Category Archives: Essays

How Non-Judgmentalism Undermines Education

Non-judgmentalism has emerged as one of the core values of higher education. Today’s college students have been educated to perceive their sense of personal security with being affirmed and not judged. Many advocates of safe spaces claim that not being judged is one of the main virtues of their institution.

One website advertising “20 Great Value Colleges with Safe Spaces” gives pride of place to Colorado Mesa University’s Safe Space Program. It “emphasizes the importance of creating non-judgmental and non-biased space for students to have an open platform about any prejudicial concerns they may be experiencing.” In other words, one of the major things they want to feel safe from is judgment.

The fact that not being judged is now perceived as a positive virtue that enhances the learning experience of students is a problem for anyone who takes seriously the ethos of a liberal university education. The discrediting and loss of human judgment, which has been historically linked to the making of moral and political choices and intellectual development is now estranging the university from humanist values and critical reflection.

The Fear of True Tolerance

Although non-judgmentalism is represented as an enlightened and liberal attitude towards the world, it is nothing of the sort. The unreflected judgments arrived at through stereotyping are merely manifestations of conformism and prejudice. But the valuation of non-judgmentalism possesses no inherent positive ethical qualities. The reluctance to judge may be a symptom of disinterest or even moral cowardice. Nowadays it is often brought about by a reluctance to offend or to confront difficult and embarrassing questions. Consequently, once a student signals that she is “uncomfortable” with a particular line of discussion, a sensitive teacher is expected to change the subject.

Campus advocates of non-judgmentalism have developed an entire vocabulary of euphemisms to avoid being unambiguous, clear and blunt in its statements. Terms like “inappropriate,” problematic,” “unwelcome” or “uncomfortable” self-consciously avoid making a moral judgment.

From a liberal humanist perspective, judgment is not simply an acceptable response to other people’s beliefs and behavior: it is a public duty. It is the act of judgment that a dialogue is established between an individual and others. Drawing on Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the philosopher Hannah Arendt writes, in Between Past and Future, of an “enlarged way of thinking, which as judgment knows how to transcend its own individual limitations.” According to current conventional prejudice, the act of judging confines the imagination and encourages narrow-mindedness. In fact, as Arendt contends, judging plays a central role in disclosing to individuals the nature of their public world: “judging is one, if not the most,

According to current conventional prejudice, the act of judging confines the imagination and encourages narrow-mindedness. In fact, as Arendt contends, judging plays a central role in disclosing to individuals the nature of their public world: “judging is one, if not the most, important activity in which this sharing-the-world-with-others comes to pass.” Judgment does not simply mean the dismissal of another person’s belief: ‘the power of judgment rests on a potential agreement with others.” This is one compelling reason why a democratic public sphere depends on judgment.

Non-Judgmentalism Undermines Education

The capacity and the willingness to judge is central to the vocation of an academic Indeed academic judgment lies at the heart of the university. The testing of ideas, the questioning of colleagues’ views and the pursuit of intellectual clarity require the freedom to judge. The very idea of academic freedom is underpinned by the recognition that the exercise of judgment can have no limits without compromising scholarship and its vocation. Within the context of an academic relationship students and faculty must be prepared to have their ideas and views judged by others. Attempts to evade judgment or to limit its exercise in an academic environment can only compromise the quality of higher education.

Why has the creative public act of judgment become culturally devalued? To some extent the devaluation of the act of judgment is influenced by intellectual currents that are both skeptical of knowledge claims and argue that everyone’s views ought to be respected. Such relativist currents often denounce people with strong views as “essentialists” and “fundamentalists.” A more important source for the devaluation of judgment is the influence of the belief that people lack the resilience to deal with criticism. This belief is widely advocated by so-called parenting experts and teachers of children in their early years of schooling. School teachers are trained to avoid explicit criticism of their pupils and to practice techniques that validate members of the classroom.

Such sentiments are based on the premise that perceives people as lacking the capacity to engage with disappointment and criticism. The sentiment that “criticism is violence’” has gained significant influence on campuses and amongst the cultural elites. Judgment is often portrayed as a form of psychic violence, especially if applied to children: the sociologist Richard Sennett echoes this sentiment when he writes of the “devastating implications of rendering judgment on someone’s future.”

Far too many educators confuse an act of judgment with an assault on an individual’s well-being. Yet the exercise of judgment is not directed towards demeaning an individual’s identity but towards assessing an individual’s ideas. Its aims to transcend the personal. In contrast, the ethos of non-judgmentalism perceives the act of judgment as directed at an individual’s identity and assumes that everything is personal. Its self-centered failure to distinguish the personal from non-personal concerns bears all the hallmarks of cultural narcissism.

Paradoxically, the association of judgmentalism with intolerant narrow-mindedness is the very opposite of reality. It is the advocates of non-judgmentalism who regard those who question their views as violators of their safe space and who are wary of engaging with views other than their own. Since respecting and validating each other’s views is a foundational principle governing interaction in a safe space it becomes difficult to seriously question and criticize. And institutions that seek to protect their members from the offense caused by the exercise of judgment have lost sight of the meaning of higher education.

The Dangerous Rise of ‘The New Civics’

The following are excerpts from a report released January 10 by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) on MAKING CITIZENS: HOW AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES TEACH CIVICS. The full report includes case studies at the University of Colorado (Boulder), Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado and the University of Wyoming.                                                                                   

National Findings: Traditional civic literacy is in deep decay in America. The New Civics, a movement devoted to progressive activism, has taken over civics education. “Service-learning” and “civic engagement” are the most common labels this movement uses, but it also calls itself global civics, deliberative democracy, and intercultural learning. The New Civics movement is national, and it extends far beyond the universities. The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as “progressive activism.” The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as channeling government funds toward progressive nonprofits. The New Civics has worked to divert government funds to progressive causes since its founding in the 1960s.

The New Civics redefines “volunteerism” as labor for progressive organizations and administration of the welfare state. The new measures to require “civic engagement” will make this volunteerism compulsory.  The New Civics replaces traditional liberal arts education with vocational training for community activists. The New Civics shifts authority within the university from the faculty to administrators, especially in offices of civic engagement, diversity, and sustainability, as well as among student affairs professionals. The New Civics also shifts the emphasis of a university education from curricula, drafted by faculty, to “co-curricular activities,” run by non-academic administrators. The New Civics movement aims to take over the entire university. The New Civics advocates want to make “civic engagement” part of every class, every tenure decision, and every extracurricular activity.

By Peter Wood, NAS President

What is most new about the New Civics is that while it claims the name of civics, it is really a form of anti-civics. Civics in the traditional American sense meant learning about how our republic governs itself.

The New Civics has very little to say about most of these matters. It focuses overwhelmingly on turning students into “activists.” Its largest preoccupation is getting students to engage in coordinated social action. Sometimes this involves political protest, but most commonly it involves volunteering for projects that promote progressive causes. Whatever one might think of these activities in their own right, they are a considerable distance away from what Americans used to mean by the word “civics.”

In issuing this report, the National Association of Scholars joins the growing number of critics who believe that some version of traditional civics needs to be restored to American education. This is a non-partisan concern. For America to function as a self-governing republic, Americans must possess a basic understanding of their government. That was one of the original purposes of public education and it has been the lodestar of higher education in our nation from the beginning.

The New Civics has diverted us from this basic obligation.

While many observers have expressed alarm about the disappearance of traditional civics education, very few have noticed that a primary cause of this disappearance has been the rise of the New Civics. This new mode of “civic” training is actively hostile to traditional civics, which it regards as a system of instruction that fosters loyalty to ideas and practices that are fundamentally unjust. The New Civics, claiming the mantle of the “social justice” movement, aims to sweep aside those old ideas and practices and replace them with something better.

Complications: New Civics has appropriated the name of an older subject, but not the content of that subject or its basic orientation to the world. Instead of trying to prepare students for adult participation in the self-governance of the nation, the New Civics tries to prepare students to become social and political activists who are grounded in broad antagonism towards America’s founding principles and its republican ethos.

But a casual observer of New Civics programs might well miss both the activist orientation and the antagonism. That’s for two reasons. First, the New Civics includes a great deal that is superficially wholesome. Second, the advocates of New Civics have adopted a camouflage vocabulary consisting of pleasant-sounding and often traditional terms. Taking these in turn:

Superficial wholesomeness. When New Civics advocates urge college students to volunteer to assist the elderly, to help the poor, to clean up litter, or to assist at pet shelters, the activities themselves really are wholesome. Why call this superficial? The elderly, the poor, the environment, and abandoned pets—to mention only a few of the good objects of student volunteering—truly do benefit from these efforts. The volunteering itself is not necessarily superficial or misguided. But, again, context matters. In the context of New Civics, student volunteering is not just calling on students to exercise their altruistic muscles. It is, rather, a way of drawing students into a system that combines some questionable beliefs with long-term commitments.

These seemingly innocent forms of volunteering, as organized by the patrons of New Civics, are considerably less “voluntary” than they often appear—especially since more and more colleges are turning such “volunteer” work into a graduation requirement. Some students even call them “voluntyranny,” given the heavy hand of the organizers in coercing students to participate. They submerge the individual into a collectivity. They ripen the students for more aggressive forms of community organization. And often they turn the students themselves into fledgling community organizers.

Camouflage vocabulary. The world of New Civics is rife with familiar words used in non-familiar ways. Democracy and civic engagement in New Civic-speak do not mean what they mean in ordinary English.

A Dictionary of Deception. This is exemplified in a catchphrase used by Syracuse University’s civic program: “Citizen isn’t just something you are. Citizen is something you do.” The idea is that students aren’t getting a full education just by reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, speaking in class, debating with each other, and participating in the social life of the college community. They must also “learn by doing.” Another phrase for this is that students should “apply their academic learning” or “practice” it in the real world. “Active” always means “active in progressive political campaigns.”

The “aware” student is up to date with the progressive party line and knows the current list of oppressions that need to be righted. The “aware” student knows the true meaning of words: “academic freedom,” for example, is really “a hegemonic discourse that perpetuates the structural inequalities of white male power.” “Awareness” requires politically correct purchases and social interactions—reusable water bottles, fair-trade coffee, a diffident approach to pronouns—but it does not require active participation in a campaign of political advocacy.

Civic Learning: “Civic learning” is learning how to be properly civically engaged; civic learning, in other words, teaches students the content of progressives’ political beliefs, how to propagandize for them, and the means by which to enforce them on other people via the administrative state. New Civics advocates are trying to make progressive propaganda required for college students by calling “civic learning” an “essential learning outcome.” Civic learning is supposed to become “pervasive”—inescapable political education.

Loyalty to and Enthusiastic Participation In A Social Justice Cause: “Commitment” is an enthusiastic form of being “active.” It signals a student’s readiness to make a career as a progressive advocate in a “community organization,” university administration, or the government. It also signals to progressives entrusted to hire new personnel that a student is a trustworthy employee.

Tactics to Increase the Power of the Radical Left, Following the Strictures of Saul Alinsky: “Community organization” as a process refers to the Machiavellian tactics used by radical Saul Alinsky to forward radical leftist goals. New Civics advocates use community organization tactics against the university itself, as they try to seize control of its administration and budget; they also train students to act as community organizers in the outside world. “Community organization” as a noun refers to a group founded by Alinskyite progressives, with Alinskyite aims. Community organization signifies the most intelligent and dangerous component of the progressive coalition.

Consensus, a Loudly Shouted Progressive Opinion, Verified by Denying Disbelievers the Chance to Speak: Consensus means that everyone agrees. Progressives achieve the illusion of consensus by shouting their opinions, asserting that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, and preventing opponents from speaking—sometimes by denying them administrative permission to speak on a campus, sometimes literally by shouting them down

Critique, Dismantling Belief in the Traditions of Western Civilization and American Culture: To be critical, or to engage in critique, is to attack an established belief on the grounds that it is self-evidently a hypocritical prejudice established by the powerful to reinforce their rule, and believed by poor dupes clinging to their false consciousness. “Critical thought” sees through the deceptive appearance of freedom, justice, and happiness in American life and reveals the underlying structures of oppression—sexism, racism, class dominance, and so on. “Critique” works to dismantle these oppressive structures. “Critical thought” and “critique” is also meant to reinforce the ruling progressive prejudices of the universities; it is never to take these prejudices as their object.

Deliberative Democracy, Thoughtful, Rational Discussion of Political Issues That Ends Up With Progressive Conclusions: Deliberative democracy is a concept that political theorists have drawn from Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative rationality. While formally about the procedures of democratic decision-making, it aligns with the idea of a transcendental, quasi-Marxist Truth, toward which rational decision-making inevitably leads. New Civics advocates in Rhetoric/Communications and Political Science departments frequently use “deliberative democracy” classes and centers as a way to forward progressive goals.

Progressive Policies Achieved by Arbitrary Rule And/Or The Threat Of Violence: New Civics advocates use “democracy” to mean “radical social and economic goals, corresponding to beliefs that range from John Dewey to Karl Marx.” They also use “democratic” to mean “disassembling all forms of law and procedure, whether in government, the university administration, or the classroom.” A democratic political decision overrides the law to achieve a progressive political goal; a democratic student rally intimidates a university administration into providing more money for a campus New Civics organization; a democratic class replaces a professor’s informed discussion with a student’s incoherent exposition of his unfounded opinion. A democracy in power issues arbitrary edicts to enforce progressive dogma and calls it freedom.

Lectures by Progressive Activists, Intended to Harangue Dissidents Into Silence: In “dialogue,” or “conversation,” students are supposed to listen carefully to a grievance speaker, usually a professional activist, and if possible echo what the speaker has to say. The dialogue is never between individuals, but between representatives of a race, a religion, a nationality, and so on. The structure of dialogue thus dehumanizes all participants by making them nothing more than mouthpieces for a group “identity.”

Diversity, Propaganda and Hiring Quotas in Favor of the Progressive Grievance Coalition: The Supreme Court used “diversity” as a rationale for sustaining the legality of quotas for racial minorities in higher education admissions, first in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and then in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). New Civics advocates use “democracy” to mean “radical social and economic goals, corresponding to beliefs that range from John Dewey to Karl Marx.”

Disaffection from American Citizenship in Favor of a Notional Membership in a Non-Existent Global State: “Global citizenship” is a way to combine civic engagement, study abroad, and disaffection from primary loyalty to and love of America. A global citizen favors progressive policies at home and abroad and is in favor of constraining the exercise of American power in the interest of American citizens. A global citizen is a contradiction in terms since he is loyal to a hypothetical abstraction, and not to an actual cives—a particular state with a particular history. A global citizen seeks to impose rule by an international bureaucratic elite upon the American government, and the beliefs of an international alliance of progressive nongovernmental organization upon the American people.

Putatively Non-Hierarchical Progressive Community Organizations: The “grassroots” have democratic authenticity—they’re not professional politicians claiming to speak for the people, and they aren’t made to conform to any sort of hierarchical authority. Real grassroots— citizens coming together to lobby legislators—is intrinsic to the American political system, but when progressives claim to speak for the grassroots, and they mean a drive funded by George Soros and organized by paid activists.  These activists declare that “consensus” has been reached by “the people” outside the formal structures of representative democracy. Since “consensus” is achieved by shouting down moderates, compromisers, and gentle souls, genuine progressive grassroots organizations make unaccountable ideological fanaticism the source of decision-making. See Black Lives Matter.

Interdependence: “Interdependence” universalizes the language of needs and rights, and therefore justifies the expansion of the progressive state to extend to every aspect of life.

The Idea That Every Component of the Progressive Left Must Support All Other Components of the Progressive Left: “Intersectionality” is a way to align progressives’ competing narratives of oppression and victimhood by making every purported victim of oppression support every other purported victim of oppression.

Pervasiveness, Making New Civics Inescapable at the University: The New Civics seeks to insert progressive advocacy into every aspect of higher education, inside and outside the college. A Crucible Moment summons higher education institutions to make civic learning “pervasive” rather than “peripheral.” “Pervasiveness” justifies the extension of progressive propaganda and advocacy by student affairs staff and other academic bureaucrats into residential life and “co-curricular activities”—everything students do voluntarily outside of class. It also justifies the insertion of progressive advocacy into every class, as well as making progressive activism a hiring and tenure requirement for faculty and staff.

“Pervasiveness” justifies the extension of progressive propaganda and advocacy by student affairs staff and other academic bureaucrats into residential life and “co-curricular activities”—everything students do voluntarily outside of class.

Service-Learning, Free Student Labor for Progressive Organizations: “Service-learning” was invented in the 1960s by radicals as a way to use university resources to forward radical political goals. It aims to propagandize students (“raise their consciousness”), to use their labor and tuition money to support progressive organizations, and to train them for careers as progressive activists. It draws on educational theories from John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Mao’s China. Since the 1980s, “service-learning” has used the name “civic engagement” to provide a “civic” rationale for progressive political advocacy. Civic engagement, global learning, and so on, all are forms of service-learning.

Social Justice, Progressive Policies Justified by the Putative Sufferings of Designated Victim Groups: Social justice aims to redress putative wrongs suffered by designated victim groups. Unlike real justice, which seeks to deliver individuals the rights guaranteed to them by written law or established custom, social justice aims to provide arbitrary goods to collectivities of people defined by equally arbitrary identities. Social justice uses the language of law and justice to justify state redistribution of jobs and property to whomever progressives think deserve them

Service-learning aims to propagandize students (“raise their consciousness”), to use their labor and tuition money to support progressive organizations, and to train them for careers as progressive activists.

“Reciprocal” is a sign that progressive organizations have seized control of university funds.

21st Century Skills, Digital Media Skills Used to Forward the Progressive Agenda: The ability to use social media and graphic design for progressive propaganda and organization. The emphasis on “skills” generally argues that universities don’t need to teach any body of knowledge; the particular emphasis on “twenty-first-century skills” further argues that universities don’t need to teach anything discovered before the year 2000. Recent college graduates use “twenty-first-century skills” as an argument that they should be employed despite knowing nothing and having no work experience.

These definitions we have sketched voice our distrust of the New Civics movement. Its declarations about its aims and its avowals about its methods can seldom be taken at face value. This isn’t a minor point. Civics in a well-governed republic has to be grounded on clear speaking and transparency. A movement that goes to elaborate lengths to present a false front to the public is not properly civics at all, no matter what it calls itself.

We began this study in the hope of finding out how far the New Civics had succeeded in becoming part of American colleges and universities. We came to a mixed answer. New Civics is present to some degree at almost all colleges and universities, but it is much more fully developed and institutionalized at some than it is at others. In our study, the University of Colorado at Boulder stands as our example of a university where New Civics has become dominant. But even at universities where New Civics has not attained such prominence, it is a force to be reckoned with.

A movement that goes to elaborate lengths to present a false front to the public is not properly civics at all, no matter what it calls itself.

The word “civics” suggests that students will learn about the structures and functions of government in a classroom. Some do, but a major finding of our study is that there has been a shift of gravity within universities. New Civics finds its most congenial campus home in the offices devoted to student activities, such as the dean or vice president for students, the office of residence life, and the centers for service-learning. Nearly every campus also has some faculty advocates for New Civics, but the movement did not grow out of the interests and wishes of mainstream faculty members. A partial exception to this is schools of education, where many faculty members are fond of New Civics conceits.

The positioning of New Civics in student services has a variety of implications.

First, it means the initiative is directly under the control of central administration, which can appoint staff and allocate budget without worrying about faculty opinion or “shared governance.” Programs like this can become signature initiatives for college presidents, and few within the university, including boards of trustees, have any independent basis to examine whatever claims a college president makes on behalf of New Civics programs. In a word, such programs are unaccountable.

Second, the positioning of New Civics as parallel to the college’s actual curriculum frees advocates to make extravagant claims about its contributions to students’ general education. New Civics is full of hyperbole about what it accomplishes, and even so, it vaunts itself as deserving an even larger role in “transforming” students. Its goal is to be everywhere, in all the classes, and in that sense to subordinate the teaching faculty to the staff who run the student services programs.

Third, the New Civics placement in student services tends to blur the line between academic and extra-curricular. New Civics advocates may hold adjunct appointments on the faculty. Frequently they push for academic credit for various forms of student volunteering. In general, they treat the extra-curricular as “co-curricular,” which is rhetorical inflation.

New Civics is about seizing power in society, and the place nearest at hand is the university itself. New Civics mandarins are ambitious, and what starts in student services doesn’t stay there.

Why Millennials Are So Fragile

I have stopped counting the number of times that an academic colleague reminds me that “undergraduates are not what they used to be.” In private conversations, a significant minority of academic teachers have raised the concern that the age-old distinction between school children and university students was fast losing its meaning.

Back in 2003, Neil Howe and William Strauss, the authors of the study Millennials Go to College, advanced the thesis that this generation is far less mature and resilient than previous ones. They noted that the millennial generation is far more “closely tied to their parents” than the students that preceded them, and they also insist on a “secure and regulated environment.”

Howe and Strauss concluded that as a result, students today find it difficult to flourish in the relatively unstructured environment of higher education. The assessment that the millennials find it more troublesome to make the transition to independent living on campuses than previous generations is widely held by educators on both sides of the Atlantic.

A report last September from Britain’s Higher Education Policy Institute said that the normal experiences of university life now constitute serious challenges to the well-being of the current cohort of students. It noted that “students are vulnerable” because in most cases they are living away from home for the first time. It also pointed to the new challenges they faced such as “a different method of learning” and “living with people they have never met before.”

Related: Should Colleges Coddle the Whiners?

