Campus political correctness spurs Alumni to tighten purse strings

by Allan C. Brownfeld

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As part of a growing backlash against political correctness and limitations on free speech on American college and university campuses, an increasing number of alumni are dropping financial support for their alma maters.

IMAGE: Sam Graham/Flickr Found at

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2016 – When alumni receive letters soliciting contributions from their alma maters, more and more of them are either declining to contribute or cutting back the amount of their gifts. This attitudinal shift is part of a growing backlash against political correctness on the nation’s college and university campuses. Of particular concern to alumni donors are the imitations on free speech that are being imposed on a growing number of college and university campuses.

It’s clear there is an increasing awareness of the dangers of recent trends. In March, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a report arguing that the Federal law known as Title IX, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, has been stretched beyond its intended boundaries to punish language and ideas that are Constitutionally permitted.

The AAUP report cited examples of abuses such as the case of Patty Adler, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who had long taught a popular sociology course called “Deviance in U.S. Society.” Adler’s Dean threatened her with forced retirement after some students complained about role-playing exercises in her class. The threat was ultimately rescinded, but a disillusioned Adler chose to retire. In another case, Teresa Buchanan, a Louisiana State University professor, was fired over the objection of a faculty committee, because some students complained about her use of profanity.

According to AAUP,

“Overly broad definitions of hostile environment harassment work at cross purposes with the academic and free speech rights necessary to promote learning in an educational setting. Learning can be best advanced by more free speech that encourages discussion of controversial issues rather than by using punitive administrative and legal fiat to prevent such discussion from happening at all.”

Today, more than half of America’s colleges and universities have imposed restrictive speech codes. According to Newsweek,

“American college campuses are starting to resemble George Orwell’s Oceana, with its Thought Police, or East Germany under the Stasi. College newspapers have been muzzled and trashed, and students are disciplined or suspended for ‘hate speech’ while exponentially more are being shamed and silenced on social media by their peers. Professors quake at accidentally offending any students and are rethinking syllabi and restricting class discussions to only the most anodyne topics.”

Examples of abuse abound.

  • A Brandeis University professor endured a secret administrative investigation for racial harassment after using the word “wetback” in class while explaining its use as a pejorative.
  • At Amherst College, students called for a speech code that would have sanctioned some students for making an “All Lives Matter” poster.
  • Activists at Wesleyan trashed their student paper and pushed to get it defunded after it published an article critical of the “Black Lives Matter” group.
  • At the University of California system, some groups supporting Israel demanded that opposition to Zionism and criticism of Israel be labeled “anti-Semitism.” In this case, the university deplored anti-Semitism but declined to broaden its definition.
  • Students at Emory University protested messages in support of Donald Trump which were chalked on campus sidewalks as an attempt to intimidate minority groups.

Not only are students and faculty members having political correctness imposed on them. Guidelines issued at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in its Employee Forum sought to help staff avoid “micro aggressions,” by cautioning them against using allegedly offensive phrases such as “Christmas vacation,” “husband/boyfriend” and “golf outing.”

With regard to “gender” microaggressions, the guidelines discourage comments such as “I love your shoes” to female colleagues, or otherwise complimenting the appearance of women. The guide also discourages staff from inviting others to play a “round of golf,” which “assumes employees have the financial resources/exposure to a fairly expensive and inaccessible sport.”  At faculty award ceremonies, says the guide, honorees should not be asked to “stand and be recognized” for their achievements, which assumes “that everyone is able in this way and ignores diversity of ability in the space.”

At Princeton University, the Office of Human Resources has issued a list of gender-inclusive style guidelines. The word “man” can no longer be used, in order to foster “a more inclusive community.” Instead of “man,” employees are told to use words such as “human beings, individuals or people.” Instead of “man and wife,” the acceptable terms are “spouses” or “partners.” The term “manmade” should be replaced by “artificial, handmade or manufactured.” The term “mankind” should be replaced by “humankind,” and “workmanlike” should become “skillful.” The list is a long one.

“Microaggression” is usually defined as unintended slights directed toward vulnerable groups. In reality, “microaggressions” often carry political implications and serve as a pretext for silencing political dissent. At an event last year titled “Managing Microaggressions,” students at the University of Virginia said that identifying oneself as an “American” is a microaggression. Students at the University of Wisconsin said that calling America a “melting pot” or “the land of opportunity” is micro aggressive.

