps to ameliorate social ills and is skeptical of utopian proposals.

Related: The Bubble at Middlebury

*Murray has written many books since “The Bell Curve,” but for many on the left, it is still 1994, and they still have not read the original book, let alone Murray’s more recent work, including his 2012 best-seller “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” Any familiarity with that book—a sustained lament for “The Selective Collapse of American Community,” as he titles one chapter—would render it impossible to sustain the cartoon image of Murray as a racist bigot who wants to keep in place the inequities of American life. Murray has ably answered these kinds of attacks before, not that any of his opponents truly care about the accuracy of their accusations.

*It testifies to the shallowness of elite liberal arts education today—and not just Middlebury—that significant numbers of students and faculty members can repeat the old slurs against Murray. And not just repeat them, but intoxicate themselves with hatred towards a man whose ideas they know only third- or fourth-hand through individuals who have a strong ideological motive to distort them.

The welcome-and-disparage maneuver is not enough, President Patton. Uphold standards and deal with the perps.

Are 3-Year Bachelors Programs Worth It?

Three-year bachelor’s degrees are back in the news mostly because colleges and universities are coming under heavy pressure to make higher education more affordable.

Last month New York University, one of the most expensive schools, launched its “NYU Accelerate,” which officials called “a new program that outlines pathways to make it easier for some students to graduate in less than four years.” Some 20 percent of NYU students are already on the three-year plan.

Three-year bachelor’s programs are far from new.  Harvard created one in the early 1900’s.  Bates College has run a continuous three-year bachelor’s program since the 1960’s But the question lingers, is the apparent resurgence of three-year BA degree programs part of the solution or a symptom of an intractable problem?

True, three-year degree BA programs attempt to reduce the average time to graduation with various institutional reforms that make fast-track education more feasible. But institutions may well discover that their three-year degree programs, however well-intended, will barely touch the underlying constraints that hinder many students from staying in college and graduating in a timely fashion.

Tantalizing Payoffs

The potential payoffs of three-year bachelor’s programs are tantalizing. Less time to a degree means students and families would pay less tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance.  In turn, colleges’ total spending per student would be substantially reduced, allowing institutions to educate more students for a given amount of spending on teachers, staff, administrators, and so on.

What’s more, such productivity gains would also enable states and the federal government to advance long-held educational policy agendas, focused primarily on producing more college graduates while lessening cost pressures on government-sponsored financial aid programs.

Daniel J. Hurley and Thomas L. Harnisch concluded in a 2012 report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) that such programs “can help students by lowering opportunity costs, reducing tuition costs, encouraging better utilization of high school, expediting the path to graduate school, and providing a predictable, structured degree program.” While the theoretical benefits of the three-year solution are widely touted, most accounts of the trend are anecdotal, and actual economic data on the trend is scarce.

Since 2009, when the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities started tracking the trend, roughly two dozen of its members had launched three-year degree tracks. Also, many public universities have created or plan to launch three-year programs, including the University of California system, the University of Wisconsin campuses, and the University of Texas.

Consider Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that a student at the Madison campus would save more than $6,400 graduating in three years instead of four.

The AASCU study cites the University of Houston-Victoria’s Degree in Three, which “can save students $1,400 on tuition.”  At the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG), students   in its accelerated program “can realize up to $9,000 in tuition savings.”

At the University of California, officials suggest that its accelerated bachelor’s program will enhance system-wide efficiency. If 5 percent to 10 percent of students to graduate just one term earlier, that alone would open scarce admissions slots to an additional 2,000 to 4,000 students.

Who’s graduation problem?      

But for three-year degree programs to realize these promised efficiencies and savings, students actually have to graduate in – surprise, surprise – three years.  According to the most recent full-cohort data from the National Center for Education Statistics, just 41 percent undergraduates who began college in 2007-08, earned a bachelor’s degree in four years or less; 45.9 percent took up to 10 years to graduate; and 13.1 percent took 10 years or more to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Those are just averages.  The actual time it takes individuals to earn a bachelor’s degree depends on various demographic, economic, and individual characteristics.

For example, parent income plays an outsized role on one’s ability to complete college in a timely fashion, according to data provided by the 2008-2012 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study.  Fully 63 percent of students whose parents were among the top fifth of income earners graduated in four years or less. By contrast, just 34 percent of students from families in the middle-income tier graduated within four years.

Total financial aid from all private and public sources is also a prominent predictor of the time students take to graduate. More than 65 percent of students receiving aid totaling  $17,800 or higher earned degrees in four years, while just a third of students receiving $10,399 or less in total financial aid graduated in four years.

Research has also shown that timely graduation depends a lot on one’s intensity of attendance.  Stopping college for a single term just once can add significantly to the time one takes to complete a bachelor’s degree and stopping more than once vastly reduces the chances of earning a degree at all.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the college-completion problem in the United States rarely applies to top-tier schools and the students who attend such schools.  Most all the determinants of timely completion of a bachelor’s degree are in ample supply at colleges with big endowments and wealthier students.

Given the extraordinarily large student subsidies at wealthy institutions and their ability to meet most if not all student financial need, students at top-tier schools have little financial incentive to accelerate their time at college.  Of course, that’s unless students want to enter the job market after three years instead of four years, but few such students are so financially strapped that early entry into the labor market seems desirable.

In fact, for students at top-tier schools, absorbing the opportunity costs of remaining in school can lead to substantial economic returns in the long run with the added social capital that comes from a traditional college experience.

Red Herring?

That picture is far different for less advantaged students at schools with modest endowments and far lower student subsidies. Clearly, the three-year solution would be of great benefit to students who now take more than four years to complete a bachelor’s degree.  But if too many students have a hard time graduating in four or five years now, then what’s the magic bullet that helps them graduate in even less time?

Indeed, the very reasons poorer students stop going to school or take five years or longer to finish school are often related to financial pressures and the ever-pressing opportunity costs of staying in school.

For many financially strapped students, it seems rational to drop college for a relatively good-paying job now — that doesn’t require a four-year-degree — instead of adding onto personal debt by staying in school.  Although such students are statistically likely to earn far more over a lifetime having the four-year degree than not having it, an individual student can never take that probable outcome for granted.

“For populations that most need to increase college success—such as older adults, lower-income and minority students—the three-year degree can be arguably construed as largely a nonstarter due to financial realities, college preparation issues and family obligations,” write Hurley and Harnisch.

So a three-year bachelor’s program might sound like found money.  But don’t look to this particular non-innovation innovation as a meaningful answer to making college more affordable to the very students who can least afford it.  For many students, institutions’ touting of accelerated bachelor’s degrees as a solution to the affordability problem amounts to little more than the marketing hype.

