We’re going to be all over the crisis on the university campuses for the rest of this week, for the madness seems to be spreading rapidly. It’s almost as if all the multicultural centers on campuses got a batch of gluten-free vegan mash infected with mad cow disease. My email is filling up fast with news tips and reports from all over, and the media is on it at least for the moment.
At least in the 1960s students had something real to protest about: Vietnam actually was rather the opposite of a “safe space,” and being drafted and sent there against your will would certainly interrupt your course of study. (Of course, that’s why draft deferments were created, and the draft eventually abolished.) But the Vietnam protests were directed chiefly against the government and not academic policy.
And coming out of the civil rights movement, you could have some sympathy with black students whom the Democratic Party had done so much for so long to exclude from public universities. If you really want to picture an “unsafe space” on a college campus, go look back and look at the photos of James Meredith being escorted by soldiers onto campus at the University of Mississippi in 1962. Meredith never forgot which party it was that opposed his education: he became a Republican and later worked for Jesse Helms, because Helms was the only Senator who responded to his application for employment on Capitol Hill.
It might be mildly comforting to believe that the spineless college administrators who cave to the demands of the mob right now do so out of liberal guilt and remorse over the legacy of the Democratic Party’s oppression of blacks, but everyone knows the real reason is simple weakmindedness.
Cue Allan Bloom, in his great chapter in The Closing of the American Mind on the shame of Cornell in 1969:
“You don’t have to intimidate us,” said the professor of philosophy in April 1969, to ten thousand triumphant students supporting a group of black students who had persuaded “us,” the faculty of Cornell University, to do their will by threatening the lives of individual professors. A member of the ample press corps newly specialized in reporting the hottest item of the day, the university, muttered, “You said it, brother.” The reporter had learned a proper contempt for the moral and intellectual qualities of professors. Servility, vanity, and lack of conviction are not difficult to discern.
Bloom, along with Walter Berns, resigned from Cornell in the wake of the administration’s shameful capitulation. Berns also wrote of Cornell’s weakness and shame, recounting:
No one should have been surprised by the faculty’s willingness to capitulate to the armed students; the stage was set for it a year earlier when black students brought a charge of racism against a visiting professor of economics—he had made the mistake of employing a “Western” standard to judge the economic performance of various African countries—and, not satisfied with the professor’s subsequent apology (which the administration required him to make), took possession of the economics department office, holding the chairman and department secretary prisoner for some eighteen hours. The students were never punished, and, much to the relief of the dean of the college of arts and sciences, the accused professor left Cornell. On the basis of the findings of a special faculty-student commission, the dean then pronounced the professor innocent of racism, but went on to announce that the university and faculty were guilty of “institutional racism” and were obliged to mend their ways.
So you can see there’s nothing new under the sun. In fact, at Missouri a sensible-sounding professor of physiology, Dale Brigham, has resigned after proposing to hold an exam as scheduled, but then backing down under pressure. Late word this morning is that Brigham’s resignation has been “rejected” by the administration, but how can you stop someone from quitting in disgust? These two screen caps of his emails tell the story: