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The Rot of Intolerance at Swarthmore

June 29th, 2014 - 5:36 am

It’s nice when they make things perfectly clear. You step on to a college campus and you are beset by people parading around telling you how much they love “diversity.” Then you find out that when anyone who holds an opinion not perfectly in line the the contemporary gospel of race-gender-environmental sensitivity, they are shouted off campus.  If they had been invited to speak at campus, they are disinvited, or if that wasn’t possible their appearance is subjected to sophomoric protests.  As I put it last month in The New Criterion, contemporary academia presents us with that oxymoronic phenomenon, Illiberal Liberalism. 

Many well-meaning folks, I’ve observed, tend to discount the seriousness of this development. No matter how egregious the episode, they are ready with an extenuating excuse. It was an exception. It was not as bad as you made it seem. It was quickly remedied by a caring/sharing administration.  Et very much cetera.

It will be difficult, I think, for such hear-no-evil types to argue away Peter Berkowitz’s Open Letter to Swarthmore’s Board of Managers.  Berkowitz, himself an alumnus of Swarthmore, wrote to urge the tony but financially troubled institution to choose carefully in its search for a new president.  Please, he asked, please pick someone who will uphold the traditional values of liberal education, values that centrally include tolerance for competing views of the world.  Contemplating what actually happens at pampered institutions like Swarthmore, however, it is difficult to be sanguine. Berkowitz cites one episode that, in its crisp fatuousness, epitomizes so much that is wrong with higher education today.

Princeton Professors Robert George and Cornel West differ sharply in their philosophies. George is a conservative Catholic, West is some variety of Leftist firebrand. Despite their differences, however, they are friends and often appear together to debate. This is how it should be on college campuses, of course, since colleges are institutions that were formed to encourage free inquiry.

But that formation took place long ago.  When the pair came to Swarthmore in February to debate “same-sex marriage,” they were greeted by angry protests. Listen to Erin Ching, Class of 16: “What really bothered me,” Ching was quoted in the Swarthmore student newspaper as saying, “is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”

Top Rated Comments   
A 50 year head start on indoctrination, the seizure of all the cultural means of communicating "news" and opinion formation, a wholesale slander against any viewpoint not in conformity...is a massive mountain to climb.

PARENTS sent their children into the arms of Bill Ayers, Cloward-Piven, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ward Churchill.

And, when we awakened to the totalitarian war against us, we kept calling it "a debate" of "ideas".

We now are in the phase where the totalitarians dismantle our liberty, freedom and defenses.

And we point at them and say "Look at the "liberals", aren't they silly and incompetent.


They are shooting, bombing, and steamrolling. And we are locating their enemy actions with our telescopes.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nothing's really new here, merely a shift in emphasis. In the late 1920s ACLU founder Roger Baldwin visited Stalin's brutal dictatorship and saw enough to know that the country had no civil liberties. And yet he wrote a book entitled Liberty under the Soviets.

His basic argument was almost identical to that we hear today. He claimed that progressive ideas were so superior to their critics, that crushing any and all dissent was justified.

In a sense we're fortunate that progressives are restricting themselves to banning certain people from campus, slandering others, and using the IRS to silence political opponents.

Yes, they've yet to set up Gulags in the wilds of Alaska. But then again, they don't have enough power to do that. They're merely not doing what they can't do.

Incidentally, how liberal Democrats behave today on college campus, silencing dissent, isn't all that different from how their fellow Democrats in the South behaved during the 1870s. And in both cases their foes tend to be religious and Republican

--Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily's Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan (set in Reconstruction North Carolina. The other author is Albion Tourgee, a eyewitness of those events.)
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
“What cannot go on forever, won’t,” words the Left -- who think electric lights and food and heat and medical treatment are matters of rights -- can't comprehend.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (70)
All Comments   (70)
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I have no brief for Swarthmore or President Chopp; but the school has an endowment of over $1.6 billion for a school of 1500 or so undergraduates . They may be making a hash of their job; but this is one of the richest and statistically most selective liberal arts colleges in the country . Their bubble is made possible by the prestige and generosity accumulated over its past history although it could be squandered in a generation.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
All leftists are communists.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Renaissance, forgive me if you think I've been too general in my denunciation of "enlightenment" thinking. I'm sure I don't have your nuanced appreciation of these things. I'm sorry though, any "thinking" that denies the absolute sovereignty of God and the spiritual/material integrity of the universe is humanistic foolishness and is thoroughly anti-biblical. This really is not arguable if you think truth matters.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Reedville: Are you perhaps a tenured professor at some diverse university?

