Category Archive 'Colleges and Universities'

24 Mar 2015

Today’s Profs Scared Witless By PC

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AngryStudents

WHH (obviously a liberal) describes just how intimidated by liberal student protests today’s professors have become.

[L]iberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.

The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.

Is paranoid? Yes, of course. But paranoia isn’t uncalled for within the current academic job climate. Jobs are really, really, really, really hard to get. And since no reasonable person wants to put their livelihood in danger, we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread.

There are literally dozens of articles and books I thought nothing of teaching, 5-6 years ago, that I wouldn’t even reference in passing today. I just re-read a passage of Late Victorian Holocausts, an account of the British genocide against India, and, wow, today I’d be scared if someone saw a copy of it in my office. There’s graphic pictures right on the cover, harsh rhetoric (“genocide”), historical accounts filled with racially insensitive epithets, and a profound, disquieting indictment of capitalism. No way in hell would I assign that today. Not even to grad students.

Here’s how bad it’s gotten, for reals: last summer, I agonized over whether or not to include texts about climate change in my first-year comp course. They would have fit perfectly into the unit, which was about the selective production of ignorance and the manipulation of public discourse. But I decided against including them. They forced readers to come to uncomfortable conclusions. They indicted our consumption-based lifestyles. They called out liars for lying. Lots of uncomfortable stuff. All it would take was one bougie, liberal student to get offended by them, call them triggering, and then boom, that’s it, that’s the end of me.

Read the whole thing.

Do note: Professor WHH (obviously not the sharpest pencil in the box) is so spooked that he/she? is actually afraid that teaching “the evils of British Imperialism” and “climate change” (what two topics could possibly be more PC?) might provoke a hostile leftist response.

30 Sep 2014

Camille Paglia: Leftist Ideology Endangers Women

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CampusSexEducation

Camille Paglia thinks the Left’s date-rape witch-hunting blinds women to the dangers of genuine sexual assault.

American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides. …

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light. …

The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will. The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.

But extreme sex crimes like rape-murder emanate from a primitive level that even practical psychology no longer has a language for. Psychopathology, as in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s grisly Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), was a central field in early psychoanalysis. But today’s therapy has morphed into happy talk, attitude adjustments, and pharmaceutical shortcuts.

There is a ritualistic symbolism at work in sex crime that most women do not grasp and therefore cannot arm themselves against. It is well-established that the visual faculties play a bigger role in male sexuality, which accounts for the greater male interest in pornography. The sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures, is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.

Sex crime springs from fantasy, hallucination, delusion, and obsession. A random young woman becomes the scapegoat for a regressive rage against female sexual power: “You made me do this.” Academic clichés about the “commodification” of women under capitalism make little sense here: It is women’s superior biological status as magical life-creator that is profaned and annihilated by the barbarism of sex crime.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

01 Sep 2014

What Do Art History Majors Do For a Living?

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Ghostwriters

Are you a Chinese student with shaky English and a weak understanding of US college admission office culture who wants to go to Yale? You need to hire Eunice Park to write that application essay for you.

I’m a black market college admissions essay writer, and over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students. Although my clients have varied from earnest do-gooders to factory tycoon’s daughters who communicate primarily through emojis, they all have one thing in common: They’re unable to write meaningful sentences.

Sometimes this inability has stemmed from a language barrier, but other times they have struggled to understand what American college admissions committees are looking for in a personal essay. Either way, they have all been willing to pay me way more than my old waitressing job ever paid me.

Although I’m a second-generation Korean American like some of my clients, I never felt pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer. I majored in art history at college, and after graduation, I found myself bouncing from retail jobs to temp work. Every day, I loafed about in bed. Reading my friends’ Facebook statuses about finishing law school and starting their dream jobs, I wondered if I should ever leave my house. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or if I even possessed any skills someone could pay me to use—at least I didn’t know until my friend told me I could reap in a cash bonanza forging wealthy Asian students’ college essays.

