Sunday, August 27, 2017

The debate over Harvard final clubs isn’t going away anytime soon

Fizzing feminism leads to "Safe spaces" not being allowed at Harvard!  A real turnaround.  Why? Because it would be disgracefully hypocritical to allow safe spaces for women and not for men. But what are Harvard's men's clubs if not safe spaces for men? The intolerance of the clubs is being led by Rakesh Khurana, an Indian-American  Professor of Sociology who appears never to have been a member of any of the clubs.  Sour grapes?

As students return to Harvard University this week, the controversy over the administration’s attempt to ban students from joining off-campus social clubs is heating up again.

The entering freshmen class is the first to be subject to a new policy that punishes students who join elite male-only final clubs, female-only clubs, fraternities, and sororities.

In a move that rekindled the debate, professor Harry Lewis, a former dean of the undergraduate college and a computer science professor, filed a motion signed by 21 professors Monday opposing that policy.

“Students should be punished for things they do, not for clubs they join,” said Lewis, who has led the faculty movement against the policy since last year, not because he likes the clubs but because he says the policy infringes on civil liberties.

For more than a year, Harvard has been consumed in a debate over whether administrators should be able to bar students from joining final clubs, a group of exclusive organizations that have dominated school social life for decades.

The all-male clubs operate independently of the college, own mansions in Harvard Square, and hold parties and guest-listed social events that many say unfairly exclude some students and foster an environment where sexual harassment and assault are more likely.

The debate has also divided students. Many women have said the policy unfairly penalizes female-only clubs that do not have the same party culture as some of the male clubs. This summer members of at least one all-male club, The Fox, have begun to organize to write letters to professors this fall opposing the administration’s efforts to curtail the clubs, and are considering holding a march or peaceful rally, according to one member.

The administrator leading the push to minimize the clubs’ influence over student social life is Rakesh Khurana, the dean of undergraduate students. In a welcome e-mail to incoming freshmen sent last week, Khurana mentioned the new policy, which forbids students who join the off-campus single-gender social clubs from holding leadership positions in student organizations or sports teams and disqualifies them for endorsement letters from the college for fellowships.

“This policy does not prevent you from choosing your own path at Harvard, but it does make clear the college’s position on discrimination,” he wrote to the freshmen.

The seven all-male final clubs have secret traditions and mysterious names like Delphic, Fox, and Porcellian. Many were founded in the 1800s, and their alumni include T.S. Eliot, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Gates, and John F. Kennedy. There are also five gender-neutral clubs, four all-female final clubs, as well as five fraternities and four sororities.

Lewis filed a similar motion to last year to nullify the penalties for final club and Greek organization members, but withdrew it when college administrators, amid a backlash, appointed a special committee to reexamine the policy that punishes students for joining the clubs.

That committee released its findings in July, but instead of loosening the penalties, as some expected, or hoped, the committee recommended an even stronger policy: forbidding students from joining the clubs altogether.

Khurana was cochair of that committee, whose report called the clubs’ influence at Harvard “pernicious” and said some have a “zest for exclusion and gender discrimination.”

“Time after time, the social organizations have demonstrated behavior inconsistent with an inclusive campus culture, a disregard for the personhood and safety of fellow students, and an unwillingness to change — even as new students join them over generations,” the report said.

The report cited other elite colleges like Bowdoin, in Maine, that have banned fraternities as models for the type of policy it recommended.

This fall, faculty are invited to “drop-in discussion sessions” hosted by the committee to comment on the new recommendation for a stronger policy. Notes from the meetings will inform the committee’s final report and recommendations to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, who will make the ultimate decision on what policy to adopt.

The committee also plans to seek feedback from students for its final report, which is set to be complete by Sept. 25, according to an e-mail from Khurana to faculty sent this month.

Lewis’ latest motion will be considered at the first faculty meeting of the semester, in October.

Members of the final clubs, meanwhile, are closely watching what Harvard is doing. Some have considered legal action against Harvard for infringing on students’ right to freely associate, but so far nothing has been filed.

“We hope it doesn’t become a matter of litigation because that would signal a real shift to intolerance on Harvard’s part,” said Rick Porteus, graduate president of the Fly Club. Membership in the final clubs is for life and they are governed by an undergraduate board as well as a board of alumni, known as graduate members.

Biology professor David Haig is one of the 21 faculty who signed latest Lewis’ motion. Haig also served on the review committee and wrote a dissenting opinion that said forbidding students from joining the clubs would not fix the problems of discrimination and exclusivity.

