How Federal Student Loans Increase Tuition and Decrease Aid

Conventional wisdom says that expansions in federal student aid will result in a more affordable and equitable post-secondary education system. While this belief has motivated massive expansions of federal aid in the recent past, rapidly increasing tuition and student loan default rates are raising questions about this approach.

In a new study, I review the basic statistics and recent research, and conclude that: 1) further increases in federal support for higher education are likely to be counter-productive because they lead to higher tuition for all students, and 2) the system of student loans should be reformed to mitigate the student debt problem.

Related: Default on Student Loans? Bad Idea

Average gross tuition and fees for undergraduate studies increased more than three-fold in constant dollars from 1980 through 2014—even faster than the rate of increase in health care prices. The increase is widespread across several types of higher education institutions: private non-profit, public two-year and four-year—although private for-profit institutions have recently seen a decrease.

At the same time, government support for higher education in the form of tax benefits, grants (veterans and Pell), and loans has exploded since 1994, and especially since 2000. Grants and loans totaled almost $170 billion in 2014 (constant dollars), up from just over $50 billion in 1994.

Whereas earlier studies showed mixed results, recent studies using refined data and techniques consistently find that increased federal support for higher education leads to a significant increase in tuition and decrease in institutional aid. In fact, there is some indication that state aid for higher education is itself negatively related to the extent and nature of federal government support.

Related: Making  a Bigger Mess of Student Loans

Increases in federal support for higher education have been focused on student loans, yet these increases are actually detrimental to the finances of many post-secondary students. One study found that students’ college decisions were almost as responsive to the offer of loans as to grants, even though they have to pay back loans.

Different measures of student loan default rates and repayment burdens uniformly show significant increases in recent years (as much as a doubling), across all types of institutions and students. Furthermore, the expanded use of deferment, forbearance, and, especially, income-related repayment plans hides an even larger increase in losses to taxpayers on these loans than the rising default rates would indicate.

Students from non-traditional backgrounds seem to have been harmed most by the increase in federal student loan amounts available. They have not seen increased incomes as workers, often have not completed their educations, and are much more likely to default on their loans, while missing out on job-related income and training while enrolled in college.

In addition, enrollment in higher education, as a percent of the young adult population, and in the supply of college-educated workers as a percent of the workforce, has steadily increased over the past four decades. Almost 70 percent of recent high school graduates are currently enrolled in some type of college. The increase is most notable for public two-year and for-profit colleges. Except at the top 10 percent of colleges and universities, average student quality in higher education institutions has declined.

The earnings premium for a college education over a high school education has held steady over the past 25 years. This contradicts the claim by some economists that the relative supply of college-educated workers has been dropping and the earnings premium increasing. It also debunks the claim as an explanation for increased income inequality or a justification for even more government support for higher education.

Further increases in federal support for higher education are not needed and indeed are likely to be counter-productive because they lead to higher tuition for all students. The resultant increases in tuition, decline in average student quality, stagnation in wages, and increases in student loan defaults should lead policy makers to question whether the massive increase in federal support for higher education is achieving its goals.

It is quite likely that reducing subsidized student loan availability to upper middle-income families could be beneficial to the system by leading to a general lowering of tuition and reducing the loan burden on future workers.

The entire system of student loans, especially repayment options, needs to be rationalized and redesigned; in particular, the salience of loan repayment to students needs to be strengthened and losses to taxpayers reduced.

There are many indications that a system of universal higher education, which is where we have been heading, is wasteful. This is particularly true if college completion is mainly a signal of perseverance and effort more than actual preparation. Rather, a robust parallel system of on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and youthful practical work experience is needed—supported by changes in federal laws and regulations, such as lowering the minimum wage for younger workers, to encourage its creation.

This article was published originally in Economics21, a website from the Manhattan Institute.

The Dangerous Rise of ‘The New Civics’

The following are excerpts from a report released January 10 by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) on MAKING CITIZENS: HOW AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES TEACH CIVICS. The full report includes case studies at the University of Colorado (Boulder), Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado and the University of Wyoming.                                                                                   

National Findings: Traditional civic literacy is in deep decay in America. The New Civics, a movement devoted to progressive activism, has taken over civics education. “Service-learning” and “civic engagement” are the most common labels this movement uses, but it also calls itself global civics, deliberative democracy, and intercultural learning. The New Civics movement is national, and it extends far beyond the universities. The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as “progressive activism.” The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as channeling government funds toward progressive nonprofits. The New Civics has worked to divert government funds to progressive causes since its founding in the 1960s.

The New Civics redefines “volunteerism” as labor for progressive organizations and administration of the welfare state. The new measures to require “civic engagement” will make this volunteerism compulsory.  The New Civics replaces traditional liberal arts education with vocational training for community activists. The New Civics shifts authority within the university from the faculty to administrators, especially in offices of civic engagement, diversity, and sustainability, as well as among student affairs professionals. The New Civics also shifts the emphasis of a university education from curricula, drafted by faculty, to “co-curricular activities,” run by non-academic administrators. The New Civics movement aims to take over the entire university. The New Civics advocates want to make “civic engagement” part of every class, every tenure decision, and every extracurricular activity.

By Peter Wood, NAS President

What is most new about the New Civics is that while it claims the name of civics, it is really a form of anti-civics. Civics in the traditional American sense meant learning about how our republic governs itself.

The New Civics has very little to say about most of these matters. It focuses overwhelmingly on turning students into “activists.” Its largest preoccupation is getting students to engage in coordinated social action. Sometimes this involves political protest, but most commonly it involves volunteering for projects that promote progressive causes. Whatever one might think of these activities in their own right, they are a considerable distance away from what Americans used to mean by the word “civics.”

In issuing this report, the National Association of Scholars joins the growing number of critics who believe that some version of traditional civics needs to be restored to American education. This is a non-partisan concern. For America to function as a self-governing republic, Americans must possess a basic understanding of their government. That was one of the original purposes of public education and it has been the lodestar of higher education in our nation from the beginning.

The New Civics has diverted us from this basic obligation.

While many observers have expressed alarm about the disappearance of traditional civics education, very few have noticed that a primary cause of this disappearance has been the rise of the New Civics. This new mode of “civic” training is actively hostile to traditional civics, which it regards as a system of instruction that fosters loyalty to ideas and practices that are fundamentally unjust. The New Civics, claiming the mantle of the “social justice” movement, aims to sweep aside those old ideas and practices and replace them with something better.

Complications: New Civics has appropriated the name of an older subject, but not the content of that subject or its basic orientation to the world. Instead of trying to prepare students for adult participation in the self-governance of the nation, the New Civics tries to prepare students to become social and political activists who are grounded in broad antagonism towards America’s founding principles and its republican ethos.

But a casual observer of New Civics programs might well miss both the activist orientation and the antagonism. That’s for two reasons. First, the New Civics includes a great deal that is superficially wholesome. Second, the advocates of New Civics have adopted a camouflage vocabulary consisting of pleasant-sounding and often traditional terms. Taking these in turn:

Superficial wholesomeness. When New Civics advocates urge college students to volunteer to assist the elderly, to help the poor, to clean up litter, or to assist at pet shelters, the activities themselves really are wholesome. Why call this superficial? The elderly, the poor, the environment, and abandoned pets—to mention only a few of the good objects of student volunteering—truly do benefit from these efforts. The volunteering itself is not necessarily superficial or misguided. But, again, context matters. In the context of New Civics, student volunteering is not just calling on students to exercise their altruistic muscles. It is, rather, a way of drawing students into a system that combines some questionable beliefs with long-term commitments.

These seemingly innocent forms of volunteering, as organized by the patrons of New Civics, are considerably less “voluntary” than they often appear—especially since more and more colleges are turning such “volunteer” work into a graduation requirement. Some students even call them “voluntyranny,” given the heavy hand of the organizers in coercing students to participate. They submerge the individual into a collectivity. They ripen the students for more aggressive forms of community organization. And often they turn the students themselves into fledgling community organizers.

Camouflage vocabulary. The world of New Civics is rife with familiar words used in non-familiar ways. Democracy and civic engagement in New Civic-speak do not mean what they mean in ordinary English.

A Dictionary of Deception. This is exemplified in a catchphrase used by Syracuse University’s civic program: “Citizen isn’t just something you are. Citizen is something you do.” The idea is that students aren’t getting a full education just by reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, speaking in class, debating with each other, and participating in the social life of the college community. They must also “learn by doing.” Another phrase for this is that students should “apply their academic learning” or “practice” it in the real world. “Active” always means “active in progressive political campaigns.”

The “aware” student is up to date with the progressive party line and knows the current list of oppressions that need to be righted. The “aware” student knows the true meaning of words: “academic freedom,” for example, is really “a hegemonic discourse that perpetuates the structural inequalities of white male power.” “Awareness” requires politically correct purchases and social interactions—reusable water bottles, fair-trade coffee, a diffident approach to pronouns—but it does not require active participation in a campaign of political advocacy.

Civic Learning: “Civic learning” is learning how to be properly civically engaged; civic learning, in other words, teaches students the content of progressives’ political beliefs, how to propagandize for them, and the means by which to enforce them on other people via the administrative state. New Civics advocates are trying to make progressive propaganda required for college students by calling “civic learning” an “essential learning outcome.” Civic learning is supposed to become “pervasive”—inescapable political education.

Loyalty to and Enthusiastic Participation In A Social Justice Cause: “Commitment” is an enthusiastic form of being “active.” It signals a student’s readiness to make a career as a progressive advocate in a “community organization,” university administration, or the government. It also signals to progressives entrusted to hire new personnel that a student is a trustworthy employee.

Tactics to Increase the Power of the Radical Left, Following the Strictures of Saul Alinsky: “Community organization” as a process refers to the Machiavellian tactics used by radical Saul Alinsky to forward radical leftist goals. New Civics advocates use community organization tactics against the university itself, as they try to seize control of its administration and budget; they also train students to act as community organizers in the outside world. “Community organization” as a noun refers to a group founded by Alinskyite progressives, with Alinskyite aims. Community organization signifies the most intelligent and dangerous component of the progressive coalition.

Consensus, a Loudly Shouted Progressive Opinion, Verified by Denying Disbelievers the Chance to Speak: Consensus means that everyone agrees. Progressives achieve the illusion of consensus by shouting their opinions, asserting that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, and preventing opponents from speaking—sometimes by denying them administrative permission to speak on a campus, sometimes literally by shouting them down

Critique, Dismantling Belief in the Traditions of Western Civilization and American Culture: To be critical, or to engage in critique, is to attack an established belief on the grounds that it is self-evidently a hypocritical prejudice established by the powerful to reinforce their rule, and believed by poor dupes clinging to their false consciousness. “Critical thought” sees through the deceptive appearance of freedom, justice, and happiness in American life and reveals the underlying structures of oppression—sexism, racism, class dominance, and so on. “Critique” works to dismantle these oppressive structures. “Critical thought” and “critique” is also meant to reinforce the ruling progressive prejudices of the universities; it is never to take these prejudices as their object.

Deliberative Democracy, Thoughtful, Rational Discussion of Political Issues That Ends Up With Progressive Conclusions: Deliberative democracy is a concept that political theorists have drawn from Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative rationality. While formally about the procedures of democratic decision-making, it aligns with the idea of a transcendental, quasi-Marxist Truth, toward which rational decision-making inevitably leads. New Civics advocates in Rhetoric/Communications and Political Science departments frequently use “deliberative democracy” classes and centers as a way to forward progressive goals.

Progressive Policies Achieved by Arbitrary Rule And/Or The Threat Of Violence: New Civics advocates use “democracy” to mean “radical social and economic goals, corresponding to beliefs that range from John Dewey to Karl Marx.” They also use “democratic” to mean “disassembling all forms of law and procedure, whether in government, the university administration, or the classroom.” A democratic political decision overrides the law to achieve a progressive political goal; a democratic student rally intimidates a university administration into providing more money for a campus New Civics organization; a democratic class replaces a professor’s informed discussion with a student’s incoherent exposition of his unfounded opinion. A democracy in power issues arbitrary edicts to enforce progressive dogma and calls it freedom.

Lectures by Progressive Activists, Intended to Harangue Dissidents Into Silence: In “dialogue,” or “conversation,” students are supposed to listen carefully to a grievance speaker, usually a professional activist, and if possible echo what the speaker has to say. The dialogue is never between individuals, but between representatives of a race, a religion, a nationality, and so on. The structure of dialogue thus dehumanizes all participants by making them nothing more than mouthpieces for a group “identity.”

Diversity, Propaganda and Hiring Quotas in Favor of the Progressive Grievance Coalition: The Supreme Court used “diversity” as a rationale for sustaining the legality of quotas for racial minorities in higher education admissions, first in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and then in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). New Civics advocates use “democracy” to mean “radical social and economic goals, corresponding to beliefs that range from John Dewey to Karl Marx.”

