Thursday, September 01, 2016

Higher Education in Disarray, but a Glimmer of Hope

One college dean advises students to leave their safe spaces at home.

Higher education today is a mess. Many institutions are involved in an arms race, strongly competing to attract students for the scholarship and student loan money that they bring with them. Institutions are building facilities that are much more fancy, thus more appealing, than ever before. New dorms, sports and fitness centers, student centers, dining facilities — the list goes on.

And the “everybody needs to go to college” craze has put thousands on campuses who aren’t best served by a traditional college degree.

Those who attended college many years before this arms race began endured sparsely appointed dorms and other comparatively plain-Jane facilities, but managed to come out with a solid education. That austere environment isn’t good enough anymore.

A 2014 survey by the University of California Los Angeles showed that there are five times more leftist professors than conservative professors on college faculties these days. The worst aspect of this is that many have taken on the role of proselytizers, forsaking their duty to guide learning and maturation in their subject area in favor of indoctrinating students into the poisonous world of leftist politics, which they now refer to as “progressivism,” since “liberalism” is no longer credible.

Leftist doctrine on the college campus has led to a disintegration of the traditional college atmosphere, where students once were exposed to and challenged by a broad range of ideas. That healthy environment has become an intellectually stultifying experience. Students are now afraid of their own shadows, and ideas differing from the narrow range of acceptable leftist ideology send kids running to hide under the bed in their hotel-like dorm room.

“Trigger warnings” are expected or required to “protect” those who desire only peace and harmony in their environment from “unsuitable” content, and “safe zones,” where students may seek refuge from the rigors of life, are routine.

The recent focus on transgenderism, and the bending-over-backward efforts to accommodate it, has produced a policy at West Virginia University in which anyone failing to use the personal pronoun preferred by each and every person who claims to be transgender is breaking a federal law on sexual discrimination, and will be treated as a lawbreaker by the university, despite that transgenderism has absolutely no grounding in science whatsoever.

Two questions arise: (1) How does someone know which of WVU’s 29,000 students claims to be transgender, and (2) in the event they actually are able to discern this, how are they supposed to know which of the 30 different pronouns approved by WVU applies to which person?

Transgender people are estimated to be one in every 2,400 Americans, or 0.03% of the population. Another question: How few people are too few to propel the politically correct into action, spawning another uproar over some thought or action that has virtually no effect?

Back in the 60s and 70s a long and often-troubled struggle to desegregate schools and put black and white students in the same learning environment reached its peak. Forty years later, some want to reverse that. Everything old is new again.

Columnist and professor Walter Williams writes, “Hampshire College will offer some of its students what the school euphemistically calls ‘identity-based housing.’” That’s segregated housing for students who — because of their race, culture, gender or sexual orientation — have ‘historically experienced oppression.’“ This idea extends to racially segregated classes where students will feel better when surrounded by those just like them.

In his column titled "College Campus Lunacy,” Williams supports that title by listing some actual course titles: “Philosophy and Star Trek,” “Demystifying the Hipster,” “Recreational Tree Climbing,” and “Kayne vs. Everybody.” Such courses, he said, are the work of faculty, to whom college presidents and trustees have apparently surrendered the running of those institutions.

Now, however, an institution of higher education has decided that it’s time to push back against political correctness. University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison warned incoming students in a letter that there is no tolerance for the kind of student demands that have emerged recently. “Our commitment to academic freedom,” wrote Ellison, “means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

“Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship,” Ellison continued. Noting the importance of civility among and between parties, he stated, “We expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

A college education should help prepare people to cope with life, not to fear it. Political correctness is an infection threatening the nation. Getting rid of it on campuses is a big step toward producing young Americans that are educated, grown up and prepared to experience life. And we hope Ellison’s message is heard loud and clear by other administrators around the nation


$5K for U-Iowa Male Student Denied Safe-Ride Service Intended for Women

Just in time for the new school year, the University of Iowa has settled a sex discrimination complaint filed by a male student who was denied late-night rides home with the school's "Nite Ride" service.

Until now, the Nite Ride service offered safe rides to residence halls for women only.

Acting on behalf of the student, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission reached a settlement with the University, which has agreed not to refuse or deny "accommodations, advantages, facilities, service, or privileges to any person because of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, pregnancy, or disability."

The University of Iowa has agreed to pay the male student $5,000, "which represents compensation for an estimated 424 instances of denied Nite Ride service, each of which resulted in a 30-minute walk home. 

The settlement noted that approximately 45 times, the student "was subjected to harassment by departing bar patrons" as he walked home late at night.

The university also has agreed to publicize the new "sex-neutral" aspect of the Nite Ride service, and it will "educate and train" all employees, including drivers.


