Category Archives: Essays

‘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.

 

The Age of Liberal Education Is Ending

America’s universities are collapsing into a miasma of postmodernism and multiculturalism. They have been approaching peak radicalization for several decades now, but in recent years the cultural left has pushed toward a complete takeover of our campuses. A hyper “political correctness”—with trigger warnings, safe spaces, micro-aggressions, censorship, and sometimes even physical violence—has enveloped our universities.

Leftist professors, administrators, and students have created a stifling, anti-intellectual monoculture, and they are now attempting to remove the last pillars of the traditional university: free thought and free speech. Once those are gone, America’s universities will have become little more than seminaries of intolerance and indoctrination.

Related: The Normalization of Bad Ideas

I came to intellectual maturity during the first wave of the academic culture wars of the 1980s. As a graduate student at Brown University, one of America’s most “politically correct” universities, I saw up close the hypocrisy, dishonesty, intimidation, and violence used by the campus left to impose its psychological and moral hegemony on students, faculty, and administrators.

In 1987, during my second year at Brown, a group of student radicals broke into one of the grand old buildings on campus and defaced ten historical portraits of distinguished Brown personages from centuries past. These “social justice warriors” spray-painted one large white letter onto each portrait, visually adding up to the words “ELITE? WHO US.” Pathetically, as is typically the case with leftist vandalism on campus, the Brown administration did nothing to identify, much less arrest, expel, or prosecute the criminals.

The leftist assault on higher education has become much worse over the past thirty-five years. Most universities today, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, are thoroughly politicized. Administrators and faculty have corrupted, gutted, and repackaged the idea of a liberal education to serve the ideological interests of the postmodernist and multiculturalist agendas.

To the extent that the history and culture of the West are still even subjects of serious study in today’s humanities departments, they are there only to be “deconstructed” and condemned. A helpful illustration of this situation can be seen in the field of literature. It is increasingly rare today for literature majors to graduate having read the great novelists, poets, and playwrights of Western literature, such as Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Hawthorne, Twain, Hugo, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. Instead, they are now required to read third-rate literature published in the past twenty-five years that serves the race-class-gender-sexuality aspirations of their professors’ anti-West “oppression studies” agenda.

They are also required to take courses that explicitly push postmodernism and multiculturalism. To receive a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA, for instance, students no longer are required to take a course in Shakespeare, but they are required to take three courses in gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, or postcolonial studies. At Yale, a group of students and faculty recently demanded that the English department “decolonize” the major by abolishing its required “Major English Poets”9 course (a course that covers Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Eliot, et al.) and replace it with a course concerned with race, class, gender, and sexual identity. According to one Yale student, reading “canonical” dead white males marginalizes and oppresses “non-white, non-male, trans and queer people.”

Related: Times Says Conservatives Unwelcome in Academia

That view, it is worth noting, was not shared by the radical African American writer, W. E. B. Du Bois, who declared in his 1903 book “Souls of Black Folk” his affinity with the Eurocentric intellectual traditions of Western civilization, precisely so that he could temporarily escape the racism of postbellum America: “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas…. I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.” Today’s universities would be virtually unrecognizable to men such as Du Bois and those who guarded the ivory towers of academia for 2,500 years.

From Plato’s Academy in 4th-century BC Athens to the Ivy League in the first half of the 20th century, the core of Western learning was found in the humanities and liberal arts. Broadly speaking, the purpose of what we call a liberal education was to expose students to a select body of accumulated knowledge and wisdom about the world in which we live. It was a journey of discovery in pursuit of the truth about the human condition, and it was an education in what we might call high culture. To paraphrase Matthew Arnold’s famous definition, it was an immersion in the best that has been thought, said, and done in order to elevate our lives above the ordinary, the vulgar, and the savage.

Such an education would enrich the lives of young people as individuals while also preserving the achievements of the past and endowing to the future the wisdom of the past. Tragically, with the exception of a few Great Books colleges and the Lyceum Scholars Program at Clemson University, the vision of higher education that once sustained the West for centuries now seems all but dead. The old-fashioned idea that the central purpose of a university is to lead the search for truth and to preserve and perpetuate all that is great in our civilization is now openly attacked, mocked, or simply eliminated.

In recent years, Yale and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have turned down gifts of twenty- and ten-million dollars respectively to teach courses on Western civilization. At Stanford, students recently voted by a 6:1 margin to ban the teaching of Western civilization from the university curriculum. As one student put it, such a course means “upholding white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.”

Related:  How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture

Serious scholars—those who are the intellectual curators of Western civilization’s repositories of knowledge and high culture—are now marginalized on our campuses. The sad reality is that very few people left in American higher education have the interest and courage to defend and perpetuate the humanities. In fact, we are fast approaching a period in which people qualified to teach traditional humanities courses will be virtually extinct. The few who still take the life of the mind seriously and spend their days reading old books with young people and discussing with them the ideas that have shaped Western culture for millennia— they will be strangers in a strange land.

What we are witnessing today on our campuses is akin to the Afghani Taliban bombing out of existence two giant Buddhas carved into a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley nearly two thousand years ago—or ISIS fighters leveling Nimrud, a three thousand-year-old Assyrian city; and ransacking museums in Iraq and Syria, destroying their antiquities with sledgehammers. The efforts of leftist administrators, faculty, and students to remove Western civilization’s great works of literature and philosophy from curricula, to rename or tear down important historical buildings, to censor or ban certain ideas from college campuses, have the same effect.

The Essence and Foundation of Liberal Education

A proper liberal education involves essentially three things: first, a quest to understand important truths about nature, human nature, and the necessary conditions and means for people to live and flourish; second, substantial knowledge of great works of philosophy, religion, literature, history, science, and the arts produced through 2,500 years of Western civilization; and, third, substantial knowledge of great deeds and projects men and women have undertaken in order to expand the boundaries of human freedom and flourishing. This is the kind of education that the great universities of the West originally sought to provide, and it is summed up by the Harvard and Yale mottos, “Veritas” and “Lux et Veritas” respectively.

 

Higher learning was once just that: an ascent to truth, a quest for wisdom, an attempt to expand one’s knowledge of the past for the purpose of applying it in the present and shaping the future. A liberal education rests on the assumption that the human mind is capable of grasping reality; of understanding the world and man’s relationship to it; of distinguishing between true and false, good and bad, just and unjust, honorable and dishonorable, beautiful and ugly; and of discerning differences of degree where such differences exist. Such an education introduces students to the importance of such matters and inspires them to think in such terms as a matter of course in life.

Related: ‘Most People Are Horrified by What’s Going on in the Universities’

Of course, all such thinking and all such judgments presuppose knowledge of—or at least the pursuit of—objective standards of truth and goodness. This, too, has roots in the ideas and thinkers examined in a liberal education. Take the Roman philosopher Epictetus, who wrote the following in his Discourses: “The fact that someone holds this or that opinion will not suffice to make it true, any more than we are inclined to trust a person’s word in dealing with weights and measures.”

In either case, whether discussing people’s views about truth and value, or claims about weights and measures, Epictetus implores his students to search for and develop what he called an “objective standard,” an absolute, certain, and permanent standard of true and false, good and bad, right and wrong. Once “we’ve found it,” he continues, “let’s commit to never making a single move without reference to it.” When I read such passages with my students, they’re challenged to transcend the moral relativism dominant in today’s culture and to join Epictetus in what he called his “hunt” for objective truth.

In his essay on “The Shortness of Life,” the Roman philosopher Seneca suggests that one should become “intimate friends” with the “high-priests of good learning” (he names Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus, Aristotle, and Theophrastus). Such friends, he notes, never disappoint; they’re never “too busy,” day or night, to talk about the most important questions; they never send you away “empty-handed.” Indeed, they bring nothing but “happiness” and “an attractive old age.” With friends such as these, you can “discuss matters great and small” and “hear the truth without insult and praise without flattery.” They provide models of goodness, excellence, and nobility worthy of emulation. On a personal level, the great books aspect of a liberal education is a journey both outward and inward. The outward journey enters a world created by the mind of another.

To read ancient philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca, or to read modern playwrights or novelists such as Shakespeare, Austen, Hugo, and Dostoyevsky is to drop through a rabbit hole and to reemerge in a foreign place, an alternative universe that we visit for a short time but from which we gather knowledge for life. We confront Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, Hugo’s Jean Valjean, Dostoyevsky’s Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, and we judge their actions as good or bad, just or unjust, noble or ignoble.

Related: Diversity Anger at UCLA

The inward journey then follows a path to the interior of one’s soul. The purpose of this introspective journey is to ponder, evaluate, and avow or disavow the ideas discovered in the external journey. We think about what we can learn from these characters and how they can be models or anti-models for our lives. Such introspection expands the boundaries of our inner world. Thinkers for more than two millennia have understood the value of such journeys and conversations. With the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman texts during the Renaissance, modern thinkers began a sustained and sophisticated dialogue with ancient authors that became a defining feature of Western culture.

