Humanities, Pretty Much Dead, Are Mostly a Hunt for Racism and Sexism

A number of prominent liberal intellectuals, such as Leon Wieseltier, acknowledge that the humanities are in trouble. There “really is a cultural crisis,” he said at a recent Aspen Ideas Festival. This is an improvement over the mass denial of a few years ago, when the standard retort to conservatives went something like this: “You just don’t like the direction the humanities have taken” or worse: “You old-fashioned types are angry that the humanities are no longer a Eurocentric dead-white-male thing—get over it.”

But when the politically-correct president of an Ivy League university recounts how far the humanities have fallen at her school, as Harvard’s Drew Gilpin Faust did at the same festival, it’s hard to dismiss the thesis.  The numbers Faust cited for Harvard are astounding.  Currently, she said, about 14 percent of Harvard undergraduates major in a humanities field.  That’s higher than the national rate, but it’s down from the 25 percent rate at Harvard when Faust started her tenure as president nine years ago.  Most of the withdrawal, she noted, was due to students heading toward the hard sciences (not the social sciences).  When it comes to enrollment in humanities courses in general at Harvard, the trend there is downward as well, a drop of ten percent over the same period of time.

Related: Are the Battered Humanities Worth Saving?

We can add to the testimony of liberal leaders at the administrative level a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about literature professors who think that literary studies have become so cynical and paranoid that they are turning people away.

When English turned into a practice of reading literature for signs of racism, sexism, and ideology, it lost touch with why youths pick up books in the first place, said University of Virginia Professor Rita Felski.  And Duke professor Toril Moi told the Chronicle reporter, “If you challenge the idea of suspicion as the only mode of reading, you are then immediately accused of being conservative in relation to those politics.

And added to that story is the pile-up of reports demonstrating declining majors and enrollments, along with a dreadful job market for recent PhDs (see here, which shows that, in 2014, nearly half of all humanities doctoral recipients —45.7 percent—had no employment commitments:  We can’t dismiss the thesis of decay any more.  We may disagree about the causes of the slide, but everyone agrees that we need to rebuild and reinvigorate the fields.

Related: More Bad Numbers for the Humanities

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently carried a sad story on one attempt to revive the humanities, at the University of California, San Diego. The program foregrounds social themes, not works of beauty and genius.  The photo that introduces the story shows a panel speaking to a room of 30 or 40 people. The caption states the topic: “Challenging Conversations: Race and State Violence. “The question it raises is: Do the organizers really believe that an event such as this one will draw more first-year students into English, Art History, Classics, and French?

The problem isn’t just that discussions of race, violence, and politics have become so predictable and joyless.  It is that nothing in identity-focused discourse steers youths toward the humanities instead of toward the social sciences and fine arts.  If there is a campus symposium on how race played out in the last election, there is no reason to think that a humanistic approach to it will follow.  It sounds more like Political Science or Sociology than English or History.  So does the other event on the “News” page, “Community, Arts, and Resistance.”

The standard response to this disciplinary distinction is to insert humanities materials into the act.  Yes, the professors say, we talk about race and class and other topics traditionally at the center of the social sciences, but in our case, we examine the representations of them in novels and movies and culture in general.  This is not a step away from reality, they contend, because literature, art, music, and media do what is called cultural work.  They shape norms, impart values, construct stereotypes, and reinforce ideologies.  Analyzing humanities works, then, is essential to the understanding of society.

Maybe—but the claim is beside the point.  In this case, that is, regarding the material state of the humanities today, what counts is whether such approaches that foreground social issues in works of art and literature are going to encourage more undergraduates to choose humanities majors and courses. Unlikely.

First of all, if a 20-year-old has a particular passion for racial, sexual, or other identity themes, chances are that he isn’t inclined to filter it through Shakespeare or Wagner or Woolf.  A few of them will, but not because of their identity interests.  History is a stronger possibility, we admit, but when our youth looks at the requirements for the History major, he will find much of it lies outside his interest.  If you’re fascinated with race in America, you don’t want to spend much time on the ancient and medieval worlds.  Much better to choose one of the “Studies” departments.

Second, if students do come into college loving Victorian novels or foreign films or Elizabethan drama or Beethoven, it probably isn’t due to the identity content of those materials.  They love Dickens because a high school English teacher dramatized Miss Betsey so well, or because the students identified with David Copperfield (which is a whole different kind of identity-formation than the one academics have in mind when they discuss identity).  It’s not that undergraduates already interested in the humanities discount identity issues.  They accept them as part of the work, certainly.  But those issues are not the source of inspiration.  The first draw isn’t race, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc., in American film.  It is Intolerance, City Lights, Ambersons, Vertigo . . .  Students want works of art first, social themes within them second.

And so when the UCSD project breaks the humanities up four areas—Equity, diversity, and inclusion; global arts and humanities; public arts and humanities; and digital arts and humanities—one has little hope.  Why is equity at the top, especially when we consider how much great art emerged out of unequal societies?  Why invoke the bland divisions of global, public, and digital?

Here are the sentences that follow the four-part breakdown on the Institute’s web page: Through these wide-ranging and cross-cutting themes, we view the arts and humanities as a vibrant collection of different fields—including the humanistic social sciences and STEM fields—that interrogate the humanistic enterprise from complimentary [sic] and sometimes disorienting perspectives. The IAH thus values difference, cultivates exchange and prioritizes transformative ways of thinking and working together.

The language here is deadeningly abstract — “cross-cutting . . . interrogate . . . prioritize”—the very opposite of a humanistic turn of mind.  The statement goes on to claim that the Institute offers “exciting programs,” but where in this conception is the excitement of the haunting search for Anna on the island in L’Avventura and the uncanny sequence of images in the last five minutes of L’Eclisse?  Does this ethnic/politics focus for the humanities make space for the grand spectacle of Act II of Aida?  Does it allow for Nietzsche’s fiery words about nihilism in The Will to Power?  Does it respect the dark sublimity of the last paragraph of The Dead?

These are the things that lure students to the humanities and keep them there, not this adversarial social framework that turns the humanities into sociology for people who like art.

No Sex Talk, Please—This is Harvard

Harvard’s men’s cross-country team has been put on probation because members of the 2014 team made strong judgments on the sexual attractiveness of members of the women’s cross-country team.

What?

We wonder if male college students anywhere else have ever engaged in this kind of behavior—noticing that females often differ in their degree of attractiveness, thus generating male commentary, some of it tacky, even smarmy and probably not in the language that the commenters might use in speaking to their mothers.

Our guess is yes, other young men, perhaps even at Harvard, have concluded that sexual appeal is unevenly spread throughout the female population, and they have not always refrained from speaking out on the matter. Another guess of ours is that only at Harvard would men write down these sometimes crude, offhand judgments and file them away on spreadsheets for detractors to find.

Indeed, some of those detractors are descending on Harvard’s men’s sports teams with the grim zest of PTA mommies eager to deal with the pigtail-pulling behavior of eighth-grade boys. Pigtail-pulling of some sort is likely involved in other mommy interventions at Harvard, including the cancellation of this season’s men’s soccer team, not to mention the campaign to punish the mostly male members of various clubs and fraternities that have variously irritated large numbers of campus mommies, who are mysteriously determined to prove something or other.

Mommy spokespeople say the comments by the current cross-country team are not so bad, but comments by the 2014 team were horrible, though hard to punish since most of those team members are gone and unavailable for punishment. But current members will have to suffer training by the much-feared mommies of Title IX, plus another trainer, maybe even a male, who will help the errant cross-countrymen to shed as much maleness as possible. Apparently, this has already been accomplished at the Harvard Crimson, whose editors have expressed no reservations about all this.

Harmless College Jokes Punished at Mandatory Civility Seminar

At a Virginia college, inspirational slogans were recently posted in a residence hall to buoy the spirits of students cramming for exams. Resisting the inspiration, some students posted satirical  responses. “You are what you think you are, aim high!” drew the reply “You appear to be suffering from delusions of adequacy.” Another encouraging slogan, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” drew the non-inspirational answer, “Yeah, but you miss 99% of the ones you do.”

Harmless, right?  No! A residential life officer was not amused and sent this message to all residents: “This is not a joke…. This is not ok. Our community is meant to be one of encouragement and acceptance and the posting of materials against this goes directly against what we are called to stand for. This is home, no one should be insulted or fear insults within the domain of their own house, apartment or residence hall. If you feel attacked by any of these notes, please know that I am here to listen and support you.”

The RA asked students to inform on the irreverent counter-posters, and scheduled a dorm-wide meeting, with attendance mandatory, to discuss “civility.” Underlining the gravity of the allegedly humorous prank, the RA continued: “I would like to remind you of the power of words. You do not know the affect your words may have on someone else. Words that mean nothing to you may trigger an emotional response to someone, you do not know everyone’s backstory. Because of this, I encourage each of you to think carefully before you speak.

“Tensions are high due to elections, and exams are around the corner; we all need to be at our peak performance to succeed. Take care of each other, don’t say anything that can hurt someone, regardless of whether you think it is funny. A person finding offense at your joke or statement is not their fault, it is not a result of them needing to change or of them being weak. The change needs to happen in your words.”

The mandatory civility session was set for “after the break,” apparently a reference to the Thanksgiving break, though the RA seems to have avoided the term as too religious. The student who sent all this information said the dorm was ready to organize a “secret Santa” gift-giving, but would call it a “secret snowflake“ instead since “Santa” seems to evoke the overly religious term, ”Christmas.”

How Governor Andrew Cuomo Is Weakening CUNY

I’ve worked at CUNY under four governors—George Pataki, Elliot Spitzer, David Paterson, and Andrew Cuomo. Pataki (and state Senate Republicans) didn’t allocate to the institution sufficient funding. But he was by far the best governor of the four for CUNY.

Pataki appointed a superbly-qualified chairman of the Board of Trustees, Benno Schmidt. He named other trustees—Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, Kay Pesile—who were both independent and committed to CUNY’s academic excellence. (And, despite opposition from status quo faculty, Pataki reappointed Wiesenfeld.) The board, in turn, appointed an excellent chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, whose policies helped to revitalize the institution. All the while, Pataki stood aside and allowed CUNY to flourish free from political meddling.

Neither Spitzer nor Paterson served long enough to leave much of a mark on CUNY—though both seemed to recognize the institution’s significant improvement in the Schmidt-Goldstein era and seemed disinclined to reverse the progress. Not so, however, Cuomo.

For his first term, Cuomo confined his CUNY policy to disinterest—though he distinguished himself as even less supportive of robust funding levels than Pataki or the GOP-led state Senate. But since winning re-election in 2014, he increasingly has targeted the institution. He offered a curious call for consolidating the CUNY and SUNY administrations, despite the radical differences between the two institutions. (For starters: CUNY schools are urban and non-residential; many SUNY schools are rural or exurban with on-campus residency requirements.)

As part of this effort, the Cuomo administration criticized CUNY’s decision to pay Goldstein as chancellor emeritus, which carried with it teaching and research expectations. (As the Times noted at the time, “By national standards, Dr. Goldstein’s compensation has always been moderate.”) And the governor brought to CUNY, which heretofore had a policy that was a model of fairness, his campaign to weaken due process protections for students accused of sexual assault.

In the meantime, Cuomo stacked the CUNY Board of Trustees with political cronies. Here’s a listing, from a recent New York Times summary: “[A] new chairman, William C. Thompson Jr., the former New York City comptroller, Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president; Robert F. Mujica, Mr. Cuomo’s budget director; Ken Sunshine, a public relations consultant; and Mayra Linares-Garcia, Mr. Cuomo’s former director of Latino affairs.” None have, to date, demonstrated any indication of independence from the governor.

Frustrated in his effort to consolidate CUNY and SUNY, the governor then took advantage of alleged financial misconduct by the former president of CCNY, Lisa Coico. The Cuomo-appointed BOT chairman, Thompson, publicly “requested” a university-wide audit by the state inspector general, who—contrary to normal practice—quickly issued an “interim” report. The report’s revelations—focusing on a tendency to hire outside counsel for sticky investigations (an approach that

The report’s revelations—focusing on a tendency to hire outside counsel for sticky investigations (an approach that has worked very well at CUNY) and purportedly excessive discretionary spending by college presidents—hardly seemed to be the type that would justify an “interim” report. Nonetheless, Albany responded with a statement containing a scarcely-concealed attack  on the upper-level CUNY administration.

Cuomo’s motives in targeting CUNY remain unclear. The Times quotes CUNY emeritus professor Kenneth Sherrill, who observed that Cuomo might want to distract attention from a scandal at SUNY-Polytechnic Institute. It’s also possible that CUNY has become caught in the battle between Cuomo and his chief rival in the New York Democratic Party, NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio. If so, CUNY is in deep trouble indeed, trapped between a governor who seems willing to use the institution as a political plaything and a mayor who’s an incompetent ideologue.

But, in the end, Cuomo’s motivation is irrelevant. An effective, independent administration at CUNY is critical given the ineffectiveness of the elected faculty leadership—especially the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, which has distinguished itself over the past 15 years for its opposition to every major effort to raise standards at CUNY.

Any vacuum caused by less independent trustees and administrators—the clear effect if not the intent of Cuomo’s policies—will only work to weaken education at CUNY overall.

Pro-Trump Message Investigated as Hate Crime on This Campus

Politically-correct college administrators in Madison, Wisconsin asked the police to investigate speech mocking campus Clinton supporters. The police reportedly did so, even though that could lead to a violation of the First Amendment.

This occurred at Edgewood College. Reason Magazine reports that an investigation at Edgewood has begun over a “Suck it up, pussies” Post-it note directed at people upset by the election of Donald Trump as president.