One of the most significant and yet rarely analyzed developments in campus culture has been its infantilization.  Eric Posner, a leading legal scholar at the University of Chicago, declared that “students today are more like children than adults and need protection.” Posner contends that today’s university students are not ready for independence and require the moral guidance of their institutions.

In England, a group educators have criticized universities for treating their new students as if they were young adults. Sir Anthony Seldon, now head of Buckingham University, stated that ‘there is a belief among Vice Chancellors that young people are adults and can fend for themselves, but “18-year-olds today are a lot less robust and worldly wise.”

Most accounts of the unprecedented emotional fragility of university undergraduates claim that this development is the outcome of the expansion of student numbers. They suggest that many of these students come from diverse non-traditional backgrounds and lack the confidence and financial security of their more privileged predecessors. Catherine McAteer, the head of University College London’s student psychological services observed that the reason why a growing number of students require mental health support is because “students are now coming to university” who previously “would not have come.”

Some argue that first-generation students –undergraduates whose parents did not attend university – face unique problems attempting to fit into an alien, high-pressure environment. It is also asserted that since a significant proportion of first-generation students come from minority and socially deprived backgrounds they face a unique problem of adjusting to the traditional white middle- class campus environment.

Related: The New Age of Orthodoxy Overtakes the Campus

The principal problem faced by first-generation students is that their parents had little cultural capital to hand on to them and were, therefore, less prepared for university life than their more comfortably off peers. But unlike today, the problems they faced was not portrayed in psychological terms but in the language of culture and socio-economic deprivation.

Unfortunately, when first-generation students arrive on campus today, they are often treated as if they are likely to possess some emotional deficits. In the U.S. it is common for universities to organize special programs for integrating first-generation students. Diversity officers dealing with the first-generation often operate under the theory that this group faces a unique problem of being torn between family and university. They frequently contend that first-generation students suffer from guilt for leaving their family behind. The upshot of these theories is the belief that first-generation students need special dedicated psychological support.

Regrettably, the focus on psychology distracts attention from more constructive ways of preparing students from disadvantaged backgrounds to deal with the pressures of academic learning. The provision of academic support to help students gain intellectual confidence is probably the most useful way of helping students to make their way in the university.

Perversely the provision of psychological support as the default solution for helping first-generation students is likely to intensify their quest for validation. Instead of developing their power of resilience it may well heighten their sense of vulnerability. What universities need to do is not to cultivate the insecure identity of first-generation students but to provide them with the intellectual resources that will help them to gain confidence in their ability to achieve.

Related: Millennials Not Ready for the Job Market

In any case, it is far from evident if the link between emotional fragility and a student’s non-traditional background explains very much. Students from well-to-do backgrounds are no less likely than their poorer peers to talk the language of trauma and psychological distress. Indeed some of the most privileged campuses– Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Berkeley, Oberlin – have been in the forefront of campaigns that focus attention to the emotional harms suffered by students from a variety of alleged causes.

The reason why the current generation appears to behave differently from their predecessor has little to do with their socio-economic background. Rather the sense of emotional fragility expressed by some undergraduates is the outcome of the prevailing ethos of socialization that treats young people as children.

The socialization of young people has become increasingly reliant on therapeutic techniques that have the perverse effect of encouraging children and youth to interpret existential problems as psychological ones. The concern with children’s emotions has fostered a climate where many young people are continually educated to understand the challenges they face through the language of mental health. Not surprisingly, they often feel find it difficult to acquire the habit of independence and make the transition to forms of behavior associated with the exercise of autonomy.

The complex emotional tensions that are integral to the process of growing up are now discussed as stressful events with which children and young people cannot be expected to cope. Yet is through dealing with such emotional upheavals that young people learn to manage risks and gain an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Instead of being encouraged to acquire an aspiration for independence, many youngsters are subject to influences that promote childish behavior. The infantilization of young people is the unintended outcome of parenting practices that rely on levels of support and supervision that are more suitable for much younger children.

The relations of dependence that are nurtured through these practices serve to prolong adolescence to the point that many young people in their 20s do not perceive themselves as adults. Whereas in the past infantilization was classically associated with the phenomenon of maternal overprotection, today the prolongation of adolescence is culturally sanctioned. In the case of universities, it is institutionally enforced.

Socialization through validation

The erosion of the line that divides secondary from higher education is a trend that contradicts the ethos of academic teaching and the vocation associated with it. In theory, the ideals associated with the university remain widely affirmed, but in practice, they are often tested by the introduction of conventions that were formerly confined to secondary education. The adoption of paternalistic practices and the wider tendency towards the infantilization of campus life can in part be understood as an outcome of the difficulties that society has encountered in the socialization of young people.

For some time now it has been evident that parents and schools have been struggling with the transmission of values and rules of behavior to young people. In part, this problem was caused by the lack confidence of older generations in the values into which it was socialized. More broadly, Western society has become estranged from the values that used to inspire it in the past and found it difficult to provide its adult members with a compelling narrative for socialization.

The hesitant and defensive manner with which the task of socialization is pursued has created a demand for new ways of influencing children. The growing remission of child protection and the widening of the territory for parenting activities can be interpreted as an attempt to develop new methods for guiding children.

Lack of clarity about the transmission of values has led to a search for alternatives. The adoption of the practices of behavior management serves as one influential approach towards solving the problem of socialization.  These psychological techniques of expert-directed behavior management have had an important influence on childrearing. From this standpoint, the role of parents is not so much to transmit values but to validate the feelings, attitudes and accomplishment of their children.

Though parents still do their best to transmit their beliefs and ideals to their children, there is a perceptible shift from instilling values to the provision of validation. Affirming children and raising their self-esteem is a project that is actively promoted by parents as well as schools. This emphasis on validation has run in tandem with the custom of a risk-averse regime of child-rearing. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has described this form of childrearing as that of “fearful parenting.” He claims that since the 1980s, children have been “protected as fragile,” which has the perverse consequence of undermining their capacity for resilience.

As I noted in my study, Paranoid Parenting, the (unintended) consequence of this regime of parenting has been to limit opportunities for the cultivation of independence and to extend the phase of dependence of young people on adult society. The extension of the phase of dependence is reinforced by the considerable difficulties that society has in providing young people with a persuasive account of what it means to be an adult. Instead of encouraging new undergraduates to embark on a life of independent study, universities have adopted a paternalistic ethos that treats them as biologically mature children. In this way, they have helped create a campus culture that discourages young people from embarking on the path to adulthood.

Ruined by the Beach Boys and Other Title IX Disasters

In the latest expansion of the intent of Title IX, a University of Kentucky Professor drew punishment this month, partly, he says, because he was found to have engaged in “sexual misconduct” by singing a Beach Boys song at a university gathering in China last year. The professor, Buck Ryan, who directs the University’s Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, claimed in an op-ed published in the Lexington Herald Leader  that “under Administrative Regulation 6:1, Discrimination and Harassment, University of Kentucky’s Title IX coordinator ruled that the song, “California Girls,” with names of Chinese universities and cities inserted for the event,  included ‘language of a sexual nature’ and was offensive.”

Although there were no student complaints—essentially no victims—the professor who has three decades of college teaching experience, was refused due process—as is the case for most accused males in Title IX cases—and has been stripped of a prestigious award worth thousands of dollars.

A heavily redacted letter, released by the university, says that no charge of having sexual relations is involved in the case against Ryan, but leaves the impression that Ryan did something major. On December 20, an op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal by University PR man Jay Blanton said the Beach Boys song was not the key factor in the case and that Ryan had engaged in “inappropriate touching” and “language of a sexual nature.” Still, no formal hearing, no clearly stated charges and no on-the-record complaining witnesses, but a heavy financial loss and damage to Ryan’s reputation.

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

In comments to the university senate Monday, Ryan said, “UK has weaponized its Title IX office and made the legal office its enforcer. It’s time the faculty stands up to the bully.” Ryan added that the Chinese students at the event, none of whom were contacted by the university, “found the charges against me mortifying and wanted to defend me. They were looking to clear their names, too.”

Since its passage in 1972, Title IX has been expanded from its original intent to end discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding, to include regulations promulgated in the name of preventing a hostile environment for women—broadly defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Today, any unwelcome comment to a female student from a male student, faculty or staff member is grounds for a Title IX investigation—with Title IX coordinators empowered to act as police, judge and jury in allegations of sexual harassment ranging from offensive speech to claims of rape.

Harvard canceled the men’s soccer team season because team members sent emails to each other rating women on their physical attractiveness. Columbia University followed suit by canceling the wrestling season after “misogynistic and homophobic” text messages were found to have been sent by members of the team.

This was never the intent of Title IX.  While Presidents Reagan and Bush enforced the original intent of Title IX, the overreach of the law began in 1996 with an ominous “Dear Colleague” letter sent from President Clinton’s Education Secretary to all college and university administrators.  Warning that colleges that did not ‘equalize the participation’ of males and females in athletics, would lose federal funding, the Clinton administration mandated that if the schools could not produce enough female athletes, they would have to cut male athletes—and male athletic programs—until the participation rates of both sexes were exactly the same.

That was just the beginning. While the George W. Bush administration did not expand Title IX, it did nothing to curb the abuses. And, once the Obama administration took power, the Title IX industry that had been created was so confident in its ability to manipulate gender politics on campuses throughout the country, that a whole new set of “Dear Colleague” letters began to arrive on campus in 2011. Enlisting the U. S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to handle all complaints in very specific ways, the “Dear Colleague” letters required colleges to be responsible for harassment and assault that occurs off-campus as well as on-campus.

Related: How the Feds Use Orwell to Apply Title IX

The Obama administration also allowed a lower standard of evidence to “prove” the guilt of the accused. A “preponderance of evidence” standard replaced a “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.  And, as in the University of Kentucky case, there are no protections for the academic freedom of professors and the free expression of any male student, professor or staff member on or off campus.  There is no right to due process no right to an attorney for the accused—and sometimes, no appeal process allowed.

President Obama’s overreach has caused an explosion of cases. Even Brett Sokolow, who in 2014 as director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, acknowledged in a newsletter to members that in their efforts to enforce Title IX, “they are running afoul of Title IX.”  Claiming that colleges are getting it “completely wrong,” Sokolow advised campuses that “every drunken sexual hook up is not a punishable offense.”

Sokolow knows that colleges and universities have implemented Title IX so poorly that the Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating more than 200 institutions following complaints that the colleges and universities have mishandled sexual misconduct cases.  In just the past few months, lawsuits were filed by students claiming “unfair treatment” at Albany Medical College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Shenandoah University, the University Cincinnati and the University of Maryland.

This follows high-profile lawsuits at Occidental College, Columbia University and the University of Tennessee.  Several of these lawsuits have been successful in vindicating the male student, and actually holding college administrators accountable.  Earlier this year, an Ohio federal judge allowed an Ohio State University student’s due process claims to survive a motion to dismiss, holding that the campus Title IX training at the Ohio State University may have “biased Title IX panel members,” allowing the plaintiff to proceed against OSU’s Title IX Coordinator.

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

In October, the Office for Civil Rights found that Wesley College in Delaware violated the Title IX rights of a male student who was accused of sexual assault—citing unfair treatment.  And, a  federal appeals court revived a lawsuit by a Columbia University male student who alleged that the university had subjected him to sex discrimination during its investigation of a sexual assault report against him.

For the unjustly accused, the ability to bring these lawsuits are themselves a victory because they reveal that colleges and universities have not been complying with their own procedures.  In most cases, accused students are not given due process – they are denied a chance to respond to allegations, they are not informed of their options for resolving the complaints, they are not given copies of the incident report or other evidence against them before the hearing, they are not allowed to call witnesses on their behalf, and they are often denied legal representation.

Last year in a case at the University of  California, San Diego, Superior Court Judge Joel M. Pressman found that the accused student was impermissibly prevented from fully confronting and cross-examining his accuser and that there was insufficient evident to back the university’s findings that the male student had forced the accuser into sexual activity without her consent. Ordering UC San Diego to drop its finding against the male student, the judge quipped that “When I finished reading all the briefs in this case, my comment was Where’s the kangaroo?”

These campus tribunals are indeed kangaroo courts. A forthcoming book (January 24) The Campus Rape Frenzy, by K C Johnson and Stuart Taylor, draws upon data from two dozen of the hundreds of cases since 2010 in which innocent students have been branded as sex criminals and expelled or otherwise punished by their colleges.  It shows why all of us are harmed when universities abandon the pursuit of the truth—and “accommodate the passions of the mob.”

For those of us who are concerned about free speech and equal protection for all students, the selection of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos is encouraging.  But, Secretary DeVos will be battling an entrenched anti-male campus culture and the Chronicle of Higher Education has already published a warning that: “Trump Administration May Back Away from Title IX, but Campuses Won’t.”

Taking on the sexual assault industry that has been built up on the backs of innocent male students will be difficult, but President-elect Trump—no stranger to false allegations himself—has already shown a willingness to speak for those who have been silenced.

Bias Response Teams—Not Gone Yet

At Emory University, when someone had the nerve to write “Trump 2016” in chalk on some sidewalks and steps, a wave of “fear” struck the campus, according to the university president. He made it clear that “Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values of diversity and inclusivity.” He also said that any student found guilty of chalking up that dreaded name would “go through the conduct violation process.”

Welcome to the new hyper- bias. On the modern campus, it’s an inflatable concept that can include a recommendation to vote Republican.

We were once told to worry about hate crimes–a recognized legal category. Then the focus turned to hate speech and microaggressions–not crimes, really, but at least plausibly offensive incidents. Now we are told to guard against ambiguous and seemingly innocuous incidents, such as a trio of Wisconsin students who dressed as the three blind mice for Halloween and were accused of mocking the disabled.

Related: Watch out for Bias Team

Buoyed by the belief that the university exists to protect them from words that upset them, students and even professors now fight against unwanted speech with righteous fervor. “Bias” has evolved into a quasi-religious concept that lurks in the hearts of unsuspecting students–like a demonic force–that must be exorcized by the Orthodox priests of the liberal academic order.

Who are the inquisitors of this order? Enter the “Bias Response Team,” or, in some cases, the “Bias Awareness Response Team.” They walk the halls of the modern university, monitoring speech, reviewing anonymous complaints at closed-door hearings, painting scarlet Bs on people’s foreheads. The free exchange of ideas–a principle that was once sacred to the very idea of the university–has been replaced by the new sacred principle of the safe space.

They’ve even developed a cute acronym for these inquisitions. BRT’s or BART’s have become a standard part of the vast academic administrative apparatus. More than one hundred U.S. campuses have some version of it on campus. In some cases, they’re dubbed BIRT’s or even BERT’s or BHERT’s. (The ‘H’ stands for hate.) But, alas, a committee by any other name smells just as Orwellian.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College 

One thing these diversely acronymized bias response teams have in common is a kind of air of self-evident righteousness. A belief that words ought to be closely policed. There is a sense of moral urgency and faith that precludes all questioning. Don’t you believe in tolerance, openness, and inclusiveness? How dare you speak of stifling speech!

Nevertheless, some universities have begun to break faith. While these kinds of anti-bias teams remain prevalent, more than one campus has disbanded BART concerned that the constant fear of being reported to the university administration as a “biased person” by anyone who happens not to like what you say in the classroom could, maybe, possibly–there is a chance–lead to a stifling of free speech.

The University of Northern Colorado announced that it would terminate BART back in September with the president, Kay Norton, explaining that the bias team had “sometimes made people feel we were telling them what they should and should not say.” What she didn’t detail in the statement were the hundreds of posters the bias team had put up around campus warning students not to use controversial terms or phrases such as “illegal immigrant” or “all lives matter.”

Even worse, two professors received visits from the school’s bias response team after they asked students to consider an opposing viewpoint as part of a class assignment. Some students in their classes had complained that the assignment constituted bias. In August, officials at the University of Iowa put their plans to launch a bias team on hold, citing the controversy at Northern Colorado.

In an essay in The New Republic, professors Jeffrey Snyder and Amna Khalid of Carleton College cataloged a long list of troubling incidents involving bias response teams. They included professors being pressured to resign, students dragged in for questioning and punishment, and episode after episode of students anonymously reporting “bias” when a professor or student simply said or did something they didn’t like. The result of all this has been to exalt the status of the tattletale, and to give one self-entitled student power to threaten and silence, by proxy, any person who crosses his will. The BART became a weapon for the brat.

Little wonder that even many conventionally liberal academics have begun to join conservatives to say enough is enough.

Ironically, none of these universities appear at all interested in taking steps to correct the most glaring bias of all–the hiring bias against conservative and Republican-voting faculty candidates. According to one study, only 14% of U.S. professors identify as Republican. The ratio is even more skewed at the nation’s most elite institutions. In 2012, for example, 96% of Ivy League faculty political donations went to Obama. (Mitt Romney, presumably, divided the remaining 4% with Jill Stein.)

The humanities and social sciences, where political issues are more likely to emerge in class discussion than in sciences or technical disciplines, are laughably bereft of diversity. Only 2% of American English professors identify as Republican. Two percent! Among social scientists, there are three times as many self-identified Marxists as there are Republicans–a figure so ridiculous it caused even The New York Times’ Nick Kristof to cry foul.

It’s a shame these anti-bias teams were not conceived to look into university hiring practices. And it’s no wonder students get confused and begin to think they are victims of bias whenever they encounter a differing political opinion. They go nearly all the way through college without ever hearing one.

Can We Save Public Universities?

There was a time not so long ago when elite public institutions, such as the University of California (Berkeley), the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin, more than held their own against competition from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and other elite private institutions.

Berkeley’s reputation for academic excellence in the 1950s and 60s was unsurpassed; indeed, in the mid-1960s many experts considered Berkeley to be the finest university in the world.  Flagship universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Virginia earned high rankings.

Related: How Our Universities Are Failing Us

Few private institutions could match the range of outstanding research programs offered at flagship state institutions, particularly in expensive fields like the sciences and engineering. Admission to these institutions was widely pursued by out-of-state students willing to pay premium tuition.   With enrollments in excess of 25,000 and in some cases 40,000 students, these institutions dwarfed the privates in scale but delivered a great deal of educational “bang for the buck.”  Degrees from Berkeley, Michigan, and Wisconsin were judged as equivalent to those from the top private institutions.

Today the situation is greatly changed. There is not a single public institution listed among the top 19 schools in the 2016 rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Berkeley ranked 20th, while Virginia and UCLA came in tied at 24 with Michigan at 29 and the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) at 30. What happened over the last four or five decades to reverse the momentum in higher education from public to private institutions?

Christopher Newfield outlines what he thinks is the answer in his very interesting, carefully researched, but ultimately misguided book, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of literature and American Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, argues that we have engaged in a multi-decade campaign to “privatize” public universities by withdrawing public funding and replacing it with higher tuition funded by student debt.

He does not mean that public universities have been privatized in a literal sense but that they are increasingly expected to run like businesses delivering services to customers.  From this point of view, universities mostly deliver private benefits and thus they should be paid for with private funds – primarily student tuition – and less and less by legislative appropriations.

Related: The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

A central casualty in this process has been the belief that universities deliver public benefits to society sufficient to justify large public investments. Newfield argues that public universities deliver all kinds of public benefits in addition to private benefits, such as technological innovations and scientific advances, medical breakthroughs, better overall health of the population, social literacy and tolerance, mobility, and rising living standards.

Such public benefits used to be taken for granted as recently as the 1960s and 1970s when politicians and the public at large generally agreed that the social returns from higher education justified substantial investments in public universities.  Over the last several decades, he argues, that public vision gave way to what he calls a privatized vision of higher education.

Newfield tracks the collapse of this public vision by the steady decline over recent decades in legislative appropriations to support public universities.  The figures he reports suggests that while this process may have begun in the 1980s it has accelerated in the past decade or so in just about every state in the union. Between 2008 and 2015, state appropriations for higher education declined by an average of close to 20 percent across the country, and by more than 25 percent in at least 15 states.

There were only three states – Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming – where appropriations actually increased.  Obviously, this had much to do with the financial crisis and the slow recovery from it, but Newfield suggests that in reducing appropriations state legislatures took advantage in these years of the process of privatization that began decades earlier.

Public universities have responded by raising student tuition to cover costs, though Newfield points out that there exists no one-to-one relationship between declining appropriations and rising tuition. Indeed, in recent decades public universities have raised tuition much faster than legislatures have cut appropriations, and public institutions have raised tuition in tandem with private colleges and universities.  Between 1980 and 2012, college tuition and fees increased more than ten-fold in nominal terms and 4 or 5 times in inflation-adjusted terms.

College tuition and fees increased during this period at almost twice the rate of medical care, three times the pace of housing costs, and almost five times the rate of the Consumer Price Index – in other words, at rates that could not be sustained absent the availability of credit to finance the rising costs.  Thus student-loan debt has exploded in recent decades, growing from roughly $200 billion in the year 2000 to $800 billion in 2010 – and still growing thereafter.

Student loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States.  Over this period, family disposable income has grown by roughly 60 percent while the volume of outstanding student loans has grown nearly 10 times more rapidly – or by more than 500 percent.  These are staggering figures by any measure. Given the stagnation in family incomes in recent years, one wonders if those loans can ever be repaid.

What’s the answer? Newfield, in keeping with his thesis, thinks that we must first restore the idea that higher education is a public good deserving of substantial public investment. These more generous appropriations may require higher taxes, as Newfield acknowledges, but he points out that the costs for most taxpayers will be minimal and in any case easily affordable given in view of the savings most families will enjoy from the reduced expenses of college tuition and fees.

