Political Correctness

Is Political Correctness On Its Way Out On College Campuses?

Campus P.C. is beginning to devour its own ideological allies.


If you want to see campus political correctness run amuck, look no further than the this front page story in The New York Times describing programs by Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, to

College Class
Fostershastio via Foter.com

warn college freshmen against microaggressions. For those living under a mushroom for the last few years, microaggressions, along with trigger warnings, are part of a diversity movement to create "safe spaces" on campuses by eliminating any actions that could be remotely offensive or upsetting to minority (or even majority) groups. As the term suggests, these hurts are considered tantamount to physical assault.

But the good news is that Clark, a progressive liberal arts college, may be part of a waning trend. This absurd movement is showing signs of collapsing from the weight of its own internal contradictions.

A lot of the advice colleges like Clark are dishing out is either too obvious to be worth mentioning ("You are a credit to your race") or so hypersensitive as to be overwrought, likely to paralyze more than enlighten the uninitiated. Some administrators go so far as to caution against statements like "America is a land of opportunity" or "if you work hard you can succeed" because they "microinvalidate" (yes, an actual word!) the experience of marginalized minorities. Clark even wants to push back against nonverbal microaggressions (such as when white women clutch their purses in the presence of black or Latino men) and environmental ones (like when a science class displays only pictures of white male scientists, making female students feel inferior).

These overly idealistic, zealously evangelized "no offense" policies offer a window into the impatience of campus warriors to ferret out every last vestige of sexism, racism, and all other -isms lurking in the deep structures of the human mind. But this progressive push doesn't avoid culture clashes—it heightens them. The growing and ideologically eclectic list of campus speakers who have been disinvited in recent years because some student group found them offensive has become a flashpoint in the culture wars. This is not to say that subconscious bias and bigotry don't exist or should be left unaddressed. But it needs to be tackled by reaching a higher level of mutual understanding, not shutting down speech—and minds.

Some colleges are beginning to push back. The University of Chicago got the ball rolling this year when it sent its entering class an "academic freedom letter" noting that it should not expect "trigger warnings" in classes. If individual professors want to alert students to potentially provocative or upsetting course material, they are free to do so. But there is no university policy of creating intellectual "safe spaces" on campus.

Columbia, Brown, and Claremont McKenna have also publicly committed to protecting freedom of expression on their campuses. Columbia President Lee Bollinger, who, during his stint as president of the University of Michigan vigorously and successfully defended his school's affirmative action policies before the Supreme Court on diversity grounds, made college censorship the thrust of his remarks to incoming students. He pledged not to ban speech, calling on students instead to use the power of speech to effect change.

Or consider Brown President Christina Paxon's recent op-ed in the Washington Post pledging to keep her college a "safe space for freedom of expression." This is even more remarkable than Bollinger's statement given that her school has become so repressive that some students were forced to start an underground free speech group just to discuss controversial topics!

It is becoming hard to even teach rape law in law school, Harvard Law Professor Jeanne Suk writes. Discussing the due process rights of accused rapists could strike someone as hewing to oppressive patriarchal social structures. This pits progressive civil libertarians against progressive feminists. More generally, because one in five women on campus have allegedly been sexually assaulted, the very act of teaching rape law generates mass distress.

Indeed, a movement that gives so much normative weight to subjective triggers cannot be harnessed for constructive purposes because it has as many fissures points as it has members. Furthermore, everyone has an incentive to weaponize their personal angst, turning each against the other, which is why the movement has reached a point where it is devouring its own ideological kin and threatening to finish off the progressive project. That's one reason that liberal websites like Vox are running pieces by liberal professors about how their liberal students scare them now.

It is too early to tell whether the tide has finally begun to turn on it. However, what's clear is that a movement built around freedom from speech can't help but defeat itself.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

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  1. some students were forced to start an underground free speech group just to discuss controversial topics!

    And they were immediately questioned by the FBI, right? RIGHT?!

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  2. If you think political correctness is bad now, wait until the Hillary Clinton Administration. Things will get much, much worse.

    Campus speech codes, already commonplace partly due to pressure from the federal Office for Civil Rights, will become much more draconian as limits on Title IX and Title VI liability are eliminated due to a more left-leaning Supreme Court. (The Office for Civil Rights claims speech restrictions are required by Title IX and Title VI. Justice Scalia has died, and he provided the fifth vote for limiting liability in the Gebser case and barring federal regulation of sexual matters in the Morrison case).

    “Affirmative consent” legislation reclassifying most consensual sex and intimate touching as sexual assault may be imposed, either via bureaucratic fiat, or legislation (Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, and once and possibly future speaker, wants it):


    The Obama administration has already told universities like University of New Mexico and the University of Montana to classify all “unwelcome” sexual speech overheard by a listener as “sexual harassment”:


    Hilllary Clinton wants big budget increases for the speech police at OCR.

