Higher Ed Follies du Jour - 2015-08-06

  • If you haven't used up your three free American Interest articles this month (or know how to easily fool paywalls), you can read the story of philosophy professor Andrew Pessin, of Connecticut College. Prof Pessin facebooked about the Israel/Gaza situation in the summer of 2014, and made an arguably imperfect analogy about rabid pit bulls needing to be kept in their cages.

    This simmered for a few months before blowing up into a full-fledged Orwellian two-minute hate, inspired by local Muslims.

    But at least Pessin's faculty colleagues and the college administration defended him, right? Well…

    At the same time, Pessin’s colleagues abandoned him. Indeed both administrators and colleagues urged him not to defend himself, lest he anger the accusing students further. One colleague asked him to stop making life difficult for other Jews still on campus by fighting back. The chair of his department threw him under the bus in deference to student crying because Pessin had tried to defend himself.

    Pessin's "caged rabid pit bull" analogy is arguably imperfect but it was far from inaccurate, given Hamas's history of tunnel warfare against Israel. Connecticut College should be ashamed, but probably isn't.

  • The brouhaha about UNH's "Bias-Free Language Guide" is winding down, finally. But Brendan O'Neill at Reason fits it into a growing trend of "microaggression" theory:

    There are many mad and worrying things about the speech codes spreading across campuses like a contagious brain funk. There's their treatment of even everyday words as "problematic" terms of abuse. There's the branding of the most anodyne forms of friendly banter as "aggressive" (apparently it is a microaggression to say to a Latino or Native American, "We want to know what you think"). And there's the idea that even static objects can commit acts of violence against students: one university bemoans "environmental microaggressions," which can include a college in which all the buildings are "named after white heterosexual upper class males." What these codes add up to is a demand that everyone be permanently on edge, constantly reevaluating their every thought before uttering it. It's an invitation to social paralysis.

    It's a remarkably convenient theory. Because it just happens to be an all-purpose tool to intimidate and silence those in a University community who may not wholly buy into the "diversity" ideology and want to treat their colleagues as individuals and not as easily-offended members of whatever racial/cultural/sexual/psychological collective they identify with.

  • At Phi Beta Cons, George Leef recommends O'Neill's essay, and offers a speculation:

    What accounts for this stupendous obsession over race? I’ll give you my take. The “progressives” are increasingly desperate to manufacture distractions that will keep the voters they depend on angry, edgy, and in line. Constant, red-hot rhetoric about race is useful to them. If the heat were turned off and people stopped thinking that race is America’s big problem, they might start thinking instead about the ways in which the mega-state fails them.

    The only quibble I have: it's not only an obsession with race, but every possible us-against-them pigeonhole that "progressives" can imaginably exploit. (Which I've posted as a comment at NR.)

  • On a lighter note, the Chronicle of Higher Education presents "88 College Taglines, Arranged as a Poem". It begins:

    Change Your Life. Start Here.
    Life's Calling
    It's Your Life
    Your Extraordinary Life
    The Life of the Mind
    Change Your Mind. Change Your Life.
    Minds. Motivated.
    Inspiring Minds

    I think the University Near Here's current tagline is "Your education is more than a matter of degree." My recollection is that it was previously slightly different: "Where education is more than a matter of degree." But either would fit right into the Chronicle poem.

    That is not a compliment.