Tag Archives: trigger situations

Student Grievance: Righting Imaginary Wrongs

In the persistent demands for submission to the current campus orthodoxy of verbal policing, there is evidently not a shadow of concern for the creation of ethical individuals capable of thinking for themselves. Instead, a distinctly authoritarian streak is proudly proclaimed in the assaults and threats angry students launch at others.

Ironically, the less there is to be angry about, the angrier student agitators get and the more vociferous their demands that the entire university is forced to conform to the particular terms official victim groups prescribe. And since anger, like the alleged pain of triggers and microaggressions, is the new currency of moral righteousness, those around them must genuflect and then rush to appease and heal the supposed wounds.

Surely only people used to enormous personal freedom are capable of willingly tossing it away in the name of righting wrongs that are ever more imaginary. How did it happen that the appeal to authoritarianism – the state and its institutions, the university and its administrators – has arisen in a modern liberal democracy as the path by which a better society is to be forged? Do students today lack all knowledge of the actual sordid history of the imposition of goodness (usually in the name of equality) throughout the world?  Or might it be not ignorance but a drive for power that leads many people today to embrace as solutions the very restrictions on freedom that have resulted in the death and destruction of millions?

Anger and accusations, it turns out, serve as powerful weapons, bringing administrators, faculty, and other campus reprobates to their knees. Perhaps it is the obeisance demanded and received that makes student protesters ever more aggressive, more extreme. Principles vanish, accusations grow more hysterical, reasonable voices are shouted down, claims to victimhood abound. What actually transpires, who does what to whom, who suffers what ills — none of this matters. Only the identity of the players counts.

And so, relinquishing reason and evidence bit by bit, we’ve come to the present pass, in which the presumptive powerlessness of minorities has turned into a strong and ever available weapon, just as the supposed powerlessness of women has become an effective bludgeon against men.  Abject apologies are extracted, careers are ended, resignations forced. Verbal disagreement is not to be tolerated. Nothing but capitulation will do.

No doubt the thrill of power so easily achieved is hard to resist.  But the groundwork for this new spectacle was laid decades ago, when well-meaning academics accepted double standards by which whites were permanently on the defensive, forever needing to apologize for their “white privilege.”

The language of white privilege wasn’t that common back in 1989 when Peggy McIntosh’s article on the subject began to wend its way through education programs.  Who could have anticipated such wild success, as the term became a tireless mantra for those taking up McIntosh’s call for curriculum reform and an “anti-racist pedagogy”?  And who could have foreseen such rapid surrender on the part of school faculty and administrators, as if they were in endless need of atonement?

Calm disagreement, when expressed, is treated these days as further incitement, as demonstrated by the reaction in 2014 to Princeton undergraduate Tal Fortgang’s article refusing to apologize for his supposed privilege. His words caused a storm, and the ensuing tempest was picked up by national media.  But Fortgang’s explanation rested on some details that undermined his own cause.  He was Jewish, and his family had fled Nazi-occupied Poland (those who didn’t were killed). In fact, he should not have had to offer such a defense.  The child of, say, wealthy Protestant parents should have the same right to not constantly apologize for his existence, for once identity politics are unleashed, no one is immune.

Indeed, the logic of demanding that people “check their privilege” is hard to grasp unless it is merely a verbal gesture (one so many academics are apparently willing to make).  Are they to hand it over? In what form and to whom? As in China? Cambodia? Eastern Europe? Or simply apologize for it forever more – as so many people who attacked Fortgang’s article seem inclined to do?  Yet it is telling that the meas culpas written to protest Fortgang’s and similar articles tend to be written in highly confident and assertive tones, perhaps in the belief that such self-criticism, so familiar a sight in totalitarian regimes, might spare the writers from personal attacks.

Do these good souls eager to “check their privilege” really aspire to live in a society that imposes ideological conformity and rhetorical policing on all its citizens? Or do they just want to display their own sterling credentials and moral superiority?  In fact, saying “Yes, I am privileged, I am guilty” changes not a thing.  It is an act of acquiescence to ritual humiliation.

The logical fallacy of this offering was beautifully displayed at Harvard in March 2016: During a formal debate ostensibly about renewable energy, two black debaters decided instead to attack their opponents’ skin color, and suggested that since “white life is based off black subjugation,” the ethical thing for whites to do is to kill themselves. “Affirmative suicide, that’s cool,” one experienced debater declared. “It’s one little step in the right direction.”

Related: Working Hard to Convince Freshmen They Are Victims

In the light of such statements, the recent attacks on Professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College are mild—students merely shouted obscenities at him and demanded that he be fired. Evidently, even polite disagreement with the new campus dogma is not allowed. Weinstein’s great offense was to express the opinion that the college’s Day of Absence (whereby whites are asked to stay off campus for a day, an inversion this year of the annual ritual by which black students and faculty leave the campus to demonstrate how sorely they would be missed).

It is intolerable that Professor Weinstein should say, as he did: “On a college campus, one’s right to speak – or to be – must never be based on skin color.” No, according to his student critics, the mere expression of such a view provides incontrovertible evidence of the professor’s racism, which must be punished.

When the supposed oppressors knuckle under, either because they really believe in their guilt or because they’re trying to protect themselves from similar attacks by being vocal “allies,” a healthy society of individuals not subjected to group-think evaporates quickly. All that is left is arguments based not on reason and evidence but on blackmail and threats of violence. The rapid capitulation to the presumably correct politics of inflamed students has been visible for decades; it just wasn’t so cravenly embraced by administrators most of the time.  But now it is.

A Nation of Whiners and Grovelers

Claiming to feel unsafe—but only when the claim is put forth by a member of an official oppressed group–is the facile new campus device for preventing unpopular speech. News flash: life is dangerous, full of risks. Being safe from the words and attitudes of one’s neighbors isn’t possible in any absolute sense.  Never having to hear a discouraging word is incompatible with a society of free people, who, yes, are capable of being unkind, thoughtless, even mean and nasty.