In a front-page report headlined “Amid College Protests, Alumni Are Less Fond and Less Giving,” The New York Times cited Scott MacConnell, a 1960 Amherst graduate, has now cut the college out of his will. In a letter to the college’s alumni fund, MacConnell wrote: “As an alumnus of the college, I feel that I have been lied to, patronized and dismissed as an old, white bigot who is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the current college community.”

Scott C. Johnson, who graduated from Yale in 1982, said he was on campus last fall when activists tried to shut down a free speech conference, “because apparently they missed irony class that day.” He recalled the Yale student who was videotaped screaming at a professor, Nicholas Christakis, accusing the professor of failing “to create a place of comfort and home” for students in his capacity as the head of a residential college. In Johnson’s view, “This is not your daddy’s liberalism. The worst part is that campus administrators are wilting before the activists like flowers.”

Last March, some Amherst alumni learned that a new director of the Women’s and Gender Center asked to be addressed as “they,” rather than “he” or “she.” Robert Longsworth, who graduated from Amherst in 1999, is the seventh in his family to have attended Amherst and was president of the New York City alumni Association and a class agent. He has now withdrawn because he feels the college has become

“…wrapped up in the politically charged mission rather than staying in its lane and being an institution of higher learning. When the administration and faculty and ultimately a lot of the student body spends a great deal of time on witch hunts, I think that a lot of that intellectual rigor is forgone… Friends who went to Hamilton, Trinity, Williams, Bates, Middlebury, and Hobart are not pleased at what’s happening on campus, and they’ve kind of stepped away. Refusing to write a check seems to be the only lever that can make a difference.”

The backlash against political correctness and the politicization of many colleges and universities is increasingly evident. In the case of Amherst, the amount of money given by alumni dropped 6.5 per cent for its last fiscal year, and participation in the alumni fund dropped 1.9 per cent to 50.6 per cent, the lowest participation rate since 1975. At Princeton, where protestors unsuccessfully demanded the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from university buildings and programs, undergraduate alumni donations dropped 6.6 per cent and participation dropped 1.9 per cent.

Elsewhere, 35 small, selective liberal arts colleges belonging to the fund-raising organization Staff (Sharing the Annual Fund Fundamentals), recently reported that their initial annual fund results for FY 2016 indicated that 29 per cent of them were running behind 2015 results in dollars and 64 per cent were behind in donors.

Fortunately, there are a few universities that have been doing their best to maintain academic freedom and free speech. The University of Chicago has taken the lead in defending free speech on campus. Last year, a special committee issued a statement noting the importance of civility but upholding “the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed.”

If universities cannot be persuaded to embrace free speech and academic freedom as a matter of principle, perhaps alumni can push them in the right direction by withholding contributions until they do. All of us would benefit if such an effort were to succeed.

Copyright 2016 Communities Digital News

The College Formerly Known as Yale

Any renaming push on the Ivy campus should start at the top—with Elihu Yale, slave trader extraordinaire.
By Roger Kimball
Aug. 8, 2016 7:19 p.m. ET

The English novelist Kingsley Amis once observed that much that was wrong with the 20th century could be summed up in the word “workshop.” On American campuses today, I suspect that the operative word is “committee.”

On Aug. 1, Yale University president Peter Salovey announced that he is creating a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming. There has been a craze for renaming things on college campuses the last couple of years—a common passion in unsettled times.

In the French Revolution, leaders restarted the calendar at zero and renamed the months of the year. The Soviets renamed cities, erased the names of political enemies from the historical record, and banned scientific theories that conflicted with Marxist doctrine.

At Princeton, Stanford, Georgetown, Harvard and elsewhere, students have demanded that buildings, programs and legacies be renamed to accommodate modern sensitivities. Amherst College has dropped Lord Jeffrey Amherst as its mascot because the colonial administrator was unkind to Indians. Students at the University of Missouri have petitioned to remove a statue of the “racist rapist” Thomas Jefferson. This is part of a larger effort, on and off campuses, to stamp out dissenting attitudes and rewrite history to comport with contemporary prejudices.

