If there’s one thing the right can agree on, it’s that the American campus is in a desperate state. From Bill Kristol to Ann Coulter, there is consensus that higher education needs an overhaul. Whether it’s coddling “safe spaces”, kangaroo courts for rape cases, or out-of-control identity politics, there are no shortage of problems to fix at American universities.
Indeed, even the liberal establishment agrees that something must be done. It wasn’t a conservative magazine that published The Coddling of The American Mind, and it wasn’t conservatives who co-authored it. Even Michael Bloomberg and the Obamas have raised their voices against the spiral of irrationality currently consuming American campuses.
But who’s going to do anything about it? There’s me, of course— I’ve achieved a number of victories this year, including strengthened free speech protections at the University of Minnesota and the resignation of a pro-censorship professor at DePaul University. Despite being sniffed at by Reason editors and the think-tank set, provocation gets things done.
By the end of this tour I’ll have been on more college campuses than just about anyone. There’s no one in america better qualified to tell it like it is.
But I’d be the first to admit that even i’m not enough on my own. (Okay, that’s not really true, but my editor asked me to tone it down a bit and i couldnt think of a better way to introduce the next paragraph). I may have wounded the blue-haired dragon of progressivism on campus, and left some of it’s more porcine practitioners winded (hi Trigglypuff), but to truly finish it off more systemic change is required. And for that, we need a President ready to take the radical steps necessary to redress the balance.
In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Sam Clovis, director of policy for Donald Trump, revealed how the presidential candidate’s platform is taking shape. The details should be encouraging for anyone who, like me, is concerned by the state of free speech and intellectual rigor at universities. First and foremost, Trump is considering moving the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education to the Department of Justice.
That’s important, because it was the OCR that triggered that disastrous rise of Title IX “tribunals” on campus. Better known as campus kangaroo courts, these were set up during the unsubstantiated and needless panic over “rape culture” on college campuses that held sway across much of the media and political culture in the years immediately prior to 2014.
They are staffed by academics with no legal training, yet are given the ability to rule on whether students are guilty or innocent of sexual assault— all while adhering to lower standards of proof than a criminal court. The result? Widespread travesties of justice across American campuses, and a slew of lawsuits from wronged young men whose only recourse to salvage their reputations is filing a suit against their own schools.
Moving the OCR to the Department of Justice, where due process is unlikely to be just an afterthought, would be the first step on the road to reversing this catastrophic legacy of the Obama administration. We might see an immediate end of “Dear Colleague” letters that have had disastrous effects on campus culture and the quality of education received by students.
There are also signs that a Trump administration would pressure colleges to create an environment more receptive to free speech and political diversity.
“I think in the spirit of academic freedom, a college campus should be a place where people should be allowed to express themselves to the fullest as long as they don’t injure another party,” Clovis told Inside Higher Ed.
“When students react in a particular way and they make demands, there has to be a calm approach to it, to say, ‘Look, this is free speech and this is the speech that is on this campus. You may not agree with this individual, but this person on this campus, and you should hear what they have to say.”
In other words, Trump’s Department of Education would encourage college administrations to reject the demands of the most radical anti-free speech tendencies on campus. Just imagine all the furious, Ada Wong-style resignations that would occur once such a policy got underway!
Last but not least, Trump is looking to tackle the root of the rot on college campuses: fluff courses where undergraduates, instead of receiving an education, are indoctrinated into progressive dogmas that encourage identity-based hatred and political intolerance.
According to Clovis, Trump plans to make student loans less risk-free, for both colleges and students. Colleges will be forced to have “skin in the game” on student loans, sharing some of the loan’s risk, and taking a role in the approval process. This will force both colleges and students to think carefully about the job and income prospects associated with their chosen degrees.
Or, in other words: “Do I really want to major in Feminist Dance Therapy rather than, say, Computer Science?”
Want to close wage gap? Step one: Change your major from feminist dance therapy to electrical engineering. #NationalOffendACollegeStudentDay
— Christina H. Sommers (@CHSommers) November 10, 2015
This cuts to the heart of the matter — with fewer students applying for the soft subjects, there won’t be a need for so many professors in those subjects. Which means the non-serious, ideological ones— the Melissa Clicks, the Ada Wongs— will be the first to go. With a few clever tweaks to the loans system, Trump could give college administrators the excuse they need to get rid of their worst elements (something, no doubt, that many of them are looking for).
The establishment have their reasons for disliking Trump. They say they are doing so because of their principles— which Trump supposedly violates. But those same members of the establishment have spent the last year publicly worrying about the state of college campuses. So far, Trump is the only candidate offering a credible and well thought-out solution. Hillary Clinton is more likely to make the problem worse than fix it, and the Libertarians, true to form, are unlikely to be a serious option.
Of course there is an even more important reason for conservatives to be trumpeting Daddy’s plan, and that is because it will have appeal to Bernie Sanders’ erstwhile supporters. There are millions of Bernie fans who are staunchly against Hillary Clinton despite their former hero supporting her. While Sanders is flying around in the jet his betrayal earned him, these supporters are desperately trying to figure out where their loyalty should go. To Clinton, who represents everything they hate, or Jill Stein, or has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, and is quite obviously nuts? Or to Donald Trump, the only candidate who has real plans for reforming college.
College is a hot topic for the Bernie voters, and while Trump won’t give them free college, seeing as how he lives in the real world and not a communist fantasy utopia, his plan is still much better than the alternative. The media will go dark on the college issue for fear of bringing Bernie fans into the Trump camp, but it isn’t even worth complaining about at this point. After all, if the democrats didn’t have the mainstream media (and the #NeverTrump crowd) pulling every trick in the book on Daddy, they wouldn’t have a sporting chance would they?