Students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on Post-it notes and placing them on a designated table. The Post-it-note in question appeared in the window of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion instead, according to Campus Reform.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to the campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:

“A group of college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime….”

College officials informed the Madison police, and now the cops are investigating. They are investigating a post-it-note. With a non-threatening message and a smiley face on it. After inviting students to express their feelings via post-it-note. . .Edgewood is asking anyone with knowledge of this hate crime to come forward and help the police catch the perpetrator because it’s such a very serious matter.

Judging from a report in The Washington Times, the college’s rhetoric has been quite partisan, and shows a politically-correct obsession with “microaggressions”: [College Vice President] Chambers said the malevolent missive signals a “new era of intolerance” in America ushered in by Mr. Trump’s presidency.“ Covert micro-aggressions and overt macro-aggressions appear to have taken on a new fervor in higher education since our national election,” he warned.

Contrary to Edgewood College’s claims, a non-threatening post-it note is obviously not a “hate crime.” Even if it were disproportionately offensive to certain groups, that would not make it a hate crime or a proscribable category of speech. In R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992), the Supreme Court struck down as a violation of the First Amendment a “bias-motivated crime” ordinance that banned insulting symbols if they aroused “anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a fraternity’s discipline for  a blackface, sexist “ugly woman” skit, ruling it was protected by the First Amendment, in Iota Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity v. George Mason University, 993 F.2d 386 (4th Cir. 1993).

In Papish v. University of Missouri Curators (1973), the Supreme Court overturned a university’s punishment of a graduate student for using profane language and depicting policemen raping the Statue of Liberty. The Court declared that the “dissemination of ideas, no matter how offensive to good taste, on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.’”

Edgewood is a private college. A private college isn’t directly bound by the First Amendment, but the police are, and the participation of the police thus may result in the First Amendment being violated. See Dossett v. First State Bank, 399 F.3d 940 (8th Cir. 2005) (court ruled that collusion between the government and a private employer to restrict speech violated First Amendment and rendered the private employer liable, too); Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).

Even if there were something about this speech (such as its location, time, place, or manner) that would allow a state college to ban it, it would still be foolish for the police to get involved. The fact that a school can restrict certain speech for proprietary reasons (such as to promote classroom learning or control a school’s own message) doesn’t mean a cop can arrest you for that speech.

The First Amendment provides stronger protection against the police because that involves the government acting as a sovereign, not a proprietor. Speech that an institution can ban in its proprietary capacity can’t necessarily be criminalized, or otherwise punished by the police. For example, a federal appeals court ruled in In re Kendall (2013) that it was unconstitutional for the Virgin Islands Supreme Court to jail a trial judge for his uppity speech against it, even if his speech was inappropriate for a judge.

As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted in that decision, “the government’s broader authority to” to control inappropriate judge or lawyer “speech about ongoing proceedings” through disciplinary rules does not “also permit the government to hold a judge in criminal contempt for” such speech.  As it observed, “Criminal contempt is no mere disciplinary tool. It derives, like all crimes, from a government’s power as sovereign. Because the government’s use of the criminal-contempt power is the sine qua non of a sovereign act, the government has no greater authority to hold someone in criminal contempt for their speech about ongoing proceedings than it would to criminally punish any speech.”

How Colleges and Universities Foster “Hate Culture”

Many of my colleagues and students are responding to the results of the 2016 presidential election with fear, disappointment, and disbelief. For some, Trump’s victory and the social unrest that followed dramatically changed their perceptions of Americans, democracy, and human nature. They are mourning the loss of a progressive dream.

Although I share my colleagues’ and students’ concerns that the current political climate has emboldened people who say and do hateful things to others, I am in no way surprised by the election outcome or its aftermath. These events are entirely predictable and much of what we do in higher education has contributed to them. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, institutions of higher education have helped to foster what some people have referred to as “hate culture.”

Academics frequently identify conditions that lead to negative behavior. For example, in order to address sexual violence on campus, sociologists and others identify the forces behind “rape culture,” including the objectification of women in the media and glorification of “hyper-masculinity.”  Similarly, my colleagues who study terrorism identify socio-political conditions, such as unemployment, as contributing factors. At the same time, we seem unwilling to examine the culture and psychology behind hate crimes, as if this would be excusing the behavior or “blaming the victim.” Yet, we cannot merely stomp out hate through coercion, punishment, and social shaming. If we want to prevent or reduce group conflict, we have to identify the social conditions that create it. I argue that an honest assessment of group behavior reveals that academics often contribute to the problem by amplifying social identities.

According to Henri Tajfel and John Turner’s (1979) social identity theory, one’s self-esteem is tied to the status of the groups to which one belongs. People elevate the status of their own groups by comparing them to lower status groups. The salience of these social identities is malleable and researchers have found that they can actively manipulate the strength of people’s social identities by priming them to think about their group memberships or by introducing threat from another group. In higher education, we consistently prime social identity.  Strong social identities lead to intensified group conflict, as defense of one’s own group is achieved through degradation of other groups.

On college campuses, political dialog is driven by a commitment to identity politics — activism in support of movements that are organized to promote the status of people based on categories such as gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. Social movements are not always defined according to these groups. For example, Marxist movements defined conflict by class, thereby bringing together people of various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Social movements can also be driven by ideology or shared values, such as the environmental movement.

This isn’t to say that colleges should not educate students on the history of discrimination against women, blacks, or other groups. Students should be educated on how laws, social norms, and values shape the distribution of power in society. They should study the psychology of discrimination, prejudice, and bias. Yet, academics often pursue social and political goals, choosing sides between groups in a conflict.  For example, The American Studies Association has declared a boycott on Israeli universities as a show of opposition for Israel’s actions in Palestine.

Fostering strong social identities is a recipe for group conflict. Colleges prime social identities in a number of ways. For example, we strengthen social identity when we sort students into housing options by race or ethnicity, rather than shared interests; when we spend more time talking about group differences than about our common humanity; and when we create “safe spaces” to protect some groups of people from others.  All students should have ‘spaces’ where they are safe and comfortable, surrounded by people they trust. The rest of us have this safe space.  We call it “home.”  The problem comes when we assign these spaces based solely on social identity.  It’s the equivalent of moving into segregated neighborhoods. This makes us feel more comfortable at home, but it has negative consequences for our interactions with others.

Colleges and universities encourage students to think primarily in terms of social identity. To make matters worse, we then encourage conflict between groups by framing debates as false dichotomies. The current uproar over free speech on campus is a great example. Free speech is not inherently pro-egalitarian or anti-egalitarian. The Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on the protection of free speech and freedom of the press to spread its message in the face of institutionalized opposition.

Free speech often protects minority voices. Yet, colleges and universities have established speech codes on campus, aimed at protecting vulnerable minority groups from words or phrases that might offend. This sends students the message that one group’s rights are gained at the expense of another group. Free speech is now frequently framed as something that protects racists, sexists, and other “deplorables.”

Arguing in favor of free speech threatens to paint one into this group or, at the very least, suggests that one is insensitive to the needs of minorities. The assumption that silencing offensive ideas reduces hostility against vulnerable groups is deeply flawed. Research shows that the classical liberal approach is more useful – we confront harmful ideas by exposing them to truth.  At the very least, grappling with uncomfortable ideas is more fitting to an institution whose purpose is education.  Silencing ideas is more suited to an institution whose primary purpose is scoring points in the culture wars.

Finally, we add fuel to this fire because we tend to favor some voices and perspectives over others. We do this when we are too quick to label ideas as “racist,” “sexist,” or “homophobic,” merely because they do not conform to the most progressive ideals; people who favor greater enforcement of immigration laws are “racists,” as is anyone who admits to voting for Trump. The search for microaggressions contributes to this sense that anything that offends protected groups is off limits, even if no harm is intended. Students are actively encouraged to recognize and report microaggressions.

In other words, we encourage them to approach others with suspicion and distrust, rather than goodwill and generosity. Even ambiguous words and behaviors may be reported to overzealous “bias response teams.” Merely the accusation that one has said something racist, sexist, or offensive can do irreparable damage to one’s reputation.  The effect of this is that some students are afraid to have open, meaningful conversations with faculty or peers about sensitive topics. This impedes our efforts to promote cross-cultural understanding.  And when people believe they are denied legitimate voice in the system, they are more likely to engage in hostile, antisocial behavior.

Well-meaning liberal academics have helped to create our current predicament by promoting a toxic political environment that unnecessarily triggers group conflict. We encourage “hate culture” by creating an environment in which: (1) power and conflict is defined primarily in terms of social identities, such that social identity is frequently primed and becomes more salient than shared values or ideologies; (2) power is defined as a zero-sum game, creating false dichotomies between winners and losers, or victims and perpetrators, which are defined by social identity; (3) the opinions and experiences of members of some groups are awarded less value than those of others, contributing to feelings that one has little voice.

These are the conditions that would seem to create group conflict and cause people to act out aggressively against members of other groups.  I think it is clear that these conditions are rampant on college campuses. In the name of promoting social justice, we are instead promoting group conflict.

Yale President Thumbs His Nose at Federal Law

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, posted this in the Yale Daily News

Since last week’s presidential election, many in our community have expressed concern about the new administration’s proposals to move toward much more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws. Students and others at Yale and around the country have called for the creation of sanctuary campuses.

Yale’s commitment to its students is long-standing, and I am dedicated to maintaining and strengthening the supports and resources we have in place. We admit students without regard to immigration status, and our financial aid policies assure that no student will be denied an education because of immigration status. These policies will continue.

Yale’s home city of New Haven has adopted practices that are designed to promote the safety of all who live here, regardless of immigration status, and the Yale Police Department has aligned itself with those same procedures. New Haven Police Department (NHPD) policies state clearly that a community member’s undocumented status will have no effect on how the NHPD interacts with that person. As a result, police officers do not inquire about a person’s status unless investigating criminal activity and do not inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who seek police help. Moreover, the NHPD does not enforce the civil provisions of U.S. immigration law (which are the responsibility of federal immigration officials), and only shares confidential information when required by law.

I have asked Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins to review the department’s formal written procedures to make sure they reflect these practices, a request which he wholeheartedly accepts. Any law enforcement agent who wishes to enter our campus is expected first to check in with the Yale Police Department. Further, Yale does not permit access to our campus by law enforcement officers unless they have a search warrant….


Letter to Yale Daily News

J. GatsbyThere is a difference between legal and illegal immigrants. The unilateral nullification of the federal immigration law is a slap in the face to all of us who came to this country legally.

College Students Lose It over the Election

University heads are very concerned with their students’ feelings and fears about the presidential election.  A Chronicle of Higher Education article collected 45 university president statements on the election. The statements reveal how many presidents advocated acceptance of the election results and/or congratulations of the winner—approximately zero–as opposed to offering comfort and therapy of sorts for the allegedly traumatized losers.

They have nothing to say about citizens’ duty, in a democracy, to accept election results, even if their preferred candidate loses.  This is both shocking and a reflection of the higher education ideological monoculture (see Jonathan Haidt’s Minding the Campus interview) as well as survey results showing that about 25% of millennials reject democracy as a form of government.

U.S. flags were burned in protest at American University, Hampshire College and the University of Missouri at Columbia, among other places.

At Brown University, some students tore up a large number of small flags that were planted to mark Veterans Day. This was a breakthrough in flag-based antagonism: ruining other people’s flags, instead of just your own. A comment on the website of The Brown Daily Herald said, ” Their purpose was not only to honor veterans as a whole but specific members of our community. I am ashamed that our campus continues to have a problem civilly and rationally expressing opposing opinions. We are becoming an echo chamber and the liberal caricature that Fox News thinks we are.” And St. Mary’s College of Maryland announced that an investigation has shown that some of its students were responsible for shredding and lowering to half-staff a flag at a local post office.

And St. Mary’s College of Maryland announced that an investigation has shown that some of its students were responsible for shredding and lowering to half-staff a flag at a local post office.

The colleges’ endorsements and promotions of partisan animus are an ominous turn for American society.  Citizens who are unhappy with the election results should feel free to oppose the incoming administration (witness Mitch McConnell’s pledge to make Barack Obama a one-term president around 2009). But they should not feel free, as university presidents apparently do, to oppose the legitimacy of the result.  University presidents should be particularly wary of making academia more partisan than it already is.

Unfortunately, higher education is part of the license raj.  As a government-sponsored cartel (accreditation, professional certification requirements plus student loans), it considers itself exempt from outside pressures.  The result has been the removal of civics from curricula and capture by a radical identity politics ideology to the exclusion of a commitment to democracy or republicanism (small caps).

Liberal Academia in Donald Trump’s World

Within our privileged, cosseted circles we have gotten used to not only thinking that we are right, but that we are obviously so. By putting down “straight white men” with gleeful impunity, we gave poor white voters everything to apologize for, and nothing to believe in…. Nowhere has this benevolent but ultimately self-defeating myopia been more pronounced than on college campuses. We have dismissed our conservative peers in the classroom and taunted them on social media all while refusing to seriously engage their views. We have taken hard questions like affirmative action and abortion entirely off the

We have taken hard questions like affirmative action and abortion entirely off the table as if we had already provided an answer that should be immediately convincing to all. We have refused to consider a diversity of viewpoints on what constitutes “diversity.”… We have resolutely resisted paying more than lip service to socioeconomic inequality, rural alienation, and shifting patterns of exclusion while still purporting to speak on behalf of all marginalized people.  — Artemis Seaford in “The American Interest.”

