Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why We Should End Affirmative Action :

The Closing of the American Minds


One morning in March 1980, a select group of readers in Boston woke to find an editorial in The Boston Globe about one of Jimmy Carter’s hectoring speeches. It bore the headline “More Mush from the Wimp.” That working title wasn’t meant to see publication, and only 160,000 copies of the paper escaped into the wild with that comic but illuminating and accurate rubric. 


I thought about that delicious story when casting my eyes over the long email that Yale’s president Peter Salovey broadcast in response to the protests that had gripped the campus in early November. Those protests, along with similar outbreaks at institutions from Amherst and Dartmouth to Princeton, Claremont McKenna, and the University of Missouri, captured the nation’s attention for their exhibition of juvenile showboating on the part of students and craven capitulation on the part of professors and administrators. 

As Allan Bloom put it, writing about the radical protests of the 1960s and ’70s in The Closing of the American Mind, “A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic free speech could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.”

At Yale, the ursine circus culminated (as of this writing) in a late-night march to Salovey’s house where “traumatized” students presented a long list of demands, including abolition of the title “Master” for the heads of Yale’s residential colleges, the erection of a monument in a prominent public space acknowledging that Yale had been built on land “stolen” from “indigenous peoples,” renaming Calhoun College because its namesake, the Congressman, Senator, Vice President, and Secretary of War, had also been a strong advocate of slavery, a mandatory “ethnic studies” requirement for all students, and more attention, money, and privileges for Yale’s “students of color.” (Princeton students, not to be outdone, promptly occupied the president’s office and demanded, in a sort of modern damnatio memoriae, that Woodrow Wilson’s name be erased from the university’s buildings and programs.)

Salovey’s response to outrageous demands presented in an outrageous manner (they were read aloud to him by histrionic students near midnight) was the wimpiest mush I’ve seen from a college administrator since James Perkins soiled himself by capitulating to gun-toting radicals at Cornell in 1969. “There is nothing I have said or will say say,” bleated the terrified Perkins, “ which will not be modified by changing circumstances.” Shove. Collapse. For his part, Peter Salovey announced that “I have heard the expressions of those who do not feel fully included at Yale” — and you can almost hear a sorrowful violin crying in the background — “many of whom have described experiences of isolation, and even of hostility, during their time here.”

What can one say? Yale is one of the richest and most privileged educational environments in the world. Any student—white, black, red, yellow, or ultramarine—should thank his lucky stars to be there. Salovey grandly spoke of reaffirming Yale’s “commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination have no place.” He also promised to spread around lavish dollops of Yale’s nearly $26 billion endowment to sooth the pain, doubling the budgets of various ethnic centers and initiatives and otherwise applying the salve of money to quiet the protests. (Not to be outdone, Brown is spreading around $100 million of its manure.) But Yale, a model left-liberal institution whose allegiance to politically correct sentimentality on all issues is cloyingly palpable, needs to worry not about the oh-so-delicate feelings of pampered students but liberal intolerance and the insidious freedom-blighting imperatives that ow from the pathetic culture of “trigger warnings,” “micro-aggression's,” and “safe spaces” (Beirut is an unsafe space, but Yale?).

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