Should we appeal to norms of academic freedom or engage in a strategy of political recapture?
The problem with the 'academic freedom' issue is that it's NOT academic freedom. DEI offices are imposing rules on faculty and staff when they're not trying to bribe them with money. The re-frame for 'academic freedom' is that it is being bought out the same way the tobacco companies bought out some academics decades ago. DEI dollars corrupt academic integrity instead of promoting it.
The irony of all the hand-wringing over shutting down departments is that it's always been about the money. If the dept doesn't generate the student credit hours (or bring in the grants), it's at risk, regardless if that's physics or queer African latinx studies. Humanities in general are supported by "General education" requirements. Everyone has to take a diversity credit (or globalization, or multicultural, or whatever) or two and this keeps many of those departments in business. Cut those requirements and see how long the department remains profitable.
Let's set aside, for now, the serious concerns about such ideologies as DEI, CRT, and LGBTQ. What we have in our universities and colleges is a massive system of rent-seeking, what the Classicist Moses Hadas mocked as "filling a much-needed vacancy." Apart from their poisonous programs, those departments and bureaus serve one purpose: to create unnecessary jobs. Chris is right to point to the legislative duty of fiscal control over all state institutions. The question in any case is "What is the taxpayer getting for the funds we have confiscated from him?"
I think a simpler (but possibly more difficult) solution would be to stop the flow of easy money to the universities by dismantling the student loan system as it stands now. Student loans should NOT be backed by government guarantees, explicit or not.
Also, employers should stop looking at the university degree as a way of conferring credentialing for most jobs. Instead, perhaps third party testing/certification for knowledge base and skills (or a portfolio of products generated, like IT does) would be the way to weed out candidates. If we can make universities irrelevant to the job market, we can decrease their power.
Every time I read one of your essays, I am always impressed with your logic, comprehension and ability to envision solutions. Thank God, you are working for the truth and light. Keep up the great work!!
A harangue I would like to make about using trustees and conservatives ( like a former government official as a college President) to choose the faculty and coursework at public educational institutions: without unbiased journalism the public will be misinformed and no change will be recognized as having occurred. In fact, we might appear as destroying rather than improving conditions. That’s the thrust of New College as presented in national media coverage to date.
I am a very close observer of New College Florida and more than anything in my life want to see a conservative takeover of this particular institution. I never dreamed change possible because for five years I have closely observed egregious outlandish behavior both in academics and the college culture.
Rufo, has been the point of the spear in a state known to be conservative (where the governor won by a wide percentage of votes). Conservative ideals should be considered the voice of the people in Florida already. But nothing is further from the truth. The progress toward a conservative goal is being overwhelmingly ignored! In fact, it’s being reversed and vilified by the strongest lies possible! Both locally and nationally! Media is not telling the truth at all about this change.
Shame on the national media! Shame on the local paper, both controlled by of the most contemptible of outliers!
For example, huge column width ( the life-blood of cash assets at a newspaper) were used in Sarasota to give free access to a New College alternative graduation ceremony led by a public figure who used her oration as rabble rousing propaganda to inspire a New College mob of narcissist, spoiled graduating. They are also led by sympathetic faculty to disrupt their true graduation ceremony. The made it into a mockery.
First, at their pretend ceremony, students dressed like carnival celebrants - as if to mock the age-old graduation exercises that have a thousand year tradition honoring achievements in the best of accomplishments in science, philosophy, culture. ( By the way, New College mockery is NOT new. Every year graduates 🎓 ignore tradition and create instead a costumed, blasphemous misrule AS ceremony). But, of course the nation news channels treated this year’s particular mockery as if it was but a brilliant example of original thinking. Far from it. It’s the norm at New College and students pride in its Misrule. In this venue Swiftean Yahoos throw shit on the silent majority and media praises it a noble cause. Yearly.
I am sick to death and full of rage!