This was particularly true of the modern founders of the humanities, men such as the 14th-century Florentine poet Francesco Petrarch and the 16th-century Florentine historian and political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. They taught that past civilizations, particularly the lost worlds of Athens and Rome, were exotic places to which one could travel, through books, for enlightenment, solace, friendship, pleasure, and improvement. At a distance of some fourteen hundred years, Petrarch wrote beautiful letters addressed to his old friends, Cicero and Livy. In 1345, Petrarch wrote to Cicero lamenting that his dear friend would “weep bitter tears” should he “learn of the fallen state of our country.” Five years later, he thanked Livy for having transported him back to a better time, where he could live and converse with the great heroes of the Roman republic. “It is with these men,” he confided, “that I live in such times and not with the thievish company of today among whom I was born under an evil star.”

Machiavelli’s well-known 1513 letter to Francesco Vittori is a beautifully evocative description of how one 16th-century Florentine escaped the burdens of daily life by retiring every night to converse with his old friends: When evening has come, I return to my house and go into my study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently re-clothed, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me. I deliver myself entirely to them.

This great Renaissance tradition continued through the Enlightenment and beyond. Two hundred and fifty years after Machiavelli’s nightly visits with his Roman friends, a twenty-one-year-old John Adams used and applied Xenophon’s discussion of “The Choice of Hercules” from the Memorabilia (beautifully captured in Annibale Carracci’s 1596 painting and in Handel’s 1750 oratorio) to his own life. In order to bolster and inflame his flagging spirit after an extended period of lethargy and weakness, Adams sketched a fable of Hercules, adapting the story to his own situation. “The other night the choice of Hercules came into my mind,” Adams wrote in his diary, “and left impressions there which I hope will never be effaced, nor long unheeded.”

The young man then sat down and wrote himself an inspirational “fable on the same plan, but accommodated, by omitting some circumstances and inserting others, to my own case.” In all earnestness, he began, “Let Virtue address me:” Which, dear youth, will you prefer, a life of effeminacy, indolence and obscurity, or a life of industry, temperance and honor? Take my advice; rise and mount your horse by the morning’s dawn, and shake away, amidst the great and beautiful scenes of nature that appear at that time of the day, all the crudities that are left in your stomach, and all the obstructions that are left in your brains.

Then return to your studies, and bend your whole soul to the institutes of the law and the reports of cases that have been adjudged by the rules in the institutes; let no trifling diversion, or amusement, or company, decoy you from your book; that is, let no girl, no gun, no cards, no flutes, no violins, no dress, no tobacco, no laziness, decoy you from your books. But keep your law book or some point of law in your mind, at least, six hours in a day. Labor to get distinct ideas of law, right, wrong, justice, equity; search for them in your own mind, in Roman, Grecian, French, English treatises of natural, civil, common, statute law; aim at an exact knowledge of the nature, end, and means of government; compare the different forms of it with each other, and each of them with their effects on public and private happiness.

Related: How Diversity Came to Mean Downgrade the West

Study Seneca, Cicero, and all other good moral writers; study Montesquieu, Bolingbroke, Vinnius, &c., and all other good civil writers. Petrarch, Machiavelli, Adams, Du Bois, and many others were enticed by the philosophic and artistic genius of the great ancient (and modern) writers to enter lost worlds radically different from their own. There they found companionship in solitude; consolation in affliction; respite from the mediocrity, vulgarity, and discord of the world around them. They also found inspiration to achieve great tasks. In quiet repose with their books, they were able to see, ponder, and experience things to which they would otherwise never have had access. These great books dramatically expanded their inner lives and fueled their souls for endeavors in the outer world. The same can be true for students today. If given the chance, great books can expand the inner worlds and elevate the lives of 21st-century American teenagers.

Consider, for instance, Cicero’s discussion of Marcus Atilius Regulus in De Officiis [On Obligations], which I teach to freshmen every year. Regulus, Cicero tells us, was a Roman consul and general, captured by the Carthaginians in 255 BC during the First Punic War. Regulus’s captors released him back to Rome on the condition that he negotiate the release of Carthaginian prisoners. Should he succeed, Regulus would be free to stay in Rome. Should he fail, however, he pledged to his captors that he would return to Carthage. Upon his return home, Regulus went directly to the Senate, where he successfully argued against the release and return of the Carthaginians. And then, in the face of immense pressure from family and friends to break his oath and stay in Rome, Regulus voluntarily returned to Carthage, where he was imprisoned and tortured to death.

Cicero recounts Regulus’s story in order to have his readers consider the relationship between the honorable and the useful. Cicero recognizes that for most people the “useful” or self-interested course of action would have been for Regulus to renege on his oath and to live out his retirement peacefully with family and friends in Rome. Not so for Regulus— or Cicero. For Cicero’s great-souled man, there can be no dichotomy between the honorable and the useful, which means that Regulus’s decision to return to Carthage represents the embodiment of the useful. But how can this be so? It is counterintuitive to how most people think. For Cicero, the man of high moral character could not break an oath without damaging his honor. In returning to Carthage, Regulus was protecting the integrity and beauty of his most selfishly prized possession: his honor. According to Cicero, “If there is something repulsive about physical disfigurement, how monstrous must the deformity and foulness of a soul steeped in dishonor appear!”

Writing only two centuries later, Cicero says of Regulus that his actions are “remarkable,” even to the honor-obsessed people of Cicero’s time. But Cicero’s account of Regulus raises issues that transcend time and place. My students are utterly captivated by Cicero’s account of Regulus. Imagine how strange and shocking Regulus’s actions must seem to a generation of college students raised on safe spaces and trigger warnings. Such actions are incomprehensible to them; they’ve never heard or seen someone act on principle in the way that Regulus did.

A liberal education fosters what Alfred North Whitehead called “the habitual vision of greatness.” This vision originated with the ancient Greeks and Romans, was adopted in part by Christians, and was likewise embraced by Enlightenment thinkers. In Philippians 4:8, for instance, we are presented with a view of education that runs parallel to the Greco-Roman tradition: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Modern thinkers such as Montaigne, Bacon, Chesterfield, Pope, Hume, and Nietzsche held views of human greatness that are worth studying as well. As the 18th-century Scottish educator George Trumbull said of liberal education, it is concerned with everything that is “good or great in human life.” So it is. For millennia, there was never much doubt in the West about whether greatness existed. Men might have quibbled over which civilization or country was greater— ancient Greece or ancient Rome, England or France, America or Russia.

And they might have debated the relative greatness of Plato versus Aristotle, Michelangelo versus Da Vinci, Jefferson versus Adams, Dostoyevsky versus Tolstoy, Newton versus Einstein, or Carnegie versus Rockefeller. Only recently have Westerners doubted that greatness exists and that their lives are improved by studying the cultures and men who embody it. In this sense, the goal of a liberal education is to identify and inform the student of important ideas, people, cultures, creations, and events of the past that have advanced human life, and to inspire him to pursue his own view of greatness in life.

The goal is not to tell him what to think but to provide him with knowledge that enables him to think more deeply and clearly. A liberal education enables students to perceive the breadth and depth of human accomplishments and to aspire to a life beyond the banal and vulgar pathways that dominate contemporary life.

This essay from the Fall 2016 issue of The Objective Standard is published here in an abridged version with permission.

Dismissing the Reality of Affirmative Action

Gallup and Inside Higher Ed co-hosted a conference in Washington last week, determined to ignore the results of a Gallup survey for IHE showing that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose affirmative action in college admissions. About 75 to 100 attendees, mostly college administrators, focused on reaction to the Supreme Court decision last June 23rdFisher v. University of Texas at Austin – in which the court upheld racial preferences. Educators and student affairs administrators found the survey results mysterious but chalked them up to white privilege, bias, and ignorance.

Racial Preferences

Only one person on the conference program represented the opinion of the public to this audience. That was Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, who spoke in the opening session on the court’s decision. Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik introduced him saying, “For those who think you’re safe, Roger’s watching you.”

Clegg outlined a clear case against racial preferences in admissions and Clegg said that under the current decision, colleges and universities have three options: 1) don’t use racial preferences; 2) consider race in a way that is narrowly tailored, considers race-neutral options first, and has a serious paper trail; or 3) consider race in an illegal way.

Clegg offered four reasons for colleges to forgo the use of racial preferences:

  1. Not factoring race into admissions is what most people favor, as the Gallup poll showed.
  2. There are no legal problems with not using racial preferences.
  3. It is fairer. Poverty and privilege come in all colors. Using skin color as a proxy for disadvantage is unjust.
  4. It avoids the costs of discrimination, including stigmatization, resentment, mismatch, and encouragement of an unhealthy obsession with race that spills over into protests.

He said his organization will bring FOIA requests and lawsuits against colleges that use racial preferences without jumping through all the necessary hoops.

