s last fall’s wave of student protests arrived in Durham, North Carolina, a self-described “group of unaffiliated and concerned students” presented the “Demands of Black Voices.” The Duke University activists wanted “bias and diversity training” for many segments of the Duke community, a new university policy “concerning hate speech” toward “students of color,” a new administrator to address the complaints of students of color only, and permission for students of color to miss classes by citing “mental health trauma” from “racial incidents on campus.”

One demand stood out. “Professors,” the students wrote, “will be in danger of losing their jobs, and non-tenure track [sic] faculty will lose tenure status if they perpetuate hate speech that threatens the safety of students of color. They will also be liable if the discriminatory attitudes behind the speech could potentially harm the academic achievements of students of color.”

A university that dismisses professors whose “attitudes” could “potentially harm” the exam performance of preferred undergraduates has abandoned all pretense of academic freedom. Given how zealously professors normally defend the concept, one might have expected that Duke faculty members would have unanimously condemned the proposal. Instead, the only public reaction came via a statement signed by 23 Duke professors that hailed the students for “forcing us all to learn out loud.” The protesters’ incivility had overcome the “muting of sharply articulated criticism of white supremacy.” And the professors had a message for the students who recommended the dismissal of an unspecified number of their colleagues: “Thank you.”

Little in the professional experiences of the faculty signatories suggested a culture of “white supremacy” at Duke (or, for that matter, at any other contemporary college campus). The faculty statement was hosted on the website of Professor Mark Anthony Neal—who, in a fawning 2006 interview in the university’s official magazine, described his “intellectual alter ego” as “thugniggaintellectual,” who “comes into intellectual spaces like a thug, who literally is fearful and menacing,” producing “some real kind of ‘gangster’ scholarship…hard-core intellectual thuggery.” Signatures for the statement were solicited by Professor Wahneema Lubiano—who came to Duke, with a lifetime position, more than 15 years ago, touting two allegedly “forthcoming” books. To date, neither of these books, nor any other Lubiano manuscript, has appeared in print.

As it turns out, the students could have stayed home. In the name of promoting appropriate thinking on matters related to “diversity,” Duke had effectively implemented the protesters’ plan. Dean Valerie Ashby announced at a November 2015 forum that department chairs would be held “accountable” for inculcating the administration’s “values” among faculty in their departments. And “at every stage of their evaluation,” Ashby revealed, untenured professors learned “how we feel” on questions of race and gender. The message these faculty members received: “You can’t be a great scholar and be intolerant. You have to go.”

In a reaction that captured the fundamentally illiberal spirit that animated the fall 2015 campus movement, this news prompted the assembled audience, filled with student protesters, to burst into applause.

“Sunlight,” Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, “is said to be the best disinfectant.” Ashby’s revelation of a previously nonpublic policy joined such other poisonous incidents captured on video as University of Missouri professor Melissa Click’s call for “muscle” to deal with student journalists covering a campus protest, or a shrieking Yale University undergraduate asking her house master, “Who the fuck hired you?” As seen in the administration’s adoption, with faculty support, of Duke’s new “tolerance” tenure criterion, the episodes revealed a shared vision of the academy among the protesters, key segments of the professoriate, and most college and university leaders.

In the narrative offered by the mainstream media—and by the participants themselves—last fall’s campus protests exposed the continuing structural racism in the nation’s colleges and universities. To rectify this purported problem, the protesters demanded that administrators punish students who publicly challenged their beliefs; the right to join sympathetic faculty in dictating the curricular choices of all other students; and the authority to vet new faculty hires, thereby ensuring increased conformity of thought on diversity issues. Administrators should have responded to these intolerant demands by reminding all concerned that institutions of higher learning that abandon academic freedom no longer have a reason to exist. But recent developments, especially during the Obama administration, have made colleges uniquely ill suited to defend ideals of openness and civil liberties. And in any case, most faculty and administrators seem to share the protesters’ desire for universities dominated by a never-ending pursuit of diversity. In this respect, the protesters deserve thanks for unwittingly exposing the public to the increasingly hollow core of the contemporary academy.


hile university leaders might have worried about negative publicity from the campus uprisings, most faculty and administrators share (or, in the case of administrators, at least purport to share) the protestors’ vision of an academy dominated by institutional racism, in which only extraordinary action can achieve diversity and protect students of color from daily microaggressions. A reminder of this shared vision came during the Durham protests as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case about the use of racial preferences in college admissions. Universities raced to file amicus briefs on Texas’s side; Harvard’s brief, for instance, deemed the use of racial preferences “essential to Harvard’s goals of providing its students with the most robust educational experience possible on campus and preparing its graduates to thrive in a complex and stunningly diverse nation and world,” and it celebrated what the university described as “the transformative importance of student body diversity on the educational process.”

