Scott Greer, No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination, WND Books, 2017, $9.99 Kindle. Foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos. Paperback version coming in March.
“Political correctness” has plagued college campuses for longer than today’s students have been alive. The first administrative measures to prohibit “racially offensive” speech date from the late 1980s; another early milestone was Jesse Jackson’s 1988 visit to Stanford University to lead a chant of “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go.”
But on campuses, the deeper origins of the problem, as author Scott Greer recognizes, lie in the policy of affirmative action, a euphemism for awarding unearned preferences to low-achieving racial groups. The original rationale for the policy was that American blacks did not perform academically at white levels because of historical oppression (rather than genetic limitations), and deserved a temporary boost until the effects of oppression faded.
In the 1978 Bakke Supreme Court decision, Justice Lewis Powell ruled that strict numerical quotas were unconstitutional, but he endorsed the consideration of race as a means to obtain a “diverse student body.” The effects of this decision were 1) universities began referring to their quotas as “goals,” leaving them otherwise unchanged, and 2) university presidents began going into raptures over “diversity,” suddenly discovering it to be the most important aspect of an education. By 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was ruling explicitly that remedying past discrimination was no longer the purpose of racial preferences; achieving diversity was.
It is hard to pin down exactly why diversity is supposed to be so wonderful. Mr. Greer quotes generously from its many defenses, but they consist mainly of emotional assertion unsupported by reasoning or evidence. A few empirical studies have tried to establish the benefits of racial diversity, but have found very few. Some studies, in fact, have found that it brings conflict and dissatisfaction but, as Mr. Greer notes, “hardly any of the young Americans filing into college every year have heard of the findings that undermine the cult of diversity.”
The rationales cited in support of anti-white racial preferences may shift, but the policy itself remains fixed and unchanging. It is hard not to get the impression that all the supporting arguments are post facto rationalizations of a policy embraced from unstated motives: whether a determination to maintain the pretense of racial equality at all costs, or outright hostility toward whites.
The effects of racial preferences on whites are obvious: They are kept out of schools for which they are well equipped. Mr. Greer suggests that low-income whites suffer the most since they do not have the connections to compensate for discrimination.
The effects of racial preferences on their “beneficiaries” are that non-whites students find themselves out of their depth academically, become alienated, depressed, resentful, and either drop out of school or turn to political agitation. What they never do is blame their predicament on racial preferences themselves; activists’ always demand yet more preferences. Affirmative action therefore feeds on its own failure. As Mr. Greer notes, when the late Justice Antonin Scalia suggested in 2015 that black students might have a better college experience if they attended schools better suited to their SAT scores, he was hit with an avalanche of “racism” accusations.
Political correctness is an ideology that grew up around preferential policies in order to protect and rationalize them. Of obviously Marxist inspiration, it substitutes white male heterosexual students for Marx’s bourgeoisie as the “oppressor” class, and non-whites, women and homosexual students for Marx’s proletariat or “oppressed” class. The ideology of political correctness constantly tries to stoke resentment among the “oppressed” and foster guilt among the “oppressors.”
Mr. Greer correctly notes that today’s campus ideology is an example of what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called a “slave morality”—a moral system motivated by resentment of the strong and successful. Allegedly oppressed campus groups appeal, in Mr. Greer’s words, “to their status as powerless victims in order to gain prestige and advantages over their opponents.” Non-white students who have gained admission because of their race find it only natural to leverage their racial identity to gain more benefits in college.
The victimhood ideology means blaming others for one’s failures. As Nietzsche puts it, the slave has “a need to direct his view outward instead of back to himself.” It would be hard to find a better description of the non-white activist who tries to blame his difficulties with algebra on “institutionalized white supremacy.”
Many universities pander to such resentments by trying to persuade white students that their academic success is due to “unearned privilege.” The University of Wisconsin at Madison created a “Privilege of Whiteness” workshop in 2016; Oregon State, the University of Vermont and Northwestern University all hold social justice retreats aimed at making white students feel bad about themselves. The State University of New York at Binghamton trains resident assistants on how to counter anti-leftist arguments made by “uneducated” people; the program is known as #StopWhitePeople2K16.
Campus ideology does recognize a category of “white allies” in the struggle against America’s otherwise all-pervasive white supremacy. This is meant to offer whites a path to redemption by working against the interests of their own race, while non-whites gain status by working for their race. But it isn’t easy being a “white ally;” non-whites claim that even the sincerest of them are constantly guilty of unconscious “microaggressions” that entrench and perpetuate white privilege. That sort of treatment is likely to send many of today’s “white allies” to AmRen.com.
For the non-white (and female, and homosexual) victim class, universities now offer “safe spaces” and trigger warnings to help them avoid anything that might upset or challenge them. One example:
At Brown University, a 2014 debate on rape culture prompted the creation of an immensely well-stocked safe space for those who could not handle the subject matter of the event. The space offered traumatized students ‘cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies.’
Such infantilization has received a lot of criticism; today’s students have been called “snowflakes” who cannot cope with the trivial stresses previous generations assumed to be a normal part of life. The criticism may be justified in the case of some students, but it would be wrong to think that all of them–or even many of them–need “safe spaces.” No one has yet called for the abolition of college football to spare young men the trauma of being tackled.
Once again, Nietzsche offers a clue as to what is going on: “The values of the weak prevail because the strong have taken them over as devices of leadership.” Campus activists demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings may not be oversensitive snowflakes so much as cynical manipulators. As Mr. Greer notes, “The claim of medical trauma forces administrators to respond. All universities are required by federal law to ensure certain protected classes are not subjected to a hostile environment.” So when radicals claim something they want suppressed might be a source of trauma, “a college dean is put into an unenviable bind.” The typical college administrator’s highest interest is to avoid trouble—especially legal trouble. Most are happy to make fools of themselves and expose their institutions to ridicule if that will help avoid a lawsuit.