That’s why the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper, called the university’s newly minted three-year bachelor’s program not a program at all, but “a gimmicky slap in the face,” by putting a fancy label on efforts students already are making to graduate in less than four years.

Noting that some 20 percent of cash-strapped undergrads already have maneuvered in the system to graduate early, the paper’s editorial board said, “the proposal is taking an unfortunate reality of NYU’s unaffordability crisis and passing it off as a solution.”

The Bubble at Middlebury

Photo: The Rutland Herald

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more outrage about the somewhat violent silencing of Charles Murray at Middlebury.

I feel more than a little threatened by the fact that a political scientist was actually injured in the line of duty. I thought I had prudently chosen a profession where that just couldn’t happen. As C. C. Pecknold points out, these demonstrations are a kind of ritualized playacting of the privileged, those who think they are somehow reenacting the idealism of the Sixties. The script today is that the threat to our country is now anti-gay white nationalism, and Murray’s work has to be made to fit that script.

But Murray, of course, is a libertarian who refused to support the nationalist Trump. And he’s all about letting people live as they please so long as they productively take responsibility for themselves and their own. Murray often distinguishes, following Hayek, being libertarian and being conservative.

Consider that Murray came to Middlebury to talk about his book Coming Apart as one way of understanding the outcome of our recent election. Well, let me be courageous enough to say I’ve deployed parts of that book in my classes for that very purpose. It contains a lot of outstanding sociology, most of which is both pathbreaking and not really very controversial.

Murray’s least controversial observation, in my view, is that sophisticated and highly productive Americans now inhabit an increasingly impervious bubble. They live in their own zip codes, have their own schools, have developed their own set of values, have seceded from the various civic experiences (such as military service and socioeconomically diverse public schools) that used to bring diverse Americans together, and relate to those not of their kind in a distant, condescending, and manipulative manner.  Our elite colleges — despite their official commitment to diversity — are pretty much all part of the bubble.

Related: Middlebury Will Either Defend Democratic Norms or Capitulate

And Middlebury students and faculty could have benefited from Murray’s incisive yet lighthearted description of all their bubble’s distinctive prejudices. They could have gotten more than a bit ironic about themselves. There’s little in Murray’s description of the complacency of the privileged few that wouldn’t benefit Sanders voters as much as or more than it would Trump enthusiasts. It might help Clinton supporters even more in seeing why ordinary Americans, including “skilled labor,” thought of their candidate as lacking in real virtue and indifferent to their struggles.

Who can deny that the basic experiences of ordinary life for Trump voters and Clinton voters are now so different that it makes sense to talk of two alternative realities or bubbles? And that each bubble can be incisively criticized from the perspective of the other. And that each bubble is so protective that Americans are in some way less ironic than ever about their class-based limitations. It’s hard to admit that ours is not so much a middle-class country any longer.

Murray observes that our meritocracy based on productivity typically talks Sixties liberationism and social justice and might even join in demonstrations and other forms of activism in college. But its members’ actual ways of living after college are pretty bourgeois. They develop the habits of highly effective people, including child-centered marriage and assiduous health-and-safety regimens.

There really is a lot to admire in the way they live, even if they’re weak in connecting their privileges to civic responsibilities and living in the whole truth about who each of us is. Their education serves them well on one front, but not on others. Murray also notices that the habits of worthwhile work and healthy living are disappearing from the bottom 50 percent of Americans. He’s right on that. He’s wrong, I think, that they can be restored to middle-class responsibility through the removal of welfare dependency.

The problem is much more complicated than that. It has to do, in part, with the real disappearance of jobs that provide the secure wherewithal to live with dignified relational responsibility and that provide the satisfaction that comes with worthwhile work well done. There might have been a great debate at Middlebury between Bernie supporters and libertarians over that issue, an issue over which reasonable people can disagree. And that debate might have allowed the bubble men and women at Middlebury really to think as citizens about what’s best for all Americans.

Related: Charles Murray on Why He Was Silenced at Middlebury

All in all, Middlebury seems unreasonably resistant to the kind of liberal education that comes with questioning one’s own cherished opinions and forms of pride or self-esteem. That comes with curbing anger through really reading with an open mind the serious and well-intentioned books of those not of their kind. Let me add: I don’t deny that the students’ idealism is a real, if misguided, attempt to find meaning on campus in the only way that seems available. It’s just that they’re ending up reinforcing rather than disrupting or even popping their bubble.

As William Deresiewicz wrote in The American Scholar: “Unlike the campus protesters of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing countercultural views. They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.”

Reprinted with permission from National Review’s Online blog, The Corner

Charles Murray on Why He Was Silenced at Middlebury

A few months ago, AEI’s student group at Middlebury College invited me to speak on the themes of Coming Apart and how they relate to the recent presidential election. Professor Allison Stanger of the Political Science Department agreed to serve as moderator of the Q&A and to ask the first three questions herself.

About a week before the event, plans for protests began to emerge, encouraged by several faculty members. Their logic was that since I am a racist, a white supremacist, a white nationalist, a pseudoscientist whose work has been discredited, a sexist, a eugenicist, and (this is a new one) anti-gay, I did not deserve a platform for my hate speech, and hence it was appropriate to keep me from speaking.

Middlebury College.

Last Wednesday, the day before the lecture was to occur, I got an email from Bill Burger, Vice President for Communications at Middlebury. The size and potential ferocity of the planned protests had escalated. We agreed to meet at the Middlebury Inn an hour before the lecture so that we could go over a contingency plan: In the event that the protesters in the lecture hall did not cease and desist after a reasonable period, Professor Stanger and I would repair to a room near the lecture hall where a video studio had been set up that would enable us to live-stream the lecture and take questions via Twitter.

Here’s how it played out.

The lecture hall was at capacity, somewhere around 400. There were lots of signs with lots of slogans (see the list of allegations above), liberally sprinkled with the f-word. A brave member of the AEI student group, Ivan Valladares, gave an eloquent description of what the group was about. Middlebury’s president, Laurie Patton, gave a statement about the importance of free speech even though she disagrees with much of my work. A second brave member of the AEI club, Alexander Khan, introduced me. All this was accompanied by occasional catcalls and outbursts, but not enough to keep the speakers from getting through their material. Then I went onstage, got halfway through my first sentence, and the uproar began.

First came a shouted recitation in unison of what I am told is a piece by James Baldwin. I couldn’t follow the words. That took a few minutes. Then came the chanting. The protesters had prepared several couplets that they chanted in rotations—“hey, hey, ho, ho, white supremacy has to go,” and the like.