It’s difficult to let go of highly emotional accusations that take no account of changing conditions or individual agency. Is the U.S. the same now as it was in the 1960s, the 1980s?  Hardly. Yet today, in the sub-legal environment of college campuses, any hurt feelings can be turned into a weapon, and the truth of an accusation counts not at all, merely the identity of the accuser and the accused.

We have created categories positively designed to stimulate accusations and aggravate resentments, and it should surprise no one that this is precisely what is taking place, as self-righteous students believe ever more deeply in their right to control others. Evidently, it is far easier to play this game of gotcha than to go about constructing a positive life for oneself.  The herd mentality is at work. We’ve become a nation of whiners and grovelers. Are all such demands for greater equality destined to founder and become mere reversals of privilege? Is that the new ideal of American citizenship?

In this topsy-turvy world, speaking truth to power has morphed into endless lies about our social reality. Everything in life is supposedly stacked against those whose forebears may indeed have experienced prejudice and marginalization, even if they have no experience of it in their own lives.  Who would wish to admit to not actually being a victim, when the payoffs are lavish, in sheer emotional indulgence, destructiveness to those around one, and the actual power to bring them down? How much more gratifying and, indeed, economical, than trying to work hard, learn, and forge a path through life. Claiming victimhood denies any agency while paradoxically fully displaying it in the too often successful attempts to destroy others over a comment or opinion.  Why not threaten violence in order to suppress expression of the “wrong” opinions?

What Fun to Attack Their Elders

The need to count grievances, and to invent them if none are readily available, creates a new social reality. But no one calls this the social construction of grievance. No; it’s simply called reality, and presented as if it were a fact of contemporary life. And like all other closed systems, there is no way to combat or contradict this representation, since to do so immediately marks one as a defender of privilege, a loathsome enemy of those suffering souls clamoring for justice.

That those suffering souls are college students in modern-day America evidently does nothing to modify this caricature.  Identity is all – except, of course, in those cases where one simply decides to adopt another identity (e.g., males “identifying as female”), in which case that simple declaration must be respected by all.

So, what have we? A real reality, in which race, sex, and class actually do exist and matter? Or a make-believe reality of which I am a victim if I say so and you an oppressor if I say that? Of which not referring to me by my preferred pronoun is a grievous injury?

In today’s academy, all offenses are treated as the same offense. When a cruel word is the same thing as a physical assault, a skeptical attitude about claims to perpetual victimization is simply not to be tolerated.  The inmates are running the asylum; the doctors have capitulated, afraid of losing their jobs or merely being stigmatized by people whose newly acquired virtue consists in insisting they are victims.

Enraged students these days evidently have too much time on their hands. Their school work is ever-less demanding, and their energy seems to find no outlet in positive activities – say, learning. Thus they must seek out alternatives.  What fun to attack their elders, those who dare imagine they have something to teach them, those whose lives will (if they don’t lose their jobs) continue in these educational institutions long after the irate students have gone on to greener pastures.

Or maybe not. Perhaps not using their time in college to actually learn about the world beyond their narrow little vision of villains and victims will have some cost in their future lives.  Maybe one day they’ll realize they wasted a great opportunity, that they weren’t in college to do moral grandstanding, to engage in risk-free politics, to create little storms endlessly magnified by the media, but to actually explore the world, to get beyond frantic recriminations and gain some understanding.  To do that, however, they’d have to value the opportunity to study, open their minds, give up their puerile grievances, and grow up.

Of course, if the elders around them can’t get beyond abject apologies and groveling, the adult world doesn’t look very enticing.  In which case, it makes sense to just continue with the same drama, the same recriminations, forever more. After all, it seems to pay—at least for now, at least on the very dangerous terrain of the modern university.

Four Lessons for Professors from Recent Campus Tumult

1) Never object to a diversity policy publicly. It is no longer permitted. You may voice concerns in a private conversation, but if you do it in a public way, you are inviting a visit from a mob or punishment from an administrator.

2) Do not assume that being politically progressive will protect you (as Weinstein found out at Evergreen and the Christakises learned at Yale). Whatever your politics, you are eventually going to say or do something that will be interpreted incorrectly and ungenerously. Your intentions don’t matter (as Dean Spellman found out at CMC). This is especially true if your university offers students training in the detection of microaggressions.

3) If a mob comes for you, there is a good chance that the president of your university will side with the mob and validate its narrative (as the presidents at Yale and Evergreen have done, although the presidents at Middlebury and Claremont McKenna did not).

4) If a mob comes for you, the great majority of its members will be non-violent. However, given the new standard operating procedure (which I described in a recent Chronicle article entitled “Intimidation is the New Normal”) you must assume that one or more of its members is willing to use violence against you, and you can assume that many members of the mob believe that violence against you is morally justifiable.

Excerpted with permission from Heterodox Academy

How Political Correctness Corrupted the Colleges

How can it be that, in the face of daily news of murders, grotesque punishments, and open oppression by radicals abroad, here at home American college students, who have grown up with degrees of freedom and autonomy virtually unknown in most times and places, agitate for restrictions on their own campuses, demand rules, regulations, and censorship in the name of their versions of justice?

I don’t think the answer to this question is that “this generation” of American college students is just more authoritarian in their way of thinking than their predecessors, or more impassioned about their political commitments. Nor do I think that they have been brainwashed by their families or school teachers – though this too plays a role.

Related: Limp Administrators Let the Angry Few Take Over

What has happened is that over the past couple of decades “political correctness” became mainstreamed: it went from characterizing only certain parts of the university (above all “identity” programs, such as women’s studies, openly committed to particular kinds of social change and intolerant of divergent views) to enjoying an obligatory and sincere endorsement by many faculty and administrators. This involves a massive redefinition of what higher education is and ought to be.

All the Dread Isms

Not that this is news. In the early 1990s, when I was still in women’s studies, some professors required their white students to disclose their first experience with blacks, and, if they declined to do so, the recalcitrant students were accused of being “in denial”  about their own racism.  Charges of racism were proving very effective in shutting down discussion and leaving even people who knew better speechless.

