Enough Already, with the College Students This and the College Students That



When I was a freshman in college, I enrolled in a newly designed class which bore the unfortunate name Math for Poets. This turned out to be a very big mistake.

The course description promised a “fun” course in mathematics for people who “hated or struggled with math classes.” Those of us who had registered for the class had been poor-to-mediocre high school math students, and each of us took Math for Poets assuming it would be an easy A. Instead, it was easily the most difficult class I have ever taken in my life.1 There were twenty of us who took the course (the most students allowed in a class in our college), and very quickly the relatively simple task of simply not failing Math for Poets began to take up the majority of our non-class time. My roommate John, who took the class with me, once joked that the word “poets” was likely a Delphian joke referencing how anyone taking the class was likely going to go mad and commit suicide.

About midway through the semester, one of my fellow students cracked. Or perhaps she merely found her backbone. Or maybe she just got bored. Whatever the reason, one day during class she began loudly berating our professor, the course, and mathematics in general. The professor, she railed, needed to be the one to take a class from her. She was, after all, a real poet, and poets knew more about Important Things From The Heart than math professors could ever know. Poets knew, for example, that any discipline that dictated that 1 + 1 must always equal 2, instead of 5, or 87, or a red and green striped zebra sipping cocoa, was by definition the kind of blunt instrument used to destroy creativity and oppress the masses throughout history. That the professor would even be associated with mathematics, she declared, was proof enough that he not only hated art, but was also likely working to enslave non-white people and keep women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. As I recall, the world “hegemony” was used more than once. I’m paring it all down, obviously, but in realtime it was a sweeping and majestic performance that seemed to go on forever. At the end, the student stood with tears streaming down her proud, stoney face, packed up her books, and marched slowly and defiantly from the classroom. During the entire episode, the professor just stood there with his mouth hanging slightly open, completely at a loss.

The resulting week or so was much as you might expect, had you ever attended a liberal arts college. Students in the class, finding the entire episode strongly cathartic, spread the word. Petitions were started, at first for the college to eliminate Math for Poets (and assign passing grades to everyone in the class), and later for dismissing the professor, and, ultimately, for eliminating the entire Mathematics Department. Lines were drawn among the students who signed the petitions as to who was One of Us, and who was One of Them. The whole process took on a life of its own for maybe three or four days, until… well, until it didn’t. The issue was largely self-correcting, as students got bored, came to their senses, or — more likely — simply found a brighter and shinier object to protest.

I don’t know what you were doing between the years of 1983 and right now, but  if you weren’t too busy being in a coma you might have noticed a distinct lack of society dissolving, the Republic crumbling, or the masses rising as a result of my classmate’s actions. The primal screams that Math for Poets inspired led to neither a New Golden Age of Art, nor a suspension of the Constitution. They were, rather, the mere flexing of the budding intellectual muscles of a bunch of kids, their bodies a churning sea of insecurity, stress, solipsism, anxiety, and hormones controlled by brains still at least a half-decade away from full development. And make no mistake. The Math for Poets hubbub was but one of hundreds of other eye-rollingly silly goings on at my school that year, which in turn was but one of tens of thousands of places of higher learning — each of which had its own not-yet-mature, post-adolescent students engaging in not-yet-mature, post-adolescent activities.

I don’t know where my “real poet” classmate ever ended up in her life. I lost track of her well before graduation. Likely, today she is a healthy, happy, and fully functioning member or society. She was hard-working and wicked smart, and so the odds are good that she’s been highly successful at whatever path she chose. Indeed, it’s hard for me to imagine what events could have permanently derailed a future as bright as hers, save perhaps one:

If her frustrated outburst had been recorded, broadcast to a bored and hectoring world, and she had been defined by the twin crowns of Hero and Villain placed on her by the rest of the country for the rest of her life.


*     *     *


As long as I’ve hung out online, I’ve largely tried to dodge freak outs over The Problem With College Kids Today. This is because I find these discussions — not to put too fine a point on it — completely moronic. “Hey, did you see that some eighteen-year old somewhere earnestly said something immature?” Why yes I did, and I also understand that this morning Starbucks served coffee to people — so there’s two things that happened today that should come as a surprise to no one. I have yet to see one of these so-called “news stories” that can’t easily be summed up by the headline, BREAKING: TEENAGERS FOUND TO STILL BE TEENAGERS BY DEEPLY PERCEPTIVE PUNDIT. Worse, it’s seemingly not enough to just point at these kids-being-kids and cluck like hens. We have to attach the Potential Fall of Civilization to their each and every word.

“We have lost the capacity for rational debate,” claims Rod Dreher in a piece attaching such import to something some unknown student said as to unwittingly back up his claim. Conor Friedersdorf, meanwhile, clearly believes that unless we magically hand eighteen-year-olds decades of wisdom and fully developed brains with their high school diplomas, free speech itself will soon disappear from the land. Even Ken White, a writer and intellect whom I downright love, admire, and often envy, seems so intent on proving to the world his ability to pwn not-yet mature and not-yet-fully-educated teenagers as to make me cringe in embarrassment for him.

Whenever these issues come up, I am tempted to point out that what is happening today in places like Yale and Mizzou is no different than what happened on our own campuses when we were kids. Except, of course, that this isn’t exactly true. Things clearly are different today than they were before. But it’s instructional — and important — to take a step back and determine what exactly it is that has changed.

That young people who enter college are not fully educated, fully wizened, and fully developed human beings seems true enough on its surface as to be a given. Indeed, that is precisely why we send our kids to college in the first place. So whatever has changed, it isn’t the kids.

Colleges, too, remain largely unchanged. When I went to school, faculty and administrators were aways attempting to balance the desires of the student body with the needs of the faculty and administration. At the risk of appearing dismissive in a way I do not intend, college is largely a grand play pen where newly minted adults get to practice being part of the real world. This includes the real world of politics. Faced with a spectrum bracketed by either letting the inmates run the asylum or condescendingly patting students on the head and telling them what a cute little student government they have, most schools choose to find some kind of middle ground. They allow students to have a voice and some actual power, up to a point. Do those students therefore take that voice and power and make bad choices? Of course they do. And that’s okay. It’s all part of growing and learning, which even though we tend to forget it is exactly why we send them to college in the first place.

So if kids are still kids, and schools are still schools, what is it that has changed?

The answer is: the rest of us.

In this mass-media/internet driven world, we are the new and volatile variable that’s been thrown into the mix. We, who so crave bright and shiny new objects to entertain us that we take seriously presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump. We, who joyfully elevate and give undeserved status to goobers who make racist tweets about Star Wars, just so we can revel in the pleasure of talking about them. We, who are just so god-damned bored on a semi-slow news day that we all pretend that something some nineteen-year old said is the fulcrum on which the fate our Great Republic balances. And so we elevate these kids in both fame and importance, and we line up behind our pre-made culture-war battlements, and we either pledge to defend their every immature uttering as Sacred And Previously Unspoken Holy Truths, or we declare them the Enemy whose lives we must destroy for the Good of America.

Stop and think, for a moment, exactly what that means.

Go back into the deepest and darkest recesses of your brain, and retrieve some memory of some ignorant, ill-considered, and earnestly cloying thing you said or argued when you were still nineteen. Now imagine what would have happened to you if, instead of being allowed to figure out for yourself over time where your had erred, the outside world made you a B-list celebrity for it. What would it have done for your future had you been been publicly tarred and feathered by tens or hundreds of thousands for that utterance? Worse, what would have happened to your potential maturity if tens or hundreds of thousands told you how Brave and Truthful you were, even if the primary reason they were doing so was to stick it to the other side? If you’re unsure, be sure and check in with Suey Park in about ten years and see how much of a favor we did her by turning her into a folk hero/villain.

Over at his own joint, Freddie notes:

Even worse, though, is a common response I hear: OK, yes, there are college students who display illiberal attitudes and aren’t very committed to free speech. But they’re just college students, and they’ll grow out of it, and who cares what a bunch of 19 year olds think, anyway? I find this very frustrating as well. Teaching college students is the only job I’ve ever really wanted. It’s uncool to talk about having a calling, but I have one, and it’s to be a college educator. And that means that it’s my job to take college students seriously. To take their intellectual and political commitments seriously. I would be abdicating my responsibility to them if I just dismissed these passionate political protests as a fad, a transitory phase that they’ll get over someday. I’m not sure that’s true. But even if it is true, right now, these young people are filled with a profound sense of moral and political responsibility. My own life was enriched by college educators who took my intellectual and political commitments seriously, who never treated them as juvenile, temporary, or unimportant. I can’t fail to provide students with the same respect today.