The conduct of the protestors caused little reconsideration of their agenda in the academy at large. Late in the fall 2015 term, for instance, two Harvard deans prepared a “place mat for social justice” ostensibly designed to instruct Harvard students on how to discuss hot-button issues when they went home for the holidays.

The recognition that all sides—on campus, at least—had similar goals on race-related questions had the effect of encouraging the protestors to make ever more extreme demands, confident that their baseline assumptions would pass unchallenged. Events at Yale and Missouri, which attracted the most public attention last fall, demonstrated the pattern. A perception that the Missouri administration was insufficiently sensitive to alleged racial incidents on campus prompted an African-American graduate student to launch a hunger strike, student protestors to occupy the campus quad, and black members of the Missouri football team to threaten not to play unless President Tim Wolfe resigned. At Yale, turmoil erupted after a fraternity party allegedly denied access to black women (which, after an investigation, seems not to have occurred) and an innocuous email from Erika Christakis, associate master of Silliman House, about whether students, instead of a university committee, could best determine appropriate Halloween costumes.

In each case, the defining event—Melissa Click’s call for “muscle,” the shrieking Yale undergraduate—came from a YouTube video, allowing outsiders a rare opportunity to experience the contemporary campus environment firsthand. Both videos produced an enormous backlash off campus, even as the protestors enjoyed victories on campus. At Missouri, President Wolfe quickly resigned. The new leadership team made clear where it stood regarding freedom of thought; the school’s interim vice chancellor for inclusion, a law professor named Chuck Henson, warned that the First Amendment did not give students a free pass to say whatever they pleased. Yale president Peter Salovey declined a call to remove both Erika Christakis and her husband, Nicholas, but otherwise appeased the protestors, announcing that the university would devote $50 million for various diversity initiatives. This response came from a university that already had spent countless millions of dollars on comparable diversity initiatives over the past several decades.

The conduct of the protestors caused little reconsideration of their agenda in the academy at large. Late in the fall 2015 term, for instance, two Harvard deans prepared a “place mat for social justice” ostensibly designed to instruct Harvard students on how to discuss hot-button issues when they went home for the holidays. The section about Yale suggested the following interpretation: “When I hear students expressing their experiences of racism on campus, I don’t hear complaining. Instead I hear young people uplifting a situation that I may not experience. If non-Black students get the privilege of that safe environment, I believe that same privilege should be given to all students.” Though a public backlash (another reminder of the value of Brandeis’s dictum) prompted an apology from Harvard and a withdrawal of the place mats, one of the deans responsible, Thomas Dingman, insisted that the official interpretation of events at Yale was “more rooted in fairness than in politics,” as the Harvard Crimson summarized his views.

Thus, any questioning of the agenda of the protestors was deemed an assault on fairness. And that agenda extended well beyond the behavior seen in the Yale and Missouri videos. The Missouri protestors not only sought to deny First Amendment rights to student journalists but also wanted students—not faculty or trustees—to receive final say over the course of study, through a “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units, mandatory for all students, faculty, staff and administration.” The curriculum was to be “vetted, maintained, and overseen by a board comprised of students, staff, and faculty of color.” Their Yale colleagues envisioned a campus in which politically correct students dictated coursework for all, through a new, ethnic-studies distributional requirement, whose curriculum would be designed solely by faculty in the “Native American Studies, Chicanx & Latinx Studies, Asian American Studies, and African Studies” programs.

Each of these demands, variants on which appeared at almost every campus that experienced a protest last fall, violated a core principle of academic freedom—that faculty (subject to trustee oversight) have primary responsibility for curricular and personnel matters. On the curricular front, protestors envisioned an academy in which students with the right kind of beliefs would dictate policy. Protestors at California Polytechnic State University wanted the school to “institute mandatory Women’s & Gender Studies or Ethnic Studies courses for students in every major.” Emory University marchers demanded “a General Education Requirement for courses that explore issues significantly affecting people of color.” At Colgate University, the protestors pushed for “CORE courses [to] include national and worldwide perspectives, not just Western traditions.” At the University of Virginia, the protestors argued that “every course…should strive to recognize minority perspectives.” They even provided examples for recalcitrant faculty: “For example, Biology could study genetics across minority communities, or the ethical history of ‘progress’ in relation to eugenics; Systems Engineering could discuss culturally sensitive industrial organization; and Classics could review the writings and lives of ancient minority writers.”

The protestors similarly demanded control over the hiring process. Those at Brown University wanted “cluster hires of junior faculty of color,” focused on questions related to social justice. At Dartmouth College, the call was for a “multi-million-dollar commitment coupled with hired positions focused on increasing numbers of faculty/staff of color (i.e. Asian, Black, Latin@, and Native faculty/staff).” Dartmouth protestors also insisted that the college change its tenure policies, heightening the importance of “mentorship and service work”—presumably at the expense of research and teaching—“because professors of color are often called upon…[to perform] these forms of labor.” The Michigan State demands were even more precise: “an increase in tenure-stream faculty whose research specializes in Black Politics, Black Linguistics, Black Sociology, Black Psychology, African politics, Black Queer Studies, Hip-Hop Studies, African American Literature, African Literature, and Decolonial Theory. All these faculty hires must be approved by a panel of Black student leaders and will be tenured in the Department of African American and African Studies.”

Imagine the (appropriate) outrage from academics to student demands for, say, a mandatory course for all undergraduates on free-market principles; or cluster hiring of libertarian faculty; or curricular oversight from a self-appointed committee of evangelical Christian students. Needless to say, a campus environment overwhelmingly tilted in one direction on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity required accommodating the fall 2015 demands, even at the cost of sacrificing fidelity to academic freedom. Writing at the Federalist, Robert Tracinski astutely noted that the typical list of demands “reads less like a manifesto of student revolutionaries, and more like a particularly aggressive salary negotiation…a special sinecure for those with the correct political agenda.” As the $50 million promised by Yale indicated, the protests directly benefited many academic departments—giving professors in these departments an incentive beyond ideology to champion the protestors’ position.

Reflecting this fusion of academic with political goals, Brandeis University professor Elizabeth Emma Ferry altered her class schedule to address themes sympathetic to the protestors (such as “white fragility”). The move typified conduct in the anthropology department, she told the Chronicle of Higher Education: “All of the classes in anthropology” changed their academic focus, purportedly to integrate “the intellectual and political.” But the reality seemed more like forced political speech. For one class meeting, the students stood “in solidarity” with the protestors, an approach that reduced Ferry’s prep time at the cost of violating dissenting students’ rights. It seems never to have occurred to Ferry that perhaps some of her students did not want to stand “in solidarity” with a campus movement that issued such demands as a 10 percent quota of “full-time Black faculty” in all Brandeis departments, or a public apology to Khadijah Lynch, the student who received harsh criticism for tweeting, after the killings of New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, that she had “no sympathy for the nypd officers who were murdered today.”

At times, the campus events abandoned any pretense of academic commitment. The targeting of libraries—including harassing students who were attempting to study—provided particularly troubling insight into the protestors’ anti-intellectual mind-set. In mid-November, student protestors at Dartmouth, organized by the campus NAACP, stormed the library, as part of a “Blackout” demonstration. As they chanted, “Fuck your white privilege” and “Fuck your comfort,” the protestors surrounded white students reading at desks and entered one private study carrel, obstructing the occupants’ efforts to leave. “The protest was meant to shut down the library,” organizer Tsion Abera declared. “Whatever discomfort that many white students felt in that library is a fraction of the discomfort that many Natives, blacks, Latina, and LGBTQ people feel frequently.” When coverage of this boorishness generated national criticism, Dartmouth administrator Inge-Lise Ameer soothed the students’ feelings, telling them, “There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice.”

At Amherst College, students also staged a sit-in at the college library to “stand in solidarity with the students in Mizzou, Yale, South Africa, and every other institution across the world where black people are marginalized and threatened.” (They offered no insight on how privileged Yale students encountering potentially uncomfortable Halloween costumes compared to the experience of black students in South Africa.) As the sit-in stretched into a second day, leaders billing themselves “Amherst Uprising” issued a series of demands, most of which featured boilerplate, only-in-academia language—such as a call for the Amherst trustees to issue a “statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration, and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.” Displaying the mind-set of those who taught the protestors, 10 of the 12 members of Amherst’s American Studies department responded with a public letter hailing the protestors’ “depth of . . . knowledge, experience and analysis of these issues.”

