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Higher Education Watch
The Self-Destruction of Public Universities

There are many writers who have done their part to expose and condemn the wave of politically correct lunacy that has swept across the academy in the last few years. We at Via Meadia are proud to have made our own contributions to this critical project. But no writer in America is as devastating a critic of the mindless ivory tower victimhood culture than the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald. We are late to it, but her essay in the latest issue of City Journal is a must-read.

MacDonald’s piece focuses on a University of California training program, created by the office of UC president Janet Napolitano, designed to teach faculty to avoid “microaggressions”—minor perceived slights against people on account of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. The contents of the faculty training materials are truly unbelievable—were it not for the official “ucop.edu” URL, we might suspect that they were a parody created by clever students to make fun of the prevailing diversity dogma. But alas, they are real. Among the phrases faculty are instructed to avoid saying lest they offend students: “where are you from?” (“message: you are not a true American”), “America is a melting pot” (“message: assimilate to the dominant culture”), “America is the land of opportunity” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” (“message: the playing field is even”), and “being forced to choose Male or Female when completing basic forms” (“message: LGBT categories are not recognized).”

MacDonald emphasizes that this list of prohibited phrases was not developed by overzealous student activists or by some obscure diversity administrator. It was issued from the highest levels of UC leadership:

The most disturbing aspect of “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” is that it was initiated by the president’s office without outside provocation. Had Napolitano not come up with these antibias trainings, no one would have noticed their absence. Instead, she has sua sponte promulgated an initiative deeply ignorant about how seriously most professors—at least in the sciences—take their responsibilities to build up a faculty of accomplishment and research prowess. We have come to expect such ignorance from coddled, self-engrossed students. Now it turns out that those students may be the least of the university’s problems.

As the president of the University of California system, Napolitano is charged with making the case for the UC to a skeptical public and legislature. The UC has faced a steady decline in state funding over the last several decades, but Napolitano successfully fended off additional cuts for the coming year’s budget. California is a progressive state, with Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, but it is simply defies imagination to believe that the type of extreme victimhood politics on display in the microaggression guidelines would have any purchase outside the most cocooned portions of academia.

We have argued before that public universities, “with their armies of administrators, tenure-shielded academics, far-left politics, and often arcane fields of study, won’t find it easy to convince a public facing tax increases and government service cuts that there’s just no budgetary fat in the entire university system.” The UC program MacDonald highlights is a prime example.

The UC often complains that it is the first item on the state’s chopping block. If it keeps up this type of political indoctrination at taxpayers’ expense, perhaps it deserves to be.

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  • Isina Moska

    “There are many writers who have done their part to expose and condemn the wave of politically correct lunacy that has swept across the academy in the last few years. We at Via Meadia are proud to have made our own contributions to this critical project.”

    But isn’t Meade politically correct when it comes to his total slavishness to Israel?

    • JR

      Wait, THIS is the post where you want to talk about Israel? Jeez, even I am having trouble making a connection.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Likely this is one of the 50-kopek army….

    • זאב ברנזון

      dear social reject number 189478345 ( Islamist ,Neo-Nazi ,mentally unstable obsessive compulsive whatever fits )
      obsession with members of the tribe is unhealthy and may cause severe IQ shortages
      please seek professional help !!

  • Blackbeard

    And what is it when you bring up Israel when it is completely off topic?

  • Anthony

    Heather MacDonald well…. But if one looks for both a serious perspective and social commentator sans agenda here’s a comparable:

    “I prophesied this in a piece I wrote in 1992 for the Times Literary Supplement called the Nursery-School Campus. At the time nobody understood what I was saying. But I was arguing that the obsessive focus by American Academe with student’s emotional well-being was not what European universities have ever been concerned with. European universities don’t have this consumer-oriented view that they have to make their students enjoy themselves and feel good about themselves, with everything driven by self-esteem. Now we have people emerging with Ivy League degrees who have no idea how little they know about history or literature. Their minds are shockingly untrained. They’ve been treated as fragile emotional beings throughout their schooling. The situation is worsening year by year, as teachers have to watch what they say and give trigger warnings, because God forbid that American students should have to confront the brutal realities of human life.” (Camille Paglia)

  • jeburke

    Not only that, but the whole thing is a “microaggression” against anyone, faculty, student or observer, who believes that America is a land of opportunity and a melting pot — with sound fact-based reason since it is both far more than any other major country in the world.