The room seemed tense after Clegg spoke, but his fellow panelists and the audience basically ignored the substance of his remarks and did not refer to him again the rest of the day. After that panel, the atmosphere settled into one of complacency and the assumption that everyone agreed that racial diversity has educational benefits.

Even during his panel, another speaker, Art Coleman (Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Education Counsel) said, “Forget the law.” He said if you want to do the “educationally right thing,” you should figure that out first, then the law. The University of Texas, he said, had told the Supreme Court what the law should be.

Self-Segregation

Some of the recent campus controversies over race were mentioned and cast aside. For example, the College Fix report about California State University, Los Angeles (CSLA) establishing “segregated housing for black students,” Scott Jaschik said was simply false. The story was on Cal State’s new “Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.” The University has responded to the scandal by declaring that students of any race can apply to live there. The College Fix did acknowledge that “these housing options are technically open to all students,” but explained that they are “billed and used as arrangements in which black students can live with one another.”

The university’s title, “Black Living-Learning Community,” is plainly aimed at recruiting students of a particular race. The new housing appeared after student protesters in November 2015 demanded “the creation and financial support of a CSLA housing space delegated for Black students and a full-time Resident Director who can cater to the needs of Black students.”

Another instance of racial exclusion hit headlines in August when a Pitzer College student posted a roommate-wanted ad, specifying “POC [people of color] only” and adding, “I don’t want to live with any white folks.” At the IHE conference, Jaschik offered sympathy to the communications staff at Pitzer College for having to deal with the media backlash that resulted from “one student at one college” regarding off-campus housing. Inside Higher Ed missed an opportunity to respond to the rising impulse to self-segregate.

Meeting Demands

In a panel on how to deal with student demands, the speakers said that students don’t want just to be heard and sympathized with; they want results. So it is best to try to anticipate what they want and work toward that, being “proactive, rather than reactive.” It was assumed throughout their session that just because students want something, administrators should try to do that for them. During the Q&A, I asked about times when an administration should say no. The panelists admitted that sometimes they do have to say no but, administrators should do so in a way that opens up dialogue rather than shuts it down.

One person mentioned John Coleman, the former president of Haverford College, who once was confronted by student protesters who wanted to burn the American flag on campus. Though he recognized students’ right to do so, he persuaded them to have a washing machine brought to the quad to “cleanse” the flag instead. Coleman was held up as an example of reasonable compromise.

Payton Head, who was student body president at Mizzou last year, shared from the perspective of a student activist. A year ago the Washington Post ran an article about him as the target of a racial slur on campus. Head talked about how many of the demands from protesters come from students who don’t know how a university is run, which is why they ask for impossible things. He said he spent the last year learning how the university worked while mediating between students and the administration, and that by the time he was starting to get it, his term was over. Head’s fellow panelist Kimberly Griffin, associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, urged administrators to understand that protesters’ demands are not so much a laundry list of things to do as a feeling that they want to go away.

Differences

The keynote speaker was Beverly Daniel Tatum, former president of Spelman College and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together at the Cafeteria? She recounted receiving an award at the University of Michigan this spring, where Michael Bloomberg was giving the commencement address. She said when she heard him criticizing safe spaces, she thought of a line in a 1981 poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes (which she read in the beginning of her talk): “But they are not shooting at you.” After his speech, she said, Bloomberg left with his bodyguard. “We don’t have shared perspectives,” she said.

One of the final speakers of the day, Brandon Busteed from Gallup, reported results from a poll of black graduates from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) compared with black graduates from other institutions. The students who went to HBCUs said they felt three times more emotionally supported by their professors.

I asked him afterward what he would say to someone who took these results as a case against diversity in higher education, and he said all colleges and universities can support students if they are intentional about it. When I said, “It sounds like what we need are simply people caring about other people,” a white woman who works in admissions who had joined the conversation corrected me, “But be careful, because that’s like the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter.” She said we have to recognize that minorities’ experience is different. Busteed agreed and said we can’t treat everyone the same; we have to treat everyone differently.

The emphasis on treating people differently ran throughout the conference. Much of what was said seemed to point to the need for basic human empathy, friendship, listening, and care for the emotional well-being of others. These are virtues that a university can cultivate without violating its core mission of education in the context of intellectual freedom. But when it came down to practical questions, the solutions offered were race-conscious. Changing the culture by appealing to shared human values was not on the table.

Catholic Colleges Define Down Their Catholic Identity

In an essay on Catholic higher education published in First Things before his death in 2009, Fr. Richard Neuhaus wrote: “When a school is haggling over its mission statement, it is a sure sign that it has already lost its way.”  While Fr. Neuhaus never taught on a Catholic campus, he understood that debating over the mission statement was just the start of the defining down of the Catholic identity itself.

Identifying the strategies that some Catholic colleges have used to redefine themselves, Fr. Neuhaus wrote that describing themselves as having been “shaped” by their “Catholic heritage,” or their “historic Catholic tradition,” was a sign that the institutions were distancing themselves from the Church.  And, he noted that some referred only to the name of the founding religious order rather than the Church itself.

For example, the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas, described itself as having been “shaped by the educational mission of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.”  Ohio’s Ursuline College describes itself as offering an education, “within a Catholic tradition marked by the Ursuline heritage of educating women.” And, although the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota maintains that the college has been “dedicated as a campus community to our Roman Catholic heritage and identity,” the College distances itself from that heritage by stating that St. Catherine’s affirms the aspects of the Catholic identity that are “appropriate to higher education,” and claims that the College “values the rich and diverse history of the Church and the vision of Vatican II.”

Related: A Controversy at Post-Catholic Georgetown

While the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT describes itself as having been “founded by the Sisters of Mercy in the Roman Catholic tradition,” the “Core Values” section of their website states: “The University of St. Joseph is grounded in its heritage as a Catholic institution expressing the Catholic tradition in an ecumenical and critical manner.” And, although Stonehill College describes itself as a Catholic institution, it reassures potential students and faculty members that the College has a “long tradition of free inquiry.” Likewise, Holy Names University described itself as being “rooted in the Catholic tradition,” but the reference to the lower case spelling of “catholic” is meant to show the university’s inclusiveness—what they call the University’s “universality:”

Rooted in the Catholic tradition, Holy Names demonstrates a respect for others’ values and customs. This is evident in holiday displays that incorporate symbols for Kwanzaa, Muslim, Jewish and Christian celebrations.  Students experience the universality of a catholic education at Holy Names University.”

My own campus—Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, one of a few dozen truly faithful colleges and universities in the country—describes itself on its website and in all promotional materials as “Passionately Catholic.”  In contrast, most Jesuit colleges and universities have historically described themselves as “Jesuit institutions,” rather than Catholic colleges and universities.   But, recently, the Jesuits have defined even that identity down in what a 2014 article in Atlantic Monthly called a “major rebranding.”

The Jesuit Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri removed the word “Jesuit” from the university tagline; and Regis University in Denver, Colorado, launched a new brand campaign deleting both the words “Jesuit” and “Catholic” in the school’s definition or its brand platform. “We hide the word ‘Catholic’ from prospective students,” Regis spokesperson, Traci McBee, told an interviewer for Atlantic Monthly: “We focus on the Jesuit piece rather than the Catholic piece.  We’re able to transform a little quicker because we are not waiting for the archbishop to give us permission. We don’t have to ask the Pope when we want to make changes.”

Related: Marquette’s Reputation at Stake

While such actions may seem to be a drastic departure from the Catholic identity of each of these schools—and a refusal to acknowledge the mission of Catholic higher education as articulated in Pope St. John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae—the truth is that when one visits the websites of each of these Jesuit institutions, there is no question of their commitment to helping students become “men and women for and with others” in terms of addressing poverty and social justice.

The ideological commitment to social justice has not only become institutionalized on Jesuit campuses, it has also reached far beyond the twenty-eight Jesuit campuses to the majority of the more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities. Such a commitment can be noble, but sometimes the commitment to social justice can become so distorted that it requires a pro-choice perspective on abortion, or women’s ordination—both counter to Catholic doctrine—to ensure social justice for women.

For example, in an attempt to help create a new generation of Catholic law school graduates who are ready, willing and able to expand access to abortion through shaping public policy, and defend organizations like Planned Parenthood, Law Students for Reproductive Justice now have chapters at the following Catholic University law schools: De Paul, Fordham, Georgetown, Loyola (Los Angeles), Loyola (Chicago), Santa Clara, Seattle, St. Louis University, University of Detroit Mercy, University of San Diego, University of San Francisco and Villanova.  The Cardinal Newman Society has also documented that many Catholic colleges and universities provide undergraduate student internship credit for volunteering to function as clinic escorts at Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.

The movement away from evangelization and toward social justice is reflected in the mission statements on each of the Jesuit campuses and is increasingly part of the mission statement of the more than two hundred non-Jesuit Catholic colleges and universities. Sometimes the social justice mission is reflected in the campus itself. The newest building on the Sacred Heart University campus in Fairfield, CT has been named Jorge Bergoglio Hall.  An enormous residence building in the heart of campus, Bergoglio Hall stands across the street from Angelo Roncalli Hall—a residence for first-year students.  

