Editor’s Note: The following is the first in a series of satirical articles loosely inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.
In honor of C.S. Lewis, who “discovered” the first set of correspondence.
“Satire’s nature is to be one-sided, contemptuous of ambiguity, and so unfairly selective as to find in the purity of ridicule an inarguable moral truth.” ― E. L. Doctorow
“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” ― Thomas Jefferson
“You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you’re doing is recording it.” ― Art Buchwald
PART I: THE YEAR 2021
Dear Dean Arnold,
Thank you for communicating with me in such a timely fashion regarding the concerns of your faculty. It is par for the course that these “discipline experts” are once again worried about another campus initiative. This is no longer the mid-20th century. The sun now sets in the west, and there aren’t always two sides to every story. In that spirit, I’d like to offer you some feedback on how to approach just a few of their questions.
I really think you opened up the conversation well by telling them that the college treasures academic freedom. It’s always best to open a discussion about antiracism and equity with a bone on which the faculty want to stand around and gnaw. Little do they know that their definition and our definition overlap like a Venn diagram, our side being filled with 21st century truth. While they believe academic freedom is about the free search for and proclamation of the truth, something we can parrot, we also believe that we need to make all voices equal—which means not having faculty teach some topics and not having students read certain literature. As you recall from the webinar we recently attended, 1619: The New Year Zero, requiring some voices to outweigh other voices based on outward appearance and geographic origin rather than quality, longevity, and influence, is absolutely necessary. We need to take a class like western civilization—archaic as it may be—and eliminate Eurocentric western perspectives. In other words, we must bring world history to western civilization and cut out literature from a western perspective. Your faculty may not understand how making a western civilization course equitable means cutting off the voices of dead, white, European males, but it does, and their shallow definition of academic freedom cannot undercut the college’s highest value of inclusion. It is your job to make them understand, or if not understand, at least not question our new status quo.
In terms of the question your faculty asked in the email and how you can best respond, I suggest emphasizing that the concept of antiracism is so patently virtuous, that to even question the definition is nearly racism itself in the worst (and newest) sense of the term. At least, it may as well be racism, since just about everything is racist these days, and the label is sure to get results. Nobody wants to be a racist. Everybody wants to be an antiracist. I mean, what don’t they understand? “Anti” plus “Racism” obviously equals being against racism!
I hope this helps, and I’ll see you in a few hours at the Library. Today is the day we let the librarians know we are taking away the Library computer lab in order to create office space for the new Office of Transcendentalism. No one needs to do that much research anyway.
By they way, I’m excited to tell you that all of these questions will soon be answered in full by the new Director of “DIED”. Yes, the rumors are true. We have reallocated funding away from the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) and are moving into the TLC space in order to fund the new 2,500-square-foot Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Decolonization Center in the Library building.
Dear Dean Arnold,
I’m sorry to hear you were asked to clarify the difference between equality and equity. You would think these faculty members would attend a training once in a while. You are the chair of the professional development committee, right? Don’t we have $5,000 in professional development funds to cover all faculty training and travel for the year? Why aren’t your faculty attending the Critical Social Justice webinars? The college sends out training schedules weekly! I need you to ask all your faculty about their professional development this semester—that way I can ascertain who is attending the right workshops and place a note in their file.
Let me address your faculty members’ misunderstanding about equality and equity. To put it bluntly, equality is a word we don’t use anymore because it implies that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other visible or invisible difference, is actually equal to one another, no better and no worse. It also implies that all should have the same access to resources, opportunities, and education. As we are now well aware, this is simply not the case. This antiquated and dangerous word, and the idea behind it, must be scrubbed completely from our modern educational system. It has become anathema.
On the other hand, as we have learned, the word equity encompasses all good things, like discrimination, segregation, etc. Even Dr. Kendi has said that resources must be unequally distributed to favor those whose ancestors may have been discriminated against, even if that discrimination no longer exists. We must also take those resources from groups who may themselves need them in order to punish them for the sins of their forefathers, regardless of whether or not those forefathers actually committed those sins. (Foremothers are, of course, completely blameless in history.) And in a few instances, we must discriminate against groups like Asian Americans, who have been just a little too successful under the current system. Current need or accomplishment is beside the point. The past must dictate the present and the present must dictate the future. No progress has been made. The best we can do is to make the formerly oppressed the oppressors and call it accountability. It’s all quite simple, really, if you are willing to suspend your reason. I can’t understand how supposedly educated people like your faculty members don’t get the difference. I guess this is what happens when your training is in one narrow academic discipline.
Dear Dean Arnold,
Please let me know who seems to be stirring up all the problems in your department. Perhaps I can look more closely at their committee work and evaluations to persuade them to our side. The fact that they are bringing up Marxism is just ludicrous. Marxism is a looming specter they say? Really? How very 19th-century. Today, the correct term is Social Democracy. Democracy implies that we are giving the majority what they want and that it is the job of those of us in higher education to tell them what that is. We have been given the extraordinary responsibility of showing them what a truly awful and racist country the United States of America has been since at least 1619 (but I’d say since 1492), and how all of the talk about liberty, equality, and freedom was just a smokescreen for the establishment and permanent maintenance of a white-supremacist, heterosexual patriarchy.