To give Newfield his due, he has written a serious book that backs up his thesis with an impressive array of fact and argument.  His book contains a great deal of current information on trends in student debt, tuition increases, and legislative appropriations for public education.  Whether or not readers agree with the overall thesis, they can at least agree that Newfield has made a good case for it, and for this reason has delivered a valuable book.

Many Americans for various reasons seem to long for the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s when, they believe, life was easier than today, families were more stable, good jobs more plentiful, and America was making steady progress year by year.   Some on the right look back to that era with nostalgia for the conservative social values that prevailed, while others on the left would like to recover the good manufacturing jobs and strong labor unions that were then influential in the economic life of the nation.

It seems that Newfield is of a similar mind about that era, except that he would like to restore the public confidence and financial support that public universities enjoyed during that period.   As with those other longings, Newfield’s is unrealistic and no longer attainable.   We have moved on, and we are not going back.

In the first place, that period (from roughly 1950 to 1966) was a unique era in American life.  The United States enjoyed rapid economic growth of between 4 and 6 percent per year, or something close to two or three times the rates of growth we have experienced over the past two decades.  Economic growth and progressive taxes swelled the coffers of state and federal governments. The “baby boom” created large families with parents and grandparents willing to invest in children and their education.

Related: How Reform Conservatives Can Help Higher Ed

With few competitors in the public sector and a growing population of students seeking admission, public universities had a claim on public resources that they had never before enjoyed.   Universities were, moreover, widely respected by the public for the quality of the education they provided and the seriousness with which university presidents, professors, and administrators seemed to go about their business.  These conditions have long since gone the way of the electric typewriter and the family station wagon.

In the heyday of public universities, state governments spent the bulk of their funds on just a few functions – primarily transportation, public safety and corrections, and higher education.   During this period, public universities had few competitors for state funds and, indeed, with their alumni well represented in the legislatures and the “baby boom” generation headed off to college, they were well positioned to lay claim to a rising share of state budgets.  Across the nation, somewhere close to 20 percent of state budgets flowed into the public universities at a time when public employee pensions, health care, and K-12 education were still minor items in state budgets.

That is no longer the case. Public universities now face an unfriendly political environment due to the expansion of state governmental functions since the 1960s.  States now have many functions and constituent groups that command more money and attention. According to a report by t682he National Association of State Budget Officers, Medicaid accounted for 26 percent and K-12 education another 20 percent of total state expenditures in 2014, proportions that have been expanding steadily for years.

A Scramble for Public Dollars

Thus, nearly half of all state expenditures are now allocated to two programs that did not command any state resources in the 1950s and 1960s. Several years ago voters in California approved a mandate requiring 40 percent of all state funds to be allocated to K-12 education. The well-connected advocates and interest groups that support these programs are unlikely to permit those shares to decline. Meanwhile, public employee pensions now command about 5 percent of state spending but, due to years of underfunding and deferred payments to the funds, some experts expect that share to grow to grow to perhaps 10 or 12 percent in the decades ahead.

By contrast, higher education now lays claim to just 10 percent of state expenditures, or roughly half the share allocated to this sector in the 1950s and1960s. In the scramble for public dollars, public universities must now contend with public-employee unions, court orders and referenda directing ever more public funds to K-12 education, and the lure of federal matching funds for Medicaid, welfare, and other federally subsidized programs.

Given political realities, they are unlikely to win many of these battles.  Indeed, it is not clear that they should. After all, the professors and administrators who complain about reduced public expenditures were generally among those calling for more state funding of the kinds of public programs that have drained resources from higher education.

In addition, public universities today must share public appropriations with an expanding complex of regional campuses and community colleges that barely existed in the 1950s and 1960s. The California legislature created an elaborate and expensive three-tiered system of research universities, regional universities, and community colleges in the early 1960s just as the University of California was reaching a pinnacle of influence and prestige.  Other states expanded in parallel ways. Michigan now supports 45 distinct institutions of higher learning, all in financial competition with the state’s two flagship public institutions. Wisconsin supports 26 such institutions, in addition to its flagship campus in Madison.

These second and third-tier institutions have representatives lobbying the legislatures and demanding their share of state higher-education dollars. In addition, more and more teachers at the lower-tier four-year universities and community colleges are leveraging their power by joining unions that bargain and lobby in their behalf.  Professors at elite institutions have so far resisted the pressures to unionize.

As Newfield acknowledges, public universities have not been on a starvation diet, mainly because they have been able to pass along rising costs to students and parents.  Most public universities have dramatically increased the number of courses in their catalogs and the number of centers, institutes, and programs that must be paid for.  The number of administrators employed on public campuses has exploded nearly as rapidly as student debt.

Between 1975 and 2011, the number of faculty at colleges and universities across the nation grew by just 23 percent, while the number of full-time administrators grew by 369 percent – or, put differently, colleges and universities hired 16 new administrators during this period for every new professor hired.   To the extent this is a problem – and there can be little doubt that it is a problem – it represents a self-inflicted wound. No one forced trustees and presidents to participate in a misallocation of resources on this scale.

Finally, is it really true that public universities confer a public benefit of the kind justifying expanded public support? That question deserves some real examination and debate. There can be little doubt that public universities, along with most private institutions as well, have evolved into hothouses for left-wing identity politics. Numerous studies have demonstrated that liberal and leftist professors outnumber conservatives by a ratio of between 10 and 20 to 1, and Democrats outnumber Republicans by a similar ratio.

That might be an acceptable situation in an environment where practitioners are guided by professional standards, but that is no longer the case on the American campus.  Large numbers of professors, administrators, and student advocates have been politicized to an unhealthy degree. If there is a “great mistake” in higher education, then it more accurately relates to the hyper-politicization of the contemporary campus.

When colleges and universities are mentioned in the press today, the story is likely  about a speaker who has been harassed or disinvited from campus, or students demonstrating for “safe spaces” on campus to insulate themselves from discordant opinions, or for more courses and programs on women, minority groups, the environment, and other causes associated with the political left. Judging by the statements of many faculty, administrators, and student representatives, they would like to criminalize or at least delegitimize the opinions of conservative and religious Americans, and in the process make certain that those views are never expressed on the campus.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College

This kind of thing has been going on now on leading campuses for three or four decades. Should anyone be surprised, then, when taxpayers and legislators ask why they should subsidize these politically one-sided institutions?  Universities – public and private – are increasingly viewed as partisan institutions, strongly attached to the Democratic Party and, therefore, no longer seen as enterprises that serve the public good. That may be unfortunate, as one might agree, but it is nevertheless the case.

Instead of restoring public subsidies to universities, as Newfield says we must, it makes more sense to move further in the direction of privatization by “voucherizing” the higher-education industry–providing vouchers at public expense for students to spend at the institutions of their choice. This would promote greater competition among campuses such that (hopefully) useless and redundant programs and employees would be eliminated out of the need to cut costs and respond to consumer demand.

The university sector is failing the society that supports it – of this, there can no longer be any doubt.  “Voucherizing” higher education would represent a radical step into the unknown, but we are fast reaching a point where radical steps are called for.

How a University Moved from Diversity to Indoctrination

Academe these days is full of code words.  Diversity is one of the most popular, and has increasingly become an article of faith at American colleges.  Its usefulness depends on ambiguity. While the public and media may believe it means openness to previously excluded students and studies, the reality is that “diversity” is a brazen attempt at thought control, rapidly moving toward the center of undergraduate education through the mechanism of General Education requirements.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, professors who want their courses approved for General Education diversity credit must meet new guidelines borrowed from the most ideological part of the university, the School of Education.  At UMass, as at many other universities, Social Justice Education (SJE) has for years been a key part of the School of Ed, offering not only a concentration but also a Master’s and a Ph.D.

Related: More Ed-School Social Justice Studies

The language of SJE makes clear that it is driven by narrow political aims, which pervade all aspects of the program.   With a constant emphasis on intervention and advocacy in schools and communities on behalf of social justice (never clearly defined), the SJE website makes plain its fundamental concerns, which include: “Prejudice and discrimination, the dynamics of power and privilege, and intersecting systems of oppression,” “Theories and practices of social change; resistance and empowerment; liberation and social justice movements,” and “Sociocultural and historical contexts for, and dynamics within and among the specific manifestations of oppression (adultism, religious oppression, ableism, classism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, transgender oppression) in educational and other social systems.”

In his book Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (2003), Peter Wood describes how “diversity arose as a countercultural critique of American society that depicted social relations as based on hierarchy and oppression of disprivileged groups.”  This “diversity ideology,” rooted in a Marxist view of America as a system of oppression, had been brewing for generations but only gained real traction in the 1980s.

“For it was then,” he writes, “that the Left, at last, found a combination of political leverage, economic opportunity and cultural advantage to institutionalize much of its anti-American program. Diversity was the key to that three-part success” (his emphasis).”

But until recently, the emphasis on diversity as the chosen path to “social justice” was not built into the university’s “social and cultural diversity” Gen Ed requirement. Now it is. And as I argue here, it is an exercise in compelled speech, unworthy of higher education, and unconstitutional in a public institution.

Related: Viewpoint Diversity

A fairly loose definition of what diversity courses should entail had existed for about three decades.  Designed to combat “ethnocentric stereotypes” and open students to the wider world of “pluralistic perspectives,” the old diversity requirements contained a single prescriptive phrase (my emphasis):

Courses satisfying this requirement shall reach beyond the perspectives of mainstream American culture and the Western tradition.

The old guidelines then shifted from shall to may:

They may focus on the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East; the descendants of those peoples living in North America; other minorities in Western industrial societies; and Native Americans. Since a sensitivity to social and cultural diversity is advanced by an understanding of the dynamics of power in modern societies, courses that focus on the differential life experiences of women outside the mainstream of American culture, minorities outside the mainstream of American culture, and the poor also come within the scope of this requirement.

True, the phrase regarding “the dynamics of power,” hinting at the old Marxist framework with a touch of Foucault thrown in, seemed designed to predetermine the content of such courses to some extent. But the list of groups (women, minorities, and the poor) with “differential life experiences” was merely, as the last part of the above paragraph made clear, a possible focus–not a necessary one, and certainly nothing like the obligatory listing of numerous supposedly marginalized identities that abound today.

What, then, changed?  In the spring of 2016, faculty began to realize that the General Education Council had proposed a little-publicized new delineation of the required diversity courses. As before, undergraduates would be required to take two courses carrying the Diversity designation, one national, the other international, but the details had passed through an ideological transformation.

 Related: How Diversity Came to Mean Downgrade the West

Normally, significant changes to the curriculum would have to go through the Faculty Senate, but the Gen Ed Council had by-passed this step by claiming (when challenged) that the changes in the two required diversity courses involved “only language,” hence did not need Faculty Senate approval.

Most faculty, as usual, were busy with other things and did not react. Some people, however, were alarmed. Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties attorney and co-founder of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and I wrote a piece about the new requirement, pointing out the ways in which it went well beyond the existing guidelines.  We argued that not content with existing policies that restricted speech, the university was mounting an effort to compel certain kinds of speech and political attitudes in courses hoping to gain Gen Ed Council approval toward fulfilling the diversity requirement. As we wrote:

Using politically fashionable jargon, the three new gen-ed guidelines for diversity courses stipulate not merely, as before, geographic and cultural breadth but the specific attitudes and beliefs that must animate certain areas of teaching (or indoctrination, depending upon your point of view). Faculty members must embrace “knowledge, pluralistic perspectives and engagement beyond mainstream traditions,” by focusing on “unequal access to resources that derive from race and ethnicity, national origins, language, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation, religion, age, and ability.”

The second mandated guideline encompasses “cultural, social and structural dynamics” that shape human experience and produce inequality, while the third specifies “exploration of self and others” so as to recognize inequalities and injustices. The clearly stated goal, not left to the imagination, is “to engage with others to create change toward social justice.”

This phrase encapsulates the shift from educating students to be able to think and analyze for themselves to the vastly different effort to indoctrinate students into administrators’ and professors’ belief system, which is assumed to be the only worthwhile, good and moral one from which, therefore, no one dares dissent.

All of this should cause concern at a public university that is bound by constitutional norms. The First Amendment’s protection of free speech has two aspects. The more widely known one prohibits the law from censoring officially disfavored and unpopular speech. But the other equally important and complementary aspect of this liberty enjoins the government from compelling speech and belief.

In a society where students have long been granted the right to refuse, for example, to recite a biblical passage or even the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, college students are now required to genuflect before the banner of diversity, inclusion and social justice. It’s insufficient for students to refrain from uttering offensive or “wrong” words and ideas. They must increasingly be trained to mimic their professors and affirmatively utter the “right” ones.

Related: Universities Torn Between Truth-Seeking and Social justice

The new guidelines, in other words, explicitly spelled out a commitment to social justice, understood in a particular way, reflecting precisely the political vision already familiar to us from Social Justice Education programs, rooted in Left politics that have dominated academic circles for some time now.

But whereas these politics used to be confined to certain (mostly identity-based) academic programs, along with Schools of Ed and Social Work, the new requirements aim to subject the entire university and every student in it to current academic dogma. The revision names identity groups repeatedly, uses all the current code words, talks over and over again about inequality, marginalization, power dynamics, and the need to combat all these.

Hardly a minor revision, this is a complete delineation of the changes in academe in the past few decades.  At a time when the university persistently reiterates its commitment to social justice, diversity, inclusion, and equity, the undergraduate curriculum is undergoing Gleichschaltung, i.e., everything is being brought into alignment with the prevailing political orthodoxy.

A further chapter in this story of ideological policing unfolded in late 2016.  Not satisfied with the changes quietly incorporated into the Gen Ed diversity requirement earlier in 2016, the Gen Ed Council once again initiated a change that it evidently hoped most faculty would not notice.  This time, it proposed a third required diversity course, mandated for all incoming students, who apparently needed this training in identity politics in order to proceed with their education.

Members of the Gen Ed Council were explicitly told to give a copy of the new proposal only to those who requested it. Thus, barely a week before the item was to come up at a Faculty Senate meeting on November 10, faculty members not on the council began to hear about the new proposal.

This time, however, a number of faculty members noticed.  At the November 10th meeting of the Faculty Senate, about fifteen people rose to speak about the proposal, almost all of them first expressing their support for” diversity” before going on to criticize the new course in its particulars.  However, it was not the obvious politicization of the requirement that troubled them but rather the practical consequences for individual majors and courses. Some parts of the university objected that by adding a third diversity requirement other courses would be crowded out, as students would have less time and fewer credits available for other purposes.

Some faculty members objected that space for this new course was to be created by eliminating the requirement for an interdisciplinary course. Still, others were unhappy at the way in which their own courses on foreign cultures would be excluded by the new focus on power differentials, marginalization, and so on.  One professor, for example, objected that his course on medieval Japanese culture would no longer count for “diversity” credit, and argued that while it makes sense for the U.S. diversity requirement to stress race, class, and gender, the non-western courses should be held to a different standard. Another complained that his course on Kant, Marx, Weber, Nietzsche and Freud certainly should still be relevant for diversity credit, as it has been for thirty years.

A few people argued that the new requirement didn’t go far enough, since it assumed faculty and graduate students already knew how to teach to these concerns, whereas, it was argued, they would need special training in order to truly embrace the new anti-oppression pedagogy. No one, however, objected to the politicization of the curriculum in itself.

Most intriguing, however, was the apparently forgotten fact that the additional third diversity course proposal did not alter what had already become the obligatory language of diversity courses.  Yes, the new proposal requires that this course is taken by all incoming undergraduates, and it intensifies the politicized language somewhat, but it is not different in kind from the rewritten diversity guidelines quietly introduced last spring.

The real difference in kind, in other words, was already a fait accompli, the result of the shift that was set in place in the spring of 2016.  And by not having a discussion of the consequences of those changes last spring and just incorporating the new language de facto on the Gen Ed website, the Gen Ed Council had successfully precluded a critical discussion among the faculty of a substantive ideological shift.

People who complained in November 2016 because their old diversity courses would no longer count for diversity credits should have objected last spring, not six months later. But they were given no opportunity to do so.  Whereas blatant social justice courses could have been included in the past (nothing excluded them), the assumption that diversity means “social justice” in a very particular way (based upon identity politics and the division of the world into powerful and powerless) is now mandatory, as the new guidelines make clear.

Thus, the Gen Ed Council was successful in bypassing faculty input and imposing explicit School of Ed social justice perspectives upon the entire university. Harvey Silverglate and I were absolutely right to call attention to this as a new requirement for faculty obeisance to essentially political perspectives, quite different from the vaguer older guidelines – which presumably is precisely why some of our colleagues were so adamant about promoting this change, and hoped most faculty wouldn’t notice.

My criticisms of the new proposal (distributed in early November 2016 to the 70 colleagues in my department, none of whom commented to me about it, as well as to the Faculty Senate) included these points:

A.  The first three of the five aims listed in the proposal narrow the range of perspectives to be welcomed in such courses. The aims presuppose and also reinforce a particular political perspective that faculty must adopt if their courses are to be approved for Gen Ed diversity credit. The aims taken from the proposal are in italics, below. After each of these aims,  my own comments appear in brackets.

  1. Appreciate, value, and respect diverse social, cultural, and political perspectives. [This aim hints at a postmodernist relativism, one that has been the subject of much debate and is far from a generally accepted truth. In fact, however, the subsequent aims make clear that only particular political and cultural perspectives are sought. Viewpoint diversity is definitely not on the agenda.]
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of and critically analyze how the legacies of marginalization, prejudice, and discrimination impact current power relations and the life circumstances of people often marginalized by society because of race, ethnicity, language, religion, class, ability, sexuality, and gender. [Presupposes a particular view of the origins of marginalization, its continuing force, and the causes of social problems. This aim is rooted in current identity politics, which is often used as a shield or a bludgeon, depending on who is speaking to whom and with what objective.]
  3. Critically analyze their own perspectives and identities, develop an awareness of implicit biases, and understand how these perspectives and biases have been shaped by power relations within social and institutional contexts. [Is it only one’s own perspectives, identities, and biases that are to be critically examined, not those of others? Is it necessarily “power” relations – mentioned also in aim # 2–that explain everything? Again, this highly contentious perspective with its very specific conceptual framework is being presented as the necessarily correct one, to be reflected in these courses.]

B.  The academic year at Umass has already been reduced to 26 weeks of actual classes, 3-credit Gen Ed courses have become 4-credit courses without an increase in class time, and in many instances work requirements have decreased as professors adapt to students’ sense of what preparation (ever less) they are willing to do outside of class.

Students still need 120 credits to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and, of these, two courses are already part of the new diversity requirement, circulated last spring and containing much the same language as the new proposal. This third required diversity course would mean that a total of 12 credits out of 120 (i.e., 10% of the students’ overall credit hours) will be devoted to “diversity” issues understood in the narrow way the proposal makes clear. This is a disservice to our students who have only a few precious years as undergraduates and entire worlds to explore.

C.  For those who specifically teach  foreign languages, literature, and cultures, the proposal tells us we must stress oppression, marginalization, and power relations as if studying other cultures and languages is of little value unless it is primarily about those issues.  This seems like an odd marginalization (to use that very term) of entire areas of expertise.

The themes named, while of interest, hardly tell us all we need to know about the world. Furthermore, they undermine the work that many of us do and that is not subsumed by these particular political preoccupations.  It is a serious redesigning of the university’s role and mission to impose such a narrow perspective on what is understood by “diversity.”  If “diversity” indeed now means a ceaseless focus on oppression, marginalization, and power, it is being used as a code word.

And it is demeaning to those of us who have labored long and hard to actually acquire some expertise in a “diverse” culture – and who see the study of cultures around the world as something other than an opportunity for political posturing. It is far harder to actually learn a foreign language and its cultural contexts than to acquire or pass on to students a few attitudes about particular groups (divided into such broad categories as the powerful and powerless), the very thing we supposedly were trying to overcome.

D. For those wishing to see where in the university these ideas are already institutionalized, the School of Education’s Social Justice Education agenda, which offer a concentration, a Master’s, and a Ph.D, provides a complete articulation of a political program using the precise language found in our new Gen Ed diversity proposals. Nationwide, in Schools of Education and in certain identity-based programs, these aims have predominated for some time. What is happening now, with the reconceptualization of the Gen Ed diversity requirement, is the spread of these avowed commitments to the entire university.

E.  The narrow perspective envisioned is made clear again on p. 5 of the proposal, which states as a goal: “Diminish the perpetuation of discrimination and oppression.” Hubris, or political passions, should not lead us to think that if we can just regulate the content of education thoroughly, we will bring about “social justice.”

I conclude that we hardly know what “social justice” is, let alone how it may best be attained. Indeed, the very term has been used in ways that might alarm today’s social justice warriors (if only they knew some history, such as that of the populist priest Father Coughlin, the anti-capitalist, anti-communist, anti-Semitic founder of the National Union for Social Justice in 1934 and of the paper Social Justice two years later, who became an apologist for Nazism and an Axis propagandist).  The entire history of the twentieth century, to stick just with recent times, tells us how dangerous a path the belief in the single-minded pursuit of “social justice” is.

Related: The Power of Buzzwords Like Dispositions and Social Justice

The university may have a social mission to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion, even in the name of “social justice” (which Jonah Goldberg notes is currently merely a stand-in for “goodness”), but that is quite different from adopting these words as an educational mission.  In addition, these terms have by now become an orthodoxy, constantly reiterated by administrators whose numbers and dedication to these issues keep expanding while the quality of liberal arts education—and above all its “diversity” — has patently declined.

Even if the new required Gen Ed course does not get adopted, by not contesting the redefinition of “diversity” that is now an avowed goal, faculty have abdicated their responsibilities, contributing to the further debasement of higher education.