But isn’t the whole raison d’être of universities to break the myopia of the present and pursue the truth? Isn’t that one important reason they enjoy such lavish public support and tax breaks?
An 18th-century oil painting of Elihu Yale with a servant. ENLARGE
An 18th-century oil painting of Elihu Yale with a servant. Photo: Yale University Art Gallery

A point of contention at Yale has been the residential college named for John C. Calhoun, a congressman, senator, secretary of war and vice president. Alas, Calhoun was also an avid supporter of slavery.

Mr. Salovey is also perhaps still reeling from the Halloween Horror, the uproar last year over whether Ivy League students can be trusted to pick their own holiday costumes, which made Yale’s crybullies a national laughing stock. In the wake of that he earmarked $50 million for such initiatives as the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration.

He then announced that Calhoun College would not change its name. Apparently, he has reconsidered. After the Committee on Renaming has done its work to develop “clearly delineated principles,” he wrote, “we will be able to hold requests for the removal of a historical name—including that of John C. Calhoun—up to them.”

I have unhappy news for Mr. Salovey. In the great racism sweepstakes, John Calhoun was an amateur. Far more egregious was Elihu Yale, the philanthropist whose benefactions helped found the university. As an administrator in India, he was deeply involved in the slave trade. He always made sure that ships leaving his jurisdiction for Europe carried at least 10 slaves. I propose that the committee on renaming table the issue of Calhoun College and concentrate on the far more flagrant name “Yale.”
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There is also the matter of historical artifacts. Earlier this year an unhappy employee at Calhoun College smashed a stained-glass window because it depicted slaves. He was dismissed but then, after a student outcry, rehired. In response, Mr. Salovey convened a Committee on Art in Public Spaces. Offending objects, he explained, including “certain windows,” would be “relocated” and “conserved for future study.” Wasn’t there a similar initiative in Europe in the late 1930s and 1940s?

Yale’s leaders have compared the renaming committee to the so-called Woodward Committee that, in the mid-1970s, issued on behalf of the school a ringing defense of free speech (“to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable”).

A closer historical parallel, however, might be the Committee of Public Safety, which during the French Revolution worked overtime to assure that citizens lived up to its ideal of virtue. “Virtue” was a word always on the lips of the revolutionaries in France. They took the term from the man whom Robespierre called a “prodigy of virtue,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In everyday life, acting virtuously means such boring things as being kind, honest and dutiful. For moral prodigies, such pedestrian examples are beneath notice. Rousseau, “drunk with virtue” as he put it in his “Confessions,” nonetheless shipped off to a foundlings home all five of the children he had with his semi-literate mistress. She protested, but Rousseau cared not for he had “never felt the least glimmering of love for her.”

Robespierre floated aloft upon a similarly callous intoxication. The Republic, he said, was founded on “virtue and its emanation, terror.” Hence the work of the Committee of Public Safety, whose chief handmaiden was the guillotine and whose activities depended critically on anonymous reports about those whose commitment to virtue was less than wholehearted.

Yale, though sitting on a tax-exempt endowment of $24 billion, does not have the guillotine. But like many institutions entrusted with educating America’s future leaders, it is hard at work undermining due process and fostering an atmosphere of anonymous accusation. In a campus-wide email this spring, Stephanie Spangler, a Yale professor of obstetrics and gynecology as well as “University Title IX Coordinator,” discussed the school’s plans to launch “on-line tools for reporting sexual misconduct anonymously.”

The right of due process and the right to face one’s accuser have been hallowed guarantors of liberty since the Roman Republic. They are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. But those who are infatuated with their own virtue find it easy to dispense with such unwieldy constraints.

I suspect that Mr. Salovey believes he will be able to pacify the professional grievance-mongers on his campus by bribes and capitulations. He should remember what an earlier cultural provocateur, the Yippie leader Jerry Rubin, said: “Satisfy our demands, and we’ve got twelve more. The more demands you satisfy, the more we’ve got.”

The Committee of Public Safety came into being in April 1793. On July 28, 1794, Robespierre, the man who oversaw the murder of so many, was himself guillotined. Thus do revolutions consume their abettors.

Mr. Kimball is editor and publisher of the New Criterion and president and publisher of Encounter Books.

WSJ 8/9/16