Disaffection from American Citizenship in Favor of a Notional Membership in a Non-Existent Global State: “Global citizenship” is a way to combine civic engagement, study abroad, and disaffection from primary loyalty to and love of America. A global citizen favors progressive policies at home and abroad and is in favor of constraining the exercise of American power in the interest of American citizens. A global citizen is a contradiction in terms since he is loyal to a hypothetical abstraction, and not to an actual cives—a particular state with a particular history. A global citizen seeks to impose rule by an international bureaucratic elite upon the American government, and the beliefs of an international alliance of progressive nongovernmental organization upon the American people.

Putatively Non-Hierarchical Progressive Community Organizations: The “grassroots” have democratic authenticity—they’re not professional politicians claiming to speak for the people, and they aren’t made to conform to any sort of hierarchical authority. Real grassroots— citizens coming together to lobby legislators—is intrinsic to the American political system, but when progressives claim to speak for the grassroots, and they mean a drive funded by George Soros and organized by paid activists.  These activists declare that “consensus” has been reached by “the people” outside the formal structures of representative democracy. Since “consensus” is achieved by shouting down moderates, compromisers, and gentle souls, genuine progressive grassroots organizations make unaccountable ideological fanaticism the source of decision-making. See Black Lives Matter.

Interdependence: “Interdependence” universalizes the language of needs and rights, and therefore justifies the expansion of the progressive state to extend to every aspect of life.

The Idea That Every Component of the Progressive Left Must Support All Other Components of the Progressive Left: “Intersectionality” is a way to align progressives’ competing narratives of oppression and victimhood by making every purported victim of oppression support every other purported victim of oppression.

Pervasiveness, Making New Civics Inescapable at the University: The New Civics seeks to insert progressive advocacy into every aspect of higher education, inside and outside the college. A Crucible Moment summons higher education institutions to make civic learning “pervasive” rather than “peripheral.” “Pervasiveness” justifies the extension of progressive propaganda and advocacy by student affairs staff and other academic bureaucrats into residential life and “co-curricular activities”—everything students do voluntarily outside of class. It also justifies the insertion of progressive advocacy into every class, as well as making progressive activism a hiring and tenure requirement for faculty and staff.

“Pervasiveness” justifies the extension of progressive propaganda and advocacy by student affairs staff and other academic bureaucrats into residential life and “co-curricular activities”—everything students do voluntarily outside of class.

Service-Learning, Free Student Labor for Progressive Organizations: “Service-learning” was invented in the 1960s by radicals as a way to use university resources to forward radical political goals. It aims to propagandize students (“raise their consciousness”), to use their labor and tuition money to support progressive organizations, and to train them for careers as progressive activists. It draws on educational theories from John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Mao’s China. Since the 1980s, “service-learning” has used the name “civic engagement” to provide a “civic” rationale for progressive political advocacy. Civic engagement, global learning, and so on, all are forms of service-learning.

Social Justice, Progressive Policies Justified by the Putative Sufferings of Designated Victim Groups: Social justice aims to redress putative wrongs suffered by designated victim groups. Unlike real justice, which seeks to deliver individuals the rights guaranteed to them by written law or established custom, social justice aims to provide arbitrary goods to collectivities of people defined by equally arbitrary identities. Social justice uses the language of law and justice to justify state redistribution of jobs and property to whomever progressives think deserve them

Service-learning aims to propagandize students (“raise their consciousness”), to use their labor and tuition money to support progressive organizations, and to train them for careers as progressive activists.

“Reciprocal” is a sign that progressive organizations have seized control of university funds.

21st Century Skills, Digital Media Skills Used to Forward the Progressive Agenda: The ability to use social media and graphic design for progressive propaganda and organization. The emphasis on “skills” generally argues that universities don’t need to teach any body of knowledge; the particular emphasis on “twenty-first-century skills” further argues that universities don’t need to teach anything discovered before the year 2000. Recent college graduates use “twenty-first-century skills” as an argument that they should be employed despite knowing nothing and having no work experience.

These definitions we have sketched voice our distrust of the New Civics movement. Its declarations about its aims and its avowals about its methods can seldom be taken at face value. This isn’t a minor point. Civics in a well-governed republic has to be grounded on clear speaking and transparency. A movement that goes to elaborate lengths to present a false front to the public is not properly civics at all, no matter what it calls itself.

We began this study in the hope of finding out how far the New Civics had succeeded in becoming part of American colleges and universities. We came to a mixed answer. New Civics is present to some degree at almost all colleges and universities, but it is much more fully developed and institutionalized at some than it is at others. In our study, the University of Colorado at Boulder stands as our example of a university where New Civics has become dominant. But even at universities where New Civics has not attained such prominence, it is a force to be reckoned with.

A movement that goes to elaborate lengths to present a false front to the public is not properly civics at all, no matter what it calls itself.

The word “civics” suggests that students will learn about the structures and functions of government in a classroom. Some do, but a major finding of our study is that there has been a shift of gravity within universities. New Civics finds its most congenial campus home in the offices devoted to student activities, such as the dean or vice president for students, the office of residence life, and the centers for service-learning. Nearly every campus also has some faculty advocates for New Civics, but the movement did not grow out of the interests and wishes of mainstream faculty members. A partial exception to this is schools of education, where many faculty members are fond of New Civics conceits.

The positioning of New Civics in student services has a variety of implications.

First, it means the initiative is directly under the control of central administration, which can appoint staff and allocate budget without worrying about faculty opinion or “shared governance.” Programs like this can become signature initiatives for college presidents, and few within the university, including boards of trustees, have any independent basis to examine whatever claims a college president makes on behalf of New Civics programs. In a word, such programs are unaccountable.

Second, the positioning of New Civics as parallel to the college’s actual curriculum frees advocates to make extravagant claims about its contributions to students’ general education. New Civics is full of hyperbole about what it accomplishes, and even so, it vaunts itself as deserving an even larger role in “transforming” students. Its goal is to be everywhere, in all the classes, and in that sense to subordinate the teaching faculty to the staff who run the student services programs.

Third, the New Civics placement in student services tends to blur the line between academic and extra-curricular. New Civics advocates may hold adjunct appointments on the faculty. Frequently they push for academic credit for various forms of student volunteering. In general, they treat the extra-curricular as “co-curricular,” which is rhetorical inflation.

New Civics is about seizing power in society, and the place nearest at hand is the university itself. New Civics mandarins are ambitious, and what starts in student services doesn’t stay there.

Obama OCR Moves to Deter Any Trump Reform

As the Obama administration draws to a close, opponents of campus due process have launched an aggressive public relations campaign on behalf of their agenda, lest change comes with a new regime in the White House.

The highest-profile effort came from Joe Biden, who penned an open letter to the presidents of the nation’s colleges and universities urging them to continue to meet the “epidemic” of campus sexual assault. (This is seemingly the only violent crime “epidemic” in American history in which law enforcement is to have little or no role.)

Perhaps the most striking item in Biden’s letter was his assertion that “twenty-two years ago, approximately 1 in every 5 women in college experienced rape or sexual assault. Today, the number is the same.” Setting aside the absurdity of the statistic (which would imply hundreds of thousands of unidentified victims annually, just among college students), this claim amounted to an admission that the admission’s war on campus due process has done nothing to lower the number of sexual assault victims—which, according to Biden, is at the “same” percentage as 1995.

The Vice President did not once mention due process or civil liberties in his letter.

As Biden released his letter, Democratic senators Bob Casey and Patty Murray pressed the incoming Trump administration to retain Obama’s interpretation that Title IX requires schools to use the lowest standard of proof in sexual assault cases, give sexual assault accusers the right to appeal not-guilty findings, and discourage procedures in which sexual assault accusers can be cross-examined about their allegations.

Portraying campuses in the midst of an unprecedented wave of violent crime, the senators contended that “campus sexual assault is a widespread problem affecting millions of college students across the nation.” The senators did not identify the source for their claim that “millions” of college students are affected by sexual assault. Nor did they explain why these “millions” of crime victims should not be an immediate priority of the nation’s police.

Accusers’ rights groups such as Know Your IX got into the act with a social media campaign demanding that incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos make no changes to the Obama administration’s Title IX policies. The implicit message: any effort to restore due process or a semblance of fairness to campus tribunals will be denounced as hostile to “survivors.”

But perhaps the most consequential move to retain the war on campus due process came outside of the public eye. On January 4, the Harvard Crimson broke the news that Harvard’s Title IX administrator, Mia Karvonides, was planning to depart her position abruptly. Karnovides had overseen one of the most unfair adjudication systems for campus sexual assault anywhere in the country.

Karnovides’ new position? Enforcement Director at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency that has served as the center of the war on campus due process during the Obama administration. Her starting date? January 18, or two days before Barack Obama leaves office. It seems unlikely that Karnovides would have accepted the new position if she lacked civil service protections.

The midnight appointment can only be interpreted as placing a key figure in the bureaucracy to disrupt any Trump administration effort to restore a sense of fairness to Title IX enforcement. Will the new administration respond?

Nat Hentoff, a Great Journalist

If you spent any time on the streets of Greenwich Village in the 70s or 80s, you stood a good chance of seeing two great and prodigiously productive journalists of the era go by — Murray Kempton on his bicycle, usually headed toward City Hall, and Nat Hentoff walking along while reading a book.

For Hentoff, who died over the weekend at age of 91, there was no such thing as downtime (35 books, thousands of articles, published everywhere, from journals of the far left to those of the far right) so reading while dodging Village drivers was a sensible use of time.

Nat Hentoff
Nat Hentoff

Kempton, who died in 1997, defied liberal orthodoxy by saying occasional nice things (usually in obits) about people such as Cardinal Spellman and Jimmy Hoffa. Hentoff dissented from the left by opposing abortion and with his strong and hard-line defense of free speech both before and during the left’s current tolerance of censorship on campus and off.

In fact, Hentoff was the moderator in 1992 the night that the first high-profile, high-publicity censorship by the left took place. The pro-life liberal Governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, had just been barred from speaking at the Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton for president.

The Village Voice, to its great credit, sponsored a talk by Casey at Cooper Union in the Village to let him say what the convention wouldn’t, but radical gays and radical feminists packed the hall, along with backers of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, and kept screaming, shouting and blowing whistles so Casey could not be heard. Hentoff wrote in the Washington Post: “They reminded me of the domestic brown shirts breaking up Jewish meetings in my youth, but these were howling soldiers of the left.”

I never detected any resentment in Nat, though he paid a heavy price with the left for his abortion stance, and though as a Jew growing up in Boston he was beaten up regularly by Irish Catholics kids, some of whom were later among the adults showing up at his anti-abortion lectures.

In his later years, I made no attempt to see him, because I had heard his health was bad, but I dropped a lot of material off for him at his apartment, three blocks from mine, and always got back a short note saying that I was doing important work here at Minding the Campus and must keep it up. I always thought that if atheists decided to set up a secular sainthood, Nat would be one of the early people installed.

Due Process Wins a Battle Against a University’s Kangaroo Court

Though federal judges tend to uphold a lot of unjust campus decisions in sex-assault cases, Judge Elizabeth Dillon, an Obama appointee, proved on December 23 that some campus procedures are just too outrageous to survive judicial review.

The judge’s due process ruling came in a case out of James Madison University. (You can read her opinion here.) After troubling appellate rulings in California (which approved a process one judge had compared to a kangaroo court) and in the 6th Circuit (where one judge suggested that military court martials represented an appropriate model for campus sexual assault cases), the Dillon ruling is important.

The James Madison case also illustrates the effects of an often- overlooked effect of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter—the requirement that colleges introduce allow accusers to appeal not-guilty findings. As in comparable cases at George Mason and the University of Michigan, at James Madison, this double-jeopardy principle created an additional layer of injustice. Indeed, in all other types of disciplinary cases at JMU, an accusing student can’t appeal a not-guilty finding.

Even in an environment that often features shaky claims, the JMU one was unusually weak: the accuser filed her claim (that she was too intoxicated to have consented) only after learning that the student she’d accused had moved on to another woman; the accuser offered varying dates for the alleged attack; and the accuser’s own roommate, who the accuser had called as one of her own witnesses, told the hearing panel that on the night of the incident, the accuser was “completely fine” and didn’t seem to be drunk.

Despite a hearing that hardly passed as a paragon of due process (the accused student was forced to present his defense before the accuser’s version was offered to the panel), the accused student was found not guilty.

But—thanks to the Dear Colleague letter’s change—the case wasn’t over. The accuser exercised her right to appeal the not-guilty finding, sending the case to a three-professor panel. And the appeals occurred amidst a campus frenzy over the issue of sexual assault. A few months earlier, OCR had commenced a Title IX investigation of the university. A student named Sarah Butters generated national controversy by claiming JMU had insufficiently punished the students who had raped her.

The fall 2014 semester had begun with an editorial from the student newspaper proclaiming that the university’s alleged softness on sexual assault was the issue that “had been on everyone’s mind for these past few months,” and indicated that “we cannot tolerate a culture of sexual assault at our school.” The editors indicated that “our goal is to give our readers the information necessary to empower them to stand up against sexual assault.” The editorial, signed by all members of the paper’s editorial team, did not mention due process as an issue of any concern.