For this, I believe Freddie deserves a standing ovation. Freddie, after all, actually teaches these kids. It’s his job, and we should let him do it. That he is obviously ready to both steer them towards a more mature intellect and treat them as actual human beings rather than disposable culture-war symbols is to his great credit. I pray that my own kids fall under the wing of a teacher like Freddie. So good on him.

But the rest of us?

We need to knock it the fish off and leave them all be. At best we aren’t doing these kids any favors by putting them in the spotlight; at worst we’re doing real damage to them. Even if ‘kids being kids’ was an actual problem, its a fairly intractable one. But even so, it’s one I wouldn’t worry about. The Republic didn’t crumble x-number of years ago when your boyfriend bought that Che Guevara tee-shirt. Democracy survived your rolling your eyes and telling your parents they were “so bourgeois” when you came home from Thanksgiving that one year. Freedom of speech did not wither and die on the vine when you proposed to your study group that your professors should be barred from making you read things written by dead white men.

I think the word can all survive a few more years of kids still being kids.


[Images via wiki commons and wikipedia.]

  1. This is not hyperbole. The instructor, a very nice man who lived and breathed mathematics, believed that his discipline only began to get truly interesting at it’s most outer edges; his class was therefore a journey though these passions. This meant that in order to even begin to understand what he was talking about most days, you needed a very tight grasp on topics such as advanced calculus and trigonometry, statistics, dynamical systems, and number theory, just to list a few that I remember. This expertise, if I recall correctly, was held by exactly none of us who took the class. []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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121 thoughts on “Enough Already, with the College Students This and the College Students That

  1. Thumbs up on all of this. I find these discussions mostly boring since they are pretty much all “kids these days” stuff. Any actual issues the kids may have are usually irrelevant and the intent is paint them as maroons.

    I think the reality is many people in general display illiberal attitudes, the ones most prone to protest loudly are the ones less likely to perceive nuance or want discussion and to be caught up in shouty declarations of strident self-righteous concerns. They may be right or wrong about something but that ends up being lost.

    Many protests are embarrassing even if you agree with the people. Gosh knows many older adults looked like buffoons by dressing up in revolutionary war garb and some toting guns to political protests a few years ago. They had valid concerns ( which in general i thought they were mightily wrong about) but lots of people didn’t take them seriously.


  2. See, you got a problem here, Our Tod.

    On the one hand, you want us not to take the protesters too darn seriously.

    On the other hand, that infuriates the protesters.

    On the other other hand, other people are taking them seriously enough to to alter policies and resign from positions and so on.

    So we have a situation in which nice people like you and Mr. deBoer instruct us, in effect, not to engage with these kids who are doing the equivalent of coming home for Thanksgiving vacation saying “brains are bourgeois, power to the stupid!” – just like you and I did back in ancient times – but at the same time a discourse of assailing out of touch administrators and others for “pervasive minimizing sentiments” is winning the day.

    So why should reasonable people follow, and anyone else support, the demands of people – young, old, or in between – that derive from “brains are bourgeois, power to the stupid!”?

    If some of what the protesters are saying is unreasonable, and some of it isn’t, then who is going to separate the reasonable from the unreasonable, and how?

    In short, sooner or later, whether you’re dealing with a 3-year-old or a 30-year-old, you have to decide how to treat their statement – determine whether it’s part of a manipulative tantrum that shouldn’t be indulged, or a serious cry for help that needs urgently to be attended.


      • I’ll take option C, a local issue best addressed by people with local knowledge.

        I’m glad you said this. This is more/less, +/- my take on both the Miss. and Yale dustups. I mean, I can make whatever judgments I want either way, but if there’s a real, substantive racial issue at Mizzou, then the kids will argue for it with the administration; if there’s a substantive free speech issue at Yale, then faculty and admin will argue for it with the kids. If this is a whole bunch of nonsense, then kids and admins around the country will have learned something. If it’s not, then likewise, one way or the other. Maybe there’s a lesson about treating students like customers. Whatever. But in both cases the primary stake-holders – faculty, admin, students – are presumably closer to and more invested in equitable resolutions preserving important principles and protections than anyone on the outside is.

        One thing we’ve all learned, tho, is that a big time football teams have got the University PTB by the short ones. And I’m not even sure that bugs me, to be honest. Maybe the political power they hold is a bastard payment for making Universities all that uncompensated-for cash.


    • You can treat people with respect and still not take them all that seriously. Parents (at least, some that I’ve seen) start doing that with their own children starting at about age 2. And colleges are supposed to act in loco parentis.

      The Mizzou football team was willing to cause a nationwide scandal. Is this a case of a bunch of emotional kids acting out (“oh look. I can shout obscenities in the middle of the quad and no one can stop me!”) or is it a case where at least some of them have legitimate complaints about the campus environment (“wow. i’m really tired of feeling stereotyped all the time.”)? A good way to find out would have been for a senior administrator to have gotten involved a little earlier. Maybe the demands of the team were outrageous or silly. But it would not have been the end of the world to listen respectfully.

      Yes, these kids/adults are now at a point in their lives where their actions can have long-term consequences both for themselves and for others. But, for the most part, they don’t. And if we want to allow these young adults to make mistakes with relatively few lasting impacts, then the adults in the room need to push back against the Drehers of the world. Dreher, after all, is simply promoting his own brand of frothing social conservative outrage. He doesn’t really deserve the attention, but outrage that he wants to whip up in response to these situations will just make matters worse.


    • I have to agree with CK here; college students can’t have it both ways. We can’t on one hand say there is importance in these movements and then not actually address or criticize the arguments/direction those students take said movements.

      I was a college kid once who was involved in radical left politics. I shake my head at some of the things I said and did. But while I was out there defending the Cuban revolution and making excuses for the regime, I should have surely been criticized for said statements. You don’t get a pass because you are young and lack knowledge on the subjects you are perpetuating.

      I also look back on those years fondly, and it helped make me who I am today. I am thankful I wasn’t some bureaucrat in training like some of my fellow classmates. If some of these protesters change their opinions when they are older, I am not going to hold their youthful points against them.


      • I think it’s also worth considering that the protesters didn’t just develop their discourse of dangerous and hurtful speech crimes, and “minimizing sentiments,” and “white privilege,” and “punching up vs punching down,” and “safe spaces,” and on and on, all by themselves.

        A visible segment of academia and of the intelligentsia looks on its work here with pride and excitement, hoping for more, and is often at the center of whatever latest controversy on the protesters’ side, in crucial roles (as ever) – poor Professor Melissa Click at Mizzou calling for “muscle” to ward off journalists being a recent notorious example. Is she also just being a kid?

        Pretending that these are all just “local” events – or were even in the pre-internet era or even in ancient times when I was a student activist and we had to rely on Wells Fargo wagons to carry the message to our comrades at other colleges – is delusory. That doesn’t mean that this is the biggest thing ever, but the notion that what goes on in college stays in college is false, and the students applying Cultural Revolutionary tactics to new social movement issues today aren’t doing so simply because “that’s what kids do.” It’s not just coincidence that this all smells like academic and intellectual culture-war of the ’70s. The reigning idea, back then, pursuant to the collapse of the student movement of the ’60s in Europe and America, was to launch “a long march through the institutions” (Rudi Dutschke) taking advantage especially of usefully-idiotic liberal indulgence.

        It wasn’t a bad strategy in a lot of ways. It still works in a lot of ways, even if directed social-cultural evolution isn’t easy, and especially as others become aware of the “direction,” decide they don’t like it, and try some directing of their own.


        • I think the onus is on those claiming the trend is alarming to demonstrate that there actually is a trend. Have you seen this demonstrated in a satisfactory way? The closest I’ve read is this September story from John Haidt (whom I like a lot), which relies pretty much entirely on anecdotes. The critical coverage of Yale/Mizzou has been either (1) Repurposed ivory tower culture war stuff about how academics are all fascists; (2) People really proud of themselves for pwning some teenagers (like this). I’ve yet to see anyone either demonstrate how these events form a larger pattern (and *then* talk about the pattern) or, alternatively, actually engage with the individual students. Have you?


          • trizz,

            Well, focusing on what students are doing sorta misses the point here. It’s that the kids are the political arm of a whole cadre of liberal profs who’ve been actively trying to gain control of American institutions since the dawn of time. Well, the dawn of Marx anyway. The rot is already within and what we’re seeing at Mizzou and Yale are merely the manifestations of it. Open your eyes, man!


              • You guys are hilarious. I was one of those “commies,” and I came.

                Actually, I never actually became a card-carrying or newspaper-distributing Marxist-Leninist RCP/RCYB, CWP, etc., etc., member, but I knew them well, and my friends and I – who were generally more Green and anarchist in our orientations – were recruited heavily. We went to the same parties/fundraisers, worked in the same Peace and Solidarity and sundry coalition groups together. Sometimes we got together on longer-term projects – like publishing or other formalized “united front”-ish organizations, and it was an open question who was recruiting or using who.