Viewpoint Diversity

“Diversity is all the rage on college campuses. And for good reason. It is important for the diversity of our nation to be reflected in higher education and beyond. However, the people who champion gender, racial, and cultural diversity often shun viewpoint diversity. Universities have become increasingly ideologically homogeneous. This is especially the case in the social sciences; fewer than 10 percent of professors in these fields identify as conservative, and this number keeps shrinking. Conservatives have little influence in the scholarly disciplines that have the most to say about social and cultural life, family, and mental health.” —   Clay Routledge, Viewpoint Diversity, Scientific American

The Title IX Mess—Will It Be Reformed?

Since 2011, the federal government has made successful and devastating efforts to undermine civil liberties on campuses. The surprise outcome of the presidential election raises at least the possibility that this illicit campaign, based on a vast extension of Title IX, will be reversed. Thousands of students accused of sexual misconduct but denied due process have been victimized by the frenzy stimulated by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and by the unfair procedures that OCR has championed. (Consider events at Amherst or Yale or UVA or Brandeis, for starters.)

College hearings on sexual misconduct are often a travesty of justice. Usually, there is no attorney for the accused, no cross-examination, no discovery, no note-taking, little time for the accused to prepare and often a form of double jeopardy (the accuser can appeal but the accused cannot). Individual universities can broaden the definition of offenses (at Yale “economic abuse” counts as sexual assault) and uninvolved third-party accusations can sometimes launch hearings.

Some comments on what should, and should not, occur:

The Fate of Obama-Era Guidance

President Obama’s two heads of the OCR have ignored the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and imposed their dubious interpretations of Title IX without required notice and comment. They never offered a convincing explanation as to why, in part because Congress only rarely pressed them; outgoing OCR head Catherine Lhamon purported to justify OCR’s actions in this exchange with Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, but only revealed herself to be ignorant of congressional authority.

Related: How the Feds Use Orwell to Apply Title IX

But the arrogance of Lhamon and her predecessor, Russlynn Ali, means that the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter—and OCR’s even more troubling 2014 guidance, which suggested that OCR’s imaginative interpretation of Title IX could trump the constitutional protection of due process promised to all students at public universities—can be withdrawn without going through the notice-and-comment process.

Given the Access Hollywood tape, it might well be politically impossible for a Trump administration to simply withdraw the 2011 and 2014 “guidance.” But another avenue for action exists, including the FIRE-orchestrated lawsuit filed by a former University of Virginia student and by Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The new administration could easily enter into settlement negotiations for the lawsuit and concede the inappropriateness of issuing new regulations on all colleges and universities outside the APA’s requirements.

If this doesn’t occur, Congress becomes all the more important. The two people to watch are Lamar Alexander and Oklahoma Republican James Lankford. The Oklahoma senator issued an encouraging statement the day after the election, noting that the Education Department had “used Dear Colleague letters and guidance documents to mandate policies for schools without adhering to legally required regulatory processes. It is extreme overreach at agencies like the Department of Education that the American people repudiated in this election. I will push our new Republican-led Washington to put a stop to this abuse and restore proper regulatory and guidance processes to the federal government.”

Related: How Title IX Became a Policy Bully

Accusers’ rights organizations seem to have recognized that, at the very least, the anti-due process agenda of the current OCR might be discontinued in the next administration. And so, as the Chronicle recently reported, they’ve ratcheted up pressure on colleges to maintain the current unfair procedures that the Ali/Lhamon-led OCR helped to establish.

Yet even the most extreme of the activist groups—Know Your IX—has conceded that colleges are obliged to provide “fair” processes. (The group’s founders, Alexandra Brodksy and Dana Bolger, have defined “fair” in Orwellian terms, but they nonetheless use the language.)

Early in her tenure, Russlynn Ali made clear that the new OCR would welcome Title IX complaints from accusers angered at their college having returned not-guilty findings, or simply not rendering a guilty finding quickly enough. The new OCR could make clear that given the manifest unfairness of most college disciplinary systems on sexual assault matters, it would welcome complaints from accused students, to give the federal government a chance to counteract the improper pressure to keep disciplinary systems unfair. The resolution of the pending Title IX complaint against Brandeis—in a case that was the subject of the piercing opinion by Judge Saylor—could provide a template.

Along these lines, resolution agreements from OCR should restore earlier principles (from the Bush II administration) that colleges aren’t obligated to reinvestigate claims where a criminal complaint has been filed; and that colleges aren’t obligated to investigate allegations that occur off campus.

Distractions

Over the past five years, only a handful of politicians have paid any attention to the issue of campus fairness; as Christina Hoff Sommers presciently noted, “due process has no lobby.” Scores of GOP legislators and governors, on the other hand, rose up as one against OCR guidance regarding bathroom policies for transgender school kids.

For advocates of campus due process, then, the great fear is this: given Republican priorities, the new administration will focus its OCR reform agenda on eliminating protections for transgender public school students—a move that will receive fierce political resistance—and therefore will decide not to address the campus due process issue at all.

Related: The Feds Now Run a Bureaucracy That Regulates Sex

Any comment on a Trump-led OCR has to address what was avoided. While OCR under Obama was disastrous for due process, the crusade always had a surreal element to it. Obama, after all, was formerly a constitutional law professor, and also someone who was willing to stand up for campus civil liberties (albeit only in the free speech context). Even as his administration eroded due process rights for accused students, there was always the chance that a President with Obama’s beliefs would recognize he had gone too far.

No chance would have existed for such a course correction under Hillary Clinton, had she been elected. (Full disclosure: I am a Democrat who donated to, and voted for, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. My only federal political donations in 2016 went to Jason Kander, who narrowly lost in the Missouri Senate race.) To the extent that Clinton had any consistent beliefs, they revolved around a fierce connection to gender-based identity politics. And there was no doubt as to how these beliefs would have translated on campus.

Clinton’s campaign began with an official policy toward campus sexual assault—that all accused students who could not prove mistaken identity were guilty since all campus accusers had a “right to be believed.” Even Obama’s OCR, as extreme as its approach toward campus due process had been, never adopted such a policy. Clinton withdrew the line only after she was asked how it would apply to her husband’s accusers, but there seems little doubt that she would not have granted the same degree of skepticism for students accused of sexual assault on campus.

It also seems likely that a Clinton OCR—perhaps with Lhamon staying on for a second stint in charge of the agency—would have more aggressively targeted campus free speech. The University of Montana “blueprint” (imposed by OCR and the Justice Department) supposedly was abandoned after a public outcry. But its basic principles were quietly extended to the University of New Mexico and could have formed a national template under four years of Clinton.

In a Clinton presidency, Title IX would have been used as a sword against fairness and due process. If nothing else happened last Tuesday night, that outcome appears to have been avoided.

College Students Get Special De-stress Therapy After Trump Election

On our campuses, the election of Donald Trump is being treated as an emotional and personal disaster. It’s all about feelings. Classes have been canceled, therapeutic intervention offered and safe spaces filled. Here are three administrations in action, as reported on the Power Line blog:

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There Will Be a Self-Care Session with Cookies and Mindfulness Activities

Dear Students (of U. Massachusetts, Lowell),

We at the Multicultural Affairs Office hope this email reaches you and you are doing ok. We know many of you stayed up waiting to hear of the election results. These are unprecedented times. The nation as well as our community is reacting in many different ways. We are reaching out to each of you because we know that this was an intense election and we are already hearing a number of reactions, feelings and emotions. This is a critical time to make sure that you, your friends, classmates, neighbors are doing ok and seeking the appropriate support especially if they need a place to process or work through what they’re feeling.

You may hear or notice reactions both immediate and in the coming weeks, some anticipated and many that may be difficult to articulate or be shared. While it may take some time to fully take in all the recent events, please also know that the OMA office is here for you. Our UMass Lowell community is here for you. Do not hesitate at all to come in or ask for support.

Today there is a Post-election self-care session from 12-4pm in Moloney. The event will include cookies, mandalas, stress reduction techniques and mindfulness activities. Counseling and Health Services will also be available. We have sent out messages through our Social Media sites as well as encouraging students to drop in all week. Above all, take good care and know that there is strength in our community that you can lean on.

Kind regards,
Office of Multicultural Affairs Staff


Trump Has Views on Civility and Inclusivity at Odds with Mine

To our students (Oglethorpe University):

Dean Hall and I invite each of you to join us this evening (Wednesday, November 9) in the TLCC dining hall at eight p.m. for a conversation about the election last evening. I know that members of our community have differing political and social views. I know some of you cast your vote yesterday for Donald Trump, Others voted for Secretary Clinton or another candidate, and there were some of you who chose not to vote at all. I also know there are members of our community who were not able to vote, because of their citizenship status or because of a criminal record. I encourage all of you to come.

As a president of a university, who in some ways represents all constituents, I fully realize that expressing personal or political views will be viewed by some as inappropriate. I encountered this perspective a few years back when I chose to speak out on the issue of gun safety after the massacre at Sandy Hook. I have no regrets at all about that decision. I felt then and I feel now that on certain issues at certain times in our history, the failure to speak out is far more dangerous than keeping silent. Today, for me, is another one of those times. And again, as I did on the gun safety issues, I want to be clear that I express my views first as a citizen of this country.

I still find it difficult this morning to believe that the majority of voters in our country chose to elect a man whose views on civility and inclusivity are so at odds with mine and with the values of our Oglethorpe community. This morning, I can manage to get past his inexperience and lack of public service even though virtually every editorial page in the country, left or right leaning, failed to endorse him because of those traits. What I cannot get past, and I will refuse to overlook, is a future of America that is divided by race, religion, sexual identity, and country of origin.

I look forward to seeing you tonight.

President Schall


Dear Colorado University- Boulder community:

As a nation, we have just finished a particularly stressful national election cycle. I want to acknowledge that our campus is not alone in experiencing and witnessing a wide range of reactions today, from joy, to fear, to sadness, to sheer exhaustion. I’d like to share how proud I am of our entire campus community for hosting political speakers and events as well as engaging in respectful dialogue across campus during this election cycle. While we are not perfect or error-free, as a community we must remain committed to the values contained in our Colorado Creed.

You may find yourself with friends, classmates or colleagues who do not share the same reactions as you. These interactions may evoke strong emotions that can quickly intensify. In some cases, you, or others close to you, may feel you are experiencing or witnessing negative treatment or more subtle forms of oppression, perhaps related to the election or perhaps because of your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, country of origin, political thought or other aspect of your identity. At CU Boulder, we respect and protect all of these expressions of identity on our campus.

In every case, we are here to listen, engage and support one another. If you are struggling with the personal impact of this stressful time in any way, we have resources available to you. The campus provides safe spaces for discussions on identity, empowerment, intercultural competency and the impact of the election.

This is a highly stressful time of year on the campus and for the nation at the end of this election. We recommend several strategies to care for yourself and to help you remain productive throughout the semester, including:

  • Acknowledge your feelings — check your emotional state before you engage in conversations. Are you in a space to dialogue?
  • Focus on tasks or events that are in your control.
  • Connect with friends, family, a community or a safe space to ground and support you.
  • Focus on the present and shift away from the future.
  • Monitor your social media use — check your reactions before and after taking in information and set time limits.
  • Opt out of unproductive conversations — pay attention to whether the discussion is going to benefit anyone or just increase stress levels.
  • Take care of basic needs such as eating, sleeping and drinking water. Incorporate activities that recharge and relax you.

Thank you for your engagement and investment in our national election process, and thank you for being part of our vibrant campus community,

Sincerely,

Philip P. DiStefano
Chancellor

Trump Win Prompts Student Protests and “Cry-Ins”

A cry-in marked Cornell University’s reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Zoe Maisel, ’18 co-president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell, said she and co-president Cassidy Clark ’17 began organizing the cry-in Tuesday night for “those of us who have been fighting.”

“We need to just take a break and just cry before … tomorrow we get back up and keep fighting because people feel really, really powerless,” she said. “This event was just to come together and support each other because we’re all in shock right now,” added Alanna Salwen ’19, design chair for PPGA at Cornell.

Maisel noted that the president-elect’s rhetoric, specifically targeting minorities, immigrants and women, has devastated many who feel that they will be especially vulnerable and unwelcome in Trump’s America.

At Yale, no organized crying, but the Yale Daily News reported that an election “primal scream,” organized by the Freshman Outdoor Orientation Leaders who also participate in the minute-long tradition before midterms and finals, took place outside Sterling Memorial Library at 12:30 a.m. The event was publicized and passed on to the general student body quickly.

The newspaper reported, “The scream offered students a chance to come together, process the shock of the moment and use that energy to move forward, said a sophomore at the event.” She added that the primal scream is in no way incitement or an invitation for reckless behavior, but rather a contained period of expression that hopefully enables its participants to express their frustration productively.


Trump wins election, UCLA students riot and protest presidential victory

A little over an hour later, La Casa Cultural Director Eileen Galvez sent an email to students inviting the community to La Casa at 10 a.m. on Wednesday for food and comfort.

‘While we celebrate American citizens’ right to vote, we also acknowledge that many people are in pain tonight,” Galvez wrote. “While we as a country move forward with new national leadership, for those of you that feel that pain, you are not alone.”

The Washington Post, reported, “As election results poured in showing Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, students took to the streets at colleges across the country, especially on the West Coast, crying and shouting with rage.”

“At many schools, the chants were the same: “F‑‑‑ Donald Trump!” over and over, with students’ fists pumping the air or arms around one another, some holding cellphones aloft to light their way through dark campuses or to film and share on social media.