What has changed since is that charges of racism, sexism, and other dreaded –isms have become ever more commonplace, so that entire institutions, not just individual professors and administrators, live in fear of having such charges lobbed their way. Thus, today, it is common for universities to have orientation programs for first-year students that explicitly aim to indoctrinate them about the attitudes and words considered not just rude or thoughtless but actionable. And to have speech codes and harassment policies that all too often are in clear violation of the Constitution.

Related: The Modern Campus as North Korea

The brouhaha at the University of Missouri and at Yale, for example, perfectly illustrates the shift: what a heady feeling, to be able to push administrators and faculty into resigning, with or without official self-abnegation. And with proliferating protective measures undertaken by universities (with their ever-expanding corps of administrators), is it any wonder that the supposed adults in academe become more disempowered, more fearful of being charged with one of the stigmatizing –isms?

Somehow, in America, the more students in fact enter universities, the more “flexible” our course offerings and activities, the easier it is to get a degree, the more aggrieved students feel by the persistence of complexity in their social environment. And the unsurprising result for students who know little history and less world politics is clear: what is being demanded by protesting students is a kind of control over others that would seem to have no place in a free society. But how are they to know this, if they have little knowledge and simple views of their own society and its place in the world?

The situation is not helped by the readiness with which what used to be serious intellectual venues now join in the fray. In The New Yorker, on Nov. 10, 2015, for example, Jelani Cobb has an article whose very title lays out the parameters of acceptable speech.  It is called “Race and the Free-Speech Diversion.” Such a juxtaposition both dismisses free speech and delegitimizes concerns about it at the outset.

Related: What Students Are Demanding Now

It’s hard to believe Americans would be so quick to adopt such a cavalier attitude toward one of our most valuable rights if they had actual experience of the repressive dictatorships that existed and still exist in various parts of the world. But the worst part is that these angry students and their academic abettors know and understand the First Amendment. Yet, they actively and open blatantly oppose it, believing that only the speech they approve of should be protected. The same attitudes prevail with rights of due process, routinely violated on college campuses. Why should those accused of using a racist slur or engaging in an unwanted touch or tasteless joke have any rights? Why shouldn’t they at once be punished? Forced to apologize, to grovel, to resign? This is the climate of vigilantism and instant (in) justice that prevails. And it should surprise no one that students will use whatever weapons come their way.

The Oppression Sweepstakes

Way back in 1994, Noretta Koertge, a philosopher of science and I used the term “oppression sweepstakes” in our book Professing Feminism to describe the unseemly competition in academe (though not only there) for most oppressed status. We lamented that young women were opportunistically embracing the rhetoric of victimhood. Students were also learning to spot “sexual harassment” everywhere around them, thanks to regulations that became ever broader and looser, the better to catch any offending word, look, innuendo, or gesture. Due process, like First Amendment rights, became just another quaint notion to be despised by campus justice warriors.

I remember the first time that a student asked me (in class) to give “trigger warnings” about material I was assigning.  That was perhaps ten years ago. Now that term, too, is commonplace.  Since then, hypersensitivity and the search for grievances have only intensified. As big problems disappear, little ones are forced into their place, and so we get “micro-aggression,” a sublime new term by which victim groups can keep complaining when the main sources of complaint have all but disappeared. Imagine the difficulty if one had to give up victimhood.

What are the implications of the fact that accusations of racism and sexism are so popular?  One obvious one is that, far from being a society riddled with social injustice, the U.S. has made so much progress that such charges are cast routinely and fearlessly for they prove amazingly effective in delegitimizing others. A neat one-up move that has effortlessly worked its way into our culture.

Being called a racist automatically cripples (excuse the ableist language) the accused, since any response is immediately cast as evidence that one is simply in denial and trying to protect one’s privilege. And having “privilege” has itself become a slur, another tool in the arsenal designed to impede opposing, or even just differing, points of views. Scores of dystopian fictions, films, and realities have done little to dissuade these campus rebels from a belief that their version of equality and justice can be imposed by fiat, with no serious negative consequences to themselves.

It’s Who Says It, Not What’s Said

Identity politics, rooted in race, gender, sexual orientation (and an ever-expanding list of other protected categories), creates a climate in which the key element is not what one says but who says it. The result: only certain people have the right to say certain things.  And since identity in fact does not tell us all we need to know about a person’s views, beliefs, commitments, or actions,  many additional terms have been created to curtail the speech and attack the legitimacy of those with dissenting views, terms like “Uncle Tom,”  “Oreo,”  “not a real woman,”  or “heteronormativity.”    Thus, identity politics has morphed from actually requiring evidence of discrimination to merely verbalizing the claim to a supposedly oppressed identity and constantly hurt feelings.

When truth and falsity are determined by who speaks, not what is said or what relationship it bears to reality, we’re in free fall, and one can expect that those who yell loudest and claim the greatest oppression will rule. Not a pretty picture, and certainly not the way a democracy is supposed to function. Bertrand Russell referred to this many years ago with his ironic phrase regarding “the superior virtue of the oppressed.”

Intolerance with Moral Superiority

But this snapshot of some of the most popular gotcha games of our time does not suggest to me that students want to be treated like children, or that they genuinely want university administrators to protect them from unpleasantness and discomfort.

That is far too innocent a view of their energetic protests.  Their actions suggest more worldly aims:  they want to be tyrants, able to impose their will while disguising that drive with claims of moral superiority to those around them.

And a good deal of the responsibility for this state of affairs rests with faculty and administrators.  Universities are not the only places attacking liberal values and the Western tradition, but what is perhaps surprising is that they’re not even willing to defend themselves as places where serious learning intellectual efforts are supposed to go on. What else does their desperate commitment to so-called social justice, community activism, and all the rest of the litany amount to? Having long ago abdicated intellectual leadership in favor of feel-good phony politics and self-defeating new definitions of their missions, these agents of the university are hardly in a position to protest students’ endless pursuits of these selfsame goals, which must rest on grievances and slights, real or imagined.

But, alas, when professors stop defending their academic endeavors  in intellectual terms and opt instead for ersatz politics, they are rapidly outclassed by young people who can do that better: with more energy, more time, more anger. Hence, unable to compete, professors instead attempt to ingratiate ourselves with students, hoping (not very effectively, it turns out) to avoid getting caught up in their attacks.