It was very loud and stayed loud. It’s hard for me to estimate, but perhaps half the audience were protesters and half had come to hear the lecture.
I stood at the podium. I didn’t make any attempt to speak—no point in it—but I did make eye contact with students. I remember one in particular, from whom I couldn’t look away for a long time. She reminded me of my daughter Anna (Middlebury ’07) — partly physically, but also in her sweet earnestness. She looked at me reproachfully and a little defiantly, her mouth moving in whatever the current chant was. I’m probably projecting, but I imagined her to be a student who wasn’t particularly political but had learned that this guy Murray was truly evil. So she found herself in the unfamiliar position of activist, not really enjoying it, but doing her civic duty.

The others…. Wow. Some were just having a snarky good time as college undergrads have been known to do, dancing in the aisle to the rhythm of the chants. But many looked like they had come straight out of casting for a film of brownshirt rallies. In some cases, I can only describe their eyes as crazed and their expressions as snarls. Melodramatic, I know. But that’s what they looked like.

This went on for about twenty minutes. My mindset at that point was to wait them out if it took until midnight (which, I was later to realize, probably wouldn’t have been long enough). But finally, Bill Burger came on stage and decided, correctly, that the people who had come to hear the lecture deserved a chance to do so. Professor Stanger and I were led out of the hall to the improvised studio.

I started to give an abbreviated version of my standard Coming Apart lecture, speaking into the camera. Then there was the sound of shouting outside, followed by loud banging on the wall of the building. Professor Stanger and I were equipped with lavalier microphones, which are highly directional. The cameraman-cum-sound-technician indicated that we could continue to speak and the noise from outside would not drown us out. Then a fire alarm went off, which was harder to compete with. And so it went through the lecture and during my back and forth conversation with Professor Stanger—a conversation so interesting that minutes sometimes went by while I debated some point with her and completely forgot about the din. But the din never stopped.

We finished around 6:45 and prepared to leave the building to attend a campus dinner with a dozen students and some faculty members. Allison, Bill, and I (by this point I saw both of them as dear friends and still do) were accompanied by two large and capable security guards. (As I write, I still don’t have their names. My gratitude to them is profound.) We walked out the door and into the middle of a mob. I have read that they numbered about twenty. It seemed like a lot more than that to me, maybe fifty or so, but I was not in a position to get a good count. I registered that several of them were wearing ski masks. That was disquieting.

What would have happened after that I don’t know, but I do recall thinking that being on the ground was a really bad idea, and I should try really hard to avoid that. Unlike Allison, I wasn’t actually hurt at all.
I had expected that they would shout expletives at us but no more. So I was nonplussed when I realized that a big man with a sign was standing right in front of us and wasn’t going to let us pass. I instinctively thought we’ll go around him. But that wasn’t possible. We’d just get blocked by the others who were joining him. So we walked straight into him, one of our security guys pushed him aside, and that’s the way it went from then on: Allison and Bill each holding one of my elbows, the three of us plowing ahead, the security guys clearing our way, and lots of pushing and shoving from all sides.

I didn’t see it happen, but someone grabbed Allison’s hair just as someone else shoved her from another direction, damaging muscles, tendons, and fascia in her neck. I was stumbling because of the shoving. If it hadn’t been for Allison and Bill keeping hold of me and the security guards pulling people off me, I would have been pushed to the ground. That much is sure. What would have happened after that I don’t know, but I do recall thinking that being on the ground was a really bad idea, and I should try really hard to avoid that. Unlike Allison, I wasn’t actually hurt at all.

The three of us got to the car, with the security guards keeping protesters away while we closed and locked the doors. Then we found that the evening wasn’t over. So many protesters surrounded the car, banging on the sides and the windows and rocking the car, climbing onto the hood, that Bill had to inch forward lest he run over them. At the time, I wouldn’t have objected. Bill must have a longer time horizon than I do.
Much of the meaning of the Middlebury affair depends on what Middlebury does next.

Extricating ourselves took a few blocks and several minutes. When we had done so and were finally satisfied that no cars were tailing us, we drove to the dinner venue. Allison and I went in and started chatting with the gathered students and faculty members. Suddenly Bill reappeared and said abruptly, “We’re leaving. Now.” The protesters had discovered where the dinner was being held and were on their way. So it was the three of us in the car again.

Long story short, we ended up at a lovely restaurant several miles out of Middlebury, where our dinner companions eventually rejoined us. I had many interesting conversations with students and faculty over the course of the pleasant evening that followed. In the silver-lining category, the original venue was on campus and would have provided us with all the iced tea we could drink. The lovely restaurant had a full bar.

* * *

Much of the meaning of the Middlebury affair depends on what Middlebury does next. So far, Middlebury’s stance has been exemplary. The administration agreed to host the event. President Patton did not cancel it even after a major protest became inevitable. She appeared at the event, further signaling Middlebury’s commitment to academic freedom. The administration arranged an ingenious Plan B that enabled me to present my ideas and discuss them with Professor Stanger even though the crowd had prevented me from speaking in the lecture hall. I wish that every college in the country had the backbone and determination that Middlebury exhibited.

Both Bill Burger, who made the initial remarks in the lecture hall, and President Patton spelled out Middlebury’s code of conduct and warned that violations could have consequences up to and including expulsion. Those warnings were ignored wholesale. Now what?

I sympathize with the difficulty of President Patton’s task. We’re talking about violations that involve a few hundred students, ranging from ones that call for a serious tutelary response (e.g., for the sweetly earnest young woman) to ones calling for permanent expulsion (for the students who participated in the mob as we exited), to criminal prosecution (at the very least, for those who injured Professor Stanger). The evidence will range from excellent to ambiguous to none. I will urge only that the inability to appropriately punish all of the guilty must not prevent appropriate punishment in cases where the evidence is clear.

Absent an adequate disciplinary response, I fear that the Middlebury episode could become an inflection point. In the twenty-three years since The Bell Curve was published, I have had considerable experience with campus protests. Until last Thursday, all of the ones involving me have been as carefully scripted as kabuki: The college administration meets with the organizers of the protest and ground rules are agreed upon. The protesters have so many minutes to do such and such. It is agreed that after the allotted time, they will leave or desist. These negotiated agreements have always worked. At least a couple of dozen times, I have been able to give my lecture to an attentive (or at least quiet) audience despite an organized protest.

If this becomes the new normal, the number of colleges willing to let themselves in for an experience like Middlebury’s will plunge to near zero. Academia is already largely sequestered in an ideological bubble, but at least it’s translucent. That bubble will become opaque.

Middlebury tried to negotiate such an agreement with the protesters, but, for the first time in my experience, the protesters would not accept any time limits. If this becomes the new normal, the number of colleges willing to let themselves in for an experience like Middlebury’s will plunge to near zero. Academia is already largely sequestered in an ideological bubble, but at least it’s translucent. That bubble will become opaque.