A third-year student from New York Law School told The College Fix in a Twitter conversation that in the student’s classes today, the syllabus is being tossed out the window today so everybody can grieve (sic) and vent their *feelings* … That’s around $770 of education just today that I’m not getting.

The student explained that “assigned cases and topics were left untouched” so students can talk about how the election made them feel. They engaged in histrionic and hyperbolic talk, actual crying, statements about feeling angry and ‘personally violated’ overseeing a little boy walking down the street holding his mom’s hand and knowing he’s going to grow up in Trump’s America.

Students of color said they “felt their world ripped out from under them” because they fear anyone they meet could be a Trump voter, now that half the country has shown it “holds dangerous hatred for them because of their race,” the student said. A professor described “the people at Trump rallies as armies of hateful people.

On Right Side of History

“I honestly I feel like people are panicked,” Diana Wang, Harvard ’20 told the Harvard Crimson as Trump pulled ahead on Tuesday night. “When Trump pulls forward, people freak. People just freak out.”

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, before the race was called, President of the Harvard Democrats Susan X. Wang ’17 said she and fellow students are “prepared to fight harder” following a Trump victory.

“We get ready to face four hard years but we get ready to face four years with the knowledge that we’re on the right side of history and that this isn’t a permanent setback, it’s just a temporary one,” Wang said.

Dale Brigham, a nutrition professor at the University of Missouri, said an exam scheduled for today would proceed, despite Donald Trump’s victory. Brigham’s alleged indifference to his students’ fears led them to savage him on social media, some in incredibly crude terms, and now Brigham has resigned, he confirmed to local station KOMU:

“I am just trying to do what I think is best for our students and the university as an institution,” Brigham said to KOMU 8 News. “If my leaders think that my leaving would help, I am all for it. I made a mistake, and I do not want to cause further harm.” KOMU later reported that Brigham’s resignation “was not accepted” by Mizzou.

A University of Michigan professor has postponed an exam after many students emailed him and complained about their “serious stress” over the election results.

John Snodgrass’ psychology class will still meet today, but the previously scheduled exam will now be moved to next week, he told students in an email obtained by The College Fix.

“However one feels about the results of this important election, it’s clear that it (and the period leading up to it) is/has been very distracting and upsetting to many students. Relatedly, I’ve been receiving many emails in recent hours from students requesting to delay the exam due to associated serious stress,” the lecturer wrote to students.

Did ‘Deplorable’ Prof Unmask Extreme PC Culture at NYU?

NYU has been in tumult over far-right tweeting by a self-declared “deplorable” professor who revealed himself last week as Michael Rectenwald, assistant clinical professor of liberal studies. Yesterday he made another revelation in a Washington Post op-ed: his alt-right burst of opinions was a pose, a “thought experiment” intended to provoke an authoritarian reaction at NYU. He was placed on paid leave, but his saga took yet another turn when NYU said the leave was purely voluntary.

In his op-ed, Rectenwald wrote, “I’m not a conservative, or an alt-righter. I find Donald Trump repugnant. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, Social Justice Warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy — thinly disguised as sympathy — of my colleagues’ design, I’ve lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.”

Rectenwald excoriated “the predictable, censorious responses of so-called progressives, self-appointed thought police at NYU and elsewhere who have, in the name of maintaining a culture of civility on campus, policed their little corner of the Twittersphere.”

His op-ed listed a few PC excesses: the suggestion at some colleges that students report to authorities on inappropriate Halloween costumes, and the disaster last year at Yale where a house master was as abused and threatened over a mild Halloween-costume suggestion by his wife (an assistant housemaster) while four Yale deans looked on and said nothing.

Though his opinion of Trump is low, he wrote, “The whole episode makes me reluctantly agree with Trump’s assertion that political correctness “has transformed our institutions of higher education from ones that fostered spirited debate to a place of extreme censorship.”

The Daily Caller reported that NYU insisted his sudden departure on paid leave was purely voluntary. “It was not demanded by the University and is unconnected to his social media postings,” says chief spokesman John Beckham. “He requested the leave, and we look forward to having him back when he is ready. His leave has absolutely nothing to do with his Twitter account or his opinions on issues of the day.”

The editorial Board of Washington Square News, an independent NYU paper, said Rectenwald’s version of events “was quickly proven to be false when NYU released a copy of the email correspondence between Rectenwald and Liberal Studies Dean Fred Schwarzbach. The conversation revealed that his previous comments were inaccurate and that university officials had never forced him to take a leave of absence. … NYU officials have stated that they are ending his self-imposed leave and expect him to return to classes immediately.”

Diversicrats Take on Catholic Scholar at Catholic College

By Rod Dreher

Many readers will have heard of Anthony Esolen, the robustly orthodox Catholic literature professor at Providence College, the Dominican-run college in Rhode Island. Prof. Esolen is the author of a number of books, including an exquisite translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is one of the three translations I recommend to anyone who asks me which is the best to read. He also writes frequently for orthodox Christian magazines like Touchstone and Crisis.

A couple of essays he published in Crisis this autumn sparked a huge row on his campus. The first criticizes the politics of “diversity” as they play out within a Catholic academic setting. The second poses the question to faithful Catholics (and other Christians): What will you do when the persecution comes?

Naturally, some students and faculty on Esolen’s campus were so outraged by his suggestion that “diversity” as they understand it is misguided and destructive that they have commenced a campaign to punish him, perhaps even to fire him.

Now, Esolen is having to answer the very question he recently posed to his readers in the second essay. Tony Esolen agreed to answer a few questions from me via e-mail. Our conversation is reproduced below.

Rod Dreher: What is happening to you at Providence College? Explain the controversy.

Tony Esolen: It’s a long story — that is, there is a two-year-long back-story that does not involve me, but that does involve five Catholic colleagues who have been treated disgracefully by their secular colleagues or have suffered under the inquests of the “Bias Response Protocol.” I wrote the two articles in Crisis Magazine, one of them in April and the other a few weeks ago, as alerts.

Someone at school then got hold of them and, before I knew it, I was in the middle of outrage, coming mainly from a group of students who I believe have been misled by radical professors who have adopted politics as their god, whether these professors are aware of it or not. The students accused me of racism, despite my explicit statements in the articles that I welcome people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, and despite my appeal, at the end of one of the articles, that they and their secular professors should join us in that communion where there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc.

They were angered by my suggestion, in one article, that there was something narcissistic in the common insistence that people should study THEMSELVES rather than people who lived long ago and in cultures far removed from ours by any ordinary criterion, and that there was something totalitarian in the impulse of the secular left, to attempt to subject our curriculum to the demands of a current political aim.

I spoke to one of the students, a friendly fellow whom I like very much, and explained to him that my quarrel was not with the students but rather with anti-Catholic professors and their attempts to hurt or to stifle my colleagues. It was a long and warm conversation, at the end of which I asked him to relay to his group that I was happy, even eager, to meet with them any time to talk about what it is like to be a minority student at Providence College.

I also asked him to relay to our chief Diversity Officer my offer of a year ago, to start up a film series centered on themes of injustice and prejudice; one of the movies I specifically mentioned to him and to the Officer was the devastating One Potato Two Potato, about an interracial marriage.

Since then, though, I have received NO phone calls and NO e-mails from any students; and yet word has spread around campus, possibly originating from the administration itself, that I have “blown off” the students, when exactly the reverse is true, and if anybody has been “blown off,” it has been me.

A week ago last Thursday I was tipped off by a student — not a member of the group in question — that there was going to be a protest on campus. That’s unheard of, at Providence College. About 60 students marched around, while a female student-led them around, shouting slogans through a bullhorn. I think it was “What do we want? Inclusion! When do we want it? Now!”

The noise could be heard all through the three-story building where my office is. I had thought they were going to come down the hall and knock on my door, but then they seem to have turned around and gone to the president’s office, where they demanded a response from him, and of course some of the students demanded that I be fired.

In fact, the president had already met with those students the day before and had heard that particular demand, though  he said that I enjoyed academic freedom. It is likely that he knew of the demonstration beforehand because the Vice President for Student Affairs actually was there.  The Vice President of Student Affairs says that she did not have any prior knowledge of the demonstration.  She says that she was present in her capacity as chief of security.

The president then sent round to all the faculty, all the staff, all undergraduates, and all graduates the following letter:

Dear Members of the Providence College Community:

Yesterday I met with about 60 of our students who marched through campus and eventually came to Harkins Hall. Their primary source of complaint was the content of a pair of articles recently published by a member of our faculty, how it made them feel, and their frustration that there had been no response from the College or me. After dialoging with the students, I believe it is imperative for me to respond to their concerns.

Academic freedom is a bedrock principle of higher education. It allows professors the freedom to teach, write, and lecture without any restraint except the truth as they see it. It also gives them the freedom to express their opinions as citizens so long as it is clear that they do not represent the views of the institution with which they are affiliated. This freedom obviously extends to espousing views critical of their own college or university.

So when one of our professors writes an article accusing Providence College of having “Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult,” he is protected by academic freedom and freedom of speech. But it must be understood that he speaks only for himself. He certainly does not speak for me, my administration, and for many others at Providence College who understand and value diversity in a very different sense from him.

Universities are places where ideas are supposed to be brought into conflict and questioned, so let us robustly debate the meaning of “diversity.” But we must also remember that words have an impact on those who hear or read them. When a professor questions the value of diversity, the impact on many students, faculty, and staff of color is to feel that their presence is not valued and that they are not welcome at Providence College. I have heard from many students about the pain that this causes. When student activists are described as “narcissists,” they understandably feel demeaned and dismissed. We need to be able to disagree with each other’s ideas without attaching labels to them or imputing motives that we cannot know.

At the same time that we value freedom in the pursuit of truth, let us value even more our fundamental imperative on a Catholic campus: to be charitable to one another. We may deeply disagree on any number of topics, but we should do so in such a way that respects those with whom we disagree.

Our Catholic mission at Providence College calls us to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and cultures as a mirror of the universal Church and to seek the unity of that Body in the universal love of Christ. Pope Francis has likened this communion to the weaving of a blanket, “woven with patience and perseverance, one which gradually draws together stitches to make a more extensive and rich cover.” He reminds us as well that what we seek is not “unanimity, but true unity in the richness of diversity.” Finally, Francis reminds us that “plurality of thought and individuality reflect the manifold wisdom of God when we draw nearer to truth with intellectual honesty and rigor, when we draw near to goodness, when we draw near to beauty, in such a way that everyone can be a gift for the benefit of others.” Amen.

Fr. Brian Shanley

My friends were outraged, and I was stunned — basically, I had been singled out and exposed before the whole faculty, very few of whom were probably even aware that there was such a thing as Crisis Magazine; and, of course, they and the students are not my audience when I write for Crisis or whatever. Then, as if that were not bad enough, the President met with faculty on Wednesday afternoon, and all they did for a solid hour was to revile the evil Professor Esolen, with a few old-fashioned liberals defending my right to express my opinions, and several of my stalwart friends from philosophy and theology defending me personally and criticizing the president for his decision and for his handling of related matters. When the president said that he believed that he had to act “for pastoral reasons,” they replied that it was a strange form of pastoral care that pits every member of a community against one.

And it is still not over. The faculty have circulated a “petition,” or a resolution, or something neither flesh nor fowl, to the effect that though we all have academic freedom, it has to be exercised responsibly, and reviling “some part of the PC faculty” that is “unabashed” in publishing articles that are racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinistic. The petition has been signed by various faculty members and students. And STILL I hear that they are not satisfied, but are trying to figure out if they can use my articles to nail me for “bias” and hate, basically asserting that I am not capable of teaching certain categories of students — gay, female, and so forth.

I have been advised by a lawyer friend that that assertion itself is eo ipsodefamatory.

The Good Guys in all this are meeting tonight to draft a stern response. All I want to do is to teach ALL STUDENTS the glories of three thousand years of poetry, art, theology, and philosophy; and NOT to have the campus riven by the politicians….

In your recent essay on persecution, you tell your Catholic readers that “the war is here,” and you identify four kinds of Catholics with regard to the persecution. How does the situation you’re in at Providence College illustrate your argument?

I have seen the soldiers come forth. I can give you the names of some of them; they can add a great deal, too; they have been either the victims or witnesses of recent forays into persecution. Chief among them is Prof. James Keating, who I believe will be eager to correspond with you.

I won’t say anything about Quislings at this time. But the college is peppered with Persecutors. One secular professor tipped his hand at the faculty meeting with the President. When the President asked what could be done to increase the diversity at Providence College — whatever that means; nobody has defined “diversity” — one of the art history professors replied, “Get rid of the response to the mission statement,” the requirement that prospective professors write in response to a statement of our Catholic identity. The crowd cheered.

The dirty not-so-secret is that the same people who for many years have loathed our Development of Western Civilization program — the focus of curricular hostility — also despise the Catholic Church and wish to render the Catholic identity of the college merely nominal.

They are now also gunning for the DWC program, though they are so encapsulated in their secular monoculture, they have no idea what a tsunami of outrage they will bring on from the alumni if that program were ever to be eliminated.

In the other essay that stirred up your critics on campus, you laid into the way “diversity” is handled on your ostensibly Catholic college campus. In particular, you wrote: “But there is no evidence on our Diversity page that we wish to be what God has called us to be, a committedly and forthrightly Catholic school with life-changing truths to bring to the world. It is as if, deep down, we did not really believe it.” How have events there since you published that essay just over a month ago affected your views?

As I’ve said to people, authors don’t choose the titles for articles for Crisis Magazine; the editor does that, for the sake of “traffic” on the page. His title was a bit provocative. But everything that has happened since then has shown me, alas, that the editor saw more than I did, or more than I have been willing to admit.