Related: A Targeted Teacher at Yale Quits

Why, then, be surprised when students use turn against those very administrators and faculty who have been capitulating to them for years?  And so students demand respect without earning it, status without achievement, and instantaneous action against the offenses they ferret out all around them.

Like other tyrants, petty or not, students engaging in phony revolutionary claims, these students just want to have their own way, impose their ideas, and be done with it.  Hence they shout down speakers, get invitations rescinded, and disrupt campus activities.

They may be infantile in their yelling and screaming, but that doesn’t mean they are actually seeking adult guidance. Not at all — they’re trying to intimidate their elders into further subjection and are achieving marked success. And they bravely do this in the comfy atmosphere of the modern university.

Isn’t it time for faculty to say:  How you feel is your own affair. Feelings get hurt; that’s life. People can be unpleasant, true.  But what matters here is what you do. You’re here to learn, to develop intellectually, and that requires effort and commitment, not moments of high drama and self-exaltation. Not every slight is an assault, every unkind word an instance of discrimination.

You want to know about inequality and pain? Just travel around the world and see what the absence of liberal values and functioning civil rights leads to, and then come back and see if continuing to complain about the horrendous inequities of your university is still your best bet for creating a better world.

A Targeted Teacher at Yale Quits

The problem of political correctness at Yale has comes up again because it let a good scholar quit teaching under heavy pressure from students over a very mild email she wrote about Halloween costumes at Yale.

The email said she thought that an official campus group really shouldn’t be telling students what costumes to avoid. PC people have been labeling the wearing of various costumes as “cultural appropriation”– for instance, only a pirate should be wearing a pirate’s costume. Nicholas Christakis and his wife, Erika Christakis, a lecturer in psychology and early childhood development at Yale’s Child Study Center, emerged as targets of black students and other “marginalized” students and their allies. Her message lamented what she called an increasingly censorial and prohibitory climate at American universities.”

A group of angry students confronted Nicholas Christakis, master of Silliman College, one of the residential Yale houses. A few of the students cursed him out and seemed to threaten him (“We know where you live”) because he and his wife, the associate master of Silliman, had failed to provide them proper comfort and a safe space.

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, the highest-ranking black official at Yale, both issued notably cold and feeble responses to Christakis’ decision to quit teaching at the university.

The Yale Daily News reported:

Among the demands made by Next Yale, a fledgling campus activist group that addresses issues of race on campus was the removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis from the positions of master and associate master of Silliman College, respectively. The demands, presented to University President Peter Salovey at his home at around midnight on Nov. 12, do not mention the Christakies’ roles as Yale educators.

On Nov. 17, Salovey and Holloway wrote that they “fully support” the Christakises’ mastership in a joint email to Silliman students.

Two open letters published last months by various professors — one supporting student concerns about racism and marginalization, and another standing in solidarity with the Christakises — gave voice to multiple sides of a heated debate over free speech, sensitivity and racism on Yale’s campus. The first letter was signed by several hundred faculty members, including the Christakises. The second, authored by physics professor Douglas Stone and signed by 69 faculty members, said those who have mounted a campaign against Erika Christakis have reduced the “educational variety” for all Yale undergraduates.

“As faculty colleagues we wish to express our strong support of the right of Erika and Nicholas Christakis to free speech and freedom of intellectual expression,” the letter stated.

In past years, hundreds of students shopped each of Erika Christakis’ classes, Stone said, adding that she planned to teach additional seminar sections this year to handle the demand. He added that attacks, not just on Christakis’ email, but on her character and integrity as well, have led to her decision not to teach. Stone said he encouraged Christakis to reconsider her decision to stop teaching after a “cooling off period.”

Although Stone said he welcomes criticism by students and faculty as part of a respectful dialogue, he said he thought the response to Christakis’ letter unfairly characterized her words as racist.

“It goes without saying that faculty using racial epithets or harassing speech … should not be tolerated or defended in any way,” Stone said. “I don’t think that is at issue in the current situation.”

Limp Administrators Let the Angry Few Take Over

The tumultuous, racially charged demonstrations that rocked American campuses this fall show few signs of abating. In fact, they’re spreading across the country because student activists have been emboldened by their “successes.”

For example, at the University of Missouri, the president and chancellor resigned amid protests (even the football team threatened to go on strike) regarding allegations of racism on campus and the administration’s refusal to address them. In response, the UM system announced the creation of a Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer and various diversity initiatives.

Related: What Yale’s President Should Have Said

Common threads running throughout the campus upheavals include attacks on principles of free speech and a willingness on the part of school officials to mollify students and cede control to leftist protesters. Given higher education’s track record, however, both developments are unsurprising.

Universities have long preached the gospel of social justice through politicized degree programs, coursework, and university policies. For years, there has been a proliferation of gender, black, and gay studies programs and a host of other partisan “studies” fields. Meanwhile, universities have ramped up multiculturalism “training” for students, professors, and administrators.

And they’ve long treated students as customers to be appeased at all costs to keep the money flowing. The mindset born of the combination of political correctness and consumerism has brought about policies that attempt to “protect” students’ emotional well-being—usually at the expense of scholarly debate and the open exchange of ideas. Schools have disinvited campus speakers who offend the sensibilities of left-leaning students. They’ve given credence to illiberal concepts such as “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”

A Lame Defense of Trigger Warnings 

The initial end result has been the debasement of campus discourse, increased cultural and racial division, and diminished academic standards. But we are witnessing an even more disturbing trend: much of academia is being turned on its head, with the least knowledgeable and least mature members of the academic community assuming command based on their emotions.

Protests started by individual campus events and by events outside academia have coalesced into a powerful national movement. Actual authorities cravenly submit to their demands, and one is tempted to think of such historical anti-intellectual movements as the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao-tse-tung or the Italian monk Savonarola’s “bonfires of the vanities.” 