Amidst this atmosphere, the university allowed the accuser to introduce three new pieces of evidence (each of which had been available to her at the time of her complaint) to the appeals panel.

First, she offered a report from a social worker asserting that she was prone to excessive intoxication when drinking because of medication she was taking. (This report had been introduced into the case file before the original panel made its decision, but was never shown to the accused student.)

Second, she produced a statement from a suitemate claiming that the roommate who testified against her had admitted to lying.

Third, she turned over a voicemail from what she claimed was the night of the incident in which she had discussed her intoxication. Sent, she wrote, right after she left the accused student’s residence, the voicemail “emphasizes that I was drunk and unable to give consent to sex.”

Armed with this “evidence” and the audio of the original hearing—but hearing no testimony from the parties, granting the original panel’s credibility determination no deference, and (it appears) using a definition of consent that differed from that in JMU’s own policy—the appeals panel ordered the accused student suspended for five-and-a-half years.

An e-mail sent to a JMU administrator suggested that the voicemail was critical in the outcome; a subsequent email amended the claim to the new witness statements as the key. Oddly, the panel did not issue a written explanation of why it overturned the original panel’s decision; it did not even indicate that it had found the accused student guilty. Its form only indicated that it had “increased” his (previously nonexistent) punishment.

The flawed procedures in this case yielded particularly flawed results.

First, according to subsequent testimony from members of the appeals panel, they credited the claim that the key exculpatory witness (the accuser’s roommate) had lied without ever giving her a chance to respond. Even more incredibly, under JMU policies, the accused student couldn’t ask the roommate to file a rebuttal statement with the appeals panel—because (since she was a witness called by the accuser in the original hearing) he was forbidden from contacting her.

Second, and in violation of JMU rules, the accused student never saw, at any stage of the process, the social worker’s statement. So he never had the chance to hire an expert of his own to rebut it.

Finally, the so-called ‘smoking gun’ voicemail was actually from the night before the incident. Indeed, its introduction suggested that the accuser might have tried to mislead the appeals panel—which the accused student could have pointed out if JMU had given him more than 24 hours to respond to this new “evidence” (which it sent to him in the middle of winter break).

Since he didn’t see the “evidence” in time, he thought he had no chance to impeach it. One of the appellate panelists, Education professor Dana Haraway, later testified that she considered the voicemail significant in her decision. She didn’t learn about the date error until the accused student’s lawyer deposed her in the due process lawsuit against JMU. It’s hard to imagine a more cavalier approach to one of her own institution’s student’s life and reputation. Professor Haraway did not respond to a request for comment.

All of this was too much for Judge Dillon. “No reasonable jury,” she concluded, “could find [the accused student] was given fundamentally fair process. Instead, the undisputed facts show that JMU denied [him] a ‘meaningful hearing.’”

The case, however, will only lurch along. The accused student’s life has been on hold since January 2015; he filed his lawsuit in May 2015. For the next two months, the two sides will present briefs discussing whether JMU should hold a new hearing. At best, he’ll be eligible to re-enroll in the fall 2017 semester (spring 2018 if JMU requests an additional hearing before Judge Dillon)—so would serve at least a five-semester suspension for an offense that appears never to have occurred, because of procedures that were fundamentally unfair.

Judge Dillon’s ruling addressed one other significant point. In 2015, Judge T.S. Ellis (in a factually dicey case out of George Mason) issued one of the most perceptive comments in any due process ruling about the effects of a guilty finding on the accused student. He noted that a university deeming a student a rapist would have enormous consequences on his future educational and earning opportunities—since he’d have no choice, as part of applying to a new school or to any job that required a background check, to produce educational documents showing the university judgment.

JMU’s lawyer denounced this decision, which he termed the “800-pound gorilla or the elephant in the room,” as “wrong” and a “mistake.” (You can read the hearing transcript here.) In JMU’s world, any student who wanted to conceal a wrongful finding of sexual assault could simply not produce his educational records. Judge Dillon rejected this suggestion as the false choice it was.

Why Millennials Are So Fragile

I have stopped counting the number of times that an academic colleague reminds me that “undergraduates are not what they used to be.” In private conversations, a significant minority of academic teachers have raised the concern that the age-old distinction between school children and university students was fast losing its meaning.

Back in 2003, Neil Howe and William Strauss, the authors of the study Millennials Go to College, advanced the thesis that this generation is far less mature and resilient than previous ones. They noted that the millennial generation is far more “closely tied to their parents” than the students that preceded them, and they also insist on a “secure and regulated environment.”

Howe and Strauss concluded that as a result, students today find it difficult to flourish in the relatively unstructured environment of higher education. The assessment that the millennials find it more troublesome to make the transition to independent living on campuses than previous generations is widely held by educators on both sides of the Atlantic.

A report last September from Britain’s Higher Education Policy Institute said that the normal experiences of university life now constitute serious challenges to the well-being of the current cohort of students. It noted that “students are vulnerable” because in most cases they are living away from home for the first time. It also pointed to the new challenges they faced such as “a different method of learning” and “living with people they have never met before.”

Related: Should Colleges Coddle the Whiners?

One of the most significant and yet rarely analyzed developments in campus culture has been its infantilization.  Eric Posner, a leading legal scholar at the University of Chicago, declared that “students today are more like children than adults and need protection.” Posner contends that today’s university students are not ready for independence and require the moral guidance of their institutions.

In England, a group educators have criticized universities for treating their new students as if they were young adults. Sir Anthony Seldon, now head of Buckingham University, stated that ‘there is a belief among Vice Chancellors that young people are adults and can fend for themselves, but “18-year-olds today are a lot less robust and worldly wise.”

Most accounts of the unprecedented emotional fragility of university undergraduates claim that this development is the outcome of the expansion of student numbers. They suggest that many of these students come from diverse non-traditional backgrounds and lack the confidence and financial security of their more privileged predecessors. Catherine McAteer, the head of University College London’s student psychological services observed that the reason why a growing number of students require mental health support is because “students are now coming to university” who previously “would not have come.”

Some argue that first-generation students –undergraduates whose parents did not attend university – face unique problems attempting to fit into an alien, high-pressure environment. It is also asserted that since a significant proportion of first-generation students come from minority and socially deprived backgrounds they face a unique problem of adjusting to the traditional white middle- class campus environment.

Related: The New Age of Orthodoxy Overtakes the Campus

The principal problem faced by first-generation students is that their parents had little cultural capital to hand on to them and were, therefore, less prepared for university life than their more comfortably off peers. But unlike today, the problems they faced was not portrayed in psychological terms but in the language of culture and socio-economic deprivation.

Unfortunately, when first-generation students arrive on campus today, they are often treated as if they are likely to possess some emotional deficits. In the U.S. it is common for universities to organize special programs for integrating first-generation students. Diversity officers dealing with the first-generation often operate under the theory that this group faces a unique problem of being torn between family and university. They frequently contend that first-generation students suffer from guilt for leaving their family behind. The upshot of these theories is the belief that first-generation students need special dedicated psychological support.

Regrettably, the focus on psychology distracts attention from more constructive ways of preparing students from disadvantaged backgrounds to deal with the pressures of academic learning. The provision of academic support to help students gain intellectual confidence is probably the most useful way of helping students to make their way in the university.

Perversely the provision of psychological support as the default solution for helping first-generation students is likely to intensify their quest for validation. Instead of developing their power of resilience it may well heighten their sense of vulnerability. What universities need to do is not to cultivate the insecure identity of first-generation students but to provide them with the intellectual resources that will help them to gain confidence in their ability to achieve.

Related: Millennials Not Ready for the Job Market

In any case, it is far from evident if the link between emotional fragility and a student’s non-traditional background explains very much. Students from well-to-do backgrounds are no less likely than their poorer peers to talk the language of trauma and psychological distress. Indeed some of the most privileged campuses– Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Berkeley, Oberlin – have been in the forefront of campaigns that focus attention to the emotional harms suffered by students from a variety of alleged causes.

The reason why the current generation appears to behave differently from their predecessor has little to do with their socio-economic background. Rather the sense of emotional fragility expressed by some undergraduates is the outcome of the prevailing ethos of socialization that treats young people as children.

The socialization of young people has become increasingly reliant on therapeutic techniques that have the perverse effect of encouraging children and youth to interpret existential problems as psychological ones. The concern with children’s emotions has fostered a climate where many young people are continually educated to understand the challenges they face through the language of mental health. Not surprisingly, they often feel find it difficult to acquire the habit of independence and make the transition to forms of behavior associated with the exercise of autonomy.

The complex emotional tensions that are integral to the process of growing up are now discussed as stressful events with which children and young people cannot be expected to cope. Yet is through dealing with such emotional upheavals that young people learn to manage risks and gain an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Instead of being encouraged to acquire an aspiration for independence, many youngsters are subject to influences that promote childish behavior. The infantilization of young people is the unintended outcome of parenting practices that rely on levels of support and supervision that are more suitable for much younger children.

The relations of dependence that are nurtured through these practices serve to prolong adolescence to the point that many young people in their 20s do not perceive themselves as adults. Whereas in the past infantilization was classically associated with the phenomenon of maternal overprotection, today the prolongation of adolescence is culturally sanctioned. In the case of universities, it is institutionally enforced.

Socialization through validation

The erosion of the line that divides secondary from higher education is a trend that contradicts the ethos of academic teaching and the vocation associated with it. In theory, the ideals associated with the university remain widely affirmed, but in practice, they are often tested by the introduction of conventions that were formerly confined to secondary education. The adoption of paternalistic practices and the wider tendency towards the infantilization of campus life can in part be understood as an outcome of the difficulties that society has encountered in the socialization of young people.

For some time now it has been evident that parents and schools have been struggling with the transmission of values and rules of behavior to young people. In part, this problem was caused by the lack confidence of older generations in the values into which it was socialized. More broadly, Western society has become estranged from the values that used to inspire it in the past and found it difficult to provide its adult members with a compelling narrative for socialization.

The hesitant and defensive manner with which the task of socialization is pursued has created a demand for new ways of influencing children. The growing remission of child protection and the widening of the territory for parenting activities can be interpreted as an attempt to develop new methods for guiding children.

Lack of clarity about the transmission of values has led to a search for alternatives. The adoption of the practices of behavior management serves as one influential approach towards solving the problem of socialization.  These psychological techniques of expert-directed behavior management have had an important influence on childrearing. From this standpoint, the role of parents is not so much to transmit values but to validate the feelings, attitudes and accomplishment of their children.

Though parents still do their best to transmit their beliefs and ideals to their children, there is a perceptible shift from instilling values to the provision of validation. Affirming children and raising their self-esteem is a project that is actively promoted by parents as well as schools. This emphasis on validation has run in tandem with the custom of a risk-averse regime of child-rearing. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has described this form of childrearing as that of “fearful parenting.” He claims that since the 1980s, children have been “protected as fragile,” which has the perverse consequence of undermining their capacity for resilience.

As I noted in my study, Paranoid Parenting, the (unintended) consequence of this regime of parenting has been to limit opportunities for the cultivation of independence and to extend the phase of dependence of young people on adult society. The extension of the phase of dependence is reinforced by the considerable difficulties that society has in providing young people with a persuasive account of what it means to be an adult. Instead of encouraging new undergraduates to embark on a life of independent study, universities have adopted a paternalistic ethos that treats them as biologically mature children. In this way, they have helped create a campus culture that discourages young people from embarking on the path to adulthood.

The Publisher Who Took Risks and Defied Orthodoxy

The publishing house Transaction has been a mainstay of unusual academic scrutiny and exploration for decades — one that the self-righteous priests of political certainty who run the field sought to exile from the arena of thought. It was the intellectual banquet served up for years by the prickly but brilliant Irving Louis Horowitz and after his passing by his formidable widow Mary Curtis and her associates in the firm.

As a publishing adventure, Transaction was immune to the forces of sentimental fashion. It sought out and worked to sharpen and polish promising material. It ran the outstanding social science journal, Society, and other magazines edited elsewhere, including some of the most arcane publications from often unexpected and neglected neighborhoods of universities.

Almost single-handedly among commercial publishers, it kept alive the healthy tradition of intelligent sociology pioneered by powerful analysts and synthesizers such as Max Weber and Georg Simmel. This was at a time when the discipline was overrun by fuzzy neo-theatrical concepts such as “role models” and “status seekers” and endless (some would say pointless) studies of the mating habits of college sophomores, all which could be done without leaving one’s office and without risking contamination by deeper notions of human hierarchy and brutal personal struggle.

Transaction kept itself apart from the melioristic view of sociological insight as a substitute for skilled political action. And it created an intellectual home for informed and sometimes oddball and cranky skepticism. How it managed its finances so that it could publish a respectable dossier of books each year and support a devoted and experienced staff was a mystery that often baffled scholars perusing its intriguing and catholic catalogs. These same scholars then turned around to submit their manuscripts with some confidence that they had a shot at reaching the wider world.

Meeting that agreeable if overwhelming challenge has now proved to be too much for Team Transaction and it has elected to be purchased by the Routledge publishing group. Scholars will wish them well while quietly humming “Adieu Transactors – and Thank You.”

U of Oregon Violates Free Speech in Halloween Costume Punishment

The University of Oregon suspended a tenured professor for wearing blackface at an off-campus Halloween party, and now is considering additional punishment.

The university admits the professor had no ill intent (reports suggest that she wore it in a strange attempt to honor a black physician, by dressing up as the title character in a black doctor’s memoir, “Black Man in a White Coat”). But it claims — falsely — that this off-campus expression of racial insensitivity on a single occasion constituted illegal racial harassment under federal law (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act). In punishing the professor, it has violated the First Amendment.

As law professor Josh Blackman notes, the controversy began after “Nancy Shurtz, a tenured professor at the University of Oregon Law School, wore blackface to a Halloween party” as part of a costume that “also included a white lab coat and stethoscope.” In response, “Shurtz was suspended with pay, pending an investigation. That investigation came to a close on November 30.”

The University of Oregon’s investigation concluded that Shurtz had created a hostile environment through this mere act, even though constitutional experts such as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh had observed weeks earlier that the professor’s off-campus expression was protected by the First Amendment under court rulings such as Iota Xi v. George Mason Univ. (4th Cir. 1993), which ruled that even a mocking portrayal of blacks by students using blackface was protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in Berger v. Battaglia (1985) that public employees have a First Amendment right to perform publicly in blackface while not on duty.

On December 23, notes Professor Blackman, “the Provost of the University of Oregon released a statement, along with a redacted version of the investigative report,” claiming that “Shurtz can be disciplined consistent with the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom. Here is the Provost’s summary:

Though the report recognizes that Professor Shurtz did not demonstrate ill intent in her choice of costume, it concludes that her actions had a negative impact on the university’s learning environment and constituted harassment under the UO’s antidiscrimination policies. Furthermore, the report finds that under applicable legal precedent, the violation and its resulting impact on students in the law school and university outweighed free speech protections provided under the Constitution and our school’s academic freedom policies.

The report’s findings of “harassment” are nonsense. Courts have ruled that far more offensive behavior does not rise to the level of illegal racial harassment, such as occasionally overhearing or witnessing the use of the N-word by co-workers. (See Bolden v. PRC, 43 F.3d 545 (10th Cir. 1994) and Witt v. Roadway Express, 136 F.3d 1424 (10th Cir. 1998)).

Unfairness in the Minnesota Football Rape Case

We don’t normally think of college athletes as prominent defenders of due process. Yet perhaps the highest-profile protest against the post-Dear Colleague letter demise of campus due process came last week at the University of Minnesota. Its emergence, the reaction to it, and its quick collapse speaks volumes about the relationship between due process and policies toward sexual assault on the nation’s campuses.

In September, several members of the Minnesota football team were accused of a particularly ugly gang rape. The police investigated, but the prosecutor ultimately declined to pursue charges, largely because a contemporaneous video of the incident (taken by one of the players) showed the accuser (in the words of a police report) “certainly conscious and aware of what is going on”—“lucid” and “alert.”

The university, however, conducted its own investigation and found at least some of the players guilty of the same offense (sexual assault) for which the local prosecutor had concluded he lacked probable cause to indict. Armed with that finding, the university’s athletic department suspended the players—in the process publicly identifying them. This move prompted other members of the football team to threaten to boycott the Holiday Bowl game, only to abandon their move under heavy pressure from the university and the media.

The Limitations of Due Process Protests

The timeline of the Minnesota football team’s response resembles that of the Yale basketball team’s response to the Jack Montague case. In both instances, the team began with examples of high-profile protest. Each member of the Yale team wore Montague’s warm-up shirt before a game. Each member of the Minnesota football team stood behind a statement indicating that university procedures had denied their teammates’ “due process,” in part by finding them guilty of the same offense for which the police had chosen not to bring charges.

Within 48 hours, under what appeared to be heavy internal and external pressure, the teams backed down and issued statements effectively retracting their original protests. In both instances, these statements were radically different in tone and substance from the teams’ original actions and read as if written by a university administrator rather than by college students.

Contrast both the Minnesota and Yale outcomes to that at the University of Missouri. When the Mizzou football team threatened to boycott on behalf of student protesters alleging racial discrimination on campus, the president was fired. The backdowns in the Minnesota and Yale cases, by contrast, provides a reminder of where the power lies in universities on due process issues and sends a message to other students that standing up for due process in sexual assault adjudications will be futile.

The Minnesota case includes one element absent in the Yale matter. Local reports suggest that the players’ unity was in part eroded by the release of the university investigative report. Even construing the incident in the light most favorable to the accused players, this lengthy document revealed an ugly, troubling episode in which the accused players were almost caricatures of unfeeling misogynists. Little wonder the other players then folded. (One of the players has subsequently maintained that the boycott nonetheless will ensure that future accused students are treated fairly, but no signs exist that Minnesota will in any way change its policies.)

Ironically, however, the leaking of the report (to a local TV station) heightened the due process critique the team originally made. The report, of course, was supposed to be confidential. Given its conclusion, and its highly negative character portrayals, it’s inconceivable any of the accused players leaked it. That leaves someone from the accuser’s legal team, or a university official, as the likely source—figures willing to waive the confidentiality requirements when they thought it would be helpful to their side of the case. The report’s leaking, in this respect, casts further doubt on the integrity of the Minnesota adjudication process. Just as with Yale and the Patrick Witt case, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an investigation to identify the leaker who violated university policies.

Blue State Laws

The last few years have featured a wave of blue states passing “affirmative consent” laws, which effectively require accused students to prove their innocence. Minnesota hasn’t enacted such a law (though the university does employ the “affirmative consent” standard, thereby defining sexual assault differently than state statutes). But the state did enact a first-in-the-nation law requiring “training” of all campus investigators and adjudicators of sexual assault cases.

The football players’ case was one of the first to be adjudicated under the new standards. This summer, I had asked Minnesota’s Title IX coordinator, Kimberly Hewitt, for a copy of the new training material; she declined to provide it, with a cc to the university public relations office. (I then obtained it through a state public records request.)

I can see why Hewitt wasn’t eager for the material to become public. Minnesota has trained its sexual assault investigators by having them attend an event organized by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault; sessions from the National Association of Colleges and Universities; participating in the “Minnesota Campus Sexual Violence Summit”; joining an AAU Survey of Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct Webinar; and completing a course organized by the ATIXA Institute, an organization associated with the anti-due process NCHERM.

Adjudicators receive briefings from the Minnesota Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, the Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittees, the university Office of the General Counsel, a local police chief, a university lecturer expert in addressing questions of credibility, the Director of Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life at the University of Minnesota, and the legal advocacy coordinator of the Aurora Center, a university organization that “provides a safe and confidential space for students . . . who are victims/survivors/concerned people of sexual assault.”

Adjudicators receive briefings from the Minnesota Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, the Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittees, the university Office of the General Counsel, a local police chief, a university lecturer expert in addressing questions of credibility, the Director of Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life at the University of Minnesota, and the legal advocacy coordinator of the Aurora Center, a university organization that “provides a safe and confidential space for students . . . who are victims/survivors/concerned people of sexual assault.”

The list of training, therefore, contains no defense lawyers. Nor does it feature a representative of a group devoted to campus civil liberties, like FIRE (or even the ACLU). So Minnesota trains its investigators and adjudicators exclusively from sources that are either neutral or who are ideologically inclined to believe the accuser (and therefore find guilt). Imagine the criminal justice context, of jurors in sexual assault trials (and only sexual assault trials) required to receive “training,” with the training material provided only by the prosecutor and not by the defense.

The effects of this training were apparent in the university investigator’s report. Both the accuser and the accused had inconsistencies in their stories. But the accuser’s inconsistencies enhanced her credibility—“we generally attribute the differences among [her] accounts over time to her gradual recollection of what she found to be a very traumatic experience,” the university report declared—while the accused students’ inconsistencies led the university investigator “to discount their credibility.”

Nothing in the one-sided nature of the training, of course, should obscure the ugliness of the undisputed conduct detailed in the report. (This was, in the light most favorable to the accused players, an episode of group sex amidst underage drinking, while the players were entertaining a high school recruit.) But despite the wording of a statement issued from the president’s office, Minnesota did not suspend several of the players because their behavior conflicted with university values; it suspended them because the university concluded they had engaged in behavior the state considers a felony—even as the prosecutor declined to seek indictments over the same behavior.

Media

Initial coverage of the players’ boycott statement was basically fair—at least in the local Minnesota media. That tone soon changed. It changed despite the fact, as Robby Soave has observed, this was a protest (from students of all races) alleging that authorities had denied due process rights to accused black males.

In the current national environment, in virtually any other context, this message –that young men of color had been mistreated by agents of the government who were investigating conduct that state law deemed to be criminal—would have been greeted with enthusiastic support from the mainstream media.

Yet (unsurprisingly, given the general media attitude regarding due process and campus sexual assault), the editorial and commentary response was overwhelmingly negative. This Sally Jenkins piece in the Washington Post is a representative sample; this Dave Zirin piece is a typically extreme manifestation of the attitude. In its editorial condemning the players who threatened to boycott, the Star-Tribune conceded that “there can be discussion over whether [preponderance of evidence is the correct standard and over the high level of secrecy involved in the disciplinary process at the University” and noted that there “has been pushback in other high-profile incidents across the country over the current system and the way standards are applied.”

In other words: the editors conceded that the due process concerns presented by the students had merit. After making the point, the editors nonetheless charged that, through their protest, the players threatened to “further damage the university’s reputation.” Is there any other context in which a left-of-center editorial page would advance such a claim about students advocating for other students’ civil liberties?

Beyond the choice of framing, both the Times (in a straight news story) and the Star-Tribune (in its op-ed) erroneously asserted that the University of Minnesota was required by “law”—even Obama administration officials (albeit very reluctantly, under prodding from Senators Lamar Alexander and James Lankford) have conceded that the Dear Colleague letter doesn’t carry the force of law. The Times quietly eliminated its error.

After the issue was pointed out on Twitter, the Times replaced, without acknowledgment, the claim that Minnesota had to use a lower standard of proof by law with the following passage: “Burdens of proof used in such investigations are frequently lower than the criminal justice system’s.” The false claim in the Star-Tribune editorial remains. The errors reflect the generally poor approach the media has featured in covering campus procedural issues.

The Minnesota football coach has said that his public support for the protest threatened his job. Given the current atmosphere on campus, he’s probably right.

Ruined by the Beach Boys and Other Title IX Disasters

In the latest expansion of the intent of Title IX, a University of Kentucky Professor drew punishment this month, partly, he says, because he was found to have engaged in “sexual misconduct” by singing a Beach Boys song at a university gathering in China last year. The professor, Buck Ryan, who directs the University’s Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, claimed in an op-ed published in the Lexington Herald Leader  that “under Administrative Regulation 6:1, Discrimination and Harassment, University of Kentucky’s Title IX coordinator ruled that the song, “California Girls,” with names of Chinese universities and cities inserted for the event,  included ‘language of a sexual nature’ and was offensive.”

Although there were no student complaints—essentially no victims—the professor who has three decades of college teaching experience, was refused due process—as is the case for most accused males in Title IX cases—and has been stripped of a prestigious award worth thousands of dollars.

A heavily redacted letter, released by the university, says that no charge of having sexual relations is involved in the case against Ryan, but leaves the impression that Ryan did something major. On December 20, an op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal by University PR man Jay Blanton said the Beach Boys song was not the key factor in the case and that Ryan had engaged in “inappropriate touching” and “language of a sexual nature.” Still, no formal hearing, no clearly stated charges and no on-the-record complaining witnesses, but a heavy financial loss and damage to Ryan’s reputation.

Related: The Title IX Mess: Will It Be Reformed?

In comments to the university senate Monday, Ryan said, “UK has weaponized its Title IX office and made the legal office its enforcer. It’s time the faculty stands up to the bully.” Ryan added that the Chinese students at the event, none of whom were contacted by the university, “found the charges against me mortifying and wanted to defend me. They were looking to clear their names, too.”

Since its passage in 1972, Title IX has been expanded from its original intent to end discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding, to include regulations promulgated in the name of preventing a hostile environment for women—broadly defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Today, any unwelcome comment to a female student from a male student, faculty or staff member is grounds for a Title IX investigation—with Title IX coordinators empowered to act as police, judge and jury in allegations of sexual harassment ranging from offensive speech to claims of rape.

Harvard canceled the men’s soccer team season because team members sent emails to each other rating women on their physical attractiveness. Columbia University followed suit by canceling the wrestling season after “misogynistic and homophobic” text messages were found to have been sent by members of the team.

This was never the intent of Title IX.  While Presidents Reagan and Bush enforced the original intent of Title IX, the overreach of the law began in 1996 with an ominous “Dear Colleague” letter sent from President Clinton’s Education Secretary to all college and university administrators.  Warning that colleges that did not ‘equalize the participation’ of males and females in athletics, would lose federal funding, the Clinton administration mandated that if the schools could not produce enough female athletes, they would have to cut male athletes—and male athletic programs—until the participation rates of both sexes were exactly the same.