The irony would seem to be obvious: “How DARE you suggest that there is a totalitarian impulse in our behavior? You should be FIRED!” And then, of course, there is the brazen cheering of the faculty when it is proposed that we should not be Catholic after all.
The strange irony of it all is that I’m the one who believes that a wide diversity of cultures and of institutions is a good thing, and they really do not. I do not WANT all colleges and universities to be basically the same; they do.

You have tenure, right? They can’t get rid of you — or can they?

I am told by a friend that I can be fired despite my tenure, though that is very unlikely.

I’ve read your forthcoming book, Out Of The Ashes: Rebuilding America Culture — and it’s terrific. You are particularly hard-hitting about the corruption of college life in America. You say it is “an absolute necessity” for faithful Christians to build new colleges because it is “not enough to reform the old.” What do you mean? Along those lines, what are the lessons of your present trial at Providence College?

Reforming the old schools will take an entire generation at least, if it is even possible; and in most cases, the reform will be spotty. Many schools are beyond reform: they are filled with professors who have disdain for the Church, and their courses in the liberal arts are thoroughly secular, and not particularly impressive intellectually, at that — how can they be, when the greatest concern of human life is systematically ignored or belittled?

Providence College can tip either way. I don’t know. My lawyer friend used to teach at PC and told me that that fight is lost. I believe it is not lost … but if I had money, I would give it straightaway to the real deals: Our Lady Seat of Wisdom (Ontario), Thomas More (NH), Wyoming Catholic, Dallas, Benedictine, etc.

What advice would you give to young Christian academics? To Christian parents preparing to send their kids to college?
It’s long past the time for administrators at Christian colleges to abandon the hiring policies that got us in this fix to begin with. We KNOW that there are plenty of excellent young Christian scholars who have to struggle to find a job. Well, let’s get them and get them right away. WE should be establishing a network for that purpose — so that if a Benedictine College needs a professor of literature, they can get on the phone to Ralph Wood at Baylor or me at Providence or Glenn Arbery at Wyoming Catholic, and say, “Do you have anybody?”

Christian parents — please do not suppose that your child will retain his or her faith after four years of battering at a secular college. Oh, many do — and many colleges have Christian groups that are terrific. But understand that it is going to be a dark time; and that everything on campus will be inimical to the faith, from the blockheaded assumptions of their professors, to the hook-ups, to the ignorance of their fellow students and their unconscious but massive bigotry. Be advised.

What would Dante say about the Christian in the contemporary university?

Fight. Be a cheerful warrior if you can be cheerful; all the better. But be a warrior.

Finally, I don’t know if you’ve read anything about my Benedict Option idea, but I found that Out Of The Ashes resonates strongly with the things I’ve been thinking and writing about. My book The Benedict Option will be out in mid-March. Your book comes out in January. Archbishop Charles Chaput has a great book, Strangers In A Strange Land, coming out in February, which says more or less the same things that you and I are saying, though in his own distinct voice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these books are emerging independently of each other, at the same time. What’s going on in our culture now? If a Christian wishes to read the signs of the times, what message should he see?

I agree with you entirely, Rod. It is time to rebuild. There can be no more pretense of a culture around us that is Christian or that is even content with Christianity being in its midst. We must be for the world by being against the world: Athanasius contra mundum. The world is leveling every cultural institution in its path — we must save them or rebuild them from the dust, for the world’s own sake, and for God’s.

UPDATE: A reader sends the text of the anti-Esolen petition being circulated on Providence College’s campus, originating with the school’s Black Studies Program faculty:

Please Sign the Petition: Breaking the Silence

PROVIDENCE COLLEGE BLACK STUDIES PROGRAM·SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2016

Breaking the Silence, Faculty Statement

As PC Faculty, we pledge to break the silence around systemic racism and discrimination on Providence College’s campus. While we vigorously support free expression, recent publications on the part of PC faculty have involved racist, xenophobic, misogynist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinist statements. The use of this type of language by people with power over students runs counter to the Catholic mission of Providence College, which aims “to reflect the rich diversity” of our world, and “extend a loving embrace to all.” As a diverse coalition of students have consistently highlighted, such statements are part of a broader pattern of racism, sexism and other forms of hate that are all too common not only on campus, but in the broader public culture. As professors who care deeply about the wellbeing, safety, and growth of our students, we are committed to combating racism and overcoming the hostile learning environment for too many of our students, while creating spaces where all of our students can engage in meaningful ways.

The professor-student relationship is marked by a significant imbalance in power and authority. Conferred by the institutions of which we are a part, professors possess the power and authority over students to determine the content of the syllabi, assign tasks, create supportive or destructive learning environments, and evaluate student performance, and we are able to do so largely free from direct oversight. Such a large degree of academic freedom — especially the power to grade — coupled with the right to free speech comes with professional standards and responsibilities. Some professors have openly, publicly, and unabashedly articulated a disdain for racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and religious inclusion. In contrast, we the undersigned, are committed to ensuring that marginalized groups are not further marginalized in the classroom, especially when many of our students already experience multiple forms of exclusion at Providence College. Furthermore, we commit to addressing anti-immigrant and anti-black racism on campus, creating a more diverse and inclusive community, and implementing student demands (http://www.thedemands.org/).

In a political context marked by renewed attempts to divide us along racial, ethnic, and gender lines, as well as renewed protests to promote equality and justice for all, we as PC faculty think it is vital to respond to these recent examples of hateful speech and actions. Along with PC students and students across the country, we stand on the side of equality and justice, and an inclusive campus for all.

Take a look at the specific “demands” the black faculty, students, and their allies are making of Providence College’s leadership. It is shockingly illiberal, and amounts to a thoroughgoing politicization and racialization of every aspect of campus life. This stuff is Orwellian. Any college or university that yields to these tyrants ceases to be a place where true liberal learning is possible and instead becomes an ideological indoctrination factory.

Reprinted with permission from The American Conservative

Rod Dreher is a prominent conservative, more concerned with culture than with politics, who runs a blog at The American Conservative.

Yale Defends Its Star Chamber Hearings

The Obama administration, acting through the Office of Civil Rights, has made a terrible mess out of sexual misconduct hearings on our campuses, but it did one good thing without thinking much about it: it targeted one university—Yale—for regular reports on how it dealt in sexual assault hearings.

The reports, released by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, are bare-boned and hardly meant to be informative, but they have included enough information to demonstrate the fundamental unfairness of Yale’s procedures and the witch hunt atmosphere that has permeated the campus. Perhaps for this reason, OCR has avoided instituting a reporting requirement like Yale’s on any other institution.

Recently, Yale’s dubious policies came under higher-than-usual scrutiny, thanks to a perceptive Wall Street Journal op-ed from Jennifer Braceras—who correctly noted that the accused enjoyed far more rights under the notorious Star Chamber than they do in Yale’s sexual assault disciplinary tribunals. Jack Montague, Braceras noted, discovered first-hand just how unfair Yale’s procedures could be.

He had no right to direct cross-examination, no right to have a lawyer fully participate in the process, and received a judgment from a “trained” panel that seemed predisposed to find guilt. He also was charged in seeming violation of Yale guidelines, which (as Spangler explained at the time) did not apply to cases like Montague’s, where the accuser declined to file a complaint.

Braceras’ op-ed generated a response, from Yale professor David Post, an aquatic ecologist who chairs the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC). Post deemed Braceras’ comments an “affront” to him, noted that many Yale cases end with no punishments, and gushed about “Yale’s multilayer process,” which “allows parties to submit and respond to evidence, engage legal counsel, submit questions for a hearing panel to ask the other party and file an appeal to the university’s highest levels. Each complaint is investigated by an outside fact-finder.”

According to Professor Post, “Yale’s process is honest, fair, transparent and respects privacy.”

First of all, here’s a statement on the Montague lawsuit, offered to the Hartford Courant, by a Yale public relations staffer: “Yale always respects the privacy and confidentiality of all students involved in a disciplinary process. Yale’s procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct are thorough and fair. Allegations are investigated by an impartial fact finder, heard by five trained members of the Yale community, and decided by the accused student’s dean.

Throughout the process, all parties have advisers, which can be legal counsel, and they can appeal a decision.” Previous Yale statements also had stressed the fact that not all accused students are found guilty (citing the same statistics as Post), in following the outlines laid out by Judge Furman’s opinion in the Columbia case. Apparently, no one told Post that the Second Circuit had overruled Furman.
The remarkable similarities between the earlier Yale publicity statement and Post’s letter—which ostensibly contains his own words, and reflects his own thinking, not that of a Yale public relations officer—raises some questions about the professor’s “honest[y].”

As to the other qualities of Yale’s procedures: I’m sure that Montague—like Patrick Witt before him—was surprised to discover Yale’s commitment to respecting “privacy.” Indeed, after Montague left the team, Yale’s Women’s Center released a statement “speculat[ing]” that “it seems that a survivor felt that coming forward was a viable option and that they got the decisive outcome that they likely fought hard for.”

The claim of transparency also intrigues. This assertion was the major difference between Professor Post’s letter and the earlier statement from Yale’s p.r. office (which, wisely, made no mention of the concept). It’s not clear why Professor Post added the claim since Yale’s process is anything but transparent. It’s closed to the public. The university has refused to release the “training” all UWC members receive. And Yale makes no promise to share with the accused students all the evidence the purportedly independent “fact finder” uncovers.

As for the claim of Professor Post—and Yale’s spokesperson—that the university’s process is “fair”: even as last year’s protesters demanded a more “diverse” English fare, it seems that Orwell is alive and well on the New Haven campus.

Surprise! Conservative Opinion Not Welcome at Yale

Yale remains deeply unwelcoming to students with conservative political beliefs, according to a new but massively unsurprising Yale Daily News survey distributed in October and reported last week.

Of the 2,054 respondents who completed the survey —about 38 % of all Yale undergrads— nearly 75 percent said they believe Yale does not provide a welcoming environment for conservative students to share their opinions on political issues. Among the 12 percent of respondents who described themselves as either “conservative” or “very conservative,” nearly 95 percent said the Yale community does not welcome their opinions. About two-thirds of respondents who described themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal” said Yale is not welcoming to conservative students.

More than 98 percent of respondents said Yale is welcoming to students with liberal beliefs, a finding we suspected all along. And among students who described themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal,” 85 percent said they are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” sharing their political views in campus discussions. That leaves a puzzling 15 % thinking, for whatever reason, that voicing liberal ideas is a dicey thing to do at Yale.

A 2015 article in the Harvard Crimson’s weekly magazine reported many conservative students at Harvard College believe their political opinions are neither respected nor appreciated. And in a recent article in The College Fix, a conservative online news outlet, a student at Columbia said that he feared he would be “physically assaulted” if he displayed conservative images or slogans on his clothing.

In an interview with the News, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the results of the survey were lamentable but unsurprising. Holloway attributed conservative students’ discomfort at sharing their views partly to the pervasiveness of social media.

“So much of your generation’s world is managed through smartphones. There’s no margin anymore for saying something stupid,” Holloway said. “People have been saying “dumb things forever, but when I was your age word of mouth would take a while. Now it’s instantaneous, now context is stripped away.”

Holloway added that Yale is one of many liberal arts universities where conservative views are highly unpopular, noting that in election years the political environment can become especially heated.

Attempting to walk his statements back, Dean Holloway said, “In no way did I intend to imply that the views of any student or faculty were stupid or should be dismissed. I meant to lament the fact that meaningful conversations were too often reduced or misconstrued in the shortened messages of social media, leading to a lack of understanding. I apologize if my words were misconstrued and taken to mean anything otherwise.”


A friend, a Yale grad who read about the survey in the Yale Daily News, offered this comment: The best part of the article is the italicized correction at the end, where Dean Holloway tries to walk back his quote earlier in the piece explaining that the reason conservative Yalies are intimidated is that social media now punishes people for saying stupid things. He called after the article appeared to have them add a note saying he wasn’t trying to suggest that conservatives are stupider than liberals — but of course that’s the only way the quote makes any sense. It was a classic Kinseyan gaffe: he accidentally said what he really thought. (And then was stupid enough to draw attention to it with a correction — God, what a feckless and hapless bunch of administrators at Yale.)
yale

 

Halloween Is Now a Beat for the Bias Police

On campus, the holiday is at least as much fun as a 4-hour trip to the dentist. Students involved in fraternities and sororities at Tufts University, where the First Amendment is apparently not widely known, were told to not wear anything that could offend or annoy others during Halloween celebrations – or risk getting investigated by campus police and being hit with “serious disciplinary sanctions.”

The University of Florida considered the possibility of mental and emotional impairment by costume and offered to counsel students “troubled” by incidents involving Halloween costumes. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Bias Incident Team made sure that three women dressed as “Three Blind Mice” costumes that mocked the disabled last year did not do so again.

three-blind-mice

The University of Texas-Austin issued a grim 29-point guide to terrible mistakes in costuming, including unique or exotic themes. “A theme connected to our own communities are more likely to be respectful and fun for everyone (e.g. rather than a “jungle” theme, try a ‘Texas beach’ theme).

(More fun if the motif at a Texas party is just plain old Texas.)

Costumes Coded for Threat Levels

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, several signs around campus instructed students to avoid cultural appropriation when planning their Halloween costumes. The signs were posted in residence halls as part of an initiative led by the university’s diversity office, its Center for Women and Community, and its Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success.

One poster features a meter similar to the terrorism alert meter used by the federal government. Called the Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter (or SCREAM), the poster displays five threat levels, all assigned a different color. Students worried about the possible threat level of their costumes were told to check with SCREAM in advance.

