Heather MacDonald debunks Peter Salovey’s sanctimonious PC nonsense.
Yale Universityâ€™s president recently provided a window into the modern universityâ€™s self-conceptionâ€”an understanding embraced by both liberals and conservatives but flawed in essential ways. A primary purpose of a Yale education, President Peter Salovey told Yaleâ€™s freshman class last year, is to teach students to recognize â€œfalse narratives.â€ Such narratives, Salovey claimed, are ubiquitous in American culture: â€œMy sense is that we are bombarded daily by false narratives of various kinds, and that they are doing a great deal of damage.â€ Advocates may â€œexaggerate or distort or neglect crucial facts,â€ Salovey said, â€œin ways that serve primarily to fuel your anger, fear, or disgust.â€ (Salovey repeated this trilogy of â€œanger, fear, and disgustâ€ several times; it was impossible not to hear a reference to Donald Trump, though Salovey tried to stay nonpartisan.)
According to Salovey, the Yale faculty is a model for how to respond to false narratives: they are united by a â€œstubborn skepticism about narratives that oversimplify issues, inflame the emotions, or misdirect the mind,â€ he said.
Two things can be said about Saloveyâ€™s theme: first, it is hilariously wrong about the actual state of â€œstubborn skepticismâ€ at Yale. Second, and more important, Salovey mistakes the true mission of a college education.
To assess whether Yale is, in fact, a bastion of myth-busting, it is necessary to return to one of the darkest moments in Yaleâ€™s history: the universityâ€™s response to a shocking mass outbreak of student narcissism in October 2015. The wife of a college master had sent an e-mail to students, suggesting that they were capable of deciding for themselves which Halloween costume to wear and didnâ€™t need oversight from Yaleâ€™s diversity commissars. (Halloween costumes have been the target of the PC police nationally for allegedly â€œappropriatingâ€ minority cultures.)
The e-mail sparked a furor among minority students across Yale and beyond, who claimed that it threatened their very being. In one of many charged gatherings that followed, students surrounded the college master, berating him for the pain that his wife had caused them. One female student was captured on video violently gesturing at the master and shrieking, â€œBe quiet!â€ as he gently tries to answer her tirade. She then screams: â€œWhy the fuck did you accept this position [of college master]? Who the fuck hired you?â€
Of all the Black Lives Matterâ€“inspired protests that were sweeping campuses at that moment, Yaleâ€™s shrieking-girl episode was the most grotesque. In reaction, Yale groveled. President Salovey sent around a campus-wide letter declaring that he had never been as â€œsimultaneously moved, challenged, and encouraged by our communityâ€”and all the promise it embodiesâ€”as in the past two weeks.â€ He proclaimed the need to work â€œtoward a better, more diverse, and more inclusive Yaleâ€â€”implying that Yale was not â€œinclusiveâ€ â€”and thanked students for offering him â€œthe opportunity to listen to and learn from you.â€ That the shrieking girl had refused to listen to her college masterâ€”or to give him an opportunity to speakâ€”was never mentioned; she suffered no known repercussions for her outrageous incivility. Salovey went on to pledge a reinforced â€œcommitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination have no place,â€ implying that hatred and discrimination currently did have a place at Yale. Salovey announced that the entire administration, including faculty chairs and deans, would receive training on how to combat racism at Yale and reiterated a promise to dump another $50 million into Yaleâ€™s already all-consuming diversity efforts.
If ever there were a narrative worthy of being subjected to â€œstubborn skepticism,â€ in Saloveyâ€™s words, the claim that Yale was the home of â€œhatred and discriminationâ€ is it. There is not a single faculty member or administrator at Yale (or any other American college) who does not want minority students to succeed. Yale has been obsessed with what the academy calls â€œdiversity,â€ trying to admit and hire as many â€œunderrepresented minoritiesâ€ as it possibly can without totally eviscerating academic standards. There has never been a more tolerant social environment in human history than Yale (and every other American college)â€”at least if you donâ€™t challenge the reigning political orthodoxies. Any Yale student who thinks himself victimized by the institution is in the throes of a terrible delusion, unable to understand his supreme good fortune in ending up at one of the most august and richly endowed universities in the world.
But the ubiquitous claim that American campuses are riven with racism is not, apparently, one of the â€œfalse narrativesâ€ that Salovey had in mind. Not only did the president endorse that claim, but the husband-and-wife team who had triggered the Halloween costume furor penned a sycophantic apology to minority students in their residential college: â€œWe understand that [the original e-mail] was hurtful to you, and we are truly sorry,â€ wrote Professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis. â€œWe understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you.â€ Yaleâ€™s minority students may â€œfeelâ€ voiceless, but that feeling is just as delusional as the feeling that Yale is not â€œinclusive.â€
So Saloveyâ€™s claim that Yale resolutely seeks out and unmasks â€œfalse narrativesâ€ is itself a false narrative.