That was just the beginning. While the George W. Bush administration did not expand Title IX, it did nothing to curb the abuses. And, once the Obama administration took power, the Title IX industry that had been created was so confident in its ability to manipulate gender politics on campuses throughout the country, that a whole new set of “Dear Colleague” letters began to arrive on campus in 2011. Enlisting the U. S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to handle all complaints in very specific ways, the “Dear Colleague” letters required colleges to be responsible for harassment and assault that occurs off-campus as well as on-campus.

Related: How the Feds Use Orwell to Apply Title IX

The Obama administration also allowed a lower standard of evidence to “prove” the guilt of the accused. A “preponderance of evidence” standard replaced a “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.  And, as in the University of Kentucky case, there are no protections for the academic freedom of professors and the free expression of any male student, professor or staff member on or off campus.  There is no right to due process no right to an attorney for the accused—and sometimes, no appeal process allowed.

President Obama’s overreach has caused an explosion of cases. Even Brett Sokolow, who in 2014 as director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, acknowledged in a newsletter to members that in their efforts to enforce Title IX, “they are running afoul of Title IX.”  Claiming that colleges are getting it “completely wrong,” Sokolow advised campuses that “every drunken sexual hook up is not a punishable offense.”

Sokolow knows that colleges and universities have implemented Title IX so poorly that the Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating more than 200 institutions following complaints that the colleges and universities have mishandled sexual misconduct cases.  In just the past few months, lawsuits were filed by students claiming “unfair treatment” at Albany Medical College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Shenandoah University, the University Cincinnati and the University of Maryland.

This follows high-profile lawsuits at Occidental College, Columbia University and the University of Tennessee.  Several of these lawsuits have been successful in vindicating the male student, and actually holding college administrators accountable.  Earlier this year, an Ohio federal judge allowed an Ohio State University student’s due process claims to survive a motion to dismiss, holding that the campus Title IX training at the Ohio State University may have “biased Title IX panel members,” allowing the plaintiff to proceed against OSU’s Title IX Coordinator.

Related: Title IX Tramples Free Speech and Fairness, So Now What?

In October, the Office for Civil Rights found that Wesley College in Delaware violated the Title IX rights of a male student who was accused of sexual assault—citing unfair treatment.  And, a  federal appeals court revived a lawsuit by a Columbia University male student who alleged that the university had subjected him to sex discrimination during its investigation of a sexual assault report against him.

For the unjustly accused, the ability to bring these lawsuits are themselves a victory because they reveal that colleges and universities have not been complying with their own procedures.  In most cases, accused students are not given due process – they are denied a chance to respond to allegations, they are not informed of their options for resolving the complaints, they are not given copies of the incident report or other evidence against them before the hearing, they are not allowed to call witnesses on their behalf, and they are often denied legal representation.

Last year in a case at the University of  California, San Diego, Superior Court Judge Joel M. Pressman found that the accused student was impermissibly prevented from fully confronting and cross-examining his accuser and that there was insufficient evident to back the university’s findings that the male student had forced the accuser into sexual activity without her consent. Ordering UC San Diego to drop its finding against the male student, the judge quipped that “When I finished reading all the briefs in this case, my comment was Where’s the kangaroo?”

These campus tribunals are indeed kangaroo courts. A forthcoming book (January 24) The Campus Rape Frenzy, by K C Johnson and Stuart Taylor, draws upon data from two dozen of the hundreds of cases since 2010 in which innocent students have been branded as sex criminals and expelled or otherwise punished by their colleges.  It shows why all of us are harmed when universities abandon the pursuit of the truth—and “accommodate the passions of the mob.”

For those of us who are concerned about free speech and equal protection for all students, the selection of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos is encouraging.  But, Secretary DeVos will be battling an entrenched anti-male campus culture and the Chronicle of Higher Education has already published a warning that: “Trump Administration May Back Away from Title IX, but Campuses Won’t.”

Taking on the sexual assault industry that has been built up on the backs of innocent male students will be difficult, but President-elect Trump—no stranger to false allegations himself—has already shown a willingness to speak for those who have been silenced.

Add Babson to the List Of Campus Hoaxes

The shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality that has gripped our college campuses, currently basking — or wallowing — in a so-called diversity and inclusion phase, has visited Babson College, where members of the administration and faculty worked themselves into a lather over an incident of racial harassment that, it turns out, the most elementary investigation would have demonstrated never occurred.

This puts Babson, President Kerry Healey, and a number of administrators and faculty members in the uncomfortable position of having failed to adhere to an academic obligation — first determine the facts, then draw conclusions, and only then open your mouth.

The embarrassing imbroglio stems from an ill-fated and impulsive truck ride by two Babson students, Parker Rand-Ricciardi and Edward Tomasso, to Wellesley College on Nov. 9 to gloat over Donald Trump’s victory. Gloating is, of course, fully protected by the most elementary precepts of academic freedom, to which virtually all liberal arts colleges — including Babson and Wellesley — are committed.

Quickly, the word spread via social media that the pair had engaged in racist and homophobic slurs, including a targeted visit to Wellesley’s Harambee House, home to the college’s African-American cultural center. The reports of racial slurs were complemented by one report of spitting by the Babson duo.

But investigators were unable to substantiate any of these reports of hate speech. That they took root, then spread like wildfire, to the point of provoking condemnations from many of the supposed adults running Babson, tells us how far our colleges have fallen in the contest by administrators and professors to be seen as holier-than-thou when it comes to hot-button issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and other such categories.

Healey was joined by Dean of Students Lawrence Ward, and some 200 members of Babson’s faculty — none of whom apparently had bothered to look for evidence before condemning Rand-Ricciardi and Tomasso and effectively labeling them racists and homophobes. It was a classic example of the justice meted out by the infamous character Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland,” who pronounced sentences — “off with their heads” — before the inconvenience of a trial.

The unseemly faculty and administration rage was tempered only when Babson and Wellesley campus police reported they could find no evidence to support any of the allegations of racism. Babson’s campus ban on the two students was immediately lifted. Yelling “Trump 2016” and “Make America Great Again” out of the windows of a vehicle is not a crime in the USA, nor a recognized offense — at least not yet — on a liberal arts campus.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the politically correct, premature and unsubstantiated condemnations that came from the mouth of Babson’s president, who, because of her business and political rather than academic background, might have been expected to exercise more skepticism and better judgment than we have come to expect from the typical campus administrator or professor.

Before accepting the Babson presidency, Healey had a vibrant career in the real world. Her departure from positions of prominence and responsibility into the academic mosh pit is a misfortune sadly demonstrated by what she’s chosen to do there — wrongly impugn the reputations and jeopardize the careers of two young men she happens to disagree with.

Reprinted with permission from the Boston Herald

Bias Response Teams—Not Gone Yet

At Emory University, when someone had the nerve to write “Trump 2016” in chalk on some sidewalks and steps, a wave of “fear” struck the campus, according to the university president. He made it clear that “Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values of diversity and inclusivity.” He also said that any student found guilty of chalking up that dreaded name would “go through the conduct violation process.”

Welcome to the new hyper- bias. On the modern campus, it’s an inflatable concept that can include a recommendation to vote Republican.

We were once told to worry about hate crimes–a recognized legal category. Then the focus turned to hate speech and microaggressions–not crimes, really, but at least plausibly offensive incidents. Now we are told to guard against ambiguous and seemingly innocuous incidents, such as a trio of Wisconsin students who dressed as the three blind mice for Halloween and were accused of mocking the disabled.

Related: Watch out for Bias Team

Buoyed by the belief that the university exists to protect them from words that upset them, students and even professors now fight against unwanted speech with righteous fervor. “Bias” has evolved into a quasi-religious concept that lurks in the hearts of unsuspecting students–like a demonic force–that must be exorcized by the Orthodox priests of the liberal academic order.

Who are the inquisitors of this order? Enter the “Bias Response Team,” or, in some cases, the “Bias Awareness Response Team.” They walk the halls of the modern university, monitoring speech, reviewing anonymous complaints at closed-door hearings, painting scarlet Bs on people’s foreheads. The free exchange of ideas–a principle that was once sacred to the very idea of the university–has been replaced by the new sacred principle of the safe space.

They’ve even developed a cute acronym for these inquisitions. BRT’s or BART’s have become a standard part of the vast academic administrative apparatus. More than one hundred U.S. campuses have some version of it on campus. In some cases, they’re dubbed BIRT’s or even BERT’s or BHERT’s. (The ‘H’ stands for hate.) But, alas, a committee by any other name smells just as Orwellian.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College 

One thing these diversely acronymized bias response teams have in common is a kind of air of self-evident righteousness. A belief that words ought to be closely policed. There is a sense of moral urgency and faith that precludes all questioning. Don’t you believe in tolerance, openness, and inclusiveness? How dare you speak of stifling speech!

Nevertheless, some universities have begun to break faith. While these kinds of anti-bias teams remain prevalent, more than one campus has disbanded BART concerned that the constant fear of being reported to the university administration as a “biased person” by anyone who happens not to like what you say in the classroom could, maybe, possibly–there is a chance–lead to a stifling of free speech.

The University of Northern Colorado announced that it would terminate BART back in September with the president, Kay Norton, explaining that the bias team had “sometimes made people feel we were telling them what they should and should not say.” What she didn’t detail in the statement were the hundreds of posters the bias team had put up around campus warning students not to use controversial terms or phrases such as “illegal immigrant” or “all lives matter.”

Even worse, two professors received visits from the school’s bias response team after they asked students to consider an opposing viewpoint as part of a class assignment. Some students in their classes had complained that the assignment constituted bias. In August, officials at the University of Iowa put their plans to launch a bias team on hold, citing the controversy at Northern Colorado.

In an essay in The New Republic, professors Jeffrey Snyder and Amna Khalid of Carleton College cataloged a long list of troubling incidents involving bias response teams. They included professors being pressured to resign, students dragged in for questioning and punishment, and episode after episode of students anonymously reporting “bias” when a professor or student simply said or did something they didn’t like. The result of all this has been to exalt the status of the tattletale, and to give one self-entitled student power to threaten and silence, by proxy, any person who crosses his will. The BART became a weapon for the brat.

Little wonder that even many conventionally liberal academics have begun to join conservatives to say enough is enough.

Ironically, none of these universities appear at all interested in taking steps to correct the most glaring bias of all–the hiring bias against conservative and Republican-voting faculty candidates. According to one study, only 14% of U.S. professors identify as Republican. The ratio is even more skewed at the nation’s most elite institutions. In 2012, for example, 96% of Ivy League faculty political donations went to Obama. (Mitt Romney, presumably, divided the remaining 4% with Jill Stein.)

The humanities and social sciences, where political issues are more likely to emerge in class discussion than in sciences or technical disciplines, are laughably bereft of diversity. Only 2% of American English professors identify as Republican. Two percent! Among social scientists, there are three times as many self-identified Marxists as there are Republicans–a figure so ridiculous it caused even The New York Times’ Nick Kristof to cry foul.

It’s a shame these anti-bias teams were not conceived to look into university hiring practices. And it’s no wonder students get confused and begin to think they are victims of bias whenever they encounter a differing political opinion. They go nearly all the way through college without ever hearing one.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Radical sex warriors at Reed College tried to shout down Kimberly Peirce, partly because she didn’t use a trans actor in her 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry, about the murder of a transgender male.  This is an excerpt from Robby Soave’s blog on the event at Reason.com:

“The most revealing comment came from Lucia Martinez, an assistant professor of English at Reed who identifies as a “gay mixed-race woman.” Martinez wrote:

“I teach at Reed. I am intimidated by these students. I am scared to teach courses on race, gender, or sexuality, or even texts that bring these issues up in any way—and I am a gay mixed-race woman. There is a serious problem here and at other [selective liberal arts colleges], and I’m at a loss as to how to begin to address it, especially since many of these students don’t believe in either historicity or objective facts. (They denounce the latter as being a tool of the white cisheteropatriarchy.)”

How many professors must confess that they live in terror of their far-left students before we start taking them seriously? Before we recognize that a thin-skinned, easily-offended super-minority of students has gained the power to censor academics and other students for broaching controversial subjects before we are prepared to do something about it? This is the elite American college campus: a place where even queer, leftist professors and filmmakers are afraid of being sent to the guillotine by self-professed radical students.

Can We Save Public Universities?

There was a time not so long ago when elite public institutions, such as the University of California (Berkeley), the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin, more than held their own against competition from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and other elite private institutions.

Berkeley’s reputation for academic excellence in the 1950s and 60s was unsurpassed; indeed, in the mid-1960s many experts considered Berkeley to be the finest university in the world.  Flagship universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Virginia earned high rankings.

