What does it take to generate a rabid, Maoist-style mob demanding political purges, on an Ivy League campus, in 2015? An email defending “offensive” Halloween costumes, apparently.
That’s what kicked off the latest nadir in campus zealotry, this time at no less a university than Yale. Typically the fall is a time when Yale students are obsessed with defeating arch-rival Harvard at football, a war on the gridiron that occasionally turn ugly. This year the sport of choice seems to be the public castigation of professors by students, a battle on the quadrangle destined to become just as menacing.
Outrage began at Yale a few days ago, after an email sent by Associate Master Erika Christakis became public knowledge. Christakis complained that universities were no longer safe for “regressive, or even transgressive, experience,” arguing that they had instead become places of “censure and prohibition.”
Since then, both Erika Christakis and her husband Nicholas Christakis, the Master of Silliman College at Yale, have been the targets of a rabid crusade by student witch-hunters to pressure the pair into resignation. This culminated last week in shocking footage of students surrounding Nicholas Christakis, screaming expletives at him and calling for his resignation.
As you can see, Yale undergraduates want to replace the Skull and Bones with the Milk and Cookies. Perhaps in the future students will be issued a Yale Bulldogs pacifier, or a set of Yale Bulldogs earplugs, at the end of matriculation.
Progressives start to make sense once you realise they are herd animals. This professor had the misfortune of being the old or injured one who slipped out of the pack and fell prey to the jackals–sorry, I mean, stunning and brave social justice activists.
Similar incidents have happened before, on other campuses. Oberlin College was recently the scene of astonishing protests at the visit of former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers, who was deemed to be too “triggering” for some students. But it is deeply worrying to see this happen at Yale, where undergraduates typically go on to become business leaders, senators and even Presidents.
The footage was published by Greg Lukianoff, the President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), one of the organisations that monitors and seeks to address the disturbing rise of intolerance on U.S. campuses. Lukianoff recently co-authored an influential essay, The Coddling of the American Mind, which describes the disturbing rise of campus zealots like the ones in this video.
Students of history will notice an alarming similarity in the video above to the “struggle sessions” of Maoist China, a form of public shaming in which perceived enemies of the Party would be surrounded in a public place by Red Guards, Mao’s most zealous supporters. The Red Guards would hurl abuse at their target until they confessed to their crimes.
Uninformed critics might argue that the Red Guards were a weapon of the Communist state, and not a genuine grassroots movement, but they’d be wrong: the Red Guards started out as a student movement, on Chinese campuses. Afraid yet?
College staff finally are. Earlier this year, Vox published an essay from a liberal professor who confessed that the zealotry of his own students frightened him. Earlier this month, Salon published an article from a black feminist film studies lecturer, describing her “disastrous” attempt to accommodate her students’ strangely aggressive emotional fragility. It seems the left, and especially the academic left, has finally woken up to the Frankenstein’s monster that they’ve constructed.
You’ll forgive me if I lack sympathy. Conservatives have warned for decades that the proliferation of women’s studies, colonial studies, gay studies, and an assortment of other oppression-studies courses would end in tears. We also warned you that campus speech codes were a bad idea.
And when conservatives and critics of Islam started being banned on campuses up and down the country, we warned you that a tidal wave of zealotry, intolerance, and even totalitarianism was coming. Now it’s here. As a famous internet meme goes, you only had to listen. Now it’s too late.
Some attempts are being made to stem the tide. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who co-authored The Coddling of the American Mind with Greg Lukianoff, argues that colleges should move from a “coddling” model that seeks to accommodate the hypersensitivity of the younger generation to a “strengthening” university, whose primary purpose is to toughen them up.
As always, it’s the small minority of conservatives on campus who are, almost instinctively, leading the way. At the same time as the Yale controversy was unfolding, a speech from criminology professor and ardent conservative Mike Adams was going viral across the web. You can read the whole thing at this link, but here’s an excerpt:
I need to address an issue that is causing problems here at UNCW and in higher education all across the country. I am talking about the growing minority of students who believe they have a right to be free from being offended. If we don’t reverse this dangerous trend in our society there will soon be a majority of young people who will need to walk around in plastic bubble suits to protect them in the event that they come into contact with a dissenting viewpoint. That mentality is unworthy of an American. It’s hardly worthy of a Frenchman.
Let’s get something straight right now. You have no right to be unoffended. You have a right to be offended with regularity. It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don’t understand that you are confused and dangerously so. In part, I blame your high school teachers for failing to teach you basic civics before you got your diploma. Most of you went to the public high schools, which are a disaster. Don’t tell me that offended you. I went to a public high school.
In addition to laying down the law with his students, Adams also promised to tear up his university’s speech code before he retired. He’s exactly the sort of professor that college faculties need if they want to put this demon back in the box.
So it may surprise you to learn that Mike Adams recently had to fight his own college in court, where he successfully made the case that they had failed to promote him because of his conservatism. Little wonder that there are fewer conservatives than ever in academia.
Through decades of social engineering, intellectually bankrupt courses in professional victimhood and mendacious speech codes, loony liberals have succeeded in turning American universities into madrasas. Instead of churning out intellectually independent citizens, they’re turning out wild-eyed fanatics with cult-like beliefs, whose flight-or-flight instinct resembles some of the most terrifying members of the Animal Kingdom.
Conservatives like Adams are once again left to clean up a mess caused by liberals. The question is: should any of us bother?