Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Campuses seek to abolish annoyances

December 3, 2012

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— In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration — acting as prosecutor, judge and jury — convicted him of “openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.”

“Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief.

The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson’s co-workers disliked the book’s cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan rally. Someone was offended, therefore someone else must be guilty of harassment.

This non sequitur reflects the right never to be annoyed, a new campus entitlement. Legions of administrators, who now outnumber full-time faculty, are kept busy making students mind their manners, with good manners understood as conformity to liberal politics.  

Liberals are most concentrated and untrammeled on campuses, so look there for evidence of what, given the opportunity, they would do to America. Ample evidence is in “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff, 38, a graduate of Stanford Law School who describes himself as a liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, lifelong Democrat who belongs to “the notoriously politically correct Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn” and has never voted for a Republican “nor do I plan to.” But as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) he knows that the most common justifications for liberal censorship are “sensitivity” about “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” as academic liberals understand those things.

In recent years, a University of Oklahoma vice president has declared that no university resources, including email, could be used for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary.” The College at Brockport in New York banned using the Internet to “annoy or otherwise inconvenience” anyone. Rhode Island College prohibited, among many other things, certain “attitudes.” Texas Southern University’s comprehensive proscriptions included “verbal harm” from damaging “assumptions” or “implications.” Texas A&M; promised “freedom from indignity of any type.” Davidson banned “patronizing remarks.” Drexel University forbade “inappropriately directed laughter.” Western Michigan University banned “sexism,” including “the perception” of a person “not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” Banning “perceptions” must provide full employment for the burgeoning ranks of academic administrators.

Many campuses congratulate themselves on their broad-mindedness when they establish small “free speech zones” where political advocacy can be scheduled. At one point, Texas Tech’s 28,000 students had a “free speech gazebo” that was 20 feet wide. And you thought the First Amendment made America a free speech zone.

At Tufts, a conservative newspaper committed “harassment” by printing accurate quotations from the Quran and a verified fact about the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Lukianoff says Tufts may have been the first American institution “to find someone guilty of harassment for stating verifiable facts directed at no one in particular.”

He documents how “orientation” programs for freshmen become propaganda to (in the words of one orthodoxy enforcer) “leave a mental footprint on their consciousness.” Faculty, too, can face mandatory consciousness-raising.

In 2007, Donald Hindley, a politics professor at Brandeis, was found guilty of harassment because when teaching Latin American politics he explained the origin of the word “wetbacks,” which refers to immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. Without a hearing, the university provost sent Hindley a letter stating that the university “will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct.” The assistant provost was assigned to monitor Hindley’s classes “to ensure that you do not engage in further violations of the nondiscrimination and harassment policy.” Hindley was required to attend “anti-discrimination training.”  

Such coercion is a natural augmentation of censorship. Next comes mob rule. Last year, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the vice provost for diversity and climate — really; you can’t make this stuff up — encouraged students to disrupt a news conference by a speaker opposed to racial preferences. They did, which the vice provost called “awesome.” This is the climate on an especially liberal campus that celebrates “diversity” in everything but thought.

“What happens on campus,” Lukianoff says, “doesn’t stay on campus” because censorship has “downstream effects.” He quotes a sociologist whose data he says demonstrate that “those with the highest levels of education have the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view.” This encourages “the human tendency to live within our own echo chambers.” Parents’ tuition dollars and student indebtedness are paying for this. Good grief.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

bearded_gnome 2 years, 8 months ago

the right never to be annoyed, a new campus entitlement. Legions of administrators, who now outnumber full-time faculty, are kept busy making students mind their manners, with good manners understood as conformity to liberal politics.  

Liberals are most concentrated and untrammeled on campuses, so look there for evidence of what, given the opportunity, they would do to America. Ample evidence is in “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate”

---agree with almost all of this, and George's column. but I think the 'administrators outnumber profs' ref might yet be a little hyperbole.

george could have furthered his column by adding that the thought police of crackademia spends a lot of tie and energy fostering amazing prejudices about those with whom they disagree.

Kirk Larson 2 years, 8 months ago

Also I find that most administrators, who must spend a large percentage of their time in corporate fundraising, are more conservative (yeah, OK, relatively) than faculty. In my experience, it is conservatives who are more likely to get all huffy about being offended. (e.g. Christians who freak at "Happy Holidays") As a long-time Liberal, I want to be offended every now and again; it proves I still have limits and that I can think about determining exactly what they are rather than being blanket offended at whatever.

Kathy Getto 2 years, 8 months ago

This is visceral. Way down in the lizard brain where fear overrides rationale and emotion rules thought. THE LAST GASP!

Phoghorn 2 years, 8 months ago

Saw the headline, and I thought that maybe Wescoe Hall would be getting demolished...

verity 2 years, 8 months ago

Mr Will complains about other people being annoyed? Oh, the irony.

Katara 2 years, 8 months ago

I read Mr. Will's article in Andy Rooney's voice.

verity 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes, that works. Thanks for the idea.

beatrice 2 years, 8 months ago

Well how about that. Will is annoyed by two things that happened in 2007. Stop the presses.

I'm just surprised anyone can name two annoying things about 2007 and one of the two isn't that Umbrella song by Rihanna. I figured everyone would have that in their top two.

beatrice 2 years, 8 months ago

Anyone can pick up a newspaper in their college library and read this column by George Will, so obviously colleges aren't trying to get rid of ALL annoying things.

riverdrifter 2 years, 8 months ago

Bearded Gnome = Big Nose. Grumpy and annoying 'bagger.

begin60 2 years, 8 months ago

Leave it to KU's enlightened and ethical administrators to assume racial harassment is at issue when an Asian woman terrorizes a random Caucasian one on campus for discriminatory reasons. You can forget any legally mandated minimal due process (hearing!!) at a backwoods school like KU too.

The HR will proceed to contact your boss with a knowingly false and hate-filled allegation-- including invented witnesses-- and place an accusatory letter in a worker's file with zero due process. Meanwhile the type of street harassment the misguided student who started the problem is engaging in is almost celebrated by ignorant lower Midwestern and Southern cultures who don't seem to always distinguish between "good manners "and treating certain groups of society as second-class citizens. It's incredibly bad-faith for an incompetent "investigator" to play the race card in a knowingly dishonest and defamatory way. That's apparently how the top- quality staff and lawyers do things at KU, however. It's the stuff hillybilly reputations are made of!

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