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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Northwestern Threw Academic Freedom "under the bus."

TRIGGER WARNING:  Suggests female students being treated as too delicate to have an independent intellectual life.
For John, BLUFWe are hurting our children at this point, not helping them.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Law Professor and Blogger Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes in Monday's USA Today, "Today's college feminists are too fragile to read".

The subhead is:

When a professor criticizes equal rights law, it is not a violation of equal rights.
Here are the first three paragraphs.  I fully agree with the lede.  I too voted for Governor Romney and see where it led.
They told me that if I voted for Mitt Romney, campus witch hunts would leave professors afraid to write about feminism. And they were right!

Barack Obama is the president, of course, not Mitt.  But Obama's Department of Education has taken such a broad view of the federal Title IX antidiscrimination law ("No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.") that we have reached the ultimate in absurdity:  Feminist students silencing feminist professors in the name of equality.

Feminist professor Laura Kipnis of Northwestern University published an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education in February, decrying "sexual paranoia" on campus and the way virtually any classroom mention of sex was being subjected to an odd sort of neo-Victorian prudery:  "Students were being encouraged to regard themselves as such exquisitely sensitive creatures that an errant classroom remark could impede their education, as such hothouse flowers that an unfunny joke was likely to create lasting trauma. ... In the post-Title IX landscape, sexual panic rules.  Slippery slopes abound."

The danger to free speech is obvious, but it is also the cause of student costs (and taxpayer costs for state and local schools) going up (student school loan debt?).  It takes administrators to administer this sort of thing and they don't come cheap.  The students pay for this sort of rubbish, unless it is the alumni, through their contributions.

And Professor Reynolds is not the only one to talk to this.  In the Monday edition of The [Lowell] Sun columnist George Will speaks up.  His column is "A summer break from campus muzzling".

Commencement season brings a respite from the sinister childishness rampant on campuses. Attacks on freedom of speech come from the professoriate, that herd of independent minds, and from the ever-thickening layer of university administrators who keep busy constricting freedom in order to fine-tune campus atmospherics.

The attacks are childish because they infantilize students who flinch from the intellectual free-for-all of adult society. When Brown University's tranquility of conformity was threatened by a woman speaker skeptical about the "rape culture" on campuses, students planned a "safe space" for those who would be traumatized by exposure to skepticism. Judith Shulevitz, writing in The New York Times, reported that the space had "cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies."

The attack on free expression is sinister because it asserts that such freedom is not merely unwise but, in a sense, meaningless. Free speech is more comprehensively and aggressively embattled now than ever before in American history, largely because of two 19th-century ideas. One is that history -- actually, History, a proper noun -- has a mind of its own. The other is that most people do not really have minds of their own.

The only solution is to starve the beast.  If we cut the budgets, perhaps the Universities will reduce the number of administrators, which will require the remaining administrators to make better use of their time in finding real Title IX problems, and fixing them.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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