Amherst president Biddy Martin did not issue the requested mass apology but otherwise embraced the protestors’ diversity-obsessed agenda—which, after all, she and most of her faculty shared. She promised to “build a more diverse staff and faculty, with more aggressive recruitment and effective hiring and retention strategies.” (It is absurd, of course, to suggest that Amherst, like all elite schools, was not already fully committed to this goal.) Martin hinted at preference for new professors whose research agendas would enhance “understanding of the issues our students are raising.” And she welcomed the idea of “safe spaces” to “provide comfort and familiarity.” Martin’s proposals, like those of similar colleges and university presidents, would create even more ideologically homogeneous campuses on issues of race, ethnicity, and “diversity.”

Not long ago, some academic leaders fretted about such a development. During her tenure as Brown’s president, Ruth Simmons repeatedly expressed concerns about the lack of intellectual diversity on the notoriously left-leaning campus. In 2008, she said students told her of “a chilling effect caused by the dominance of certain voices on the spectrum of moral and political thought,” and she cautioned that “familiar and appetizing offerings can certainly be a pleasing dimension of learning, but too much repetition of what we desire to hear can become intellectually debilitating.”

This problem no longer concerns Brown’s leadership. The university’s current president, Christina Paxson, promised to allocate $100 million to create a “just and inclusive campus.” Responding to the protestors’ demand for the “deliberate hiring of faculty who work on critical issues related to social justice such as topics on race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class as they pertain to specific disciplines,” Paxson indicated that Brown would bring aboard between 55 and 60 additional “faculty from underrepresented groups” by 2025, and would institutionalize the very type of groupthink against which Simmons warned, by tailoring new hires so as to create “communities of diverse faculty who are connected by common research interests.”

As the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf has pointed out, Paxson’s proposals seemed “entirely consistent with how Brown would have tackled these issues ten years ago.” (Indeed, Paxson’s ideas seemed entirely consistent with how Brown had tackled “diversity” issues for at least a generation.) To the extent that the claims of the student protestors could be taken in good faith, Friedersdorf continued, they implied “that at least some long-running assumptions about race held by Brown’s administrators and faculty are incorrect.” Paxson—like Yale’s Salovey or Amherst’s Martin—had no interest in considering the effects of this legacy of failure.

How much these failed policies have harmed students remains a subject of intense debate. One of the Amherst protestors, Imani Marshall, confessed to the New York Times’s Anemona Hartocollis that “she had felt unprepared academically and socially for Amherst”—to such an extent that she sometimes hoped that she would not wake up the next morning. The recognition of her unpreparedness affected how Marshall interacted with her classmates: “I always feel like I need to prove to other people that I do belong here.” Amid relentless messages from faculty and administrators that Amherst was beset by institutional racism, Marshall unsurprisingly interpreted her struggles as resulting from racism’s effects, and she joined the Amherst Uprising movement. But isn’t it at least possible—reflecting the argument Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. offered in their remarkable book Mismatch—that a student who, by her own admission, was neither academically nor socially prepared for the college to which she was admitted would have been better served by attending another institution?

It’s not hard to understand why most administrations and faculty members have refrained from asking such questions, and have provided such minimal resistance to these demands. As the founding statement of the new academic alliance called Heterodox Academy pointed out: “In the 15 years between 1995 and 2010 the academy went from leaning left to being almost entirely on the left”; around 60 percent of academics identified as liberal or left, with higher percentages in the humanities departments that helped propel the student protests. On matters related to diversity, as seen in the overwhelming academic support for racial preferences in the Fisher case, the current campus opinion is near-monolithic.

In the professors’ distorted view of reality, the students whose demands included a college-mandated re-education campaign for their ideological opponents were actually those “silenced” on the Amherst campus.

This groupthink has made campuses unusually vulnerable to the protestors’ attacks on free speech. Even on a campus as resolutely left-wing as Amherst, last fall a handful of undergraduates had stood against the grain. Pro-life students created an “All Lives Matter” poster to highlight what they saw as the horrors of abortion. And unknown students posted a flyer entitled, “In memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri protests: FREE SPEECH.” The flyer cheekily included a line informing fellow students that “if you want to protest this sign, feel free. Because that’s why the First Amendment exists.”