Does anyone see the depth of deprivation ? The journalists have spoken! It’s wonderful, original, happy, justified! These are no spearhead aimed to break atrocity by telling the truth. No. They perpetrate disinformation. They have turned non-conformity into the worst form of conformity: misrule as order; mockery as nobility. Today I read a Rolling Stone article praising as heroics the New College Lords of Misrule as if these miscreants are the Heroes of the French Revolution! Factually, They are poorly educated miscreants treated as intellectual prodigies and it’s disgusting. A fraternity bacchanalia considered a baccalaureate. Or worse - a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a sheepskin diploma.
The national magazine lied through its teeth. They purposely omitted photographs of the actual graduation ceremony at the college. Because that embarrassing ceremony was too close to a riot. It was a travesty of tradition. These same interlopers not only held their own ceremony, they refused the cap and gown provided free of charge, turned their backs on the guest speaker ( who was not smarmy and opportunistically soothing their egos) and yelled “Fuck You” and “Get on with it” during the oratory.
One of the screaming hysterical miscreants crossing the stage for her diploma made a grossly inappropriate hand gesture directly at a conservative undergraduate who sat respectfully on the front row. Let us observe how such “ noble experimenters” in democracy treat others, those outside their cult. Here’s a true detail.
This student is unlike them. He came to college a decade later than most students and chose New College for honors ( it’s name IS The Honors College of Florida) Only locals know of this place as “ weirdo college” and he’s not local. He had been a student for three years and totally ignored while pursuing advanced mathematics. He is conservative and expressed his view immediately after Ruso’s initial speech. An LA Times reporter interviewed him, since she noticed he was not opposed to Rufo. From that instant forward this single individual became the campus pariah and target for hate speech.
Get this straight : the student chosen as object of derision was not the emphasis of the LA Times piece, more the quote used to balance the overriding liberal point of view. However, mere mention of how courses looked to a conservative mathematics student caused several faculty members to question him about the ideas he expressed. Soon, students were calling him Fascist. The rumor mill continued and grew until today he is hinted as an “ old” sexual pervert that frightens students; his appearance is mocked: ugly, going bald, developing breasts; an alumnae suggested parents report him as a danger - why?
Because conservative change-makers noticed him. They spoke with him. He was on board and happy to inspire other intelligent students to matriculate at New College. Parents, activist faculty( I could name them)and more students than anyone can name came after him - one conservative student. They attacked with a vengeance like the mob scene in Frankenstein movies.
Everyone had a scapegoat. “ I hope you die” was thrown towards him, along with suggesting he choice New College for easy access to young women, and too lazy to work a regular job. Meanwhile the mockers are told their anger is justified and they are being treated unfairly. They need to act out and show their condemnation of the changes ahead.
A math major. Someone who put off college to study independently while giving bedridden end of life care. No easy path by any stretch of imagination.
So here we are. The latest aberration of truth hailed as factual in a nation intentionally kept blind to facts. Media keeps the lies consistent on the largest scale as possible. The incident of change at New College is the size of a grain of sand, comparative to the ground covered by national media machinery. It’s a college with 700 students total and when it makes a change in operations toward a return to traditional education, the earth moves ? Suddenly, all the organs of propaganda flip a switch. Lies go out, well formed along a pattern well developed for misinformation. For example, The Rolling Stone’s coverage is the latest abomination. Its point ignores facts and creates sympathy for students as victims of hate and endangered .
NBC news instead of the stately sea of graduating seniors from Villanova should had shown instead the New College debacle. Flip that script, that yearly tale . The whole country might have a clue what’s really happening. Shock would be the National reaction to such a travesty of tradition as actually occurred at New College.
We can make no progress without open and involved media - Unless there’s a Chris Rufo in major newsrooms with an editorial board who has open eyes for democracy, our country will never survive the consequences of misinformation and misrule. Reaching legislative goals cannot even be understood without equally informing the public - the job of independent media lead by courageous reporting.
defund any and all institutions that do not align with constitutional principles and defund (or eliminate their tax exempt status) ALL NGO’s, agencies, organizations, companies, donors etc that do not do the same.
When Stanford is mentioned I recall the 1987 chant “Hey hey ho ho Western Civ has got to go”.
