Saturday, August 13, 2011

Illiberal Universities

Back in the old days college students went on dates.

Going on a date meant following a series of unwritten rules.

The rules were designed to allow the young men and women to show mutual respect for each other. A man was required to ask a woman out on a date, plan an evening, show up, pay for most of the entertainment, escort her home, and even open doors for her.

No one expected that a first date would lead to any lewd behavior. Respectable women, women who respected themselves and women who were treated with respect, did not end their first dates on their knees.

At some point in the not-so-recent past feminists decided that showing respect for women was an ultimate indignity. College women, who are most susceptible to such siren songs, rose up and rejected the dating culture.

After all, they were just like men, they liked sex as much as men did, they were as strong as men. They were feminists; how dare men treat them like women.

It took a few years, but the dating culture broke down. It is no longer considered acceptable to show respect for a woman by following the rules of dating, or even, courtship.

Feminism was not fighting the fight alone. The therapy culture chimed in to explain that true passion could never be bound by rules. If you wanted true love you needed an injection of spontaneity.

None of the rules of dating and courtship were written down. None were enforced by the police or by the threat of lawsuits.

Still, the culture that promulgated these rules did provide an orderly way for young people to develop relationships.

It may not have been perfect, but it was not, in retrospect, a bad thing.

People fell in love; people discovered carnal delights; people even got married.

Today, the dating culture is moribund on America’s college campuses. In its place, we have the hookup culture, where young people get drunk, dispense with the intermediaries, and get right to the point.

Apparently, they feel that it’s better to have intimate relations with people they do not know, have never conversed with, and are not likely to encounter on a regular basis.

When the culture is broken down, when people no longer follow rules, conditions become anarchic.

Yesterday, we were discussing the breakdown of British culture. When people no longer know how to stand in line and wait their turn, when they cease to follow the rules of good behavior, they risk falling into patterns of crude, vulgar, loutish, and violent criminal behavior.

Then, order will be restored-- because order will always be restored-- by stricter rules and more vigorous policing.

Apparently, a similar situation is currently happening on American college campuses.

As everyone knows, the hookup culture is almost an invitation to abuse women. No one knows how they should or should not behave. Expectations are confused. Signals are misread. Worse yet, many women consent to perform actions that might normally be considered abuse.

In the chaos and confusion, people are inevitably going to get hurt.

Surely, it‘s a problem. The hookup culture has made it open season on women. Women who decided that they did not need the ritualized gestures of respect prescribed by the dating culture now require something like police protection.

Robert Shibley explains some of the more recent college codes of sexual conduct.

He writes: “Princeton, for example, absurdly says that you can’t consent to sex if you are merely ‘under the influence‘ of alcohol. Not drunk — just ‘under the influence.’ This goes for both partners, rendering huge numbers of students the unwitting rapists of one another. Even married students, if they both drink a glass of wine before a romantic interlude, are guilty under Princeton’s rules of sexually assaulting one another. These kinds of rules are not only foolish; they are damaging the credibility of campus administrators working to stop actual sexual assault.”

Shibley correctly points out that these efforts to police personal conduct are easily subject to their own kind of abuse. They are so vague they are nearly unenforceable. Also, they turn just about all college students into potential criminals. Or, should I say, all male college students.

The great minds who run universities and who form our illiberal elite have broken down a culture based on shame and replaced it with one that tries to control people by criminalizing vast areas of human behavior.

It cannot be done. First, a guilt culture approach makes everyone a potential criminal. Second, the restrictions are so unreasonable that they will inspire disrespect, if not overt criminality. Third, codes of sexual conduct target men, and  define womanhood as victimhood.

Unfortunately, illiberal administrators are not simply interested in the way students conduct themselves. They also want to control what students are thinking. Especially, the way male students think.

In their belief system the thought is father to the deed, and thus, the best way to control behavior is to exercise mind control.

Shibley reports: “At Hamilton College, male freshmen were required to attend a seminar called ‘She Fears You,’ which was billed as a ‘cognitive and emotional intervention‘ that would address male-driven ‘rape culture‘ on campus and make clear what beliefs were ‘no longer acceptable‘.”

Since they also believe that the thought is father to the word, these same administrators have devised strict punishment for any language that they, or anyone else, deems offensive.

In Shibley’s words: “Speech codes are one example of this. Columbia, for example, deems ‘offensive conduct or comments‘ to be sexual harassment. Is it possible for anyone to live in one place for four years without making a comment that someone could find offensive? Northern Illinois University bans ‘Intentional and wrongful use of words, gestures and actions to annoy, alarm, abuse, embarrass, coerce, intimidate or threaten another person.’ NIU’s students, if this absurd and unconstitutional code were widely known across campus, would most likely respond with their own annoying or alarming gestures‘.”

I trust that you noticed that the universities who are promulgating these repressive rules are among America’s finest.

Apparently, it is not enough for them to educate students. They feel that it is their sacred duty to turn them all into potential criminals, to lard on the guilt, and to prosecute those who have offended their ideology.

We are not talking about a bureaucracy that is trying to “nudge“ people in a positive direction. We are talking about a group of people with a totalitarian mindset that wants to impose its ideology on college students by force.


David Foster said...

What sort of person chooses to become a university administrator, especially in the current environment?

Even before the rise of malignant political correctness, I would doubt that *either* the most talented academics *or* the most talented executives would have chosen this career path...obviously, there were/are some exceptions. And with today's climate, it seems unlikely that any individual with spirit, initiative, independence, and self-respect would want to have anything to do with administration at a typical university.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

To raise the ante, what sort of person wants to go into university teaching these days. Or even high school teaching.

Teachers have enormous power over children. Their grades can make or break a child's future. How easy is it to teach children the dogmas of political correctness and force them to believe it lest they get downgraded.

David Foster said...

Also, the hookup culture apparently has a great deal to do with alcohol. I saw statistics somewhere, maybe on Susan's blog, to the effect that a very high % of college students--of BOTH sexes--are drunk or pretty close to drunk when having sexual encounters. (What's the point of doing it if you can't even remember it in the morning?)

The question that interests me is why such a high % of college students want to be inebriated most of their out-of-class time. I think it goes beyond youthful high spirits. Someone observed that "happiness is that moment we would prefer to non-existence," yet excessive drinking offers a pretty good simulation of the latter.

My hypothesis is that a lot of students have been told that they MUST go to college, but don't really know why they're there or what they need to accomplish. Kind of like members of a badly-officered draftee army, in peacetime.

Dennis said...

It is interesting that in Alan Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" he diagnoses almost exactly what has transpired in academe. "Bloom goes on to charge liberalism with vulgarizing the noble ideas of freedom and equality, and he offers brilliantly acerbic description of the sexual revolution and the feminist movement, which he sees as products of this process of vulgarization." Norman Podhoretz.
The open mind has morphed into the closed mind that we see exhibited in academe. Interesting that feminism has become so vulgar and debasing to women as a whole.
Dinesh D'Souza does an excellent job of writing about illiberal universities in his book, "Illiberal Education." Why, I wonder, do most of these people always seem to be running towards being what they say they are running away from?

JP said...

Dennis says:

"My hypothesis is that a lot of students have been told that they MUST go to college, but don't really know why they're there or what they need to accomplish. Kind of like members of a badly-officered draftee army, in peacetime."

I had no idea why I had to be in college or what I was supposed to accomplish there - and that was back in the 1990s.

Worst five years of my life.

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