Haig said he hopes faculty are allowed to vote on Lewis’ motion before the administration makes a final decision on the new policy.

“This is an example of more and more power going to managerial classes,” he said.


How did so many of today's students turn into snowflakes

Once they protested about great injustices like apartheid. But now many think THEY are the victims, taking offence over the most laughably trivial issues

As anyone who has read a newspaper in the past few months will know, this planet boasts two kinds of snowflakes.

One is an exquisite natural wonder, formed from a single tiny crystal, which falls through the sky, attracting cloud droplets which accumulate in dazzling patterns of ice.

The other is rather less of a wonder. Formed from a single tiny brain cell, it wafts through the British university system in a cloud of victimhood, attracting similarly strident comrades who accumulate in student unions and spaces where they are safe from criticism and hurtful ideas.

You may think I am being harsh. Indeed, when I first read the headlines about the so-called ‘snowflake generation’ — a generation of students intolerant of dissent, who melt when forced to confront tricky challenges, suffused with a sense of their own entitlement — I wondered if they had been exaggerated.

As a former lecturer myself, I knew things in our universities were bad — but surely they weren’t that bad? But recently, I read two stories about my own alma mater, Oxford, which confirmed all my worst fears.

The first concerns a former law student at Jesus College, Catherine Dance, who is suing the university for loss of earnings.

She claims that because the college refused to give her special treatment for her chronic anxiety — for example, she wanted to sit her exams in a private room with a laptop — she had to take a break from her degree, and therefore graduated a year late and missed out on a year’s wages.

The second concerns one Sophie Spector, a former student of politics, philosophy and economics at my old college, Balliol.

Miss Spector thought the college should give her special treatment, including extended deadlines, because she suffered from anxiety and depression, and was, in her own words, ‘a really slow reader’.

But the college refused, she fell behind and eventually she left.

The details are different, but the story is basically the same. Indeed, if you talk to anybody who works in British universities, it is a very familiar tale.

Of course, many students are relatively sane and sensible people. Thanks to the economic pressures of the modern world, the majority are also probably some of the hardest-working in history.

Indeed, last week’s A-level results mean that at least 416,000 new students will be enrolling for university courses.

All the same, there is simply no denying that there now exists a pernicious culture of narcissism and self-obsession at our universities.

This began among a tiny group of Left-wing student activists — the apostles of ‘safe spaces’ (where people are protected from ideas that make them uncomfortable) and ‘no-platforming’ (when students proscribe, or refuse to give a platform to, speakers they disagree with).

But it is now seeping into mainstream national life.

Inside the classroom it is bad enough. One academic friend recently told me about a student who objected to receiving any criticism at all, no matter how well-intentioned or gently put.

The student simply believed that if she delivered her essays on time, she was entitled to get a First.

This, too, is a very common story. Having been raised to think they are special, garlanded with praise and showered with A-grades as teenagers, students have come to believe they are entitled to success, whether they deserve it or not. If they fail, it is the university’s fault — never theirs.

It is outside the classroom, though, that the new student narcissism is most poisonous.

Just think, for example, of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which sought to tear down a little statue of the Victorian empire-builder and Oxford donor Cecil Rhodes.

Since the statute was high above a busy road, where virtually nobody ever saw it, the activists could hardly claim that it made any difference to the people of Oxford.

But they didn’t care about the people of Oxford. They only cared about themselves.

In their own words, they felt ‘oppressed and marginalised’ by the statue, even though they had to go out of their way just to glimpse it. Merely walking down the street, in one of the most privileged educational institutions in the world, was apparently enough to reduce them to tears.

If that sounds ridiculous, there is much worse where it came from. It is at Oxford, for example, that the university’s Equality and Diversity Unit advised students that if they avoided eye contact with each other, they might be in danger of committing ‘racist micro-aggressions’.

In fact, there are so many examples of the cult of victimhood that I could probably fill every page in this newspaper, from the students at Pembroke College, Cambridge, who complained that dishes such as ‘Jamaican Stew’ and ‘Tunisian Rice’ were yet more ‘racist micro-aggressions’, to the National Union of Students, which has tried to ban clapping and cheering because they could ‘trigger anxiety’ among sensitive students.

All this talk of ‘triggering’ will probably baffle most readers over the age of 25. But it has become one of the favourite words of the student snowflakes, who are so frightened of being offended that they require ‘trigger warnings’ before having to deal with even the tamest material.

Like many very bad ideas, it has been imported from U.S. universities, where students have requested warnings before being exposed to such supposedly offensive books as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (because of characters’ violence to women) and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (in which a character commits suicide).