Freedom of speech was simply a canard to allow those in power to spew their hateful rhetoric and try to indoctrinate the masses. As we know today, the term hate speech can be used to cow or in some cases actually ostracize those whose opinions and ideas do not conform to those who are now awake, or woke up, or whatever the term is for our allies that don’t sleep. Hinting to those that might seem on the verge of disagreeing that their words could be construed as hate speech is often an effective tool in quieting the troublemakers. Try the following techniques and let me know how it goes.
Dear Dean Arnold,
I should have known these two professors, Madison and Newton, were the malcontents. One is the advisor for the constitution club and the other leads the STEM center’s chess tournament. They always seem to be spouting off about “truth,” “academic freedom,” “scholarly dialogue,” and all the rest. You know, someday Dr. Kendi’s dream of a Department of Antiracism will come true. We yearn for the day, don’t we? The experts will find us a way forward so we won’t have to hear from the anti – antiracists anymore. By the way, did you see that our commencement speaker, Dr. Rosenberg, published a new book and will be selling it at a discount at graduation? The title is: Real Discrimination for the Right Reason: How Exacting Equity Levels the Playing Field. The Amazon reviews have been universally positive since they decided to stop publishing the negative ones. In fact, the book is so popular that we are thinking about using it in all our freshman composition courses—if, that is, we can finagle our way around the Academic Senate’s antiquated idea of academic freedom, which is a work in progress.
You think you’ve heard it all, and then these two “scientists” ask about free speech and academic freedom. Yes, free speech is enshrined in the constitution and is obviously important in higher education. But not hate speech. Sorry, that it not allowed. As we both know, ask an “innocuous” question about transgenderism or pronouns—no matter how science-based—and the college deems it a hateful and exclusionary act. Don’t forget, inclusion and tolerance are our highest values, over and above so-called free speech.
And always remember that faculty are merely employees, but don’t tell them that. Just as any large corporation can censor their employees while on company time, we can and should encourage our faculty to teach only that which has been approved by the experts who have put in the antiracism work. While we must not appear to be mandating (that is a word that needs to be changed) what our employees say in the classroom, as administrators, we must make sure that every word we say, every email we write, and every meeting we schedule sends an undeniable message that rogue opinions will not be tolerated! I know it’s a bore, but until legislation can be changed, we have to pay lip service to the outdated ideas of academic freedom and freedom of speech. Please keep me informed as the situation develops.
Dear Dean Arnold,
I know we just closed the Library computer lab, but when students go full awake, or awakened, or whatever the term is, we must listen. So, open it back up and make sure you tell the student newspaper that we listened to student voices rather than faculty voices, and that is why we made the change. We will be moving the new Office of Transcendentalism to the Automotive Repair Building. Sometimes we win when the wild things make mischief, and sometimes we lose. Remember the time Dr. Veneer was shouted down for not giving a trigger warning in her Art Appreciation course? Now that was a win.
I’ve finally had enough with your two troublesome faculty members. I’m going to call a meeting for the four of us and explain to them that students are feeling threatened. These privileged “teachers” are complicit in the very system that creates health inequities through their speech and open dialogue. Once and for all, they need to know that sharing multiple perspectives on a topic that the equitacracy has already settled is tantamount to making students feel forgotten and alienated. (Equitacracy! Doesn’t that sound marvelous? I just coined this term; Dr. Rosenberg would be so proud.)
Why do Professors Madison and Newton keep insisting that they want students to face challenging ideas in the classroom? They are harming our students. It already costs the institution $6,000 dollars a semester to create coloring-book zones, safe rooms, and the cute-but-expensive comfort donkeys during finals week. We’ll have to hire a bevy of peer counselors to address student anxiety if this keeps up. Student don’t need to be challenged—they need to hear the established and settled truth. These scientists should know better.
Please bring all of your email correspondence and a projector. I want to use their words against them— or twist and shape their words into a postmodern non-awakened diatribe. I’m also going to call the meeting at a time they are both in class. Paying a “sub” is well worth the money spent, because at least students won’t be exposed to this kind of harm.
Dean Arnold, or may I simply call you Benedict, I am very impressed with how you are handling this. When you were a faculty member, I must admit I had some concerns about you, but now I see that you are fully on board with the sleepless, or unsleeping, or whatever they are calling it. I’ll be sure to note on your evaluation (coming up next week by the way) how you’ve stayed true to the party line.
By the way, I’ll see you at the 4:00 pm ribbon cutting ceremony for the new DIED center in the Library building. No student is going to tell us they want the faculty Teaching and Learning Center space back! We are so blessed to be leading the way for our community so they can learn how to diminish western institutions and humanize our society.