Our Rotten Liberal Arts Colleges

I have a hypothesis that I’ve not yet published anywhere, but it seems like the propitious time has arrived. My hypothesis is that while places like Berkeley, Colorado/Boulder, the University of Wisconsin, etc. have the rap for being the most politically correct and radical institutions of higher education, in fact they are relatively sane compared to small, elite private liberal arts colleges.

I believe that most small private liberal arts colleges are much worse. Berkeley, after all, has signed on to the “Chicago Statement,” crafted by the University of Chicago, which endorses free speech and academic freedom and throws shade at “safe spaces” and other leftist nonsense. I can pass along first hand that a senior Berkeley administrator told me that “My idea of a ‘safe space’ is a student’s dorm room.” And notwithstanding the Milo riot in February 2017 (which I witnessed first hand), I was able to host Heather Mac Donald at a public event on campus without fuss, whereas two days later she was shut down at Claremont McKenna College by a mob.

By contrast we have the recent example of Samuel Abrams, professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, who published an op-ed article in that well known right-wing rag The New York Times about how college administrators are worse than leftist faculty (I think he is right about this) and how there ought to be more balance in college instruction. For this offense against orthodoxy, he relates:

Within hours, my office door and surrounding corridor was vandalized. Pictures of my family were taken and bumper stickers that I had placed on the door to create a welcoming environment for students were stripped off. The vandals covered my door and surrounding hallway area with hateful paraphernalia intended to intimidate me into leaving the school. I received subsequent threats, and an alumna I have never met claims to be actively working on ways to ‘ruin my life’ while many others are demanding that my tenure be stripped all because I wrote a relatively tame article with which they disagree.

Following the defacement of my door, I was disappointed by the lack of a clear stand against violence and intimidation, and the lack of support for academic freedom and diversity of thought I expected from the College administrators. In fact, a note I received from a College official described the act as ‘alleged vandalism.’

Left out of this account is Abrams’ meeting with the president of Sarah Lawrence, who hinted that he ought to find a job elsewhere.

Meanwhile, there is a petition making the rounds at Williams College, another elite private liberal arts college, objecting to the proposal that the college sign on to the Chicago Statement. You have to read it, not to believe it, as the saying goes. It contains just about every marker of postmodern radical ideology. Some samples:

“Free Speech,” as a term, has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism. The creation of this petition at Williams cannot be separated from those dehumanizing associations. Nor can it be separated from a national pattern where certain amendments are upheld and protected at all costs and others are completely denigrated, ignored, and targeted. Take the privileging of the 2nd amendment over the 14th amendment, for example.

Some other time I’ll have to linger over what the postmodernists mean by their ubiquitous use of “discursive.” But “privileging the 2nd Amendment over the 14th Amendment”?? This is truly out of la-la land. But wait, there’s more!

Mirroring this harmful prioritization, Williams’ sudden and urgent need to protect “free speech” over all other issues for students and community members is evidence of white fragility, ideological anxiety, and discursive violence.

There it is again: this time it is violence that is “discursive.” Is there a computer program that generates this kind of prose?

The petition prioritizes the protection of ideas over the protection of people and fails to recognize that behind every idea is a person with a particular subjectivity.

This sentence is all you need to know. There is no truth. There is no “objectivity.” Objectivity is a myth. There are only individual and wholly subjective perspectives, and anyone whose perspective does not conform must shut up. Just keep going:

Liberal ideology asserts that morality is logical— that dehumanizing ideas can be fixed with logic and therefore need to be debated. However, oppression is the result of centuries of real emotional and material interests, and dehumanization cannot be discussed away. In truth, a liberal framework for “rational debate” rests upon a cognitive hierarchy that says intelligence equals morality and discussion equals good actions.

Alumni of liberal arts colleges should look closely before making donations. And no one should send their kids to Williams or Sarah Lawrence.

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