Primacy of Others' Imaginations

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Heather MacDonald writes in City Journal about the latest academic fad, "microaggression":

In November 2013, two dozen graduate students at the University of California at Los Angeles marched into an education class and announced a protest against its "hostile and unsafe climate for Scholars of Color." The students had been victimized, they claimed, by racial "microaggression"--the hottest concept on campuses today, used to call out racism otherwise invisible to the naked eye. UCLA's response to the sit-in was a travesty of justice. The education school sacrificed the reputation of a beloved and respected professor in order to placate a group of ignorant students making a specious charge of racism.

The pattern would repeat itself twice more at UCLA that fall: students would allege that they were victimized by racism, and the administration, rather than correcting the students' misapprehension, penitently acceded to it. Colleges across the country behave no differently. As student claims of racial and gender mistreatment grow ever more unmoored from reality, campus grown-ups have abdicated their responsibility to cultivate an adult sense of perspective and common sense in their students. Instead, they are creating what tort law calls "eggshell plaintiffs"--preternaturally fragile individuals injured by the slightest collisions with life. The consequences will affect us for years to come.
Think of this as "polarization" on steroids. For example, MacDonald reports of a kindly professor, who often hugged his students, finding himself charged with battery basically for being his usual diplomatic self:
After the meeting, [Professor Emeritus Val] Rust approached the student who had berated him for not seeking forgiveness and tried to engage him in conversation. Ever naive, Rust again reached out to touch his interlocutor. The student, a large and robust young man, erupted in anger and eventually filed a criminal charge of battery against the 79-year-old professor. Rust's employers presented him with a choice: if he agreed to stay off the education-school premises for the remainder of the academic year, they would not pursue disciplinary charges against him. The administration then sent around a letter to students, alerting them that the school would be less dangerous--for a while, at least--with Rust out of the picture.
This reminds me of Ayn Rand's writings about the student "protests" of the 1960's -- except that now, instead of even pretending to take a stand, only to capitulate, it seems as if universities are now bending over backwards not to take any kind of stand at all. If you don't believe me, perhaps other examples in the article will sway you, such as students taking grammatical corrections to their dissertations as racist attacks -- and being taken seriously.

-- CAV

P.S. A commenter recently left a link that may be of interest, which gives us a sample of what kind of students our universities are turning out. If anything, its story is even more incredible.

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