Whoever has the the wisdom that is most aligned with God’s wisdom should be the group that has authority in public universities. I think that used to be school boards and faculty. But they, having professed wisdom, have become fools. The general public has more common sense and wisdom than university boards and faculty on how public universities should be run. As such, Mr. Rufo has the better argument by far.
David French and Sohrab Amari all over again.
Paraphrasing Lenin: "the libertarians will build us the departments which we will use to outlaw the teaching of liberal / libertarian ideas". Some people just can't see it. If those people are in positions of power at universities, they are useless and need to be replaced.
Keith Whittington's pleas for vague "Reform" but please not too harsh or not by "political actors" (which boil down to "Academia is our possession and no one else's") remind me of Augustine's famous “Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet!”
But the reason we've reached this point (and I know this is hard if not impossible for your average well-meaning professor to admit) is because the American liberal class has failed. Failed in the sacred charge they've been given to help sculpt the citizens (and thinkers and leaders) of the future, failed to live up to their basic duty to impart the culture and tradition of our ancestors, failed to provide the basic level of education that any intelligent adult should have, failed to defend the ideas of the Enlightenment that our country and civilization are built on.
Instead of fulfilling their obligations, the only thing the American liberal class of academia has excelled in is cowardly careerist conformity. They have allowed our universities to create perhaps the most ignorant and entitled generation in recorded history, and worse than that, they have unleashed a tsunami of malevolent pseudoradicalism that combines narcissism and socialism to wash over the country, whose entire philosophy and worldview boil down to: Anything that hurts my feelings is evil and needs to be destroyed.
And the liberal class is responsible because it refused to face down the radicals to their Left, afraid of being smeared as a bigot or (gasp) conservative, and thus even after the Sokal Affair and the Lindsay et al Grievance Studies hoax, they still tried to brush this mess of lies called "Critical Studies" under the rug, and have allowed this ideological gangrene to spread off campus and rot our entire culture and country.
Keith Whittington and his ilk most remind me of a teenager who's flunked out of school, wrecked his new car, yet promises that next time will be different, he swears things will change, and throws a massive tantrum denouncing his parents as evil when at last they take away his credit card.
Well, Chris Rufo is the strict but loving Dad we've been waiting for—"You can denounce America all you like, son, but don't expect us to subsidize it!"—and the credit card that our liberal class has maxed out will hopefully be revoked asap.
I wish that I could agree with Whittington. The classical liberal in me is made queasy by the idea of boards of trustees and state legislatures taking an active role in setting public university curricula, hiring practices, etc. But as in so many other institutions, the Wokesters have moved the universities into a post-liberal, illiberal era, as I have seen from the inside. To expect universities to reform themselves from within, organically, is naive. Only political action of the kind championed by Mr. Rufo can bring about change.
In my view, Keith Whittington is little more than a frightened barking dog trying to intimidate others from stepping into what he has falsely declared "his domain". The domain is the academy and it belongs not to Whittington and his fellow ideological authoritarians but to society at large. The academy was long ago captured by radical postmodern totalitarians while society slept. The time has come for society to retake the academy using every political means at its disposal.
