The narcissism of Dartmouth’s modern-day radicals

Yesterday, in a post about the occupation by Dartmouth rads of the president’s office, I wondered whether what’s going on at the College — absurd demands followed up by physical coercion — is occurring at comparable institutions of higher learning. The preliminary answer, based on reader response and a little bit of research, appears to be no — at least not yet.

Campus radicalism these days seems to be focused on opposition to fossil fuel manifested, for example, in demands that colleges divest themselves of holdings in certain energy companies. On some campuses there are also calls for divestment in companies with connections to Israel.

I have no sympathy for these radical causes and I deplore the tactics that back them up. But at least these rads are talking here major public policy issues — the environment and the Middle East. Similarly, the focal point of student radicalism in my day was a major war — the one in Vietnam.

By contrast, Dartmouth’s “Concerned Asian, Black, Latin@, Native, Undocumented, Queer, and Differently-Abled students” are focused not on public policy issues but on themselves. In essence, these “identity rads” want to hear more talk about them and/or their ancestors. Hence the demands for at least one queer studies class in every department; the creation of a “professor of color” lecture series; a requirement that every Dartmouth student be taught that the land they reside on is Abenaki homeland, and so forth.

What explains the narcissism of Dartmouth’s radicals as compared to radicals at other campuses who focus on the wider world? Perhaps it stems from the large number of courses that hold up a mirror to Blacks, Latinos, gays, etc. and/or examine history and literature excessively (and even obsessively) through the mirror of race, ethnicity, and gender.

The same phenomenon exists at most other elite and semi-elite colleges, but Dartmouth seems to be in the vanguard.

Or perhaps it is the failure of successive Dartmouth administrations to say “no” to the special pleading of this or that minority group. It’s human nature, after all, for the young to push adults until adults push back. College administrators aren’t known for their backbone, but Dartmouth’s leaders have been particularly spineless or disengaged (in the case of Jim Kim).

Phil Hanlon, the current Dartmouth president, is new and thus not responsible for the rot. But he too seems incapable of saying “no” to demands so ludicrous they smack of parody.

I agree with Joe Asch: “If the College wishes to prepare its students for the world, perhaps it should show them a little of the world.” The world, I would add, beyond their respective navels.

Responses