                I eventually got high enough in the hierarchy and circles of trust, or through repeated experience simply was able to observe, which groups were providing which foot-soldiers – envelope-stuffers and flyer distributors and door-knockers – to which “mainstream” organizations and “spontaneous” protest groups, and, to tell you the truth, I don’t see anything wrong with it on that level.

                You can call it infiltration and subversion or you can call it classic political organizing – it’s a free country, more or less, so if some well-meaning “anti-racist” or “pro-peace” or whatever liberal can’t see the forest for the trees, and wants to believe it’s all local action against local grievances for local reasons, and pure coincidence that everyone is reciting all of the same lines from all of the same playbooks, fine, even if they were already well into their high umpteenth editions by the time I was reading them. (Others, I helped to write!) It was the actual ideas and, in some cases, the particular tactics that I came to find objectionable.


                • Wow…national orgs that help to build local orgs….Yeah that is new, never heard of that. In fact i’d even bet both large parties in this very country have college org groups. But so what.

                  If you were one of those “commie” then you should be well aware how long “you” were used to trash every single idea pushed by D’s and liberals regardless of merit. Commies were useful to conservatives since they gave them an easy red meat argument that didn’t require thought or understanding.


                  • Yeah, the CIA and the Bilderburgs and the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce are often accused of paying popular pundits in the media to publish pro-business propaganda, but that’s just a conspiracy theory.


                  • greginak: If you were

                    I’m tempted to engage in a different type of speech crime in response to that. Instead, I’ll ask you to instruct some of the denialists on this thread, and in the OP, who don’t see any “trend” or other significant connection between events across the country and in other countries – regarding speech codes and heckler’s veto and empowerment of the victims who are always right and on and on (for years, but now manifesting in a particular, common way from Claremont to Mizzou to Yale and Amherst, and Ferguson, too, coming soon to a theater of culture war near you) – on how business as usual works.


                    • CK, greg doesn’t have to respond to any of that since what he responded to is your claim that all this student activism is co-ordinated by Communists intent on subverting American Freedoms and imposing Tyranny!

                      You’re the one that has to show your work, seems to me.

                      If your only point is that students are increasingly mouthy to their betters, then there’s just no there there. The world is a more complicated, increasingly dynamic place than yesterday.


                      • “Man, kids these days. They’re just so damn mouthy and demanding, imposing all these demands on professors and administrators. Why do you think that is.”

                        “The Communists. Obviously.”

                        “Yeah. That makes sense…”


                      • Sorry to say, Stillwater, but that’s the kind of re-interpretation and re-phrasing of someone else’s comments that in my opinion contributes nothing to conversation. I guess it’s humorous to you to exaggerate or over-simplify what I say, but the problem is that you then proceed to take your simplification/exaggeration seriously as such.

                        The claim made from the OP down, and in diverse comments, is that there’ s no meaningful trend, or that the events can and should be dealt with locally (also that it’s somehow possible to take them seriously and not seriously at the same time). Chait, Robin, and I disagree with you. As for the “commie” card, definitions and affiliations can be quite fluid in these matters, and are themselves major subjects of contention, leading to further conflict and confusion. I’d ask you to try be more specific and attend to the overall development of an argument, for the sake of understanding what’s going on, not to get caught up with secondary claims and counter-claims in a way that makes that argument impossible to follow.


                        • Robin believes that “its” a thing, but he’s agnostic about what “it” actually is. He’s even open to the idea that it’s not a university thing. Maybe a student debt thing. Maybe a neoliberalism or BLM thing. Who knows? Chait thinks PC culture has gotten outa hand. That’s it. I agree with him, actually, since I’ve never been a fan of it.

                          But if you wanna use those guys to support your thesis that all this is a concerted effort of subversive communistical agents manipulating students-as-tools to further their tyrannical agenda, then go right ahead. We Murkins still enjoy enough freedom that people are allowed to say intellectually silly things. For the time being anyway.

                          I account for most of this as merely an expression of discontent with the status quo, but if I were to ascribe any blame, I’d lay it on the silliness of post-modern, post-structural philosophy, and the ridiculous thesis that language is not a tool to be used by people to conduct business an external reality, but that it actually constructs reality. No wonder all those kids at Yale are so confused about all this stuff. They’ve been taught continental philosophy!


                          • Stillwater: But if you wanna use those guys to support your thesis that all this is a concerted effort of subversive communistical agents manipulating students-as-tools to further their tyrannical agenda, then go right ahead. We Murkins still enjoy enough freedom that people are allowed to say intellectually silly things. For the time being anyway.

                            I repeat:

                            As for the “commie” card, definitions and affiliations can be quite fluid in these matters, and are themselves major subjects of contention, leading to further conflict and confusion. I’d ask you to try be more specific and attend to the overall development of an argument, for the sake of understanding what’s going on, not to get caught up with secondary claims and counter-claims in a way that makes that argument impossible to follow.

                            I wasn’t the one who brought up the “c-word,” incidentally. However, I do think – and it’s quite obvious to anyone familiar with the discourse, its key terms, and their historical development – that the Marxist inflections (including Neo- and Post-Marxist inflections) are pervasive. I don’t happen to consider the existence of such inflections disqualifying. I just consider them readily identifiable, and that you don’t find them so is a sign to me either of your ignorance, or your unwillingness to concede any ground at all, even when it really ought to be non-controversial. Ditto for your resort to pointless sarcasm and misleading oversimplification.

                            The transition from the ’60s mass movements centered especially on the Vietnam War to the “new social movement” period – was widely and exhaustively discussed and fought over – theorized, strategized, critiqued, re-theorized, applied, re-applied, etc., etc. If someone had the time and the inclination, all of these documents – the demands documents, the representative blog posts of concerned students, often the spontaneous statements made to the media – could be extensively footnoted. The reductive and sensationalistic language is your language, not mine.


                            • and it’s quite obvious to anyone familiar with the discourse, its key terms, and their historical development – that the Marxist inflections (including Neo- and Post-Marxist inflections) are pervasive.


                              that you don’t find them so is a sign to me either of your ignorance, or your unwillingness to concede any ground at all,

                              Double heh!


                            • Yeah we can really see the revolutionary mindset of the 60’s kids who were protesting. The Boomers were a true revolutionary force in the 70’s and 80 up until now. Yes indeedy.

                              Did you even read the twiter from Robin? He doesn’t even know what the spreading movement is and he wants thoughtful analysis about individual situations for figure it out.


                              • If you do not understand how revolutionary theorists/theorists of revolution approached the events and movements of the ’60s through the ’80s, then you shouldn’t try for sarcasm.

                                Most “serious” leftists, in contrast to many young idealistic people in the streets of Paris and Anyuniversitytown USA, understood quite well that the situations in the West lacked “true” revolutionary prospects. Though a few may have hoped that students and workers could be united in a next necessary stage, most of those committed to Marxist-Leninist revolutionary models understood that the task was to exploit social-political turmoil in such a way as to advance the cause where revolutionary struggle had clear prospects, or where the gains of revolution needed to be secured.

                                The heirs of the Counterculture would have had different models of “revolution” in mind, while a substantial third group would have been moving through a range of overlapping Marxist-Feminist, ecological, and other “alternative” models for combining leftwing and “new social” tendencies. They often despised – and attacked – each other with as much or more ferocity than they ever were able to generate against the common enemy.

                                greginak: Did you even read the twiter from Robin? He doesn’t even know what the spreading movement is and he wants thoughtful analysis about individual situations for figure it out.

                                Robin is a very well-read and intelligent, very committed man of the left (proud of his acts of protest and civil disobedience on behalf of the BDS movement), who, when he gets excited, seems to forget that he’s playacting.

                                Assuming he honestly meant the passage “to the media” that he tweeted, then just about now, or maybe within a couple of minutes of the tweet, he went on to discover – wonderfully! – that “it” isn’t just any one of those things, but all of those things coming together at once, just as he would have guessed – and meaning that the protests deserve the unreserved support of people like him and all other right-thinking leftists, including forgiveness of whatever excesses, and maintenance of the line that these incidents should always be explained as the spontaneous and just responses to local conditions by local actors.

                                For one thing, the theory is demonstrably appealing to liberals. The commonality between them will be obvious to intellectuals like Robin, once they have achieved or re-gained the “distance” he calls for, and it will be up to them, as ever, to perform the work of abstracting and synthesizing them in the form of a generally applicable theory and praxis.

                                The method as both an intellectual method and a practical-political one has been laid out in detail for them, and was once upon a time known as scientific socialism or dialectical materialism. It’s not a bad method: Guided by tested theory [of class conflict], select and immerse yourself in the particulars, derive the laws of development, re-adjust theory appropriately. The classic wash cycle.

