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campus unrest
How Colleges Contribute to Racial Isolation

Many outside observers, particularly conservatives, have scoffed at claims by campus protesters that minority students face pervasive discrimination on campus. After all, aren’t racism and prejudice at all-time lows, and aren’t college campuses the most tolerant and inclusive places in the world? In a recent essay for Defining Ideas, the publication of the Hoover Institution, James Huffman turns this narrative on its head, writing that many colleges’ ostensible embrace of diversity—their affirmative action programs, their multicultural housing, their ethnic studies major programs—actually amount to a type of discrimination, and a reason many minority students feel they are being treated differently from their peers:

Can there be any surprise that students of color feel as if they are treated differently from white students when their admission to the university is very likely to have been influenced by their race? When they, and only they, are often invited to campus a week early, purportedly to bond with their fellow students of color and to give them a head start on college? When one of their first experiences on campus is some sort of gathering with other students of color? When they are directed to the campus office of diversity or minority affairs as a place for counseling? When they are invited to join the Black or Hispanic or Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian student union? When they learn they can major in Black, etc. studies? […]

There is nothing subtle about the most pervasive form of racial discrimination prevailing at most American colleges and universities today. It is done in the name of lifting up those who have been discriminated against in the past. But there should be little wonder that the intended beneficiaries of this allegedly benign discrimination feel themselves isolated and treated differently. By design, universities have isolated them and treated them differently.

Huffman’s essay offers an original and well-reasoned perspective on the campus unrest; read the whole thing. One perverse aspect of the situation that Huffman doesn’t touch on is the way that racial isolation on campus creates a vicious cycle. Students protest that they are being treated differently, and administrators respond by creating more segregated facilities and more race-based programs, s response which in turn heightens the sense of isolation.

The leftwing identity politics approach to combating racial prejudice—diversity training and multicultural centers—has not worked. If anything, it has made the situation worse. College administrators that are actually interested in making all students feel integrated into the campus community should look to evidence-based approaches, like fostering a sense of common identity among all students, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.

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  • Anthony

    “College students are meant to be spending their time formulating the meaning of their newfound independence and discovering how to convert that independence into liberation.” Independence and liberation are two thoughtful abstractions giving context perhaps: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/the-inheritance-of-disaffection/?_r=0

  • solstice

    College administrators embrace left-wing identity politics and do all they can to promote it because it allows them to distract students from the real scandal: the exorbitant tuitions that they charge in exchange for the mediocre education and worthless degrees that they offer. They are acting in their own interests because that’s what they care about. They couldn’t care less about the amount of debt students accrue or their job prospects after graduation. Nothing pleases them more than to see single braincelled students huff and puff about non-issues such as racism and sexism on campus.

  • Pete Bungus

    Children whose parents invest heavily in their education, discipline, character, are suitable for college. They will make good use of their time there. Unfortunately, few parents do.
    But lots of children go through high-school as if it were an enormous baby-sitting program, then they go to college. They only learn what they should have learned before once they begin their studies. At best. Discipline. Self reliance. Responsibility. They might be black or white or indian or whatever, but they are all young and easily impressed and have no direction in life. There’s a lot of them and it’s good business for the private institutions that call themselves “College” and administer lectures and seminars and issue fancy diplomas.
    This bulk of young people who were not brought up in a way that made them ready for college (some of them achieve it all on their own — congratulations) … This bulk of young people doesn’t need college and college doesn’t need them. It’s mostly a costly waste of time and energy.
    For most major languages there are standardized tests (A1- C2), which can tell employers about an applicant’s language skills. Why can’t there be a similar test for mathematics? Chemistry? Physics? Mechanical Engineering? Biology? Why do we stick to the college model when it comes to teaching the sciences? Do America’s colleges PRODUCE great scientists?
    Let’s say there were standardized tests on these subjects. These would be elaborate tests. Parent’s could give money to their children for each test they pass. It can’t be done so easily in the liberal arts. It sounds stupid? Get an honest account of the reality of the “college experience”. THAT sounds stupid.
    Would you rather have very smart and skilled children WITHOUT a degree OR lazy entitled brats WITH a fancy degree?
    America takes APPEARANCE too seriously. The result is a country run by a TINY elite of people who a) ARE highly capable or b)APPEAR highly capable in their field. The rest will be more or less powerless and witness the ups and downs of history on CNN.

    • theresanursemom

      Ah, the fruits of a culture that always spares the rod and gives all kids who participate trophies. Removing consequences and giving shallow praise for everything has distorted childhood immeasurably in the last 25 years or so. Our society as a whole is now actively reaping the consequences for all this nonsense.

  • Beauceron

    One thing that I have come to realize over the past decade is that the very last thing blacks and latinos want is to be treated equally. To pretend otherwise is to completely misdiagnose the illness.

    It’s similar to the right’s mocking dismissal of the college protesters as “snowflakes.” Those kids are not frightened, over-sensitive weaklings harmed by every comment. They are hard-edged, cold-eyed political manipulators who know exactly what levers to pull to manipulate institutions to get even more racial privileges handed to them.

  • Anthony

    Observation: so now someone, inter alia, “must” want to be treated equally – an American Ideal (sans blindness and indifference).

  • gabrielsyme

    It is (almost?) a universal truth that liberal identity politics is both hypocritical (discriminate to combat discrimination!) and counterproductive. Thatcher had it right: the facts of life are conservative.

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