  3. Young, immature, pampered, and entitled students go to university with the empowerment of the government through OCR and Title IX to express their “demands” and use as a virtual cudgel against anyone they perceive as an authority.

    What could possibly go wrong with that?

    1. Well, if we could get them all on campus and then lock the gates…..

    2. I can’t think of anything.

      You know those students should dress alike to show their solidarity. Perhaps they can outfit themselves is shirts that are a nice shade of brown…

  4. progressive civil libertarians

    Are those the ones who want to jail warming deniers, or the ones who like to watch people bake cakes at gunpoint?

  5. Good post otherwise, though.

  6. Reason must abolish safe spaces for trolls!

    Jill Stein peeks out from beneath her mushroom.

  7. Discussing the due process rights of accused rapists could strike someone as hewing to oppressive patriarchal social structures.

    So “due process” = “oppressive patriarchal social structure”

    That’s guaranteed to end well.

    progressive civil libertarians

    Oxymoron. One can’t be “progressive” and a “civil libertarian” at the same time. It may be possible to be a liberal and a civil libertarian (see: Sen. Ron Wyden for example), but progressiveism is incompatible with any and all aspects of libertarianism.

    1. The thing is, far too many Progressives don’t realize this. Oh, some of them do and are straight down hypocrits. But many don’t. They have managed to grow to legal adulthood without actually encountering anything closely resembling critical thinking. They can repeat incatations, but for the most part simply don’t THINK at all. And, what is worse, most of them are college graduates, and sincerely believe that this means they are educated.

  8. More generally, because one in five women on campus have allegedly been sexually assaulted, the very act of teaching rape law generates mass distress.

    if you write an article that hails a few institutions calling shenanigans on campus stupidity, it is a good idea to not repeat campus stupidity that masquerades as article of faith.

    1. It does say “allegedly”.

    2. The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics from its National Crime Victimization Survey showed the rate of campus sexual assault to be much, much lower ? with only 0.6 percent of female college students reporting rape or sexual assault, compared to the 20 percent suggested by “1 in 5.” This 1 in 5 was debunked long ago although it is often repeated.

  9. “a letter to incoming freshmen to cool it with demands for trigger warnings and microaggressions”

    But where is the real evidence that a significant number of incoming freshmen or students generally demand trigger warnings, etc.?

    Isn’t most of this microaggression and other SJW bs an excuse for the bullying and scolding crowd already comfortably burrowed in academe?

  10. I personally dislike any “ism”; racism, communism, capitalism liberalism, conservatism and feminism. I am sorry but to view the entirety of existence through a small, narrow, prism of race, politics or gender is to limit your view of mankind.

    This political correctness is corroding our very freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and other freedoms.

    I am a 75 y/o white male and I find it inconceivable, that today, not one comedian in this country will attempt to appear on a college campus. This tells me that the students and faculty of today have simply lost their sense of humor.

    But, I do not think it is the fault of the students, rather the blame lies with the politicized faculties, which are more indoctrinators than catalysts for discovering ideas.

    It has taken this country 50 years or so to get to this sad state of affairs. It will take at least that long to unwrap all of the cultural baggage that many students today are picking up. I actually think “you” will be living with this intolerance for a very, very long time. As for me……..”check please”.

    1. Humor is fine as long as its at the expense of your demographic. Humor is fine as long as its making fun of anyone not in line with the political views of the far left.

      The thing is, this isn’t even a position that the majority of my demographic holds – its just that the really vocal ones are very loud (sometimes for class credit) while the rest of us are busy studying/starting our early careers.

  11. Columbia, Brown, and Claremont McKenna have also publicly committed to protecting freedom of expression on their campuses.

    I’ll believe it’s a serious trend when Oberlin follows suit.

  12. As an Italian, I find it offensive when someone asks me who makes the best pizza. As if all Italians like pizza.

  13. Considering I just got reprimanded for using the phrase “please don’t shoot the messenger”, which a faculty member informed me was inciting violence and it made her extremely comfortable, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  14. Let the feast commence!

  15. As someone that truly believes in the importance of freedom of speech, I’m very glad to hear that there’s some schools willing to push back against this fascist behavior by so-called liberals. Many of my favorite experiences during my college years involved doing verbal battle with people of different perspectives. My daughter attends a school where censorship has become the norm. I think I’ll share this article with the president.

  16. I do understand that we should be politically correct but still trying to watch your mouth every time you are talking to someone, is tiring..besides you can even say something and hurt this person unintentionally and then you are being called a racist..remember such an incident at my company ultius and I didn’t mean any harm but that person didn’t accept my apology for the thing I actually didn’t mean and is still upset with me..sucks

  17. ohh guys, just look around. we live in the world and country which is correctness almost to all topics. freedom in the air at my college and now I even have more personal time thanks to the writing service, you can learn more information about these guys here. recently I’ve ordered an essay devoting to the painful topic of harassment. I got lost in the paper, it was too interesting to read, besides got the best mark in the class.

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