Ironically, U.S. college campuses are rapidly becoming the least free, most censored places in the country. Many people have commented on this, including high profile, enormously talented comedians such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, Chris Rock was so appalled that he stopped playing colleges because audiences had become “too conservative” Before getting all bent out of shape, this is what he meant:
Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.
Although I’ve touched upon this subject before, I haven’t given it nearly the amount of attention it deserves. That said, I would suggest rereading a powerful post published earlier this summer, A Professor Speaks Out – How Coddled, Hyper Sensitive Undergrads are Ruining College Learning. Here’s an excerpt:
Things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones.
I once saw an adjunct not get his contract renewed after students complained that he exposed them to “offensive” texts written by Edward Said and Mark Twain. His response, that the texts were meant to be a little upsetting, only fueled the students’ ire and sealed his fate. That was enough to get me to comb through my syllabi and cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad, texts ranging from Upton Sinclair to Maureen Tkacik — and I wasn’t the only one who made adjustments, either.
The current student-teacher dynamic has been shaped by a large confluence of factors, and perhaps the most important of these is the manner in which cultural studies and social justice writers have comported themselves in popular media. I have a great deal of respect for both of these fields, but their manifestations online, their desire to democratize complex fields of study by making them as digestible as a TGIF sitcom, has led to adoption of a totalizing, simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice. The simplicity and absolutism of this conception has combined with the precarity of academic jobs to create higher ed’s current climate of fear, a heavily policed discourse of semantic sensitivity in which safety and comfort have become the ends and the means of the college experience.
Moving along to today’s post, I want to highlight two different stories that I came across today demonstrating just how far “higher education” has cratered in recent years. First, let’s turn to Rutgers University, whose “Bias Prevention & Education Committee (BPEC)” recently put out an alert that began with the following statement:
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