campus culture wars
Tennessee State Legislature Takes On Campus PC

Here’s something you can expect to see more of in the coming months and years: The Tennessee state legislature is launching an investigation into the University of Tennessee’s diversity bureaucracy, asking the campus to justify how its various publicly-subsidized identity politics programs actually serve students and taxpayers. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The House investigation has its roots in controversies last semester, when the Knoxville campus clashed with Republican legislators over two incidents that critics slammed as demonstrating excessive political correctness.

A post on the Pride Center’s website offering guidelines for the use of gender-neutral pronouns went viral in August after conservative news sites like Campus Reform, the College Fix, and Fox News portrayed its suggestions about using the pronouns as a hard-and-fast policy.

… Tensions escalated in December when a post suggesting that people not use faith-based references at campus holiday parties also drew the indignation of right-leaning journalists.

This is not the only time Republican state legislatures have tried to intervene in the recent campus PC wars. In January, Missouri lawmakers leaned on their flagship state university to fire a professor who was caught on video trying to evict a student journalist from a campus protest. And it certainly won’t be the last. Even as campus politics are hurtling to the left with no end in sight, Republicans are accumulating tremendous political power at the state level. (Republicans fully control 30 of the nation’s state legislatures to the Democrats’ 11).

There is a long history of state politicians intervening in university politics when the general public feels that things have gotten out of hand. Such interference can itself get quite ugly and authoritarian, as it did during the McCarthy period. But taxpayers are entitled to know how the money they allocate to universities is being used, and there is a lot of room between neglect and McCarthyism. Lawmakers are right to ask for answers, and to consider cutting funds to diversity programs that have little or no educational value.

Campus activists have grown accustomed to dealing with university administrators, who tend to cave to their PC program in order to avoid confrontation. They shouldn’t be confident that state politicians, accountable to ordinary Americans outside the campus bubble, will respond in the same way.

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