Once I started ghostwriting essays, I quickly went from making $8.50 an hour as a waitress to making $2,000 in two weeks. In one admissions cycle, I wrote over a hundred essays and earned enough money to pay my bills for the rest of the year, pay off my car loan, and—as a treat for my hardworking hands—receive $150 Japanese manicures on a biweekly basis.

Each ghostwriting session starts with a daylong interview. I pry into every intimate corner of a client’s life: her family history, financial background, and childhood secrets. Then I try to pinpoint one relatable thread of pain or humanity, which I can make the focal point of an essay attached to a larger universal theme, like empathy or humility. …

The voice of a college admissions essay is very specific, especially when you’re writing from the perspective of a Chinese exchange student. You have to portray a lot of their expected characteristics while simultaneously fighting against some of their more negative stereotypes. You have to be timid yet idealistic, ambitious yet giving, and reserved yet honest. Selling personal stories of yourself written in the voice of strangers who lack empathy and humility will eventually dissolve you. At the end of every writing season, I always swear I will quit, but I’m still broke with no idea about the shape of my future. I can deny it all I want, but I know, come this fall, I will be in front of my computer at 2 AM mining my brain for another piece of myself to sell for $400.

01 Jun 2011

Hostile Atmospheres and Equality of Educational Opportunity

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Civility and a non-hostile atmosphere are crucial, we have recently been advised by various representatives of the left, for young feminists to be able to participate equally in academic programs at major universities like Yale.

Does that mean that young conservatives are also entitled to civility? A couple of recent incidents of expression of hostility by left-wing faculty members raised the issue of equal civility toward conservatives, according to Jay Schalin of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

[A] campus-wide email recruiting campaign by the University of Iowa College Republicans called “Conservative Coming Out Week” so enraged one professor that she responded with a mass email of her own saying “F— You Republicans.”

The other incident occurred at Davidson College, a small, prestigious private school outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. This time it was a professor’s abusive letter to the editor of the student newspaper attacking a conservative student columnist. While it did not receive anywhere near the national attention that the Iowa episode did—possibly because no profanity was involved—it perhaps caused more of a stir on its own campus than did the Iowa episode.

The roots of this phenomenon most likely lie in the political imbalance on many campuses, which results in an atmosphere allowing left-wing professors to avoid criticism of even their most extreme views. Dissenting opinions, particularly by students fearful of lowered grades and ostracism, were once uncommon on campuses. But today there is a growing—and increasingly vocal—conservative student presence.

For the two professors involved, it appears that having their sacred political cows gored by swaggeringly aggressive conservatives on the hallowed ground of the Ivory Tower was too much to bear, and they erupted with a torrent of angry words.

The Iowa case readily illustrates these dynamics. Ellen Lewin, a women’s studies and anthropology professor who specializes in gender issues, claimed that the main reason for her fury was the College Republican’s expropriation of the term “coming out.” The Republicans’ wordplay was an obvious attempt to draw a parallel between the tendency of campus conservatives to hide their opinions from professors and fellow students and the tendency of many gays to remain in the “closet,” in both cases for fear of facing discrimination and hostility. …

At Davidson, German professor Scott Denham’s fuse burnt more slowly than did Lewin’s, but he exploded much the same. For four years, senior Bobby DesPain was a political columnist for the student newspaper, The Davidsonian. His opinions were unabashedly conservative and often unpopular on the highly liberal campus. On March 31, his column claiming that President Obama lacked leadership appeared; it was the final straw for Denham, who fired off a letter that began by asking, “Is Bobby DesPain leaving soon? We, your loyal readers, sure hope so. He gives the intellectual climate here a bad reputation.”

He continued, “This last belch of his tops most of the others I’ve read over the years on the stench-o-meter of silliness. “ He concluded the largely ad hominem assault with “We’d hate for Davidson to attract more of this sort of illogical thinker, regardless of politics.” …

The Davidson administration has declined to make any statement regarding the situation. At Iowa, university president Sally Mason issued a bland general statement about diversity and respect that avoided any specific mention of the incident.

Nor has either professor has received any sort of punishment—at least publicly. Both issued apologies that were notable for their absence of contrition. At Iowa, Lewin’s blamed “fresh outrages committed by Republicans in the government” for her profane missive.

