The University Gone Feral: On Campus, Social Norms No Longer Apply

Victor Davis Hanson has so many great lines in this post — I’ve bolded three of my favorites:

The university, long exempted from social norms and rules, has gone wild in the 21st century — or rather, regressed to pre-puberty.

The University of Missouri campus police now request that students — a group not known for polite vocabulary — call law enforcement if someone disparages them with hurtful names.

On the same campus, a media professor shouts for students in the vicinity to strong-arm a student photographer to stop him from taking pictures in a way that she does not approve. Other staff members try to block and push away a journalist they find bothersome. Since when do thuggish faculty, in Michael Corleone fashion, call in muscle to intimidate students who are exercising their First Amendment rights?

Since when do quite privileged Yale students — in mini–Cultural Revolution style — surround and, teary-eyed, shout obscenities at their professor? Their target was declared to be guilty of some infraction against the people by an ad hoc court of whiny elites, poorly acting the role of the Committee of Public Safety. Apparently his offense was to suggest that students should not become hysterical when they see Halloween costumes they don’t like. Shouting down guest speakers, disrupting events, and mobbing individuals would not be tolerated at Disney World, so why on campus?

The strangest campus derangement is the graft of Victorian prurience onto postmodern crudity. Students who are quite sexually active, and routinely use drugs and alcohol, nonetheless revert to virginal preteens who must be shielded from rough language or mere rudeness. They demand Victorian rules of sexual etiquette, but not commensurate 19th-century notions of abstinence, housing segregated by gender, dress codes that discourage randiness, or prohibitions against drug and alcohol use. Pick-and-choose campus feminists do not wish doors opened for them, but insist that sex codes delineate the stages of arousal, from foreplay to postcoital pleasantries. How strange that “adult” students want to dress up in little kids’ costumes on Halloween, and then act like children terrified of scary things in the night.

Drug companies are sometimes rightly blasted as price-gougers. But rarely so colleges. Yet in lock-step fashion they consistently have raised their tuition charges at rates well above the annual rate of inflation. Strict rules govern how non-profit foundations spend their money; these rules usually include a set percentage of annual expenditure of total assets, which must be accompanied by reasonable overhead costs. Yet there are no commensurate rules for tax-free university endowments and budgets, which might explain why the numbers of non-teaching staff have soared, while administrative compensation has well outpaced faculty salaries.

Crony capitalism is a favorite charge against duplicitous corporations that use insider knowledge and friendships to leverage favors from government, both to profit inordinately and to stifle competition. But even the croniest of capitalists could not match the university Ponzi scheme of having the government guarantee student loans, which in turn guarantee that rising tuition will be paid in full without audit, even as the cost soars above the rate of inflation — all on the wink-and-nod expectation that millions of students will subsequently default and the government will cover the huge tab. How could a university admissions officer in good conscience extend a “package” of $100,000 to $200,000 in student loans over a four- or five-year stint on campus, with the full knowledge that it would be almost impossible for an unemployed or partly employed graduate to pay back what he had borrowed?

Unfortunately 21st-century American college graduates are the least educated in a century. Declining test scores illustrate this. Grade inflation and a therapeutic curriculum reflect it. The furor over implementation of BA exit exams suggests it. And employers lament it.

Universities went feral and broke their social contract. If campuses can no longer educate students, then why should they be exempt from the norms that the rest of the population must follow?

Campuses claim they are left-wing, but in fact they are no-wing: just fascist, authoritarian, infantile — and incompetent.

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