Neither building has any indication that the buildings are named for the papal leaders of the Catholic Church, and it is likely that some students have no idea who Angelo Roncalli is. But, in a two-sentence explanation on an obscure page on the Sacred Heart website, students can find that “Jorge Bergoglio is the birth name of Pope Francis…his views align perfectly with our mission to instill in our students and other members of the SHU community with a deep sense of the Catholic intellectual tradition and its emphasis on social justice.”

A similar entry on the website reads that “Angelo Roncalli is the birth name of Pope John XXIII, the “Good Pope.”  Crediting him with “radically changing the face of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century by calling the meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1962,” both men are viewed as social justice advocates. Neither Karl Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) nor Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) have been given such honors on the Sacred Heart campus.

On many Catholic campuses, the mission of social justice is a phrase with the power of a command.  During a public debate at the Jesuit St. Joseph’s College of Philadelphia, the dean of the faculty stated, “a student who did not believe in social justice would not qualify for a degree at this school.” Fairfield University’s mission statement makes the promotion of justice “an absolute requirement.” The problem with mandating a commitment to social justice is that students and faculty are often mandated to agree with the ways in which social justice is defined on campus—and beyond.

Earlier this month, the Catholic Theological Society of America awarded its most prestigious annual award to University of San Diego theologian Orlando Espin, a theologian whose work was lauded by the CTSA as having “wrestled with problems associated with the historical and contemporary legacies of colonization, slavery, racism, and prejudice against LGBT persons.” In accepting his award, Espin thanked his husband of eight years.  Expanding access to marriage for same sex couples is viewed as part of the commitment to social justice on many Catholic campuses—despite Catholic teachings to the contrary.

Still, a commitment to social justice, without a commitment to teaching students about the Church’s natural law foundation for social justice makes a Catholic education no more distinctive than a secular education.  In 2013, concluding that his alma mater “takes pride in insulting the Church and offending the faithful,” William Peter Blatty, author of the best-selling book, The Exorcist filed a Canon Law petition with the Vatican asking that Georgetown University be denied the right to call itself Catholic. Calling Georgetown a “Potemkin Village,” Blatty complained that “at alumni dinners, they will make sure there is a Jesuit in a collar at every table, like the floral arrangement.” Others have filed similar lawsuits. Whether the Vatican chooses to respond remains uncertain.

Wear that Batik Dress and You’re a Cultural Appropriator

 What follows are excerpts from the keynote speech on “Fiction and Identity Politics” delivered September 8 at the Brisbane Writers Festival in Australia by Lionel Shriver.

Let’s start with a tempest-in-a-teacup at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Earlier this year, two students, both members of student government, threw a tequila-themed birthday party for a friend. The hosts provided attendees with miniature sombreros, which—the horror— numerous partygoers wore.

When photos of the party circulated on social media, campus-wide outrage ensued. Administrators sent multiple emails to the “culprits” threatening an investigation into an “act of ethnic stereotyping.” Partygoers were placed on “social probation,” while the two hosts were ejected from their dorm and later impeached. Bowdoin’s student newspaper decried the attendees’ lack of “basic empathy.”

The student government issued a “statement of solidarity” with “all the students who were injured and affected by the incident,” and demanded that administrators “create a safe space for those students who have been or feel specifically targeted.” The tequila party, the statement specified, was just the sort of occasion that “creates an environment where students of color, particularly Latino, and especially Mexican, feel unsafe.” In sum, the party-favor hats constituted – wait for it – “cultural appropriation.”

Curiously, across my country Mexican restaurants, often owned and run by Mexicans, are festooned with sombreros – if perhaps not for long.

But what does this have to do with writing fiction? The moral of the sombrero scandals is clear: you’re not supposed to try on other people’s hats. Yet that’s what we’re paid to do, isn’t it? Step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats.

Yet were their authors honoring the new rules against helping yourself to what doesn’t belong to you, we would not have Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. We wouldn’t have most of Graham Greene’s novels, many of which are set in what for the author were foreign countries, and which therefore have Real Foreigners in them, who speak and act like foreigners, too.

In his masterwork English Passengers, Matthew Kneale would have restrained himself from including chapters written in an Aboriginal’s voice – though these are some of the richest, most compelling passages in that novel. If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled – because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic – we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, Johnny Got His Gun.

Though the book is nonfiction, it’s worth noting that we also wouldn’t have 1961’s Black Like Me, for which John Howard Griffin committed the now unpardonable sin of “blackface.” Having his skin darkened – Michael Jackson in reverse – Griffin found out what it was like to live as a black man in the segregated American South. He’d be excoriated today, yet that book made a powerful social impact at the time.

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

What strikes me about that definition is that “without permission” bit. How are we fiction writers to seek “permission,” to use a character from another race or culture, or to employ the vernacular of a group to which we don’t belong? Do we set up a stand on the corner and approach passers-by with a clipboard, getting signatures that grant limited rights to employ an Indonesian character in Chapter Twelve, the way political volunteers get a candidate on the ballot?

I am hopeful that the concept of “cultural appropriation” is a passing fad: people with different backgrounds rubbing up against each other and exchanging ideas and practices is self-evidently one of the most productive, fascinating aspects of modern urban life.

But this latest and little absurd no-no is part of a larger climate of super-sensitivity, giving rise to proliferating prohibitions supposedly in the interest of social justice that constrain fiction writers and prospectively makes our work impossible.

So far, the majority of these farcical cases of “appropriation” have concentrated on fashion, dance, and music: At the American Music Awards 2013, Katy Perry got it in the neck for dressing like a geisha. According to the Arab-American writer Randa Jarrar, for someone like me to practice belly dancing is “white appropriation of Eastern dance,” while according to the Daily Beast Iggy Azalea committed “cultural crimes” by imitating African rap and speaking in a “blaccent.”

The felony of cultural sticky fingers even extends to exercise: at the University of Ottawa in Canada, a yoga teacher was shamed into suspending her class, “because yoga originally comes from India.” She offered to re-title the course, “Mindful Stretching.”

Seriously, we have people questioning whether it’s appropriate for white people to eat pad Thai. Turnabout, then: I guess that means that as a native of North Carolina, I can ban the Thais from eating barbecue. (I bet they’d swap.)

Writing fiction is a disrespectful vocation by its nature – prying, voyeuristic, kleptomaniacal, and presumptuous. And that is fiction writing at its best. When Truman Capote wrote from the perspective of condemned murderers from a lower economic class than his own, he had some gall. But writing fiction takes gall.

As for the culture police’s obsession with “authenticity,” fiction is inherently inauthentic. It’s fake. It’s self-confessedly fake; that is the nature of the form, which is about people who don’t exist and events that didn’t happen. The name of the game is not whether your novel honors reality; it’s all about what you can get away with.

My most recent novel The Mandibles was taken to task by one reviewer for addressing an America that is “straight and white”. It happens that this is a multigenerational family saga – about a white family. I wasn’t instinctively inclined to insert a transvestite or bisexual, with issues that might distract from my central subject matter of apocalyptic economics. Yet the implication of this criticism is that we novelists need to plug in representatives of a variety of groups in our cast of characters, as if filling out the entering class of freshmen at a university with strict diversity requirements.

You do indeed see just this brand of tokenism in television. There was a point in the latter 1990s at which suddenly every sitcom and drama in sight had to have a gay or lesbian character or couple. That was good news as a voucher of the success of the gay rights movement, but it still grew a bit tiresome: look at us, our show is so hip, one of the characters is homosexual!

We’re now going through the same fashionable exercise in relation to the transgender characters in series like Transparent and Orange is the New Black.

Fine. But I still would like to reserve the right as a novelist to use only the characters that pertain to my story.

Besides: which is it to be? We have to tend our own gardens, and only write about ourselves or people just like us because we mustn’t pilfer others’ experience, or we have to people our cast like an I’d like to teach the world to sing Coca-Cola advert?

For it can be dangerous these days to go the diversity route. Especially since there seems to be a consensus on the notion that San Francisco reviewer put forward that “special care should be taken with a story that’s not implicitly yours to tell.”

Thus in the world of identity politics, fiction writers better be careful. If we do choose to import representatives of protected groups, special rules apply. If a character happens to be black, they have to be treated with kid gloves, and never be placed in scenes that, taken out of context, might seem disrespectful. But that’s no way to write. The burden is too great, the self-examination paralyzing. The natural result of that kind of criticism in the Post is that next time I don’t use any black characters, lest they do or say anything that is short of perfectly admirable and lovely.