Everything depends on who is making the complaint, however; there are no laws prohibiting a hostile environment toward whites. “A black female complaining about Hamlet’s troubling lack of non-white characters would be a serious issue. A white male crying out about reading Hamlet due to its distressing interfamily violence would not be taken seriously.” Administrators—who are basically bureaucrats—are probably driven even more by a fear of litigation than by fashionable assumptions that non-whites are oppressed and whites are oppressors.
The attractions of victimhood go beyond excusing failure. Mr. Greer points out that racial and sexual identities also “provide students with culture, history and meaning.” They satisfy a young person’s natural desire to be part of something greater than himself. In contrast, the creedal nationalism promoted by whatever passes for the “right” offers only a set of platitudes and a vision of America in which the only thing its citizens have in common is “the desire to make money free from government restriction.” Mr. Greer does not mention that white racial identity would be a much more effective basis for the fight against campus ideology.
Women are officially treated as an “oppressed minority,” despite accounting for 57 percent of today’s college students. Campus feminism has little to do with gaining equal treatment for women, who already enjoy many of the same privileges as non-whites. Instead, its principle aim is to portray male students as rapists. The current rallying cry is that one in five female students will become a victim of sexual assault while in college. This is wildly inaccurate: a 2014 Department of Justice study arrived at a figure of just 0.61 percent. The feminists get their one-in-five figure by stretching the meaning of assault to the breaking point, but this bogus number—which most people assume means actual rape—continues to spread. It is telling that the campus Left never objects to the casual sex and binge drinking that commonly lead to accusations; its goal does not seem to be protecting women, but persecuting men.
In an effort to secure more convictions, the Obama Department of Education issued guidelines requiring that sexual harassment and sexual violence cases be decided according to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. In other words, a man accused of rape can be punished even if he is only slightly more likely to be guilty than innocent. Mr. Greer relates a number of cases in which men have been disciplined on the basis of flimsy evidence.
The same Department of Justice guidelines require that if men are permitted to appeal their convictions, accusers must also be allowed to appeal acquittals. In other words: double jeopardy for the men.
The men under greatest suspicion of being rapists are, implausibly, white fraternity members. Fraternities are deeply disliked by campus leftists, who suspect them of being bastions of “privilege.” Certainly, for many students they are an escape from campus politics and guilt-mongering. Officially, fraternities are not allowed to practice racial discrimination; in reality, many “historically black” fraternities continue for years without accepting any white members, while mostly white fraternities are periodically called upon to prove they are not “discriminating.” Some hostile commentators have urged the federal government to carry out a thorough investigation of American fraternities and revoke the tax-exempt status of any found to be “racist.”
Mr. Greer’s final chapter is devoted to considering how campus victim ideology might be combated. The legislative measure that could have the greatest effect would be the elimination of racial preferences. Non-white students would go to institutions where they had a realistic chance of succeeding, protecting them from the continual humiliation of being bested by whites. This would make it harder to demonize whites as oppressors.
Firmness by administrators would also thwart radical activists. When trouble erupted on the campus of Ohio State University in the spring of 2016, authorities announced they would arrest and expel any student who tried to occupy a university building. Students called off their protest. Why didn’t anybody think of this in 1968?
Almost all colleges are dependent on federal and state funding. Yet rarely have legislators used their power of the purse to check campus insanity. Some have even fallen for rape hysteria, demanding investigations into the non-existent epidemic. A welcome exception has been the state of Tennessee:
In the spring of 2013, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville was planning to host a “Sex Week”—which would feature a lesbian bondage expert—in part with money from taxpayers. When Republican lawmakers heard of the event, the pressure they exerted was enough to convince the school to defund some of the programs.
When UT issued a “gender-neutral pronoun” guideline to students at the start of the fall 2015 semester, thirty-two state lawmakers sent a letter demanding to know why the university issued the guideline, and planned committee hearings on how UT allocates its resources. Those hearings resulted in a brutal grilling of school officials as to why they feel the need to spend $5.5 million a year on diversity initiatives.
But citizens need not wait until their legislators act for them; they may simply choose to boycott schools that threaten freedom of speech or pander to radical agitators. When the University of Missouri became a public laughing stock due to the behavior of student activists, there was a 25 percent drop in freshman enrollment. Donors have also cut back. Mizzou has had to close several dormitories and institute a hiring freeze to cope with the loss of revenue. It remains to be seen whether the school eases up on ideological enforcement.
Mr. Greer is especially to be commended for reminding readers that young people do not have to attend college at all. Three generations of Americans have been conditioned to see college as a necessary ticket to the middle class, but word is spreading that it has done nothing for millions of Americans but bury them in debt. Distance learning programs are an inexpensive alternative for anyone who needs a credential.
Finally, college students are beginning to rebel directly against campus ideology. When a handful of “Trump 2016” chalk markings at Emory University were denounced as a “hate crime” by the Black Student Union and sympathetic administrators, students nationwide responded with “The Chalkening,” producing thousands of pro-Trump chalk markings on college campuses in a coordinated effort to fight leftist bullying. The sold-out crowds flocking to campus speeches by anti-leftist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos represent a similar backlash.
It will probably take a multifaceted effort to break the power of political correctness over our educational institutions, but the consequences of failing to do so would be catastrophic. Millions of young Americans are internalizing the ideology to which they are exposed in college: 40 percent of millennials support a government prohibition on viewpoints that may offend minorities. And as Mr. Greer notes: “The kids marching today to shut down a speaker they don’t like could very well be the senators, judges, and newspaper editors of tomorrow.”