Worse yet, the intellectual thugs will take over many campuses. In the mid-1990s, I could count on students who had wanted to listen to start yelling at the protesters after a certain point, “Sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say.” That kind of pushback had an effect. It reminded the protesters that they were a minority. I am assured by people at Middlebury that their protesters are a minority as well. But they are a minority that has intimidated the majority. The people in the audience who wanted to hear me speak were completely cowed. That cannot be allowed to stand. A campus where a majority of students are fearful to speak openly because they know a minority will jump on them is no longer an intellectually free campus in any meaningful sense.

A college’s faculty is the obvious resource for keeping the bubble translucent and the intellectual thugs from taking over. A faculty that is overwhelmingly on the side of free intellectual exchange, stipulating only that it is conducted with logic, evidence, and civility, can easily lead each new freshman class to understand that’s how academia operates. If faculty members routinely condemn intellectual thuggery, the majority of students who also oppose it will feel entitled to say “sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say” when protesters try to shut down intellectual exchange.

That leads me to two critical questions for which I have no empirical answers: What is the percentage of tenured faculty on American campuses who are still unambiguously on the side of free intellectual exchange? What is the percentage of them who are willing to express that position openly? I am confident that the answer to the first question is still far greater than fifty percent. But what about the answer to the second question? My reading of events on campuses over the last few years is that a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority.
The people in the audience who wanted to hear me speak were completely cowed. That cannot be allowed to stand.

I’m sure the pattern differs by geography and type of institution. But my impression is that the problem at elite colleges and universities is extremely widespread. In such colleges, events such as the Middlebury episode will further empower the minorities and make the majorities still more timorous.

That’s why the penalties imposed on the protesters need to be many and severe if last Thursday is not to become an inflection point. But let’s be realistic: The pressure to refrain from suspending and expelling large numbers of students will be intense. Parents will bombard the administration with explanations of why their little darlings are special people whose hearts were in the right place. Faculty and media on the left will urge that no one inside the lecture hall is penalized because shouting down awful people like me is morally appropriate. The administration has to recognize that severe sanctions will make the college less attractive to many prospective applicants.

My best guess is that Middlebury’s response will fall short of what I think is needed: A forceful statement to students that breaking the code of conduct is too costly to repeat. But even the response I prefer won’t generalize. A tough response will be met with widespread criticism. Students in other colleges will have no good reason to think their administration will follow Middlebury’s example.

And so I’m pessimistic. I say that realizing that I am probably the most unqualified person to analyze the larger meanings of last week’s events at Middlebury. It will take some time for me to be dispassionate. If you promise to bear that in mind, I will say what I’m thinking and rely on you to discount it appropriately: What happened last Thursday has the potential to be a disaster for American liberal education.

Printed with permission from the American Enterprise Institute where this essay was originally published.

Can Sociology be Saved?

While the American Sociological Association continues to congratulate itself for a rising number of bachelor’s degrees in sociology, traditional sociology seems to matter less than ever before. Apart from the recent and brilliant Strangers in Their Own land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild, not many sociologists have a good grasp of what’s happening in society today.

The Vote for Trump

And few, other than Hochschild, seem to have any idea of how to explain what motivated union members, women, minorities and the working poor to help elect President Donald Trump. In a series of articles about the 2016 election, published by the ASA, sociologists erroneously blamed racism, hyper-masculinity, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, for the attraction to President Donald Trump.

The increases in sociology undergraduate majors has more to do with student fascination with criminology and criminal justice concentrations within the sociology major than it does with traditional sociology. Realizing that the traditional discipline no longer attracted undergraduates, many sociology departments became savvy marketers promising potential criminology students that they would be studying subjects like serial killers, gangs, school shootings, family violence and substance abuse.  For example, one Texas university sociology website posts “true-crime” photos of the Columbine school shooters, and Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous cannibalistic serial murderer, to draw students to their criminology courses.

The CSI Effect

Even the ASA attributes a kind of “CSI-effect” for the increase in criminal justice concentrations in sociology and laments that part-time adjunct faculty who work in forensics, law enforcement, corrections, and juvenile justice are more likely to teach these undergraduate “sociology” students than traditionally trained PhD-level sociologists.

In fact, the ASA was so concerned about the loss of traditional sociology that the organization commissioned a study in 2011 which acknowledged that increasing numbers of sociology departments fear losing majors as the number of criminology and criminal justice students continue to increase while those who major in sociology without this concentration have dramatically declined.

The Profession Decomposes

The splintering off from traditional sociology was predicted decades ago by the late great sociologist, Irving Louis Horowitz, in his book, The Decomposition of Sociology.  Horowitz decried the “separation of the substance” of sociology into its elements, and claimed that the breakdown has caused “the decay of sociology as a field of study.”  Pointing out that sociology had dissolved into its parts: criminology, urban studies, demography, policy analysis, social history, decision theory, and hospital and medical administration, Horowitz charged that all sociology has been left with is “pure theory: sections of itself on Marxism, feminism and Third Worldism.” For Horowitz, sociology had become “a strident interest group, a husk instead of a professional society.”

The Discontent of Politicization

The politicization of the discipline has created “a repository of discontent,” he wrote, that is no longer a science of society, but rather a gathering of individuals who have special agendas, from GLBTQ rights to radical feminism and liberation theology.  The consequence of the influx of ideologists and special interests has been the outflow of scientists of those for whom the study of society is an empirical discipline, serving at most, those policy planners interested in piecemeal reform.

Horowitz writes, “Sociology has seen the departure of urbanologists, social planners, demographers, criminologists, penologists, hospital administrators, international development specialists—in short, the entire range of scholars for whom social science is linked to public policy.” Today, in criminology, sociologists play a minor role, eclipsed by the expertise of police officers, forensics experts, legal and paralegal personnel. As Horowitz warned, “sociology is now reduced to barking from the sidelines with such shrill treatises as Against Criminology.”

There was a time when sociology was willing to provide verifiable facts on social phenomenon—even if the data did not support the claims of the advocacy community. But, because so much sociological research is now agenda-driven, many of our statistics are suspect.  Helping to maintain the false narrative that one-in-five women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault, some sociologists have been complicit in promoting a moral panic on campus.

Despite the false narrative that college campuses have become unsafe places for women, a recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics has revealed that the rate of rape and other sexual assault on college campuses has actually declined from 9.2 per 1,000 college students in 1997 to 4.4 per 1,000 in 2013.  Far from being a site of violence, the data indicates that female college students are safer from sexual assault while in college than at any other time in their lives.

