Can the Integrity of our Colleges Be Restored?

Commentary, Education, Philip Carl Salzman

Half a century ago, our colleges and universities were liberal in their orientations and policies. Generally, they treated students and staff as individuals who were judged by their academic achievements and potentials. (Where they existed, the exceptions were numerically minor: children of alumni and athletes.) Students and staff were free to associate with one another as they chose. Non-academic criteria—race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, disability, class—for distinguishing students and staff and dealing with them were forbidden.

Since that time, universities have evolved, or devolved, depending on the viewpoint, into officially illiberal institutions guided by grievance and victim ideology. The source of this transformation is no mystery. Feminists gradually took over the social sciences and humanities, claiming to be abused victims of the male patriarchy, and demanded repayment. They did not merely wish for “gender equality,” as they sometimes claimed, but fought for female domination in demography, funding, and power. The official doctrine of our colleges and universities, almost without exception, is anti-male sexism, providing special consideration and benefits for females, while blocking and vilifying males. Racial minority activists have adopted the same neo-Marxist class conflict model, claiming victimhood at the hands of the “racist” majority, and demanding special consideration and benefits. LGBTQ++ sexuality minorities have also claimed their victimhood and demanded special consideration and benefits.

Colleges and universities have responded with enthusiasm to the special pleading of feminist, minority, and sexuality activists, jettisoning universalistic criteria of judgment in favor of the “good new” sexism, racism, and minority sexuality celebration, and abandoning equality in the academic community.  Students and staff, and applicants for admission and post, are no longer treated as individuals, but as members of gender, racial, sexuality, and other categories. The rationale for this is that particular gender, racial, and sexuality categories of people are “marginalized” due to discrimination. For example, females are discriminated against by males, blacks and Hispanics by whites, and LGBTQ++ by heterosexuals, and thus unjustly disadvantaged.

The Campus Tendency to Extremism

Under the banner of “diversity and inclusion,” members of some categories are given preference, while others are excluded. The days are long past when individual academic merit was the prime consideration; “merit” is now disregarded as a white male supremacist dog whistle. In college and university admissions, blacks and Hispanics, including illegal aliens, are given preference, notwithstanding their poor academic records, and “undesirable” oppressors, such as East Asian Americans and Canadians, and Jewish Americans and Canadians, are excluded notwithstanding their superior academic records. So, too, with the hiring of professors and administrators, where posts are targeted for females, blacks, Hispanics, indigenous natives, and disabled while excluding others.

Racial and gender hiring is the “righteous” cause of the day. Asians and Jews, just like the days before WWII, now have low quotas for or are excluded from admission, funding, and hiring. These unfavored minorities, highly overrepresented statistically (concerning their percentage of the general population) in academic, medical, and professional fields, and in Nobel prizes, did not gain their positions due to favorable discrimination on their behalf; if anything, they have succeeded despite discriminatory impediments. The converse argument that underrepresented minorities are underrepresented because of discrimination ignores both weak academic records and the inclusion of minority applicants despite inferior qualifications. The feminist who demands female statistical parity in STEM fields ignores the documented fact that well-qualified females prefer the social sciences and humanities to STEM and that this is the cause of female “underrepresentation.” It will surprise no one that the demographic dominance of females at both the undergraduate and graduate level, around 60% of students among undergraduates, raises no concerns among university administrators about male underrepresentation

Regressing to the past is widely seen in universities, as racial segregation has become institutionalized in racial dorms, dining rooms, recreation facilities, and graduation ceremonies. Special LGBTQ++ facilities and ceremonies are also provided. Special support personnel, facilities, and dispensations, such as suspension of deadlines, are offered to the disabled. Discrimination in funding undergraduate and graduate students is seen in the myriad of scholarships and fellowships open to females but not males.

“Diversity and inclusion” is not just an ideology; it is also a doctrine that must be accepted by students, staff, and administrators. Applicants for jobs in many universities must provide a plan for how their teaching and research would advance “diversity and inclusion.” Alternative points of view to “diversity and inclusion,” such as liberalism, are forbidden in colleges and universities, and expressing such views can result in loss of funding and loss of position, even if tenured. Ideological surveillance is the job of “diversity and inclusion” officers, highly paid ideologues who actively suppress alternative viewpoints and arguments. Academic freedom no longer exists, and the “diversity and inclusion” officers are on the job to ensure that all students and staff conform to the official ideology. Today college and university officials are more inspired by Mao’s Cultural Revolution and North Korea’s re-education camps than by the Enlightenment.