Times change; orthodoxies shift. The intentional embrace of political activism in education is a dangerous precedent. Has everyone forgotten the East German professors who were first obliged to adhere to Marxism-Leninism and then, when the Wall fell, were fired for having done so?

We should be wary of turning our courses into vehicles for propagandizing particular political views, however popular those views may be at this moment.

Do We need a Watchlist for Ideological Professors?

The Professor Watchlist, a site just two just two weeks old, has already touched off heated debate in and out of academe.  It is the brainchild of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, a politically conservative youth movement founded in 2012, and has the declared mission “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

The Watchlist was immediately condemned as “pernicious and misguided” by Heterodox Academy (HXA), a non-aligned site but normally a de facto ally of conservatives in working to open up the dominant leftist culture of the campuses to more diverse viewpoints. The group’s executive committee said: We call on everyone who is concerned about the state of higher education to stop devising ways that members of an academic community can report or punish each other for classroom speech.

Some members disagreed, including Robert Mather, a social psychologist at the University of Central Oklahoma who wrote on the Psychology Today site that the HXA statement “is an example of being out of touch with conservative students and faculty. Conservative students and faculty have been marginalized in the ivory tower. I agree with the Heterodox Academy that such a watchlist does not facilitate collegial discourse.

Indeed, this watchlist is a response to events such as the bias response teams and trigger warnings that have covered many campuses and predominantly silenced conservative but not liberal discourse.

For conservative students, speaking in class already registers you on the informal watchlist in the predominantly liberal academy. For conservative professors, offering their perspective does the same. The idea of a watchlist is similar to the informal blacklisting that occurs for conservative faculty.”

Noelle McAffe, professor of philosophy at Emory helped set up a notably unfunny satirical website, Professor Redux, listing as similar radicals who should be on the conservative site as troubling: Socrates, Jefferson, Alan Turing, Gandhi and Jesus. Other wags submitted complaints about Indiana Jones, Professor Plum or other fictional academics.

The New York Times pointed out that Melissa Click and Julio Cesar Pino of Kent State are on the watchlist. She is the journalism teacher fired after calling for “some muscle” to prevent a student photographer from covering the University of Missouri protest. Professor Pino is listed as having “faced investigation by the FBI for connections to ISIS,” though the Cleveland Plain Dealer was unable to confirm that.

Pino has repeatedly denounced Israel. In 2014 he posted an “open letter” to “academic friends of Israel” that said they are “directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians.”

Charles Angeletti, a tenured professor at Metropolitan State University Denver, who rarely withholds his opinions from his classes is on the list. He pushed his students to recite a pledge that describes a racist, sexist, homophobic America: “I pledge allegiance to and wrap myself in the flag of the United States Against Anything Un-American and to the Republicans for which it stands, two nations, under Jesus, rich against poor, with curtailed liberty and justice for all except blacks, homosexuals, women who want abortions, Communists, welfare queens, treehuggers, feminazis, illegal immigrants, children of illegal immigrants, and you if you don’t watch your step…”

Also on the list are Mireille Miller-Young, an Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was sentenced to three years’ probation after attacking a 16-year-old pro-life activist on campus.

Of course, except for the hard-core ideologues burrowed into the academy, there is no way to know from this skimpy Watchlist whether conservative opinions can be aired or good marks for conservative students can be achieved in these classes. Heterodox Academy has a point that we should be wary of inventing new ways to report and punish professors. On the other hand, knowing what you are likely to get in politicized classes is just basic consumer information.

How ‘Soft Censorship’ Works at College

These days, administrators at public universities must be very jealous of their counterparts at private institutions. As non-governmental actors, private college administrators can suppress any speech they don’t like – or, probably more to the point, that displeases their dissent-intolerant student constituents.

There is no better illustration of the extremes to which a university will go to suppress speech than the recent actions by DePaul University, a private institution. Two student groups had invited noted conservative Ben Shapiro to speak at an event they were sponsoring, “Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces and Attacks on Free Speech.” The university, however, banned him from attending the event either as a speaker or as a member of the audience. Administrators claimed that the sponsoring groups had not properly registered Mr. Shapiro as a speaker and that the university was concerned with security issues.

Related: Feminist Censored from Censorship Panel

Public universities have the same incentives to ban speakers like Mr. Shapiro, but they have less leeway than their private counterparts. For example, the president of California State University, Los Angeles, giving in to student protestors, cancelled a scheduled speech by Mr. Shapiro just days before it was to take place. But Mr. Shapiro vowed to show up anyway. And appropriately using the First Amendment as a weapon, he threatened the university with a lawsuit.

Those tactics yielded the desired result: the president backed down and allowed the speech to go forward as planned.

Although public universities cannot suppress speech using heavy-handed tactics, they can use more subtle measures to chip away at free speech, as illustrated by my experience at Brooklyn College, a public institution where I teach.

In April 2015, I sponsored a talk at the college entitled “Free Speech and Social Criticism,” by prominent blogger Pamela Geller. A few hours after I publicized Ms. Geller’s upcoming event, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) emailed the college president, the provost, and other campus officials asking if it was true that Brooklyn College was hosting “the nation’s leading Islamophobe.”

Related: A New Age of College Censorship

Apparently prompted by that email, the provost phoned my department chair at his home early (7:30 AM) the next day to discuss the event. There was no legitimate basis for that call. First, my department (earth science) had nothing to do with the event.  Second, the provost’s office has no administrative responsibilities over campus events of that sort. Further, had the provost been genuinely interested in information about the event, he should have called me, its sole sponsor.

Because there was no legitimate reason for it, I have to assume that the call was intended

to send a message. Emails from an influential lobbying group had apparently alarmed and displeased the administration. Calling my boss was a means of conveying that displeasure to me in the hope of getting me to modify my plans. Simply put, the provost became the conduit by which political pressure from CAIR to back off the event was transferred to me.

Related: Harmless College Jokes Punished at Civility Seminar

In a similar example of soft censorship, a college vice president telephoned the speaker I had lined up to open the Geller event. (That speaker teaches at Kingsborough Community College, which, like Brooklyn College, is a branch of the City University of New York.) He asked if she would care to discuss her role in the event. That call to a speaker at my event was also wholly unjustified: First Amendment case law forbids administrators at publicly funded universities from involving themselves in the content of events sponsored by their faculty or students, who are free to choose themes and presenters as they see fit.

At a minimum, these telephone calls from upper-echelon administrators were chilling to free speech and open communication on campus.  Would faculty be eager to participate in provocative or politically incorrect events if their participation generated investigative calls from provosts and vice presidents? That kind of pressure can easily chill speech. Some faculty – especially untenured ones – would avoid sponsoring or participating in controversial talks in order to avoid the ire of – and possible retribution from – their administrative superiors. Even I will think twice before doing so again.

I get it: college administrators hate controversy and use small acts of suppression – soft censorship – to help them avoid it. But speech suppression, even when subtle, is still antithetical to a core mission of a university – fostering unfettered debate. An open discussion of the largely hidden practice of soft censorship may help preserve that core mission.

‘Anti-White Rhetoric Comes Right out of the Academy’

Democratic pundits are calling on their party to court working-class and non-coastal whites in the wake of November’s electoral rout. But the Democratic Party is now dominated by identity politics, which defines whites, particularly heterosexual males, as oppressors of every other population in the U.S. Why should the targets of such thinking embrace an ideology that scorns them.

The most absurd Democratic meme to emerge from the party’s ballot-box defeat is the claim that it is Donald Trump, rather than Democrats, who engages in “aggressive, racialized discourse,” in the words of a Los Angeles Times op-ed. By contrast, President Barack Obama sought a “post-racial, bridge-building society,” according to New York Times reporter Peter Baker. Obama’s post-racial efforts have now “given way to an angry, jeering, us-against-them nation,” writes Baker, in a front-page “news” story.

Post-Racial Bridge-Building?

Tell that valedictory for “post-racial bridge-building” to police officers, who have been living through two years of racialized hatred directed at them in the streets, to the applause of many Democratic politicians. Black Lives Matter rhetoric consists of slogans like: “CPD [Chicago Police Department] KKK, how many children did you kill today?” “Fuck the police,” and “Racist, killer cops.” Officers have been assassinated by Black Lives Matter-inspired killers who set out to kill whites in general and white police officers in particular.

Gun murders of law enforcement officers are up 67 percent this year through November 23, following five ambushes and attacks over the November 18 weekend that left a San Antonio police officer and a U.S. Marshall dead. A few days before those weekend shootings, anarchist wannabes in Austin led a counting chant based on the template: “What’s better than X dead cops?  X + 1 Dead Cops.”

President Obama welcomed Black Lives Matter activists several times to the White House. He racialized the entire criminal-justice system, repeatedly accusing it of discriminating, often lethally, against blacks. At the memorial service for five Dallas police officers gunned down in July 2016, Obama declared that black parents were right to fear that “something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door”—that the child will be shot by a cop simply for being “stupid.”

A Rosy View of ‘Black Lives Matter’

Obama put Brittany Packnett, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, on his President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Packnett’s postelection essay on Vox, “White People: what is your plan for the Trump presidency?” is emblematic of the racial demonology that is now core Democratic thinking. Packnett announces that she is “tired of continuously being assaulted” by her country with its pervasive “white supremacy.” She calls on “white people” to “deal with what white people cause,” because “people of color have enough work to do for ourselves—to protect, free, and find joy for our people.”

Packnett’s plaint about crushing racial oppression echoes media darling Ta-Nehesi Coates, whose locus classicus of maudlin racial victimology, Between the World and Me, won a prominent place on Obama’s 2015 summer reading list. Coates has received almost every prize that the elite establishment can bestow; Between the World and Me is now a staple of college summer reading lists.

‘Evil of Cops is the Evil of America’

According to Coates, police officers who kill black men are not “uniquely evil”; rather, their evil is the essence of America itself. These “destroyers” (i.e., police officers) are “merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” In America, Mr. Coates claims, “it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

Coates’s melodramatic rhetoric comes right out of the academy, the inexhaustible source of Democratic identity politics. The Democratic Party is now merely an extension of left-wing campus culture; few institutions exist wherein the skew toward Democratic allegiance is more pronounced. The claims of life-destroying trauma that have convulsed academia since the election are simply a continuation of last year’s campus Black Lives Matter protests, which also claimed that “white privilege” and white oppression were making existence impossible for black students and other favored victim groups.

Black students at Bard College, for example, an elite school in New York’s Hudson Valley, called for an end to “systemic and structural racism on campus . . . so that Black students can go to class without fear.” If any black Bard student had ever been assaulted by a white faculty member, administrator, or student, the record does not reflect it.

Massive Racial Preferences

These claims of “structural racism and institutional oppression,” in the words of Brown University’s allegedly threatened black students, overlook the fact that every selective college in the country employs massive racial preferences in admissions favoring less academically qualified black and Hispanic students over more academically qualified white and Asian ones. Every faculty hiring search is a desperate exercise in finding black and Hispanic candidates whom rival colleges have not already scooped up at inflated prices.

Far from being “post-racial,” campuses spend millions on racially and ethnically separate programming, separate dorms, separate administrators, and separate student centers. They have created entire fields devoted to specializing in one’s own “identity,” so long as that identity is non-white, non-male, or non-heterosexual. The central theme of those identity-based fields is that heterosexual, white (one could also add Christian) males are the source of all injustice in the world.  Speaking on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show in the wake of Trump’s election, Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, author of Look, A White!, called for a nationwide “critique of whiteness,” which, per Yancy, is at the “core side of hegemony” in the U.S.

To combat that hegemony, Democratic administrations in Washington and state capitals have built permanent bureaucracies dedicated to the proposition that white males discriminate against everyone else. Evidence of such discrimination is by now exceedingly rare, however, so “disparate impact” analysis steps into the breach. Police and fire departments, public and private employers, bank lending officers, landlords, insurers, school administrators, and election officials have all been found guilty of discrimination despite following race-neutral procedures. The mandated remedy is a race-conscious policy crafted to favor non-white, non-male “identity.”

Hillary Clinton employed classic Democratic “racialized discourse” throughout the campaign. During a Democratic presidential primary debate in January 2016, Clinton agreed that it was “reality” that police officers see black lives as “cheap.” In a February debate, she accused Wisconsin, along with other states, of “really systemic racism” in education and employment.

‘Basket of Deplorables’ Is Campus Rhetoric

In July she called on “white people” to put themselves in the shoes of African-American families who “need to worry” that their child will be killed by a police officer. When Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it” who belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” she was speaking the language of the academy, now incorporated into the Democratic worldview.

Democratic politicians and the media will respond that such charges of systemic white

oppression are not “racialized discourse”; they are simply the truth. Such a claim is an insult to the overwhelming majority of white Americans who harbor no bigotry and who long to live in a truly post-racial society. Many of Trump’s white supporters voted for Obama, and the most conservative whites in the U.S. have had one love affair after another with conservative black media figures and politicians, whether Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Ben Carson, or David Clarke. Yet these former Obama voters and Tea Party supporters are now being called racist for voting for Trump.

Trump’s sally during the first Republican primary debate that “this country doesn’t have time” for “total political correctness” sent a signal that the reigning presumptions about oppression were finally vulnerable. The message resonated. Democrats will have to do much more than invoke traditional Democratic class warfare to convince non-elite white voters that the party does not see them as one of America’s biggest problems.

This essay is reprinted with permission from City Journal, a publication of The Manhattan Institute.

Pro-Trump Message Investigated as Hate Crime on This Campus

Politically-correct college administrators in Madison, Wisconsin asked the police to investigate speech mocking campus Clinton supporters. The police reportedly did so, even though that could lead to a violation of the First Amendment.

This occurred at Edgewood College. Reason Magazine reports that an investigation at Edgewood has begun over a “Suck it up, pussies” Post-it note directed at people upset by the election of Donald Trump as president.

Students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on Post-it notes and placing them on a designated table. The Post-it-note in question appeared in the window of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion instead, according to Campus Reform.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to the campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:

“A group of college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime….”

College officials informed the Madison police, and now the cops are investigating. They are investigating a post-it-note. With a non-threatening message and a smiley face on it. After inviting students to express their feelings via post-it-note. . .Edgewood is asking anyone with knowledge of this hate crime to come forward and help the police catch the perpetrator because it’s such a very serious matter.

Judging from a report in The Washington Times, the college’s rhetoric has been quite partisan, and shows a politically-correct obsession with “microaggressions”: [College Vice President] Chambers said the malevolent missive signals a “new era of intolerance” in America ushered in by Mr. Trump’s presidency.“ Covert micro-aggressions and overt macro-aggressions appear to have taken on a new fervor in higher education since our national election,” he warned.

Contrary to Edgewood College’s claims, a non-threatening post-it note is obviously not a “hate crime.” Even if it were disproportionately offensive to certain groups, that would not make it a hate crime or a proscribable category of speech. In R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992), the Supreme Court struck down as a violation of the First Amendment a “bias-motivated crime” ordinance that banned insulting symbols if they aroused “anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a fraternity’s discipline for  a blackface, sexist “ugly woman” skit, ruling it was protected by the First Amendment, in Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University, 993 F.2d 386 (4th Cir. 1993).

In Papish v. University of Missouri Curators (1973), the Supreme Court overturned a university’s punishment of a graduate student for using profane language and depicting policemen raping the Statue of Liberty. The Court declared that the “dissemination of ideas, no matter how offensive to good taste, on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.’”

Edgewood is a private college. A private college isn’t directly bound by the First Amendment, but the police are, and the participation of the police thus may result in the First Amendment being violated. See Dossett v. First State Bank, 399 F.3d 940 (8th Cir. 2005) (court ruled that collusion between the government and a private employer to restrict speech violated First Amendment and rendered the private employer liable, too); Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).

Even if there were something about this speech (such as its location, time, place, or manner) that would allow a state college to ban it, it would still be foolish for the police to get involved. The fact that a school can restrict certain speech for proprietary reasons (such as to promote classroom learning or control a school’s own message) doesn’t mean a cop can arrest you for that speech.

The First Amendment provides stronger protection against the police because that involves the government acting as a sovereign, not a proprietor. Speech that an institution can ban in its proprietary capacity can’t necessarily be criminalized, or otherwise punished by the police. For example, a federal appeals court ruled in In re Kendall (2013) that it was unconstitutional for the Virgin Islands Supreme Court to jail a trial judge for his uppity speech against it, even if his speech was inappropriate for a judge.

As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted in that decision, “the government’s broader authority to” to control inappropriate judge or lawyer “speech about ongoing proceedings” through disciplinary rules does not “also permit the government to hold a judge in criminal contempt for” such speech.  As it observed, “Criminal contempt is no mere disciplinary tool. It derives, like all crimes, from a government’s power as sovereign. Because the government’s use of the criminal-contempt power is the sine qua non of a sovereign act, the government has no greater authority to hold someone in criminal contempt for their speech about ongoing proceedings than it would to criminally punish any speech.”

How Colleges and Universities Foster “Hate Culture”

Many of my colleagues and students are responding to the results of the 2016 presidential election with fear, disappointment, and disbelief. For some, Trump’s victory and the social unrest that followed dramatically changed their perceptions of Americans, democracy, and human nature. They are mourning the loss of a progressive dream.

Although I share my colleagues’ and students’ concerns that the current political climate has emboldened people who say and do hateful things to others, I am in no way surprised by the election outcome or its aftermath. These events are entirely predictable and much of what we do in higher education has contributed to them. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, institutions of higher education have helped to foster what some people have referred to as “hate culture.”

Academics frequently identify conditions that lead to negative behavior. For example, in order to address sexual violence on campus, sociologists and others identify the forces behind “rape culture,” including the objectification of women in the media and glorification of “hyper-masculinity.”  Similarly, my colleagues who study terrorism identify socio-political conditions, such as unemployment, as contributing factors. At the same time, we seem unwilling to examine the culture and psychology behind hate crimes, as if this would be excusing the behavior or “blaming the victim.” Yet, we cannot merely stomp out hate through coercion, punishment, and social shaming. If we want to prevent or reduce group conflict, we have to identify the social conditions that create it. I argue that an honest assessment of group behavior reveals that academics often contribute to the problem by amplifying social identities.

According to Henri Tajfel and John Turner’s (1979) social identity theory, one’s self-esteem is tied to the status of the groups to which one belongs. People elevate the status of their own groups by comparing them to lower status groups. The salience of these social identities is malleable and researchers have found that they can actively manipulate the strength of people’s social identities by priming them to think about their group memberships or by introducing threat from another group. In higher education, we consistently prime social identity.  Strong social identities lead to intensified group conflict, as defense of one’s own group is achieved through degradation of other groups.

On college campuses, political dialog is driven by a commitment to identity politics — activism in support of movements that are organized to promote the status of people based on categories such as gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. Social movements are not always defined according to these groups. For example, Marxist movements defined conflict by class, thereby bringing together people of various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Social movements can also be driven by ideology or shared values, such as the environmental movement.

This isn’t to say that colleges should not educate students on the history of discrimination against women, blacks, or other groups. Students should be educated on how laws, social norms, and values shape the distribution of power in society. They should study the psychology of discrimination, prejudice, and bias. Yet, academics often pursue social and political goals, choosing sides between groups in a conflict.  For example, The American Studies Association has declared a boycott on Israeli universities as a show of opposition for Israel’s actions in Palestine.

Fostering strong social identities is a recipe for group conflict. Colleges prime social identities in a number of ways. For example, we strengthen social identity when we sort students into housing options by race or ethnicity, rather than shared interests; when we spend more time talking about group differences than about our common humanity; and when we create “safe spaces” to protect some groups of people from others.  All students should have ‘spaces’ where they are safe and comfortable, surrounded by people they trust. The rest of us have this safe space.  We call it “home.”  The problem comes when we assign these spaces based solely on social identity.  It’s the equivalent of moving into segregated neighborhoods. This makes us feel more comfortable at home, but it has negative consequences for our interactions with others.

Colleges and universities encourage students to think primarily in terms of social identity. To make matters worse, we then encourage conflict between groups by framing debates as false dichotomies. The current uproar over free speech on campus is a great example. Free speech is not inherently pro-egalitarian or anti-egalitarian. The Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on the protection of free speech and freedom of the press to spread its message in the face of institutionalized opposition.

Free speech often protects minority voices. Yet, colleges and universities have established speech codes on campus, aimed at protecting vulnerable minority groups from words or phrases that might offend. This sends students the message that one group’s rights are gained at the expense of another group. Free speech is now frequently framed as something that protects racists, sexists, and other “deplorables.”

Arguing in favor of free speech threatens to paint one into this group or, at the very least, suggests that one is insensitive to the needs of minorities. The assumption that silencing offensive ideas reduces hostility against vulnerable groups is deeply flawed. Research shows that the classical liberal approach is more useful – we confront harmful ideas by exposing them to truth.  At the very least, grappling with uncomfortable ideas is more fitting to an institution whose purpose is education.  Silencing ideas is more suited to an institution whose primary purpose is scoring points in the culture wars.

Finally, we add fuel to this fire because we tend to favor some voices and perspectives over others. We do this when we are too quick to label ideas as “racist,” “sexist,” or “homophobic,” merely because they do not conform to the most progressive ideals; people who favor greater enforcement of immigration laws are “racists,” as is anyone who admits to voting for Trump. The search for microaggressions contributes to this sense that anything that offends protected groups is off limits, even if no harm is intended. Students are actively encouraged to recognize and report microaggressions.