Didn’t Fit the Narrative

Yet, much of sociology seems to have missed these data because they do not fit the narrative of a hypermasculinized culture that victimizes women. Even the highly respected sociologist Barbara Risman, a former President of Sociologists for Women and Society, has added to that false narrative on the contributors to sexual violence on college campuses. Risman claims to have begun her commitment to ending gender inequality when she experienced sexual discrimination at her own bat mitzvah in 1968—a time when only boys were allowed to read from the Torah.

In a recent article published by the American Sociological Association entitled, “How to Do Sociology in the Trump Era,” Risman suggests that sociologists need to “focus on the culture…get our ideas, research and evidence out there…bring our work beyond the New York Times.” The only problem is that people have seen some of their sociological “research and evidence” and they know that much of it is false.

Many of us have learned that some sociological research studies are “more equal than others.” Just ask sociologists, Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, and Paul Sullins of Catholic University—both of whom have used sophisticated statistical modeling and non-partisan national data sets to study the effects of same-sex parenting on children, and both have been vilified because of their politically incorrect findings.

Regnerus found that children raised in households where at least one parent had had a same-sex relationship reported higher rates of unhappiness and relationship instability. And in a study that used data from the nonpartisan National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to track children raised by same-sex couples over a period of 13 years, Sullins found that those raised in same-sex homes were at over twice the risk of depression than those raised by heterosexual parents.

Misstating Data for a Cause

The children raised in same-sex households were also more likely to experience obesity, “imbalanced closeness,” and child abuse. Worse, the difference between traditional and same-sex homes was even more marked when it came to considering suicide: 7 percent of young adults raised in traditional families reported having suicidal thoughts compared with 37 percent of same-sex homes.

Defining down the Regnerus and Sullins data, the ASA filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in 2015 in the same-sex marriage cases that were then pending before the court. In the brief, the ASA maintained that there is a “social-science consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents.” Referring specifically to the data presented by Regnerus and Sullins, the ASA claimed in the brief that the negative research findings by Regnerus and Sullins has been “mischaracterized” by same-sex marriage opponents, and concluded that “we should not exclude children living with same-sex parents from the additional stability and economic security that marriage can provide.”

Randall Collins, the President of the ASA in 2010-2011, once lamented that sociology has “lost all coherence as a discipline; we are breaking up into a conglomerate of specialties, each going its own way and with none too high regard for each other.” With more than 50 different sections, the ASA itself has indeed splintered into interest and advocacy groups. Sometimes even the sections themselves have had to split over theoretical or methodological disagreements over contested terrain. There are now two separate sections devoted to sexuality: one is called the Sociology of Sexualities, and the other is the section on Sex and Gender. There is talk of a further split as the transgendered have become concerned about marginalization by the other two.

Sociology Lost its Way

Some of the sections are devoted to esoteric topics.  For example, the section on Body and Embodiment is devoted to encouraging and enhancing theory, research teaching on human and non-human bodies, morphology, human reproduction, anatomy, body fluids and other similar topics.  A prize-winning paper in that section a few years ago was titled: “Sometimes I think I might say too much: Dark Secrets and the Performance of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”

Irving Louis Horowitz knew in 1994 that sociology had lost its way—but his book offered a way out.  He knew that sociology could offer a common language of discourse, logic and method, but he also knew that a positive outcome for sociology required what he called “a double-edged struggle: against the political barbarians at the gate and against the professional savages who have already gotten inside.”  He knew that the price of success would be high, but the cost of failure—to sociology as well as to society itself —makes the effort an absolute necessity.

Anne Hendershott is a professor of sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.  She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education (Transaction Books).

Punishing College Sports Teams

NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues we are witnessing an internal war over what in fact is a university’s core sacred value: is it truth?  Or social justice? If it is the search for truth, free speech is essential. If it’s social justice, then the rising campus yen for censorship and silencing one’s opponents can be rationalized. So the academy is rapidly becoming the most dangerous place to speak in America.

Consider for example just one new phenomenon: the decision by college administrators to punish sports teams for the lewd speech of some individual members. Progressive elites once fought and destroyed sanctions on obscenity in the wider culture, re-defining naked dancing, along with visual and written pornography, as protected speech.

Yet Harvard’s entire men’s soccer team season was canceled last November because the men wrote a “scouting report” containing racy comments about the female soccer members, evaluating their sexual attractiveness. Men who did not speak were punished along with those who did, in order to create a new culture of peer pressure to punish those who spoke lewdly about women. At least at Harvard, there was some semblance that the “report” was an unofficial team tradition.

Just a week or so later, Columbia University suspended an entire male wrestling team because some members sent lewd and racist offensive group message texts to one another. It suspended the team, not after an investigation of the team’s involvement but before, banning them from participating in at least one meet, before ultimately deciding only to discipline those who had actually participated in the group messaging. (It does appear those merely receiving the message may also have been punished).

Whether complaining in crude language Columbia women are too unwilling to sleep with athletes subjects one to the same disciplinary procedures as speaking of some African-Americans as “nigs” was unfortunately not made clear by the university, at least according to media reports. Racist comments are clearly more serious than off-color ones, many of which are merely examples of randy young males being themselves.

Columbia’s wrestling coach, Zach Tanelli, said in a statement: “Not only do we demand that the harmful and offensive language end; we want Columbia wrestling to be a part of the solution toward cultural competency and systemic change.”

In a context in which women are encouraged to explore their sexuality loudly and openly and to accept no judgment, the current message colleges are sending students is not so much that civilization requires self-discipline with regard to sex as that male sexuality is uniquely deserving of punishment because it grosses out young women.

The persistent ethically incoherent attacks on masculinity, and the sense of unfairness in the application of freedom of sexual expression, are bound to continue to alienate young men from a culture of achievement—one of the academy’s and the culture’s biggest diversity problem–men who don’t work.

Punishing private communications as if they were public acts (including hacked private conversations) and punishing whole teams rather than the individuals, refusing to name exactly what expressions of sexual interest are now forbidden, punishing sexual expressions heard by almost every teenager on television and over the internet every day, –all these are extraordinary violations of norms of due process, creating a sexual culture that does not so much point male to female in a culture of civilized courtship as uniquely disparage male sexuality for not being female.

And here’s the really strange thing: students are demanding it, applauding it protesting for adult regulation of their student lives on the grounds that exposure to ideas that disturb them is a mental health hazard.

Harvard’s women athletes after initially brushing it off eventually signed a joint letter reported they are “appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance.”

“We are going to punish people who make lewd comments about women,” Mariel Klein, president of Harvard Crimson approvingly told ESPN.