Related: Our North Korean Campuses 

Under the banners of “racial equality” and “solidarity,” some of the protesters—who have aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement and other non-academic liberal causes—have shunned civil debate entirely. At Dartmouth College, protesters stormed a library, shouting racial epithets at white students trying to study.

At Yale University, a student screamed at a school official whose wife (also a Yale employee) had had the temerity to suggest that administrators should not regulate “offensive” Halloween costumes worn by students. Others have vandalized campus statues and monuments tied to historical figures with controversial pasts or racist legacies.

More problematic than these and related incidents, however, has been universities’ timid responses. Out of fear of public shaming and protest, school officials have caved to this new movement’s politically correct thought police. As mentioned above, some have resigned, and others have promised to spend millions on diversity and racial sensitivity programs.

The Mess at UNC

Some administrators seem so fearful of this movement that they have joined with it preemptively. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in response to the events on the campus, in Missouri, and elsewhere, Chancellor Carol Folt recently announced the creation of a new high-level administrative position aimed in part at improving race relations on campus. And on November 19 the school hosted a “Town Hall on Race and Inclusion” which embodied much of what’s wrong about higher education’s tendency to conciliate students.

Roughly 1,400 people—including Folt, the university’s board of trustees, hundreds of professors and administrators, and students—packed the school’s performing arts center. High above the stage, the university’s motto, Lux libertas (Light and Liberty), was displayed—a message that starkly contrasted with the event’s eventual tenor of groupthink and hostility to dissent.

Folt gave the opening remarks, telling the crowd, “[Nothing] matters more to me [than] having these conversations and trying to…make people in our community feel safe, feel welcome.” She then introduced Clarence Page, a liberal syndicated columnist, who was supposed to moderate the event. Instead, he weakly lost control to students who defied the event’s rules at every turn

‘It’s Our University’

Before Page could give his introduction, a group of roughly 40 students stormed down one of the aisles, chanting “Whose university? Our university!” One student held a sign that read “F— Whiteness.” Another, “UNC Admin Supports Violent Hate Speech.”

The group’s leader grabbed a nearby microphone and brusquely told the crowd, “We are going to read these demands out and you are gonna sit here and listen because we have things that we need to say and problems that need to be fixed.” This was followed by cheers and finger-snapping. Then came the demands, which members of the group took turns reading.

Mandatory Programming, Please

Among other things, students are calling for “mandatory programming [that] teaches the historical racial violence of this University and town….” They also demand “more aggressive recruitment of Black faculty and faculty of color” and an end to the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions decisions, as those standardized tests, according to protesters, “disproportionately benefit” wealthy white students. “Gone are the days where we ask for what is past due to us: we are here to take what is ours. Tear it down, or we shut you down,” concludes the document.

Only once did the moderator speak up and tell the protesters, who took roughly 30 minutes to read such demands, that other students in attendance deserved a chance to speak, too. And even after the protesters left, he allowed students to exceed the pre-determined two-minute speaking limit. Chancellor Folt, nor any of the faculty and administrators in attendance, addressed such insolence. Two students expressed objection to the protesters’ tactics and to the other student-commenters. Muffled sneers percolated through the crowd after those objections were made.

Diversity Brainwashing

Chancellor Folt provided closing remarks. “We couldn’t have heard more strongly that we need training,” she said, possibly referring to “racial equity training,” which one male student suggested should be mandatory for university employees. (“A lot of black people have spoken and have different views, but we all agree on one thing: systemic racism exists. If you don’t understand that it exists, you won’t get it,” he had said.)

That student, a freshman, said he had learned all about “systemic racism” at a diversity training workshop sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Each year, taxpayers devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to that office, which seems more focused on indoctrinating students into political activism than objectively educating students or creating a positive campus climate.

At any rate, perspective is important. Twenty-nine thousand undergraduate and graduate students attend UNC-Chapel Hill; the truculent protesters at the town hall event represent a very small fraction of that total. And while some agree with those protesters and their tactics, many others do not. There are signs that students at Chapel Hill and other universities want administrators to restore civility and reopen the marketplace of ideas on campus.

Furthermore, the vitriol toward other groups expressed by the protestors clearly shows that justice for all is not their goal, but that they seek vengeance and advantage.

Letting the Few Take Over

So it’s time for university leaders to stop allowing a small minority of militant activists to control university policies and campus dialogue. Rather than kowtow to the fringe and waste resources on diversity initiatives and cultural reeducation programs, which have abysmal track records, Chapel Hill and other universities should use recent events as a broader learning lesson.

In the coming months, instead of fear, university leaders should show “solidarity” around the First Amendment, intellectual vitality, and real diversity—viewpoint diversity, which is sorely lacking on many campuses. They can remind students that coercion and the stifling of opposing views—no matter how offensive they may be—hurts one’s cause and social progress itself. The Black Lives Matter movement and other movements in the broader culture are free to behave as they wish; on college campuses, however, higher standards must be maintained and cherished.

In the end, this is a struggle to restore the spirit of higher education. The UNC protestors asked one very important question—“Whose university?” It’s time for administrators, particularly at public universities, to think long and hard about that. Unfortunately, for many, it seems too difficult a task. After all, they created the university according to their beliefs, and the protesters are their intellectual progeny.  

Reprinted from the John William Pope Center for Educational Policy. Jesse Saffron has been with the Pope Center since 2013.

What Students Are Demanding Now

As protest season expands, students at a growing number of colleges and universities are listing their demands. Many of them are want to expand the campus diversity bureaucracies, curb free speech to stop microaggressions and anti-protest remarks, and impose mandatory social-justice training for students and faculty.