In other words, we encourage them to approach others with suspicion and distrust, rather than goodwill and generosity. Even ambiguous words and behaviors may be reported to overzealous “bias response teams.” Merely the accusation that one has said something racist, sexist, or offensive can do irreparable damage to one’s reputation.  The effect of this is that some students are afraid to have open, meaningful conversations with faculty or peers about sensitive topics. This impedes our efforts to promote cross-cultural understanding.  And when people believe they are denied legitimate voice in the system, they are more likely to engage in hostile, antisocial behavior.

Well-meaning liberal academics have helped to create our current predicament by promoting a toxic political environment that unnecessarily triggers group conflict. We encourage “hate culture” by creating an environment in which: (1) power and conflict is defined primarily in terms of social identities, such that social identity is frequently primed and becomes more salient than shared values or ideologies; (2) power is defined as a zero-sum game, creating false dichotomies between winners and losers, or victims and perpetrators, which are defined by social identity; (3) the opinions and experiences of members of some groups are awarded less value than those of others, contributing to feelings that one has little voice.

These are the conditions that would seem to create group conflict and cause people to act out aggressively against members of other groups.  I think it is clear that these conditions are rampant on college campuses. In the name of promoting social justice, we are instead promoting group conflict.

The Title IX Mess—Will It Be Reformed?

Since 2011, the federal government has made successful and devastating efforts to undermine civil liberties on campuses. The surprise outcome of the presidential election raises at least the possibility that this illicit campaign, based on a vast extension of Title IX, will be reversed. Thousands of students accused of sexual misconduct but denied due process have been victimized by the frenzy stimulated by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and by the unfair procedures that OCR has championed. (Consider events at Amherst or Yale or UVA or Brandeis, for starters.)

College hearings on sexual misconduct are often a travesty of justice. Usually, there is no attorney for the accused, no cross-examination, no discovery, no note-taking, little time for the accused to prepare and often a form of double jeopardy (the accuser can appeal but the accused cannot). Individual universities can broaden the definition of offenses (at Yale “economic abuse” counts as sexual assault) and uninvolved third-party accusations can sometimes launch hearings.

Some comments on what should, and should not, occur:

The Fate of Obama-Era Guidance

President Obama’s two heads of the OCR have ignored the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and imposed their dubious interpretations of Title IX without required notice and comment. They never offered a convincing explanation as to why, in part because Congress only rarely pressed them; outgoing OCR head Catherine Lhamon purported to justify OCR’s actions in this exchange with Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, but only revealed herself to be ignorant of congressional authority.

Related: How the Feds Use Orwell to Apply Title IX

But the arrogance of Lhamon and her predecessor, Russlynn Ali, means that the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter—and OCR’s even more troubling 2014 guidance, which suggested that OCR’s imaginative interpretation of Title IX could trump the constitutional protection of due process promised to all students at public universities—can be withdrawn without going through the notice-and-comment process.

Given the Access Hollywood tape, it might well be politically impossible for a Trump administration to simply withdraw the 2011 and 2014 “guidance.” But another avenue for action exists, including the FIRE-orchestrated lawsuit filed by a former University of Virginia student and by Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The new administration could easily enter into settlement negotiations for the lawsuit and concede the inappropriateness of issuing new regulations on all colleges and universities outside the APA’s requirements.

If this doesn’t occur, Congress becomes all the more important. The two people to watch are Lamar Alexander and Oklahoma Republican James Lankford. The Oklahoma senator issued an encouraging statement the day after the election, noting that the Education Department had “used Dear Colleague letters and guidance documents to mandate policies for schools without adhering to legally required regulatory processes. It is extreme overreach at agencies like the Department of Education that the American people repudiated in this election. I will push our new Republican-led Washington to put a stop to this abuse and restore proper regulatory and guidance processes to the federal government.”

Related: How Title IX Became a Policy Bully

Accusers’ rights organizations seem to have recognized that, at the very least, the anti-due process agenda of the current OCR might be discontinued in the next administration. And so, as the Chronicle recently reported, they’ve ratcheted up pressure on colleges to maintain the current unfair procedures that the Ali/Lhamon-led OCR helped to establish.

Yet even the most extreme of the activist groups—Know Your IX—has conceded that colleges are obliged to provide “fair” processes. (The group’s founders, Alexandra Brodksy and Dana Bolger, have defined “fair” in Orwellian terms, but they nonetheless use the language.)

Early in her tenure, Russlynn Ali made clear that the new OCR would welcome Title IX complaints from accusers angered at their college having returned not-guilty findings, or simply not rendering a guilty finding quickly enough. The new OCR could make clear that given the manifest unfairness of most college disciplinary systems on sexual assault matters, it would welcome complaints from accused students, to give the federal government a chance to counteract the improper pressure to keep disciplinary systems unfair. The resolution of the pending Title IX complaint against Brandeis—in a case that was the subject of the piercing opinion by Judge Saylor—could provide a template.

Along these lines, resolution agreements from OCR should restore earlier principles (from the Bush II administration) that colleges aren’t obligated to reinvestigate claims where a criminal complaint has been filed; and that colleges aren’t obligated to investigate allegations that occur off campus.

Distractions

Over the past five years, only a handful of politicians have paid any attention to the issue of campus fairness; as Christina Hoff Sommers presciently noted, “due process has no lobby.” Scores of GOP legislators and governors, on the other hand, rose up as one against OCR guidance regarding bathroom policies for transgender school kids.

For advocates of campus due process, then, the great fear is this: given Republican priorities, the new administration will focus its OCR reform agenda on eliminating protections for transgender public school students—a move that will receive fierce political resistance—and therefore will decide not to address the campus due process issue at all.

Related: The Feds Now Run a Bureaucracy That Regulates Sex

Any comment on a Trump-led OCR has to address what was avoided. While OCR under Obama was disastrous for due process, the crusade always had a surreal element to it. Obama, after all, was formerly a constitutional law professor, and also someone who was willing to stand up for campus civil liberties (albeit only in the free speech context). Even as his administration eroded due process rights for accused students, there was always the chance that a President with Obama’s beliefs would recognize he had gone too far.

No chance would have existed for such a course correction under Hillary Clinton, had she been elected. (Full disclosure: I am a Democrat who donated to, and voted for, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. My only federal political donations in 2016 went to Jason Kander, who narrowly lost in the Missouri Senate race.) To the extent that Clinton had any consistent beliefs, they revolved around a fierce connection to gender-based identity politics. And there was no doubt as to how these beliefs would have translated on campus.

Clinton’s campaign began with an official policy toward campus sexual assault—that all accused students who could not prove mistaken identity were guilty since all campus accusers had a “right to be believed.” Even Obama’s OCR, as extreme as its approach toward campus due process had been, never adopted such a policy. Clinton withdrew the line only after she was asked how it would apply to her husband’s accusers, but there seems little doubt that she would not have granted the same degree of skepticism for students accused of sexual assault on campus.

It also seems likely that a Clinton OCR—perhaps with Lhamon staying on for a second stint in charge of the agency—would have more aggressively targeted campus free speech. The University of Montana “blueprint” (imposed by OCR and the Justice Department) supposedly was abandoned after a public outcry. But its basic principles were quietly extended to the University of New Mexico and could have formed a national template under four years of Clinton.

In a Clinton presidency, Title IX would have been used as a sword against fairness and due process. If nothing else happened last Tuesday night, that outcome appears to have been avoided.

Trump Win Prompts Student Protests and “Cry-Ins”

A cry-in marked Cornell University’s reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Zoe Maisel, ’18 co-president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell, said she and co-president Cassidy Clark ’17 began organizing the cry-in Tuesday night for “those of us who have been fighting.”

“We need to just take a break and just cry before … tomorrow we get back up and keep fighting because people feel really, really powerless,” she said. “This event was just to come together and support each other because we’re all in shock right now,” added Alanna Salwen ’19, design chair for PPGA at Cornell.

Maisel noted that the president-elect’s rhetoric, specifically targeting minorities, immigrants and women, has devastated many who feel that they will be especially vulnerable and unwelcome in Trump’s America.

At Yale, no organized crying, but the Yale Daily News reported that an election “primal scream,” organized by the Freshman Outdoor Orientation Leaders who also participate in the minute-long tradition before midterms and finals, took place outside Sterling Memorial Library at 12:30 a.m. The event was publicized and passed on to the general student body quickly.

The newspaper reported, “The scream offered students a chance to come together, process the shock of the moment and use that energy to move forward, said a sophomore at the event.” She added that the primal scream is in no way incitement or an invitation for reckless behavior, but rather a contained period of expression that hopefully enables its participants to express their frustration productively.


Trump wins election, UCLA students riot and protest presidential victory

A little over an hour later, La Casa Cultural Director Eileen Galvez sent an email to students inviting the community to La Casa at 10 a.m. on Wednesday for food and comfort.

‘While we celebrate American citizens’ right to vote, we also acknowledge that many people are in pain tonight,” Galvez wrote. “While we as a country move forward with new national leadership, for those of you that feel that pain, you are not alone.”

The Washington Post, reported, “As election results poured in showing Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, students took to the streets at colleges across the country, especially on the West Coast, crying and shouting with rage.”

“At many schools, the chants were the same: “F‑‑‑ Donald Trump!” over and over, with students’ fists pumping the air or arms around one another, some holding cellphones aloft to light their way through dark campuses or to film and share on social media.

A third-year student from New York Law School told The College Fix in a Twitter conversation that in the student’s classes today, the syllabus is being tossed out the window today so everybody can grieve (sic) and vent their *feelings* … That’s around $770 of education just today that I’m not getting.

The student explained that “assigned cases and topics were left untouched” so students can talk about how the election made them feel. They engaged in histrionic and hyperbolic talk, actual crying, statements about feeling angry and ‘personally violated’ overseeing a little boy walking down the street holding his mom’s hand and knowing he’s going to grow up in Trump’s America.

Students of color said they “felt their world ripped out from under them” because they fear anyone they meet could be a Trump voter, now that half the country has shown it “holds dangerous hatred for them because of their race,” the student said. A professor described “the people at Trump rallies as armies of hateful people.

On Right Side of History

“I honestly I feel like people are panicked,” Diana Wang, Harvard ’20 told the Harvard Crimson as Trump pulled ahead on Tuesday night. “When Trump pulls forward, people freak. People just freak out.”

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, before the race was called, President of the Harvard Democrats Susan X. Wang ’17 said she and fellow students are “prepared to fight harder” following a Trump victory.

“We get ready to face four hard years but we get ready to face four years with the knowledge that we’re on the right side of history and that this isn’t a permanent setback, it’s just a temporary one,” Wang said.

Dale Brigham, a nutrition professor at the University of Missouri, said an exam scheduled for today would proceed, despite Donald Trump’s victory. Brigham’s alleged indifference to his students’ fears led them to savage him on social media, some in incredibly crude terms, and now Brigham has resigned, he confirmed to local station KOMU:

“I am just trying to do what I think is best for our students and the university as an institution,” Brigham said to KOMU 8 News. “If my leaders think that my leaving would help, I am all for it. I made a mistake, and I do not want to cause further harm.” KOMU later reported that Brigham’s resignation “was not accepted” by Mizzou.

A University of Michigan professor has postponed an exam after many students emailed him and complained about their “serious stress” over the election results.

John Snodgrass’ psychology class will still meet today, but the previously scheduled exam will now be moved to next week, he told students in an email obtained by The College Fix.

“However one feels about the results of this important election, it’s clear that it (and the period leading up to it) is/has been very distracting and upsetting to many students. Relatedly, I’ve been receiving many emails in recent hours from students requesting to delay the exam due to associated serious stress,” the lecturer wrote to students.

Diversicrats Take on Catholic Scholar at Catholic College

By Rod Dreher

Many readers will have heard of Anthony Esolen, the robustly orthodox Catholic literature professor at Providence College, the Dominican-run college in Rhode Island. Prof. Esolen is the author of a number of books, including an exquisite translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is one of the three translations I recommend to anyone who asks me which is the best to read. He also writes frequently for orthodox Christian magazines like Touchstone and Crisis.

A couple of essays he published in Crisis this autumn sparked a huge row on his campus. The first criticizes the politics of “diversity” as they play out within a Catholic academic setting. The second poses the question to faithful Catholics (and other Christians): What will you do when the persecution comes?

Naturally, some students and faculty on Esolen’s campus were so outraged by his suggestion that “diversity” as they understand it is misguided and destructive that they have commenced a campaign to punish him, perhaps even to fire him.

Now, Esolen is having to answer the very question he recently posed to his readers in the second essay. Tony Esolen agreed to answer a few questions from me via e-mail. Our conversation is reproduced below.

Rod Dreher: What is happening to you at Providence College? Explain the controversy.

Tony Esolen: It’s a long story — that is, there is a two-year-long back-story that does not involve me, but that does involve five Catholic colleagues who have been treated disgracefully by their secular colleagues or have suffered under the inquests of the “Bias Response Protocol.” I wrote the two articles in Crisis Magazine, one of them in April and the other a few weeks ago, as alerts.

Someone at school then got hold of them and, before I knew it, I was in the middle of outrage, coming mainly from a group of students who I believe have been misled by radical professors who have adopted politics as their god, whether these professors are aware of it or not. The students accused me of racism, despite my explicit statements in the articles that I welcome people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, and despite my appeal, at the end of one of the articles, that they and their secular professors should join us in that communion where there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc.

They were angered by my suggestion, in one article, that there was something narcissistic in the common insistence that people should study THEMSELVES rather than people who lived long ago and in cultures far removed from ours by any ordinary criterion, and that there was something totalitarian in the impulse of the secular left, to attempt to subject our curriculum to the demands of a current political aim.

I spoke to one of the students, a friendly fellow whom I like very much, and explained to him that my quarrel was not with the students but rather with anti-Catholic professors and their attempts to hurt or to stifle my colleagues. It was a long and warm conversation, at the end of which I asked him to relay to his group that I was happy, even eager, to meet with them any time to talk about what it is like to be a minority student at Providence College.

I also asked him to relay to our chief Diversity Officer my offer of a year ago, to start up a film series centered on themes of injustice and prejudice; one of the movies I specifically mentioned to him and to the Officer was the devastating One Potato Two Potato, about an interracial marriage.

Since then, though, I have received NO phone calls and NO e-mails from any students; and yet word has spread around campus, possibly originating from the administration itself, that I have “blown off” the students, when exactly the reverse is true, and if anybody has been “blown off,” it has been me.

A week ago last Thursday I was tipped off by a student — not a member of the group in question — that there was going to be a protest on campus. That’s unheard of, at Providence College. About 60 students marched around, while a female student-led them around, shouting slogans through a bullhorn. I think it was “What do we want? Inclusion! When do we want it? Now!”

The noise could be heard all through the three-story building where my office is. I had thought they were going to come down the hall and knock on my door, but then they seem to have turned around and gone to the president’s office, where they demanded a response from him, and of course some of the students demanded that I be fired.

In fact, the president had already met with those students the day before and had heard that particular demand, though  he said that I enjoyed academic freedom. It is likely that he knew of the demonstration beforehand because the Vice President for Student Affairs actually was there.  The Vice President of Student Affairs says that she did not have any prior knowledge of the demonstration.  She says that she was present in her capacity as chief of security.

The president then sent round to all the faculty, all the staff, all undergraduates, and all graduates the following letter:

Dear Members of the Providence College Community:

Yesterday I met with about 60 of our students who marched through campus and eventually came to Harkins Hall. Their primary source of complaint was the content of a pair of articles recently published by a member of our faculty, how it made them feel, and their frustration that there had been no response from the College or me. After dialoging with the students, I believe it is imperative for me to respond to their concerns.

Academic freedom is a bedrock principle of higher education. It allows professors the freedom to teach, write, and lecture without any restraint except the truth as they see it. It also gives them the freedom to express their opinions as citizens so long as it is clear that they do not represent the views of the institution with which they are affiliated. This freedom obviously extends to espousing views critical of their own college or university.

So when one of our professors writes an article accusing Providence College of having “Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult,” he is protected by academic freedom and freedom of speech. But it must be understood that he speaks only for himself. He certainly does not speak for me, my administration, and for many others at Providence College who understand and value diversity in a very different sense from him.

Universities are places where ideas are supposed to be brought into conflict and questioned, so let us robustly debate the meaning of “diversity.” But we must also remember that words have an impact on those who hear or read them. When a professor questions the value of diversity, the impact on many students, faculty, and staff of color is to feel that their presence is not valued and that they are not welcome at Providence College. I have heard from many students about the pain that this causes. When student activists are described as “narcissists,” they understandably feel demeaned and dismissed. We need to be able to disagree with each other’s ideas without attaching labels to them or imputing motives that we cannot know.

At the same time that we value freedom in the pursuit of truth, let us value even more our fundamental imperative on a Catholic campus: to be charitable to one another. We may deeply disagree on any number of topics, but we should do so in such a way that respects those with whom we disagree.

Our Catholic mission at Providence College calls us to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and cultures as a mirror of the universal Church and to seek the unity of that Body in the universal love of Christ. Pope Francis has likened this communion to the weaving of a blanket, “woven with patience and perseverance, one which gradually draws together stitches to make a more extensive and rich cover.” He reminds us as well that what we seek is not “unanimity, but true unity in the richness of diversity.” Finally, Francis reminds us that “plurality of thought and individuality reflect the manifold wisdom of God when we draw nearer to truth with intellectual honesty and rigor, when we draw near to goodness, when we draw near to beauty, in such a way that everyone can be a gift for the benefit of others.” Amen.

Fr. Brian Shanley

My friends were outraged, and I was stunned — basically, I had been singled out and exposed before the whole faculty, very few of whom were probably even aware that there was such a thing as Crisis Magazine; and, of course, they and the students are not my audience when I write for Crisis or whatever. Then, as if that were not bad enough, the President met with faculty on Wednesday afternoon, and all they did for a solid hour was to revile the evil Professor Esolen, with a few old-fashioned liberals defending my right to express my opinions, and several of my stalwart friends from philosophy and theology defending me personally and criticizing the president for his decision and for his handling of related matters. When the president said that he believed that he had to act “for pastoral reasons,” they replied that it was a strange form of pastoral care that pits every member of a community against one.

And it is still not over. The faculty have circulated a “petition,” or a resolution, or something neither flesh nor fowl, to the effect that though we all have academic freedom, it has to be exercised responsibly, and reviling “some part of the PC faculty” that is “unabashed” in publishing articles that are racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinistic. The petition has been signed by various faculty members and students. And STILL I hear that they are not satisfied, but are trying to figure out if they can use my articles to nail me for “bias” and hate, basically asserting that I am not capable of teaching certain categories of students — gay, female, and so forth.

I have been advised by a lawyer friend that that assertion itself is eo ipsodefamatory.

The Good Guys in all this are meeting tonight to draft a stern response. All I want to do is to teach ALL STUDENTS the glories of three thousand years of poetry, art, theology, and philosophy; and NOT to have the campus riven by the politicians….

In your recent essay on persecution, you tell your Catholic readers that “the war is here,” and you identify four kinds of Catholics with regard to the persecution. How does the situation you’re in at Providence College illustrate your argument?

I have seen the soldiers come forth. I can give you the names of some of them; they can add a great deal, too; they have been either the victims or witnesses of recent forays into persecution. Chief among them is Prof. James Keating, who I believe will be eager to correspond with you.

I won’t say anything about Quislings at this time. But the college is peppered with Persecutors. One secular professor tipped his hand at the faculty meeting with the President. When the President asked what could be done to increase the diversity at Providence College — whatever that means; nobody has defined “diversity” — one of the art history professors replied, “Get rid of the response to the mission statement,” the requirement that prospective professors write in response to a statement of our Catholic identity. The crowd cheered.

The dirty not-so-secret is that the same people who for many years have loathed our Development of Western Civilization program — the focus of curricular hostility — also despise the Catholic Church and wish to render the Catholic identity of the college merely nominal.

They are now also gunning for the DWC program, though they are so encapsulated in their secular monoculture, they have no idea what a tsunami of outrage they will bring on from the alumni if that program were ever to be eliminated.

In the other essay that stirred up your critics on campus, you laid into the way “diversity” is handled on your ostensibly Catholic college campus. In particular, you wrote: “But there is no evidence on our Diversity page that we wish to be what God has called us to be, a committedly and forthrightly Catholic school with life-changing truths to bring to the world. It is as if, deep down, we did not really believe it.” How have events there since you published that essay just over a month ago affected your views?

As I’ve said to people, authors don’t choose the titles for articles for Crisis Magazine; the editor does that, for the sake of “traffic” on the page. His title was a bit provocative. But everything that has happened since then has shown me, alas, that the editor saw more than I did, or more than I have been willing to admit.

The irony would seem to be obvious: “How DARE you suggest that there is a totalitarian impulse in our behavior? You should be FIRED!” And then, of course, there is the brazen cheering of the faculty when it is proposed that we should not be Catholic after all.
The strange irony of it all is that I’m the one who believes that a wide diversity of cultures and of institutions is a good thing, and they really do not. I do not WANT all colleges and universities to be basically the same; they do.

You have tenure, right? They can’t get rid of you — or can they?

I am told by a friend that I can be fired despite my tenure, though that is very unlikely.

I’ve read your forthcoming book, Out Of The Ashes: Rebuilding America Culture — and it’s terrific. You are particularly hard-hitting about the corruption of college life in America. You say it is “an absolute necessity” for faithful Christians to build new colleges because it is “not enough to reform the old.” What do you mean? Along those lines, what are the lessons of your present trial at Providence College?

Reforming the old schools will take an entire generation at least, if it is even possible; and in most cases, the reform will be spotty. Many schools are beyond reform: they are filled with professors who have disdain for the Church, and their courses in the liberal arts are thoroughly secular, and not particularly impressive intellectually, at that — how can they be, when the greatest concern of human life is systematically ignored or belittled?