                                The dial on Robin’s machine has clicked to stage two. I think he’s just pretending that he doesn’t know where it’s going – “Eureka! – all of these things relate to each other just like I’ve been saying for my entire career up to this moment!” – but does it so well he manages to fool himself. I could be wrong. He might be more aware of what he’s doing. In which case, he’s just prevaricating for a good cause, in his mind.


                                • You have a very prominent fellow traveler, CK:

                                  [Ben] Carson swears by Skousen, who died in 2006. In a July 2014 interview, Carson contended that Marxist forces had been using liberals and the mainstream media to undermine the United States. His source: Skousen. “There is a book called The Naked Communist,” he said. “It was written in 1958. Cleon Skousen lays out the whole agenda, including the importance of getting people into important positions in the mainstream media so they can help drive the agenda. Well, that’s what’s going on now.”

                                  Surely Robin has read that book too. Why won’t he just admit what he knows in his heart? Why does he continue to “fool himself” about this obvious truth? Well, he’s controlled, subliminally of course, by the very same Marzist puppet masters who pulled the strings from under UM President Wolfe.

                                  But Ben Carson, bro! That he’d challenge the Establishment like this must make you proud of him.


                                  • Actually, that account of Robin’s inability to connect the dots isn’t the most parsimonious theory possible, obvs. I can do better. In fact, I’m ashamed I didn’t see it right off. He’s unwilling to admit the obvious because he’s a marxist subversive puppet-master himself. That explains everything!


                                    • He’s unwilling to admit the obvious because he’s a marxist subversive puppet-master himself.

                                      In more lucid moments, he’s quite happy to admit as much, though he would use different terms, naturally, because, unlike you, apparently, he considers enlightening his students and other interested parties about how believes or knows the world works a very worthwhile activity.

                                      He’s undoubtedly a leftist. His book the Reactionary Mind imposes a Marxist framework on recent/contemporary political events, with a re-tread of Hegelian lord-bondsman (aka master slave) theory provisionally replacing Marx’s currently unfashionable refinement of it. From the perspective of everyone to his right, that makes him subversive. To the extent that he succeeds in showing his students the way and the light, he influences them to join or help the cause in whatever way they can, or maybe he undermines the resolve and opens the minds of those inclined to take the other side. I suspect that’s how he justifies himself to himself morally, and the view would be by no means uncommon. It’s how self-consciously politically committed intellectuals who feel for the wretched of the Earth, the insulted and injured, the oppressed and disenfranchised, justify everything they do.

                                      He ought to be offended by your apparent belief that he’s above all that. As for the terms some crank preaching to the easily excitable and not very well read would use, I’m not sure why they interest you so much. If that’s the level on which you want to pursue this topic, count me out.


                            • However, I do think – and it’s quite obvious to anyone familiar with the discourse, its key terms, and their historical development – that the Marxist inflections (including Neo- and Post-Marxist inflections) are pervasive. I don’t happen to consider the existence of such inflections disqualifying. I just consider them readily identifiable, and that you don’t find them so is a sign to me either of your ignorance, or your unwillingness to concede any ground at all, even when it really ought to be non-controversial.

                              Wait a minute, wait a minute.

                              There is a difference between ‘This is all clearly Marxist influenced’ (Which is another discussion entirely, about which you are wrong, but I will pretend otherwise for the sake of this argument.) and asserting that what is happening is deliberate and being orchestrated by specific people. ‘Influenced’ and ‘directed by’ are not the same thing. D&D is clearly influenced by Tolkien…that does not mean D&D was secretly operated by Tolkien, or by Tolkien supporters.

                              Political philosophies exist *for the purpose* of influencing people. The fact that they do so is not indicative of anything except their persuasiveness. The fact that they are persuasive to the *same sort* of people over the decades is not indicative of anything except that they fill a need that group has.

                              Likewise, your claim that this *isn’t* just “what kids do” doesn’t seem to have any supporting evidence, and there seems to be plenty of evidence that young adults are *always* revolutionary in some manner or another.

                              Of course, it’s not a *coincidence* a good portion of them are saying the same thing, because they listen to each other, and can in fact read, and did not spring to life fully formed ten seconds ago. They are speaking those ‘Marxist’ terms because…wait a minute, are we really going with the idea that ‘Black people shouldn’t be called the n-word’ is a *Marxist* idea? (Right, I forget, I agreed I was pretending that makes sense. Let’s continue.)

                              They’re speaking in those ‘Marxist’ terms because that’s how other students speak.

                              But that’s not the same as people directing them around in some sort of long-term plan, and certainly no evidence that some people are just *pretending* to find all this odd.

                              Or to put it another way: Where, *exactly*, do you think the input here is? Where do you think students are *influenced* to rebel in this particular form that *isn’t* from other students, or just general politics?

                              Do you think it is liberal professors? Because, uh, that’s hard to explain at Mizzou.


                              • No, – you wait a minute.

                                If you want to have a discussion, then respond to what I say as I say it – to the actual thesis, logic, and examples that I present (and that anyone seriously interested in these topics can assess for themselves) – not to a straw man or little collection of straw men. When you attack a caricature of your own creation, you’re just talking to yourself. I’m sorry to say that you’re not the only commenter who makes doing so a habit.

                                If the attitude you took was more collegial, less competitive and pettily sarcastic, then we might have the basis for a useful exchange of views and experiences, for discovering where we agree and for narrowing down our differences to something interesting and potentially illuminating. Instead, you’re just inviting me to a waste of time, energy, and emotion.


                                • Notice I point out that has somewhat changed the goalposts, and his response is ‘stop strawmanning’. Notice he doesn’t even say whether or not it’s the *new* thing I said he was saying that is the strawman, or the old thing.

                                  So let’s play the guessing game!

                                  Does he think that he *didn’t* assert it’s all some sort of plan? The sentence ‘The reigning idea, back then, pursuant to the collapse of the student movement of the ’60s in Europe and America, was to launch “a long march through the institutions” (Rudi Dutschke) taking advantage especially of usefully-idiotic liberal indulgence.’ leaves little room for interpretation. He, *very clearly*, presented what is going on as some sort of strategy of someone.

                                  Or he asserting that he *didn’t* walk back into merely talking about the *influence* of Marxism? It’s what it *looks* like what he was trying to say. When he started arguing some halfway, easier-to-prove version of his thesis (People are ‘influenced’ by political philosophies? Uh, duh?) instead of the whole thing of this being an active strategy of someone, someone is going to point that out. If that’s not where he meant to go, then he should have said, ‘Oops, I can see how it could be read that way, but that’s not what I meant.’, not complained to the person who pointed it out.

                                  ‘How dare people rephrase what I said slightly different! My argument is too subtle for anyone to dispute, because I’ve so extremely vague I can never be wrong! Anyone who decides on a specific interpretation is wrong!’

                                  , as I asked in my previous post: What institute or entities *exactly* are you asserting are influencing these things (And if they are doing it at someone’s behest, who is that?), and *how* are they doing this?

                                  Right there. That question. That question is all that exists. Forget my previous post, and answer that specific question.

                                  Because right now your post is so damn subtle *no one knows what you’re trying to say*. You’re running around *hinting* at a conspiracy of some sort, or maybe not, or maybe it’s some sort of normal political organizing. You don’t appear to even *know* what you’re talking about, and maybe you should figure that out before you start talking about your ‘thesis’.


          • It’s hard to say whether it’s a trend (I guess it depends on how we define the term) but this stuff does leave the academy. Look into the debates over cyber harassment or ‘revenge porn’ laws and you’ll find proponents making similar arguments about broad laws being necessary to protect victims regardless of troubling implications for free speech.

            Now I’d bet your opinion further down is mostly accurate for most college students (that being that they’re more interested in booz and sexual escapades than being the red vanguard) but there is a broader philosophy here that college activists are embracing. I encountered similar arguments in a victims rights class I took in law school which was well before the term ‘sjw’ was coined or we heard about things like safe spaces or erasing experiences or mental anguish over day to day rudeness and political disagreement.


            • Yeah that guy whose biggest personal experience was being complained about for being some sort of communist by what sounded like a conservative. That guy who had some other anecdata and general complaints without backup.

              But you could point to that other prof who got fired for tweets critical of isreal. But that might not support the point you want to make.

              If there was ever a topic where BSDI is true this is it.


  3. But what is the point of having this lawn, if I can’t tell people to get off it?

    (I enjoyed this piece a lot, though I am noticing a pattern in your recent writings – that WE are the problem. Except when the Internet is. Not that either of these conclusions is necessarily wrong).


      • So, kids keep keeping on, but the rest of the world just stop, you’re harshing the mellow.

        That is just as silly as shaking your fist at the clouds.