Even Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice is apparently too much for some students, who cannot handle his anti-Semitic portrait of the Jewish moneylender Shylock. And as for teaching Joseph Conrad’s great novella The Nigger Of The ‘Narcissus’, you can forget it.

You might have thought that the whole point of university is to challenge conventional wisdom and stretch students’ minds — but according to today’s student Left, you would be wrong.

The point of university, they say, is to provide a ‘safe space’, where sensitive little flowers can shelter from the horrors of the real world. Of course, students have always been idealistic to the point of extremism. Just think, for example, of those who campaigned against the Vietnam War in the late-Sixties.

As older readers will recall, the campaign reached its peak in the Grosvenor Square demonstration of 1968, when some 10,000 people battled hundreds of mounted London policemen.

But that merely set the stage for a wave of strikes and sit-ins in the late-Sixties and early Seventies, many of which came perilously close to self-parody.

To give just one colourful example, the University of Essex, which had been built in the Sixties in the fashion of an East German power station, was plagued by student unrest.

The low point was a so-called ‘revolutionary festival’, at which, according to one observer, ‘a car was set on fire and a student and a mathematics professor struggled over possession of a hosepipe’.

For all their ludicrousness, though, the protests of the Sixties and Seventies were motivated by genuine concern about the state of the world.

It is true that sometimes students were protesting about parochial concerns such as exams and regulations.

But there was also a real passion about major international issues, from the wars in Vietnam and Biafra (which tried to secede from Nigeria) to the apartheid regime in white-dominated South Africa.

It was much the same story in the Eighties. Then, too, universities often fizzed with political enthusiasm.

Students joined campaigns calling for Nelson Mandela’s release; they argued about the bloodshed in Northern Ireland; they donated time and money to help the striking miners; they demonstrated against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government.

Whatever you think of their goals, all these campaigns were motivated by genuine idealism, however naive.

And all were devoted to something far beyond the students’ immediate horizons, from the future of Britain’s coalmines to the plight of millions of black South Africans.

Today’s student activists, however, are very different.

While their predecessors wrung their hands about the plight of others, modern students shed tears of self-pity. And although we live in a more globalised age than ever, our students’ horizons have never been narrower.

The students of the Sixties never saw themselves as victims.

Quite the reverse, in fact: they knew they were privileged, often felt guilty about it, and were fired with an idealistic determination to help others less fortunate than themselves.

But today’s students, despite their predominantly middle-class backgrounds, have been encouraged to see themselves as the suffering casualties of a cruel world.

Instead of recognising their own privilege, they see themselves as victims of oppression, which is why so many of them flocked to Jeremy Corbyn, who shamelessly panders to their sense of entitlement.

They see no shame in asking for special treatment; indeed, as any academic will tell you, today’s students can hardly wait to proclaim themselves uniquely hard done by, and to demand compensation for their educational handicaps and mental disabilities, whether real or imagined.

As the U.S. psychologist Sean Rife puts it, in a society where ‘victimhood has become the ultimate status symbol . . . the notion of quietly bearing one’s trials has become passe’.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is a deranged furore at Yale, one of the most prestigious universities in the U. S., where student activists complained that professors were not treating their fears about potentially offensive Halloween costumes seriously enough. (Yes, really.) You can see the clip on YouTube, and it makes for truly extraordinary viewing.

Surrounded by activists, a professor begs them to consider their common humanity and to listen to contrary opinions. At that, one of the students, apparently in tears, shrieks: ‘But we’re dying!’

As Professor Rife writes, it is barely believable that a student at one of the world’s top universities could consider herself oppressed, let alone that she could claim to be ‘dying’.

In his words, ‘the idea that a simple email about Halloween costumes could constitute an existential threat is nothing short of delusional.’

Alas, the delusion is spreading. Take the students at the University of East Anglia who took offence at what they saw as ‘cultural appropriation’ — or the act of using things from another culture — because a local Mexican restaurant handed out Sombreros.

Or the student activists at Sussex, who asked their fellows to stop using the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ because they make ‘assumptions about identity’.

A collective mania seems to have seized Britain’s campuses.

What makes this so toxic is that campuses often set the tone for mainstream society, since it is our universities that produce the leaders of the future.

You can bet the youthful prigs and censors of today will be the Labour MPs and BBC executives of tomorrow, endlessly hectoring the rest of us about the importance of safe spaces and making sure that every prime-time TV show has a transgender character.

The irony, of course, is that there are lots of good causes that students could be marching about.