Providence College can tip either way. I don’t know. My lawyer friend used to teach at PC and told me that that fight is lost. I believe it is not lost … but if I had money, I would give it straightaway to the real deals: Our Lady Seat of Wisdom (Ontario), Thomas More (NH), Wyoming Catholic, Dallas, Benedictine, etc.

What advice would you give to young Christian academics? To Christian parents preparing to send their kids to college?
It’s long past the time for administrators at Christian colleges to abandon the hiring policies that got us in this fix to begin with. We KNOW that there are plenty of excellent young Christian scholars who have to struggle to find a job. Well, let’s get them and get them right away. WE should be establishing a network for that purpose — so that if a Benedictine College needs a professor of literature, they can get on the phone to Ralph Wood at Baylor or me at Providence or Glenn Arbery at Wyoming Catholic, and say, “Do you have anybody?”

Christian parents — please do not suppose that your child will retain his or her faith after four years of battering at a secular college. Oh, many do — and many colleges have Christian groups that are terrific. But understand that it is going to be a dark time; and that everything on campus will be inimical to the faith, from the blockheaded assumptions of their professors, to the hook-ups, to the ignorance of their fellow students and their unconscious but massive bigotry. Be advised.

What would Dante say about the Christian in the contemporary university?

Fight. Be a cheerful warrior if you can be cheerful; all the better. But be a warrior.

Finally, I don’t know if you’ve read anything about my Benedict Option idea, but I found that Out Of The Ashes resonates strongly with the things I’ve been thinking and writing about. My book The Benedict Option will be out in mid-March. Your book comes out in January. Archbishop Charles Chaput has a great book, Strangers In A Strange Land, coming out in February, which says more or less the same things that you and I are saying, though in his own distinct voice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these books are emerging independently of each other, at the same time. What’s going on in our culture now? If a Christian wishes to read the signs of the times, what message should he see?

I agree with you entirely, Rod. It is time to rebuild. There can be no more pretense of a culture around us that is Christian or that is even content with Christianity being in its midst. We must be for the world by being against the world: Athanasius contra mundum. The world is leveling every cultural institution in its path — we must save them or rebuild them from the dust, for the world’s own sake, and for God’s.

UPDATE: A reader sends the text of the anti-Esolen petition being circulated on Providence College’s campus, originating with the school’s Black Studies Program faculty:

Please Sign the Petition: Breaking the Silence

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE BLACK STUDIES PROGRAM·SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2016

Breaking the Silence, Faculty Statement

As PC Faculty, we pledge to break the silence around systemic racism and discrimination on Providence College’s campus. While we vigorously support free expression, recent publications on the part of PC faculty have involved racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinist statements. The use of this type of language by people with power over students runs counter to the Catholic mission of Providence College, which aims “to reflect the rich diversity” of our world, and “extend a loving embrace to all.” As a diverse coalition of students have consistently highlighted, such statements are part of a broader pattern of racism, sexism and other forms of hate that are all too common not only on campus, but in the broader public culture. As professors who care deeply about the wellbeing, safety, and growth of our students, we are committed to combating racism and overcoming the hostile learning environment for too many of our students, while creating spaces where all of our students can engage in meaningful ways.

The professor-student relationship is marked by a significant imbalance in power and authority. Conferred by the institutions of which we are a part, professors possess the power and authority over students to determine the content of the syllabi, assign tasks, create supportive or destructive learning environments, and evaluate student performance, and we are able to do so largely free from direct oversight. Such a large degree of academic freedom — especially the power to grade — coupled with the right to free speech comes with professional standards and responsibilities. Some professors have openly, publicly, and unabashedly articulated a disdain for racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and religious inclusion. In contrast, we the undersigned, are committed to ensuring that marginalized groups are not further marginalized in the classroom, especially when many of our students already experience multiple forms of exclusion at Providence College. Furthermore, we commit to addressing anti-immigrant and anti-black racism on campus, creating a more diverse and inclusive community, and implementing student demands (http://www.thedemands.org/).

In a political context marked by renewed attempts to divide us along racial, ethnic, and gender lines, as well as renewed protests to promote equality and justice for all, we as PC faculty think it is vital to respond to these recent examples of hateful speech and actions. Along with PC students and students across the country, we stand on the side of equality and justice, and an inclusive campus for all.

Take a look at the specific “demands” the black faculty, students, and their allies are making of Providence College’s leadership. It is shockingly illiberal, and amounts to a thoroughgoing politicization and racialization of every aspect of campus life. This stuff is Orwellian. Any college or university that yields to these tyrants ceases to be a place where true liberal learning is possible and instead becomes an ideological indoctrination factory.

Reprinted with permission from The American Conservative

Rod Dreher is a prominent conservative, more concerned with culture than with politics, who runs a blog at The American Conservative.

What the Feds Have Done to Colleges and Schools

The Obama administration has repeatedly violated civil liberties on campus. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been the chief culprit, but the Department of Justice has played a role too. They have attacked free speech, demanding that school officials censor politically-incorrect speech. They have also pressured colleges to stack the deck against students accused of sexual harassment or assault by denying them the right to due process. The Obama administration has violated the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection by demanding racial quotas in school discipline and turning a blind eye to campus racial violence against whites. It also has shown a contempt for religious freedom and the due process rights of colleges themselves.

  1. The Attack on Free Speech

The Obama administration has told colleges investigated under Title IX — such as the University of Montana — to classify all “unwelcome” sexual conduct or speech as “sexual harassment.” It did so even though this violates free speech, and even though courts have never defined sexual harassment that broadly. In 2013, a political appointee in the Obama Justice Department and an official in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) demanded that the University of Montana impose a sweeping campus speech code treating all “unwelcome” speech about sexual issues as “sexual harassment,” even if only a hypersensitive person would have objected (like a student offended by a classmate or professor discussing how AIDS is transmitted).

Education writers like Joanne Jacobs pointed out that this definition of sexual harassment would effectively brand every student a sexual harasser (like a student asking another student out on a date). It also would ban jokes, cartoons and discussions that only the most sensitive people find offensive, at a huge cost to free speech.

The Obama administration’s letter to the University of Montana claimed that sexual speech need not even create a “hostile environment” to be harassment. But a federal appeals court rejected that argument in DeJohn v. Temple University (2008). It ruled that a college harassment policy violates the First Amendment if it defines as sexual harassment speech that does not “objectively” create a “hostile environment.” Even if it does create a hostile environment, the sexual speech still “may be protected” by the First Amendment if it discusses political or social issues.

In September 2016, an OCR attorney encouraged unwarranted sexual harassment complaints based on constitutionally-protected speech in yet another way. She told Frostburg State University that its sexual harassment policy was wrong to determine whether the conduct was harassment based on the “perspective of a reasonable person.”

This opened the door to sexual harassment complaints by hypersensitive students who seek to silence discussion of sexual issues by classmates. Under broad campus “harassment” codes, students have been investigated or punished merely for expressing commonplace opinions about sexual and racial issues, such as criticizing feminism or affirmative action.

As Reason Magazine noted, in rejecting the reasonable person standard, the OCR official was “effectively saying that colleges should base their decisions on the perspective of an unreasonable person.”  That flouted Supreme Court rulings, which the Daily Caller notes have long applied “a reasonable person standard to decide whether sexual harassment occurred.” For example, in 2001, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling against the Clark County School District, ruling that a “reasonable person” could not “have believed that [a] single incident” of offensive remarks amounted to harassment.

The Obama administration has also told grade schools to violate the free-speech rights of their students. In an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s school boards about bullying, the Office for Civil Rights rewrote the legal definition of sexual harassment to reach homophobia and offensive speech outside of school.

It claimed that “harassment does not have to . . . involve repeated incidents” to be illegal under Title IX, but rather need only be “severe, pervasive, or persistent” enough to detract from a student’s educational benefits or activities. It also targeted speech outside of school, claiming that harassment includes speech, such as “graphic and written statements” on the “Internet” and elsewhere.

Disturbingly, it also suggested that speech could violate Title IX even if it was not “aimed at a specific target.” Banning academic speech not aimed at the complainant creates enormous free-speech problems.

A federal appeals court relied on the First Amendment in dismissing a racial harassment lawsuit by a university’s Hispanic employees against a white professor over his recurrent racially-charged anti-immigration emails. In its ruling in Rodriguez v. Maricopa County Community College (2010), the court noted that the messages were not “directed at particular individuals” but rather aimed at “the college community” as a whole.

OCR’s attempt to restrict off-campus speech also went well beyond its jurisdiction under Title IX. Courts have held that Title IX does not hold schools liable for even serious off-campus misconduct in decisions like Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014), which rejected a lawsuit over an alleged student-on-student rape.

OCR’s pressure on colleges to regulate off-campus conduct and speech led to a speech-chilling investigation of Professor Laura Kipnis that lasted for months. She was investigated under Title IX for her essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” (which hypersensitive students claimed offended them and constituted sexual harassment) and her subsequent statements defending herself on Twitter (which the students claimed constituted “retaliation” in violation of Title IX, even though she did not identify them by name).

OCR’s sweeping definition of “sexual harassment” is at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), which held that to be illegal under Title IX, sexual harassment must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court explained that the requirement of both severity and pervasiveness means that a lawsuit cannot be based solely on a “single instance” of “severe” peer harassment — contrary to OCR’s “Dear Colleague” letter about bullying, which claimed harassment does not have to “involve repeated incidents” to violate Title IX.

The Obama administration expects colleges to students’ lives, even off campus. It has told colleges to investigate students for sexual harassment or assault even when their allegedly victimized partner does not want any investigation. It instructed the University of Virginia to investigate further even when the accused has already admitted guilt (even though that could needlessly force a victim to relive her trauma) and even in “cases in which students chose not to file a formal complaint” or even to pursue an “informal resolution process.”

  1. Due Process Undermined

The Administration has also stacked the deck against people accused of sexual harassment or assault in campus disciplinary proceedings. For example, in Title IX investigations, it has required that colleges impose “interim measures” against accused students before they ever receive a hearing on the charge against them, measures that can include expulsion from a dorm and classes shared with the accuser. It perversely faulted Michigan State for not investigating a false complaint fast enough, even though the complainant didn’t want a college investigation at all, and it suggested the University might have to offer the false accuser academic “remedies.

In its April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague letter to the nation’s colleges, OCR instructed to colleges to restrict cross-examination, even though the Supreme Court has declared that cross-examination is the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” It also ordered colleges to abolish the clear-and-convincing standard of evidence that was once the norm in college discipline, recommending instead the far weaker “preponderance of evidence standard (50.001 percent certainty).

OCR also has recently required some investigated colleges (such as Harvard and SUNY) to conduct “individual complaint reviews” for all allegations in past academic years to see if the college “took steps” against harassment in each case. That creates the risk of students being investigated all over again for an offense the college previously found them not guilty of, much like double jeopardy.

  1. The Attack on Equal Protection

The Obama Justice and Education Departments have pressured school districts to adopt racial quotas in school suspensions, falsely claiming that it generally violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to suspend black students at a higher rate than whites. Such racial quotas have led to increased violence and disorder in some large urban school districts.

This pressure flouts federal court rulings. A federal appeals court ruled in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997) that schools cannot use racial quotas in discipline, striking down a rule that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline.”

Yet, “Hillary Clinton has called for Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to crack down on school districts that discipline higher percentages of black students, and has advocated further increasing OCR’s budget to increase its muscle over school districts.”

Contrary to the assumption of Clinton and the Obama administration, school officials are not racist against black students: black students’ higher suspension rates simply reflect higher rates of misbehavior among blacks.

As Katherine Kersten wrote months ago in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, black students’

discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more. In fact, a major 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted for by a measure of the prior problem behavior of the student.” That problem behavior can manifest itself in other ways. Nationally, for example, young black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and Hispanics of the same ages combined.

The Obama administration has also turned a blind eye to racial discrimination and harassment committed against white students on campus. One example is when minority students at Berkeley racially harassed whites, prevented them from studying, and blocked the access of white students to key areas of campus while letting minority students through. Berkeley’s administration did nothing, even though it was all caught on videotape, witnessed by nearby campus police, and reported on by Fox News, the Washington Times, and Reason Magazine.

The Obama administration likewise did nothing, even though the White House has weighed in on far more trivial campus racial controversies that offended minorities (such as praising protests against Halloween costumes minority students considered “cultural appropriation,” and praising the expulsion of white Oklahoma students for a disgusting racist chant that law professors said was constitutionally-protected speech, but which the college president said was “racial harassment” of minorities who learned about it later). It did nothing, even though the Obama Education Department has investigated colleges for sexual harassment based on press reports, even when the purported victim did not complain to the Education Department, and did not even want a Title IX investigation. It ignores such racial discrimination, even though federal courts have ruled that civil rights laws forbid racial harassment and violence aimed at whites based on their race.

  1. The Attack on Colleges’ Own Religious Freedom and Due Process Rights

The Obama administration has selectively applied regulations in ways that destroy trade schools and for-profit colleges. For example, it forced the shutdown of ITT Tech, which had successfully operated for 50 years, displacing 40,000 students in the process. Even the liberal Washington Post, which has not endorsed a Republican for President since 1952, viewed this as a violation of due process. As the Post put it,

“What is so troubling about the department’s aggressive move — which experts presciently called a death sentence — is that not a single allegation of wrongdoing has been proven against the school. Maybe the government is right about ITT’s weaknesses, but its unilateral action without any semblance of due process is simply wrong. ‘Inappropriate and unconstitutional,’ said ITT officials. Such unfairness sadly is a hallmark of the Obama administration policy toward higher education’s for-profit sector.”

Meanwhile, the Administration continues to subsidize and provide financial aid to low-quality colleges that have far lower graduation rates and salaries for graduating students than ITT.

The Obama administration has also refused to respect the statutory and constitutional rights of religious schools and colleges. For example, on June 21, it rejected a “right of conscience” complaint by religious orders and schools who objected to the State of California’s requirement that their health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions. In so doing, it thumbed its nose at the Weldon Amendment, which Congress passed to prevent just such coercion.

That provision withholds federal funds from states that require health care entities to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” As lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom noted, the Obama administration’s action allowed California to illegally regulate the healthcare coverage of even priests and nuns, and allowed California to get away with a “blatant violation of the law.”

The Gender Lobby Guns for Toronto Professor

The most controversial man in Canada these days is probably mild-mannered Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

Peterson has run afoul of the gender/transgender lobby by refusing to use the personal pronouns favored by students, faculty and others with non-binary gender identities. Those with such identities want to be referred to as “zie” “sie” “zim” “vis” and an array of other recommended and personal choices.

He is under pressure from his university, which has ordered him to use personally approved pronouns, as well as from the Province of Ontario, which defines resistance to the new personal pronouns as discrimination and harassment.

Neither Male Nor Female?

The tenured professor drew major media attention after the first part of his YouTube lecture series called Professor against political correctness came out. In the hour-long video, Peterson criticized Bill C-16 — which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to criminalize harassment and discrimination based on gender identity. Peterson compares this amendment to “the way that totalitarian and authoritarian political states (develop).

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines gender identity as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.”

“I don’t know what ‘neither’ means because I don’t know what the options are if you’re not a man or a woman,” Peterson states in his YouTube lecture.

“It’s not obvious to me how you can be both because those are by definition binary categories. What should you ask of the collective if you deviate in some manner? And you might say, to welcome you with open arms,’” he said. “And I would say, ‘That’s probably asking too much.’ I think what you should ask the collective is that they tolerate your deviance without too much aggression.”

A Radical Fringe

He attributes his concerns regarding the Ontario Human Rights Commission to “social justice warrior-type activists [being] over-represented in the current provincial government.” as well as the fact that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is a lesbian.

“I can’t help but manifest the suspicion that that’s partly because our current Premier is lesbian in her sexual preference and that in itself doesn’t bother me one way or another,” said Peterson in the video. “I don’t think it’s relevant to the political discussion except insofar as the LGBT community has become extraordinarily good at organizing themselves and has a fairly pronounced and very, very sophisticated radical fringe.”

In an article on the Federalist site, Stella Morabito writes, “Today Peterson is laser-focused on fighting the cultural cancer of political correctness. He is alarmed at how quickly it is metastasizing into laws that seek to punish any and all self-expression.”

Waking up the Right

Peterson said he fears an extended left-right battle over PC. “One of the things I’m afraid of with regards to all of the continual radical activism on the left is that they’re waking up the right,” he told The Varsity, a student newspaper. “And all you have to do is look around. There’s a huge resurgence in right-wing parties in Europe.”

Peterson stood by this speculation: “It’s perfectly reasonable to question the company that they keep. If you’re a trade union leader, I presume you’re going to surround yourself with left-wing activists. If you’re a gay politician, I think it’s reasonable to assume that some of the people in your political surrounds are going to be relatively radical LGBT activists.”

Mandatory Anti-Racist Training

Peterson objects to the U of T’s Human Resources Department requirement for mandatory anti-racist training.
“I take exception to that for a variety of reasons. One is, it isn’t obvious that there is a racism problem on the U of T campus. Second is, it isn’t obvious to me that it’s reasonable to term people sufficiently racist when they haven’t one anything to deserve that epithet so you have to retrain them. Third, it isn’t obvious to me that you should make it mandatory,” Peterson said.

“And fourth, I don’t think the people who have been put in charge of the education program have the credentials or the ability to deliver what they claim to be able to deliver. And finally, I don’t believe that there’s any evidence that these anti-racist training programs actually produce a decrement in racism. In fact, they might make people worse,” continued Peterson.

Peterson’s video lecture also calls gender-neutral pronouns “connected to… an entire underground apparatus of… radical left political motivations.”

Laying out a hypothetical situation in which a student asks to be addressed by a different pronoun, Peterson said, “If someone just came up to me and said that, I would definitely just tell them to go away. They have to have a reason to have a conversation with me.”

Peterson spoke at a free speech rally on campus October 11. His detractors worked hard to drown out his voice with chants, shouts and white-noise machines. Student supporters of Peterson and free speech advocates circulated and signed this letter of support:

An Open Letter to the Administration of the University of Toronto

First of all, we would like to commend and thank you for agreeing to host the series of debates proposed to you by Professor Peterson. We believe that this is a step in the right direction, and are looking forward to witnessing what constitutes an example of a free and reasoned exchange of ideas on campus. We believe that fostering a climate where all topics, no matter how controversial, are up for intellectual exploration is one of the fundamental functions of a post-secondary institution, and, as such, we applaud the University’s decision to host the debates.

Nevertheless, we continue to be disturbed and appalled by the incidents that took place at the Free Speech rally on October 11, 2016, and, most of all, by the University’s response to the aftermath of the event. We came to the rally to express our views in a respectful manner; we were instead silenced by members of the University of Toronto Students Union (UTSU)and the Black Liberation Collective (BLC), then slandered by members of these same groups, and finally left aghast at our administration’s failure to protect students’ fundamental rights and freedoms and their decision to muzzle Professor Peterson.

The University has been quick to condemn online threats of physical violence against members of the transgender community; it has also been quick to condemn the few racists and transphobic slurs that were, unfortunately, voiced by a small minority at the Free Speech rally. These fringe views are in no way representative of the opinion of the majority of free speech protesters; in fact, we fully support the University’s decision to denounce these acts. However, we also believe that choosing to draw attention only to those incidents that were perpetrated against the transgender and the Black community is dangerous and wrong.

Why did the administration not condemn the use of white-noise machines, allegedly rented by an executive member of the UTSU? Cassandra Williams and other counter-protesters have clearly broken the Obstruction Clause of the University’s Free Speech policy. Although the rally was technically held in a public space, the white noise machine was plugged into a power outlet; thus, the University had a responsibility to prohibit and condemn such actions.

Where is the University’s response to co-founder of the BLC and student at the University of Toronto, Yusra Khogali, calling an Ethiopian refugee a “coon” for politely expressing his views on the state of free speech in his home country? This was the most evident act of anti-Black racism at the rally – yet the University and media (including the Varsity) fail to recognize this.

Where is the University’s condemnation of an anti-Peterson protester assaulting a journalist, Lauren Southern, and their response to Theo Williamson, the New College Equity Director, lying about it to police? It should be noted that both of these individuals are having criminal charges currently pressed against them. Furthermore, Williamson is having legal action pressed for a completely different altercation, where they seem to have stolen a pro-free speech attendee’s cell phone, assaulted the attendee with the phone, and then smashed it against the pavement [3]. Why has the University not reprimanded Cassandra Williams who used her body to physically block the attendee from trying to retrieve her phone?

Why has the University failed to protect student organizers and supporters of the Free Speech rally from slander? Unsurprisingly, it appears that the media narrative surrounding what happened at the rally is based exclusively on the accounts of the counter-protestors, such as Theo Williamson. These are the same individuals who have insinuated that we are no more than a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It is clear, at this point, that we must take these accounts of events very skeptically considering that an active leader of the anti-free-speech movement has no problem lying–even to the police].

Why has the University failed to recognize the very real danger posed to students in support of free speech and Professor Peterson? Wesley Williams (also known as Qaiser Ali), another prominent leader in the anti-free speech movement has been documented proudly and clearly declaring himself to be “the death of the palefaces”. What more is needed to constitute a threat to a given demographic?

