Campus Crusade For Conformity

Bill Frezza Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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It’s a place of unchecked executive authority and mind numbing regulations run amok. No, I’m not talking about Washington, but your typical modern university campus. College costs more than ever and students and parents increasingly fret whether they’re getting their money’s worth. But there’s one area in which American colleges are excelling: banishing certain ideas from public debate.

A generation ago, college students marched demanding freedom of speech. Now many of those old campus radicals have become administrators and are demanding freedom from speech, including ”microaggression” reporting services designed to cleanse the English language of any locution that might offend. Didn’t George Orwell warn us about this?

How does stamping out unpopular ideas prepare someone for life after college? How are students supposed to go out into the world, unleash creative destruction upon obsolete businesses and industries, and take on the challenges of adulthood if they spend their early lives covered in protective gear? Innovation comes from challenging the status quo, not kowtowing to it.

Yet, for the growing ranks of deans, sub-deans, and administrators who monitor, investigate, and control every aspect of student life, that seems to matter little. Start with the basics. Are you an adult at 18, or are you not? If you stay out of college the answer is yes, you are a fully responsible citizen answerable to the law endowed with certain inalienable rights. But if you matriculate in an accredited university, you must submit to the suzerainty of deans more worried about not getting sued than about education. In Loco Parentis may be passé, but an opaque Byzantine power structure has risen in its place fed by the flow of billions in federal dollars and answerable to no one but federal laws like Title IX.

Each day’s news brings fresh accounts of deans gone wild, from kangaroo courts to speech code auto-da-fés to group punishments inflicted on a campus organization for a few members’ misbehavior.

Meanwhile, these same deans mindlessly apply the rubric of diversity and inclusion to turn a blind eye to what should provoke outrage. Want to take up a campus collection to send care packages to Hamas or open an ISIS training camp? Sure, no problem, we don’t discriminate.

The latest debacle occurred when a few rugby players at a private, off campus party were surreptitiously recorded singing a bawdy song. The song’s lyrics are truly nasty, but is it criminal? One would think the individual offenders might face some sanction to help instill in them better civil comportment. But no. The university’s president shut down the entire rugby team — indefinitely.

Growing up is not about hiding from offense, it’s about learning how to deal with a rough and tumble world that frankly doesn’t give a damn about how you feel.

With all the chatter about entrepreneurship on college campuses, the rate of new business creation in the United States is actually plummeting. Let’s not forget, Steve Jobs got his start blue-boxing the phone system. If donors, parents, and students don’t begin reversing the tide, voting with their dollars and their feet, the quality of liberal education on our college campuses is only going to get worse — and American innovation will decline along with it.

Reform begins with hacking back the deanocracy, injecting more choice, freedom, individual responsibility, and autonomy into student life. College presidents should be taken to task for the administrative bloat driving increased tuition, lest the idle hands of these minions generate even more rules that infantilize students. Individuals and groups railroaded by administrative injustice should litigate to create some well-deserved financial downside for campus potentates who cavalierly throw due process out the window.

Each generation the pendulum swings, from conformity to rebellion then back again. I’ll know we have hope when I hear that some college freshman faced down a howling mob demanding that he cease using forbidden speech by responding – TARSAJUMA.