Amherst Uprising countered not by protesting but instead by demanding that the administration issue a formal statement that Amherst would “not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the ‘All Lives Matter’ posters, and the ‘Free Speech’ posters.” The statement continued: “Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”

Such a blatant call for punishing students for speaking out on a contentious issue—in Amherst’s case, a call quite literally to rebuke advocates of free speech—should have met with stern condemnation in any academic environment committed to the open exchange of ideas. Instead, two Amherst academic departments praised the protestors’ work. In an open letter, the Black Studies department gushed that the “demands to be heard and seen are righteous.” The professors “heard those demands as a department and we are reminded of how central they are to our mission…of our purpose here as teachers, fellow campus citizens, as a department, and comrades in the struggle for racial justice here at the college and in the wider world from which we all come.” These well-compensated academics, many of them with life tenure, complained of the “exhausting work” they had to do to make such a point. The American Studies department added that the protests demonstrated that—on one of the nation’s most politically correct campuses—“people of color too often are marginalized and silenced” and are victims of “an unsafe environment that is antithetical to intellectual exchange.” For residents of such an allegedly “unsafe” environment, the protestors certainly seemed to feel safe to make wild demands.

In the professors’ distorted view of reality, the students whose demands included a college-mandated re-education campaign for their ideological opponents were actually those “silenced” on the Amherst campus.

President Martin did not go quite this far, cautioning against censorship. Yet in the contest between the hundreds of protestors who had occupied her college’s library and the tiny number of Amherst students who had stood up for free speech, she left no doubt about her sympathies. “Those who have immediately accused students in Frost [Library] of threatening freedom of speech or of making speech ‘the victim’ are making hasty judgments,” the president railed. “While those accusations are also legitimate forms of free expression, their timing can seem, ironically, to be aimed at inhibiting the speech of those who have struggled and now succeeded in making their stories known on campus.”

The Amherst protestors’ hostility to dissenting viewpoints reflected a movement, as the liberal commentator Jonathan Chait observed, “that regards the delegitimization of dissent as a first-order goal.” Missouri’s student-body vice president, Brenda Smith-Lezama, pronounced herself “tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here.” After negative off-campus reaction to a Yale Daily News op-ed from undergraduate Jencey Paz, who proclaimed, “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain,” editors shamefully honored Paz’s demand to remove the op-ed from the newspaper’s website. At Smith College, media that wanted to cover a campus sit-in needed to “participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color.” Incredibly, Stacey Schmeidel, Smith’s director of media relations, backed the protestors’ imposition of a litmus test for journalists, remarking, “It’s a student event, and we respect their right to do that, although it poses problems for the traditional media.”

In a November interview, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), commented on the sudden change among students, who for most of FIRE’s history had defended the work of the nation’s preeminent campus civil liberties organization. This time, however, he found it “disheartening to see how they are now using freedom of speech to demand there be less freedom of speech.” Former ACLU national board member Wendy Kaminer was even blunter, observing that for many on campus today, “what’s shocking is that free speech . . . is an evil to be purged.” Like Lukianoff, Kaminer detected a recent shift in student attitudes: “The ‘I’m not in favor of censorship, but’ mantra that reigned a decade ago has been replaced with ‘I’m strongly in favor of censorship, and.’”

A robust defense of civil liberties by campus administrators would have provided the obvious response to the campus protests. In theory, colleges and universities are unusually well equipped to make such a defense. All public universities, of course, are bound by the First Amendment’s protections. And even though the Bill of Rights does not apply to private universities, virtually all have contractual guidelines or mission statements that claim to protect the freedom of speech and promote the open exchange of ideas. A 2015 survey of private institutions’ policies by FIRE found only two nonreligious schools—Vassar and WPI—that did not promise freedom of speech for students.

The rhetorical outlines for such a defense, moreover, came from none other than President Obama. In a series of remarks about campus matters in fall 2015, Obama celebrated free speech as a tool “to make sure that we are forced to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work.” He expressed his concern about students “getting trained to think that if somebody says something I don’t like, if somebody says something that hurts my feelings, that my only recourse is to shut them up, avoid them, push them away, call on a higher power to protect me from that.” Obama disagreed with the idea that “when you become students at colleges, [you] have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

These were welcome words—but wholly inconsistent with the record of a president whose administration has launched an almost unprecedented assault on the civil liberties of college students. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been the administration’s weapon of choice in this crusade, and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) its enforcer.

