One Surefire Way to Stop Outrageous Student Demands

Why have the forces of political correctness triumphed so easily on today’s campuses? What kind of world is it when a campus can be in turmoil for a week if a white woman wearing hoop earrings is caught serving tacos at “South of the Border Night” in the school cafeteria? All to be followed by a cowardly administrator offering heartfelt apologies to offended students and promising do even more to promote a fully inclusive campus. Not even Franz Kafka could imagine such madness.

Let me offer a brief explanation of this craziness and with its origins understood, suggest a cure. As we shall see, eliminating this pox is not all that difficult and, best of all, courage is hardly necessary.

I’ll begin with two factors facilitating the PC triumph: (1) the cheapening of “doing good” and (2) the inability of administrators to resist the PC onslaught.

Doing Good. The impulse to “do good” is particularly common among the young, so it should be no surprise that millions of college students rally on behalf of what they believe to be a “good cause.” What has changed over the last half-century is that the cost of doing “good” has sharply declined. A do-gooder version of Moore’s Law– the number of transistors that can be put on a single integrated circuit (now about 7 billion) would double every two years (or 18 months)—now applies to “doing good.”

So, for example, a 19th-century do-gooder might volunteer at a soup kitchen, an effort that was personally time-consuming and reflected a limited, locally available charitable options. Merely carrying an “end world hunger” sign hardly counts as “doing good.”

Over time, the cost of campaigning to end world hunger has declined dramatically. Now just drop off a box of spaghetti at a supermarket collection point or send a check to the Salvation Army. Still, there is some tangible cost, however modest in this doing good. Even an ambitious humanitarian cannot write more than a few checks or otherwise feed the hungry.

By contrast, contemporary campus-based social justice warriors can be a Dervish on steroids at “saving the world” at minimal cost per cause. All it takes is concocting a list of “good ideas” and announcing it in public. No matter that this make-it-up-as-you-go-along jumble is pure theatrics and the candidates are almost limitless.

Even a middling campus activist might over a semester demand the university divest from companies producing fossil fuels, recruit more students of color, eliminate offensive names from school buildings, require mandatory anti-racism training for all faculty, increasing the penalties for sexual harassment, offer racially segregated “safe space” dormitories, eliminate homophobia and Islamophobia, drop racist sports symbols, or monitor micro-aggressions against stigmatized, marginalized groups.

Moreover, since no central control exists over this menu, options continually expand and cannot be anticipated. This is a far cry from when campus Marxists had to toe the party line. Nor is there any rule that requires demands to be financially or legally possible. Impossible demands may well signify a higher commitment and can be incomprehensible — for example, hiring counselors for those anxious over their “inter-sex” identity.

Campus confrontations are thus totally unlike labor/management negotiations over a handful of tangible disputes. Who knows when the next “hateful” incident will occur and the demands that it will trigger? Administrators may have only hours to react if a black undergraduate is arrested for shoplifting or a gay student is called “a queer” by a townie. No wonder official responses are so generic. Again, this is profoundly different than labor/management disputes where the specific agenda is known in advance.

Appropriation or Appreciation?

The futility of Counter-Arguments. Added to these tsunamis of demands is that nearly all are truly non-negotiable in the sense that even if administrators wanted to surrender, surrender is seldom an actual option. For example, a particularly common demand is sharply increasing faculty diversity, a call that, no doubt, most administrators endorse. Unfortunately, good luck to any administrator who will sit down with demonstrators and try to explain the legal and financial obstacles to this worthy goal, how this campus must compete with hundreds of others in pursuing minority faculty, and similar other reasonable rejoinders. Even agreeing with the protestors—America is hopelessly racist, diversity is essential, everything is the fault of whites, blacks are owed billions in reparations—will scarcely cool the passion of those determined to bring justice. What can any administrator say? Her bargaining position is hopeless.

Ironically, those presenting these wish lists of demands seem to have a childlike belief that today’s campus administrators are all-powerful who could surrender “if they really wanted to.” For example, if only sufficiently threatened, the school president could force the school’s endowment mangers to sell all stocks that invest in tobacco, defense industries or manufacture guns. A dean who explained that deans have no influence over endowment investments would not be believed—just a ruse, a devious way to undermine the pursuit of saving the world.

What is to be done? It should be clear that the triumph of campus PC rests on the administration’s mistaken view of what student demands are all about.

Let me now offer a concrete suggestion, one even feasible for spineless administrators. In a nutshell, ending the current PC mania will only come when the costs of “doing good” are dramatically increased. Let students think twice about offering up their non-negotiable nonsense. Here’s how.

When social justice warriors arrive with their usual dog’s breakfast of airhead ideas, the university apparatchik will immediately hand them “University Form 101, Request for University Intervention to Solve a Pressing Problem.” No different than the typical paperwork necessary for, say, creating a new major. Fifteen or so dense pages filled with IRS-like terminology will suffice. Note well, university administrators may be spineless, but when it comes to imposing paperwork, they are world class!