        People want the world to move in the direction that they feel is best. And to do that, they are going to put their thumb on the scales at every oportunity. Everyone does this. This is a fact, this is a cold, hard truth. To say that kids these days should just be left alone is to accept the concequences of every aweful thing going on that happens on campus, without minding that some of those actions have real word results.

        Kids will be kids, until they rape someone in a frat house. Or not, but their lives will be screwed over by Rolling Stone no matter what.

        Kids will be kids, until someone smears schisse in the form of a schwastika.

        Kids will be kids, so the first amendment is nowhere near as important as a safe place.

        For the most part, you would be right, that this is just grist for the mill. But we are starting to see some real world results from some of those student shenanigans, as they move the needle even just a hair. And as that needle moves, everyone watches it and tries to see if they can move it further, or push it back. Putting the thumb on the scale, so to speak.

        If you think the way that campus is going, the way students are pushing, is great, well awesome. If, on the other hand, things were moving in a different direction, such as female students wearing makup that looked like bruises on purpose, or a majority of students at Oregon State start agitating for “bring back the Klan” rallies, well, it might look a little diferent.


      • I would also note that these issues in academia do scare me, partially because I work in education and have seen witch hunts against teachers for what they think/say. Sometimes by conservatives who say the teacher is pushing a lefty agenda in the classroom (“He used Howard Zinn!”) to lefties (“The teacher didn’t have more gendered/race/ethnic/class focused readings!”) We need push back against a consumer culture that thinks because we pay a teacher’s wage they should never have a thought that goes against the grain. That’s the reality these protesters are exposing.


  4. This is kind of an old liberal vs. leftist debate as somebody pointed out on recent thread on LGM on the UMass-Amherst explosion. There was always a certain faction of the Far Left that tended to view the negative and political rights associated that liberals though important like freedom of speech and press with disdain as bourgeois freedoms. To these Leftist, such things could be more often than not used as blunt instruments to persecute oppressed groups without much recourse from the oppressed groups back. Having your race be used as a target of fun in mass entertainment, as African-Americans were from the 19th century to the mid-20th century, isn’t that nice of a thing to experience. A lot of liberals understand this but basically keep arguing that liberal values are important societal values because leftism without liberalism is a different flavor of authoritarianism,

    I think a lot of the debates that are emerging on campus are reminiscent about this issue. A lot of it is also because of youthful passion but it involves a matter of contention between liberals and leftists. Its why the liberal blogosphere is tearing itself up on the issue.


    • you’re grossly understating the liberal position here. Old fashioned liberalism has a historical record of serving the oppressed much better than the the brand of illiberal leftism that is apparently popular in some circles of campus activists. As an attorney you know that those rights and precedents that protect the freedom to express ugly ideas have just as often been used to advance the liberty of the marginalized.

      The problem isnt students advocating silly ideas. It’s their right to advocate for silly ideas. The problem is professors and administrators catering to those silly ideas that are counter to the educational mission of the university. Many of these are public institutions and we all have an interest in how they’re run and what kind of norms the people who run them are shaping.


      • I am pretty much in agreement with most of what you wrote. The last bit is a problem though because no one can agree on what the point or purpose of university is.


        • Degraw I see your point but I’d hope (maybe naively) that both those with romantic and more mercenary visions of the university could agree that education requires at least some degree of challenging students. Taking them out of their safe spaces if you will. This stuff seems more like indoctrination and/or an extreme version of the ‘customer is always right’ neither of which serves a legitimate pedological purpose.


      • Oh, I agree but a lot of illiberal leftists and rightists like getting jobs as university professors because if they can. It allows them to create alternative systems that looks good on paper but fail when applied to real people. Naturally, illiberal professors are going to encourage illiberalism in their students. They believe it themselves.


  5. Well, of course, being a rational, reasonable person, I agree completely with your reasonable view here.There isn’t much to worry about, all things considered. Nothing much at stake. Well, except at the edges, of course. I have some disagreement with you there, out on the fringes of all this, nothing big, just worries about potential micro-tyrannies and burgeoning anti-free-speech incrementalism gaining momentum. Nothing major, tho. Unless it isn’t nipped in the bud, so to speak. Can’t let those weeds grow, you know. Chokes off freedom. It’s just something these young people have no respect for, actually, now that I think about it. They’re making all sorts of demands, trying to impose their views on everyone, corrupting our entire way of life and all the principles we hold dear. If we let em get away with it, who knows what the future will hold. I mean, how do you feel about future generations having to go to college or live in a society where radical young people with an anti-freedom radical social justice agenda have forced their views on all the rest of us? Sounds like tyranny to me, now that I think about it. We gotta smack these damn kids down before they rot our society from within.


  6. I both agree and disagree. I haven’t been following the Mizzou thing, but it seems a little more serious than the Yale thing. And as Will pointed out somewhere (I think at Hitcoffee, but it might’ve been here), it is kind of a big deal when athletes, who have every incentive to play, decline to play.

    The OP cites Freddie approvingly and notes that since Freddie is talking about his profession and knows whereof he speaks–he “actually teaches these kids. It’s his job, and we should let him do it”–his statements on the matter should be applauded. But the rest of us need to “knock it the fish off and leave them all be.” But Freddie, but posting a blog that you (and I) read, is not knocking it the fish off, either. He’s addressing it publicly. And as said, people are resigning over these things, at least at Mizzou. (As for Yale, which I’ve followed even less than the Mizzou thing, there appears to be the dynamic similar to the “quand les Etats Unis eternuent, le monde est malade”* idea going on.)

    And yet, Tod’s right. I’ve said some things in my youth that I really regret and would regret even more if it were made the news outrage of the day. Heck, I’ve said some things in my recent past that qualify. I’m grateful I haven’t yet had to face the fullness of what those regrets could’ve been.

    *”When the United States sneezes, the world catches a cold.”


    • The Mizzou resignation is not “the only one,” though, then again, it all depends on how you define “incidents of this type.”

      Not too far from where I live, at one of the Claremont colleges, a Dean has resigned after accusations of insensitivity, and protests, regarding “diversity” and “inclusivity” issues. The straw that broke this back seems to have a photo of her posing with (non-Latino) students in gaucho or mariachi garb. http://www.dailybulletin.com/general-news/20151112/claremont-mckenna-college-dean-resigns-amid-racial-bias-claims-controversial-photo

      There have been numerous other incidents of this general type. The kind of protest that Christopher Carr wrote against in relation to the Boston Monet exhibit and kimono event seems to be a kind of spillover – since students and administrators at other places have been suspended or suffered other disciplinary action with- anyone have the right term? – acts of wrongful cultural appropriation involved.

      The Christakis email seems to have touched on this matter – since Erika Christakis had the temerity to ask whether putting on the wrong or offensive costume, on Halloween, needed to be considered a major offense in all cases – but the particular issue seems to be absent at Mizzou. On the other hand, the general pattern of accumulating offenses against the proper sensibility, demanding action, and brooking no dissent, does seem to be a common feature.


  7. 1. Every generation complains about the next generation

    2. Lee is right about how what is happening is a really old split between liberals and the far.


  8. First, I will say that all the hyperventilating coming largely from professional conservatives is indeed terrible and worthy of equal parts derision and mockery, especially when conservatives have spent so much time dining out on their own “I don’t feel safe” narratives with regards to immigration and the non-existent war on police. That said, you are doing a disservice to the like of Friedersdorf and Popehat by lumping them in with the former.

    These students have taken actions and, in many cases, they have published demands. Are you saying that we shouldn’t engage with those actions or offer any criticisms of those demands? If so, that seems patronizing.

    No, we are not on the precipice of the next Reign of Terror. There is, however, a significant number of people making an argument that essentially says that inclusitivity and cultural sensitivity are paramount to free expression. And the folks making those claims deserve a response, both for their sake and ours.


    • “Are you saying that we shouldn’t engage with those actions or offer any criticisms of those demands?”

      No, I’m not. If you want to engage with young people about their lives and their concerns, you should go right ahead. And if so, then good on you!

      But if I’m being honest, I can’t say as I see a lot of “hey, here is a young person I want to sit down and talk with” going on. Instead, what I see is a lot of people getting on soap boxes and using things young people say as props in the culture war battles they’re having with other adults.

      I mean, seriously, there are millions of college students in the US right now, and we just coincidently focus only on the ones that say outrageous things that just happen to fold neatly into our Red State/Blue State sniping? And that’s what engaging young people looks like?


      • That’s likely because much of what these students are doing involves actively inserting their personal concerns into the pre-existing cultural and political battles. This is especially apparent when you read the list of demands from Yale students.

        Part of engaging with these students concerns is challenging some of their notions about inclusivity and the proper role of authority figures in protecting people’s sense of themselves.

        On the one hand, I get what you’re saying, but my sympathy is limited. These are the kids (and we use that word quite self-consciously) who in all likelihood will go on to take “top” positions on business, academics and politics. And in other years, kids this age were fighting real wars, not culture wars. Heck, some kids still are.


