"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Camille Paglia Protests

The Camille Paglia Protests Represent a Dangerous Trend

"When did college students get it into their head that they should be running the university? The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

A more noxious version of this trend, however, is now in full swing, with students demanding a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like. This is a dangerous development—a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education...

In Vermont, students at Middlebury College have threatened to disband their own student government if the school does not respond to a hodgepodge of demands ranging from greater student presence in the administration to the creation of a black-studies department... students also want a two-year plan to create an LGBTQ center, hire more counselors who are “femme, of color, and/or queer,” and “provide a more robust health service for transitioning people,” proposals that are likely to be especially expensive for a small institution in rural New England.

Meanwhile, a student group at Sarah Lawrence College that calls itself the Diaspora Coalition occupied some of the school’s offices—because of course they did—and demanded that the conservative professor Samuel Abrams, the author of an October New York Times op-ed criticizing diversity-related events at the school, have his tenure reviewed by a “panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color.”

This is inimical to the entire premise of tenure and academic freedom, but the students weren’t stopping there. They also demanded that “the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students, whilst apologizing for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed.” They demanded that Abrams issue “a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.”...

This is the kind of demand that sounds like it could have come out of China during the Cultural Revolution—if Maoists had been as obsessed with race and sexuality as they were with class.

This is not activism so much as it is preening would-be totalitarianism...

We have to recognize a shameless dereliction of duty among faculty and administrators. Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system. Faculty, both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.

Instead, in the name of respect and relevance, even tenured faculty sometimes quail before the anger of people barely out of high school...

The typical reaction to such events is to “hear” the students and to allow them to stomp on the very traditions of rational inquiry they’re supposed to be learning while in college.

To some extent, unbridled and performative student activism is a disease of affluence. Young people who are working their way through school or who are immersed in difficult subjects have less time, and often less economic flexibility, to engage in protest.

Indeed, students at Brown University noticed the time-consuming nature of changing the world, and in 2016 demanded less schoolwork so that they could devote more effort to their “social-justice responsibilities.” As one anonymous undergraduate told the Brown school newspaper, “There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes, and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on.”...

As I wrote in a book titled The Death of Expertise, much of this, at institutions both great and humble, proceeds from a shift in the late 20th century to a kind of therapeutic model of education, which prioritizes feelings and happiness over learning. Colleges take the temperature of their students constantly, asking if they feel fulfilled, if they like their courses, and if they have any complaints. Little wonder that the students have made the short and obvious jump to the conclusion that they should be in charge.

Indulgent parenting may play a crucial role here...

Students must be reminded that they petitioned the institution for entry, and not the other way around; they asked the university to allow them to enter into a contract in which the professors are obligated to educate them and they are obligated to fulfill the requirements that will allow those professors to recommend them to the university for graduation.

This last point is especially important. The contract is not just a bill for client services from the university’s dutiful employees. It is a promise by the students to accept instruction, rather than to give it."


‘Unbridled and Performative Student Activism Is a Disease of Affluence’: Camille Paglia Edition

"'I pay way too much tuition (around $34k after aid and that's not including room and board) to attend this university to just sit idly by and allow injustices such as this go unnoticed.'...

It's not hard to see that institutions that did give students broad powers to dictate faculty would see their reputations diminished, which in turn would mean fewer students applying for admission in the first place."


UArts Students Want Camille Paglia Gone

"The fight over Sexual Personae was especially vicious at Connecticut College, where a student suggested adding the book to the institution’s 1992 summer-reading list. Some professors were so outraged that they tried to block its inclusion.

“During meetings with the committee, professors denounced the work as ‘trash’ and compared it to Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” ...

Claire L. Gaudiani, the president of the college, countered, “It is a bizarre idea to think that by placing a book on a reading list that an academic community is endorsing any book as a community. For those who take offense at the various passages is understandable, but we cannot let that influence the book’s selection.”

Sexual Personae stayed on the list.

The student who originally proposed it commented at the time, “I got angry because I was seeing a great deal of intolerance that I would have sworn a few months ago did not exist at Connecticut College. I fear a little bit for the future of the reading program with people here who might try to stifle the diversity of ideas.”...

'Students interviewed on campus said they were more motivated to read the book because the controversy has provoked so much discussion. “When someone tells you not to read something, I suppose that makes you all the more curious to see what all the fuss is about”...

The president of the student government, Colleen Shanley, added: “Now that I’ve started reading the book, I can’t see why people have been opposed to it. But I feel that it’s when people don’t talk about something that it can become really dangerous. I may not agree with the book’s content, but we should not be removing books from reading lists because don’t agree with them.”'...