Walter Olson of Cato and Overlawyered.com compiled a list of demand highlights. They include:

  • “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions perpetrated by faculty and staff” [@wesleyan_u]:
  • “Incorporate into each department at least one queer studies class.” [Dartmouth]
  • Compulsory, in-person, and regular [faculty] anti-oppression training” led by individuals with significant experience in anti-oppression work [Brown]
  • “Campus police participate in the University-wide political education…. Policing as an institution must be abolished.” [UNC, Chapel Hill]
  • An increase in tenure-stream faculty whose research specializes in…Black Queer Studies, Hip-Hop Studies…Decolonial Theory” (Michigan State)
  • Prioritize recruitment and retention of undocumented students.” [@GuilfordCollege]
  • “Mandatory programming [on] ways in which racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and cisheteropatriarchy structure our world.” [Chapel Hill]
  • One confession of racism by a faculty member each week @GuilfordCollege]

KC Johnson of CUNY, Brooklyn College and Minding the Campus, tweeted, “Striking how many demands violate core academic freedom principles by stripping from faculty control of curriculum & hiring.” FIRE’s Alex Morey wrote, “Among the enumerated items on lists of demands popping up at dozens of schools—at institutions like the University of WyomingSan Francisco State University, and Amherst College—demands that college authorities take steps to dissuade or even sanction community members who express disagreement with the protesters are worryingly common.

Particularly concerning are calls for speech codes demanding punishment of constitutionally protected “hate speech,” mandatory trainings requiring students to voice agreement with certain ideologies (compelled speech), and rules about what faculty cannot, or must, teach.”

Our AntI-Israel American Universities

The foundations of American Jewish life are under assault today in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago. Academia is ground zero of the onslaught. The protest movements on campuses are primarily anti-Jewish movements.

For the past decade or so, Jewish communal leaders and activists have focused on just one aspect of this anti-Jewish campaign. Jewish leaders have devoted themselves to helping Jewish students combat the direct anti-Semitism inherent to the anti-Israel student movements.

Despite the substantial funds that have been devoted to fighting anti-Israel forces on campuses, they have not been diminished. To the contrary, with each passing year they have grown more powerful and menacing.

Consider a sampling of the anti-Jewish incidents that took place over the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, Daniel Bernstein, a Jewish student at University of California Santa Cruz and a member of the university’s student government was ordered not to vote on a resolution calling for the university to divest from four companies, which do business with Israel.

Bernstein represents UCSC’s Stevenson College at the university student government. He is also vice president of his college’s Jewish Student Union. Ahead of the anti-Israel vote, Bernstein received a message from a member of his college’s student council ordering him to abstain from the vote on Israel divestment.

The student council, Bernstein was informed, had determined that he was motivated by “a Jewish agenda,” and therefore couldn’t be trusted to view the resolution fairly.

In the same message, Bernstein’s correspondent gave him a friendly “heads up” that his fellow students are considering removing him from office because he is a Jew supported by the Jewish community.

To his credit, Bernstein ignored his orders. He voted to oppose the anti-Israel resolution.

Following the incident Bernstein published a statement decrying the anti-Jewish discrimination and hatred now rampant on his campus.

Among other things, he wrote, “I wish that [my] being subjected to anti-Semitism was a shocking new occurrence. But the truth is that I’m not shocked. I’m not shocked because this hatred and ignorance has followed me everywhere. I’m not shocked because Jewish students have been targeted with this vile racism all over the [University of California] UC system for years, and especially since BDS became a major issue of discussion. Anti-Semitism … has … become an inseparable part of campus politics right here at UC Santa Cruz and across the UC system.”

Then there is the growing movement of professional associations that boycott Israel.

Last week the National Women’s Studies Association passed a resolution to join the BDS movement. The resolution, written in turgid, incomprehensible prose, proclaimed that the only state in the Middle East that provides full and equal rights to women is so evil that it must be singled out and boycotted, sanctioned and the university must divest from it.

Whereas Bernstein was personally targeted, and the NWSA criminalizes Israel, at CUNY, on November 12, a group of protesters targeted the Jewish community as a whole.

That day, as part of a national “million student march,” where students demanded free tuition, anti-Jewish students at CUNY rallied at Hunter College and introduced a new demand: the expulsion of all Israel supporters from campus.

Congregating in the center of the campus, some 50 students chanted in unison, “Zionists out of CUNY!”

Aside from an anodyne statement in favor of “freedom of expression,” CUNY administrators had nothing to say about the affair.

For their part, Hunter’s administrators issued a statement “condemning the anti-Semitic comments,” made by the rally participants.

But no disciplinary measures were taken against any of them.

Speaking to the Algemeiner, StandWithUs’s northeast regional director Shahar Azani said that the Hunter incident “is another example of the hijacking of various social causes by the anti-Israel movement.”

In making this claim, Azani was merely repeating the position taken by Jewish communal leaders and activists involved in the fight to defend Jews and Israel on university campuses. Unfortunately, this position is incorrect.

According to the prevailing wisdom guiding Jewish communal responses to the onslaught against Jewish students on campuses, the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish movements are distinct from the wider anti-liberal forces now disrupting campus life throughout the US. As Jewish leaders see things, there is no inherent connection between the protesters embracing victimhood and demanding constraints on freedom of expression, inquiry and assembly (and free tuition), and those who seek to drive Jews out of the public sphere on college campuses.

In other words, they believe that Zionists can be crybullies too.

But they can’t.

The crybully movement, which demands that universities constrain freedom to cater to victim groups, is necessarily hostile to Jews. This is the reason that at the same time that “victims” from blacks to transgenders are coddled and caressed; Jews have emerged as the only group that is not protected. Indeed, the BDS movement requires universities to discriminate against Jewish students.

 

The inherent conflict between the tenets of the “progressive” movement and Jewish rights is exposed in a guide to racial “microaggressions” published earlier this year by the University of California. Students and faculty must avoid committing these “microagressions” if they want to stay on the right side of campus authorities and the law.

The UC defines “microagressions” as, “brief, subtle verbal or non-verbal exchanges that send denigrating messages to the recipient because of his or her group membership (such as race, gender, age or socio-economic status).”

Transgressors can expect to be accused of engendering a “hostile learning environment,” an act that can get you expelled, fired and subjected to criminal probes.

As law professor Eugene Voloch reported in The Washington Post last June, among other things, the list of offenses includes embracing merit as a means of advancing in society. A statement along the lines of “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” can destroy a person’s academic career.

So too, statements rejecting race as a significant factor in judging a person’s competence are now deemed racist. For instance statements to the effect of, “There is only one race, the human race,” “America is a melting pot” or “I don’t believe in race” can land a student or instructor in hot water.