Denham continued to attack even in his apology, blaming his “frustration and anger in public at what I find are poorly argued ideas on your part. Engaging those in detail wasn’t on my agenda, since I don’t think there is much to engage.” …

Davidson philosophy professor Sean McKeever asked in a letter to The Davidsonian whether Denham’s “contempt” for DesPain “can be consistent with our chosen vocation as educators or with the College’s mission to develop humane instincts.”

Indeed, by reacting to students’ differing opinions with such unprofessional and acrimonious emotional outbursts, one must wonder about the offending professors’ fitness for their jobs and what kind of judgment they will use in campus business such as grading and serving on search, tenure, and promotion committees.

For instance, Denham is the committee chair for the Graduate Fellowships Committee. Since, according to the committee’s website, the committee “seeks to identify early in their Davidson careers students who are likely candidates for graduate fellowships and scholarships,” can he be expected to recruit conservative students for such honors? It would appear to be unlikely.

Given that conservative beliefs on campus seem to be on the ascendance, and given that some of America’s most extreme intellectuals have long found a sanctuary in the Ivory Tower (and have grown comfortable with winning one-sided debates), we can probably expect to see more incidents like those at Iowa and Davidson.

09 Feb 2011

More on Political Bias in Academia

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Megan McArdle contemplates yesterday’s New York Times academic bias against conservatives article. She does not pretend to have a solution, but thinks it would be nice if liberals actually recognized their own biases.

[L]iberals, who are usually quick to assume that underrepresentation represents some form of discrimination–structural or personal–suddenly become, as Haidt notes, fierce critics of the notion that numerical representation means anything. Moreover, they start generating explanations for the disparity that sound suspiciously like some old reactionary explaining that blacks don’t really want to go into management because they’re much happier without all the responsibility. Conservatives are too stupid to become academics; they aren’t open new ideas; they’re too aggressive and hierarchical; they don’t care about ideas, just money. In other words, it’s not our fault that they’re not worthy.

Besides, liberals suddenly argue, we shouldn’t look for every sub-population to mirror the composition of the population at large; just as Greeks gravitated towards diners in 1980s New York, and the small market business was dominated by Koreans, liberals are attracted to academia, and conservatives to, well, some other profession. …

I don’t actually know many conservatives who want quotas for conservatives, either–I’m sure they’re out there, but even David Horowitz didn’t go that far. Most of the people I talk to think, like James Joyner, that this may be a problem without a solution. It is just my impression, but I think what conservatives want most of all is simply recognition that they are being shut out. It is a double indignity to be discriminated against, and then be told unctuously that your group’s underrepresentation is proof that almost none of you are as good as “us”. Haidt notes that his correspondence with conservative students (anonymously) “reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s”:

    He quoted — anonymously — from their e-mails describing how they hid their feelings when colleagues made political small talk and jokes predicated on the assumption that everyone was a liberal. “I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

Beyond that, mostly they would like academics to be conscious of the bias, and try to counter it where possible. As the quote above suggests, this isn’t just for the benefit of conservatives, either. Just as excluding blacks and women from academia by tacit agreement allowed for a certain amount of wrong-headed groupthink, so does excluding people with different political views. No, I’m not saying you have to hire a Young Earth Creationist to be a biology professor, but I don’t see why it should matter in a professor of Mathematics or Sociology.

Trying to be more conscious of one’s own bias, and even to attempt to work against it, should not be such a hard task for people as brilliant, open-minded, and committed to equality and social justice as I keep hearing that liberal academics are. So it doesn’t really seem like so much to ask.

05 Oct 2010

The New Flavor of Campus Cant: Sustainability

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Peter Wood, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes how a new kind of totalitarian stupidity is taking over America’s colleges. But the good news is it’s displacing the older equivalent stupidity: racial cant. In other words: Ebola isn’t all bad; it’s killing off the Plague bacillus.