State University Has 'Stop White People' Event for RA Training

The State University of New York at Binghamton is actually hosting an event titled "#StopWhitePeople2K16" at a training for resident assistants. Yet again, the politically correct social justice warriors have let slip their own racial prejudices, in the name of opposing systemic injustice and "white privilege." After defending the title of the event, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose finally apologized for the title, admitting it was "offensive and alarming" out of context.

The "Stop White People" class reportedly aims to help others understand "diversity, privilege, and the society we function in." In an Orwellian twist, the teachers promise to "give attendees the tool to" debunk "'good' arguments from uneducated people." Anyone who disagrees with the assertion that we live in a society with inherent advantages for white people is "uneducated" and needs to be corrected.

Nevermind the intellectual diversity and open dialogue from multiple perspectives that truly fosters education, or the fact that white people are still people and should not be discriminated against, or the simple truth that organizations focused on "stopping white people" are just as racist as ones set up to hold back other races.

No, the State University of New York at Binghamton is committed to the closing of the liberal mind and the conspiracy theory that somehow "white people" are all out to get everyone else. Here is the full description of the event:

The premise of this session is to help others take the next step in understanding diversity, privilege, and the society we function within. Learning about these topics is a good first step, but when encountered with ‘good’ arguments from uneducated people, how do you respond? This open discussion will give attendees the tools to do so, and hopefully expand upon what they may already know.

Student Howard Hecht explained the mentality behind such overt racism. "If you subscribe to the extremely leftist notion that to be racist against white people is 'reverse racism,' and therefore white people cannot experience racism because 'reverse racism' does not exist, then the title of this conference will not bother you. For the rest of the student population, however, the title may come as a bit of a shock, or at the very least spark interest in understanding the hashtag."

Update: After the publication of the event caused some controversy, Rose responded in an attempt to clarify why it was entitled "Stop White People." He noted, "It is my understanding that the hashtag is commonly used ironically." He then proceeded to describe an official investigation of the event in question:

"We verified that the actual program content was not “anti-white.” The inclusion of the program in the educational session was not driven by any University administration initiative to advocate any specific viewpoint on diversity. About 40 to 50 RAs chose to attend the session, which ran concurrently with other sessions. Topically, the discussion in the program was far-ranging, student-driven and explored reverse racism, the relationship of communities of color with police, whiteness, crime and segregation in an open conversation format.

Post-session feedback predominantly described the session as a respectful and productive conversation. Professional staff followed up directly with a few participants who had a mixed reaction to the program in support of those participants.

This clarification was helpful, but shortly afterward Rose himself seems to have come to the realization that an official apology was necessary.

See the apology on the next page.

The vice president of Student Affairs published yet another response to the controversy, aiming to "provide additional perspective."

For those who were familiar with the hashtag used in the title, it was understood not to be literal. Nonetheless, the program should not have been so titled. Out of context, it is offensive and alarming. That was not the intent. The mistake made by staff who let it go to print was a failure to consider what impression the program title would create if it circulated beyond those familiar with the hashtag, as it in fact did. We'll make sure all of our staff learn from the experience."

For the many who have conflated the issue of the title with the purpose of the program and assumed that the intent was to target white people — that is simply false. The program was an opportunity for student staff to explore race-related topics in conversation and to practice managing conflict around those issues with each other. Criticism that the title was poorly chosen is fair. Continued cries that the program purpose and intent were racist are not.

Rose did not stop at apologizing, however. He noted that the program's leaders "have been personally targeted with threatening, racist and highly vitriolic messages," and declared, "That is reprehensible and condemnable." He emphasized that "behind the controversy over the program name was an honest effort to lead a productive discussion about race and diversity, which in fact occurred." He urged critics to "strive to understand their good intent and show them some grace."

The administrator's second response is admirable, but it still seems not to understand the thinking behind those who were outraged by the anti-white title of the event. An increasing emphasis on racial diversity and on demands for racial justice has fostered the idea that white people are "privileged," and therefore the system needs to be changed to elevate those of other races.

While racism against minorities has been a significant feature of American history, the answer is to reject judgments on the color of one's skin, not to simply reverse the victims of discrimination.

Current events seem to suggest that the ugly tide has not fully abated. A group of "people of color" students at the Claremont Colleges specifically tried to prevent getting any white roommates. Back in May, a group of young people formed an organization aimed at convincing white men not to run for political office. Perhaps more terrifying, the Black Lives Matter protest in Milwaukee not only chanted "Black Power," but also specifically called for violence against white people.

In the face of such events, is it all that surprising that a "White Lives Matter" protest emerged last weekend? Unfortunately, racism on one side encourages racism on the other. In addition to a Confederate Flag (specifically the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia), the group had a sign reading "14 Words," a reference to a white supremacist slogan.

Racism is evil in all its forms. Judging people on the basis of their skin is prejudice, whether expressed against blacks, whites, Hispanics, or Asians. Let us reject it and pursue a society which welcomes all and judges people not based on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.


No comments: