The Modern Campus
Our college campuses have become citadels of indulgence and intolerance. Students are coddled, not challenged; infantilized, not toughened. They obsess over past injustices and devote themselves to identity politics. They present demands not for equal rights under the law, as was the cause of a previous generation of student activists, but for equal outcomes in society, as is ever the cause of modern totalitarian regimes.
Their professors and provosts join them, enforcing a monoculture of acceptable behaviors and opinions. At the leadership level, the presidents and chancellors rationalize and enable the entire program, placating their students and faculty; succumbing to identity politics.
Moving Dartmouth Forward
Take, for example, Dartmouth College. In January, Philip Hanlon, the president appointed in 2013, announced his vision and mission for the school: He will implement a collectivist residential life, strengthen ethnicity as basis for admission and tenure, erect “guardrails to promote a safer and healthier campus environment,” and require a pledge to political correctness for incoming students.
In order to “strengthen academic rigor,” Hanlon will create opportunities “for positive learning and growth,” evidently regarding the legacy curriculum to have fostered negative learning and growth. He will encourage “earlier start times for classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings,” evidently believing that an extra couple of days per week of books with breakfast will bring about a new level of intellectual vitality.
After explicitly affirming that “institutional levels of extreme behavior do not correlate with intensity of the Greek scene”, Hanlon proceeded to indict and threaten the Greek system under his purview.
His mission statement, “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” is a case study of emptiness, hypocrisy, and autocracy.
Protests, Appeasement, and Peril
Given this failure of leadership, is it any wonder that a group of Black Lives Matter protestors felt empowered and entitled in November to march into a library, shout racial epithets, and intimidate those peacefully studying there? That a vice provost reflexively apologized to the protestors? That the president, Hanlon, responded equivocally and dispassionately, taking three press releases before even suggesting that the protestors may have done anything shameful?
The appeasement is stunting for the students.
In the words of Alan Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, “[S]afe spaces must not be extended to campuses as a whole. Classrooms in particular must not become intellectually sterile environments, where ideas are subjected to censorship based on the fact that they make some students feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, universities should foster discussions of controversial ideas, subversive ideas, ideas that provoke and challenge students to question their beliefs and preconceptions. That process is central to learning and intellectual progress more generally. Safe spaces rhetoric must not be allowed to undermine it.”
The appeasement is also worrisome for society.
Might not the collective mindset of the Dartmouth protestors – hyper-sensitive, self-justifying, and anti-white – eventually lead to behavior considerably more concerning and threatening than shameful protests, if not confronted and rebuked?
Is there not a continuum? And are not our college presidents and university chancellors, lacking both confidence in Western values and the courage to defend them, allowing us to slide into a perilous place?
- Our Demands: Per the website, “These demands listed represent collective efforts by Black students to address widespread institutional inequity.”
- Moving Dartmouth Forward: Speech by Philip Hanlon, President of Dartmouth College, announcing his vision, mission, and policy for the school.
- Dartmouth Protests Turn Ugly: A first-hand account of the Dartmouth protests.
- Safe Spaces for Hypocrisy: Opinion piece by Alan Dershowitz in the New York Daily News.
- On American Campuses, Freedom from Speech: Opinion piece by George Will in the Washington Post.
- America’s Higher Education Brought Low: Opinion piece by George Will in the Washington Post.