Form 101 will require the names of all those pressuring the university, their personal information, a brief (500 word) statement of objectives, a detailed listing of how the university is uniquely suited to accomplish this worthy cause, the value of this endeavor vis-à-vis already existing university and non-university ameliorative measures, potential sources of public and private funding, a specific project time-table, a history of the past successes (and failures) of comparable measures elsewhere, a legal analysis of the proposed initiative, and time-specific benchmarks necessary to calibrate success. A separate Form 101 will be required for each list item, and if social justice warriors are perplexed by the paperwork, the administration will happily provide workshops to complete the form-filling. Even though this paperwork nightmare is familiar to anyone on campus who has attempted to accomplish any policy change, the research and interviews necessary to complete Form 101 are a valuable learning experience.

If social justice warriors object, they will be told that if their quest is really that important, completing Form 101 is hardly an obstacle and, most importantly, the university is powerless to act unless all forms are properly completed and submitted. Until that time arrives, all demands will be put on hold.

Naturally, submitted forms may be returned with requests for additional information and clarifications. Alas, it takes time—perhaps an entire semester– before anything can happen but the smart money will bet that the passion for saving the world will wilt a day or two after receiving Form 101. The bureaucratic blob wins again. Yes, the demonstrations may linger on, but the administrator can now honestly say, “I absolutely agree that members of the Queer Community feel at risk and alienated from campus life, but until the paperwork arrives, I am powerless to act. Please, pretty please complete Form 101, so we can get busy correcting this historic injustice.”

In other words, who needs courageous deans to resist the PC idiots when you can just stop them with mind-dulling paperwork. And, as any academic can attest, university administrators excel at this task.

Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg

Robert Weissberg is a professor emeritus of political science at The University of Illinois-Urbana.

35 thoughts on “One Surefire Way to Stop Outrageous Student Demands

  1. A motivating factor often overlooked in student protests is the strong presence of a desire to have fun. Now, go figure.

  2. Only problem, most of these SJWs are backed by dumbass professors. They’d make filling out the paperwork an extra credit class project. Then develop a template, and make the paperwork even easier the next time. That’s what I’d do, and I only have a Master’s degree.

    1. That’s OK – the written justifications, and plans, and analyses obviously have to be judged by a committee…

  3. Nailed it.

    I am always amazed how college presidents will legitimize a mob and try to deal with it. Why don’t they do this…

    1. Address the mob, tell them that this is not a good way to hold a conversation about important matters
    2. Tell them to elect three representatives (designating one as the lead)
    3. And have that person make an appointment to come with the other two and meet with the president at a set time on a set date.

    Once they are in the meeting, then you can give them a chance to present their views and hand them the form and explain how it all works. Before they leave (maximum of 45 minute meeting) they are requested to make a follow up appointment for two weeks later.

    It is time these administrators acted like adults.

  4. HA! I volunteer at my local soup kitchen 3 days a week, 4-7 hours a day, and am known as “Chris the Trump voter” (good spiritedly, though with some wonder), and haven’t met many campus activists on the dish line.

  5. The activists would no doubt say that Form 101 is the worst thing in the world. And Dean (formerly Comrade) O’Brien would laugh.

  6. I used this plan in the 90’s in our private school. The proposal also had to include a preliminary budget and fundraising plan. I never received a single finalized proposal.

  7. The problem is that when it comes to enforcing politically correct dogma, most administrators are not spineless at all, but true-believer tyrants. Admin. across the country are instituting programs meant to enhance the students’ sense of victimhood and then fully weaponizing them — #WeaponizedSensitivity. While I like the tedious form requirement, students would demand an army of admin. assistants to assist them in filling them out, and the bureaucracy would obligingly bloat up even faster. I know the suggestion is tongue-in-cheek, but this mindset has gone beyond parody.

  8. My first reaction was that it would stifle free speech. In this case though, it allows administrators to only delay free speech with regard to their own institution so that they can respond thoughtfully to any proposals. To allow a minority to dictate and override the rest of the university community is unfair in the extreme.

    The proposal does not seek to limit free speech in general, but allows the university adults to pursue the objectives they were hired to achieve regardless of political persuasion. However, I don’t think that the administrators are surrendering in any form. The are using the students as an excuse for instituting policies they like. I don’t see them giving up that excuse.

    I would also note, that most, if not all of the protests that occur, especially illegal or violent ones, are of radicals of the left wing. I’m trying to think of conservatives that have had rioting, sit ins etc. I can’t. My memory isn’t real good, so if somebody has examples, lets hear them.

    I agree that having students run the paperwork gauntlet is educational as I learned on an issue that was important to me. I actually completed my gauntlet and got positive results. That may not be the case with the usually poorly thought out demands of the radical left.

    In addition to this proposal, I would suggest a list be made of universities that have already capitulated to politically correct demands. This list of universities would then be made available to the public, with the audience being corporations that hire graduates. For those companies that are interested in doing business and making money, they can stop hiring from those universities on the grounds that the university’s students aren’t adequately prepared for the real world. Students aren’t going to want to go to a university whose graduates aren’t hired. Existing students will transfer out, causing a great loss of funds to the PC institution. Money talks, I’ll not deny. I heard it once, it said goodbye.