Even the team suspension did not satisfy the lust for punishing such terrible offenders: “Certainly possible…it’s very possible that…this practice would fall under sexual harassment so the Title IX office will be investigating that and that would include individual player,” Klein told ESPN.

Once legitimate concerns about sexual harassment or rape are now being channeled into disciplining private expressions of sexual interest (or concerns about women’s lack of interest) from male students—and with enough intensity that it overrides ordinary concerns about the due process rights.  Social justice trumps individual justice.

This is an extraordinary regression by elites. Group punishment is the hallmark of traditional societies because it is quite effective. (Families were once punished for the transgression of any individual member in order to force the group to discipline its own members). It took a profound commitment that justice requires punishing the wrongdoer, not related friends and relatives, to override the obvious utility of group punishment.

Amherst College recently punished sports team members both as a group and as individuals too for online comments. The whole cross-country team was forced to forego two meets, with individuals separately punished by the loss of three meets or more—up to the total loss of eligibility for the rest of their enrollment in the school.

Why this regression to ancient means of social control?  Are students so much more fragile today than they were 5 years ago 10 years, 15 years ago?

Some believe that is true. One real possibility is that rates of mental illness are rising. A wave of new data indicate that college mental health centers are receiving a new influx of requests for help from students.  At Boston University for example, “Behavioral Medicine clinicians report that the number of students in crisis coming in for help has increased sharply—from 647 in the 2014–2015 academic year to 906 last year.”

A 2014 Penn State study found anxiety has surpassed depression as the leading mental health issue college students report. The American College Health Association’s 2015 National College Health Assessment survey reported that almost 16 % of college students had been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety. Almost 22 percent said anxiety in the last 12 months and almost 22 percent said anxiety had cost them a grade on an exam or project, or lead them to receive an incomplete or drop a course, up from about 18 percent in 2008.

Some blame helicopter parenting. Others look to social media.

“We have all become less able to tolerate ambiguity and the unknown due to the incredible technological advances we have seen,” says Carrie Landa, director of Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services. “Immediacy is sometimes the antidote to anxiety: having to wait for anything—a text, an exam grade, ‘How am I going to do?’—all create anticipatory anxiety. Unfortunately, there are many things in life that aren’t quickly resolved and waiting is necessary.”

Technology is clearly playing a role in blurring the line between public and private, and in making students feel vulnerable to criticism. Rates of young people’s mental health generally are not showing sharp increases. A review of mental health among adolescents and young adults between 2000 and 2012 published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded, “Mental health indicators changed little, except for a decrease in unhealthy methods of weight loss.”

If general increases in mental illness were responsible for the flooding increase in request for counseling services, we should see some increase at least in students entering college with mental health issues. Instead, a 2015 study of college students found that while the growth in the number of students seeking services at counseling centers (plus 30 percent) was more than five times the rate of increase in enrollment, “prevalence rates for prior mental health treatment have remained quite stable over the past five years,” albeit at high levels. “Although these rates are high and should be of concern, the stability of these indices suggest that the rates of prior treatment are not changing and therefore unlikely to be the cause of the increased demand for services.”

Instability in family life, economic problems, a sexual culture where young people experience frequent romantic loss (a risk factor for depression especially for women), reduced religious participation and a declining sense of a common culture may all contribute to relatively high rates of mental illness among young culture.

But something specific is happening on college campuses that is driving a huge increase of request by students for mental health services.

Haidt has pointed to a paper by scholars Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning describing how a culture of dignity is “now giving way to a new culture of victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized.” The existence of the increasingly varied administrative bodies designed to resolve interpersonal conflicts is part of what creates this culture.

Frank Furedi, a sociologist at the University of Kent, UK, also identifies a massive cultural shift on campus as the culprit. But unlike Haidt he sees the academy adopting a broader elite parental cultural value of “safety” as one of its highest moral ideals. “During recent decades, the parenting culture dominant in Western societies has found it increasingly difficult to encourage young people to take risks and develop the practices associated with independence and freedom. ….[T]he reversion to a paternalistic regime of higher education is underpinned by the prevailing mood in which safety has been transformed into a moral value.”

“We have all become less able to tolerate ambiguity and the unknown due to the incredible technological advances we have seen,” says Carrie Landa, director of Boston University’s Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services. “Immediacy is sometimes the antidote to anxiety: having to wait for anything—a text, an exam grade, ‘How am I going to do?’—all create anticipatory anxiety. Unfortunately, there are many things in life that aren’t quickly resolved and waiting is necessary.”

Technology is clearly playing a role in blurring the line between public and private, and in making students feel vulnerable to criticism (if you take away porn and mean comments, the internet would shrink in sheer volume).

Rates of young people’s mental health generally are not showing sharp increases. A review of mental health among adolescents and young adults between 2000 and 2012 published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded, “Mental health indicators changed little, except for a decrease in unhealthy methods of weight loss.” A study of self-reported health among adolescents in 32 Western countries found that youngsters. in the United States (like most other countries) were no more likely to report problems in 2010 than 2002.

Thus the helicopter parenting of minor children has led to the infantilization of young adults who are presumed to be able neither to endure nor to resolve disagreements prompted by emotional conflicts. It is a strange and potent combination of a culture of learned helplessness, where students are persistently directed both to experience troubling speech and other interpersonal interactions as intensely, painfully disabling, and therefore to seek the assistance of authority figures from counselors to administrators to protect themselves from emotional pain they cannot handle on their own.

So powerful does being offended by offensive speech make students feel that they (or occasionally their professor) manufacture offensive speech hoaxes in order to trigger a satisfying response to their concerns from those in power.  (This College Fix list from 2014 predates the latest wave from anti-Trump hoaxers purporting to represent his followers’ views, for example, here.)

Campus life is producing and reinforcing students who feel exceptionally helpless, easily hurt, who rely on angry accusations and tearful breakdowns to motivate adult authorities to help them, without whom they are helpless to achieve. Surely many or most of these students will recover their capacity to cope when they enter a world where authority figures do not so richly encourage their learned emotional helplessness.

Can America Survive Its Elites?

In his posthumously published The End of the Experiment, the great social scientist Stanley Rothman makes a pessimistic– and cogent– argument that our recent history is building up to the end of the American experiment in self-government. Rothman sees our national nadir as reflecting long-term, likely terminal elite dysfunction stemming from the impact of the New Left in the 1960s. For Rothman, based on surveys and his analysis, the thinking of the new left has replaced classical liberalism among America’s young, including Herbert Marcuse’s dictum that the silencing of the opposition is necessary for the triumph of progressive ideas.