Why, it’s largely in order to keep from losing my fictional mojo that I stay off Facebook and Twitter, which could surely install an instinctive self-censorship out of fear of attack. Ten years ago, I gave the opening address of this same festival, in which I maintained that fiction writers have a vested interest in protecting everyone’s right to offend others – because if hurting someone else’s feelings even inadvertently is sufficient justification for muzzling, there will always be someone out there who is miffed by what you say, and freedom of speech is dead. With the rise of identity politics, which privileges a subjective sense of injury as actionable basis for prosecution, that is a battle that in the decade since I last spoke in Brisbane we’ve been losing.

Worse: the left’s embrace of gotcha hypersensitivity inevitably invites backlash. Donald Trump appeals to people who have had it up to their eyeballs with being told what they can and cannot say. Pushing back against a mainstream culture of speak-no-evil suppression, they lash out in defiance, and then what they say is pretty appalling.

We should be seeking to push beyond the constraining categories into which we have been arbitrarily dropped by birth.

Writing during the day and reading when I go to bed at night, I find it an enormous relief to escape the confines of my own head. Even if novels and short stories only do so by creating an illusion, fiction helps to fell the exasperating barriers between us, and for a short while allows us to behold the astonishing reality of other people. We fiction writers have to preserve the right to wear many hats – including sombreros.

Lionel Shriver is an American journalist and author who is resident in the United Kingdom. Her novels include We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Mandibles.

How Diversity Came to Mean ‘Downgrade the West’

There was a time, within living memory, when the term multiculturalism was hardly known.  More than twenty years ago, Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and in late July speaker at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, wrote a book with fellow Stanford alum David Sacks called The Diversity Myth: ‘Multiculturalism’ and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford (1995).

The book’s title refers to the pretense that embracing “diversity” actually promotes diversity of all types, a claim commonly heard to this day.  Thiel had been a student at Stanford when, in January 1987, demonstrators defending “the Rainbow Agenda” chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go!”  This protest led to the infamous “revision” (i.e., suppression) of the Western Culture requirement at Stanford, replaced with a freshman sequence called Cultures, Ideas, and Values, mandating an emphasis on race, gender, and class.

In her foreword to Sacks and Thiel’s book, the well-known American historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese referred to Stanford as “a surreal world of social engineering and institutional arrogance” and highlighted the school’s efforts to wage a “campaign to reshape thought and behavior.”  She noted that while the term “affirmative action” had been replaced by “diversity,” the latter term, far from actually promoting intellectual diversity, rested on “a series of interlocking attitudes and practices.”

Furthermore, “multiculturalism” did not involve greater emphasis on mastering foreign languages or carefully studying cultures other than those of the English-speaking world.  Instead, work in literature and culture programs was (and still is) done increasingly in English and focused on contemporary writers.  Nor did multiculturalism, any more than the word diversity, mean familiarizing students with a diversity of views. Rather, as Fox-Genovese summarized it, it meant requiring students “to agree with or even applaud views and values that mock the values with which they have been reared.”  And all this, she observed, was being accompanied by rampant grade inflation.

Related: Hey, Stanford: Western Civ Has Gotta Grow

On the very first page of their book, Sacks and Thiel commented on the double entendre implicit in the Stanford protesters’ chant of “Western Culture’s got to go.”  It was not just the required Western Culture course that was being denounced, ostensibly because most of the books studied had been written by “dead white males,” a group that was by definition considered illegitimate. Rather, it was the Western tradition as a whole.

Such a move was both novel and extraordinary, Sacks and Thiel wrote, for it “attacked not the quality or historical significance of the great books, but rather the authors themselves – for being of the wrong race, gender, or class.”

The Diversity Myth noted the chilling potential consequences of such attacks, which are now entirely routine, hardly worth commenting on. “Whereas the Western Culture canon had been based upon a belief in universalism—the belief that the insights contained within the West’s great works were potentially available to everybody—the new curriculum embraced particularism: What one may know is determined by the circumstances of one’s birth.”

The assault wasn’t merely on the idea of universalism, which assumed that, as Sidney Hook explained in a 1989 essay that Sacks and Thiel summarize: “There exist truths that transcend the accidents of one’s birth, and these objective truths are in principle available to everyone—whether young or old, rich or poor, male or female, white or black.”  A distinct view of human nature was being proposed instead, one that rejected the belief that individuals, and indeed humanity as a whole, “are not trapped within a closed cultural space that predetermines what they may know.”  Sacks and Thiel warned that by this rejection, the Stanford protestors of 1987 “would pave the way for a very different kind of academy.”

Fast forward 20-some years and the “different kind of academy” is everywhere around us, proudly kowtowing to the demands of (certain) identity groups and wearing its heart on its sleeve about its profound commitment to, as the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst constantly reiterates, “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”  The pressures have intensified and grown more and more unabashedly political, as evidenced in UMass’s recently revised “cultural diversity” courses, which go well beyond the standard inclusion of particular identity groups.

Whereas in the past the university had concentrated on prohibiting offensive speech, via the sorts of “harassment” policies that exist to chill speech in virtually all universities today, UMass now also compels certain types of speech and attitudes.  The new version of  “cultural diversity” courses, of which all students are required to take two, must now explicitly critique inequalities and injustices, oppression and hegemony, in order to lead students to pursue change on behalf of “social justice,” yet another overused and vague term (see Patai and Silverglate).

Related: Race-baiting in the Name of Justice

At Yale University, to take another recent example, in 2016, in the context of the numerous protests across the nation that campuses were not addressing “systemic racism,” undergraduates in the English Department crafted a petition to “decolonize” (not just diversify) the department’s two-semester famed basic course sequence, Major English Poets, pre-1800/1900, which focused primarily on eight great poets.  In the petition, the students claimed that the absence of women, people of color, and queer folk from these two courses “actively harms all students, regardless of their identity” by creating “a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.”

The existence of many courses in the department (and out of it) related to race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality was deemed insufficient, since these were mainly upper-level courses. The demand shows that the students’ motivation is not to make available to them courses including or devoted entirely to non-white-males (since such courses already exist), but rather to force other students to study what these student activists believe they should study.

The Yale Daily News account of this episode is followed by 20 comments critical, often scathingly so, of the petition. One of these quotes at length from W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk:

I sit with Shakespeare, and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed Earth and the tracery of [the] stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?

It is likely that most student protesters today are ignorant of this passage (and of so much else), or, if they knew of it, would merely sneer at its universalist underpinnings, or dismiss it as nothing but a “reinscribing” of dominant views.

As Sacks and Thiel foresaw in their book, the diversity myth has devolved into a host of additional myths rooted in identity politics and ideological policing, while the reality of a debased education, deliberately made subservient to present political passions, goes unaddressed. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, however, was still optimistic at the time she wrote her foreword to Sacks and Thiel’s book.

Stressing the alarming core argument of The Diversity Myth, she nonetheless believed that the book was “appearing at a moment of mounting public consciousness of the ways in which our educational system is failing our young people. We all know that we are doing something wrong.”

Related: A College Guide to Viewpoint Diversity

Such warnings, along with numerous similar ones, as it turned out, went unheeded, as the ever more extreme episodes of politically correct demands on college campuses over the past two decades indicate.  An ironic detail confirms this reality:  Just before their book was released, Sacks and Thiel published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (October 9, 1995) ridiculing the new curriculum as “mindless.”

This in turn inspired Stanford’s president to write in protest, labeling their op-ed “demagoguery” and accusing them of concocting a “cartoon” image of the new curriculum.  By now, sadly, it is hardly possible to satirize American universities, since even not-yet-dead white administrators rush to embrace perspectives that used to be held mostly by angry students.

Increasingly, students these days present their grievances as non-negotiable demands. In addition to the ever-expanding identity categories, in recent years we have seen both administrators and faculty members forced to resign for holding the “wrong” opinions or not capitulating rapidly enough to the demands of student protesters. In other words, what Sacks and Thiel argued very clearly more than two decades ago was on the mark. They saw that the real issues roiling universities had to do not with education or intellectual diversity or even equal opportunity (long since replaced by the demand for equal outcomes, “safe spaces,” and “comfort”), but rather with promoting particular aggrieved identity groups and their political views, in the classroom and out.

Stanford’s story doesn’t end with the curriculum revision thirty years ago, however.  As it happens, in 1987 Peter Thiel was a co-founder of the Stanford Review, created to promote campus debate beyond the perspectives that were rapidly acquiring the status of a new orthodoxy.  In the spring of 2016, the Stanford Review, still pursuing its contrarian mission, sponsored a ballot initiative to restore, as a requirement, a two-part freshmen course on the Western world.  The result – which ought to shock everyone but in fact surprised few people in the academic world – was that the initiative was roundly rejected, garnering less than 15% support from the student body.

The strict limitations, both political and cultural, that define multiculturalism and diversity are also displayed in the spate of disinvitations in recent years of Commencement speakers, lecturers, and other guests whose political views do not suit the petty tyrants on college campuses (see FIRE’s “Disinvitation Report 2014: A Disturbing 15-Year Trend”).