  9. And when they throw tantrums and occupy campus buildings, disrupt speakers, or block roadways, make the cost of that severe. Drag them out and expel them. The crap will stop.

  10. The instructions should also remind applicants that plagiarism is a serious violation of university standards, and their Form 101 will be subjected to forensic plagiarism analysis and rejected if the analysis shows there is statistically significant evidence ( p > .05 ) that one or more of the required justifications is plagiarized.

    . . . the difficulty, of course, is that the administration (and the faculty, although they are unlikely to be asked for their consent) approves of the students’ outrageous demands and is just using the students as an excuse to implement policies administrators want. They don’t want to adopt a Form 101 requirement even though it would increase the number of positions in the university’s Diversity bureaucracy.

    1. I’m with Linda…these administrators aren’t spineless, they’re accomplices.

      They approve of these tactics and weep Crocodile Tears for the object of the students rage…

  11. Brilliant.

    I personally prefer a nice smile and a “No, now go f*** yourself kiddie,” but then I suspect I’ve got more spine than the sum total of all administrators in higher education today and I’m always armed.

    1. I much prefer asking “why?” — questioning their underlying assumptions.
      90% of them are unable to articulate a reason why they believe in the things they do, they just know what they are supposed to believe and hence do.

      They really are like lemmings — it’s actually kinda sad — and sometimes you can actually get through to them.

  12. I have a better idea. Keep these airheads out of college to begin with, using admission examinations to qualify for college work. This would take care of at least ten percent. Next, quit guaranteeing student loans. This will require that the institution actually provide an education that is worth the investment; no-one would take the risk of lending money to…for example…several hundred students of a discipline with no job appeal.

  13. I’m similarly staggered by the sheer brilliance of this idea. What will it take to get it implemented? Could this idea be pushed through by an act of Congress or even a regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Education? Can someone with an inside connection get it to Betsy DeVos?

    Mr. Weissberg, please do *not* let this stroke of genius slip quietly into the dustbin of memory. Push it for all it’s worth!

  14. The writer incorrectly thinks he is talking to someone who is able to understand his words
    logic AND gives a crap. The “students” in the indoctrination centers they attend only and always think only of what they want just as a newborn baby does because that is the only thing they know.

    1. Yeah, but what’s Professor Weissberg’s plan when George Soros funds an NGO whose mission is to fill out such paperwork for worthy causes?

      I gotta admit though, imposing paperwork does match Saul Alinsky’s advice to do things your people (in this case, spineless university administrators) like doing.

  15. My concern is that this would have the effect of encouraging and empowering the bureaucrats, who are also a tremendous problem. Bureaucratic bloat is one of the biggest driving factors in skyrocketing college costs, and this would only encourage more.

    I say simply remind the administrators that part of their job is to maintain good order on their campuses, remind them that they have plenty of powers to enforce that good order, and inform them that their professional future is contingent on them maintaining good order. All they have to do is treat the disruptive students like they treat accused rapists and conservatives in general now.

  16. Oh, but you see, requiring someone to fill out a form is symptomatic of patriarchal and colonialist oppression. At a minimum, the university should fund form filler-outers for kooky schemes that rolls along.

    1. “That is an interesting idea. We support your idea but first please fill out Form 101. Hopefully in the future there can be help to fill in the forms. But that can be done with out following the proper provided path. So please properly fill out Form 101”

  17. Protesters wanna change the University environment?

    Let ‘em fill out environmental impact statements.

    That’s even good training for what they will face when they graduate into real life.

  18. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. If the administrators had the courage and/or the inclination to respond as you suggest, there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with. How many of today’s college administrators actually agree with the demands? These superannuated undergraduates aren’t immune to saving the world on the cheap, either.

  19. Add in a four-figure “filing fee to cover administrative costs.”
    Between that, and the average SJWs inability to critically think through even one of the written requirements, you’ve got yourself a sure-fire way to eliminate 99.9% of the moronic demands currently festering at universities.

    1. Add in a four-figure “filing fee to cover administrative costs.”
      –Diggs

      I disagree. The campus activists will just run to the Student Government and demand that this fee be taken from mandatory student association fees. SJWs win, everybody else loses.

  20. Brilliant! It’s the bureaucratic equivalent of smothering it with a pillow.

    “Form 101 will require the names of all those pressuring the university, their personal information, a brief (500 word) statement of objectives, a detailed listing of how the university is uniquely suited to accomplish this worthy cause, the value of this endeavor vis-à-vis already existing university and non-university ameliorative measures, potential sources of public and private funding, a specific project time-table, a history of the past successes (and failures) of comparable measures elsewhere, a legal analysis of the proposed initiative, and time-specific benchmarks necessary to calibrate success.”

    1. … and since the university receives government funding, on submission, Form 101 becomes a document covered by the Open Records Act..

      To save time and money processing FOIA requests, the forms will be published in their entirety on the university web-site, including all personal identifying information.

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