Related: How Our Universities Are Failing Us

Few private institutions could match the range of outstanding research programs offered at flagship state institutions, particularly in expensive fields like the sciences and engineering. Admission to these institutions was widely pursued by out-of-state students willing to pay premium tuition.   With enrollments in excess of 25,000 and in some cases 40,000 students, these institutions dwarfed the privates in scale but delivered a great deal of educational “bang for the buck.”  Degrees from Berkeley, Michigan, and Wisconsin were judged as equivalent to those from the top private institutions.

Today the situation is greatly changed. There is not a single public institution listed among the top 19 schools in the 2016 rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Berkeley ranked 20th, while Virginia and UCLA came in tied at 24 with Michigan at 29 and the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) at 30. What happened over the last four or five decades to reverse the momentum in higher education from public to private institutions?

Christopher Newfield outlines what he thinks is the answer in his very interesting, carefully researched, but ultimately misguided book, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of literature and American Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, argues that we have engaged in a multi-decade campaign to “privatize” public universities by withdrawing public funding and replacing it with higher tuition funded by student debt.

He does not mean that public universities have been privatized in a literal sense but that they are increasingly expected to run like businesses delivering services to customers.  From this point of view, universities mostly deliver private benefits and thus they should be paid for with private funds – primarily student tuition – and less and less by legislative appropriations.

Related: The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

A central casualty in this process has been the belief that universities deliver public benefits to society sufficient to justify large public investments. Newfield argues that public universities deliver all kinds of public benefits in addition to private benefits, such as technological innovations and scientific advances, medical breakthroughs, better overall health of the population, social literacy and tolerance, mobility, and rising living standards.

Such public benefits used to be taken for granted as recently as the 1960s and 1970s when politicians and the public at large generally agreed that the social returns from higher education justified substantial investments in public universities.  Over the last several decades, he argues, that public vision gave way to what he calls a privatized vision of higher education.

Newfield tracks the collapse of this public vision by the steady decline over recent decades in legislative appropriations to support public universities.  The figures he reports suggests that while this process may have begun in the 1980s it has accelerated in the past decade or so in just about every state in the union. Between 2008 and 2015, state appropriations for higher education declined by an average of close to 20 percent across the country, and by more than 25 percent in at least 15 states.

There were only three states – Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming – where appropriations actually increased.  Obviously, this had much to do with the financial crisis and the slow recovery from it, but Newfield suggests that in reducing appropriations state legislatures took advantage in these years of the process of privatization that began decades earlier.

Public universities have responded by raising student tuition to cover costs, though Newfield points out that there exists no one-to-one relationship between declining appropriations and rising tuition. Indeed, in recent decades public universities have raised tuition much faster than legislatures have cut appropriations, and public institutions have raised tuition in tandem with private colleges and universities.  Between 1980 and 2012, college tuition and fees increased more than ten-fold in nominal terms and 4 or 5 times in inflation-adjusted terms.

College tuition and fees increased during this period at almost twice the rate of medical care, three times the pace of housing costs, and almost five times the rate of the Consumer Price Index – in other words, at rates that could not be sustained absent the availability of credit to finance the rising costs.  Thus student-loan debt has exploded in recent decades, growing from roughly $200 billion in the year 2000 to $800 billion in 2010 – and still growing thereafter.

Student loan debt now exceeds credit-card debt in the United States.  Over this period, family disposable income has grown by roughly 60 percent while the volume of outstanding student loans has grown nearly 10 times more rapidly – or by more than 500 percent.  These are staggering figures by any measure. Given the stagnation in family incomes in recent years, one wonders if those loans can ever be repaid.

What’s the answer? Newfield, in keeping with his thesis, thinks that we must first restore the idea that higher education is a public good deserving of substantial public investment. These more generous appropriations may require higher taxes, as Newfield acknowledges, but he points out that the costs for most taxpayers will be minimal and in any case easily affordable given in view of the savings most families will enjoy from the reduced expenses of college tuition and fees.

To give Newfield his due, he has written a serious book that backs up his thesis with an impressive array of fact and argument.  His book contains a great deal of current information on trends in student debt, tuition increases, and legislative appropriations for public education.  Whether or not readers agree with the overall thesis, they can at least agree that Newfield has made a good case for it, and for this reason has delivered a valuable book.

Many Americans for various reasons seem to long for the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s when, they believe, life was easier than today, families were more stable, good jobs more plentiful, and America was making steady progress year by year.   Some on the right look back to that era with nostalgia for the conservative social values that prevailed, while others on the left would like to recover the good manufacturing jobs and strong labor unions that were then influential in the economic life of the nation.

It seems that Newfield is of a similar mind about that era, except that he would like to restore the public confidence and financial support that public universities enjoyed during that period.   As with those other longings, Newfield’s is unrealistic and no longer attainable.   We have moved on, and we are not going back.

In the first place, that period (from roughly 1950 to 1966) was a unique era in American life.  The United States enjoyed rapid economic growth of between 4 and 6 percent per year, or something close to two or three times the rates of growth we have experienced over the past two decades.  Economic growth and progressive taxes swelled the coffers of state and federal governments. The “baby boom” created large families with parents and grandparents willing to invest in children and their education.

Related: How Reform Conservatives Can Help Higher Ed

With few competitors in the public sector and a growing population of students seeking admission, public universities had a claim on public resources that they had never before enjoyed.   Universities were, moreover, widely respected by the public for the quality of the education they provided and the seriousness with which university presidents, professors, and administrators seemed to go about their business.  These conditions have long since gone the way of the electric typewriter and the family station wagon.

In the heyday of public universities, state governments spent the bulk of their funds on just a few functions – primarily transportation, public safety and corrections, and higher education.   During this period, public universities had few competitors for state funds and, indeed, with their alumni well represented in the legislatures and the “baby boom” generation headed off to college, they were well positioned to lay claim to a rising share of state budgets.  Across the nation, somewhere close to 20 percent of state budgets flowed into the public universities at a time when public employee pensions, health care, and K-12 education were still minor items in state budgets.

That is no longer the case. Public universities now face an unfriendly political environment due to the expansion of state governmental functions since the 1960s.  States now have many functions and constituent groups that command more money and attention. According to a report by t682he National Association of State Budget Officers, Medicaid accounted for 26 percent and K-12 education another 20 percent of total state expenditures in 2014, proportions that have been expanding steadily for years.

A Scramble for Public Dollars

Thus, nearly half of all state expenditures are now allocated to two programs that did not command any state resources in the 1950s and 1960s. Several years ago voters in California approved a mandate requiring 40 percent of all state funds to be allocated to K-12 education. The well-connected advocates and interest groups that support these programs are unlikely to permit those shares to decline. Meanwhile, public employee pensions now command about 5 percent of state spending but, due to years of underfunding and deferred payments to the funds, some experts expect that share to grow to grow to perhaps 10 or 12 percent in the decades ahead.

By contrast, higher education now lays claim to just 10 percent of state expenditures, or roughly half the share allocated to this sector in the 1950s and1960s. In the scramble for public dollars, public universities must now contend with public-employee unions, court orders and referenda directing ever more public funds to K-12 education, and the lure of federal matching funds for Medicaid, welfare, and other federally subsidized programs.

Given political realities, they are unlikely to win many of these battles.  Indeed, it is not clear that they should. After all, the professors and administrators who complain about reduced public expenditures were generally among those calling for more state funding of the kinds of public programs that have drained resources from higher education.

In addition, public universities today must share public appropriations with an expanding complex of regional campuses and community colleges that barely existed in the 1950s and 1960s. The California legislature created an elaborate and expensive three-tiered system of research universities, regional universities, and community colleges in the early 1960s just as the University of California was reaching a pinnacle of influence and prestige.  Other states expanded in parallel ways. Michigan now supports 45 distinct institutions of higher learning, all in financial competition with the state’s two flagship public institutions. Wisconsin supports 26 such institutions, in addition to its flagship campus in Madison.

These second and third-tier institutions have representatives lobbying the legislatures and demanding their share of state higher-education dollars. In addition, more and more teachers at the lower-tier four-year universities and community colleges are leveraging their power by joining unions that bargain and lobby in their behalf.  Professors at elite institutions have so far resisted the pressures to unionize.

As Newfield acknowledges, public universities have not been on a starvation diet, mainly because they have been able to pass along rising costs to students and parents.  Most public universities have dramatically increased the number of courses in their catalogs and the number of centers, institutes, and programs that must be paid for.  The number of administrators employed on public campuses has exploded nearly as rapidly as student debt.

Between 1975 and 2011, the number of faculty at colleges and universities across the nation grew by just 23 percent, while the number of full-time administrators grew by 369 percent – or, put differently, colleges and universities hired 16 new administrators during this period for every new professor hired.   To the extent this is a problem – and there can be little doubt that it is a problem – it represents a self-inflicted wound. No one forced trustees and presidents to participate in a misallocation of resources on this scale.

Finally, is it really true that public universities confer a public benefit of the kind justifying expanded public support? That question deserves some real examination and debate. There can be little doubt that public universities, along with most private institutions as well, have evolved into hothouses for left-wing identity politics. Numerous studies have demonstrated that liberal and leftist professors outnumber conservatives by a ratio of between 10 and 20 to 1, and Democrats outnumber Republicans by a similar ratio.

That might be an acceptable situation in an environment where practitioners are guided by professional standards, but that is no longer the case on the American campus.  Large numbers of professors, administrators, and student advocates have been politicized to an unhealthy degree. If there is a “great mistake” in higher education, then it more accurately relates to the hyper-politicization of the contemporary campus.

When colleges and universities are mentioned in the press today, the story is likely  about a speaker who has been harassed or disinvited from campus, or students demonstrating for “safe spaces” on campus to insulate themselves from discordant opinions, or for more courses and programs on women, minority groups, the environment, and other causes associated with the political left. Judging by the statements of many faculty, administrators, and student representatives, they would like to criminalize or at least delegitimize the opinions of conservative and religious Americans, and in the process make certain that those views are never expressed on the campus.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College

This kind of thing has been going on now on leading campuses for three or four decades. Should anyone be surprised, then, when taxpayers and legislators ask why they should subsidize these politically one-sided institutions?  Universities – public and private – are increasingly viewed as partisan institutions, strongly attached to the Democratic Party and, therefore, no longer seen as enterprises that serve the public good. That may be unfortunate, as one might agree, but it is nevertheless the case.

Instead of restoring public subsidies to universities, as Newfield says we must, it makes more sense to move further in the direction of privatization by “voucherizing” the higher-education industry–providing vouchers at public expense for students to spend at the institutions of their choice. This would promote greater competition among campuses such that (hopefully) useless and redundant programs and employees would be eliminated out of the need to cut costs and respond to consumer demand.

The university sector is failing the society that supports it – of this, there can no longer be any doubt.  “Voucherizing” higher education would represent a radical step into the unknown, but we are fast reaching a point where radical steps are called for.

How a University Moved from Diversity to Indoctrination

Academe these days is full of code words.  Diversity is one of the most popular, and has increasingly become an article of faith at American colleges.  Its usefulness depends on ambiguity. While the public and media may believe it means openness to previously excluded students and studies, the reality is that “diversity” is a brazen attempt at thought control, rapidly moving toward the center of undergraduate education through the mechanism of General Education requirements.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, professors who want their courses approved for General Education diversity credit must meet new guidelines borrowed from the most ideological part of the university, the School of Education.  At UMass, as at many other universities, Social Justice Education (SJE) has for years been a key part of the School of Ed, offering not only a concentration but also a Master’s and a Ph.D.

Related: More Ed-School Social Justice Studies

The language of SJE makes clear that it is driven by narrow political aims, which pervade all aspects of the program.   With a constant emphasis on intervention and advocacy in schools and communities on behalf of social justice (never clearly defined), the SJE website makes plain its fundamental concerns, which include: “Prejudice and discrimination, the dynamics of power and privilege, and intersecting systems of oppression,” “Theories and practices of social change; resistance and empowerment; liberation and social justice movements,” and “Sociocultural and historical contexts for, and dynamics within and among the specific manifestations of oppression (adultism, religious oppression, ableism, classism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, transgender oppression) in educational and other social systems.”

In his book Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (2003), Peter Wood describes how “diversity arose as a countercultural critique of American society that depicted social relations as based on hierarchy and oppression of disprivileged groups.”  This “diversity ideology,” rooted in a Marxist view of America as a system of oppression, had been brewing for generations but only gained real traction in the 1980s.

“For it was then,” he writes, “that the Left, at last, found a combination of political leverage, economic opportunity and cultural advantage to institutionalize much of its anti-American program. Diversity was the key to that three-part success” (his emphasis).”

But until recently, the emphasis on diversity as the chosen path to “social justice” was not built into the university’s “social and cultural diversity” Gen Ed requirement. Now it is. And as I argue here, it is an exercise in compelled speech, unworthy of higher education, and unconstitutional in a public institution.

Related: Viewpoint Diversity

A fairly loose definition of what diversity courses should entail had existed for about three decades.  Designed to combat “ethnocentric stereotypes” and open students to the wider world of “pluralistic perspectives,” the old diversity requirements contained a single prescriptive phrase (my emphasis):

Courses satisfying this requirement shall reach beyond the perspectives of mainstream American culture and the Western tradition.