A Nation Based on Values

American greatness came out of a set of ideas from the Founders and 19th-century intellectuals building a national identity, ideas not based on the static ethnic European loyalties America broke free of, but rather on shared principles celebrating an individual rather than a collective agency. As Ben Wattenberg put it in 1991, the Founders’ vision eventually created the first universal nation, one based on values rather than blood.

Our ultimately successful battles against slavery at home and fascism and communism abroad depended on shared American values and identity rather than the subnational tribal loyalties of Europe, or for that matter the Old South. Those shared values enabled individual Americans to take risks for our nation, including standing up to fascist and Communist adversaries.

The Founders understood the fragility of the American republic, based as it was on values. America’s legitimacy rests on elite and mass acceptance of Calvinist values, success through work, love of God more than self, American nationalism trumping tribalism, integrity in public and private interactions, and restraining individual passions. These accorded with institutions the Founders fashioned, chief among them a limited, constitutional government accountable to citizens.

Teaching the Constitution

Those institutions, in turn, depend on secondary institutions like schools and universities. As Frederick M. Hess documents in The Same Thing Over and Over, after the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and others pushed for widespread schooling to teach national heritage and support for the Constitution, a unique document restraining government. Though early American “public” schools were often associated with and located in churches, they taught support for the Republic in ways transcending sectarian boundaries. This mission was also supported by our colleges and universities, which had deep religious and patriotic roots emphasizing self-sacrifice at the service of God and nation, as shown by such works as C. John Sommerville’s The Decline of the Secular University, and James Piereson’s “The American University: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” within my co-edited book, The Politically Correct University.

Relatedly, in The End of Equality neoliberal Mickey Kaus points out that for men, compulsory military service in the first half of the 20th century privileged national over ethnic, regional, and class loyalties. Elitists such as Prescott Bush and Joseph P. Kennedy pulled strings to get their sons in combat. Elite universities had a substantial military presence. No matter one’s station, military service created an American identity.

Support for Founding Values Faded

Transcending tribal boundaries is essential to good governance in electoral democracies, forcing politicians to base appeals on their achievements for all citizens rather than narrow group affinities as “one of us.” This narrative fits the political model of influential political scientist V.O. Key. In The Responsible Electorate, published posthumously in 1966, Key declared “voters are not fools”: significant numbers of “switchers” change their votes from election to election to hold incumbent politicians accountable for their performance in office.

Sadly, as Rothman shows, through the 20th century, support for the founding values fell away, first among university intellectuals. Progressive intellectuals embraced “expressive individualism and collectivist liberalism,” having suffered “a loss of faith in the efficacy and legitimacy of the political system, as well as…in the values of Western culture.” They sought to replace the American Republic with rule by unelected and unaccountable technocrats of their tribe. Intellectuals embraced values antithetical to personal responsibility, privileging identities based not on achievement, but on ethnicity and eventually gender identity.

America–Hollywood’s Villain

Initially, these ideological and cultural movements remained largely within the confines of the Ivory Tower. By the late 1960s, however, New Left elites began to work their way from academia through cultural, media, and educational institutions, seeking and gradually attaining power. As Rothman shows, these “these radical adults had a greater need for power and a greater fear of power. They were also more narcissistic.”  Accordingly, they sought and obtained power, over the long term taking over the leading educational, media, and cultural institutions.

As Rothman shows systematically, by the late 20th Century both high-school civics texts and Hollywood films moved from (perhaps overly) positive views of American institutions, to accentuate the negative, with ever more disparaging views on the military, patriotism, the traditional family, organized religion and America’s performance on the world stage. From 1975 on, America and its leaders were the conventional villains in movies and on TV. The colleges and universities led the way on these cultural and ideological changes. While the campus furor of the 1960s faded, a cultural anti-Americanism is now hardwired into the ivory tower and subsidiary institutions.

Evasive Academics

Over time, journalists, entertainers and educators took their cues from intellectuals in a thousand ways great and small, from skewering conservative institutions like the military, marriage, and organized religion to avoiding mention of the horrendous failures of central planning during the entire 2016 election involving a prominent socialist. Also, leading professional academic organizations continue to conduct conferences on income inequality without including a single presentation exploring the greatest statistical correlate of income inequality– the rise in single-parent families. Indeed, anyone making such a presentation would have difficulty earning tenure, as the experience of Daniel Patrick Moynihan indicates.

Expressive individualism and an end of patriotism meant that post-1960s elites did not see the American republic as worthy of individual sacrifice. Over the past half century, American elites have avoided military service, with its dangers and distasteful contact across class lines. As Frank Bruni writes in The New York Times, only four veterans now attend Yale: One studies at Princeton, and Harvard refused to provide data. Along with Ivy League pedigrees and a penchant for crony capitalism, a key Clinton/Trump commonality is having no family in the military. In the various wars on terror, American elites have no skin in the game nor empathy for those they send to fight, and thus no penchant for success rather than the appearance of success.

Generally, American politics now models itself on university politics. Elites fail to address obvious causal relationships. Instead, they stress group identity, judging others by whether they belong to our tribes, not whether they do their jobs. Nor do they embrace American exceptionalism in any way shape or form; thus when President Trump, like President Obama before him, fails to find a difference between traditional American foreign policy and the murderous records of Vladimir Putin and his more openly Soviet predecessors, America’s media and academia are unable to point out the silliness. This is indeed a post-truth word.

The demise of truth, and with it accountability, may well mark the end of the American experiment, leading us to ponder what comes next.

The Campus Left Discovers Free Speech

The data are beginning to bear out the popular theory that free speech on campus is in steady decline.

A study commissioned by the William F. Buckley Center at Yale found that 51% of college students favor speech codes to regulate speech for both faculty and students. Relatedly, a Pew poll found that a full 40% of American millennials feel that the government should be able to take measures preventing speech that is offensive to minority groups.

It is against this backdrop that pockets of the left have found a reason to fight for free speech—to resist conservative efforts to ban “whiteness,” and “white privilege” studies and other classes likely to produce group resentment. An example is the now-dead HB 2120, a bill by two Arizona Republicans calling for the prohibition of any curricular activities that promote resentment of particular groups, or in any way “advocate solidarity or isolation based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or social class.” The catalysts were events like the University of Arizona’s annual “privilege walk” and a course called “Whiteness and Race Theory.” The bill, in essence, sought to rein in those courses and campus events that use diversity as a cudgel in today’s culture wars.

Related: Brown’s President Says She Values Free Speech, but…

What seems to distinguish it from other recent reform efforts being undertaken by a handful of states is its active identification of unscrupulous, if not outright discriminatory, academic programming. Advocating group solidarity or isolation could conceivably be said to violate standards of inclusive excellence or cross-cultural dialogue, two mainstays of the progressive administration of higher education. Within that rhetorical framework is the rationale for many state legislators who feel that such concepts militate against free and open discourse by marginalizing certain viewpoints and establishing protected classes of students.