Now it is a group of students, rather than professors, who believe it is more dangerous to talk openly about her ideas than to ban them from campus.

Any student, regardless of ideology or personal identity, risks discomfort attending a Paglia lecture, given the pedagogical approach she has described:

'The idea that ‘self-esteem’ should be the purpose of education: this is social-welfare propaganda. Development of our intellect and of our abilities has to be the focus … You build identity. Maybe identity comes through conflict...

So we have got to stop this idea that we must make life “easy” for people in school … No. Maybe the world is harsh and cruel, and maybe the world of intellect is challenging and confrontational and uncomfortable'...

It is rare for student activists to argue that a tenured faculty member at their own institution should be denied a platform. Otherwise, the protest tactics on display at UArts fit with standard practice: Activists begin with social-media callouts; they urge authority figures to impose outcomes that they favor, without regard for overall student opinion; they try to marshal antidiscrimination law to limit freedom of expression. David Bernstein described this process in his 2004 book, You Can’t Say That...

'Around 30 to 40 minutes into Camille’s talk, the fire alarm went off (rumor has it due to it being pulled by a student in protest, though I have no way of confirming this), and Terra building was evacuated. Students who were in class or rehearsal joined those who had been protesting outside of Terra building, chanting: “We believe survivors, trans lives matter.” There were probably around two hundred students chanting this, but I can’t be sure. I only observed one or two students (cisgender “allies”) become even remotely aggressive in their behavior, and by this I mean shouting curse words.'...

'In one class the students were to finish projects that they had been working on for weeks, with focused assistance. The fire alarm took them out of class for over an hour while they stood outside to listen to a group screaming “trans lives matter!” at them. What did this produce? Projects weren’t finished, the class wasn’t finished, the students lost out. I don’t care if they were black, trans AND disabled—I was there to help them learn 100 percent. And I was blocked from doing that, that night.'...

I emailed scores of UArts faculty members to solicit comment. A few were willing to speak on the record. Many more on both sides of the controversy insisted that their comments be kept off the record or anonymous. They feared openly participating in a debate about a major event at their institution––even after their university president put out an uncompromising statement in support of free speech––though none expressed any view that couldn’t be broadcast on NPR.

“I’m a faculty member at UArts,” one wrote. “I received your email and thought it prudent to respond using my personal email address. I very much doubt that the IT dept is currently monitoring email activity. BUT they have the ability AND certainly can look up records without privacy concerns. So this is a bit safer. Especially since if I do speak with you it’d be paramount that I be OFF the record. The university has social media/email policies for their faculty.”...

[The students'] argument—a speaker is responsible for harms that are theoretical, indirect, and so diffuse as to encompass actions of strangers who put themselves on the same side of a controversy —is untenable. Suppressing speech because it might indirectly cause danger depending on how people other than the speaker may react is an authoritarian move. And this approach to speech, applied consistently, would of course impede the actions of the anti-Paglia protesters as well...

The student activists wield a double-edged sword. If Paglia’s comments qualify as “insulting, demeaning, and derogatory towards people on the basis of gender,” so does lots of speech that is very common on the academic left. For example, locutions such as mansplaining, man-spreading, white male rage, male privilege, toxic masculinity, male gaze, manterrupting, and bropropriating would all be subject to challenge under similarly broad readings of the very same passages in the faculty handbook...

Would progressive student activists at UArts favor the expansive interpretation of antidiscrimination language that they are urging if they understood that it would likely result in the suppression of many voices on the identitarian left? Perhaps they anticipate a different outcome: UArts could employ a double standard, allowing academics to freely criticize members of some identity groups but not others, because men are historically privileged while women, gay people, and people of other gender identities are historically marginalized.

But adopting different standards for different identity groups—which would of course never fly in a legal context—would ultimately hurt historically marginalized groups...

Left-identitarianism encourages historically marginalized groups to believe that they are less resilient and less capable than their white, male classmates. They suggest, falsely, that “harm” is the only possible result of listening to controversial (or even offensive) ideas."


It is telling that faculty are so terrified of their students that they are unwilling to go on record as defending free speech and academic freedom (and one won't even reply to the email using his work account).

So much for the campus free speech crisis being a paranoid right wing conspiracy theory.

The author doesn't seem to be aware of jurisdictions where there're legally sanctioned different standards for different identity groups - e.g. in Australia
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