The old guidelines then shifted from shall to may:

They may focus on the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East; the descendants of those peoples living in North America; other minorities in Western industrial societies; and Native Americans. Since a sensitivity to social and cultural diversity is advanced by an understanding of the dynamics of power in modern societies, courses that focus on the differential life experiences of women outside the mainstream of American culture, minorities outside the mainstream of American culture, and the poor also come within the scope of this requirement.

True, the phrase regarding “the dynamics of power,” hinting at the old Marxist framework with a touch of Foucault thrown in, seemed designed to predetermine the content of such courses to some extent. But the list of groups (women, minorities, and the poor) with “differential life experiences” was merely, as the last part of the above paragraph made clear, a possible focus–not a necessary one, and certainly nothing like the obligatory listing of numerous supposedly marginalized identities that abound today.

What, then, changed?  In the spring of 2016, faculty began to realize that the General Education Council had proposed a little-publicized new delineation of the required diversity courses. As before, undergraduates would be required to take two courses carrying the Diversity designation, one national, the other international, but the details had passed through an ideological transformation.

 Related: How Diversity Came to Mean Downgrade the West

Normally, significant changes to the curriculum would have to go through the Faculty Senate, but the Gen Ed Council had by-passed this step by claiming (when challenged) that the changes in the two required diversity courses involved “only language,” hence did not need Faculty Senate approval.

Most faculty, as usual, were busy with other things and did not react. Some people, however, were alarmed. Harvey Silverglate, civil liberties attorney and co-founder of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and I wrote a piece about the new requirement, pointing out the ways in which it went well beyond the existing guidelines.  We argued that not content with existing policies that restricted speech, the university was mounting an effort to compel certain kinds of speech and political attitudes in courses hoping to gain Gen Ed Council approval toward fulfilling the diversity requirement. As we wrote:

Using politically fashionable jargon, the three new gen-ed guidelines for diversity courses stipulate not merely, as before, geographic and cultural breadth but the specific attitudes and beliefs that must animate certain areas of teaching (or indoctrination, depending upon your point of view). Faculty members must embrace “knowledge, pluralistic perspectives and engagement beyond mainstream traditions,” by focusing on “unequal access to resources that derive from race and ethnicity, national origins, language, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation, religion, age, and ability.”

The second mandated guideline encompasses “cultural, social and structural dynamics” that shape human experience and produce inequality, while the third specifies “exploration of self and others” so as to recognize inequalities and injustices. The clearly stated goal, not left to the imagination, is “to engage with others to create change toward social justice.”

This phrase encapsulates the shift from educating students to be able to think and analyze for themselves to the vastly different effort to indoctrinate students into administrators’ and professors’ belief system, which is assumed to be the only worthwhile, good and moral one from which, therefore, no one dares dissent.

All of this should cause concern at a public university that is bound by constitutional norms. The First Amendment’s protection of free speech has two aspects. The more widely known one prohibits the law from censoring officially disfavored and unpopular speech. But the other equally important and complementary aspect of this liberty enjoins the government from compelling speech and belief.

In a society where students have long been granted the right to refuse, for example, to recite a biblical passage or even the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, college students are now required to genuflect before the banner of diversity, inclusion and social justice. It’s insufficient for students to refrain from uttering offensive or “wrong” words and ideas. They must increasingly be trained to mimic their professors and affirmatively utter the “right” ones.

Related: Universities Torn Between Truth-Seeking and Social justice

The new guidelines, in other words, explicitly spelled out a commitment to social justice, understood in a particular way, reflecting precisely the political vision already familiar to us from Social Justice Education programs, rooted in Left politics that have dominated academic circles for some time now.

But whereas these politics used to be confined to certain (mostly identity-based) academic programs, along with Schools of Ed and Social Work, the new requirements aim to subject the entire university and every student in it to current academic dogma. The revision names identity groups repeatedly, uses all the current code words, talks over and over again about inequality, marginalization, power dynamics, and the need to combat all these.

Hardly a minor revision, this is a complete delineation of the changes in academe in the past few decades.  At a time when the university persistently reiterates its commitment to social justice, diversity, inclusion, and equity, the undergraduate curriculum is undergoing Gleichschaltung, i.e., everything is being brought into alignment with the prevailing political orthodoxy.

A further chapter in this story of ideological policing unfolded in late 2016.  Not satisfied with the changes quietly incorporated into the Gen Ed diversity requirement earlier in 2016, the Gen Ed Council once again initiated a change that it evidently hoped most faculty would not notice.  This time, it proposed a third required diversity course, mandated for all incoming students, who apparently needed this training in identity politics in order to proceed with their education.

Members of the Gen Ed Council were explicitly told to give a copy of the new proposal only to those who requested it. Thus, barely a week before the item was to come up at a Faculty Senate meeting on November 10, faculty members not on the council began to hear about the new proposal.

This time, however, a number of faculty members noticed.  At the November 10th meeting of the Faculty Senate, about fifteen people rose to speak about the proposal, almost all of them first expressing their support for” diversity” before going on to criticize the new course in its particulars.  However, it was not the obvious politicization of the requirement that troubled them but rather the practical consequences for individual majors and courses. Some parts of the university objected that by adding a third diversity requirement other courses would be crowded out, as students would have less time and fewer credits available for other purposes.

Some faculty members objected that space for this new course was to be created by eliminating the requirement for an interdisciplinary course. Still, others were unhappy at the way in which their own courses on foreign cultures would be excluded by the new focus on power differentials, marginalization, and so on.  One professor, for example, objected that his course on medieval Japanese culture would no longer count for “diversity” credit, and argued that while it makes sense for the U.S. diversity requirement to stress race, class, and gender, the non-western courses should be held to a different standard. Another complained that his course on Kant, Marx, Weber, Nietzsche and Freud certainly should still be relevant for diversity credit, as it has been for thirty years.

A few people argued that the new requirement didn’t go far enough, since it assumed faculty and graduate students already knew how to teach to these concerns, whereas, it was argued, they would need special training in order to truly embrace the new anti-oppression pedagogy. No one, however, objected to the politicization of the curriculum in itself.

Most intriguing, however, was the apparently forgotten fact that the additional third diversity course proposal did not alter what had already become the obligatory language of diversity courses.  Yes, the new proposal requires that this course is taken by all incoming undergraduates, and it intensifies the politicized language somewhat, but it is not different in kind from the rewritten diversity guidelines quietly introduced last spring.

The real difference in kind, in other words, was already a fait accompli, the result of the shift that was set in place in the spring of 2016.  And by not having a discussion of the consequences of those changes last spring and just incorporating the new language de facto on the Gen Ed website, the Gen Ed Council had successfully precluded a critical discussion among the faculty of a substantive ideological shift.

People who complained in November 2016 because their old diversity courses would no longer count for diversity credits should have objected last spring, not six months later. But they were given no opportunity to do so.  Whereas blatant social justice courses could have been included in the past (nothing excluded them), the assumption that diversity means “social justice” in a very particular way (based upon identity politics and the division of the world into powerful and powerless) is now mandatory, as the new guidelines make clear.

Thus, the Gen Ed Council was successful in bypassing faculty input and imposing explicit School of Ed social justice perspectives upon the entire university. Harvey Silverglate and I were absolutely right to call attention to this as a new requirement for faculty obeisance to essentially political perspectives, quite different from the vaguer older guidelines – which presumably is precisely why some of our colleagues were so adamant about promoting this change, and hoped most faculty wouldn’t notice.

My criticisms of the new proposal (distributed in early November 2016 to the 70 colleagues in my department, none of whom commented to me about it, as well as to the Faculty Senate) included these points:

A.  The first three of the five aims listed in the proposal narrow the range of perspectives to be welcomed in such courses. The aims presuppose and also reinforce a particular political perspective that faculty must adopt if their courses are to be approved for Gen Ed diversity credit. The aims taken from the proposal are in italics, below. After each of these aims,  my own comments appear in brackets.

  1. Appreciate, value, and respect diverse social, cultural, and political perspectives. [This aim hints at a postmodernist relativism, one that has been the subject of much debate and is far from a generally accepted truth. In fact, however, the subsequent aims make clear that only particular political and cultural perspectives are sought. Viewpoint diversity is definitely not on the agenda.]
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of and critically analyze how the legacies of marginalization, prejudice, and discrimination impact current power relations and the life circumstances of people often marginalized by society because of race, ethnicity, language, religion, class, ability, sexuality, and gender. [Presupposes a particular view of the origins of marginalization, its continuing force, and the causes of social problems. This aim is rooted in current identity politics, which is often used as a shield or a bludgeon, depending on who is speaking to whom and with what objective.]
  3. Critically analyze their own perspectives and identities, develop an awareness of implicit biases, and understand how these perspectives and biases have been shaped by power relations within social and institutional contexts. [Is it only one’s own perspectives, identities, and biases that are to be critically examined, not those of others? Is it necessarily “power” relations – mentioned also in aim # 2–that explain everything? Again, this highly contentious perspective with its very specific conceptual framework is being presented as the necessarily correct one, to be reflected in these courses.]

B.  The academic year at Umass has already been reduced to 26 weeks of actual classes, 3-credit Gen Ed courses have become 4-credit courses without an increase in class time, and in many instances work requirements have decreased as professors adapt to students’ sense of what preparation (ever less) they are willing to do outside of class.

Students still need 120 credits to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and, of these, two courses are already part of the new diversity requirement, circulated last spring and containing much the same language as the new proposal. This third required diversity course would mean that a total of 12 credits out of 120 (i.e., 10% of the students’ overall credit hours) will be devoted to “diversity” issues understood in the narrow way the proposal makes clear. This is a disservice to our students who have only a few precious years as undergraduates and entire worlds to explore.

C.  For those who specifically teach  foreign languages, literature, and cultures, the proposal tells us we must stress oppression, marginalization, and power relations as if studying other cultures and languages is of little value unless it is primarily about those issues.  This seems like an odd marginalization (to use that very term) of entire areas of expertise.

The themes named, while of interest, hardly tell us all we need to know about the world. Furthermore, they undermine the work that many of us do and that is not subsumed by these particular political preoccupations.  It is a serious redesigning of the university’s role and mission to impose such a narrow perspective on what is understood by “diversity.”  If “diversity” indeed now means a ceaseless focus on oppression, marginalization, and power, it is being used as a code word.

And it is demeaning to those of us who have labored long and hard to actually acquire some expertise in a “diverse” culture – and who see the study of cultures around the world as something other than an opportunity for political posturing. It is far harder to actually learn a foreign language and its cultural contexts than to acquire or pass on to students a few attitudes about particular groups (divided into such broad categories as the powerful and powerless), the very thing we supposedly were trying to overcome.

D. For those wishing to see where in the university these ideas are already institutionalized, the School of Education’s Social Justice Education agenda, which offer a concentration, a Master’s, and a Ph.D, provides a complete articulation of a political program using the precise language found in our new Gen Ed diversity proposals. Nationwide, in Schools of Education and in certain identity-based programs, these aims have predominated for some time. What is happening now, with the reconceptualization of the Gen Ed diversity requirement, is the spread of these avowed commitments to the entire university.

E.  The narrow perspective envisioned is made clear again on p. 5 of the proposal, which states as a goal: “Diminish the perpetuation of discrimination and oppression.” Hubris, or political passions, should not lead us to think that if we can just regulate the content of education thoroughly, we will bring about “social justice.”

I conclude that we hardly know what “social justice” is, let alone how it may best be attained. Indeed, the very term has been used in ways that might alarm today’s social justice warriors (if only they knew some history, such as that of the populist priest Father Coughlin, the anti-capitalist, anti-communist, anti-Semitic founder of the National Union for Social Justice in 1934 and of the paper Social Justice two years later, who became an apologist for Nazism and an Axis propagandist).  The entire history of the twentieth century, to stick just with recent times, tells us how dangerous a path the belief in the single-minded pursuit of “social justice” is.

Related: The Power of Buzzwords Like Dispositions and Social Justice

The university may have a social mission to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion, even in the name of “social justice” (which Jonah Goldberg notes is currently merely a stand-in for “goodness”), but that is quite different from adopting these words as an educational mission.  In addition, these terms have by now become an orthodoxy, constantly reiterated by administrators whose numbers and dedication to these issues keep expanding while the quality of liberal arts education—and above all its “diversity” — has patently declined.

Even if the new required Gen Ed course does not get adopted, by not contesting the redefinition of “diversity” that is now an avowed goal, faculty have abdicated their responsibilities, contributing to the further debasement of higher education.

Times change; orthodoxies shift. The intentional embrace of political activism in education is a dangerous precedent. Has everyone forgotten the East German professors who were first obliged to adhere to Marxism-Leninism and then, when the Wall fell, were fired for having done so?

We should be wary of turning our courses into vehicles for propagandizing particular political views, however popular those views may be at this moment.

Do We need a Watchlist for Ideological Professors?