At Yale, where last Halloween’s great upheaval took place (Erica Christakis and her husband were shrieked at, threatened, cursed by a mob of students and in effect driven from the university because she had suggested that Yale men and women could make costume decisions with Administration guidance) the new head of Silliman, where the Christakis’s once were, held a Halloween party with a “spook team” and commemorated a fictional girl who supposedly had burned to death in the house.

Kishore Chundi ’20 said he appreciated the respect and sensitivity of the costumed actors. Organizers took precautions to ensure that attendees were comfortable. Santos stood at the entryway to the haunted house to warn attendees about the strobe lights inside and explain to students that they could leave at any point. “They made sure you could tap out at any time if it was too much to handle,” Chundi said.

What the Feds Have Done to Colleges and Schools

The Obama administration has repeatedly violated civil liberties on campus. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been the chief culprit, but the Department of Justice has played a role too. They have attacked free speech, demanding that school officials censor politically-incorrect speech. They have also pressured colleges to stack the deck against students accused of sexual harassment or assault by denying them the right to due process. The Obama administration has violated the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection by demanding racial quotas in school discipline and turning a blind eye to campus racial violence against whites. It also has shown a contempt for religious freedom and the due process rights of colleges themselves.

  1. The Attack on Free Speech

The Obama administration has told colleges investigated under Title IX — such as the University of Montana — to classify all “unwelcome” sexual conduct or speech as “sexual harassment.” It did so even though this violates free speech, and even though courts have never defined sexual harassment that broadly. In 2013, a political appointee in the Obama Justice Department and an official in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) demanded that the University of Montana impose a sweeping campus speech code treating all “unwelcome” speech about sexual issues as “sexual harassment,” even if only a hypersensitive person would have objected (like a student offended by a classmate or professor discussing how AIDS is transmitted).

Education writers like Joanne Jacobs pointed out that this definition of sexual harassment would effectively brand every student a sexual harasser (like a student asking another student out on a date). It also would ban jokes, cartoons and discussions that only the most sensitive people find offensive, at a huge cost to free speech.

The Obama administration’s letter to the University of Montana claimed that sexual speech need not even create a “hostile environment” to be harassment. But a federal appeals court rejected that argument in DeJohn v. Temple University (2008). It ruled that a college harassment policy violates the First Amendment if it defines as sexual harassment speech that does not “objectively” create a “hostile environment.” Even if it does create a hostile environment, the sexual speech still “may be protected” by the First Amendment if it discusses political or social issues.

In September 2016, an OCR attorney encouraged unwarranted sexual harassment complaints based on constitutionally-protected speech in yet another way. She told Frostburg State University that its sexual harassment policy was wrong to determine whether the conduct was harassment based on the “perspective of a reasonable person.”

This opened the door to sexual harassment complaints by hypersensitive students who seek to silence discussion of sexual issues by classmates. Under broad campus “harassment” codes, students have been investigated or punished merely for expressing commonplace opinions about sexual and racial issues, such as criticizing feminism or affirmative action.

As Reason Magazine noted, in rejecting the reasonable person standard, the OCR official was “effectively saying that colleges should base their decisions on the perspective of an unreasonable person.”  That flouted Supreme Court rulings, which the Daily Caller notes have long applied “a reasonable person standard to decide whether sexual harassment occurred.” For example, in 2001, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling against the Clark County School District, ruling that a “reasonable person” could not “have believed that [a] single incident” of offensive remarks amounted to harassment.

The Obama administration has also told grade schools to violate the free-speech rights of their students. In an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s school boards about bullying, the Office for Civil Rights rewrote the legal definition of sexual harassment to reach homophobia and offensive speech outside of school.

It claimed that “harassment does not have to . . . involve repeated incidents” to be illegal under Title IX, but rather need only be “severe, pervasive, or persistent” enough to detract from a student’s educational benefits or activities. It also targeted speech outside of school, claiming that harassment includes speech, such as “graphic and written statements” on the “Internet” and elsewhere.

Disturbingly, it also suggested that speech could violate Title IX even if it was not “aimed at a specific target.” Banning academic speech not aimed at the complainant creates enormous free-speech problems.

A federal appeals court relied on the First Amendment in dismissing a racial harassment lawsuit by a university’s Hispanic employees against a white professor over his recurrent racially-charged anti-immigration emails. In its ruling in Rodriguez v. Maricopa County Community College (2010), the court noted that the messages were not “directed at particular individuals” but rather aimed at “the college community” as a whole.

OCR’s attempt to restrict off-campus speech also went well beyond its jurisdiction under Title IX. Courts have held that Title IX does not hold schools liable for even serious off-campus misconduct in decisions like Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014), which rejected a lawsuit over an alleged student-on-student rape.

OCR’s pressure on colleges to regulate off-campus conduct and speech led to a speech-chilling investigation of Professor Laura Kipnis that lasted for months. She was investigated under Title IX for her essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” (which hypersensitive students claimed offended them and constituted sexual harassment) and her subsequent statements defending herself on Twitter (which the students claimed constituted “retaliation” in violation of Title IX, even though she did not identify them by name).

OCR’s sweeping definition of “sexual harassment” is at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), which held that to be illegal under Title IX, sexual harassment must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court explained that the requirement of both severity and pervasiveness means that a lawsuit cannot be based solely on a “single instance” of “severe” peer harassment — contrary to OCR’s “Dear Colleague” letter about bullying, which claimed harassment does not have to “involve repeated incidents” to violate Title IX.

The Obama administration expects colleges to students’ lives, even off campus. It has told colleges to investigate students for sexual harassment or assault even when their allegedly victimized partner does not want any investigation. It instructed the University of Virginia to investigate further even when the accused has already admitted guilt (even though that could needlessly force a victim to relive her trauma) and even in “cases in which students chose not to file a formal complaint” or even to pursue an “informal resolution process.”

  1. Due Process Undermined

The Administration has also stacked the deck against people accused of sexual harassment or assault in campus disciplinary proceedings. For example, in Title IX investigations, it has required that colleges impose “interim measures” against accused students before they ever receive a hearing on the charge against them, measures that can include expulsion from a dorm and classes shared with the accuser. It perversely faulted Michigan State for not investigating a false complaint fast enough, even though the complainant didn’t want a college investigation at all, and it suggested the University might have to offer the false accuser academic “remedies.

In its April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague letter to the nation’s colleges, OCR instructed to colleges to restrict cross-examination, even though the Supreme Court has declared that cross-examination is the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” It also ordered colleges to abolish the clear-and-convincing standard of evidence that was once the norm in college discipline, recommending instead the far weaker “preponderance of evidence standard (50.001 percent certainty).

OCR also has recently required some investigated colleges (such as Harvard and SUNY) to conduct “individual complaint reviews” for all allegations in past academic years to see if the college “took steps” against harassment in each case. That creates the risk of students being investigated all over again for an offense the college previously found them not guilty of, much like double jeopardy.

  1. The Attack on Equal Protection

The Obama Justice and Education Departments have pressured school districts to adopt racial quotas in school suspensions, falsely claiming that it generally violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to suspend black students at a higher rate than whites. Such racial quotas have led to increased violence and disorder in some large urban school districts.

This pressure flouts federal court rulings. A federal appeals court ruled in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997) that schools cannot use racial quotas in discipline, striking down a rule that forbade a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline.”

Yet, “Hillary Clinton has called for Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to crack down on school districts that discipline higher percentages of black students, and has advocated further increasing OCR’s budget to increase its muscle over school districts.”

Contrary to the assumption of Clinton and the Obama administration, school officials are not racist against black students: black students’ higher suspension rates simply reflect higher rates of misbehavior among blacks.

As Katherine Kersten wrote months ago in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, black students’

discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more. In fact, a major 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted for by a measure of the prior problem behavior of the student.” That problem behavior can manifest itself in other ways. Nationally, for example, young black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and Hispanics of the same ages combined.

The Obama administration has also turned a blind eye to racial discrimination and harassment committed against white students on campus. One example is when minority students at Berkeley racially harassed whites, prevented them from studying, and blocked the access of white students to key areas of campus while letting minority students through. Berkeley’s administration did nothing, even though it was all caught on videotape, witnessed by nearby campus police, and reported on by Fox News, the Washington Times, and Reason Magazine.

The Obama administration likewise did nothing, even though the White House has weighed in on far more trivial campus racial controversies that offended minorities (such as praising protests against Halloween costumes minority students considered “cultural appropriation,” and praising the expulsion of white Oklahoma students for a disgusting racist chant that law professors said was constitutionally-protected speech, but which the college president said was “racial harassment” of minorities who learned about it later). It did nothing, even though the Obama Education Department has investigated colleges for sexual harassment based on press reports, even when the purported victim did not complain to the Education Department, and did not even want a Title IX investigation. It ignores such racial discrimination, even though federal courts have ruled that civil rights laws forbid racial harassment and violence aimed at whites based on their race.

  1. The Attack on Colleges’ Own Religious Freedom and Due Process Rights

The Obama administration has selectively applied regulations in ways that destroy trade schools and for-profit colleges. For example, it forced the shutdown of ITT Tech, which had successfully operated for 50 years, displacing 40,000 students in the process. Even the liberal Washington Post, which has not endorsed a Republican for President since 1952, viewed this as a violation of due process. As the Post put it,

“What is so troubling about the department’s aggressive move — which experts presciently called a death sentence — is that not a single allegation of wrongdoing has been proven against the school. Maybe the government is right about ITT’s weaknesses, but its unilateral action without any semblance of due process is simply wrong. ‘Inappropriate and unconstitutional,’ said ITT officials. Such unfairness sadly is a hallmark of the Obama administration policy toward higher education’s for-profit sector.”

Meanwhile, the Administration continues to subsidize and provide financial aid to low-quality colleges that have far lower graduation rates and salaries for graduating students than ITT.

The Obama administration has also refused to respect the statutory and constitutional rights of religious schools and colleges. For example, on June 21, it rejected a “right of conscience” complaint by religious orders and schools who objected to the State of California’s requirement that their health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions. In so doing, it thumbed its nose at the Weldon Amendment, which Congress passed to prevent just such coercion.

That provision withholds federal funds from states that require health care entities to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” As lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom noted, the Obama administration’s action allowed California to illegally regulate the healthcare coverage of even priests and nuns, and allowed California to get away with a “blatant violation of the law.”

College Faculties, Heavily Tilted Toward the Left, Shun Diverse Viewpoints

A paper recently published in Econ Journal Watch, “Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology,” shows what almost everyone believes to be true – that college faculties in the social sciences are predominantly left of center. More than that, it shows that this is truer in some fields and geographic regions than others and, most importantly, that the leftist trend is becoming more pronounced over time.

Authors Mitchell Langbert, Anthony Quain, and Daniel Klein describe themselves as classical liberals who find both major parties to be “by and large, horrible,” so the study cannot be dismissed as merely partisan griping.

Related: The Age of Liberal Education Is Ending

They describe their findings modestly: “Other than indicating that Democratic-to-Republican ratios are even higher than we had thought (particularly in Economics and History), and that an awful lot of departments have zero Republicans, and that, yes, the ratios are higher at more prestigious universities and lower among older professors and among professors with higher-ranking titles, and that there are some regional effects, the paper does not offer new results of any great consequence.”

I think the authors are too modest, too restrained. Their findings are quite disturbing for anyone who holds a right-of-center or classical liberal philosophy since the paper points up the success that “progressives” are having with their project of seizing and holding the commanding heights in the war of ideas.

The authors surveyed voter registration data for professors in the five disciplines noted in the title at a wide array of schools. Out of 7,243 professors, 3,623 were registered as Democrats and just 314 as Republicans. Moreover, registrations for the Green and Working Families parties, both radically statist in outlook), equaled or exceeded Republican registrations in 72 of the 170 academic departments included in the study, and in many departments, there were no Republicans at all.

Related: Affirmative Action for Conservative Faculty?

Economics was the field with the lowest ratio of Democrats to Republicans (5: 1) and history the field with the highest (36:1).  In the middle were journalism (21:1), psychology (19:1), and law (9:1).

The fact that economics professors are mostly left-of-center will probably surprise many people since it’s widely believed that economics is the one social science discipline where free market/classical liberal scholars outnumber the left/interventionists. (See, for example, Peter Sacks’ MTC essay, “Don’t look for Marxists or Keynesians in Economics Departments.”) In an earlier study, Klein and Charlotta Stern showed that among members of the American Economics Association, only 8 percent held to what they regard as free-market principles.

If you thought that college students would be reeled back into reality when they take economics (which relatively few do anyway), the findings here are grim news.

Another worrisome conclusion from this paper is that the leftist domination of the faculty is intensifying. For example, in 1963, the D:R ratio in history was about 2.7:1. Today, it has mushroomed to36:1. Furthermore, the data show that the D:R ratio is lowest among emeritus professors and highest among assistant professors. Therefore, it appears, in the future college faculties will be even more politically and ideologically lopsided than today as the conservative older cohort retire.

The subject of the left’s domination of academe has been hotly debated, with different explanations offered. The explanation advanced by Langbert, Quain, and Klein is “groupthink,” which is the tendency for people to prefer to associate with individuals who hold similar beliefs and to avoid people who robustly disagree. That is especially true in the academic world, where ideas count for almost everything. Also, because academic hiring is controlled by departments, once an ideological slant sets in, groupthink drives them toward ever-greater uniformity.

Related: The Leftist Intellectuals Hovering over the Campus

What this means is that non-leftist students face — and let’s use the right word here — discrimination if they want to pursue a teaching career in these (and quite a few other) disciplines. Knowing that, most of them turn to more hospitable academic fields or look for employment outside of academe after graduation.