In a column last week, Dennis Prager noted that the list castigates as racism all the pillars of liberal society in America. The list, he wrote, shows that “the American university is now closer to fascism than to traditional liberty.”

Prager is right, of course. But the fascist takeover of American academia will not affect all Americans equally.

Jews are the greatest victims of this state of affairs.

For the better part of the past hundred years, the upward mobility of American Jewry has been directly correlated with America’s embrace of meritocratic values. The more Americans have looked past race and ethnicity and judged people by their talents, characters and professional competence, the higher Jews have risen. Conversely, where qualities other than competence, talent and professionalism have determined social and professional status, Jews have suffered. They have faced discrimination and their opportunities to advance have been limited.

Academia is but a small component of American society. But to earn a place in America’s middle, upper-middle and upper classes, you need at least an undergraduate degree. Moreover, university graduates go on to populate and head the state and federal governing bureaucracies, the business world, the entertainment sector and every other major area of human endeavor in American society.

Academia’s simultaneous rejection of core liberal principles and legitimization of anti-Semitic forces is not a coincidence. Jews are a constant reminder that human agency – rather than race and other group identities – has everything to do with a person’s ability to excel in academics and beyond. For fascist principles to hold, Jews must be demonized and hated.

The intrinsic link between anti-Semitism and fascism and their simultaneous embrace by a key American institution means that the equal rights and freedoms of Jews are far more threatened in America today than most Jewish leaders and activists have realized. The Jewish community’s failure to date to defeat the anti-Semitic forces on campuses owes at least in part to its failure to recognize or contend with the dual nature of the problem.

Reprinted with permission from the Jerusalem Post


 

Caroline B. Glick, an American-born Israeli, is  deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. She served as assistant foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from 1997 to1998 and is author of the 2008 book, Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad.

North Korea Has Taken Over Academe

Perhaps it’s time for universities to institute a course in logic as a basic requirement for all students. Then we might encounter more rational and thoughtful protests taking place all over the country, instead of the spectacle of students demanding that professors and administrators be fired for using words or voicing opinions disapproved by minority students (or those who speak for them).But even in this climate, a particularly egregious case occurred recently, whose ramifications continue to unfold.

Don’t Mention the Slur

At the University of Kansas, on November 12, during a discussion of race in a graduate course in communications, Professor Andrea Quenette dared to the use the word “nigger” as an example of the sort of slur she had never seen on campus. Outraged students objected in a lengthy and detailed letter charging that Dr. Quenette’s deployment of racially violent rhetoric not only creates a non-inclusive environment in opposition to one of the University of Kansas’ core tenets, but actively destroys the very possibility of realizing those values and goals.

The professor had compounded her offense of disagreeing with the students’ claims of systemic racism by arguing that the low retention and graduation rates of Black students were due to, among other things, “academic performance,” not to constant threats to their physical safety.  The students cited these views as part of an “unsafe learning space and hostile work environment.”   Anticipating rejoinders, the twelve students made their views abundantly clear:

“The response that more dialogue is needed to resolve this problem is insufficient to redress our claim that the space of dialogue is coded through terror and hostility. The belief that democratic deliberation is neutral is wrong and dangerous.”

In a desperate attempt to stretch limitations to the First Amendment, they also argued that, “…by imbuing racist language, remarks, and viewpoints into the pedagogy her students were meant to replicate, Dr. Quenette was training us to perpetrate acts and ideas violating the policies of the university. Therefore, her speech is not protected by the First Amendment and employer discipline for her remarks is not only legal, but necessary based on her breach of contract.”

At the next class, the students demanded that Professor Quenette read aloud their letter calling for her termination. And when she refused, citing potential legal implications for herself, they walked out of her class. Several then filed charges against her, which the university dignified by investigating. Meanwhile, each day brings new charges against any and all, which the frightened administration seems eager to placate. As for the professor, she is on paid leave.

Placed on Leave, but Why?

Not one to mince words, Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties attorney and co-founder of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has for more than fifteen years battled speech codes, obligatory diversity training, and other violations of First Amendment rights on campus, says, “[This case is] breath-taking as evidence that North Korea has arrived in academia, where students feel empowered to coerce a professor into reading a statement that the students drafted for her. (And for years, when, in my speeches and lectures, I’ve compared the campuses to ‘North Korean re-education camps,’ people said I was exaggerating and over-reaching! Turns out I was just a few years ahead of reality.)”

But the university itself evidently sees no such problem, as Provost Jeffrey Vitter’s letter of November 17th to the campus community makes clear.  Here he lays out the university’s commitments to end racism on campus and improve diversity – as if until this year no one had ever brought the matter up.  As at other universities, the mere voicing of charges is taken as evidence, which few (least of all administrators) dare question.

The blithe conflation of meliorism and indoctrination can readily be discerned in the Provost’s preview of an “action plan” that the university will unfold in January:

“The action plan will target retention and graduation rates of students, in addition to mandatory education, through facilitated sessions, on inclusion and belonging for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators and a plan for accountability.”

Helping with all this work are, of course, the many administrators – found at virtually all colleges these days – charged with overseeing diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism.

But most telling is the tone of anxiety, the evident desire to make it clear that such well-meaning and apologetic administrators should certainly not be included in students’ ire. Yet, ironically, by implication the Provost paints a portrait of  a university mired in a time warp where racism runs rampant and every one of the extraordinary gains made over the past 50-some years has somehow evaporated. He writes:

“I also am impressed by the KU faculty members who make it clear that racism and other forms of discrimination have no place in their classrooms and offices. As Chancellor Gray-Little mentioned in her message on Friday, change will happen not from the top down, but from within and with participation from across the institution. We must and will work together to make inclusion and respect for others a priority for everyone. As my time at KU comes to a close, I want to make sure everyone knows these issues will continue to command our attention. . . .”

