Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mob Rule at Harvard

In today’s New York Times Ronald Sullivan responds to Harvard University. He opens by reminding us of why he was dismissed as faculty dean of Winthrop House:

In May, Harvard College announced that it would not renew the appointment of me and my wife, Stephanie Robinson, as faculty deans of Winthrop House, one of Harvard’s undergraduate residential houses, because I am one of the lawyers who represented the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in advance of his coming sexual assault trial. The administration’s decision followed reports by some students that they felt “unsafe” in an institution led by a lawyer who would take on Mr. Weinstein as a client.

Why did the administration do it? Because they thought that dismissing Sullivan and his wife would be therapeutic.

To which Sullivan responds:

I am willing to believe that some students felt unsafe. But feelings alone should not drive university policy. Administrators must help students distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not. In my case, Harvard missed an opportunity to help students do that.

In a culture where therapy rules, students must be protected and coddled. We must suppress any stimulus that might hurt their delicate feelings. We have not been told, because the current cultural climate makes it impossible, that children who are protected from the least triggering stimulus will become hypersensitive. Having no experience processing potentially traumatizing stimuli, they will be prey to almost any stimulus whatever.

Sullivan recommends that hurt feelings be submitted to rational examination:

I would hope that any student who felt unsafe as a result of my representation of Mr. Weinstein might, after a reasoned discussion of the relevant facts, question whether his or her feelings were warranted. But Harvard was not interested in having that discussion. Nor was Harvard interested in facilitating conversations about the appropriate role of its faculty in addressing sexual violence and the tension between protecting the rights of the criminally accused and treating survivors of sexual violence with respect.

Evidently, the administration simply capitulated. The mob is in charge. Academic officials, at Harvard and elsewhere have attained a level of cowardice that speaks ill of their own ability to process emotion:

Instead, the administration capitulated to protesters. Given that universities are supposed to be places of considered and civil discourse, where people are forced to wrestle with difficult, controversial and unfamiliar ideas, this is disappointing.

Sullivan continues:

But I am profoundly troubled by the reaction of university administrators who are in charge of student growth and development. The job of a teacher is to help students think through what constitutes a reasonable argument. It is a dereliction of duty for administrators to allow themselves to be bullied into unprincipled positions.

Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.

It’s not just that universities have redefined their purpose in terms of therapy, not education. More importantly, they are offering up bad therapy, therapy that will make students more, not less likely to suffer emotional distress.


UbuMaccabee said...

“Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.”

You just described the modern Democratic Party and the MSM. I’ll bet Mr. Sullivan & his lovely wife voted for that party their entire adult life—including the next one. Just another fool who thought the crocodile had a longer list of non-black people to eat first. Their suffering gladdens my heart.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I’d love to know what proportion of the administration group responsible for making the Sullivan decision identified as feminists or gay men.

Sullivan should’ve been a lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford. Then he’d be celebrated and probably receive an honorary Harvard degree.