  9. “Hey, did you see that some eighteen-year old somewhere earnestly said something immature?” Why yes I did, and I also understand that this morning Starbucks served coffee to people

    The difference is that the kid thought he was a special snowflake, but the Starbucks cup didn’t have any.


  10. I meanwhile, find myself wondering about things from another direction. Namely, what exactly people think *should* be the response to college kids, or what they think the response is, or what? Just, what?

    College kids had a problem with a school administrator, asked him to resign. He did.

    Not only is it hard to figure out how this is really anyone’s business who isn’t in some manner connected to the college(1), but what is the assertion here? That he should stay on *anyway* and damn the students! Is that the best thing for either him *or* the student body, to have an administrator actively disliked by the students?

    I mean, yes, kids at college should not be treated 100% like normal customers. That’s how we get grade inflation and meaningless degrees. But surely they are customers at least *a little*, and if they say ‘We hate this guy because of [reasons unrelated to the academic stuff being ‘too hard’]’, that might actually be worth considering by the school?

    Not that it actually *was* considered here. From what we know, the guy just quit, and wasn’t forced out. He probably just didn’t want to *deal* with the problem anymore.

    The problem is not just that a bunch of people are ‘Get off my lawn, you kids!’ a lot more often thanks to the internet(Although that is true.), it’s that the context those people doing it in often doesn’t even make sense, because they’ve decided that the way to attack the left is to point to crazy college students, so there is no actual commentary on what *actually* happened. Everyone on the internet approaches it with absolutely no context, with random partial stories about the weirdest thing about it, ignoring the actual *issues* that have probably been boiling for years.

    A…guy quit his job because the customers disliked him and asked him to leave? Oh noes! Erm, wait.

    Students apparently, (and this seems somewhat *obvious* and colleges should really get with the program), do not want certain behaviors from their school administrators anymore.

    These wants are, in many ways, excessive and stupid (2), but *that doesn’t matter*, because, uh, students are the ones paying their salaries, so the administrators should probably do what the damn students want them to do! Or not do what they don’t want them to.

    1) I think I’ve made my position on ‘piling on people on the internet’ abundantly clearly, in that if you have never had any contact with a human before (And there’s really a higher threshold than that, but let’s start there.), you have *no business* contacting them to indicate you disapprove of their behavior, because categorical imperative…literally, we’re actually seeing the categorical imperative in action, as everyone *does* do that. Society cannot operate like that.

    2) For a huge example, dressing up is not ‘cultural appropriation’. It might be insensitive and stereotypical and even deliberately mocking, but cultural appropriation is not a blanket term for those behaviors. Cultural appropriation literally the *opposite* of ‘pretending to be another culture’…it’s when you take part of another culture and *pretend it isn’t* part of that culture, but part of a different one. Or when you lay claim to a cultural practice that you don’t have ‘any right to’. (And, yes, sometimes that gets a bit vague.)

    Dressing up in a plastic headdress and doing the tomhawk chop at a Braves game isn’t cultural appropriation. (It’s just a racist parody, so, uh, yay?) Putting on a real-looking headdress and claiming to be a ‘medicine man’ and dispensing herbal remedies is cultural appropriation.


    • The other interesting issue is that it is not exactly their lawn probably. Unless they are defining lawn as the United States. Some of the more horrible tweets about the Paris attacks somehow decided to mock university students. Judith Miller said this:


      Now maybe the whining adolescents at our universities can concentrate on something other than their need for “safe” spaces…

      — Judith Miller (@JMfreespeech) November 13, 2015


  11. As you know, I am currently finishing up the upper-level coursework I need to attend grad school. Taking the short-cut of certificate programs earlier in life proved to only delay completion til later days.
    And I love it. I love being around the younger generation. They really are wonderful people, full of genuine caring and concern. I can truly say– no exaggeration here– that they have given me a more optimistic view of the future. It would be really easy for me to name off at least twenty names right now, and cite specifics of behavior.
    They really are that good of people compared to previous generations, including my own.

    I have to wonder how much of this phenomenon you describe is just simple heuristics, people seeing only what they are accustomed to seeing.
    Because I’m seeing an entirely different world.


    • I don’t think they’re “acting out.”
      I think they’re speaking their minds, and making good on their words.
      +2 to the good, the way I call it.

      Not that I support the result, mind you.
      The fact is, I don’t.
      But it’s not my call, and I realize that.

      I do, however, support the process that encourages engagement and contribution.


  12. Son, I don’t know why you think snacking on popcorn during this fiasco is a sensible response, but in case you haven’t noticed, several key administrators have lost their jobs over this. That includes, thus far, at least one major university president and several high-ranking deans in some of the most liberal universities on the planet. What they did to deserve this can’t be described in a world of rational expectations.

    I would love to be able to shrug at this, but they actually have power. Are the adults fucked up? Sure. Are the kids normal, then? Absolutely fucking not.

    No society that wants to continue functioning should allow these naked displays of hatred for people with formal responsibility to continue. Suspend all financial aid for everyone involved in this crap for the next year. And yeah, your little poetry major at the beginning should have been trounced for her classroom rant, too. God help students actually have to rise to a challenge.


      • Ah, good. Comments without political bias.

        I own a business. I absolutely hate firing people. But even aside from the complete lack of concern for the careers of obviously well-respected and caring people being torched at the whim of children who have no sense of perspective, I’m not quite convinced it’s even a good idea applaud them for presuming so much about both the power and the obligations of their university staff. Can’t wait to see what they demand from their bosses in ten years.


      • Of course, he never said firing people is fun. He said he likes being able to fire people who provide bad service. Your characterization is inaccurate in two ways. First, he said that he likes being able to do so, not that he actually enjoys doing so. This should be fairly uncontroversial when you consider the alternative to having this option.

        Second, it’s clear in context that he was talking about terminating a customer-business relationship, rather than employee-employer relationship.


    • >>several key administrators have lost their jobs over this

      Has anyone in an educational role been fired? Because – as DavidTC points out above – if it’s administrators in management positions resigning because they don’t feel like they’re doing a good job of management or don’t want to do it anymore, then what exactly is the scandal?


      • Because – as DavidTC points out above – if it’s administrators in management positions resigning because they don’t feel like they’re doing a good job of management or don’t want to do it anymore, then what exactly is the scandal?

        Actually, I take that back. As pointed out below, the *faculty* at Mizzou was already trying to force that guy out.

        The faculty had a vote of no confidence held, and there were 24 no confidence votes and two abstentions, and no vote for the president. (They do not actually have the power to remove him.) And *that* is almost certainly what caused him to resign.

        In other words, anyone who thinks what happened at Mizzou is about the *students* is very confused.

        So, to recap we had a minor kurfluffle at Yale about nonsense that has resulted in nothing at all happening there, and we also have Mizzou having a *completely loathed* administration (For months, apparently) and one of them just quit.

        What was this supposed pattern again?


    • No society that wants to continue functioning should allow these naked displays of hatred for people with formal responsibility to continue.Suspend all financial aid for everyone involved in this crap for the next year.

      Let’s ignore the rest of your remark, and ask whether or not you just suggested *outlawing* ‘displays of hatred’? And, let’s be clear, by ‘displays’, you actually mean ‘speech’.

      You just leap into immediate straight-out undisguised fascism, didn’t you?

      And yeah, your little poetry major at the beginning should have been trounced for her classroom rant, too.

      Yup. Outright fascism. Someone merely gives a speech, not even asking anyone to be fired or anything, just *gives a speech* and then leaves, and you think they should be punished for it.


      • I believe a more charitable reading would be the established norm.

        In Virginia v. Black, the cross burning case, the issue was whether a presumption of racial hatred may properly attach to any cross burning. The Justices decided such statutes to that effect were an improper infringement on liberty. The example that they gave was, “What if they were making a movie?” If a cross is burned during a shot for a film, does the act of burning a cross imply racial hatred?
        Which also brings to mind the issue of depictions of a burning cross, such as a painting of a cross burning.
        Because that’s the way that child pornography statutes are being written these days. A depiction of a child in lieu of an actual child is sufficient. Similarly, in some jurisdictions, “suggestive” depictions are proscribed, not merely those sexual in nature.
        Which brings to mind the whole “TeleTubbies are gay!” hub-bub.
        If the TeleTubbies really are gay, then are the TeleTubbies child pornography?
        Because the statutes are actually being written to be that broad.

        Now, I oppose hate crime legislation to make hate crimes against gays unlawful.
        This is not an anti-gay position.
        It’s simply that I feel it is enough to say that it is a crime, and being a crime against a gay person does not make it any more or less of a crime.
        I certainly do not want to be ticketed for “Failure to Yield to a Gay.”
        “Failure to Yield” is bad enough.