To take just one example, which also demonstrates that to campus ideologues, having the correct politics trumps even race and gender, consider the case of Somalian-born writer and human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  In 2014, Brandeis University rescinded an invitation to Hirsi Ali, who was to receive an honorary degree at Commencement. A campus petition objecting to the award, on the grounds of her impassioned criticisms of Islam, was signed by nearly 25% of Brandeis’s faculty and 6,000 others inside and outside Brandeis.

FIRE’s Disinvitation Report noted that the trend was growing, and that severely restrictive speech codes were typically found at those schools with the highest numbers of incidents of disinvitation. There is a sublime irony in the spectacle of self-righteous individuals at an elite university using the liberal values of free speech and open debate to denounce a fearless critic of female genital mutilation and other practices of violence that she experienced as part of the Islamic culture in which she grew up. This intolerance of “diverse” points of view is particularly telling at the present time, when Islamist terrorism is on the rise worldwide but, mysteriously, is seldom addressed on college campuses.

For her outspoken positions, Hirsi Ali is accused of “hate speech” and “Islamophobia” – even as equally adamant critics of, say, the U.S. or Israel are welcomed as speakers and faculty members, and universities and professional academic associations seek to enforce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.  In fact, as Andrew Anthony wrote in The Guardian (April 27, 2015), Hirsi Ali “is loathed not just by Islamic fundamentalists but by many western liberals, who find her rejection of Islam almost as objectionable as her embrace of western liberalism.”

Perhaps the students at these prestigious universities need to read the work of historian Niall Ferguson, who moved to Stanford’s Hoover Institution in 2016, after 12 years at Harvard.  Ferguson’s book Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011) presents a thorough account of 500 years of Western civilization’s contributions to the world, in terms of such basic measures of well-being as health, economic prosperity, and civil and political rights.

No doubt all this counts for nothing among today’s student protesters, who are incapable of spotting anything other than racism, sexism, and imperialism in the West. Although these university students are among the very people who benefit the most from all that Western culture has achieved, they evidently lack the imagination to grasp what it would mean to actually live in a society that controls their speech and movements, deprives them of the right to be heard, and imposes a rigid political ideology (not the one they happen to support) on their education.  But to truly understand the values they so blithely reject, they’d probably need a course in Western culture.

Explaining Black Rage on Campus and in the Inner-City

Many factors have been suggested to explain the explosion in Black protest and Black rage over the past two years on college campuses and in cities like Ferguson, Baltimore, and Milwaukee: racist police, insensitive college administrators, bigoted White students, pervasive “micro-aggressions,” the stigma-creating effect of racial preference policies, among others.

But most such factors fail to answer the crucial “why now?” question. It is a fundamental principle of social science analysis, as well as of simple common sense, that change cannot be adequately explained by a “constant.”  If the price of gasoline goes up it is not much of an explanation to say that the gas station owners and the oil companies must be trying to earn more profit.  Under a free market system market participants are almost always trying to maximize their profits, so if gasoline prices rise (or fall) some other factor besides changes in profit motive must be responsible for the price increase or decrease.

Almost all of the factors typically mentioned to explain recent racial upheavals are “constants” that existed just as much — or to a greater degree — five, ten, or twenty years ago. There is no credible evidence that America’s police have become more racist, that White college students are more bigoted or more “micro-aggressive” than they used to be, that college administrators and college presidents are more insensitive to Black concerns, or that there has been an increase in hostility to Black aspirations either on college campuses or in America’s cities. Something clearly has changed, but it is not to be found in the factors most commentators have focused upon.

Related: How Student Protesters Cheat Themselves

What clearly has changed is the level of Black frustration and disappointment in the closing years of Barack Obama’s administration.  And to explain it we must understand what is sometimes called the “Tocqueville Effect” and what social scientists in the 1950s began to describe as frustration born of an unfulfilled “revolution of rising expectations.” Whatever else one might say about Barack Obama’s two victories in his campaigns for the U.S. presidency, they raised the hope, pride, and aspirations of tens of millions of Black Americans in addition to that of many non-Blacks as well.  “Hope and change” was the dominant theme of his White House quest, and for many — including the Nobel peace prize committee — his campaign slogans were the source of great expectations.

Whatever else one might say about Barack Obama’s two victories in his campaigns for the U.S. presidency, they raised the hope, pride, and aspirations of tens of millions of Black Americans in addition to that of many non-Blacks as well.  “Hope and change” was the dominant theme of his White House quest, and for many — including the Nobel peace prize committee — his campaign slogans were the source of great expectations.

For many Black Americans the election of the first U.S. Black president was euphoric.  A pervasive sense of promise and the expectations for fundamental change were everywhere. A new day and a new dawn were upon us.  Here, for instance, is a memoir written by a family friend who watched the presidential election returns the night of November 4, 2008 as they were telecast on a large overhead screen in the heart of New York City’s Harlem:

The night Obama was elected for the first time I stood in Harlem in the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building Square with thousands of Harlemites watching the huge television screen mounted above our heads. … I was awed at the many black men who wept openly.  Parents lifted small children in the air and told them to remember this day in history.  Some people knelt in prayer.  I just felt I finally had personally gotten back at all those who had violated, abused or hated my existence because of the color of my skin.  A European media group … approached me because I obviously was an older woman who had experienced more racism than those younger celebrating around me.  They wanted to interview me.  Though I tried, I could not speak an intelligible sentence, I was too overcome with emotion. … It was a glorious, victorious night!  I had lived to see a needed change in this country.  My hopes were high for change.

A European media group … approached me because I obviously was an older woman who had experienced more racism than those younger celebrating around me.  They wanted to interview me.  Though I tried I could not speak an intelligible sentence, I was too overcome with emotion … It was a glorious, victorious night!  I had lived to see a needed change in this country.  My hopes were high for change.

With hopes raised to such exalted heights, it is no surprise that disappointment would eventually set in.  For most Black people, life during the Obama years went on pretty much as it had, with gradually mounting frustration and anger the inevitable result.  Even after six years of the Obama presidency, there was little if any fundamental change in the Black standard of living, Black social mobility, Black achievement in the nation’s school system, Black/White race relations, or improvements in the stability and solidarity of Black family ties.

Related: How Yale Tries to Dodge New Protests

The anger and frustration that resulted from dashed hopes and failed dreams led to a situation whereby minor irritants previously endured. A college building named after an early 20th century U.S. president who shared the White southern view of race relations typical of his time suddenly became intolerable outrages and symbols of extreme and painful oppression.

What was previously viewed as rare and hardly typical cases of rogue cops gunning down innocent and non-threatening Black men came to be identified as an all-pervasive feature of a Black-hating, Black-oppressing, White racist society.  Rioting, looting, seizure of college buildings, and the issuance of a host of non-negotiable demands for redress came to be seen by significant numbers of Black people and their White leftist supporters as the understandable — and perhaps even justifiable — response to such provocations.

People who are angry, frustrated, and disappointed often discharge their negative emotions on objects unrelated to the real source of their actual distress. Someone who has had a fight with his boss at work comes home, kicks the cat blocking the path to his favorite easy chair, and screams at his young son for leaving his bicycle in the driveway.

A similar kind of displaced anger and frustration, I believe, was a hidden factor behind much of the heightened racial resentment and Black rage that we have seen since the summer of 2014 on many college campuses and in several U.S. cities. Growing frustration over unrealistic hopes was the “non-constant,” I believe, that helps explain the otherwise inexplicable change in Black behavior. An increase in White racism — the explanation so beloved by the left — explains none of these developments since no such increase has ever been demonstrated and is hardly likely to have occurred.

This situation was in many ways a repeat of the social dynamic that existed in several of the inner-cities of America during the “riot years” of the mid and late 1960s.  Then too there was a “revolution of rising expectations” among many Black Americans, one triggered by the unprecedented legislative victories in civil rights during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.   Passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in many areas of American life, was seen as a milestone in the Black quest for human dignity and equal rights.

Areas covered in its reach included private and public employment, educational institutions receiving government aid, and private businesses deemed to be “public accommodations” like restaurants and hotels. Hopes were also raised the following year by the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which assured Blacks the right to vote throughout America, a right effectively denied to them in many of the states of the Old Confederacy.

The passage of these laws, the injustices to which they drew attention, and the hype surrounding their claimed benefits by their most influential supporters led to both a) an exaggerated expectation of immediate positive change, and b) a heightened sensitivity to remaining problems and injustices that the laws did not reach.  This combination proved explosive in terms of triggering Black frustration and Black rage that in the years between 1965 and 1969 led to serious Black riots in over a hundred U.S. cities. Paradoxical — and incomprehensible — as it seemed to many, it was precisely in those years in which the social, legal, and economic conditions of Black people advanced most rapidly that Black anger, frustration, and violent behavior reached their peak.

The Tocqueville Effect

One person who would not have been surprised by this 60s-era development was Alexis de Tocqueville, who in his study of the French Revolution first described the relationship between rapidly accelerating expectations and the consequences that often follow from them in terms of frustration, heightened sensitivities, and outwardly directed anger and violence. “It was precisely in those parts of France where there had been most improvements that popular discontent ran highest,” Tocqueville explained about France’s bloody revolution. “This may seem illogical,” he went on, “but history is full of such paradoxes.

Patiently endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.  For the mere fact that certain abuses have been remedied draws attention to the others and they now appear more galling; people may suffer less, but their sensibility is exacerbated.  At the height of its power feudalism did not inspire so much hatred as it did on the eve of its eclipse.  In the reign of Louis XVI the most trivial pinpricks of arbitrary power caused more resentment than the thoroughgoing despotism of Louis XIV.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution.)

Revolutions of rising expectations are dangerous affairs and may have various causes. The one of the 1960s in America was produced by an array of factors similar to that of late 18th century France but quite different from that of the Obama years.  But whatever their source, greatly exaggerated hopes for change and improvement are always in danger of leading to great disappointment and frustration, heightened dissatisfaction with one’s lot in life, and a gross reduction in one’s overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. These in turn can lead to political instability, uncontrolled anger, and often violent social unrest.

It is this dynamic, I believe, which helps to explain much of the racial turmoil we have seen of late on college campuses and in many of our cities, and it is this same dynamic which explains why such seemingly minor irritants as a politically incorrect Halloween costume or a tasteless theme-party at a college fraternity house can unleash such immense hatred, pain, and rage.  Tocqueville would have understood it all very well.

Poll Indicates Race Problems on Campus Greatly Exaggerated

The Knight Foundation survey, conducted by Gallup, of where the First Amendment stands among college students and U.S. adults has several interesting findings.  One of them cuts to the heart of all the other issues of the First Amendment on campus today:

There is a real perception that campuses are not fully open environments. A slight majority of students, 54%, say the climate on their campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.

Related: Watch Out for the Campus Bias Team

Nobody should find this an extraordinary rate of self-censorship. Instead, we should wonder about the 46 percent who didn’t think that their campus climate suppresses free speech precisely on the grounds of giving others offense. The phrasing of the question doesn’t cover jokes in bad taste, forms of harassment, vandalism, or discriminatory conduct. A bit of discretion and other-awareness is one of the costs of living in polite society. But this goes beyond basic manners and touches on the core of an academic environment — the freedom to press an argument some find disagreeable (as long as you do so with evidence and reasoning).  It asks about people’s intellectual statements, about “what they believe”–opinions, norms, values.

The reply shows how far belief has been submitted to sensitivities. Even 19-year-olds now understand that the measure of their thoughts on topics of race and sexuality is the possible reaction of someone, somewhere, who might not be able to sleep that night after hearing those words. It has only taken a few instances of an indiscreet professor or administrator who muttered the wrong words, aroused a protest, apologized profusely for offending others, and slunk off in shame for everyone to get the message. Keep your head down and your mouth shut.

There is another finding in the study that attributes the shutdown of belief entirely to the sensitivities of the complainers, not to the reality of the campus.  When students were asked about the racial climate of their campus, 26 percent termed it “excellent” and 48 percent good.  That makes three-quarters of all students who have no concerns about systemic racial tensions or problems.  Only a mere six percent rated the climate “poor.”

Within this response, too, we find that only 13 percent of black students gave the “poor” rating.

Related: Race Baiting in the Name of Justice

This makes for an astonishing contrast.  More than half of students see a “chilling” climate for speech, while barely one-in-twenty see a bad climate for race relations.  We know that much of the censorship and offense-taking has to do with race issues, and yet the vast majority of students find that there is no general basis for curtailing speech because of them.

What this suggests is that racial problems on campus have been vastly exaggerated–at least according to the students. The relatively rare racial episode has produced an overreaction. More than two-thirds of students (69%) say that they rarely or never hear anyone make “insensitive comments about someone’s race, ethnicity, or religion.” Given the low bar that the category “insensitive comments” sets, we may assume that the rate of outright nastiness is much lower.

Given the many forms of coarseness that adolescents are disposed to on-line and off-, we should broadcast this finding as a triumph of civility. Indeed, this poll provides abundant evidence against the accusations leveled against colleges in the heated student protests of 2015-16. We all know that Oberlin, Wesleyan, and all the other selective campuses targeted by the students are some of the most progressive and sensitive acres on earth. Now, in this poll, the vast majority of students say the same thing.

I suspect, however, that students know this already.  They also know that they can do nothing about the exaggerations.  They have seen that college administrators and many professors, too, are willing to go along with them and pretend as if they indicated something real and pervasive at work on their campuses.  Again, it only takes one example of the people in power countenancing a patent falsehood for the underlings to realize that truth is no defense.

Let me give you an example.

One year after I arrived at Emory in 1989, a racial incident happened.  An African American pre-med student named Sabrina Collins landed in the hospital, mute and traumatized, after finding racist death threats in her dorm room. Her case became a national story, reported in the New York Times and USA Today as well as in the local media.

On March 5, someone had entered her dorm room, scrawled racial epithets, tore her stuffed animals, and poured bleach on her clothing. She reported the incident, and Emory offered safe haven for her and her family off campus plus options for completing her schoolwork. Collins declined, so more locks were placed on her door and a motion detector and alarm system installed.  She decided to move out weeks later, however, and as she was doing so, she discovered more racist threats written in nail polish on the floor under a throw-rug. That’s what threw her into a catatonic silence that continued while she recuperated in a hospital in Augusta.

Dekalb County police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began an inquiry to try to track down the perpetrator. The U.S. Attorney in Atlanta offered to help. Campus officials went into crisis-management mode as protests erupted. One group, Students Against Racial Inequality, judged Emory “a hostile environment for people of African descent.” The leaders of it gave the president 12 demands, including new centers for the study of African American culture, more African American enrollments and professors, and the dismissal of the head of public safety.

I remember the incident and the feeling of disgust.  What coward would pick on this poor girl? I thought. She deserves all the support we can give her. A few weeks later, while driving to work, I heard the issue come up on local talk radio, everyone solemnly denouncing the deed as I presumed they should.  But then one young man phoned in and said in a halting voice something entirely unexpected. I don’t recall the exact words, but they went something like this:

I know this sounds hard to believe, but this situation may not be what you all think. It looks to me like she may have made the whole thing up. That’s what I’ve heard from some people who know.

The host challenged him, and the caller delicately but firmly stuck to his suspicion.  My first response was incredulity. You gotta be kidding.  Who would make up something like this up?

Well, not long after the case fell apart. Yes, Collins fabricated the whole thing. On May 31, the New York Times printed a story under the headline, “Woman’s Claim of Racial Crime Is Called a Hoax.” Investigators said that all the evidence pointed back to Collins—fingerprint analysis, the paper and typeface used to make the threats, and the fact that the death threat misspelled the word “you’re” as “your,” an error found in Collins’ own writing.  Her symptoms—traumatic muteness, holding herself for hours in a fetal ball—were faked.  There was an added speculation by some people that Collins conceived the hoax to distract attention from an Honor Code investigation of her regarding a chemistry exam.

Here is where the duplicity of the administration comes in.  When the truth came out, the administrators played it down. “University officials,” the Times reported, “who have tried to steer clear of assessing blame, had little comment today.”

But the advocates didn’t do the same. Here is one of them, whose remarks conclude the Times story:

Otis Smith, president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who earlier assailed Emory, said the new findings were largely irrelevant. ”It doesn’t matter to me whether she did it or not,” he said, ”because of all the pressure these black students are under at these predominantly white schools. If this will highlight it, if it will bring it to the attention of the public, I have no problem with that.”

How familiar has this rationale become?  A victim turns out to be not a victim at all, according to the facts—but then she really is a victim because of a pervasive reality that underlies those facts.  Lying to expose a bigger truth is no lie, even if there is no evidence of that larger truth except for the distraught condition of the victim.  When someone says, “It doesn’t matter whether she did it or not,” and the school leaders don’t come right out and assert, “Yes, it does!” everybody else learns the lesson.  You don’t have to have done something to be convicted of doing it. Emory University and all the white people in it were tried and found innocent of the specific charges but walked away guilty of the general charge of being a “predominantly white institution” that makes life terribly hard for black students.

I didn’t see any news stories on the follow-up treatment of Ms. Collins, but I heard that Emory proceeded to cover all of her medical bills.  Here is how an undergraduate in Emory Magazine recalled the whole episode 20 years later:

A statewide investigation deemed the alleged hate crime a hoax a few months later, but its impact on the Emory community was anything but inauthentic. In the wake of that incident, students banded together to raise cultural awareness on campus.

Again, the same rationale for deceit prevailed. The crime was a sham, but the response “authentic.”  Ms. Collins’ hoax proved to have a salutary impact, raising awareness and uniting students. It’s okay to lie as long as it produces a good outcome.

