Oberlin radicals demand erasing grades below Cs, replacing midterms with ‘conversations,’ and other nonsense, including pay for demonstrations

American higher education is in the process of surrendering to self-pitying, self-righteous bullies riding the wave of victimology that has obsessed liberal elites ever since the Civil Rights movement protested genuine injustices half a century ago.  The chaos and moral and intellectual bankruptcy that have resulted now seems to have a poster campus: Oberlin College in Ohio.

A long and disturbingly fascinating piece in the New Yorker by Nathan Heller, titled “The Big Uneasy,” offers an overview of the turmoil there and conversations with some of Oberlin’s dissatisfied radicals.  Heller acknowledges the leftist domination of Oberlin, calling it “a school whose norms may run a little to the left of Bernie Sanders.”

The overall tone of the piece is fairly deadpan, but some of the descriptions of the radicals, many of them self-descriptions of exemplars of the school’s outreach in the name of “diversity,” are parodic.

… I tracked down Cyrus Eosphoros, the student who’d worried about the triggering effects of “Antigone.” (snip)

Eosphoros is a trans man. He was educated in Mexico, walks with crutches, and suffers from A.D.H.D. and bipolar disorder. (He’d lately been on suicide watch.) He has cut off contact with his mother, and he supports himself with jobs at the library and the development office. He said, “I’m kind of about as much of a diversity checklist as you can get while still technically being a white man.”

Half a century ago, Eosphoros might not have had access to élite higher education in the United States. In that respect, he is exactly the sort of student—bright, self-made, easily marginalized—whom selective colleges like Oberlin have been eager to enroll. So I was taken aback when he told me that he’d just dropped out for want of institutional support.

“There’s this persistent, low-grade dehumanization from everyone,” he said. “Somebody will be, like, ‘Yeah, I had a class with a really great professor, and it was wonderful,’ and I’ll be sitting there, like, ‘Oh, yes, that was the professor who failed me for getting tuberculosis,’ or ‘That was the professor who, because I have double time on exams, scheduled them during lunch.’ ”

Then there is the “Afro-Latinx” (the x stands for refusing to identify with the boring and overly restrictive bipolar gender dichotomy) Megan Bautista:

Oberlin had modified its grading standards to accommodate activism around the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings, and Bautista had hoped for something similar. More than thirteen hundred students signed a petition calling for the college to eliminate any grade lower than a C for the semester, but to no avail. “Students felt really unsupported in their endeavors to engage with the world outside Oberlin,” she told me.

Another of the student thought-leaders at Oberlin, Zakiya Acey, complains about having to seek out professors who would go easy on him because the demanding life of a protester is making it difficult to actually do the…uh…work:

“Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems—having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways. There’s professors who have openly been, like, ‘Yeah, instead of, you know, writing out this midterm, come in to my office hours, and you can just speak it,’ right? But that’s not institutionalized. I have to find that professor.”

Oberlin used to be a highly respectable liberal arts college, an upholder of high academic standards, and highly selective in its admissions policies.  It also boasted of a proud history of being one of the first colleges to admit women and blacks.  But in its embrace of the fashions of liberalism, and in its outreach to “non-traditional” students who do not hold traditional standards of excellence in any level of esteem, it is losing its soul, and indeed, its mind.

At least its president, Marvin Krislov, had the wisdom to reject a 14-page letter from the Black Student Union containing 50 demands, including $8.20 pay per hour for demonstrators last December.  And alumni, aghast at the nonsense turning their beloved alma mater into a joke, are pressuring the school to show signs of a spine.

The sickness enveloping Oberlin extends throughout much of higher education.  I am not sure that self-correcting mechanisms will be able to rescue once noble endeavors from their folly.

Hat tip: Katherine Timpf, NRO

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