Originally posted on February 13, 2019.
Gilbert Sewall explains at The American Conservative that sensible academics know there is something wrong with the higher education system, but to suggest that unending capitulation to identity studies and multiculturalism is wrong is to risk “professional ruin.” He writes (abridged):
The liberal arts have faced many reversals in recent years. Amid campus protests, emptying classrooms have provided a reality check that even sympathetic provosts and deans can’t ignore. From the Ivy League to community colleges, an increasing number of students think vocational and pre-professional degrees yield better job prospects than humanities programs.
To contain fixed labor costs, colleges foist as much instruction as possible onto teaching assistants, cut-rate lecturers, and adjuncts on short-term contracts. This is not a feasible business plan. Many senior academics have reaped tenure’s benefits while simultaneously gutting it. A self-absorbed portion of the professoriate, counting on its shield, will likely retire before the system finally folds.
Across the nation faculty office doors display rainbow stickers, like Good Housekeeping seals of approval, demonstrating “allyship” with LGBT. Trigglypuff shouts down Christina Hoff Sommers at the University of Massachusetts. Shrieking Girl berates professor Nicholas Christakis at Yale University. Charles Murray gets roughed up as a racist at Middlebury College in pristine, virtuous Vermont.
Many sensible academics realize that matters are out of control. Establishing a new LGBT interdisciplinary studies program is not their idea of must-do curriculum reform. But saying so out loud in a faculty meeting risks professional ruin.
Learned scholars work to avoid incendiaries out of self-protection, since contests or ultimatums might trigger a departmental or campus meltdown resolved at their expense. With incredulity, or bemused detachment, they watch collegial inquiries narrow into incomprehensibility, intersectional trivia, and pure confection. The revisionism and multiculturalism of the late 20th century seem straightforward—even earnest—beside such hothouse propagations.
In 2014, Harvard College dean Rakesh Khurana declared himself upon inauguration to be an “ally” of Black Lives Matter-style activists, stating that “diversity of our student body” should be at the forefront of a “paradigm shift.” Assisted by the university’s president, eager to “advance a culture of belonging,” he helped to establish a Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging to recast and articulate the college’s future. Harvard Kennedy School Academic Dean Archon Fung, a co-chair of the commission, stated at the onset: “Without self-conscious efforts to create more inclusive environments, we reproduce behaviors and practices and a culture that is suited probably to people who’ve been here for a long time, but not suited to the different kinds of people who now are part of the community.”
Read more here.