Where Does the Impulse to Vilify America and the West Come From?

The COVID-19 pandemic that has grossly disrupted life in North America, Western Europe, and beyond, has closed colleges and university campuses and chased professors into online teaching. While it would be unduly optimistic and highly unrealistic to imagine that the current neo-Marxist ideology of “higher education” might be critically reassessed by professors and administrators, the disruption of campus life might provide the occasion for external pressure in favor of reform.

There have already been initiatives in the Federal Government and half of the state governments in the U.S., and in a few provincial governments in Canada, to demand that free speech and diversity of opinion be respected in our mono-ideological colleges and universities. Both courts of law and the U.S. Department of Education have demanded that the anti-male Obama Title IX directives be nullified and replaced by the assumption of innocence and due process. Many Title IX “diversity and inclusion” officers at universities have been rebuked by courts of law, and there is some indication that such officers can personally be held legally responsible for their violations of justice.

But these corrections on the margins, important as they are, are far from what is needed to return colleges and universities to serious and open centers of academic inquiry. Much more is needed:  State and Provincial legislatures should require, in addition to the respect for free speech, deeper reforms, including at least the following:

Word by Word, SJW’s Are Changing America

  • Get rid of administrative bloat with a mandatory decreased administrator/professor ratio. One study showed that there are three administrators and staff for every professor: “American universities have an average of 17.34 full-time-equivalent staff but only 6.21 full-time-equivalent faculty per 100 full-time-equivalent students.” In the California State University System, “over the 33 years from 1975 to 2008, the number of full-time faculty…had barely increased at all: up from 11,614 to 12,019. Over the same period, the number of administrators had multiplied like little mushrooms: 3,000 had become 12,183.” A good start would be to limit the number of administrators to double the number of professors, although a 1 to 1 ratio is probably justified.
  • A particularly egregious administrative expansion is the large number of “diversity and inclusion” officers, many at high administrative rank with equivalent salaries. “Over the past 18 months, the Times reports, 90 American colleges and universities have hired ‘chief diversity officers.’” Add these to the legions of diversity officers already employed, and the increasing dominance of “diversity and inclusion” over academic studies and academic posts is clear, as we see, for example, with the hiring of professors of history declining 45% between 2011-12 and 2016. Given that “diversity and inclusion officers” are above all political and ideological enforcers, they should be banned from colleges and universities. All current diversity officers should be fired immediately.
  • Legislators should continue to require free speech and invoke serious penalties for students or staff who block free expression. Repeated offenses should result in expulsion or firing. But, it is necessary to go farther, to require intellectual and political diversity. University employees, mainly professors and administrators, are self-perpetuating leftist and far-leftist cliques. It is virtually impossible for a classical liberal, a libertarian, a political moderate, or a conservative to be hired. That is why students are subject to constant leftist propaganda and indoctrination. This must stop; requiring diversity of opinion would be a critical start.
  • Colleges and universities today openly celebrate the “good new racism” and “good new sexism” that benefits members of favored racial categories. This is clearly bigotry and discrimination and is not supported by the public. Legislatures should forbid all gender, race, ethnic, and disability requirements, including admissions, hiring and funding (e.g., gender specified fellowships). Furthermore, as part of the “good new racism,” racial segregation has been instituted on many campuses. Now, segregation is once again a good thing! Legislatures should ban all events and activities that require or encourage segregation by gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or disability.
  • Anti-white and anti-Asian racism and anti-male sexism are institutionalized in colleges and universities masquerading as “academic” studies, although they are nothing of the kind. Departments of grievance studies take as their primary job to advance racism and sexism, to encourage bigotry and discrimination, and should be eliminated. Legislatures should immediately defund and ban all identity resentment studies: Feminist Studies, Black Studies, Latinx Studies, Queer Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Indigenous Studies.

However much they deviate from the cultural mainstream, and the views of the public, our illiberal colleges and universities will not reform themselves. They have become ideological cults manned by leftist and identity fanatics. If they are to be reined in and brought back to the legitimate academic purpose for which they were initiated and maintained, the public and their representatives will have to step up and demand reform by the force of law.

 

Philip Carl Salzman is Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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