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
A psychologist once described adolescents until about 22 to 25 years old as big toddlers who throw fits with a bigger vocabulary. That seems an apt description.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I spent a grueling semester at Oxford with some class mates from Swarthmore. Ye gods, what an experience. Stupidly superior and totally incapable of true analytical thinking; very little imagination. It became clear they had very little interest in new or different ideas.
When I became preferred by the professor, I was no longer spoken to
at tea or after dinner coffee. That is until I brought whipped cream for the coffee. They were unaware of this German/Austrian tradition.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
All you had to do to win their approval was contribute to the diversity of their coffee. Perfectly logical ...
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swathmore
But she changed her mind one day.
Standin' on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
"Take me to New York right away."

Creeque Alley

Well Cass Elliot was remarkable prescient.....
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd like to hear from someone who knows more about this issue than I do, but I've been wondering lately if there isn't some financial incentive at work here to move our colleges and universities even farther left. The reason I'm wondering this beyond what I see and read, is that my own alma mater, historically a conservative, Christian liberal arts college, recently sent out a survey to alumni who give generously to the school. Responses to the survey will supposedly drive their strategic planning for the next 10 years.

The first thing I noticed is that the main theme in the survey was "Diversity." It was clear from the questions that the administration has decided that the college is not "diverse" enough, and they were basically trying to figure out how much they can lower admissions standards, how much they can dumb down the curriculum, how many BS majors like "GLBT Studies," "Queer Theory," "Feminist Philosophy," and "African-American Studies" they can add before their alumni stop contributing to the school. There were even questions about whether we would be willing to help fund building projects like an African-American Student Union.

All of this nonsense was couched in terms of moving the school to "world class standards."

Currently the college has student demographics that reflect the overall population of the state. They don't draw a lot of out-of-state students except for those who share the religious affiliation of the school. Historically the college has been known for high academic standards and high admission requirements. They have always prided themselves on the fact that they have a 96% graduation rate for incoming freshman being able to graduate in four years. This is the best in the state. It is largely due to the fact that they do not admit students who are not likely to succeed.

But now it appears that in order to bow down to the gods of Diversity, the administration is planning to throw all that away. I can only think it must be to improve their US News and USA Today rankings. Or that there is Dept. of Education money that they can't get without a certain critical mass of black students. Does anyone know the answer to this?

When I sent my survey back, I included a long letter explaining that if they dumb down the curriculum, lower admission standards, add nonsense majors or build segregated housing or gathering places, they have seen their last dollar from me. I have not received any response.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nor are you likely to ever hear a response from the "new"(?) administration. Obviously someone did something right at your alma mater but clearly they are not calling the shots anymore. I don't know much about this particular school but I worked with 30-40 colleges for over twenty years as a provider of financial investment services to them and have paid dearly to educate four children in private liberal arts colleges and universities. So, on the basis of that experience I want to tell you that my comments were shown to be unnecessary when I read your penultimate paragraph. Yes, they are finding that the pressure of having the "diversity" score on the US News and World Report rankings is hurting their brand. And yes they are buckling to that reality. I am sure that you will never hear an honest response to your letter as the administration probably feels somewhat sympathetic to your concern, BUT finds the "left" has out thought the rest of us in placing the criteria that low information payers of college tuitions pay attention to. And thus the Commies win another one and destroy a once great system of higher education. But in my opinion you have diagnosed and answered your own question. Good luck.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suspect your formerly christian and conservative alma mater has been taken over by leftists. The best way to stop it would be if you and your fellow alumnists wrote back mass letters of protest, and say either they stop the leftie bs or your alimni donations will stop. That will put the financial incentives back in line with the former values of your alma mater.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you don't agree with Swarthmore's Weltanschauung, move to America where they have freedom of speech.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
What leftists mean by diversity is people of different races and religions all sharing the same leftist opinions and views. That's the only diversity they can tolerate.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not too many people would actually miss the brick & mortar ivory towers. You can get a degree from the University of Phoenix online, use your time FAR MORE WISELY, learn as much or more (without all the campus distractions), avoid being exposed to all the pompous @$$e$ in academia, & save money in the process...what's NOT TO LOVE?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've worked with people who got their degree at UoP.

I would not waste my money on it.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
And you think these leftie propaganda factories will do any better. A degree is just a credential now, it does not really matter where you get it, so get it from the cheapest source possible. The way to really learn is to just study what you need to learn on your own.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice theory.

The facts are otherwise.

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am pretty old and fairly experienced, and have those fancy college credentials etc....but I think richard40 might have it closer to correct than you think.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ask some hiring managers what they think of UoP paper.

Then ask them what they think of toilet paper.

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
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