They could be protesting about environmental damage in the Amazon, jihadi violence in Syria, the treatment of refugees in Eastern Europe, the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, genocide in Yemen, the death of democracy in Venezuela, the nuclear threat in North Korea — the list goes on.

But no. The precious little flowers much prefer talking about themselves and the terrible hardships they have had to endure.

Revealingly, however, there is one group of students who never get involved in this sort of thing.

These are the thousands of youngsters who have come to study in Britain from much poorer, less privileged countries than our own.

Many of them might well be tempted to see themselves as victims, since they often come from battle-scarred, war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq. But they almost never do.

Precisely because they are so conscious of their good fortune, they usually work extremely hard, putting their British colleagues to shame.

So while our own students are shouting about micro-aggressions and trigger warnings, and wallowing in their supposed oppression by their callously unfeeling tutors, their foreign counterparts are quietly working in the library, getting the qualifications they need to lift themselves out of poverty and lead their countries towards prosperity.

The ideal thing, of course, would be for our own students to ‘man up’. Alas, even those words are enough to lead to all sorts of feminist weeping and wailing in the halls of academe.

And that, of course, tells its own story.    


Monument mayhem, history hysteria, rooted in poor public education

It’s the education, stupid. That, in a nutshell, is a major reason why America’s monuments and national symbols are being torn down, removed, relocated and otherwise blotted from the public square.

If students in America’s public schools were properly taught the foundation of this country — the roots that made it great, the causes that both divided and united, the struggles of the nation to achieve even infancy, never mind maturity — then the leftist and anarchist calls to destroy would fall on deaf ears.
There would have been no Durham, North Carolina, toppling of the Confederate soldier monument.

There would be no fear of black-hearted antifa crowds coming to a community near you.

ESPN’s ridiculous removal of Asian Robert Lee from broadcasting duties at the University of Virginia’s home opener football game out of concerns for the politically correct crowd would not have happened. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s equally ridiculous consideration of a proposal to remove a Christopher Columbus statue from public view would die a quick political death.

As for the still-swirling suggestions to remove statues related to our nation’s founding — those tied to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and half of the ones in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, as well as at dotted spots around the country?

They’d be roundly and soundly mocked as radical and anti-America notions.

That they’re not — that these suggestions are actually gaining steam and collecting snowflake love — indicates a sad and pitiful reality of our nation’s youth: They’re ignorant of our country’s founding, and of the roots of America’s greatness. And for that, public schools are largely to blame.

Look at this, from even the left-leaning NEA Today, in a piece titled “Forgotten Purpose: Civics Education in Public Schools,” published in March: “One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a vast public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government.

The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote; protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and debate skills, along with strong civic virtues. Blind devotion to the state or its leaders would never be enough.”

But America, post-1960s, turned a sharp corner on requiring public schools to provide such thorough lesson plans. How many of today’s students are truly taught the Constitution — as founders intended it to be implemented, that is?

Teachings of founders have turned to trendy politically charged lesson plans that draw skewed parallels between today’s radicals and yesterday’s dissenters. Lookie here, lefties. The Boston tea party, no matter how many educators agree, is hardly akin to Black Lives Matter uprisings. Yet these are the messages being sold today’s youth.

No wonder thuggish behavior and violent activism have replaced critical thinking and contextually based political dissension as proper expressions of the First Amendment nowadays. Today’s students are being taught they’re one and the same — that violence, nonviolence, it’s all good.

If they were taught to think for themselves — if they were taught to see and analyze history in context of the events of the era, rather than knee-jerk react to a linear interpretation — they would see the double standard of pressing for the tear-down of Robert E. Lee statues, while turning blind eyes to the many West Virginia facilities named after the former Democratic Ku Klux Klansman, Sen. Robert Byrd.

They would see clearly the feminist hypocrisy of condemning President Donald Trump as a misogynist while adopting more nuanced views to praise the likes of churlish but progressive Franklin Delano Roosevelt, serial adulterer but left-leaning John F. Kennedy, and hound dog Democrat Bill Clinton as solid politicians for their side.

They would realize that tearing down Thomas Jefferson and George Washington for racism common to the era is not one and the same as condemning today’s neo-Nazis or KKKers — or, for that matter, historical justification for cheering the existence and influence of the equally vile Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

No, if schools taught as they were supposed to — if teachers in public facilities provided proper context, if history and civics lessons instilled truthful commentaries on the progression of America’s politics and government, if teacher unions were actually in business to broaden students’ minds rather than purses and pockets of educators — today’s youth wouldn’t be burning in the streets.

They’d instead be placing flowers on veterans’ graves.


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