This way of handling falsehood is an important factor in the self-censorship that afflicts so many people on college campuses. The Knight poll shows how many of them hide their thoughts, and they may be wise to do so in light of the Collins hoax and so many other double-dealing campus episodes of recent times.  If people were confident that allegations of harassment, discrimination, and bias would be settled because of the truth, then they might not choke down their beliefs even if those beliefs proved troubling to others.

But if they assume that they may be denounced no matter what the facts are, so long as one party is distressed—particularly a representative of a historically disadvantaged group—then they certainly will take the safe route and be quiet.

The Alarming Decline of U.S. Political History

One of the year’s most important essays on higher education appeared earlier this week in The New York Times op-ed page. Historians Fredrick Logevall and Kenneth Osgood wrote of the decline of U.S. political history. “The public’s love for political stories,” they correctly noted, “belies a crisis in the profession. American political history as a field of study has cratered. Fewer scholars build careers on studying the political process, in part because few universities make space for them. Fewer courses are available, and fewer students are exposed to it. What was once a central part of the historical profession, a vital part of this country’s continuing democratic discussion, is disappearing.”

Related: A Big Campus Trend–Ignorance of U.S. History

As someone who almost lost his job in part because (as a former colleague put it in a then-secret letter), my scholarship took the “old-fashioned” approach of focusing on “figures in power,” I obviously share the concerns raised by Logevall and Osgood. I’ve made similar points about the field at Minding the Campus and in Congressional testimony.

The two historians also offered a solution: “What is needed, to begin with, is for university administrators to identify political history as a priority, for students and families to lobby their schools, for benefactors to endow professorships and graduate fellowships and for lawmakers and school boards to enact policies that bolster its teaching—and without politicizing the enterprise.” They’re absolutely right, of course, that history departments won’t solve the problem (though I suspect the reason is less “tight budgets” than the fact that the departments, through their hiring policies, created the problem in the first place).

I’m dubious that administrators will do anything about the issue; only a reckless administrator takes on faculty on personnel matters when faculty has strong ideological objections. And based on what we saw from student protests in 2015-2016, restoring U.S. political history seems unlikely to be a central concern (despite the fact that political, and diplomatic, history classes tend to be very popular with students). I agree that state legislatures are fully within their rights to bolster the teaching of political history, especially since—as at schools like CUNY—state policies require public school history teachers to get M.A. degrees, on the theory that this knowledge will train the students to be better teachers. If history departments don’t hire specialists in the areas that states need to have taught, why should states continue to prop up these departments through the tuition dollars from M.A. students? Trustees also should play a critical role. They can and should be far more involved in ensuring pedagogical diversity in key departments, including (and perhaps especially) history.

Related: Big History Kicks American History to the Back of the Class

The op-ed has (appropriately) generated lots of positive responses. Academic criticism has come from two sources—one of which is correct but not germane to the point Logevall and Osgood raise, and one of which unintentionally proves their point.

The first noted that good work in political history sometimes comes from people outside of history departments. True. To take some examples from my experience: whenever I teach an M.A. or Ph.D. class in political (or constitutional) history, I assign at least one book by Kevin McMahon, a Trinity political scientist who’s written on FDR and Nixon. The next time I teach my undergraduate course in recent political history, I’ll use this article on the state marriage equality debates from Anthony Kreis, currently on the faculty of Chicago-Kent Law School. (Kreis’ work is also a reminder to historians that if we don’t write about recent events for which lots of sources are available, we cede the topic to non-historians.) And Robert Mann of LSU, who holds chairs in journalism and mass communication, is the author of one of the two or three finest histories of the Senate.

The fact that some academic non-historians write good political history, however, isn’t a reason why history departments shouldn’t hire specialists in U.S. political history. Imagine the reaction if (say) political science departments started not hiring specialists in race or gender in U.S. affairs, because those topics are already extensively covered in history departments.

Related: The Campus Assault on American History

Critical reaction was more troubling. Here was the New School’s Claire Potter (a 1990 Ph.D. whose sole published monograph appears to be War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture), tweeting to six other historians: “According to @nytimes we don’t exist.” It’s not clear to me why—even if Potter is correct that all seven of these people were hired in U.S. political history—the existence of seven U.S. political historians among the nation’s 7000 universities would undercut the Logevall/Osgood thesis. The reaction of Potter and her correspondents, however, seemed to reflect a general argument that Logevall and Osgood have misunderstood the nature of the field—overlooking what once was called the “new” political history, or a “re-visioned” political history, which sees the field as more attuned to themes in social history, or urban history, or elements of identity politics.

Some of this history, of course, is excellent—such as the work of Tom Sugrue (who unsurprisingly dismissed the op-ed) or Nancy Cott. But, as an approach, the “new” political history envisions a narrowed, not broadened, field—one in which it’s difficult to fit in most elements of congressional or even presidential history, or institutional histories of the government, or public policy histories that don’t correspond to identity politics or urban themes, or many types of political biographies, or the history of campaigns and elections. “The most interesting scholars blend the older fields,” as Potter euphemistically put it.

I suspect, for instance, that someone like Potter would not be pleased if gender history as a field generated few jobs; and that a significant portion of the diminished tenured or tenure-track positions in the field had gone to specialists in biographies of female members of Congress, with a heavy focus on their committee work. Such studies could be considered gender history. But they’d obviously represent only a small segment of the field.

It’s good to see Logevall and Osgood speaking out, and I hope their op-ed makes a difference.

Top College Endowments Are Political Targets Now

One of the pillars of our education establishment, The Education Trust, recently published a report meant to pressure colleges and universities with large endowments into spending more of their earnings on one of its pet causes – very low or even free tuition for students from poorer families. The study, “A Glimpse Inside the Coffers: Endowment Spending at Wealthy Colleges and Universities,” claims to show that these institutions “aren’t doing nearly enough” to help such students.

To cite just one example from the report, suppose that the University of Pennsylvania were to raise its endowment spending up to Education Trust’s recommended five percent level – and spent all of the additional money on reducing tuition for poor students. By doing that, Penn could double the number of low-income students entering the school, from 109 per year to 218 per year.

Now, I am no fan of the way our colleges and universities that have gigantic endowments choose to spend their money. I think that too much goes toward the student amenities arms race, toward the hiring of unnecessary administrators who have to pretend to be busy at jobs such as “Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion,” and toward luring “star” faculty members who don’t teach much, away from other schools. But just because they waste a lot of money already is no reason to favor Education Trust’s plan.

Related: Another Bad Idea—Mandatory Endowment Spending

Here is the fatal flaw. Going to an elite, high-cost college is little or no better than going to a lower-cost, non-elite one. Sometimes, in fact, students (no matter their family’s finances) get a superior education at a non-prestige school where there are fewer distractions and where the faculty pays more attention to the undergraduates.

Is Prestige Worth the Cost

Sticking with Penn, let’s suppose that the university decided to follow Education Trust’s advice and succeeded in enrolling an addition 109 students from low-income families with very low tuition and other fees. Penn is indeed a very famous school, but where would those 109 students have gone otherwise?

Perhaps some would have gone to a private liberal arts college in the state or region. Grove City College is a possibility. For decades, the administration at the school has kept costs to the lowest possible level (although certain it isn’t free) and, even more important, students get lots of direct attention from the faculty. Courses are taught by experienced professors, not by grad students. The curriculum remains solid, not full of trendy, narrow, politicized classes.

Yes, a degree from Penn is regarded as prestigious – far more so than a degree from Grove City or most other schools, public or private, in the state. The question, however, is whether that prestige is worth the trade-offs to get it.

Evidently, the people at the Education Trust (along with a majority of America, I’d guess) think so. That is because they have bought into “the Chivas Regal effect” – namely the notion that something must be better in quality simply because it costs more.

Leaders at our high-cost colleges have been promoting that idea (and cashing in on it) for years. It just isn’t true, however. Going to a high-cost, elitist school is neither necessary nor sufficient for students to get a good college education and get on track for a successful career.

I don’t often agree with New York Times writer Frank Bruni, but his book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be nailed an important truth. (My review of the book is available here.) Students often do very well at colleges that almost no one has ever heard of; conversely, the environment of big, famous schools can be damaging to some students.

I will add one further objection to Education Trust’s “More Free College!” idea. To the extent that Penn or any other wealthy university enrolls more students who are from relatively poor families, it will also have to reject an equal number of other students who aren’t from low-income households. Some and probably most of those students will be very highly qualified students who were eager to go to Penn despite the cost.

Those students will most likely be ones who don’t check off any “diversity” box and are therefore expendable in the school’s enrollment management calculus – in other words, sharp Asian kids. They will have to settle for one of their backup schools.

I’m not saying that is a national disaster, but it does mean shuffling some of our best students away from colleges where they’d have been challenged and into ones where they’ll do fine but perhaps not their very best.

For all the lip service they pay to various “social justice” ideas, college leaders, are pretty steadfast in protecting their freedom to use their wealth as they think best. I hope they live up to that and ignore the Education Trust.