Student Affairs: The Real Threat on Campus

While college empties your wallet, it can divide your family.

During a recent discussion of my book Brutal Minds, someone remarked, “It never occurred to me that deviant worldview training began at university welcoming events. I thought it emanated from professors, not office bureaucrats.”

Likewise, many folks routinely pummel the faculty for “indoctrination” in colleges and universities, when another, mostly anonymous group is responsible. A cadre of thinly educated support staff serves up most of the primitive, toxic ideologies for our students, including critical racialism and the euphemistically named “social justice education.”

How could this be so? Let’s explore.

Many are unfamiliar with the university bureaucracy known as “student affairs.” This bureaucracy disseminates the lion’s share of academia’s noxious ideologies through its so-called “co-curriculum,” which the average person outside the university has never heard of.  And that’s exactly how the fake faculty in the co-curriculum like it.

This co-curriculum exists on almost every college campus. It includes fake faculty, fake courses, and, at some schools, even a fake transcript. The point of this elaborate façade is to blur the distinction between the actual curriculum taught by actual faculty in academic affairs, and the faux curriculum taught by fake faculty who call themselves “college educators.” Many, if not most, of the persons who teach this fake co-curriculum are campus clerks, advisors, coordinators, DEI commissars, enrollment managers, and other “student affairs” staffers who hold the increasingly ubiquitous “master’s degree in higher education” and various online certificates.

The actual professoriate is often ignorant of the student affairs bureaucracy and, in most cases, has no influence on—and certainly no oversight over—this “co-curriculum.” Typically, the only actual faculty who are concerned with this fake curriculum are education school types, usually those who administer the ed school graduate degrees in “student affairs” and “higher education management.”

The student affairs co-curriculum typically includes workshops, “Difficult Dialogues,” “Courageous Conversations,” “Privilege Walks,” and “Safe Spaces.” The bureaucracy behind it is permeated by a monolithic racialist ideology that 1) embraces the primitive Manichean ideology of critical racialism; 2) originates in education schools, which train the vast majority of these bureaucrats in Freirean/Maoist theory; and 3) informs two off-campus professional guilds—the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)—which maintain and augment the “antiracist” and “decolonization” efforts of academe’s ancillary support staffers.

ACPA and NASPA run workshops, hold conferences, and publish a raft of anti-intellectualist literature. They are completely overrun with crypto-Maoist education theory that they attribute to an educationist by the name of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Marxist whose education theory is promulgated in American education schools.

These two groups are thoroughly doped with fringe ideology, which they believe has imbued their members with “critical consciousness.” They also set the standards for ed schools’ advanced degree programs in “student affairs” and in what is euphemistically called “educational leadership.”

[Related: “Brutal Minds and Brainwashing: A Close Look at Leftist Mind Control”]

Most of this Marxist critical theory, critical racialism, and “social justice advocacy” is purveyed through the incessant messaging that saturates various student affairs activities. Much of it is imposed in the student dormitories by a student affairs office called “residential life.” Indeed, those with access to students have written whole books on how to foster “student learning” in dorms.

Student affairs runs an entire enterprise called the “curricular model” of instruction, which is designed to create an inescapable campus milieu that influences students 24-7. The thinly credentialed persons who employ the curricular model believe themselves to be—and, indeed, call themselves—“college educators.” They also refer to the actual faculty at their institutions as “college educators,” conflating as much as possible their own sophomoric efforts with those of the genuine faculty. They mask their efforts with ambiguous references to “student learning” and “student development,” uniformly omitting the actual content of this “learning and development.”

The content of this rickety co-curriculum is determined not by actual faculty (except, perhaps, education school types, “public sociologists,” and the occasional errant “counseling psychologist”), but rather by non-academic support staff.

One of the more abusive techniques that these non-faculty clerk-instructors use is so-called “identity development.” Typically deployed during freshman year through workshops and fake classes, identity development is a rhetorical mask for the opening attack on the student’s sense of self.

In the guise of “student development,” these clerk-instructors question the student’s self-conception and identity, which are methodically destabilized as a prelude to the routine thought reform methods advocated in books like Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice and Designing Transformative Multicultural Initiatives. The eventual goal, of course, is to guide the student along a path to what education school apparatchiks call Freirean “critical consciousness.”

Critical consciousness is the intoxicating belief that one possesses arcane and privileged knowledge. It enables one to see clearly into the contradictions of society, while others—probably parents—are afflicted with “false consciousness.” As with so many of Freire’s ideas, this one did not originate with him. For more on the concept of understanding “contradictions,” see Mao Zedong’s famous 1957 essay “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People.”

It is even more intoxicating to use the original Freirean Portuguese formulation for critical consciousness: conscientização. This confection is little more than a Marxist/Maoist version of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave—the metaphor for so many crackpots and cultists throughout history, who believe that they have acquired keener perception than others and have discovered some hidden “truth,” and who combine this with a messianic mission to lead others into the light.

[Related: “The Conspiracist Fantasy of University Bureaucracies”]

Unfortunately, the thought reform program administered by these enlightened souls is designed explicitly to alienate students from their parents and friends and to enlist them in approved ideological struggles: “A new set of beliefs become ‘home base’ for interpreting experience and creating meaning. The past is reinterpreted and reconstructed into a new frame of reference.”

It’s only natural that freshmen are targeted—they are the most vulnerable. As one student affairs educationist notes: “This makes freshmen orientation—a time in which new students are more likely to listen because they are frightened—a special time for education.”

It is this cadre that welcomes new students to campus.