        I think it’s best to give people an opportunity to explain their remarks before leaping to the worst possible interpretation.
        Goodness knows, I have been on the wrong end of that too many times, and I do not wish to be like that to others.

        If I really want to be a complete d!ck, I hope I have enough creativity left within me to find some way of doing it that would amuse me, rather than resorting to some tired tag line.


        • …most charitable reading?

          He just suggested suspending financial aid for students ‘involved in all this crap’.

          Let us note that ‘all this crap’, as far as I am away, has not even escalated to *disrupting any school*. What he is talking about is, literally, merely speech, and some of it appears to just be *petitions*, not even protests.

          In addition, he thinks this should apply to someone who merely gave a speech in class…and we’ll note that in the recounting of that (Which is all the knowledge any of us have beside Tod.) nowhere was she asked to *stop* or *leave*, and in fact the implication is that the professor just stood there amazed and didn’t say anything. The idea that this is the type of act that requires *government response* is, well, fascism.

          Let us also note that ‘financial aid’ is obviously provided by the *government*, so even if he’s somehow confused and thinks all these are private schools (Mizzou isn’t, Yale is.), he clearly think it’s the job of the *government* to punish those students. Not ‘Yale should kick them out’, which would be a poor response, but whatever…no, he wants *the government* to respond.

          There does not actually appear to be a more charitable reading than then one I said: He wishes the government to punish college students for using free speech and for petitioning the government for redress of grievances.


          • These days people lose their jobs over a Facebook post, or some crass comment on Twitter. Let’s not pretend as if speech were sacrosanct here.

            Governmental action is something I associate with the Left rather than fascism, though increasingly denial of private rights in the face of police powers has become a stalwart for the Right.

            I’ll share this with you, from a paper I recently wrote:

            “[H]is misbegotten agency of cutthroats, [the Federal Bureau of Narcotics,] who were, as of yet, unable to even dream of forcible rape of female motorists by law enforcement officials at “sobriety checkpoints,” as the sodomizing of immigrant men of color with various household objects for a small amount of marijuana (e.g., Abner Luima) is no anomaly, but rather the very moral basis on which the War on Drugs is grounded.

            “Anslinger’s agency employed men the very model of conduct for every little boy across America who says, “When I grow up, I want to be a police officer, so I can break into people’s homes, forcibly restrain them, and kill their house pets right in front of their children,” (e.g., Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence (sic) and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163 (1993)) while proclaiming nobility loudly as every Irishman son of a harlot— that the monstrous should become common-place was molded fast within his heart, as stated so aptly by Dr. Joel Fort, psychiatrist, in a 1970 roundtable interview: ‘You have led this nation to treat scientific questions the way such matters were handled in the Middle Ages.'” (citations omitted).

            The fact is that denial of educational opportunities has been a mainstay of drug sentencing, via denial of student loan eligibility, for quite some time. This is bad enough in itself, as it deprives people who really need it a fighting chance at bettering their lives; however, the overwhelming racial make-up of such persons (i.e., African-Americans) renders the whole miasma diabolical.

            From that same paper:

            “Yet so deeply embedded is moralizing addiction in our culture that blaming individual addicts for society’s failures is by far the norm, reminiscent of beliefs of demon-possession of epileptics in ancient times, deepening their addiction, foreseeably resulting in extraordinary psychological harm to the person, with only an aversion to acceptance of responsibility— not of the addict, but of society itself— to justify those sadistic tendencies, as an intoxicating elixir; for the more the addict can be blamed for their own addiction, the more acceptable it is that inherent structural problems in our society remain deeply buried and ignored, unaddressed. This punitive view of the dysfunctional system of incarceration of addicts for a legitimate medical condition, were it to be enacted against diabetics for their affliction, would result in righteous outcries of indignation should such consistency of mind be preserved, as would the force-feeding of candy canes for being observed in treatment of their condition. . . .

            “Were any of its elements to be proposed as policy by itself, it would be derided as asinine by even the most slack-jawed of inconsequential intellects, yet by means of propaganda of the police state, specifically, television network programming portraying criminal justice professionals as figures of iconic heroism, the general public is sedated by its own idiocy, its inability to initiate the most basic of human understanding.”

            It is quite common among the contemporary American people to demonstrate little or no concern for the humanity of persons, preferring by far overwhelming use of an overbearing police force.
            How else do you explain the numerous instances of persons exonerated by use of DNA evidence? The frequency of these “isolated incidents” is quite startling, and alarming.

            Then there is this, from one of my favorite writers:
            On Not Prosecuting Civil Disobedience

            All of which is to say, Caz here does not express a view much different from a great many of our countrymen.


    • . . . the most liberal universities on the planet.

      Excuse me, but I seem to remember recounting that Columbia, Mo. was where I first heard Michael Savage on the radio, and actually considered calling the police to report some wacko having taken over the public access channel.

      I see you’re having some issues in a few areas, and I would really like to help you out.
      I don’t say that to be demeaning, so please don’t take it that way. Frankly, there are quite a number of others with the same issues here, and I believe they might benefit as well were I to step through this with you, and even more frankly, it may well be this aspect of the matter which gives me pause in reflection to take the time needed to type this out.

      1). The reaction of administrators is not at issue.
      Plain and simple. That was an action on the part of administration. Whatever requests the students may have had, they were simply that– requests, and nothing more. The action part of the equation occurred at the admin level.

      2). I’m concerned a lot more for the guy making $10/hr losing his job than the guy making over $300k.

      3). I’m not shrugging over here.
      I’m not even paying enough attention to warrant a shrug.
      There are things I am actually concerned about, such as teen suicide.
      But this hub-bub over Mizzou? It only makes me wonder about what kind of crap people actually think may be newsworthy. A local story at best.

      4). Do you mean to tell me that the kids there actually have some manner of control over their environment?
      Hopefully, they will remember that experience, and not be afraid to stand up when they see injustices occurring right in front of them later on in life.

      5). No society that wants to continue functioning should allow these naked displays of hatred for people with formal responsibility to continue.
      I disagree.
      In fact, I disagree vehemently.
      At issue here is models of personnel management; the “plantation model” on the one hand, and “scientific management” on the other.
      Now, I have actually studied organizational behavior enough to realize what is going on here. Also, I realize how many people out there simply cannot be convinced of a thing for which there is overwhelming evidence in favor of something that simply “feels” intuitively “right” from their gut.
      That is why I kept out of the conversation with Mike D.’s post about Millenials in the workplace.
      From the POV of personnel management circa 1910, Mike is entirely correct, as are the many voicing similar opinions in that thread.
      This is one of the biggest reasons that American managers have such a horrible reputation on international projects– it is well-earned.
      To recap:
      The Millenial was expressing a state of high intrinsic motivation. Management was unable to make the connection between performance and output, resulting in low instrumentality.
      This Millenial is a victim of poor management. Vroom’s expectancy theory was first published in 1964, I believe, though it didn’t really catch on until around the early to mid-1980’s.
      Because management opted for an out-dated “plantation model” of personnel management, something which “feels” intuitively right (this is simply a powerful form of heuristics at work), the advice of “Be patient, and good things will come to you,” is complete and utter BS. Those “Good Things” will never ever come to her, not at that facility, not for that company, not under that management.

      So, before you raise an outcry against the young desiring a more healthy social environment, one lacking the horrendous self-defeating _________ (I don’t have a word strong enough to describe it) of the older generations, *THINK*.
      Pause long enough to stop and think about what you’re really saying.
      When you are able to gain a measure of presence of mind, engage– please do.
      But pardon me if I am unable to take your frustration too seriously until those preliminary steps are taken.
      The fact of the matter is, you have failed to meet the baseline for consideration as productive engagement by means of avoiding necessary reflection beyond the person.

      But I’m willing to sit with you until you get over that.


      • Columbia, Mo. was where I first heard Michael Savage on the radio, and actually considered calling the police to report some wacko having taken over the public access channel.

        That was a national broadcast, though; I’m afraid that we in the Bay Area have to admit having produced the execrable Dr. Weiner.


        • And not just his radio show—he has a PhD from Berkeley. I’ve listened to him a bit just to have something on in the car, before I discovered oldies stations. He’s pretty awful when he’s yelling about politics, but when he gets off politics and calms down a bit, he can be interesting. I’d listen to a Michael Savage on Valium show.


          • Savage is an incredibly interesting character. His PhD is in ethnomedicine; he hung out with the Beats – knew Leary and Ginsberg personally – and went to Fiji to do botanical research. It seems like there was some sort of falling out, possibly over homosexuality, as he drifted toward his current psycho-nationalism. You can see strands of both lives in his show, where he’ll obsess over gay bath-houses and the gay mafia (which he calls The Pink Hand) … and then offer to send someone a copy of his book “Herbs that Heal”. The left-to-right swing isn’t that uncommon (especially after big events like 9/11), but Savage is a particularly fascinating case.


