Social Justice Warriors Come to Campus
Since the late 1960s, radical students have periodically taken over the university president’s offices to propose a laundry list of “non-negotiable” demands. Early takeovers tended to be about their school’s cooperation with the military during war in Vietnam; today, however, “social justice” is the aim so let’s call these office occupiers Social Justice Warriors or SJW’s.
Back in February 2014 a group of 30 Dartmouth students commandeered the president’s office to announce a “Freedom Budget”:70 specific calls for greater diversity, eliminating sexism and heterosexism, an improved campus climate for minorities and gays, banning the term “illegal immigrant,” offering a class on undocumented workers in America, creating a professor of color lecture series, and harsher penalties for sexual assault, among many, many others.
More recently, Clemson University SJW’s demanded that the school provide a “safe” multicultural center for students from “under-represented” groups, employing more administrators and faculty of color, a more diverse student body, mandatory sensitivity training for faculty and administrators, and increased funding for students organization catering to under-represented groups.
Then there are the University of Minnesota students who seized the President’s office to demand a bigger budget for the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies Department, removing all racial descriptions from university police reports, offering gender-neutral bathrooms at all college facilities and, of course, recruiting more faculty and students of color.
Fortunately, this is the U.S., where such political histrionics are greeted with mild amusement. Ironically, school officials typically welcome “meaningful political dialogue and change,” the need for “hard work” to achieve progress and then conclude by thanking the Social Justice Warriors for their assistance in moving forward. Though police may remove protestors, criminal charges, let alone violations of campus rules, are rarely pursued and the moral buzz for these SJW’s may last weeks. In fact, I suspect some warriors honestly believe that their achievement will burnish their resume when applying to a second-tier MBA program. Imagine if these SJW’s tried this in Russia or China?
Such incidents are easy to pooh-pooh as the politically-correct version of Animal House. But that said, they nevertheless offer important insights into today’s college activist’s thinking and why university administrators tolerate the foolishness.
Most evidently, the Social Justice Warriors totally disregard the costs associated with their self-righteous crusades. Everything is single-ledger accounting. Will the tooth fairy fund Dartmouth’s proposed $3.6 million dollar Triangle House, the "safe haven" for LGBT? Yes, high-school dropouts may believe that government benefits are “free,” but youngsters admitted to top colleges? No wonder the U.S. sinks deeper and deeper into indebtedness -- even among the smart, costs are invisible. Picture a Warrior taking Econ 101 and hearing for the first time that there is no such thing as a free lunch. What a shock!
The shallowness of these demands is breathtaking and suggests that these activists are just winging it. The Dartmouth students are surely among America’s brainiest but why do they denounce “ableism”? Are they suggesting that acknowledging variations in ability is morally wrong and if differences are to be abolished (hopeless anyhow), how would society function? Why must the campus offer gender-neutral bathrooms? Keep in mind that in a few decades such folk may be among our national leaders.
Particularly troublesome is how these presumptuous, self-centered warriors think that if they think something is good, it must be good, so case settled. For example, they glibly assume that academically challenged black and Chicano youngsters really benefit by attending schools that would never admit them in a merit-based admission process. Have these young do-gooders considered the downside of this generosity -- schools will fake the numbers by creating easy-to-pass courses in dubious ethnic-studies departments, steering them to easy grading instructors or just tolerating rampant grade inflation. Or, more important, that these in-over-their-head youngsters may be better off in community college acquiring well-paying skills like welding?
Closer to home, have these SJW’s calculated the link between achieving their vision of “social justice” and tuition? Attracting minority students, addressing their academic deficiencies, creating a nurturing environment and all the rest costs money, and this will inevitably push soaring tuition even higher and, since there is no Santa Claus, a college education will be yet further beyond the reach of many poorer students while saddling graduates with yet more debt. In effect, these idealistic protestors are demanding a tax on those who are not members of their version of “under-represented.” Imagine if these SJW’s had to hold jobs to pay their own tuition?
Do these Social Justice Warriors realize that their demands will require administrators to break the law to achieve this multicultural Utopia? That is, under today’s judicial guidelines it is almost impossible to admit students solely on the basis of race or ethnicity. California, Michigan, and Washington (among others) have state laws explicitly banning racial preferences.
Why do schools tolerate such idiocy, including ignoring violations of campus policy? The answer is that no matter how imprudent the demands, they help drive the university’s bureaucratic expansion, and in today’s campus life, size matters. A symbiotic relationship exists between the children’s crusades and yet more bureaucratic bloat. Universities are not the profit-driven private sector. Absolutely everything, everything in every one of these SJW catalogues entails spending more university money, hiring more personnel, and creating yet more rules and regulations and the apparatchiki to monitor and enforce them. Not a single SJW demand entails any cutback.
Now imagine if the campus libertarians engaged in a similar takeover but with the opposite agenda. A week before the planned event they hacked into the university’s e-mail server and distributed a set of detailed, well-documented fat-cutting proposals. One demonstrated that the campus racial/ethnic diversity mania accomplished nothing despite its substantial cost. Another study tracked graduates in Gender Studies, Native American Studies, and the like to show that few majors in these fields landed decent jobs. A third linked the new draconian sexual-harassment policy to an upturn in kangaroo-court trials that were poisoning normal social relationships. All and all, the findings proved that the school’s bureaucracy could be slimmed down by a third and this would translate into a 250% reduction in tuition.
The upshot would be a man-bites-dog media circus. The school’s insouciant trustees might start asking awkward questions. Libertarian groups elsewhere might organize similar high-publicity takeovers to expose all the parasitic deans, program coordinators and vice-presidents toiling away on inclusion, multiculturalism, mandatory diversity training, and comparable costly non-academic ephemera.
I’d guess that the school’s president would hardly welcome this particular takeover. He or she would immediately summon campus security and try to expel these budget cutters. And taking their cue from higher ups, Leftish students groups would organize counterdemonstrations to protect mandatory sensitivity training, admission by quota, and required courses in political grievances. I can already see a candlelight vigil to save gender-neutral bathrooms. The libertarians would, naturally, be accused of hate, homophobia and promoting the rape culture.
All and all, a strong link exists between the quest for “social justice” and ballooning college tuition. Naïve students are just useful idiots in budgetary battles but the harm goes beyond the usual flushing money down the toilet in the gender-neutral bathroom. Every year thousands of academically ill-prepared youngsters are lured to schools under the guise of gaining an elite education. Unfortunately, many will gain little of value. That this deception is called achieving “social justice” says all too much about today’s campus life.