Some parents and students might actually believe that the programs that characterize this “special time for education” are right and proper—that clerks and enrollment managers should psychologically manipulate freshmen outside the purview and awareness of academic affairs, and certainly without the informed consent of those targeted. If so, they may well be delighted to fund this unsolicited, amateur psychotherapy, exorbitant price tag and all.

On the other hand, if it strikes you as unacceptable that this therapeutic “curricular model” is administered deceptively by sketchy non-faculty to covertly uproot your student’s identity . . . perhaps you should inquire with the folks at your chosen university. Those inquiries should be as sharp and insistent as needed to cut through the public-relations boilerplate of “student development” and “student learning.”

Perhaps it’s time for universities to share this “co-curricular” material with parents on their ubiquitous online “parent portal”—the portal that informs parents of their tuition payment deadline.

How refreshing to connect those who pay the bills with what they’re paying for. You can’t lower tuition, but you surely can prevent the campus apparatchiks from dividing your family. Transparency, anyone?

Image: Adobe Stock


  • Stanley K. Ridgley

    Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D., IMBA is clinical full professor at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and author of "Brutal Minds: The Dark World of Left-Wing Brainwashing in Our Universities" (Humanix Books, 2023). He is a former military intelligence officer and has taught in Russia, China, India, Spain, and Colombia. He holds a PhD from Duke University.

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7 thoughts on “Student Affairs: The Real Threat on Campus

  1. Thank you for your post on such an important topic! Encouraging an understanding of and respect for diversity, believing in the worth of individuals, and supporting students in their development must be the core concepts of the student affairs profession, not the promotion of toxic ideologies through so-called “co-curriculum”.

  2. This is truly a frightening article. ..”deviant worldview training.?!”

    Higher education is surely inefficient, and it can be ineffectual. It is is expensive and in many ways the biggest conservative force in American society in terms of meeting our changing world and its challenges. But “Brutal.” ?

    I have been in the industry for 40 years, been a part of welcoming and student affairs orientations personally for myself and my children, and I have found them anything but ‘deviant”. Rather, they are so status quo and standardized that they often resemble high school in the way they treat students as children rather than young adults. They cater to student comforts (it used to be an internet connection under every pillow in the pre-wireless days), and where the cafeteria is. They also make sure that parents have their checkbooks ready, and that is a problem for another day.

    As for parental oversight: College serves our culture as the ‘rite of passage’ to adulthood for our students personally and legally. As a dean and professor, I often had to tell parents that they could accompany their child to a meeting but it was the students permission and that the issue would be resolved between me and the student.

    The most dangerous thing about college is this article’s view of education as indoctrination.
    Books don’t kill people, they open their minds.

    1. But he says the indoctrination is conducted by Student Affairs, not by academic people like you. If you’re saying you have never seen Student Affairs try the sort of indoctrination described in the article, is it because you’ve been retired for 10 years, or do you think the article is wrong?

      We’ve had 2 kids in college, and there’s definitely more non-academic messaging than there used to be. There’s also the infiltration of these ideologies into the academic side, and now the push to entrench these departments and faculty via required courses in the curriculum. I suppose prospective students could at least look at their prospective curricular requirements and choose their college accordingly, so this is more defensible.

  3. Thanks for the interesting article. You make one recommendation for resisting the ideology of Student Affairs staff, and here is another one. In many public universities, course syllabi must be publicly available. In my department (small R1 Midwestern state university), the department maintains a file of all syllabi, and citizens can view them upon request. The same policy should apply to first-year student orientation programs run by Student Affairs personnel. The links to the co-curricular instructional materials (power point presentations, handouts, etc.) should be posted on the Student Affairs website, and all citizens should be able to view them.

    1. Good luck getting them posted, I’ve tried to get copies of documents that I knew existed only to be told that no such documents existed. I even once got a misdirected email (intended for a different “Ed”) that literally said “don’t tell Ed (me) this.”

      I guess all graduate programs tend to be incestuous but I obtained one of these MEds and it started with one of the professors using the program as his personal dating service and went downhill from there. I wouldn’t even have cared (that much) about that if I hadn’t gotten dragged out of bed on the far side of midnight to prevent the student suicide he nearly caused playing these games.

      Yes, there is a lot to learn about higher education if you want to learn it — it’s almost like a public sector MBA program *if* you want to learn it, the finances, the politics, the mistakes that have been made in the past (piping live steam 1.9 miles *downhill* is my personal favorite) but most of it is far worse than Dr. Ridgley can even imagine.

      There *are* things that are worth knowing if you are supervising upwards of 600 undergraduates — a lot of the same things that are also worth knowing if you are in the hospitality business, managing a resturaunt or hotel. Most involve how to deal with a bad situation without making it into a whole lot worse one and that’s not done — I never cease to be amazed at how unprofessional (and, frankly, “stupid’) these purported professionals inevitably are when called on to actually earn their pay.

      None of this ever comes out to the public, mind you — Student Affairs very much believes in Omerta and unless you are on the inside (which I was) there is stuff that you will never, ever know. Law be damned, they’re not going to tell you, and short of something like the Church Committee Hearings, this stuff is never going to come out.

      If you want to tilt at windmills, I’ll tell you were to start — look at the Behavioral Intervention Teams. At this point every college or university has one, they are called by a variety of Orwellian-sounding names, and they are the secretive star chambers that control everything else.

      And there is a reason why I believe that higher education is mortally wounded — it’s the student affairs cabal (not “profession”) — they are a cancer that I don’t think can be removed….

      1. The other thing you will run into — and this is also a problem in K-12 — are the psychologists who copyright everything and only permit other psychologists to read it. Hence you might (maybe) get the handouts but you won’t get the training manuals that are used to train these individuals.

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