The states that have modeled their reforms on statements like the University of Chicago’s Stone Report and the draft legislation proposed by the Goldwater Institute have, quite rightly, identified speech as a negative liberty, not to be infringed upon by arbitrary and exasperatingly fluid terms of discourse. Thus, these legislative efforts have taken aim at such things as “safe spaces,” speaker dis-invitations, and active, repeated disruptions of those exercising the right of speech. The reasons are clear. As Tennessee’s Student Free Speech Protection Act plainly states, “In recent years, state institutions of higher education have abdicated their responsibility to uphold free speech principles.”

However, Arizona’s HB 2120 seems to be ironically somewhat congenial to a culture in which students are deterred from taking political chances or saying virtually anything that could be construed as a personal affront or an inducement to emotional discomfort. Despite its placement athwart the identity studies paradigm, the bill could still be said to validate a commitment to the creation of a safe and inclusive learning environment. Such thinking is not wholly irregular. It simply applies the idea that speech which targets individuals for their membership in a particular identity group is divisive and thereby subject to regulation.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College

What connects the two competing legislative tasks is an acknowledgment that the rancor and division on campuses can be perpetuated rather than mitigated by diversity regimes that are sustained by narratives of victimization. Likewise, they both presuppose a correlation between the campus’s multicultural ethos and the student’s manufactured right to be protected from certain forms of speech. The logic of this fundamental freedom has been inverted and exploited, and the notion that First Amendment protections can be circumscribed for identitarian reasons has become intuitive.

And so, HB 2120 might, in fact, be interpreted as taking aim more broadly at institutionalized political activism. As such, it has its detractors, many of whom have unfurled the banner of free speech. Criticisms of Arizona’s bill, not unpredictably, are consistent with those of speech protection acts elsewhere, and they are not necessarily wrong. They are just late and unevenly applied.

Consider, for example, the AAUP’s Academe Blog, which, while opposing the Goldwater Institute’s model, expresses concern that “it uses legislation rather than persuasion to accomplish its goals.” Similarly, its response to Tennessee’s bill claims an attack on free speech and complains that the legislation “imposes bizarre and burdensome regulations that administrators will struggle to understand and implement.” While the AAUP has been fairly consistent in its skepticism of federal and state intervention into the affairs of higher education, a more overtly partisan campus constituency might make the false distinction between the legislative efforts in question and things like Title IX-related “Dear Colleague” letters.

Related: Donald Downs on the Return of Campus Censorship

Thus, the responses to HB 2120 are instructive. While local and somewhat obscure, the bill has garnered the attention of some students and faculty who are aghast at the prospect of any challenges to their role as arbiters of protected speech.

An opinion piece in the Daily Wildcat, the University of Arizona’s student newspaper, is titled “HB2120: The Next Step in Ending Education as we Know it.”

Indeed, education as we have come to know it is a social justice crusade, interested as much in promoting a left-wing, globalist counter-culture as it is discovering truth through inquiry. That this model might be imperiled by such legislation is surely something that more than a few observers could live with, for better or for worse.

Nevertheless, the inscription of censorship within this curricular model seems lost on those inured to its orthodoxies. A columnist for the State Press at Arizona State University argues without irony that the bill targets both “diversity and individuality.” That view is reinforced by LaDawn Haglund, associate professor of Justice and Social Inquiry at ASU, who claims the bill “ignore[s] the very foundation of American society.”

The outrage is not confined, however, to the state of Arizona. A columnist for the Indiana Daily Student finds the bill “sickening” and urges readers to “come together as a nation and realize that freedoms of speech and expression trump anyone’s feelings.” That theme was echoed on my campus, where the student newspaper devoted two editorials to the topic. One wrote that “There should never be a reason to silence other individuals to push a political agenda,” while another, also relating symptoms of physical illness, complained that “we are being strangled by more rules and regulation that are simply unnecessary.”

Amen to all that. If the idea of speech deregulation catches on, perhaps we can add to the list “free speech zones” as well as those codes discouraging the utterance of such verbal haymakers as “ugly,” “you guys,” “illegal alien,” and, you guessed it, “political correctness.”

Unfortunately, students take many cues from the social justice reprogramming they are now vigorously defending. Lee Bebout, an English professor at Arizona State who teaches a course on whiteness, is afraid of “nonexperts” making decisions over what can and cannot be taught on today’s campus.

The criticism is a fair one, but when it comes to the type of courses targeted by HB 2120, we are all experts. Critical race theory suffuses nearly all of the disciplines within the humanities and, most nefariously, general education classes that can be taught as anything, by anyone. Given the ideological makeup of today’s professoriate, one need not wonder why those courses tend to be more James Baldwin than James Burnham.

The grave threat to free speech did not begin with HB 2120 or sundry speech protection acts. The Berkeley riots are just the most recent illustration, but that behavior is enabled by a culture that safeguards against many forms of speech that administrators are all too eager to label “hateful.” It is a baldly political move, and the theory of inclusiveness has been weaponized to cleanse campuses of politically unorthodox thought.

Examples are not hard to find, but interested students might look to Title IX inquisitions against Northwestern feminist professor Laura Kipnis or of Kentucky journalism professor Buck Ryan, who was disciplined for singing “California Girls” in front of female students on a trip abroad. Bias Response Teams have materialized as a way to enforce administrative speech codes, and conservative student organizations can be bullied and harassed while merely attempting to conduct their business.

It would seem that in the case of HB 2120 and similar bills materializing elsewhere, what students have found most frightening is not that speech can be constrained, but that it might not always be constrained by their progressive ideological handlers.

On the campus, free speech is selective, and it is afforded proportionately to students on the basis of their level of grievance. Peter Wood, in The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom, refers to this phenomenon as compensatory privilege, and it would seem that in the age of Trump, Diversicrats are digging in their heels.

I am in no position to comment on the merits of legislation aimed at restricting university curricula. As a matter of principle, I am generally opposed to it. It is not, after all, a partisan issue. Both Joe Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Katherine Timpf at National Review have argued cogently against HB 2120 for the damage it would do to academic freedom. This places reasonably concerned parties in good company.

However, anyone experiencing end-of-days deliria over the bill might do well to consider how it is that we arrived at this point. The multicultural program demands obeisance to its dogmas, even at the expense of thought and, yes, free speech. It has led to the still-isolated legislative efforts that students are now so threatened by, even as they sit idly in the face of vandalism, hate-crime hoaxes, and mindless hysteria.

The suppression of speech on college campuses is very real, it is menacing, and it continues unabated. To those just joining the chorus against its excesses, welcome to the club.