Fear and loathing on campus

In the wake of the U-Delaware indoctrination sessions for dorm-dwellers, the National Association of Scholars has called for professors, not Student Affairs staff, to control residence-hall curricula. In the name of “educating the whole person,” “the residential life revolution” and “the student learning imperative,” Student Affairs staffers are trying to create “progressive social change,” charges NAs. The faculty, having retreated into scholarly specialties, doesn’t realize that “the traditional goals of the university are being threatened by a morally imperious philistinism.”

The . . . “student learning imperative” . . . seeks to “transform” students, but in a doctrinaire and coercive way. It assumes that undergraduates arrive on campus bearing a benighted inheritance – the values of traditional American culture – that must be replaced by more enlightened attitudes. Students must confess their racial, sexual, and other prejudices; admit that American society is, by its nature, oppressive; and pledge to promote specific forms of social and political change. In short, the “student learning imperative” aims at winning converts to an orthodoxy.

Chronicle of Higher Education focused on the power clash between faculty and residential staffers.

In particular, the statement questions residence-life programs that have moved to a “curricular model,” going well beyond the social activities that once were their domain. “Staff members in residence life may be well meaning,” the statement says. “But they can never be ‘equal partners’ with the faculty.”

The comments are vituperous. If the NAS professors look down on Student Affairs types as undereducated manipulators, the “Imperativists” (as apparently they call themselves) see professors as lazy, disengaged and incapable of teaching.

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Comments

  1. Andy Freeman says:

    What happens to students who ignore the dorm education program?

  2. I can’t believe that actually went on… Wow. The worst I had in college (I’m a fairly recent graduate) was a professor who wore t-shirts and made us read all sorts of neo-Marxist crap. I actually enjoyed the class (in retrospect) because it honed my BS-finding skills. What these kids, however, had to participate in is ridiculous.

  3. They may be lazy, disengaged, and incapable of teaching…but they’re still professors, so they get to do the teaching, while the glorified RAs get to look for illicit booze in the dorm.

  4. Richard Nieporent says:

    Andy, don’t you mean the dorm re-education program?

  5. “It assumes that undergraduates arrive on campus bearing a benighted inheritance – the values of traditional American culture – that must be replaced by more enlightened attitudes”…this attitude has long been common among academics. It has always been arrogant, now it is also funny.

    The RA or the professor typically seems to view the student in these terms:

    He/she comes from a family in which Dad is a small businessman and a Rotary member and Mom is active in the local PTA. There are three children and a dog, and they all attend the Methodist church. They drive a Chevrolet. All are, of course, Republicans. Most important, Mom and Dad were both virgins when they married, and they expect the same of their kids.

    Actually, Dad is a schoolteacher and a fervent supporter of the teachers union. Mom is a lawyer for a nonprofit. They don’t attend any church but are very interested in various forms of mysticism: reiki crystals, sheng fui. They talk a lot about Gaia and drive a Prius. They are Democrats and have a fine collection of George Bush jokes. This is Dad’s second marriage and Mom’s third. Their only child, a daughter (the one who is now going to college) got her birth control prescription at 16.

    The “transgressive” beliefs being inculcated by the academics are very often the same ones the students have been taught by their parents and their peers. Like fish unable to comprehend the existence of water, they can’t even imagine that there might be serious alternatives.

  6. I’m a college prof and I’m embarrassed by the bad behavior on both sides.

    My job is to prepare students for a career. It is to give them skills and background knowledge and hopefully interest them in a subject. It is not to make little mental clones of me. If someone disagrees with some of the principles we discuss in class, that’s OK with me. (It’s not OK if they reject them out of hand and don’t even want to listen).

    Of course, I teach science classes, which are (still) mostly evidence-based.

    “the traditional goals of the university are being threatened by a morally imperious philistinism.”

    No, they are being threatened by social engineers who have forgotten we live in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of thought still exist.

    When I hear this kind of crap, I wonder how many years it will be before the universities implode, and people like me are left to live on our wits. Maybe I better sharpen my waitressing skills.

  7. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy, don’t you mean the dorm re-education program?

    Real re-education programs kill people who fail.

    So, what happens when someone ignores one of these programs or fails?

    Are they killed? Are they expelled? Are they shunned by all right-thinking people?

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Andy.
    AFAIK, in the reports, nobody ever said.
    From my experience–middling large high school to Enormous State University whose population, including all paid employees amounted to about 45,000–the experience is daunting. From being somebody, anybody, you are a mote drifting across a huge campus, seeing nobody you know from one week to the next until you return to the dorm.
    Even an unstated possibility of undefined sanctions has weight in that environment.
    Keep in mind these are, for the most part, eighteen year old kids.

  9. Reality Czech says:

    I wonder how many years it will be before the universities implode, and people like me are left to live on our wits.

    You teach science. This is a part of the university which will remain standing, like the one stairway inside the collapsed WTC tower.

    Much of the rest is probably past saving, and the public is probably past caring.

  10. Richard Nieporent says:

    Are they killed?

    Not at this time, Andy. But if we let the Universities continue to get away with such outrageous programs, who knows what they will be emboldened to do.

    Are they expelled?

    That is the more likely possibility, or they will be made to leave the university until they have a change of attitude and learn to love “Big Brother”.

    Are they shunned by all right-thinking people?

    No, not by right-thinking people. It is the “left-thinking” people who will ostracize them. 🙂