Perhaps the actions of Yusra Khogali could be it. The fact that Khogali has not been censured by the University for her words and actions is perplexing and disturbing, to say the least. In her various media communications, she has claimed that white skin is “sub-human”; used racial slurs against individuals respectfully sharing their opinion; and expressed a desire to murder “white ppl and men”. It is difficult to put into words just how alienating and terrifying it is to know that an open racist who advocates for the use of violence is advising the University on pertinent matters, claiming to hold the secrets to “anti-oppression” and being allowed to ruin peaceful demonstrations. What Khogali’s actions amount to is bullying, at best.

Finally, where is the University’s condemnation of the Black Liberation Collective – a racist activist group that openly embraces violence(“We will strive for liberation by any means necessary, including but not limited to armed self-defense. […] We condone whatever methods Black people adopt to liberate themselves and their kin.”)? We find the fact that the administration has not availed itself of this openly available information baffling and hard to believe. And if the University has been aware of the violent nature of the BLC, then why has the administration not only failed to denounce this organization, but also continues to take anti-oppression training advice from this group [10]?

There is video footage and written evidence supporting every claim made in this letter. If you choose to ignore this information, you are engaging in willful ignorance, at the expense of violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of the majority of your student body. If you ignore this letter, you admit to condoning radical activist groups to silence, bully, assault and threaten those who dare to disagree with their views.

In short, we no longer feel that the University of Toronto is a place where students are free to share their ideas without risking being aggressively silenced, insulted, assaulted and slandered. We contend that the University is choosing to pursue political gain at the risk of being slandered by the BLC and the UTSU. It must be acknowledged that as long as militant, racist groups are allowed on campus and, moreover, permitted to advise our University administration – those who wish to espouse opinions not in line with the aforementioned groups are not safe.

We demand justice and equal treatment for all students, regardless of their sex, race, gender identity, religion or political persuasion. As citizens of a democratic society and members of your institution, we deserve the right to free speech and fair treatment. We deserve to have an administration that cares about all students equally and takes a nonpartisan approach when conflicts between various student groups and interests inevitably arise.

The University has failed to protect their students from violence, bullying, racism, sexism and slander. We are speaking up – we need you to listen. What’s happening is fundamentally wrong, and against all values of this institution and of Western, liberal democracy.

Sincerely,
Concerned Students

The Lingering Love for Stalin

A poll by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials, particularly younger ones, showed either an abysmal ignorance of communism, abysmal support for it or both. Almost half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 20 “said they would vote for a socialist, while 21% would go so far as to back a Communist.

Even more startling was that a” third of millennials say they believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin.”   In short, they knew nothing of Stalin’s body count, which, under current estimates, is 20 million.

Of the 2,300 Americans polled by YouGov, 80% of baby boomers and 91% of the elderly agree with the statement that “Communism was and still is a problem” in the world today. Among millennials, the figure was 55%.

From the vantage point of teaching college-level History courses, I’m not surprised by the ignorance. I regularly stun my classes when I assign Martin Amis’ devastating critique of Stalin, Koba The Dread.  What kick-started this book was Amis observing a group of old Leftists laughing when speaker Christopher Hitchens reminded them of their Communist past.  Outraged, Amis attacked the Old Left for deliberately forgetting the “demonic energy…embedded in their hope” for a perfect society.  But for the younger generation, Amis sought to educate them about what happened at events they are not exposed to such as how Stalin’s famine alone killed as many people—6 million—as Hitler’s Holocaust.

My class was both sickened and startled.  Many come forward after reading it asking why the real Stalin isn’t revealed in other history classes (the most disturbing and perhaps revealing of one of their comments was that “America isn’t perfect either”).  But all agreed that Stalin was rarely mentioned, except in the context of fighting Hitler.

My experiences as a graduate student in a New York school was not theirs. Stalin was not a neglected topic; far from it– he was an obsession for my hero-prone professors, many of whom could qualify as “tenured radicals.”   George W. Bush, by turns, was the real monster (this may account for those polled who find Stalin much more pacific than Bush).

I was personally privy to such ideological gymnastics when I served as a teaching assistant for a professor–I won’t name names—who asserted that people need to “realize the good Stalin was trying to do.” Part of that “good” was assigning quotas

of those to be shot in each village and region—he didn’t care who the victims were, only that the killing quotas be met.

Like one of those one-man shows in which actors like James Whitmore played Teddy Roosevelt or Harry Truman—even going so far regarding realism to talk to the audience while in character–I was presented with an example of the Old Stalinist Left, circa 1936.  All the rationalizations and defenses of Stalin were dusted off and presented sledgehammer fashion to my fellow students: Stalin was encircled by capitalist-imperialist countries; his Purge Trials were not rigged to murder his opposition but were a necessary measure to get rid of home-grown Nazis in the pay of Hitler, and countries which he military occupied and then mutated into his satellites actually welcomed his benign rule.

Moreover, she brandished such books as Mission to Moscow by Joseph E. Davies, a shameless Stalin apologist and American diplomat present at many of the Purge trials. He defended them as Pravda did: those accused and shot were agents of Hitler.   She also displayed the willingness to use anyone or anything to support Stalin. So she was willing to embrace an old imperialist such as Winston Churchill because he agreed with Stalin that the postwar world should be made up of each country’s own policed “zones” (this would have in effect legitimized Stalin’s absorption of Europe).

My fellow adjuncts mirrored such sentiments.  In a labor history class, I heard students laud Lenin as one of the “great men” of history (those feminists who went ballistic when anyone used such sexist, oppressive terms put aside their outrage when the subject was Lenin).  I was greeted with boos and a bad grade when I reminded them that Lenin once called “intellectuals” “shit” and wanted them all shot.

Even more surreal was how professors and students tried to mix post-modernism with Stalinism.  Perhaps they feared that logical inquiry based on fact-finding would present a convincing indictment of Stalin’s crimes. So they argued that empiricism was a form of “fascism.”

This atmosphere was so wedded to Communism that the ideological spectrum had shifted far left, with Communists being liberals, and authentic liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. were “reactionaries.”  When I asked about where that put Ronald Reagan, they told me he stood shoulder to shoulder with Schlesinger and other New Dealers.

Today it would not be a leap on my part to assume that these colleagues are teaching millennials, as I am, and honoring their former professors by cheerleading for Communist dictators.

So I am not surprised not by the ignorance found in the polls—students, from most generations, don’t know or care about the past–but also by their support for Communist dictators.  Ignorance only partially explains it.  What the poll shows is their indoctrination by left-wing professors.

And it is my generation, along with the Old Left, who is responsible.

Universities Torn Between Truth Seeking and Social Justice

A lengthy article by Jonathan Haidt dealing with the growing conflict over the proper goal or end of the academy ran here in full on October 23.  It was neither an original article of ours nor a reprint published with permission. It should have run–and appears now–as an excerpt referring readers back to its original site, Heterodox  Academy. We regret the error.—Editor

Aristotle often evaluated a thing with respect to its “telos” – its purpose, end, or goal. The telos of a knife is to cut. The telos of a physician is health or healing. What is the telos of university?

The most obvious answer is “truth” –- the word appears on so many university crests. harvard-crestBut increasingly, many of America’s top universities are embracing social justice as their telos, or as a second and equal telos. But can any institution or profession have two teloses (or teloi)? What happens if they conflict?

As a social psychologist who studies morality, I have watched these two teloses come into conflict increasingly often during my 30 years in the academy. The conflicts seemed manageable in the 1990s. But the intensity of conflict has grown since then, at the same time as the political diversity of the professoriate was plummeting, and at the same time as American cross-partisan hostility was rising. I believe the conflict reached its boiling point in the fall of 2015 when student protesters at 80 universities demanded that their universities make much greater and more explicit commitments to social justice, often including mandatory courses and training for everyone in social justice perspectives and content.

Now that many university presidents have agreed to implement many of the demands, I believe that the conflict between truth and social justice is likely to become unmanageable.  Universities will have to choose, and be explicit about their choice so that potential students and faculty recruits can make an informed choice. Universities that try to honor both will face increasing incoherence and internal conflict.

 

The Attack on Heterosexual Sex on Campus

When spiked’s law editor Luke Gittos decided to write a book on ‘rape culture’ he must have known it was likely to cause him a lot of trouble. Gittos is a privileged, white, London-based, (possibly cis-gender) male lawyer who claims no experience of forced sex. His book could not be more of a challenge to the current zeitgeist.

Hence, there will be those who say his privileged, white maleness disqualifies him from speaking out on the issue of rape, and that this book, Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans, is a ‘mansplaining’ display of insensitive arrogance by someone with no sense of women’s experience. Others will probably be tempted to dismiss any man who writes a book challenging ‘rape culture’ as an attention-seeking controversialist intent on provoking feminist fury. The publisher should probably have issued a Twitterstorm alert.

But such attempts to dismiss the relevance of Gittos’s arguments would be mind-numbingly stupid. Because, despite his gender and background (neither of which are his fault), Gittos has produced a useful and intelligent analysis that clarifies and makes sense of an issue that has become very muddled.

Related: Feds Lurch Toward Due Process in a Campus Sex Case

Gittos’s tightly written polemic argues against the accepted view that we live in a society in which misogyny and everyday sexism have created a so-called rape culture, in which rape is pervasive, underreported and ignored. He does not believe that the police and the law courts are failing women by failing to convict rapists. On the contrary, Gittos argues that the obsession with a ‘culture of rape’ has seriously distorted our view of sexual violence, and that the expansion of laws to protect women is eroding areas of privacy and inviting state regulation of our most intimate affairs.

This is dangerous for us all – not just men who may find themselves dragged into court following a sexual encounter they believed was consensual. Gittos holds that the drive to prosecute (and improve conviction rates against) more and more people has dangerous 71157100127170limplications for the fundamental principles of justice, and for basic freedoms. The situation as things stand, he maintains, does no one any favours: it undermines society’s ability to deal adequately with extreme assault, and it undermines our ability to live intimately with one another.

At a time when we are so often encouraged to understand rape from the perspective of the victim, it helps to understand the issue from the perspective of a lawyer who is able to compare the treatment of sexual assault to the treatment of other crimes. Take, for example, the discussion of the conviction rate for rape, which everyone seems to agree is ‘too low’ and in need of ‘improvement’. Gittos demonstrates that the conviction rate for rape is not so different to other crimes, and reminds us that a crucial principle of our judicial system is the ‘burden of proof’. He examines the absurdity of setting what are in effect performance targets for rape convictions. According to this bizarre logic, what matters is not whether a man is guilty or innocent, but whether a quota of rapists are convicted as an expression of society’s abhorrence of the crime.

Related: The Washington Post Joins the Rape Culture Crusade

Gittos examines the claims that rape is underreported, and that women do not report rapes because they are cynical, intimidated, ignorant of process or even unaware that they have been raped. Gittos makes a convincing case that the huge gap between the number of rapes and sexual assaults as reported in surveys and studies, and incidents reported to the police, is due to women preferring to deal with the matter informally, especially with regard to low-level sexual assault. Many women opt to treat these episodes as ‘a private/family matter and not police business’ (19 per cent in one 2012 study) or see them as ‘too trivial and not worth reporting’ (11 per cent). The conscious, deliberate choice not to involve the authorities is often seen as a problem, but Gittos challenges this. In effect, he is asking, do we respect women’s ability to decide these matters for themselves, or not?

People who insist that society is now peculiarly accepting of rape are simply deluded

The expansion of the definition of rape has been rapid and, therefore, deeply confusing. Nevertheless, it must be said that people who insist that society is now peculiarly accepting of rape are simply deluded.

Rape needs to mean something specific. ‘Unwanted sex’ or ‘unenjoyable sex’, is completely different to ‘non-consensual sex’. We need to understand the difference if we are going to have a sensible discussion about rape. You may agree to have sex that you don’t passionately desire for all kinds of reasons. As Bertrand Russell famously observed in his 1929 book Marriage and Morals, ‘the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution’. This was because, he explained, marriage for women at that time was the commonest form of livelihood. Unwanted sex was the price women paid for their economic and social position. Unwanted, unwilling sex is not rape – unless we broaden the definition of rape until it is so wide that it is absolutely meaningless. That is what Gittos thinks we are in danger of doing.

Of course, it is possible to draw the definition of rape too narrowly. The mothers of today’s students (who are encouraged to attend sexual-consent classes) may remember, as I do, protesting to make rape in marriage a crime. Not so long ago, the courts accepted that marriage gave conjugal rights to a spouse and that since a spouse could not withdraw consent, there could be no rape. In fact, it wasn’t until 1991 that the marital-rape exemption was finally abolished. So try telling the generation of women who campaigned to make rape in marriage a crime that today’s culture is uniquely ‘rapey’ because a song suggests that even ‘good girls’ really ‘want it’.

Related: Brown U. Messes Up Sex Assault Case, Accused Prevails

Clearly no one wants to return to the Bad Old Days, although many of us will have sympathy with the legal commission advising government on rape law in the 1980s when it said that ‘the criminal law should keep out of the marital relationships between cohabiting partners – especially the marriage bed’.

Gittos is right to insist that it is important to understand what rape is and how it is distinct from the intimacy of sex, which is, and must remain, a private matter. But what is it about rape that makes it a crime different to other forms of assault? After all, Susan Brownmiller, one of the most influential 1970s feminist thinkers on rape, denied that it was really about sex at – it was ‘a crime not of lust but of violence and power’.

My only problem with Gittos’ book is the title, Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth. I do believe we live in what could be called a ‘rape culture’. We live in a culture where rape is a constant reference point for intimate relations, regardless of the extent of intentional, non-consensual sex. That’s because in today’s culture, ‘rape’ is so broadly defined as to encompass almost everything: songs about picking up women are vilified for encouraging rape; an actor can decide a years-old sexual episode she experienced was in fact ‘rape’; men are warned not to assume that a woman who says ‘yes’ is competent to consent – especially if, heaven forbid, she’s under the influence of alcohol… We are fast approaching a culture in which almost all heterosexual sex is seen as rape.

And that’s why Gittos’s intervention is so vital. He is intent on protecting the sphere of intimacy from those who see rape everywhere

This piece is reprinted with permission from Spiked.com. Ann Furedi is writing in a personal capacity.

Killer Clowns on Campus? A Sign of Moral Panic

Sociologists define a moral panic as a feeling of fear shared by a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.  The recent clown panic that has emerged from the belief that that murderous clowns have surfaced throughout the country to terrorize schools –including college campuses — says more about the state of our society and our own feelings of vulnerability, than it does about the preposterous possibility that covens of killer clowns are on a rampage to kidnap and kill.

“Inside Higher Ed” has reported that creepy-looking clowns are now stalking “dozens” of college campuses. Students have reported seeing clowns at the Universities of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Miami, Missouri, New Hampshire and Texas at Austin. Students have also claimed to have seen clowns at Bloomsburg, Butler, Sacred Heart, Merrimack, Texas A & M and Syracuse as well as Western Carolina, Mississippi and York Colleges.

When police received concerns about clowns at Auburn, officials sent a campus-wide email telling students to resist the urge to track down the clowns on their own and avoid wearing clown attire. At Penn State — where the panic surrounding the sexual abuse of minors by Jerry Sandusky continues to haunt the campus — university police reported that between 500 to 1,000 students formed a mob that was “screaming and running through the streets” on campus in an attempt to “hunt the clown down.”

If the World Seems Precarious

Moral panics emerge when rapid social change threatens the status quo and society’s norms and values are changing so quickly that people cannot easily adjust to new societal demands. In the face of such precipitous social change, people begin to feel a sense of anomie—or normlessness as Durkheim called it — as the norms and values of the past no longer have meaning, and the world becomes a precarious place.

Anomie describes societies like our own that are characterized by disintegration and deregulation. It emerges when there is a generalized perception of a breakdown in social fabric—an erosion of moral standards, and a decline in leadership and legitimacy. Undifferentiated fears surface and vague feelings of unease develop resulting in confusion, distrust, and suspicions about the motivations and behaviors of others.

Throughout history, America has had its share of moral panics—and all of them can be understood as struggles for cultural power in the midst of rapid social change. The Salem witch trials in 1692 followed continued fears about a smallpox epidemic in the colony and coalesced around fears of attacks from neighboring Native American tribes.

There was also hostility related to emerging class differences and a rivalry with a more affluent neighboring community. Residents’ suspicions and fears of outsiders—fears of otherness—combined with a changing culture surrounding the role of women, fueling the belief that Satan was operating in Salem by endowing witches with demonic power to act against the Puritans.   It is noteworthy that the first woman accused of witchcraft in the Massachusetts colony was Tituba, the ultimate outsider, a Caribbean slave who was executed for “bewitching” young women into service for Satan.

Clowns in White Vans

The 1980s clown panic emerged at a time that is very similar to our current era of rapid social change and threats from external enemies.  While today we have fears of ISIS, domestic terrorism, school shootings, urban rioting, racial divisions, and an extremely contentious presidential election season, the 1980s was similarly filled with fears of AIDS, the cocaine panic over “crack babies,” the Iranian threats, and the frightening assassination attempts against President Reagan, St. Pope John Paul II, and Anwar Sadat.  And, although Reagan and the Pope survived the attempt, Sadat was killed, creating further fears of violent extremism from the Middle East.

Today’s clown panic on college campuses parallels yet another moral panic on campus surrounding fears of campus assault.  Women are told when they arrive on campus that they have a one in four chance of being sexually assaulted.  Undeterred by data debunking the notion that college campuses have become what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has called havens for rape and sexual assault, the Obama administration is now investigating nearly 100 colleges and universities for possible alleged sexual violence.  Suggesting that “women are at a great risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus,” Senator Gillibrand introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, and all colleges and universities receiving federal aid have had to implement mandatory sexual abuse prevention training for all campus employees.

Related: Criminal Law and the Moral Panic on Campus Rape

The only problem is that much of what has been reported about the “epidemic of campus sexual assault” is itself a myth.  A study last year by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that the rate of rape and other sexual assaults over the past two decades was 1.2 times higher for non-students of college age than for students on college campuses.  In fact, campus sexual assault 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 study found that female college students are safer from sexual assault while in college than at any other time in their lives.

But data mean little in the middle of a moral panic.  Driven by irrational fears, panics like these emerge quickly, garner much media attention, and then, disappear as quickly as they began.

Eventually, the creepy clown moral panic and the panicked response to the belief that college campuses are a site of rape and violence will pass as we begin to substitute new fears. In the meantime, it is helpful to look closely at them as an opportunity to begin to understand what we are really afraid of—the very real fears that we are likely too afraid to even discuss.

The heightened levels of fear that we are seeing on college campuses is best understood when viewed through the lens provided by NYU Social Psychology Professor Jonathan Haidt in an interview here.   Haidt believes that college campuses have been places fraught with fear for students.  Part of this is due to the dramatic changes in child-rearing that happened in America in the 1980s: “With the rise in crime amplified by the rise of cable TV, we saw much more protective fearful parenting.” Parental fears over the previous panics surrounding child abductions, crack houses, crack babies, gang violence, and day care abuse by mythic satanic day-care workers have changed the ways in which parents protect their children.

Haidt believes that “Children have been raised very differently —protected as fragile. The key psychological idea which should be mentioned in everything written about this is Nassim Taleb’s concept of antifragility.”  This theory states that “children are anti-fragile. Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break.  Bone needs to get banged around to toughen up.  And so do children.” Haidt believes we have treated our children as “too fragile” – not allowing them to ever suffer any discomfort in their lives.  When they reach college, they can be terrified of everything.

Toughening up our college age children will take a generation.  But, in the meantime, it is helpful to look closely at these kinds of panics as an opportunity to begin to understand what we are really afraid of—the very real fears that we are likely too afraid to even talk about.

I Could Have Been Fired Without Ever Knowing Why—But I Had Tenure

I learned about the charges brought against me only after the findings were reached. My departmental chair called me into her office and at the direction of the college administration told me what I had to do to remedy the apparently awful situation I had known nothing about. I had to change my syllabus.

I teach geology at Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY). And luckily I have tenure, an important protection in case of Kafka-like trials at a PC college. What had I done wrong? See for yourself. Here is the offending phrase from the grading portion of my syllabus: “Class deportment, effort etc……. 10% (applied only to select students when appropriate).”

Can you spot the alleged offense? I bet not. For reasons that escape me too, that phrase was perceived as a prelude to sexual harassment. And the phrase was so clearly problematic to the administration that they directed me to change it.

Related: How Students Intimidate Professors and Stymie Learning

As it turns out, my syllabus almost crossed another invisible line of acceptability in the politically correct world at Brooklyn College. Here’s the problematic part:

“This classroom is an ‘unsafe space’ for those uncomfortable with viewpoints with which they may disagree: all constitutionally protected speech is welcome.” I had been using warning triangles sardonically instead of ordinary quote marks when referring to foolish PC terms. All my department chair would say is, “The triangles are the problem.” I never found out what made the triangles a problem. They were ready to act on a problem without saying what the problem was.

My guess is that some administrator thought the warning triangles were reminiscent of the pink triangles that the Nazis made gays wear. I wonder how long the administrators deliberated before deciding that the clip art street signs I’d included in my syllabus weren’t Nazi symbols.

Nothing in Writing

I think it’s fair to conclude that the phrases at issue in my syllabus were neither sexually harassing nor anti-gay. Would anyone not deeply versed in PC culture conjure up the alleged offenses in my syllabus?  Indeed, of all the excesses of the language police I’ve heard about, I can’t think of a more tortured interpretation of words.

Charges involving sexual harassment and anti-gay bias are serious matters that mandate thorough investigation. But because the charges are so serious, they also mandate due process for the accused. That this investigation was concluded, and a course of action recommended without my knowledge and without my having an opportunity for input, fails to meet that standard.

I thought it wise, given the possible damage to my reputation, that I learn what procedures had been used in my case and what records exist. So I started digging, first asking my chair to tell me which department had initially contacted her.

