Higher Ed’s Perilous Year

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

Beginning in the 1960s, many American universities have strayed from teaching into political and social indoctrination. Cores of radicalized faculty members and bloated, ideological administrations have encouraged Sixties-style student protests over trivial, even absurd "grievances."

In 2015, leftist students attacked the institutions that created the culture wars. Unrest on more than seventy-five American campuses caused the resignations/humiliations of administrators, disrupted classes, extorted resources, damaged race relations and posed threats to the First Amendment.
Demands at Yale University called specifically for censorship.

A faculty-enabled University of Missouri student group affiliated with the International Socialist Organization received national attention for ousting the school’s president, then complained about the Paris terror attacks stealing their media spotlight.

In November, a handful of protesters belonging to the "Black Justice League" occupied Princeton University’s president’s office, refusing to leave until their demands were met: creating a "safe space" on campus, renaming campus buildings named for President Woodrow Wilson, mandating faculty "cultural competency" training, a "marginalized peoples" course for students and racially-segregated "affinity housing."

How can any student at an elite Ivy League school credibly claim "marginalization" or morally advocate re-segregation?

The University of California Student Association representing 233,000 students on ten campuses passed a resolution calling for the system’s administrators to financially divest from the United States. Apparently, California is no longer part of America.

Overlooking that the United States Attorney General is a black woman named Loretta Lynch, a small group of Lebanon Valley College undergraduates demanded changing the name of the school’s Lynch Memorial Hall because of its "racist" connotations and, briefly, made LVC a national laughingstock.

Their overt aggression makes it clear that student protests aren’t about race, "privilege," "micro-aggressions," "cultural appropriation" or any true principles. They’re about power, control, attracting attention and enforcing conformity.

Indeed, the "oppressed" have become the oppressors: By publicly shaming and stigmatizing the far larger numbers of students, including minority students, who disapprove of their demands and disruptive tactics, activists are creating on-campus cultures of intimidation. Humorless campus micro-totalitarians have amusingly declared others’ use of their own contrived word, "micro-aggression," to be a micro-aggression.

Ironically, a growing number of discomfited liberal professors are abandoning academia, blaming "pretentious" colleagues and "young radicals" for higher education’s intellectual deterioration.

There will be unintended consequences. The economic principle of diminishing returns applies to higher education, too. A college education has long been considered essential for success. But, today’s economy rewards non-degreed workers. Plumbers make better money than most Art History majors and are more useful to society.

Campus intimidation – and the exorbitant costs to attend college – will further depress enrollment. Many students leave school bearing heavy debt loads. Because much of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans is federally-guaranteed, taxpayers are liable for repayment when borrowers default.

Campus agitation, intimidation, declining enrollment and alumni donor and public backlash will reduce revenues, threaten taxpayer subsidies and force American higher education to restore market pricing and restraint.
Without introspection, discipline and classical liberal reform, ideologically-cloistered illiberal institutions will learn hard economic lessons.