  • CapitalHawk

    The increasing emphasis in America on immutable characteristics, especially race, as defining who and what you are is an unalloyed bad. By constantly stressing the race of people involved in various interactions (but only if a white person was the bad guy), our society is re-awakening white racial identity. If you constantly stress the race of people, which is what is happening in America today, it is inevitable that whites in America will start to identify themselves as not just Americans, but White Americans. Proof of this is Dylan Roof, who in his own writings confessed that he was essentially oblivious to race until he was hit over the head with it by the media (as I recall, the Trayvon Martin case was what triggered this for him). Not surprisingly, he didn’t like being painted as the “bad guy” just because of the color of his skin and he went in search of people who were all too happy to tell him that he was not a bad guy because he was white and in fact black people were the bad guys.

    • GS

      It does not follow from anywhere that it “is an unalloyed bad”. And even if it were an “unalloyed bad”, it would not be an unalloyed bad without a specification, bad for whom. It is bad for the PCtards, and for nobody else. But why identify with the PCtards?

      • CapitalHawk

        It is an unalloyed bad because it pushes everyone towards tribalism. Tribalism is supremely incompatible with a modern advanced society and economy, at least in the American and European form. Tribalism can be seen on display in all its glory in the Middle East and that is something I would just as soon not see in America. You will no doubt point out that Japan, Korea and China have advanced societies and economies and I would agree with you. They are also fairly tribal and racist societies. America could end up emulating them, but we would have to pass through the Syria stage first. It’s the Syria stage that I really would prefer to avoid.

        • GS

          Wrong. Dead wrong. The tribal instinct/xenophobic impulse is a hard-wired evolutionary development, and as such it is perfectly natural, and therefore beyond any moral judgment as to being “bad”. It is no “worse” than having a bowel movement or blood circulation. If anything, it is good, for it is much easier to organize a successful society out of the successful/advanced tribes without being burdened with the primitive/backward ones.

          • CapitalHawk

            Yes, I know you are an HBD’er and you are probably right that affinity for ones own race is hard-wired in humans. It seems to be less hard-wired in Northern European stock than the rest of the world, but once aroused in the Northern European stock is extremely virulent and an extremely bad time is had by those subjected to it (see, e.g., Nazi Germany, Belgian Congo, much of the British Empire, etc.). This is exactly what I think we should try to avoid.
            I strongly disagree with your point that just because something is the result of evolution it is beyond moral judgment. For example, the desire of humans to mate with lots of different people, even after marrying one particular humans, is likely hard-wired. Engaging in that behavior is not however then made immune from moral judgment just because it is driving by evolutionary impulses.

          • GS

            I am not an HBD’er [whatever it means]. I am a private person, and in that capacity I insist on my sovereign freedoms/rights of association and of dissociation. In reality these are the same right/freedom, for they are two sides of it. This right being sovereign, I am not going to give any reasons for its exercise beyond “for such is our royal pleasure”.

  • adk

    That would be the same Ms. Napolitano of the “man-caused disaster” fame. In 2009, “Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has an explanation about why she never mentioned the word “terrorism” during her first testimony on Capitol Hill.

    Napolitano tells the German news site Spiegel Online that while she presumes there is always a threat from terrorism: “I referred to “man-caused” disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/03/17/terrorism-is-man-caused-disaster.html

  • qet

    Not to be outdone by the Left Coast, the University of New Hampshire has, just in time for the GOP primaries, discovered a trove of ordinary words that need purging.

    http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6697

  • diegochris

    California’s state Senate no longer has a Democratic supermajority.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If Republicans can remake the Estate Tax into the Death Tax and blast that falsehood around the country with a megaphone, Janet Napolitano’s word/phrase handiwork is child’s play and behind the curve.

    • qet

      It is a death tax. It is a tax activated only upon death, just like a sales tax is activated only upon a sale. One has an estate prior to one’s death, so in fact the term estate tax is a misnomer, a euphemism. There is no rational basis for making a person’s death a taxable event. What should happen is that the heirs and legatees step into the shoes of the decedent, meaning that the assets they receive from the estate have the same tax basis as when in the hands of the decedent. Then, in the normal course, when the heir sells or liquidates the asset, he or she will owe essentially the same tax as would have been paid by the decedent had he or she been the one to sell the asset. The current estate tax rules allow for a step-up in the tax basis, which I believe is inappropriate and should be changed. But otherwise, making death an opportunity to levy a tax merely shows the government for the grasping expropriator that it is.

      • FriendlyGoat

        The Gift and Estate Tax activate on the passing of title to assets to heirs, not because a person passes away. Estates of less than several million dollars do not owe any tax—-so there is no tax on dying as is implied by the re-written term, “death tax”. It is misleading messaging. Frank Luntz, the pollster, created it for the GOP.

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