  13. From what I recall, the typical student at my alma mater spent their free time on: (1) video games & TV; (2) seeing how high they could get their blood alcohol level; (3) experimenting with drugs or reading about other people experimenting with drugs that are now too hard to score; (4) pining for/angry at/hooking up with other students; (5) some combination of 1-4 that was *this* close to ending really really badly and it’s but for the grace of God that it didn’t.

    If “protesting stuff” has made any kind of dent on this top five, I would say the campus is moving in a generally positive direction.


  14. I saw a good quote that said the problem now is social media doesn’t allow kids to say dumb things and be gently guided by caring adults. They say dumb things into the world’s largest megaphone and battle lines aren’t drawn just on the quad, but across society. I’ll try to dig it up.

    College kids aren’t different but how their ideas spread and are handled is because of technology.


    • I’d guess there’s also a kind of lottery aspect to it. I imagine that of all the times someone says something stupid online (or it’s captured by a camera phone), only a few actually go viral enough to make life difficult for the one doing something stupid. Maybe it all happens much more now than before, but I still imagine it’s only a small fraction of what gets done.

      tl;dr: This trend is disturbing, but maybe kids can still be kids to a large extent anyway.


    • Yes.

      What is going with talking about colleges is basically another version of the whole ‘Let’s all attack a random tiny pizza place that hypothetically wouldn’t cater a gay wedding’ philosophy. Part of it is that we haven’t yet developed social norms for something that was literally impossible two decades ago, and the other part is our broken and hyper-partisan political system taking advantage of that. (1)

      Although what makes it interesting it this is also, to some extent, true *internally*. I.e., I’m suspecting (Although I have no evidence of it, it’s hard to imagine it *not* happening.) that a lot of these movements are being organized via Facebook in the first place. Two decades ago, students with grievances would just silently let them sit, or try to get them in the school paper, and maybe a tiny fraction of students would care.

      Now…half the student body are a member of the ‘Problems at School Name’ or ‘Free Speech School Name’ private group on Facebook, and *everyone* knows *everything*.

      So I’m not sure that the behavior of college students *hasn’t* changed, to some extent. Or at least not gotten ‘stronger’. The internet has *everyone* more organized and connected, and the problem with college student protests has *always* been their lack of organization, and the fact that previously they had to ‘connect’ on campus in full view of the school, which could notice what was going on. Organize them better, let them connect secretly, and, just like any ‘revolution’, it can get much farther.

      But this happening everywhere. My town has multiple Facebook group like that. People here just organized to save a historic building from being demolished. The internet lets any one with a set of interest meet other people with those interests, period, end of story. Those interests can be *anything*, including protesting.

      The reason the focus is on college students is, entirely, the hyper-partisan media of the right-wing variety desperately needs ‘crazy things the left is doing’ to scream about.

      1) I can imagine these things happening without a political context, but it would be nowhere near as huge. I mean, there are the things like ‘Person refuses to tip, leaves rude note for waiter’ pile-ons, but those are almost trivial to the political nonsense, because the political nonsense is promoted hugely by the political ‘media’, whereas the other stuff gets lost the daily flood of memes and whatnot.


      • Oh, and let it be clear that I’m condemning the hyper-partisan media of *both* sides. It’s the right-wing side that’s causing the behavior of college students to be screamed about.

        And focusing on them is pretty much the same as the left-wing side leaping down the throat of ‘random person who doesn’t like gay marriages and happens to own a business’.

        Neither of those things should be happening.


  15. Another issue is that Americans were never comfortable with youthful intellectualism or political activism. In the popular imagination, college was either an elite finishing school, a place to get practical knowledge and leisure time was to be devoted to wholesome fun like football, fraternity parties, and pranks. Young women were supposed to go to college to get their MRS. degree. Most American popular media concerning college from the 19th century to the mid-20th century really reinforces this. The opposite image of college was in Europe, where it was seen as a place where young people grappled with serious ideas and politics while experimenting with semi-Bohemian life styles. The UK has a sort of in-between interpretation of college in it’s popular culture.

    Basically, Americans have always tended idealize college as a sort of an extended high school. A big part of the conservative freakout against colleges during the 1950s and 1960s were that students were engaging in more intellectual experimentation and political activism. A big part about the current freak-out is the same.


      • Well, if we are going to be critical of students trying to set the curricula, why should we let their parents have any more say beyond “This is what we teach, don’t like it, don’t send your kid here”? They are generally not much more knowledgeable in what should or should not be taught than their kids are.


      • Wait, I’m confused.

        What does what the students are ‘learning’ have to do with any of this?

        Mizzou is about how certain students were treated on campus.

        Yale was, essentially, about administrative trivia. (Yale is, as far as I can tell, completely stupid and I don’t even understand it.)

        None of this is about the actual content of the classes.


        • Mizzou is about how certain students were treated on campus.

          Which is…how, exactly? I looked for a list of grievances, but the best I could find (and this was from sympathetic sources) was a list of incidents where, in total, a handful of individuals acted like jerks, only one of which has actually been identified, and he was disciplined.


          • Which is…how, exactly?

            Man, I’ve got no idea. I was just saying that none of this seemed to have anything to do with the actual ‘educational’ part of the school. No one is complaining about the *classes*.

            And, for the record, I don’t really agree with the Mizzou football players, and frankly the person they’ve targeted seems to have no power to solve what they’re complaining about, which appears to basically be ‘There are some racist people in Mississippi, and he’s not saying they’ve bad strongly enough.’.

            That is…weak sauce. Yes, I suspect the environment *is* fairly racist, but, uh, he can’t fix that.

            Frankly, I think we’d have been much better off as society if they’d gone on strike for *actual pay* instead of this silliness. That, at least, would have opened a dialogue we need to have.

            That said, as I said below due to a link posted at the end of all this, pretending this is about the students and racism is a bit bogus anyway.

            What it actually appears is that the administration at Mizzou was in conflict with the *facility* of Mizzou, who had actually asked the president and chancellor to resign *before* all this, and the day before the president actually resigned, the facility held a symbolic vote of no-confidence that *no one* voted against. 26 no-confidences, 2 abstains, 0 confidences.

            And it seems like the students just sorta glommed onto the problems with the administrator, or perhaps they were fed up with him for whatever reasons the facility were, and the whole ‘He’s not fighting racism enough’ is just dumbness tacked onto that.


      • There are thousands of colleges across the country, more than enough to create a “free market”. Let the market decide. If parents don’t like the content, the kids can go elsewhere.

        If, however, you’re referring to the various federal govt subsidies that higher ed gets, you’re treading on very perilous and even constitutionally suspect ice. I’m not a fan at all of the subsidies that flow to religious organizations. But I recognize that both higher ed and religion are very important to a big majority of voting Americans, and that it’s far better for the fed govt to provide subsidies without regard to the content of the speech being delivered in those institutions than my personal preferences be accommodated.


        • There are thousands of colleges across the country, more than enough to create a “free market”…. If parents don’t like the content, the kids can go elsewhere.

          If you’re a Missouri parent, though, there are very few places in the country that will give you the same deal on tuition that the UoM schools do. Within the state, for some majors, there may be only one or two choices, or one stand-out program from among a few.

          I admit that I’m old, and old-fashioned. What I remember about Novembers from my own undergraduate days was trying to find enough hours in the day to deal with mid-terms and impending final projects. There wasn’t enough time to go protest and still pass.


  16. Interesting context re: Mizzou that i hadn’t heard before. It seems clear it isnt’ just those pesky kids who had serious problems with the admin.A bunch of the deans of various colleges at Mizzou asked for the Chancellor to step down. They had already met with the prez before he stepped down.

    They had a variety of complaints about the admin: they said ”

    The faculty members said Loftin’s leadership has created a “climate of mistrust, miscommunication, chaos, despair, and anger.”

    “The demoralizing campus climate under his lack of leadership is no longer conducive to our fundamental duties of teaching, research and service,” the letter said. “We believe that the only way out of this impasse is to find a new Chancellor who … will find the resources needed to increase rather than dismantle the excellence of our institution.”

    It seems like this is the kind of specific info we need to accurately judge each situation instead of just nattering on about the kids these days.



  17. “what is it that has changed”?

    No, it’s not us, it’s the internet. When I was in college in the late 80s and something like the incidents at Yale and Mizzou occurred, it might have been written up in a local paper, but it wouldn’t’ have been splashed across the globe. Now, today’s generation is the most connected, most sharing of personal data, most tech savvy generation. And you’re worrying about is some kid enduring internet shame? Of any generation, they are the most AWARE of the ramifications of their actions on the interweb. Bed made. Time to lie down.


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