The Professor Watchlist, a site just two just two weeks old, has already touched off heated debate in and out of academe.  It is the brainchild of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, a politically conservative youth movement founded in 2012, and has the declared mission “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

The Watchlist was immediately condemned as “pernicious and misguided” by Heterodox Academy (HXA), a non-aligned site but normally a de facto ally of conservatives in working to open up the dominant leftist culture of the campuses to more diverse viewpoints. The group’s executive committee said: We call on everyone who is concerned about the state of higher education to stop devising ways that members of an academic community can report or punish each other for classroom speech.

Some members disagreed, including Robert Mather, a social psychologist at the University of Central Oklahoma who wrote on the Psychology Today site that the HXA statement “is an example of being out of touch with conservative students and faculty. Conservative students and faculty have been marginalized in the ivory tower. I agree with the Heterodox Academy that such a watchlist does not facilitate collegial discourse.

Indeed, this watchlist is a response to events such as the bias response teams and trigger warnings that have covered many campuses and predominantly silenced conservative but not liberal discourse.

For conservative students, speaking in class already registers you on the informal watchlist in the predominantly liberal academy. For conservative professors, offering their perspective does the same. The idea of a watchlist is similar to the informal blacklisting that occurs for conservative faculty.”

Noelle McAffe, professor of philosophy at Emory helped set up a notably unfunny satirical website, Professor Redux, listing as similar radicals who should be on the conservative site as troubling: Socrates, Jefferson, Alan Turing, Gandhi and Jesus. Other wags submitted complaints about Indiana Jones, Professor Plum or other fictional academics.

The New York Times pointed out that Melissa Click and Julio Cesar Pino of Kent State are on the watchlist. She is the journalism teacher fired after calling for “some muscle” to prevent a student photographer from covering the University of Missouri protest. Professor Pino is listed as having “faced investigation by the FBI for connections to ISIS,” though the Cleveland Plain Dealer was unable to confirm that.

Pino has repeatedly denounced Israel. In 2014 he posted an “open letter” to “academic friends of Israel” that said they are “directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians.”

Charles Angeletti, a tenured professor at Metropolitan State University Denver, who rarely withholds his opinions from his classes is on the list. He pushed his students to recite a pledge that describes a racist, sexist, homophobic America: “I pledge allegiance to and wrap myself in the flag of the United States Against Anything Un-American and to the Republicans for which it stands, two nations, under Jesus, rich against poor, with curtailed liberty and justice for all except blacks, homosexuals, women who want abortions, Communists, welfare queens, treehuggers, feminazis, illegal immigrants, children of illegal immigrants, and you if you don’t watch your step…”

Also on the list are Mireille Miller-Young, an Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was sentenced to three years’ probation after attacking a 16-year-old pro-life activist on campus.

Of course, except for the hard-core ideologues burrowed into the academy, there is no way to know from this skimpy Watchlist whether conservative opinions can be aired or good marks for conservative students can be achieved in these classes. Heterodox Academy has a point that we should be wary of inventing new ways to report and punish professors. On the other hand, knowing what you are likely to get in politicized classes is just basic consumer information.

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.

How ‘Soft Censorship’ Works at College

These days, administrators at public universities must be very jealous of their counterparts at private institutions. As non-governmental actors, private college administrators can suppress any speech they don’t like – or, probably more to the point, that displeases their dissent-intolerant student constituents.

There is no better illustration of the extremes to which a university will go to suppress speech than the recent actions by DePaul University, a private institution. Two student groups had invited noted conservative Ben Shapiro to speak at an event they were sponsoring, “Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces and Attacks on Free Speech.” The university, however, banned him from attending the event either as a speaker or as a member of the audience. Administrators claimed that the sponsoring groups had not properly registered Mr. Shapiro as a speaker and that the university was concerned with security issues.

Related: Feminist Censored from Censorship Panel

Public universities have the same incentives to ban speakers like Mr. Shapiro, but they have less leeway than their private counterparts. For example, the president of California State University, Los Angeles, giving in to student protestors, cancelled a scheduled speech by Mr. Shapiro just days before it was to take place. But Mr. Shapiro vowed to show up anyway. And appropriately using the First Amendment as a weapon, he threatened the university with a lawsuit.

Those tactics yielded the desired result: the president backed down and allowed the speech to go forward as planned.

Although public universities cannot suppress speech using heavy-handed tactics, they can use more subtle measures to chip away at free speech, as illustrated by my experience at Brooklyn College, a public institution where I teach.

In April 2015, I sponsored a talk at the college entitled “Free Speech and Social Criticism,” by prominent blogger Pamela Geller. A few hours after I publicized Ms. Geller’s upcoming event, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) emailed the college president, the provost, and other campus officials asking if it was true that Brooklyn College was hosting “the nation’s leading Islamophobe.”

Related: A New Age of College Censorship

Apparently prompted by that email, the provost phoned my department chair at his home early (7:30 AM) the next day to discuss the event. There was no legitimate basis for that call. First, my department (earth science) had nothing to do with the event.  Second, the provost’s office has no administrative responsibilities over campus events of that sort. Further, had the provost been genuinely interested in information about the event, he should have called me, its sole sponsor.

Because there was no legitimate reason for it, I have to assume that the call was intended

to send a message. Emails from an influential lobbying group had apparently alarmed and displeased the administration. Calling my boss was a means of conveying that displeasure to me in the hope of getting me to modify my plans. Simply put, the provost became the conduit by which political pressure from CAIR to back off the event was transferred to me.

Related: Harmless College Jokes Punished at Civility Seminar

In a similar example of soft censorship, a college vice president telephoned the speaker I had lined up to open the Geller event. (That speaker teaches at Kingsborough Community College, which, like Brooklyn College, is a branch of the City University of New York.) He asked if she would care to discuss her role in the event. That call to a speaker at my event was also wholly unjustified: First Amendment case law forbids administrators at publicly funded universities from involving themselves in the content of events sponsored by their faculty or students, who are free to choose themes and presenters as they see fit.

At a minimum, these telephone calls from upper-echelon administrators were chilling to free speech and open communication on campus.  Would faculty be eager to participate in provocative or politically incorrect events if their participation generated investigative calls from provosts and vice presidents? That kind of pressure can easily chill speech. Some faculty – especially untenured ones – would avoid sponsoring or participating in controversial talks in order to avoid the ire of – and possible retribution from – their administrative superiors. Even I will think twice before doing so again.

I get it: college administrators hate controversy and use small acts of suppression – soft censorship – to help them avoid it. But speech suppression, even when subtle, is still antithetical to a core mission of a university – fostering unfettered debate. An open discussion of the largely hidden practice of soft censorship may help preserve that core mission.

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.”

‘Anti-White Rhetoric Comes Right out of the Academy’

Democratic pundits are calling on their party to court working-class and non-coastal whites in the wake of November’s electoral rout. But the Democratic Party is now dominated by identity politics, which defines whites, particularly heterosexual males, as oppressors of every other population in the U.S. Why should the targets of such thinking embrace an ideology that scorns them.

The most absurd Democratic meme to emerge from the party’s ballot-box defeat is the claim that it is Donald Trump, rather than Democrats, who engages in “aggressive, racialized discourse,” in the words of a Los Angeles Times op-ed. By contrast, President Barack Obama sought a “post-racial, bridge-building society,” according to New York Times reporter Peter Baker. Obama’s post-racial efforts have now “given way to an angry, jeering, us-against-them nation,” writes Baker, in a front-page “news” story.

Post-Racial Bridge-Building?

Tell that valedictory for “post-racial bridge-building” to police officers, who have been living through two years of racialized hatred directed at them in the streets, to the applause of many Democratic politicians. Black Lives Matter rhetoric consists of slogans like: “CPD [Chicago Police Department] KKK, how many children did you kill today?” “Fuck the police,” and “Racist, killer cops.” Officers have been assassinated by Black Lives Matter-inspired killers who set out to kill whites in general and white police officers in particular.

Gun murders of law enforcement officers are up 67 percent this year through November 23, following five ambushes and attacks over the November 18 weekend that left a San Antonio police officer and a U.S. Marshall dead. A few days before those weekend shootings, anarchist wannabes in Austin led a counting chant based on the template: “What’s better than X dead cops?  X + 1 Dead Cops.”

President Obama welcomed Black Lives Matter activists several times to the White House. He racialized the entire criminal-justice system, repeatedly accusing it of discriminating, often lethally, against blacks. At the memorial service for five Dallas police officers gunned down in July 2016, Obama declared that black parents were right to fear that “something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door”—that the child will be shot by a cop simply for being “stupid.”

A Rosy View of ‘Black Lives Matter’

Obama put Brittany Packnett, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, on his President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Packnett’s postelection essay on Vox, “White People: what is your plan for the Trump presidency?” is emblematic of the racial demonology that is now core Democratic thinking. Packnett announces that she is “tired of continuously being assaulted” by her country with its pervasive “white supremacy.” She calls on “white people” to “deal with what white people cause,” because “people of color have enough work to do for ourselves—to protect, free, and find joy for our people.”

Packnett’s plaint about crushing racial oppression echoes media darling Ta-Nehesi Coates, whose locus classicus of maudlin racial victimology, Between the World and Me, won a prominent place on Obama’s 2015 summer reading list. Coates has received almost every prize that the elite establishment can bestow; Between the World and Me is now a staple of college summer reading lists.

‘Evil of Cops is the Evil of America’

According to Coates, police officers who kill black men are not “uniquely evil”; rather, their evil is the essence of America itself. These “destroyers” (i.e., police officers) are “merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” In America, Mr. Coates claims, “it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

Coates’s melodramatic rhetoric comes right out of the academy, the inexhaustible source of Democratic identity politics. The Democratic Party is now merely an extension of left-wing campus culture; few institutions exist wherein the skew toward Democratic allegiance is more pronounced. The claims of life-destroying trauma that have convulsed academia since the election are simply a continuation of last year’s campus Black Lives Matter protests, which also claimed that “white privilege” and white oppression were making existence impossible for black students and other favored victim groups.

Black students at Bard College, for example, an elite school in New York’s Hudson Valley, called for an end to “systemic and structural racism on campus . . . so that Black students can go to class without fear.” If any black Bard student had ever been assaulted by a white faculty member, administrator, or student, the record does not reflect it.

Massive Racial Preferences

These claims of “structural racism and institutional oppression,” in the words of Brown University’s allegedly threatened black students, overlook the fact that every selective college in the country employs massive racial preferences in admissions favoring less academically qualified black and Hispanic students over more academically qualified white and Asian ones. Every faculty hiring search is a desperate exercise in finding black and Hispanic candidates whom rival colleges have not already scooped up at inflated prices.

Far from being “post-racial,” campuses spend millions on racially and ethnically separate programming, separate dorms, separate administrators, and separate student centers. They have created entire fields devoted to specializing in one’s own “identity,” so long as that identity is non-white, non-male, or non-heterosexual. The central theme of those identity-based fields is that heterosexual, white (one could also add Christian) males are the source of all injustice in the world.  Speaking on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show in the wake of Trump’s election, Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, author of Look, A White!, called for a nationwide “critique of whiteness,” which, per Yancy, is at the “core side of hegemony” in the U.S.

To combat that hegemony, Democratic administrations in Washington and state capitals have built permanent bureaucracies dedicated to the proposition that white males discriminate against everyone else. Evidence of such discrimination is by now exceedingly rare, however, so “disparate impact” analysis steps into the breach. Police and fire departments, public and private employers, bank lending officers, landlords, insurers, school administrators, and election officials have all been found guilty of discrimination despite following race-neutral procedures. The mandated remedy is a race-conscious policy crafted to favor non-white, non-male “identity.”

Hillary Clinton employed classic Democratic “racialized discourse” throughout the campaign. During a Democratic presidential primary debate in January 2016, Clinton agreed that it was “reality” that police officers see black lives as “cheap.” In a February debate, she accused Wisconsin, along with other states, of “really systemic racism” in education and employment.

‘Basket of Deplorables’ Is Campus Rhetoric

In July she called on “white people” to put themselves in the shoes of African-American families who “need to worry” that their child will be killed by a police officer. When Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it” who belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” she was speaking the language of the academy, now incorporated into the Democratic worldview.

Democratic politicians and the media will respond that such charges of systemic white

oppression are not “racialized discourse”; they are simply the truth. Such a claim is an insult to the overwhelming majority of white Americans who harbor no bigotry and who long to live in a truly post-racial society. Many of Trump’s white supporters voted for Obama, and the most conservative whites in the U.S. have had one love affair after another with conservative black media figures and politicians, whether Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Ben Carson, or David Clarke. Yet these former Obama voters and Tea Party supporters are now being called racist for voting for Trump.

Trump’s sally during the first Republican primary debate that “this country doesn’t have time” for “total political correctness” sent a signal that the reigning presumptions about oppression were finally vulnerable. The message resonated. Democrats will have to do much more than invoke traditional Democratic class warfare to convince non-elite white voters that the party does not see them as one of America’s biggest problems.

This essay is reprinted with permission from City Journal, a publication of The Manhattan Institute.

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.