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Friday, March 4, 2016

Is It Possible To Take Our Universities Back?

This article first appeared in Eagle Rising.


Having spent the last 18 years as a part-time teacher at UC Irvine, I have had a lot of opportunities to observe what goes on on campus. I should state at the outset that compared to most other large public universities, UCI is pretty tame when it comes to campus looniness-notwithstanding the antics of the Muslim Student Union, which over the years, has periodically brought embarrassment to UCI. The campus' main thrust is in the hard sciences and engineering as opposed to the humanities and social sciences. The overwhelming majority of students are there for a reason; they are concentrating on their education. At the same time, I have had the opportunity to visit other campuses and keep tabs on what goes on there. It is truly alarming. Not since the crazy days of the 1960s when I was in college have we seen anything comparable. It could be argued that in the 1960s, there were real causes to protest about, namely civil rights and the Vietnam war. Today's causes are much more questionable. At any rate, I would break my concerns down into three areas.

1  Left-wing activism

Name the left-wing cause, and it will be embraced on university campuses. Conservatism has little to no voice in academia. The overwhelming majority of professors in the humanities are liberals. While left-wing activists constantly appear to speak on campus, conservative speakers are rare and all too often draw loud disruptions and protests. If the very definition of a university is to provide students with all sides of issues, today's universities are clearly failing. In fact, their very definition of presenting alternative viewpoints is to present only viewpoints that go against mainstream values and traditions (e.g. Western civilization), which are totally rejected. That is hardly presenting all sides of issues.

2 Assault on freedom of speech

Indeed, the left-wingers among students and faculty are determined to prevent conservatives from expressing their views, which they deem too dangerous to be heard. Last week, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro was scheduled to speak on freedom of speech at California State University at Los Angeles. Naturally, there were objections from the left, including a particularly obnoxious and intimidating professor named Robert Weide. The president of the university, a feckless character named William Covino, initially cancelled the event based on his own preference for Shapiro dividing the stage with a panel consisting of opposing voices. When Shapiro and the sponsoring organization, Young America's Foundation, announced they would go ahead with the event anyway, Covino folded, but there was a near riot by students and some faculty who tried to shut it down. Apparently, CSULA utilizes potted plants as campus police officers. They were useless.

And CSULA is hardly the only example. A couple of weeks ago, a Palestinian human rights activist who dares to take on the Palestinian leadership rather than attack Israel every day was shouted down by students when he spoke at the University of Chicago.

Meanwhile, Brown University in Rhode Island is seemingly trying to become The Brown University due to its repeated use of Brown Shirt tactics to shut down conservative or pro-Israel speakers. This week, Brown students showed up at the Rhode Island statehouse to shout down Pete Hoekstra as he spoke about the threat posed by ISIS fighters embedded within Syrian refugees.

All this has now been joined by new terms like "trigger warnings", "macro-aggression", "micro-aggression", and "safe spaces" further designed to stop free speech lest it offend someone's feelings.

3 The campaign to destroy Israel

What you see in the first two categories come together in a perfect marriage between the pro-
Palestinian, anti-Israel movement and the left. Virtually every US college campus has to deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict (as if it matters to the life of college students in the US). Pro-Israel voices on campus are equivalent to conservative voices. Thus, speakers who come to campus to defend Israel-if they can even make it to campus- are routinely shouted down by pro-Palestinian protesters. The most notable example occurred at UC Irvine in 2010 when the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was loudly and repeatedly disrupted by members of the Muslim Student Union. ( I was present.) The other ugly result is that Jewish students are intimidated and bullied on campus if they dare to defend Israel. Anti-Semitism is a major problem on university campuses all over North America. Unfortunately, those who scream loudest about Islamophobia, anti-black racism, anti-immigrant racism, or homophobia have no interest in the issue of anti-Semitism. I am currently involved in an effort to get the University of California to acknowledge the problem exists with a statement of principles on intolerance as it pertains specifically to Jewish students.


As to whether "we" can take back our universities and bring ideological balance is a tricky question. It has taken several decades to bring about this situation. Frankly, most conservatives have no interest in being part of the university culture once they graduate with their four-year degree. They want to get as far away from the campus as they can and get out into the real world. In a sense, we have abandoned academia to the left-wingers, many of whom have acquired degrees in useless fields where all they can do is get advanced degrees and teach the next generation.

However, that does not absolve the universities of their responsibility to educate-not indoctrinate. Administrators also have a duty and a responsibility to restore civility and order to their campuses. In addition, freedom of speech applies to all because, after all, this is America.

The University of California has behavioral codes in place to govern free speech and proper conduct. It is up to them to enforce it. UC also has recently sent out a missive that professors are not to use their classrooms to indoctrinate their students. Yet, the indoctrination persists. The University of Missouri has been in the headlines a lot lately over the Black Lives Matter movement and its Mizzou chapter (Concerned Student 1950). Mizzou has just fired asst, journalism professor Melissa Click, who twice engaged in outrageous conduct during campus protests.

Now is the time that all universities crack down on unruly students who cross the line from legitimate demonstrations to disruption, destruction, bullying and violence. They should be expelled, and if appropriate, prosecuted. Faculty should also be informed that while they have a right to engage in activism, there are lines of behavior that cannot be crossed. I myself engage in campus activism at UCI (outside of the classroom), and I know what the limits are. I do not disrupt. I attend, listen, record and ask questions during the q and a. I also follow the directions of the campus police-even if I disagree with them.

If public universities cannot control their students, it is up the state governments to step in. Funding is involved and the state can cut off funding. After all, it is the tax payers' money and the states have the duty to insure that it is spent responsibly.

In addition, administrators should seriously examine many of these liberal, feel good departments, like gender studies, gay studies, and ethnic studies. While they may merit individual courses, I find it hard to justify entire departmental chairs devoted to these fields of study. What they do is foster division, a sense of victimhood, and do not prepare the students for the outside world.

Because of feckless administrators, we have seen way too many fascist, Brown Shirt tactics being used by left-wing students and even faculty. The tax payers and parents of college age children should not have to tolerate this. If people's rights are being violated on campuses -and they are- it is time to bring in the lawyers. Between lawsuits, declining enrollment, and cutting off of public funds that is the language that will get the attention of the universities.

Reform is urgently needed.

3 comments:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It's got nothing to do with "left wing" Gary. When is the last time students put themselves on the line for fast food workers to be paid $15 an hour? Oh, they might pay lip service, but its not what they build walls and murals about and staff literature tables, much less march into the campus food court and sit down in protest. Its all culture vulture stuff, middle class angst and ennui.

Gary Fouse said...

They pay lip service to that issue too. They have at UCI.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Li[ service is right. The labor movement wasn't built by lip service.