The pursuit of diversity on campuses remains a highly visible priority, but it is being subtly demoted by enthusiasm for sustainability. As an ideology, diversity is running out of steam, while sustainability is on fire. This month hundreds of colleges will mark the eighth annual Campus Sustainability Day, with activities to include a Webcast offering “social-change strategies and tools” to help campuses lower carbon emissions. …

Diversity and sustainability are the two most characteristic ideas of the modern academy. Diversity asks us to focus on group identity and personal affiliation, and it puts race at the center of the discussion. Sustainability asks us to focus on humanity’s use of natural resources, and it puts climate at the center of discussion. Outwardly, diversity and sustainability belong to separate narratives. They deal with different topics and might, in principle, have no more friction between them than typically exists between English departments and physics labs. Or between polar bears and tropical fish. But in fact, diversity and sustainability have a complicated, decades-old rivalry.

They vie, in effect, for the same conceptual space and the same passions. Both are about repairing the world; both invite exuberant commitment; both are moralistic; and most of all, both are encompassing ideas that crowd out other encompassing ideas. They also compete for the same financial resources.

Diversity and sustainability are also both second-wave movements. Diversity is second-wave affirmative action; sustainability is second-wave environmentalism. …

One index of the rise of sustainability at the expense of diversity is the size of the institutional memberships of their professional groups. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education now lists as members 800 colleges and universities in the United States. The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, by contrast, has about 150 member institutions.

Diversity is a story of a once-fresh ideology that swept through higher education in a spirit of triumph but that quickly seems to be losing its status as the sexiest ideology on campus. Diversiphiles would like to keep the adrenaline flowing, but it is hard. Freshmen now arrive on campus already having sucked on multicultural milkshakes from kindergarten to senior prom. Diversity for them is just the same ol’ same ol’. …

I view this changing of the ideological guard with wariness. Diversity was pretty bad; sustainability may be even worse. Both movements subtract from the better purposes of higher education. Diversity authorizes double standards in admissions and hiring, breeds a campus culture of hypocrisy, mismatches students to educational opportunities, fosters ethnic resentments, elevates group identity over individual achievement, and trivializes the curriculum. Of course, those punishments were something that had to be accepted in the spirit of atoning for the original sin of racism.

But for its part, sustainability has the logic of a stampede. We all must run in the same direction for fear of some rumored and largely invisible threat. The real threat is the stampede itself. Sustainability numbers among its advocates some scrupulous scientists and quite a few sober facilities managers who simply want to trim utility bills. But in the main, sustainability is the triumph of hypothesis over evidence. Its scientific grounding is mostly a matter of models and extrapolations and appeals to authority. Evoking imminent and planet-destroying catastrophe, sustainatopians call for radical changes in economic arrangements and social patterns. Higher education is summoned to set aside whatever it is doing to help make this revolution in production, distribution, and consumption a reality. …

The diversity movement has always been rife with contradictions. Seeking to promote racial equality, it evolved into a system that perpetuates inequalities. But whatever else it is, the diversity movement thirsts to be part of mainstream America. Its ultimate goal is to make diversity a principle of the same standing as freedom and equality in our national life. The sustainability movement, by contrast, has no such affection for the larger culture or loyalty to the American experiment. It dismisses the comforts of American life, including our political freedom, as unworthy extravagance. Sustainability summons us to a supposedly higher good. Personal security, national prosperity, and individual freedom may just have to go as we press on to our low-impact, carbon-free new order. In this sense, it goes beyond promising to redeem us from social iniquity to redeeming us from human nature itself.

Many campus adherents to sustainability may eventually tire of its puritanical preachiness and its unfulfilled prophecies, but for the moment, sustainability has cachet. Diversity, meanwhile, has aged into a static bureaucracy, and diversicrats increasingly spend their energy polishing the spoons. …

In the end, I suspect that a quarter-century or so of hugging identity politics close and trying to feel perpetual shame about the nation’s racial past just proved too dreary. Sustainability may be based on a grimmer view of life in general, but it offers relief from that ever-expanding story of group oppression that had eventually become all that diversity had to offer. In an odd way, sustainability is liberating.

Hat tip to Matthias Storme.


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