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Political Playpen
January/February 2016

Chapels Pond, at Brandeis University (photo: Mike Lovett GNU 1.2)


Brandeis University, near Boston, has a booming business school, new science buildings that generate patents and medicines, and a small cadre of Humanities professors dedicated to ‘”social justice”, whatever that is.

For 12 days in late November, members of “Brandeis Students of Color” and “Concerned Students 2015” squatted in the corridor outside the president’s office, demanding that the university hire more black faculty and admit more black students. On a Facebook page detailing their “activism” was guff about the “intersectionality” of race, class and gender oppression, mixed with requests for vegan food, accusations of “white supremacy”, and encouraging comments from various faculty members. “This is a revolution,” one student opined, before falling silent, stupefied by his own vacuity.

True to Sixties precedent, the Humanities faculty suddenly noticed that they were jailers at a racial gulag, and issued messages of support. Helpfully, several departments offered to undo academic apartheid by expanding their budgets for faculty hiring. Interim president Lisa Lynch surrendered immediately.

I took my doctorate at Brandeis. I could feel my degree devaluing as I read Lynch’s email. To foster a “more diverse, inclusive, and academically excellent community”, Brandeis will hire a Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, to issue an annual “report card” on the university’s moral failings. More “faculty of colour” will be hired, more “students of colour” admitted; degree requirements may be lowered accordingly. Still, many of Brandeis’s non-academic staff are already cleaners and gardeners of colour, so full marks to Brandeis on that front.
“Brandeis University has RE-COMMITTED to their founding values and principles,” the students announced, displaying the grammar that your children too can acquire at an elite college costing $60,000 a year. Not that President Lynch, who aspires to make Brandeis a “more academically excellent” place, would spot the error.

“Please respect that emotional labour and the time needed to heal from administrative lies and violation,” Kiana Nwaobia posted on Facebook. “For now, allow us just to be here in this moment of after, even as it exists at the intersection of success and pain, and to experience our moment of after in the ways we see fit.”

Immaturity, narcissism, mob politicking, radical posturing, racial pandering, and bad grammar: the New Left’s march through the institutions. Or some of them: the science and business faculties did not issue letters of support. The Sixties radicals lost the economic argument in the world, but took their “safe space” in the Humanities as a consolation prize.

It’s the parents’ fault. The students are only doing what they’re told. Their teachers claim that education means talking truth to power, but they have been in power for decades. Their revolution is institutionalised, and they are now the enemy.

In this, our moment of after — after the revolutionary mobilisation of the Humanities, and the post-1970 collapse of enrolments — we can only hope for the bursting of the private education bubble. Bad teaching aside, the Humanities are becoming too expensive to study. Why should rich private universities use the Humanities as a political playpen? Power to the people!

 
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