A decay not likely to be reversed

MIchael Barone surveys the disgraceful state of our major colleges and universities. Barone elegantly summarizes the problems — speech codes, racially discriminatory admissions policies, dishonest administrators, domination of humanities departments by leftist professors intent on portraying American society as evil — and shows how these phenomena are inter-related. Thus, speech codes protect the feelings of students admitted with relatively poor credentials pursuant to racial quotas. Meanwhile, administrators must insist that they aren’t using racial quotas in admissions, so that to be an administrator at one of these elite institutions “you have to be willing to lie about what you consider one of your most important duties.” But it isn’t really lying because, as the humanities department has explained, “truth” is merely a construct of our racist, sexist, homophobic, and imperialistic society.
Barone concludes by asking why that society “is willing to support such institutions by paying huge tuitions, providing tax exemptions and making generous gifts.” The main reason, I think, is that people outside of academia have little idea about what’s going on there. Most people simply assume that the colleges of today are pretty much like those of their youth, differing only in that they are more expensive, have better food, and are more congenial to women and minority group members.
There are also limits on what people can do to reverse the descent of our colleges and universities. State universities have some accountability to voters, and thus generally are not the worst offenders. However, as I noted recently, even when the voters say in the clearest possible terms that race is not be a factor in the admissions process at state universities, those in charge are quite willing to thumb their noses at the law.
Elite private colleges are even less constrained. They face little if any competition from colleges that don’t fit the post-modern leftist mold. No one likely to break that mold has much chance of being entrusted to run such an institution, and the demise of Larry Summers at Harvard illustrates the fate that awaits even a mild iconoclast who manages to crash the party. And a hypothetical college that somehow succeeded in breaking the mold would likely be punished, plummeting in college ratings that rely on the views of entrenched academics to assess “academic reputation.”
In theory, alumni should be able to act as a voice of sanity. But colleges have structured themselves (or in Dartmouth’s case, restructured itself) in a way that deprives alumni of any real voice. The only thing they get to say is “yes” or “no” to requests for donations. With only a dim sense of what’s going on, a critical mass continues to say “yes.”
Thus, the rot continues to spread, with no end in sight.
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