The big question is whether this matters. Leftists tend to make light of studies like this one, arguing that voter registration tells us nothing about the way professors conduct their courses. Overwhelmingly, they assert, these professors are devoted scholars who teach their courses without any bias. The authors, however, think otherwise, writing, “Works like Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (2012) and Christian Smith’s The Sacred Project of American Sociology (2014) represent a trend toward recognizing that scholarly interpretations and judgments are inseparable from a scholar’s sense of duty to higher purpose.”

That “higher purpose” is to serve as “change agents” as many professors admit they see their role. Sometimes we come across confessions from “progressive” faculty members that they feel proud and justified in teaching with a leftist bias to overcome what they see as the lamentable “right-wing” upbringing of many of their students. A good example is the book by English Professor Donald Lazere entitled Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias. (I wrote about that book here.)

So the classes taught by these professors probably won’t be taught without some ideological slant, and frequently with a very strong one. Even if students aren’t entirely “flipped” from right to left, the constant promulgation of leftist ideas is certain to affect quite a few of them, making “middle-of-the-road” students more inclined to accept leftist notions and making those who were already leaning that way into Social Justice Warrior types, the students who have been responsible for so much turmoil on campuses in recent years.

What is to be done? The authors offer no suggestions.

One palliative that I think helps slightly is to fund programs that bring professors who advocate free market and classical liberal thinking to campuses that are notoriously leftist.  At the University of Colorado, for example, a program brings in a visiting professor each year who will advance conservative and libertarian ideas. Last year’s visiting professor, Brian Domitrovic, wrote about the experience for the Pope Center. Clearly, it was a year well spent.

While such efforts are beneficial at the margin, they are rather like trying to stop a forest fire with your garden hose.

The depressing truth is that except some institutions, the faculties at our colleges and universities will continue becoming more leftist in their composition and more virulently political in their teaching. It’s a condition with no known cure.

The Gender Lobby Guns for Toronto Professor

The most controversial man in Canada these days is probably mild-mannered Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

Peterson has run afoul of the gender/transgender lobby by refusing to use the personal pronouns favored by students, faculty and others with non-binary gender identities. Those with such identities want to be referred to as “zie” “sie” “zim” “vis” and an array of other recommended and personal choices.

He is under pressure from his university, which has ordered him to use personally approved pronouns, as well as from the Province of Ontario, which defines resistance to the new personal pronouns as discrimination and harassment.

Neither Male Nor Female?

The tenured professor drew major media attention after the first part of his YouTube lecture series called Professor against political correctness came out. In the hour-long video, Peterson criticized Bill C-16 — which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to criminalize harassment and discrimination based on gender identity. Peterson compares this amendment to “the way that totalitarian and authoritarian political states (develop).

The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines gender identity as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.”

“I don’t know what ‘neither’ means because I don’t know what the options are if you’re not a man or a woman,” Peterson states in his YouTube lecture.

“It’s not obvious to me how you can be both because those are by definition binary categories. What should you ask of the collective if you deviate in some manner? And you might say, to welcome you with open arms,’” he said. “And I would say, ‘That’s probably asking too much.’ I think what you should ask the collective is that they tolerate your deviance without too much aggression.”

A Radical Fringe

He attributes his concerns regarding the Ontario Human Rights Commission to “social justice warrior-type activists [being] over-represented in the current provincial government.” as well as the fact that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is a lesbian.

“I can’t help but manifest the suspicion that that’s partly because our current Premier is lesbian in her sexual preference and that in itself doesn’t bother me one way or another,” said Peterson in the video. “I don’t think it’s relevant to the political discussion except insofar as the LGBT community has become extraordinarily good at organizing themselves and has a fairly pronounced and very, very sophisticated radical fringe.”

In an article on the Federalist site, Stella Morabito writes, “Today Peterson is laser-focused on fighting the cultural cancer of political correctness. He is alarmed at how quickly it is metastasizing into laws that seek to punish any and all self-expression.”

Waking up the Right

Peterson said he fears an extended left-right battle over PC. “One of the things I’m afraid of with regards to all of the continual radical activism on the left is that they’re waking up the right,” he told The Varsity, a student newspaper. “And all you have to do is look around. There’s a huge resurgence in right-wing parties in Europe.”

Peterson stood by this speculation: “It’s perfectly reasonable to question the company that they keep. If you’re a trade union leader, I presume you’re going to surround yourself with left-wing activists. If you’re a gay politician, I think it’s reasonable to assume that some of the people in your political surrounds are going to be relatively radical LGBT activists.”

Mandatory Anti-Racist Training

Peterson objects to the U of T’s Human Resources Department requirement for mandatory anti-racist training.
“I take exception to that for a variety of reasons. One is, it isn’t obvious that there is a racism problem on the U of T campus. Second is, it isn’t obvious to me that it’s reasonable to term people sufficiently racist when they haven’t one anything to deserve that epithet so you have to retrain them. Third, it isn’t obvious to me that you should make it mandatory,” Peterson said.

“And fourth, I don’t think the people who have been put in charge of the education program have the credentials or the ability to deliver what they claim to be able to deliver. And finally, I don’t believe that there’s any evidence that these anti-racist training programs actually produce a decrement in racism. In fact, they might make people worse,” continued Peterson.

Peterson’s video lecture also calls gender-neutral pronouns “connected to… an entire underground apparatus of… radical left political motivations.”

Laying out a hypothetical situation in which a student asks to be addressed by a different pronoun, Peterson said, “If someone just came up to me and said that, I would definitely just tell them to go away. They have to have a reason to have a conversation with me.”

Peterson spoke at a free speech rally on campus October 11. His detractors worked hard to drown out his voice with chants, shouts and white-noise machines. Student supporters of Peterson and free speech advocates circulated and signed this letter of support:

An Open Letter to the Administration of the University of Toronto

First of all, we would like to commend and thank you for agreeing to host the series of debates proposed to you by Professor Peterson. We believe that this is a step in the right direction, and are looking forward to witnessing what constitutes an example of a free and reasoned exchange of ideas on campus. We believe that fostering a climate where all topics, no matter how controversial, are up for intellectual exploration is one of the fundamental functions of a post-secondary institution, and, as such, we applaud the University’s decision to host the debates.

Nevertheless, we continue to be disturbed and appalled by the incidents that took place at the Free Speech rally on October 11, 2016, and, most of all, by the University’s response to the aftermath of the event. We came to the rally to express our views in a respectful manner; we were instead silenced by members of the University of Toronto Students Union (UTSU)and the Black Liberation Collective (BLC), then slandered by members of these same groups, and finally left aghast at our administration’s failure to protect students’ fundamental rights and freedoms and their decision to muzzle Professor Peterson.

The University has been quick to condemn online threats of physical violence against members of the transgender community; it has also been quick to condemn the few racists and transphobic slurs that were, unfortunately, voiced by a small minority at the Free Speech rally. These fringe views are in no way representative of the opinion of the majority of free speech protesters; in fact, we fully support the University’s decision to denounce these acts. However, we also believe that choosing to draw attention only to those incidents that were perpetrated against the transgender and the Black community is dangerous and wrong.

Why did the administration not condemn the use of white-noise machines, allegedly rented by an executive member of the UTSU? Cassandra Williams and other counter-protesters have clearly broken the Obstruction Clause of the University’s Free Speech policy. Although the rally was technically held in a public space, the white noise machine was plugged into a power outlet; thus, the University had a responsibility to prohibit and condemn such actions.

Where is the University’s response to co-founder of the BLC and student at the University of Toronto, Yusra Khogali, calling an Ethiopian refugee a “coon” for politely expressing his views on the state of free speech in his home country? This was the most evident act of anti-Black racism at the rally – yet the University and media (including the Varsity) fail to recognize this.

Where is the University’s condemnation of an anti-Peterson protester assaulting a journalist, Lauren Southern, and their response to Theo Williamson, the New College Equity Director, lying about it to police? It should be noted that both of these individuals are having criminal charges currently pressed against them. Furthermore, Williamson is having legal action pressed for a completely different altercation, where they seem to have stolen a pro-free speech attendee’s cell phone, assaulted the attendee with the phone, and then smashed it against the pavement [3]. Why has the University not reprimanded Cassandra Williams who used her body to physically block the attendee from trying to retrieve her phone?

Why has the University failed to protect student organizers and supporters of the Free Speech rally from slander? Unsurprisingly, it appears that the media narrative surrounding what happened at the rally is based exclusively on the accounts of the counter-protestors, such as Theo Williamson. These are the same individuals who have insinuated that we are no more than a group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It is clear, at this point, that we must take these accounts of events very skeptically considering that an active leader of the anti-free-speech movement has no problem lying–even to the police].

Why has the University failed to recognize the very real danger posed to students in support of free speech and Professor Peterson? Wesley Williams (also known as Qaiser Ali), another prominent leader in the anti-free speech movement has been documented proudly and clearly declaring himself to be “the death of the palefaces”. What more is needed to constitute a threat to a given demographic?

Perhaps the actions of Yusra Khogali could be it. The fact that Khogali has not been censured by the University for her words and actions is perplexing and disturbing, to say the least. In her various media communications, she has claimed that white skin is “sub-human”; used racial slurs against individuals respectfully sharing their opinion; and expressed a desire to murder “white ppl and men”. It is difficult to put into words just how alienating and terrifying it is to know that an open racist who advocates for the use of violence is advising the University on pertinent matters, claiming to hold the secrets to “anti-oppression” and being allowed to ruin peaceful demonstrations. What Khogali’s actions amount to is bullying, at best.

Finally, where is the University’s condemnation of the Black Liberation Collective – a racist activist group that openly embraces violence(“We will strive for liberation by any means necessary, including but not limited to armed self-defense. […] We condone whatever methods Black people adopt to liberate themselves and their kin.”)? We find the fact that the administration has not availed itself of this openly available information baffling and hard to believe. And if the University has been aware of the violent nature of the BLC, then why has the administration not only failed to denounce this organization, but also continues to take anti-oppression training advice from this group [10]?

There is video footage and written evidence supporting every claim made in this letter. If you choose to ignore this information, you are engaging in willful ignorance, at the expense of violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of the majority of your student body. If you ignore this letter, you admit to condoning radical activist groups to silence, bully, assault and threaten those who dare to disagree with their views.

In short, we no longer feel that the University of Toronto is a place where students are free to share their ideas without risking being aggressively silenced, insulted, assaulted and slandered. We contend that the University is choosing to pursue political gain at the risk of being slandered by the BLC and the UTSU. It must be acknowledged that as long as militant, racist groups are allowed on campus and, moreover, permitted to advise our University administration – those who wish to espouse opinions not in line with the aforementioned groups are not safe.

We demand justice and equal treatment for all students, regardless of their sex, race, gender identity, religion or political persuasion. As citizens of a democratic society and members of your institution, we deserve the right to free speech and fair treatment. We deserve to have an administration that cares about all students equally and takes a nonpartisan approach when conflicts between various student groups and interests inevitably arise.

The University has failed to protect their students from violence, bullying, racism, sexism and slander. We are speaking up – we need you to listen. What’s happening is fundamentally wrong, and against all values of this institution and of Western, liberal democracy.

Sincerely,
Concerned Students

The Lingering Love for Stalin

A poll by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials, particularly younger ones, showed either an abysmal ignorance of communism, abysmal support for it or both. Almost half of Americans between the ages of 16 and 20 “said they would vote for a socialist, while 21% would go so far as to back a Communist.

Even more startling was that a” third of millennials say they believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin.”   In short, they knew nothing of Stalin’s body count, which, under current estimates, is 20 million.

Of the 2,300 Americans polled by YouGov, 80% of baby boomers and 91% of the elderly agree with the statement that “Communism was and still is a problem” in the world today. Among millennials, the figure was 55%.

From the vantage point of teaching college-level History courses, I’m not surprised by the ignorance. I regularly stun my classes when I assign Martin Amis’ devastating critique of Stalin, Koba The Dread.  What kick-started this book was Amis observing a group of old Leftists laughing when speaker Christopher Hitchens reminded them of their Communist past.  Outraged, Amis attacked the Old Left for deliberately forgetting the “demonic energy…embedded in their hope” for a perfect society.  But for the younger generation, Amis sought to educate them about what happened at events they are not exposed to such as how Stalin’s famine alone killed as many people—6 million—as Hitler’s Holocaust.

My class was both sickened and startled.  Many come forward after reading it asking why the real Stalin isn’t revealed in other history classes (the most disturbing and perhaps revealing of one of their comments was that “America isn’t perfect either”).  But all agreed that Stalin was rarely mentioned, except in the context of fighting Hitler.

My experiences as a graduate student in a New York school was not theirs. Stalin was not a neglected topic; far from it– he was an obsession for my hero-prone professors, many of whom could qualify as “tenured radicals.”   George W. Bush, by turns, was the real monster (this may account for those polled who find Stalin much more pacific than Bush).

I was personally privy to such ideological gymnastics when I served as a teaching assistant for a professor–I won’t name names—who asserted that people need to “realize the good Stalin was trying to do.” Part of that “good” was assigning quotas

of those to be shot in each village and region—he didn’t care who the victims were, only that the killing quotas be met.

Like one of those one-man shows in which actors like James Whitmore played Teddy Roosevelt or Harry Truman—even going so far regarding realism to talk to the audience while in character–I was presented with an example of the Old Stalinist Left, circa 1936.  All the rationalizations and defenses of Stalin were dusted off and presented sledgehammer fashion to my fellow students: Stalin was encircled by capitalist-imperialist countries; his Purge Trials were not rigged to murder his opposition but were a necessary measure to get rid of home-grown Nazis in the pay of Hitler, and countries which he military occupied and then mutated into his satellites actually welcomed his benign rule.