A settlement between OCR and Yale, for example, produced new procedures that allowed Title IX to threaten students’ promised free-speech rights. In fall 2014, after the subjects of an article in a student-run newsletter complained to Yale, an administrator turned around and “counseled the publishers of the newsletter regarding appropriate content.” No one at Yale appears to have thought that the appropriate response to this matter was to inform the complaining students that Yale respected the rights of student journalists to publish freely.

This administration-backed hostility to students’ civil liberties has extended beyond free speech, as colleges and universities bowed to OCR demands and abandoned all pretense of fair play for students accused of sexual assault. Citing Title IX, federal guidelines now require schools to use the lowest burden of proof (which is “the preponderance of the evidence”) in adjudicating sexual-assault cases; in pressuring colleges to adjudicate matters quickly; in hampering the ability of accused students to gather evidence to defend themselves; and, most important, in discouraging the cross-examination of accusers, even in cases where the accuser is the sole witness to the alleged crime.

President Richard Brodhead cited Duke’s new sexual-assault policy as a model for how his administration would address the perceived tension between free speech and comments that hurt the feelings of selected groups on campus. So did Biddy Martin, who promised to address questions of “race and racial injury” just as “we did in response to disclosures about sexual assault and the College’s handling of it.” In that process, Amherst created new procedures that denied to the accused student the right to direct cross-examination, legal representation in the disciplinary hearing, and the opportunity to discover all exculpatory evidence. The college is currently facing a federal lawsuit from a student Amherst deemed guilty of sexual assault—despite text messages from the accuser that contradicted the version of events she presented to the school. That Martin sees this kind of process—which sacrifices her college’s commitment to the truth so as to appease the forces of political correctness—as an ideal upon which to base a campus speech policy is disturbing at the very least.

In this environment, attempts to protect campus freedom of thought mostly seem to have revealed the weak position of civil libertarians on campus today. At Yale, a group of mostly science or engineering professors signed a letter affirming that “while the university stands for many values, none is more central than the value of free expression of ideas.” But this self-evident proposition drew no signatures from members of the history, English, or African American Studies departments, or the university’s programs in American Studies or Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The document’s organizer, a physics professor named Douglas Stone, captured the atmosphere on campus when he told the Yale Daily News that more of his colleagues would have signed, but they feared controversy.

When the crisis at Yale first attracted national attention, Lukianoff predicted that Erika Christakis’s remaining in the classroom would test Yale’s commitment to academic freedom. If so, the university failed. In December, she announced that she would no longer teach at the school, expressing concerns that the current climate at Yale was not “conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems.” University administrators seemed relieved at the development: Dean Jonathan Holloway observed that Christakis’s departure “makes the situation more straightforward from a [personnel department] point of view. I don’t have much to add to her decision.”

On many campuses, the protests have continued into the spring 2016 semester. At Harvard Law School, student protestors appear to have successfully demanded replacement of the institution’s crest, the family coat of arms of a slave owner whose estate helped to establish the school. Despite the decision, the protestors say they will continue to occupy the Student Center’s lounge until, as one of them remarked, an unspecified “something legitimate happens from the administration in particular.” That this conduct denies the lounge’s unimpeded usage to students who do not share their ideological agenda does not concern the protestors.

With little likelihood of reform from within the academy, sunlight remains all the more important. Trustees need to exercise a more rigorous oversight role regarding campus affairs; so too does the media. And parents need to closely examine precisely what kind of institution to which they are sending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition. In this respect, there is a potentially encouraging sign: Enrollment at the 2016–17 academic year to the school that originated the fall protest wave, the University of Missouri, has dropped by about 1,500 students, producing a $32 million budget gap. If a moral argument for upholding civil liberties cannot persuade college and university leaders, perhaps a concern with declining tuition revenue will.

The tag-team efforts of radical students, their professors, and administrators to snuff out elementary rights and elementary rules of civility and fairness have already stunted the academic and scholarly life of this nation. And they will retard the intellectual advancement of the United States and impoverish the life of the mind in this country for generations to come.

+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link