One could hardly ask for a better obeisance to the current climate than the Provost’s concluding words:

“We can, and should, proudly proclaim, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It is the first of many steps we will take together. KU must be a place where people are recognized and celebrated for their curiosity, intellectual gifts, cultural insights, and artistic talents. And as Jayhawks, we must acknowledge that how people identify themselves adds to the richness of what they have to offer.”

Then, for an even more chilling look at what passes for education these days, the Provost reminds his readers of an important annual program called the Tunnel of Oppression, provided by The Office of Multicultural Affairs, for which faculty are urged to offer students extra credit:

The Tunnel of Oppression is a tour that will engage students in an immersive experience of scenes where participants will experience, firsthand, different forms of oppression through interactive acting, viewing monologues, and multimedia. Participants directly experience the following scenes of oppression: ability, class, body image, immigration, homophobia, genocide, relationship violence, and race.

But not even this is something students can be expected to absorb on their own, for the information about the event also tells us, “At the completion of the Tunnel experience participants will go through an active processing session where they will discuss the experience and learn how they can rethink their role in creating positive social change.”

Evidently, a college education is no longer in and of itself a source of “positive social change,” left to the discretion of each student to interpret and enact, nor does it occur to campus vigilantes that someday they, too, may need the protections afforded by the First Amendment. If, that is, they ever find themselves on the wrong side of the reigning orthodoxies. But if the University of Kansas is such a distressingly racist place today, the Tunnel, which has been in existence for a few days each year since 2001, seems to be an abysmal failure. Perhaps offering extra credit for visiting it is not enough and we should insist that doing so be part of the mandatory training of incoming students. Anything less may be a betrayal of what higher education is supposed to be about!

 

How Students Intimidate Professors and Stymie Learning

Hungry for love and it’s feeding time, Alice Cooper wrote in his 1991 classic song, “Feed My Frankenstein.” Academia has created its own Frankenstein with its speech codes, groupthink enforcement, and discouraging of dissent. This Frankenstein isn’t hungry for love – it’s hungry for power.  And academics themselves have belatedly discovered that they’re on the menu.

The most recent to find himself not the last up against the wall in this anti-free speech revolution is “Edward Schlosser,” a professor writing under a pseudonym at Vox, for reasons that become apparent almost immediately. Schlosser admits that he lives in fear of students who share his political point of view, and has to change his curriculum continuously to keep from running afoul of their potential for hurt feelings.

The relationship between students and teachers has changed, he says, thanks to the same hypersensitivity that Academia uses to silence dissent and debate. “The student-teacher dynamic has been reenvisioned along a line that’s simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective,” Schlosser writes, “giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher’s formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best.”

In the past, students complaints focused on actual teaching or bias in the classroom, issues which deal with the teacher’s actions and can at least form the basis of coherent criticism of behavior or teaching methods. Now, Schlosser knows that complaints can have little to with objective reality but with how the student perceives it.

He worries that an accusation will involve a lack of sensitivity to one individual’s “feelings,” or as Schlosser puts it, “some simple act of indelicacy that’s considered tantamount to physical assault … center[ed] solely on how my teaching affected the student’s emotional state.” Even if the instruction delivered is “absolutely appropriate and respectful,” any wounded emotions will “get a teacher in serious trouble” on today’s college campuses.

The only way to avoid the inevitable wounded-snowflake syndrome, Schlosser concludes, is to anodize the curricula so that no possible challenge to student worldviews sneaks into “higher education.” After watching a colleague lose his position over complaints that he had exposed them to Edward Said and Mark Twain, Schlosser began the clean-up project that continues to this day. Instead of challenging his students to learn, Schlosser felt compelled “to comb through my syllabi and cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad, texts ranging from Upton Sinclair to Maureen Tkacik.” Schlosser said he wasn’t alone in that effort.

Laura Kipnis, a tenured professor at Northwestern University, agrees. She wrote an essay in February criticizing the “sexual paranoia” on college campuses regarding Title IX issues. Based on the essay, which appeared in the Chronicle Review, two students filed harassment charges against Kipnis, saying that her essay had “’a chilling effect’ on students’ ability to report sexual misconduct .” Northwestern investigated Kipnis essentially for criticizing Title IX, finally clearing her late last month.

“What’s being lost, along with job security, is the liberty to publish ideas that might go against the grain or to take on risky subjects in the first place,” Kipnis concluded, noting that her tenure made it more difficult for Northwestern to get rid of her. “But even those with tenure fear getting caught up in some horrendous disciplinary process with ad hoc rules and outcomes,” Kipnis noted. “Pretty much everyone now self-censors accordingly.”

What created this problem? Schlosser considers but dismisses the speech-hostile policies on campuses. The issue is “a simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice,” he concludes. Combined with intense competition for teaching jobs in higher education, academics now feel intimidated into limiting themselves essentially to telling students what they want to hear, and not just in class but anywhere on campus or even in publications unaffiliated with their institutions at all. Ironically, academics find themselves deprived of any free-speech zones at all.

This has little to do with feelings, as Schlosser and others in academia are belatedly discovering.  The purpose is to impose each individual’s concept of social justice without actually doing any work traditionally associated with the concept. It’s easier to demand the cancellation of “an Afrobeat band because their lineup had too many white people in it” than it is to work to harmonize different cultures in the same space. It’s about enforcing identity over ideas, or entirely replacing ideas with blizzards of ever-changing boundary lines of victim constituencies.

Schlosser’s conclusion conveniently fails to follow through with the obvious next question. If students have “a stifling conception of social justice” that leans heavily on silencing dissent and policing speech and thought rather than engage on ideas, where did they learn it? The answer, for anyone who has attended either college, or paid attention to the proliferation of speech codes, development of “safe rooms and speech zones,” and the use of “triggers” to accuse people of harassment for what used to be rational debate, is pretty clear.

This is a stalking horse for censorship, not coincidentally of the same kind that college campuses have either encouraged or imposed for more than a generation on their students. The next generation will now experience “higher education” as an echo chamber, one in which teachers ensure that no cognitive dissonance enter the lives of those going into deep debt to experience what can only be considered an intellectual day-care, run by the toddlers. Those students have now become the masters. The academics created this monster, and now it has come for them. And us.

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