Moreover, she brandished such books as Mission to Moscow by Joseph E. Davies, a shameless Stalin apologist and American diplomat present at many of the Purge trials. He defended them as Pravda did: those accused and shot were agents of Hitler.   She also displayed the willingness to use anyone or anything to support Stalin. So she was willing to embrace an old imperialist such as Winston Churchill because he agreed with Stalin that the postwar world should be made up of each country’s own policed “zones” (this would have in effect legitimized Stalin’s absorption of Europe).

My fellow adjuncts mirrored such sentiments.  In a labor history class, I heard students laud Lenin as one of the “great men” of history (those feminists who went ballistic when anyone used such sexist, oppressive terms put aside their outrage when the subject was Lenin).  I was greeted with boos and a bad grade when I reminded them that Lenin once called “intellectuals” “shit” and wanted them all shot.

Even more surreal was how professors and students tried to mix post-modernism with Stalinism.  Perhaps they feared that logical inquiry based on fact-finding would present a convincing indictment of Stalin’s crimes. So they argued that empiricism was a form of “fascism.”

This atmosphere was so wedded to Communism that the ideological spectrum had shifted far left, with Communists being liberals, and authentic liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. were “reactionaries.”  When I asked about where that put Ronald Reagan, they told me he stood shoulder to shoulder with Schlesinger and other New Dealers.

Today it would not be a leap on my part to assume that these colleagues are teaching millennials, as I am, and honoring their former professors by cheerleading for Communist dictators.

So I am not surprised not by the ignorance found in the polls—students, from most generations, don’t know or care about the past–but also by their support for Communist dictators.  Ignorance only partially explains it.  What the poll shows is their indoctrination by left-wing professors.

And it is my generation, along with the Old Left, who is responsible.

The “Jackie” Interview in the UVA Fake Rape

In the suit against Rolling Stone by University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo over the magazine’s false rape story, the trial rolls along, with the two sides offering a narrow band of arguments: according to Rolling Stone and former reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely, our nation’s campuses are teeming with sexual assaults, beset by a “rape culture,” and the UVA administration was indifferent to the student victims in its midst. (Even the Office for Civil Rights has said so, Rolling Stone lawyers have argued.)

It is difficult, therefore, to have sympathy for either party in Eramo’s lawsuit. (Phi Kappa Psi’s lawsuit against Erdely is another matter.) But the Eramo lawsuit has been of extraordinary value in bringing to light the flawed process through which the Rolling Stone article was produced. First came the discovery material, including Erdely’s reporting notes. And now, Charlottesville TV station CBS-19 obtained a 150-minute recording of what seems to have been the first detailed interview between Erdely and accuser “Jackie.”

I posted brief audio excerpts of the choicest elements of that conversation. It occurred in a restaurant; some portions of the audio are of very poor quality.

Erdely comes across as closed-minded, having already decided on her thesis. (Her research notes showed that she began her project by interviewing the anti-due process fanatic Wendy Murphy and the discredited researcher David Lisak.) Jackie, meanwhile, comes across as even more ideologically extreme than Erdely—which is saying something—and not terribly bright. She discusses failing multiple courses during the conversation; how she remained enrolled at UVA is a mystery.

Effects on Lawsuits

The material on this tape would seem to help Rolling Stone in the Eramo lawsuit and badly hurt it in the Phi Kappa Psi lawsuit. Regarding Eramo: One of the dean’s libel claims comes from the article’s claim that she told Jackie that UVA didn’t aggressively report sexual assaults because the publicity would be harmful, since “nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.”

Eramo refused Erdely’s request for an interview. But the tape has Jackie claiming that Eramo gave her that feedback (and another campus activist told Erdely the same thing). Furthermore, the tape has Jackie portraying Eramo as corrupt—after saying she didn’t want to get Eramo “in trouble,” Jackie asserted that the actual number of people who reported being sexually assaulted to Eramo was “much higher” than Eramo has reported to her superiors—thereby suggesting that Eramo had violated federal law. Rolling Stone thus can (and, obviously, will) say that it had a seemingly credible source for Eramo’s “rape school” alleged statement.

At the same time, the tape should provide substantial ammunition for Phi Kappa Psi. Erdely made clear that she sees what happened (or in this case, didn’t happen) to Jackie as a “gang rape initiation ritual,” and therefore wanted the article to identify the fraternity. She added that she “want[ed] to get these guys.” Members of the fraternity, Erdely mused later on, personified the “banality of evil,” in that the non-attacker members of the frat were afraid to ask questions, lest they learn too much. Phi Kappa Psi, Erdely concluded, was a fraternity “that might have a culture of gang rape.”

After these quotes—in her own voice—it’s going to be very hard for Erdely to argue that her article didn’t directly target Phi Kappa Psi.  And since the article’s claims were false, that would seem to be very bad for Rolling Stone.

The Agenda

As Ashe Schow has noted, the tape showed that Erdely harbors a strong bias against fraternities. Both Erdely and Jackie also entertained an imagined view in which—as Jackie put it—“nobody wants to talk about” sexual assault on college campuses. (Of course, there are few issues that get talked about more on contemporary elite campuses.) Erdely, meanwhile, envisioned an elite campus culture in which “social capital is more important than people’s safety,” and therefore students were unwilling to help victims in their midst. Again, this seems to be an almost wholly imagined view.

They’re describing, of course, the same campus whose student leadership and voices of student opinion would remain committed to Jackie’s tale even after it had collapsed.

Jackie

The conversation gave a sense of Jackie’s extremist beliefs, her rather unappealing personality—and if Erdely had been at all open-minded, her penchant for tall tales.

She pressed Erdely not to name Phi Kappa Psi in the article, worried that the fraternity members would “hate” her as a result. But she also argued that leaving the identity of the fraternity a mystery would serve a broader purpose of stimulating a witch hunt atmosphere on campus.

If UVA administrators didn’t know which fraternity was the site of the seemingly horrific attack, Jackie said that she “would hope to see” full-scale investigations of all fraternities. Innocent fraternities, Jackie breezily suggested, should welcome such an inquiry, since, after all, “the ones that have nothing to hide won’t be upset.”

Since most of Jackie’s ideas seem to have emanated from what Erdely terms her “club” of campus activists, it would be interesting to know how many of Jackie’s fellow accusers’ rights activists shared this extraordinary conception of fairness. Jackie also saw an extraordinarily dangerous campus she suggested that one in three UVA female students are sexual assault victims.

In justifying BuzzFeed’s decision not to identify Jackie, Tyler Kingkade bizarrely suggests that she might actually be a victim. He incorrectly asserts that “none of the publicly available court documents . . . use[s] Jackie’s full name.” Kingkade then obtains a quote from the Columbia Journalism School’s Steve Coll, co-author of the autopsy that avoided asking hard questions about why the magazine had so badly failed. “She never solicited Rolling Stone to be written about,” Coll said.

The 150-minute conversation, however, showed a figure eager, even joyous, at advancing her narrative. Jackie actively participated in the interview—she seemed to very, very much enjoy talking about herself and her feelings. She suggested multiple other witnesses. She talked about her myriad activities advancing her agenda on campus. And she told Erdely about her eagerness to create “bad publicity” against UVA.

Jackie also came across as someone with significant mental health issues. (Of course, since we now know she’s a liar, her description of her mental health might also be a lie.) She told Erdely that she’d seen at least four different mental health professionals—when she was 14 (to address her poor relationship with her father), as a senior in high school (parental issues, again), at the urging of her mother after the purported campus assault, and at the urging of a friend after the purported campus assault. The latter ended because the counselor didn’t adopt Jackie’s preferred approach to the session: “Can we talk about what I want to talk about?”

Finally, there were red flags in the interview that a less agenda-driven reporter might have picked up. For instance, Jackie (at considerable length) discussed her mother’s time in college, when she commuted 30 minutes each way as a day student at Brown. But the mother didn’t go to Brown (as Erdely later discovered).

Jackie said that after the alleged assault, she “didn’t get out of bed for weeks.” She later claimed that she left campus two weeks before the end of the semester in her first-year fall term. Yet Erdely never asked how she could have stayed enrolled if she never attended class, and wasn’t even on campus.

She twice informed Erdely that even one of her fellow activists told her “you are insane, you watch too many crime shows.” (Various elements of her story borrowed from Law and Order.)

And in a long discussion about whether the article would name Phi Kappa Psi, Jackie urged anonymity of the frat on grounds that she was scared that fraternity members would learn she had claimed she was raped in their house. Yet at other points in the conversation, she spoke about how lots of people on campus already knew about her story, and Erdely knew that she had spoken about the event at a “victims’ rights” rally.

Erdely, the non-skeptical reporter, did not probe the inconstancies. Indeed, she appears to have believed the inconsistencies made Jackie more credible.

Vandals Wreck a Pro-Life Display at Marquette

Pro-life students at Marquette, a Catholic, Jesuit college in Milwaukee, applied for and got permission to mount an anti-abortion display on campus for 48 hours. Three times during that period the display, consisting mostly of small pink and blue flags representing unborn females and males, was vandalized by campus feminists and their allies.

Pro-life messages were covered up and coat hangers were thrown around.  The administration, not known for standing up to Social Justice Warriors on campus, issued a vapid free -speech statement but took no action.

The Feminist campus group Empowerment put out a statement claiming that 1) their right to free speech justified defacing a display they disagree with, 2) they have “‘a deep respect and appreciation for our differing beliefs…” and the necessary healing among groups, but the pro-life display “directly undermines this healing by further stigmatizing abortion. Rather than fostering discussion and understanding, the display is damaging to the mental health of students and a disturbing act of public shaming.” (A new argument: Disagreement damages mental health, something the Founders forgot to put in the First Amendment.)

Rather than fostering discussion and understanding, the display is damaging to the mental health of students and a disturbing act of public shaming.” (A new argument: Disagreement damages mental health, something the Founders forgot to put in the First Amendment.)

Final point: a number of the vandals objected strongly to the pink and blue flags, apparently because such flags re-enforce the gender binary and therefore fail to support the transgender agenda.

Beware the Political Philosopher

When Reason Goes on Holiday is a new book with a distressingly familiar theme: intellectuals who preached reason and research while glorifying romantic ideals of revolution and the ideas of Lenin, Mao and Castro. The author, Neven Sesardic, deals with some big names in modern philosophy and shows that the wooly-headed politics associated with the Frankfurt School and continental philosophy also afflicted analytic philosophers.

The chapter on a renowned philosopher of science is entitled “Imre Lakatos: Eulogized In England: Unforgiven in Hungary.” In 1944 the charismatic Lakatos was the leader of an underground Communist cell in German-occupied Hungary.  What followed was a real-life version of what Arthur Koestler depicted in Darkness at Noon, where the protagonist, an old Bolshevik imprisoned by the regime he helped to create, accepts the logic of the all-knowing party and confesses to crimes he did not commit.

Lakatos feared that one of the members of the cell, a 19 -year-old Jewish girl Eva Izsak, might be a security risk.  Lakatos’ solution- -in the midst of Hitler’s final solution –-was to persuade Eva to commit suicide on behalf of the party. Virtually the entire cell, including Eva’s boyfriend, supported this. Eva took poison a few days later. Eva Revesz, Lakatos’s wife, quickly took possession of the dead girl’s heavy winter coat. Lakatos became a minister in Hungary’s  Communist government and was later imprisoned by his fellow Communists. When the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 broke out, he fled to England and academic greatness as a philosopher of science.

Hilary Putnam, described in his 2016 New York Times obituary as “a giant of modern philosophy,” was, from  1968 to 1972 a member of a Maoist cult known as the Progressive Labor Party, an offshoot of  Students for  Democratic Society prominent at Harvard. After Nixon’s détente with China, the PLP switched its loyalty to Albania and the glorious thoughts of its leader Enver Hoxa. Putnam was part of PLP in a period when the massive crimes of Chairman Mao had become known, but this had scant effect on Putnam. The brilliant academic philosopher, the man of reason, never seemed to grasp the enormity of Maoist moral deformities.

The problem of political and moral blindness was not confined to individual philosophers. In 1969, at the instigation of Hilary Putnam, the American Philosophical Association passed a resolution calling for immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam. A few philosophers, most notably Sidney Hook, argued that academics could not enter politics without undermining their authority. He was ignored, and the APA went on to adopt a resolution on abortion, IQ, nuclear weapons, the death penalty and the Iraq war. Evidence never seemed at issue. In the mid-1970s, when a million North Vietnamese went into the ocean in rickety boats to escape the Communist dictatorship and its re-education camps, the APA was silent.

At about the same time the APA talked about Tito’s Yugoslavia as a “free society.” Yugoslavia would soon begin to decompose, but not before the APA got caught up defending heterodox Marxists during the Praxis affair. In part Serbian nationalists in cosmopolitan garb, they were indeed oppressed by the once-praised Tito, and they became a rallying cry for the APA in defense of intellectual freedom. However, the Praxis philosophers were not troubled by Tito’s crackdown on Croatian academics.

Philosophers, it would seem, have no greater wisdom about politics than the everyday people they seek to instruct. In fact, detached as they are from daily realities, they may have far less to contribute to politics than they assume.  There is, it seems, an unbridgeable gap between philosophy and politics. Walter Lippmann summed it up when he wrote, “When Philosophers try to be politicians, they generally cease be philosophers.”