I have been away from academia since my retirement from the Arizona Community College system, serving 28 years of full-time teaching in Emergency Medical Services, Human and Equine Anatomy and Physiology, along with my last 3 years as a professional counselor for the East and Desert Vista Campuses at Pima Community College. I watched with mostly bemusement, occasional anger, and tons of prayer. I loved my job, the students, the colleagues, the families of students taking my classes....and I watched the shift in campus culture. While serving on hiring committees, I was introduced to the concept of evaluating professionals by their characteristics rather than their accomplishments, or lack thereof. I noticed a pattern: applicants for administrative and some academic appointments were participating in what I call the “3 years and gone” where they move from position to position, citing their innovation. My discovery was that most were extolling how they “creatively introduced reforms to comply with the Equal Opportunity and the newest educational ideas (most could not survive the scientific method) that “transformed the department into a true DEI ideal. When digging further, I found this to be code foe “I stirred up shit and when it started getting bad I moved to my next position”. I spoke my mind on these changes and the HR representatives reminded me sternly that following the desired outcomes of a “more diverse faculty” meant passing over those whose melanin content was higher than my own “Anglo” category. When I would object that my background was of poor immigrants from Poland who entered a culture dominated, at the time by Irish Bishops, and that I qualified for “minority status” due to my genes. Of course I got nowhere except for my colleagues who loved my sense of humor and passion for student success. Having the respect of all of my colleagues was my desire, but that was secondary to having the trust of my students, whose very careers depended on doing well in my classes. I am starting to ramble on, so suffice it to say that I thank you, Mr Rufo, for your bolds stance toward this whole DEI nonsense. What happened to MLK’s “I Have A Dream” goals? I was so inspired by his leading a movement that originated in and was supported largely by Christian clergy, like myself. I, too, took a stand on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love toward all people with no concern for categories like immutable traits; to be “blind” to those things and see each colleague, parent, student as a person loved by Jesus Christ. My last administrators indicated that this approach of mine was fine as long as I left God out of things. Smiling most of the time, I went about my business of educating and advising students and faculty and staff colleagues into a “color-blind” approach. Knowing Tucson is a richly multicultural community, including even those of us from Polish ancestry. Isn’t that valuable, even if my melanin content is similar to other students and colleagues of Eastern European descent. I am as proud of that as I am proud of those of different immutable characteristics, knowing that all people are loved by Jesus, and so I shall do the same.
I pray daily for higher education; that career that formed me as I was forming students in excellence in patient care and respecters of all people! That is not a bad thing! God bless your work, sir, and be at peace!
Christopher, there’s a deep underlying problem in this debate, that has to be acknowledged and addressed for your efforts to succeed.
That problem is that the entire world is becoming inexorably more secular. It just is. The reason for this is that Darwin opened the world view that human value systems are based on no reality that is independent of the social interactions of humans as a species. The logical conclusion from this is that cultural values are relative. The academic secular class has allowed this logic to flow right to its nihilistic conclusion that society is structured by dominance hierarchies, with all the political ramifications.
Now, the religious people point to their belief in God as the source of moral norms and social stability. From the evolutionary perspective, the coalitions formed around these shared beliefs have been the organizing principle of societies. This view has lots of merit. But the conundrum is that it simply isn’t going to work for religious people to call for a return to God as the solution. Even the Muslims are becoming less religious.
I believe that only way forward is to reinforce Enlightenment first principles---viewing all humans as having equal standing in society based on our common humanity. But that’s going to require a lot of tolerance for secular BS from social conservatives.
I taught as an adjunct for 18 years and my wife is a tenured professor at a small private liberal-arts college. We both deeply regret our decisions to enter academia and would choose other paths if we had it to do over.
We are both at the point now that we support revoking tax exemptions for at least the top endowed universities. Exemption from taxes is not a permanent entitlement, it is a public favor granted as part of a social contract--a social contract on which the universities have reneged. As much as my wife and I hate big government, we would rather see that tax money go to government than go to unaccountable DEI bureaucracies that corrupt young minds, attack and degrade education.
At the very least, private universities with enormous endowments like the top Ivies, which some are now describing as trust funds with universities attached, need to be revoked.
As a matter of university governance, your opponent makes some good points. At my wife's institution, the administration causes far more problems than faculty. One of the misperceptions common on the right, especially among those with little academic experiences, is that "radical faculty" are the problem rather than woke administrators. Getting rid of tenure will not aid in reforming the university; tenure rules actually slow down processes and make it harder for ANY faction to get its way, including woke administration. That's a good thing!
At some level I agree with you that universities can't play politics and expect to somehow remain above them at the same time. But control of public money is the lever to use, not using political pressure to change internal academic rules and procedures.
Thanks for the well-written and thought provoking article.
I wonder if most universities implement DEI to get federal funding? Doesn't Harvard, for example, receive hundreds of millions annually from taxpayer funding? Hillsdale receives $0 from the fed govt, and they have no DEI. Hillsdale is a conservative school, but so are others in the south that now have DEI offices. Any thoughts?