Steve Sailer has reviewed Heather MacDonald’s new book The Diversity Delusion, which deals with the kudzu-like growth of college administrative staff devoted to promoting the creed of diversity and enforcing its many unforgiving norms.
MacDonald is an exemplary public intellectual—insightful, incisive, evidence-based and direct. And Sailer is . . . well, Sailer. So it is a worthwhile read, with the caveat that it is getting harder to mine original material about the odd goings-on on American campuses.
After all, we know campus diversity staffing is way up. We know that the growth of administrative staff in this and other areas is a significant factor pushing up the cost of higher education. We know administrators, especially diversity administrators, are partisans, and have taken an active side in the culture wars. We know that they are often complicit in questionable (or even unconstitutional) incursions into protected speech, such as MacDonald’s forced evacuation from a talk she was to give at Pomona College. We have heard the stories ad nauseam, enough to know they represent more than the occasional anecdotes. Reciting them is campfire fun but when is enough enough? Is there anything new to say?
It turns out there are a few worthwhile new angles to explore. One of these, probed by Sailer, is the spilling over of student ideologies to the work force as students graduate and compete to occupy positions of power and influence as campus professionals. As Sailer suggests we now have a working symbiosis between the campus professionals who mentor students in correct ideologies and the students who use their newly acquired bona fides to advance professionally in the academy after graduation. Campus craziness can migrate to the profession of higher education and can break out into the real world too, as the firing of James Damore by Google has demonstrated.
But to me the most noteworthy new angle in the debate has to do with MacDonald’s partial warming to the neo-Victorian moment in the culture and on campus.
Sailer sees MacDonald’s piece as suggesting that “colleges are slowly heading back to the doctrine of in loco parentis that they dumped during the 1960s sexual revolution.”
Sexual liberation is having a nervous breakdown on college campuses. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending the purported epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido….
How long will it be before feminists demand the return of chaperones? . . . Should college fornication become a rare event preceded by contract signing and notarization, maybe students would do some studying instead. At present, many students drink through the entire weekend without worrying about any academic repercussions.
That’s a fair point. And it is one that you read here first, provided you have been keeping up with Uncouth Reflections—always timely and sometimes ahead of the curve!
Three years ago almost to the day Fenster posted about the possible return of stricter rules on campuses. Commentary Magazine had run an article suggesting a correlation between better behavior and rules-based campus cultures.
(I)t is hard to escape the conclusion that tougher regulations would over time have some effect. I mean, if the University of Miami actually banned alcohol in a serious way, re-instituted single sex dorms and stopped the intercourse of differently gendered students between the dorms in the evening–well, wouldn’t that have some effect? The occasion for partying on campus would have been taken away. Yes, that would result in more off-campus partying but a crackdown on fraternities and other such venues might also bear fruit. . .
(T)he underlying problem here is a lack of will on the part of campus administrations. And the underlying problem to that is that students (and parents) see party culture as part of the undergraduate experience. And the underlying problem to that is that we do not live in a Victorian culture. Whether we are headed there in a rhyming sort of way is another question. The Commentary article may be less important as a specific policy prescription than it is as a bellweather of sorts.
There is irony here.
The Right has tended to mock the actions of Leftish campus administrators. Administrators are charged with over-regulating sex by means of bulky consent codes. Student affairs staff discount any notion of no-fault in cases of sex gone bad, wading into the murky, alcohol-fueled world of campus hook-ups and placing the responsibility squarely on men. It is the guys who get dragged into campus Star Chambers and who find themselves summarily dismissed without due process.
Let’s stipulate that, to use the well-worn phrase, “mistakes were made”. But what are these things if not evidence of a return to a kind of restraint that the Victorian era would endorse? And it is the Lefty administrators doing it!
In another post from three years ago Fenster took a look at a video then making the rounds on a lot of campuses with the title Tea and Consent. The video put forward a seemingly gender neutral view of consent, using the serving of tea as a metaphor. People should not force tea on their guests. They should just not shove the tea, or teabags for that matter, down the throat of a guest without asking first if the overture would be welcomed. They should simply ask whether tea is desired. That is being polite.
This politeness—itself an old-fashioned notion—was held to be good for all: men, women, any and all comers. But when you get past the tea metaphor to the actual behavior the little video drama is truly about—sex–well, it is plain to see that the moral lesson is directed at men. Men should act with greater restraint.
The Left would like to make out that its moral lessons are gender neutral since a call for male restraint open expressed may lead in unwelcome patriarchal directions. Taming the male beast may arise from a feminist urge but it may end with the creation of gentlemen. The campus Left resists recognizing that its ham-handed moral rules head thataway, whether they like it or not. The genie is out of the bottle, and roaming free.
But turnabout is fair play.
And so for its part, while the Right has enjoyed beating up on campus sex doctrines as wacky and unfair to men it is slow to recognize that the Star Chamber phase of things may morph into something they might well find congenial as gentlemen, if gentlemen they would be. Hence MacDonald’s warming amidst the warnings.
Two of Fenster’s aphorisms apply here.
First, irony disappears under the microscope. Irony is a mental tic experienced when two things that seem disparate are connected. But they only seem disparate. Irony is a mental illusion. Give the dialectic time and opposites will unite.
Second, there is no progress without hypocrisy. Opposing sides refuse to recognize the true implications of their beliefs as they back into the future, together.