As a result of that inquiry, the college’s Director of Diversity Investigations and Title IX Enforcement —yes, Brooklyn College really has a Director of Diversity Investigations— emailed me and offered to meet. Given the seriousness of the charges, I declined that offer because I wanted all my communications with the administration to be documented.

In a series of emails, I asked the director to provide me with a copy of the complaint with names redacted, the names of the offices involved in the matter, a description of the procedures, and a description of all actions that were recommended as a result of the findings, among other things.

In response, the director claimed that there had been no charges filed against me and that his office had not investigated my syllabus. He again offered to meet in order to “clear up some apparent misconceptions and miscommunications.”

I certainly was confused at this point. If no charge had been filed, why was I directed to change my syllabus? If his office hadn’t investigated the issue, why did he contact me? If his office wasn’t involved, which office was?

To clear things up, I asked my chair for further explanation. What she told me made me realize why the director was so reluctant to put anything in writing or to share pertinent documents: despite his denial, it was the director’s office that had told her to have me change the phrasing in my syllabus.

Confronting the Director

When I confronted the director with my newly discovered information, he immediately shut down communications, saying, “My office considers the matter to be closed.”

I know that my case pales in comparison to others because the charges I faced were bizarre enough to be easily rebutted. But in seeking answers from the college administration over this issue, I revealed the college’s system for investigating charges of sex bias and sexual harassment to be thoroughly dysfunctional.

If the procedures used against me are typical, an accused person at Brooklyn College is 1) denied due process during the investigation and adjudication and 2) denied any documentation of the complaint, procedures, and findings after the fact.

It is also particularly troubling that the administrator in charge of the investigation of my syllabus became the gatekeeper regarding inquiries about the investigation. Who, then, would hold that administrator accountable for improprieties in investigations?

Brooklyn College is now on notice: the college’s system for investigating charges of sex bias and sexual harassment fails to meet requisite standards for due process, transparency, and accountability and needs to be fixed.

Harvard’s New Diversity Veto: “I Don’t Feel I Belong”

Harvard has just launched a University-wide Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging. “Inclusion” is a solidly established campus buzzword. But until now, Harvard’s overseers and sprawling diversity bureaucracy have not thought it necessary to put the feel-good word “belonging” in the title.

Harvard President Drew G. Faust has convened the Task Force to examine ways to help members of the “increasingly diverse community feel that they truly belong.” The goal is to make all 29,000 Harvard students feel “included” and “solicit ideas about ways to strengthen our shared commitment to building a community in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Related: Harvard to Supply Life’s Meaning to Students

And wait. Hasn’t Harvard spent a quarter of a century – maybe half a century – making inclusion the primary goal of institutional change? The Task Force’s organizing statement announces, “Harvard has a plethora of diversity officers, programs, and initiatives.”

Does anyone at Harvard still know that plethora means excess, overabundance, surplus, glut, surfeit, profusion? I mean: does anyone still take Greek at Harvard?

As with other Ivy League universities, two years of race-fueled protests and threats have cowed university administrators. The Black Lives Matter banner and Rainbow flag fly over the First Parish Church in Harvard Square. In a December 2014 open letter to Harvard students, College dean Rakesh Khurana proclaimed, “I have watched and listened in awe of our students, faculty, and staff who have come together to declare with passion, grace, and growing resolve that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and to call for justice, for ally-ship, and for hope.”

(Note what happened. Khurana gave Harvard’s backing to a controversial and aggressive racial group that many who fully support racial justice want to hold at arm’s length.)

Related: Asian Americans Move Against Harvard

“The diversity of our student body at Harvard College should be on the forefront of this paradigm shift,” Khurana announced. Two years later, President Faust and Dean Khurana are making that shift.

The idea of belonging raises the ante from mere inclusion. Accommodating the feelings of students of color and others who don’t feel right about, say, the American flag, white instructors, Eurocentric courses, or standard grammar will take a great deal of institutional work since disdain for authority and privilege is a calling card for many protesters.

No doubt, in those elegant offices overlooking Brattle Street and in Massachusetts Hall, another thick coat of Diversity Varnish will make everyone feel good. For whole offices, the Task Force will provide an ongoing sense of identity, purpose and leadership. Plethora gets lots of $120,000 jobs with fab benefits. Plethora gets new action workshops to attend. Plethora has grant deadlines and federal titles to worry over; it has initiatives to initiate.

The Primacy of Feelings

Listen to the ambitions of Harvard’s appointed diversity mongers interviewed in the Harvard Gazette. One of the Task Force’s three co-chairs, professor of education and government Danielle Allen, wants to ensure “thriving for all” so “all feel that they belong”:

Achieving a sense of belonging for all members of the Harvard community is an important measure of whether people are thriving. Even our efforts to be inclusive — to recruit a diverse faculty, students, and staff — will be strengthened by greater success at ensuring thriving for all. When all feel that they belong, we will feel the benefit of the full application of their talents to our shared problems and questions.

Archon Fung, the Academic Dean and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship at the Harvard Kennedy School, says, “At its best, life at Harvard is transformative for the people who are here, because they experience new ideas, encounter people with different perspectives and experiences, and become members of communities of learning and exploration.”

Harvard Muslims Feel Uncomfortable 

Fluent in Harvard’s white noise – transformative, different perspectives and experiences, communities of learning and exploration – Fung continues: “President Faust’s charge had a very broad conception of diversity that includes not just race and class and gender but also different levels of physical ability, religion, different ideologies, and political views.”

What does diversity of physical ability, religion, ideologies, and political views entail for Fung? “I know from talking to Muslim students that many of them feel uncomfortable and isolated and at some risk even in our University and our School environments. That’s a dimension that merits particular attention,” he says. This covers religion, I guess. But here’s the kicker. Fung maintains, “Without self-conscious efforts to create more inclusive environments, we reproduce behaviors and practices and a culture that is suited probably to people who’ve been here for a long time, but not suited to the different kinds of people who now are part of the community.”

“Not suited to the different kinds of people” now at Harvard? What does this mean, Professor Fung? It reads to me that you are covertly or not-so-covertly challenging Anglo-Protestant inheritances and European legacies that have built Harvard into what it is today, declaring them unsuitable for newcomers. With or without intentional malice, you seem to be undermining and diminishing Western heritage.

What do you have in mind as an alternative specifically and in detail? After exorcising those behaviors and practices and culture, and I assume, freed from white, Christian, straight male shackles, what’s next?

I can be sure you don’t like the Harvard Clubs nor the evident tendency for students of many backgrounds to self-segregate by class, background, and intellect. But what do you mean by transformative? What precisely needs to be transformed?

At Harvard, there are few real achievement problems, with a few exceptions, and those that do exist, are often readily fixed. The degree to which undergraduate oversight has advanced at Harvard over the last half century is remarkable and laudable.

Harvard remains the cream of the crop, and it’s good at what it does. Diversity at Harvard is as fait accompli as it can humanly be. Not only has Harvard widened access with astonishing speed. Harvard and other leading universities have re-graded the playing field to give advantages to just about anyone who can play a diversity card.

In this already diverse community of winners, then, something else is going on with the Task Force. The Task Force seems like another ascriptive power grab – a paradigm shift filled with ill will toward Western culture and its American vernaculars. I may be wrong, Professor Fung. Please advise.

Many Harvard opportunists – Fung and Khurana would be good examples seek to dispossess phantom exclusion and forcibly refigure the past. Not to comply with this revisionism is to hate and possibly run afoul of the law. To be a bad person.

If you advocate, defend, study and revere a curriculum or culture said to be suited to people who’ve been here for a long time but not suited to the different kinds of people who now are part of the community you need self-criticism and re-education.

Harvard’s faculties and alumni, acting in good faith and with vast generosity, have done just about everything that can be done for decades to broaden opportunity and access for all. The loudest complaints often come from the students and professoriate that have been carefully groomed and admitted on a preferential basis.

How Will This Accommodation End?

No doubt the Task Force could lead Harvard’s 29,000 high performers — competitive, status-conscious, ambitious, and pursuing different courses of study — to definitive, final Harvard-quality answers about inequality, social conflict, inclusion, and most touchingly, belonging.

The Task Force could declare Harvard cured of its obsession and absolved of its manifold sins. See you later, Plethora, and thanks for doing such a good job. But I doubt very much that’s how this absurd charade, being launched at the expense of a great institution, will end.

Brown U. Messes Up Sex Assault Case, Accused Prevails

In campus sexual assault hearings, due process for accused students is rare, because of pressure from feminists and campus activists, administrators’ diffidence, and the Obama administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter that minimized protections for the accused.

Getting these cases into court for a due process trial is even rarer, but now the first such trial since the issuance of the “Dear Colleague” letter has ended with a victory for an accused Brown University student. Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Smith—as he had strongly hinted during oral arguments in mid-August—vacated Brown’s disciplinary judgment, arguing Brown had violated its own procedures, thus producing an unfair result.

Related: No Due Process, Thanks—This Is a Campus

The case involved student attempts to influence the judge, biased training of panelists in Brown’s sexual assault cases and the university’s extraordinary belief that flattery and flowers qualify as a manipulative part of sexual assault.

The case arose out of a fall 2014 incident where two members of the Brown debate team had oral sex after purportedly meeting (in a small room on campus) to watch a very late-night movie. In texts that flew back and forth between the two, the male student made clear his desire for no-strings-attached sex; the female was ambivalent, but signaled consent in some of her texts, while in others stating she wasn’t eager for sex. A few weeks later, the male student urged the female to put in a good word for him with a friend, with whom he wanted to have sex. These were not, to put it mildly, overly appealing characters.

Related: Don’t Bother with Due Process

In his 84-page ruling (which you can read here, and which both Robby Soave and Ashe Schow have also summarized), Smith identified three areas of misconduct by Brown (definition of consent, conduct of investigator, conduct of one of the panelists). Some of these issues were peculiar, related to the specific facts of this case, in which Brown had changed its policy between the time of the incident and the time the accuser decided to file her charges.

The decision has three areas of relevance, however, for matters beyond Brown. The first involves the “training” that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) mandates all schools to provide to panelists in sexual assault cases. The equivalent in the criminal justice process would be if all jurors in rape trials (and only in rape trials) had to get training material—provided only by the prosecutors, designed to increase the chances of a guilty finding.

Anything Proves Sexual Assault

The inevitable result of this biased “training” manifested itself in the Brown case. After the incident, the accuser told a roommate what a great time she had with the student she’d eventually accuse; post-incident text messages sent by the accuser likewise indicated her having consented to sex. But one of the panelists, Besenia Rodriguez, said she didn’t consider the post-incident texts or conversations because her interpretation of Brown’s “training” suggested that sexual assault survivors behave in “counter-intuitive” ways. Therefore, she reasoned, “it was beyond my degree of expertise to assess [the accuser]’s post-encounter conduct . . . because of a possibility that it was a response to trauma.”

Rodriguez’s contention that her university-provided training shows that essentially any behavior—intuitive or counterintuitive—proves sexual assault “clearly comes close to the line” of arbitrary and capricious conduct, Smith noted. Yet the training Rodriguez received, and the mindset she reflects appears to be commonplace in campus sexual assault matters.

The case’s second key feature involves the pressure campaign—in the form of non-public e-mails—organized by a Brown student named Alex Volpicello. He even prepared a template—and dozens of students followed his lead and e-mailed Smith to urge him to uphold Brown’s handling of the case.

Volpicello’s ham-handed initiative predictably backfired with Smith. But the flurry of e-mails provided Smith with a glimpse of the witch-hunt atmosphere that exists on today’s campuses. He was deeply troubled, noting that “the Court is an independent body and must make a decision based solely on the evidence before it. It cannot be swayed by emotion or public opinion. After issuing the preliminary injunction this Court was deluged with emails resulting from an organized campaign to influence the outcome.

These tactics, while perhaps appropriate and effective in influencing legislators or officials in the executive branch, have no place in the judicial process. This is basic civics, and one would think students and others affiliated with a prestigious Ivy League institution would know this. Moreover, having read a few of the emails, it is abundantly clear that the writers, while passionate, were woefully ignorant about the issues before the Court. Hopefully, they will read this decision and be educated.”

Alas, the anti-due-process activists have shown no interest in education. Indeed, Volpicello issued a statement denouncing Smith’s ruling as indifferent to “the emotional trauma of the survivor” and insulting to “the intelligence and civic awareness of us as Brown students.” “Where is the justice?” wailed Volpicello. Where, indeed.

Third, despite the victory for the accused student, Smith’s ruling was very limited. He appeared deeply reluctant to involve himself in a campus disciplinary matter and explicitly said Brown could re-try the accused student—even as he spent page after page detailing Brown’s dubious conduct in this case. (And this comes after he spent page after page detailing Brown’s dubious conduct in another sexual assault case.) Nor did he pull any punches about the absurdity of Brown’s current policy, which defines sexual assault as including such behavior as a male student giving a female student flowers, or flattering her, in hopes of getting her to agree to sex. As Smith noted, Brown defines such manipulative behavior as sexual assault.

As FIRE’s Samantha Harris perceptively noted, “Smith’s opinion also makes quite clear that the court takes no legal issue with the substance of Brown’s new Title IX policy, which employs an affirmative consent standard and uses a single-investigator model to resolve claims . . . Courts are deeply reluctant to interfere in the inner workings of university judicial systems, particularly at private institutions . . . When we talk to the families of students facing serious misconduct charges at private universities, they often express shock at how easily the school can jeopardize a student’s future while giving him or her so few rights. This case, while a legal victory for the plaintiff, underscores this problem.”

In his opinion, Smith contended that he could strike down only a college disciplinary system that “tends to injustice.” If a system whose personnel regularly violate students’ rights, while defining the giving of flowers before sex as a sexual assault, and amidst a witch-hunt atmosphere doesn’t tend to injustice, what type of system possibly could?

Conservative vs. Liberal, Plato vs. Descartes

Conservatives are climbing aboard Jonathan Haidt’s “viewpoint diversity” train, pushing for more variety of opinions and attitudes on what many call our monocultural campuses. They are, of course, admirably trying to spin the hugely successful and wonderfully diaphanous brand “diversity” for their own purposes.

Haidt is not a conservative. He’s a self-described moderate, but his moderation is the product of compromising the clash of opposites rooted in human nature.

He’s become America’s most influential social psychologist by being able to explain so clearly who each of us is according to our nature. We have conflicting impulses, one we now call liberal and the other we now call conservative.

Related: A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt

Each of us is hardwired to be a social animal, oriented around preserving and enhancing our species by living according to our social instincts. We’re happiest when we devote ourselves to family, community, and country, and we’re alive to the costs various forms of disruptive innovations have on our relational lives.

Conservatism, from this view, is social conservatism, favoring patriotism over cosmopolitanism and thinking of ourselves as parents and children more than liberated individuals. Conservatives are also inclined, of course, to be religious, seeing how institutional religion supports social bonding and “family values,” especially as a countercultural antidote to the excesses of modern individualism.

Each of us, however, is also, by nature, self-conscious. We’re the dominant species because we’re very social and having singularly huge brains. The result is that we’ve become self-conscious, able to distinguish our own personal good from those of the social groups of which we are a part. Self-consciousness doesn’t merely generate the selfishness that produces the joyless pursuit of happiness at the experience of the real happiness of parents, citizens, friends, and so forth.  It also produces just criticism—on behalf of universal principles—of the narrowness or exclusivity of various forms of human tribalism.

Related: The New Age of Orthodoxy Overtakes the Campus

Self-consciousness, ironically, can both lock each of us up into our puny selves and open us to the cosmopolitan truth about what we share in common. From this view, the social danger posed by self-consciousness is its extremism, producing two forms of being displaced or abstracted from the social embeddedness required for the flourishing of animals such as ourselves.

From this view, the combination of individualism—or maximum conceivable autonomy—and cosmopolitanism that animates those around today who are most proudly self-conscious at the expense of real social responsibility.

Now the reason Haidt so clearly lays out the socially instinctual and self-conscious parts of human nature is that he was an undergraduate major in philosophy. He knows that the insights of evolutionary psychology are most deeply articulated by the philosophers. From this view, the fundamental alternatives are really Plato and Descartes. Plato presents a utopia in which human beings are completely socialized to care for nothing but what the good citizens share in common.

The result (as Socrates ironically suggests) is the impossible and undesirable effort to suppress the forms of human Eros that are mixed up with self-consciousness and produce the most wonderful (and often dangerous) human achievements.

Descartes, by contrast, thinks of being human as an isolated consciousness located in an alien machine or body. And so the point of human life is to liberate oneself through doubt from being suckered by the call of instinct. The point of life becomes to keep me around as long as possible and simply to overcome all the limitations—including the natural guidance—of being embodied. Descartes seems to forget that even being conscious is “knowing with,” and so he unrealistically minimizes what’s required for all forms of human happiness.

For Descartes, the human good is autonomy, and that means defining for oneself one’s own personal identity independently of all exterior authority. Even religion, in this view, becomes the religion of me. And even justice becomes what’s best for me, as “human rights” become pretty much keeping the persons around right now alive for as long as possible and as free (or unconstrained by natural or social imperatives) as possible.

Too Much Success for Descartes?

Plato and Descartes present polemical alternatives, attractive partial visions to achieve desirable social reform. Plato wanted the liberated self-consciousness represented by Socrates harnessed by the invincible imperatives of social and political life. Descartes wanted self-consciousness liberated from repressive religious moralism to achieve whatever reform is possible through technological innovation.

In our time, we need Plato—and other forms of pre-modern or highly social and relational thought—to counter what might be called the excessive success of Cartesianism, just as we can see all the good for justice and individual liberation that Cartesianism has achieved.

According to philosophically informed evolutionary psychology, the job of higher education is to take the student beyond the partial truth dominant in his or her particular time. The truth about who we are remains the same, but seeing all of it always required a countercultural educational effort. As Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of the best book ever written on democracy and America, said, had he lived in Descartes time, he would have joined him in getting people’s eyes off heaven onto what they can do for themselves.

But in a techno-democracy, the task is to get them to take the soul and its needs seriously by arousing the social instincts through various educational means that habitual Democratic or Cartesian skepticism are bound to slight.  They include local government, organized religion, and reading the great books of the Greeks and Romans, if possible in their original languages.

That’s why Haidt founded his “Heterodoxy Academy.”  The truth is that our colleges and universities are dominated by a rather uniform set of opinions characteristic of a proudly liberated elite. They think history has surpassed the wisdom of pre-Cartesian thought, and that we have achieved unprecedented insights when it comes to marriage, personal responsibility, citizenship, God, and personal identity. So they think they have nothing to learn from conservative opposition to their agenda, both found among today’s social conservatives—religious and otherwise—and old books with unfashionable points of view.

Today’s Orthodoxy: Dissing Orthodoxies

Being “heterodox” means being unfashionable, nonconformist, and not orthodox. The irony is today’s orthodoxy is all about dissing orthodoxies. Here’s the orthodox assertion: Question authority?  Here’s the heterodox response:  Why? Explain to me how people can get by without taking anything at all on trust. And today’s orthodoxy really is a kind of political expertise that dismisses the truth and authenticity of the personal experiences of ordinary people—reducing them to racism, xenophobia, and so forth.  It’s not that such accusations of uncritical tribalism have no truth in them; it’s just that they’re far from the whole truth. Today’s orthodoxy amounts to:  Trust the experts and their studies.

The defense of heterodoxy by the evolutionary psychologist is, let me emphasize, quite different from the liberal or libertarian who puts all his faith in the free marketplace of ideas. That faith, which has its origin in the liberalism of John Stuart Mill is that just as the unimpeded marketplace leads us to the shortest route to economic progress, the free clash of ideas leads us to progress in the direction of the truth.

The problem, more or less, is that what economic progress is pretty clear, but the history of thought is constantly ambivalent, with gains in some areas producing losses or forgetfulness in others. Our libertarians too often believe that progress in the moral libertarian of the individual has been won with no cost at all to truth and morality, with no forgetfulness about who we are: social or relational animals.

For thinkers such as Haidt (or Tocqueville), thinking—or higher education—is always a return to the beginning for the particular person born to know, love, and die. Making the whole truth available to that person requires an aggressive assault on the fashionable opinions of our time, on the thought that history has some right side which has superseded the moral wisdom of the past and the wisdom still shared by those attached to deep social, political, and religious lives in some particular place.  We live in a time when genuine orthodoxy—as described by the Catholic Chesterton and lived, say, by the Orthodox Jews—is also genuine heterodoxy.

There is, of course, something deeply utopian in the thought that most of our elite institutions would heed the call to “viewpoint diversity.”  But, you know, it remains the case that the American system of higher education as a whole is marked by a singular moral and intellectual diversity.

Just like at Alice’s restaurant, you can still get pretty much anything you like when it comes to higher education in America—and often at a surprisingly affordable price. Do you want Smith or Oberlin?  Do you want Christendom or Thomas Aquinas? Do you want Berry or Berea?  Do you want Hampden-Sydney or Wabash? Do you want Cal Tech or MIT? Do you want Pomona or Swarthmore? Do you want Yeshiva?  Do you want Morehouse? Do you want Hillsdale or Patrick Henry? Do you want Union or Baylor?  Do you want Notre Dame or BYU?  It’s all there on our fabulously extensive viewpoint menu of choice.

We should be most attentive to the threat to that real viewpoint diversity flowing from the standardizing pressures of accrediting associations, government bureaucrats, foundations, think tanks on both the left and the right, misguided politicians—from Bernie Sanders to Scott Walker, and all the experts in general.