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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