Reflections on current outrages Jan 5, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 17 • By PETER AUGUSTINE LAWLER
Thanks to Rolling Stone and Lena Dunham, a big and sensational media issue today is rape on campus. Both the magazine and the author/actress appear to have published false accounts of rape that were written to fit a preconceived liberal or feminist agenda. Vulnerable women are raped by “a Republican” (Dunham) or gangs of fraternity boys who think it is their white, patriarchal privilege to treat women like chattel. The editors of Rolling Stone were so pleased with the latter narrative that they didn’t check the most obvious facts, although it would seem that anyone should be suspicious of a story that fits their prejudices so seamlessly.
In their malpractice, the sophisticated liberal/feminist media have ended up instead publicizing the counter-narrative of their foes: To wit, the politically correct mainstream media, campus affairs staffs, and Department of Education are waging a war against men. Based on sketchy or false data, the Department of Education and its allies in the media have caricatured our campuses as a kind of state of nature where there is no effective check on the lawless aggression of men. Extraordinary means that bypass ordinary standards of due process must therefore be deployed to cast predators off campus. The goal is rarely to lock them up—that could only be achieved by the police and courts—but to purge them from the academic community. Our campuses need a different kind of a policing that aims to make them utterly safe spaces, freeing students—especially women, gays, and other marginalized groups—from any perception of risk. Discomfort is to be banished from interpersonal experience, whether in the dorm room or the classroom, by regulating every interaction with detailed rules concerning what constitutes “affirmative consent,” supplemented by “trigger warnings.”
The real outrage, so the counternarrative goes, is not that women are subject to sexual assault and rape on campuses (which are far safer than society at large), but that men’s rights are far less protected there than they are beyond the walls of the institutions of higher education. The same goes for the rights of those who dissent from the reigning political correctness, including political and religious conservatives.
What may be surprising to those far removed from campus life is that one can find elements of truth in both narratives of outrage, the one grounded in political correctness and the other in individual rights. Ours is both a libertarian and securitarian time. Americans, especially the young, seem to want to be liberated from every vestige of religious moralism found in our public policy. But they also seem to be more obsessed with protection from danger than ever before. There’s an intensifying paranoid, puritanical, and prohibitionist impulse when it comes to health and safety risks, fueled by the experience of intensified personal contingency that comes with the atrophying of the various safety nets that institutional authority once provided.
You may object that libertarian securitarianism is more than a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s the point. We live in a time of conflicting impulses. Our characteristic self-indulgence is the thought that we can have a sustainable society that maxes out both liberty and security.
At first glance, our residential campuses are bubbles, artificial environments that insulate students from the life of the competitive marketplace. The more exact truth is that our campuses offer students the privileges of liberty without the corresponding responsibilities. They can do what they please, whenever they please, as long as they respect the minimalist principles of safety and consent. When it comes to sex, they’re not only allowed but encouraged to express themselves freely, as long as they do so in safe and consensual ways. Such a bubble culture flourishes because the natural, relational roles that structure life—being a husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter—and that force us to recognize the limits of individualism in defining who we are, aren’t features
of “liberated” campus life.
The campus instead can be close to a consumer-sensitive libertarian and securitarian paradise, where students are offered a comfortable, “no worries” environment in health-club dorms with gourmet food, recreational facilities, student-affairs staffs that function like concierges, and classes that are virtually impossible to flunk. Students are remarkably free to frolic with each other in the service of pure enjoyment. Sure, that’s an exaggeration and not true at all about some campuses. But like any good exaggeration, it points to an inconvenient truth—this one about privileges without responsibilities.
7:40 AM, Dec 24, 2014 • By IKE BRANNON
Last week the White House released a first draft for what it ultimately intends to be a report card for the nation’s colleges. And there’s no way this effort will improve the lot of the typical college student.
By 60 to 23 percent margin, fans said they would rather entrust the BCS than a committee. 6:04 PM, Dec 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Most college football fans are happy that the sport has adopted a 4-team playoff. The method of selecting those four teams, however, is another matter. This past offseason, McLaughlin & Associates asked self-described college football fans this question: “As you may know, college football will have a 4-team playoff starting next season.
We need rivalries.4:05 PM, Dec 3, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
A few hours before kickoff, my wife and daughter and I went to Gladys Knight’s place in Atlanta for the chicken and waffles (can’t recommend the “Midnight Special” enough) and the room was full. It seemed like every third table was occupied by people wearing crimson or orange. When they caught the attention of someone in similar colors they would utter their war cry. “Roll Tide,” of course, or “War Eagle.”
10:06 AM, Dec 3, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
For the past decade, the Bowl Championship Series unfailingly provided the matchup for college football’s national title game that reflected the public consensus. (In the six years prior to that, the BCS’s record was spottier, but after 2003-04, its formula was wisely streamlined, and its subsequent results were impeccable.) This year, that BCS selection process, which involved 167 polls voters and six compu
4:19 PM, Oct 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, after a debate with his opponent, said that:
10:55 AM, Oct 13, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Half of this college football regular season (7 of 14 weeks) is now in the books, and neither of the two standout teams to date has won a conference championship, let alone a national championship, in the past half-century. Each played in a bowl game in Tennessee last year (the Music City Bowl and Liberty Bowl, respectively), far away from the bright lights of Pasadena, New Orleans, or Dallas. What’s more, the two are separated from each other by only 100 miles geographically and by only .001 in this week’s Anderson & Hester Rankings. Despite their modest pedigrees and expectations, however, few college football fans would deny that #1 Mississippi (6-0, with wins over #7 Alabama and #17 Texas A&M) and #2 Mississippi State (6-0, with wins over #6 Auburn and #17 Texas A&M) have accomplished more so far this season than any other teams in the country.
The case for an early exit from high school to community college. Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By ELI LEHRER
In 2009, Bryce Harper—then a sophomore at Las Vegas High School and already the best high school baseball player in the nation—made the unusual and controversial decision to forgo his final two years of high school, on the grounds that there was simply no effective competition for him at that level. He passed the GED test and enrolled in the two-year College of Southern Nevada.
1:21 PM, Oct 3, 2014 • By JOHN LONDREGAN
The Council of the Princeton University Community voted on Monday to gut due process for students accused of sexual misconduct. The week before last it was the turn of the faculty to genuflect as the hearse bearing the remains of due process rolled past. This unsavory episode highlights two parlous issues. First, there is the problem of sexual misconduct on campus, which was always at unacceptable levels and appears to be getting worse. Second, there is the dangerous license federal agencies have to rewrite law.
11:33 AM, Sep 30, 2014 • By CLAUDIA ANDERSON
The Factual Feminist warns that a “little army of junior assistant deans and harassment apparatchiks are quietly repealing the free speech protections of the First Amendment.”
A worthless initiative in Florida.
4:08 PM, Aug 25, 2014 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Florida Polytechnic “University” (it isn’t accredited) is making headlines this week by opening a bookless library. Instead of checking out traditional codex books, students will be forced to read class material on tablets, e-readers, and/or laptops. According to the middle-aged librarians and bureaucrats who run the school, a bookless library will appeal to the youth.
3:18 PM, Jun 19, 2014 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
The University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus has decided it won’t be involved in the White Privilege Conference anymore. Since 2007 the campus’s Matrix Center for Social Equity and Inclusion, directed by UCCS sociology professor Abby Ferber, had lent the controversial conference some academic sheen, including the fact that UCCS students could get academic credits for attending the conference as part of a UCCS course. Although the annual conference is headed by its 1999 founder, Eddie Moore Jr., diversity counselor at the Brooklyn Friends School, the Matrix Center had been its official home and Ferber one of its key organizers.