The Right Opinion

Closing of the American Mind

By George Will · Dec. 2, 2012

WASHINGTON – In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration – acting as prosecutor, judge and jury – convicted him of “openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.”

“Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief.

The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson's co-workers disliked the book's cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan rally. Someone was offended, therefore someone else must be guilty of harassment.

This non sequitur reflects the right never to be annoyed, a new campus entitlement. Legions of administrators, who now outnumber full-time faculty, are kept busy making students mind their manners, with good manners understood as conformity to liberal politics.

Liberals are most concentrated and untrammeled on campuses, so look there for evidence of what, given the opportunity, they would do to America. Ample evidence is in “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff, 38, a graduate of Stanford Law School who describes himself as a liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, lifelong Democrat who belongs to “the notoriously politically correct Park Slope Food Co-Op in Brooklyn” and has never voted for a Republican “nor do I plan to.” But as president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) he knows that the most common justifications for liberal censorship are “sensitivity” about “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” as academic liberals understand those things.

In recent years, a University of Oklahoma vice president has declared that no university resources, including email, could be used for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary.” The College at Brockport in New York banned using the Internet to “annoy or otherwise inconvenience” anyone. Rhode Island College prohibited, among many other things, certain “attitudes.” Texas Southern University's comprehensive proscriptions included “verbal harm” from damaging “assumptions” or “implications.” Texas A&M promised “freedom from indignity of any type.” Davidson banned “patronizing remarks.” Drexel University forbade “inappropriately directed laughter.” Western Michigan University banned “sexism,” including “the perception” of a person “not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” Banning “perceptions” must provide full employment for the burgeoning ranks of academic administrators.

Many campuses congratulate themselves on their broad-mindedness when they establish small “free speech zones” where political advocacy can be scheduled. At one point Texas Tech's 28,000 students had a “free speech gazebo” that was 20 feet wide. And you thought the First Amendment made America a free speech zone.

At Tufts, a conservative newspaper committed “harassment” by printing accurate quotations from the Quran and a verified fact about the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Lukianoff says Tufts may have been the first American institution “to find someone guilty of harassment for stating verifiable facts directed at no one in particular.”

He documents how “orientation” programs for freshmen become propaganda to (in the words of one orthodoxy enforcer) “leave a mental footprint on their consciousness.” Faculty, too, can face mandatory consciousness-raising.

In 2007, Donald Hindley, a politics professor at Brandeis, was found guilty of harassment because when teaching Latin American politics he explained the origin of the word “wetbacks,” which refers to immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. Without a hearing, the university provost sent Hindley a letter stating that the university “will not tolerate inappropriate, racial and discriminatory conduct.” The assistant provost was assigned to monitor Hindley's classes "to ensure that you do not engage in further violations of the nondiscrimination and harassment policy.” Hindley was required to attend “anti-discrimination training.”

Such coercion is a natural augmentation of censorship. Next comes mob rule. Last year, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the vice provost for diversity and climate – really; you can't make this stuff up – encouraged students to disrupt a news conference by a speaker opposed to racial preferences. They did, which the vice provost called “awesome.” This is the climate on an especially liberal campus that celebrates “diversity” in everything but thought.

“What happens on campus,” Lukianoff says, “doesn't stay on campus” because censorship has “downstream effects.” He quotes a sociologist whose data he says demonstrate that “those with the highest levels of education have the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view.” This encourages “the human tendency to live within our own echo chambers.” Parents’ tuition dollars and student indebtedness are paying for this. Good grief.

© 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

26 Comments

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

I found an Audubon book, on hunting wild game, circa 1967, from a Brooklyn Public Library that was stamped -DISGARDED. There are detailed descriptions of the animal kingdom's critters, from squirrels to water buffalo.Libs turn firey red-in-the-face, when I read it on the subway train! What is most striking, is the "diversity" at the Universities of USA! Uncle Geoge-Love ya.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 5:38 AM

William in Florida said:

Its unfortunate that our schools and colleges do not teach how to keep our nation free. In upstate New York we spent alot of time in high school learning about our nations freedom and warnings on errosion signs of freedom being lost. I am sadly concerned because the warnings are here. This janitors rights being stripped from him is just the beginning!

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 7:44 AM

Mark E. Edmiston in Fullerton replied:

Heck! They don't teach how to make a living.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9:56 AM

Jan in Columbus replied:

Students take away what they want to learn from what they're taught--whether in college or high school. Upstate teaches about freedom just as they teach how to use possessive apostrophes. Students have the freedom to learn or not.

Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio said:

Thank you Mr. Will. We are indebted you for your watchful eye and honest reporting.

Enemy of the State and its Institutions:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” --Joesph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda, Nazi Germany)

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9:21 AM

GAK in Richmond VA said:

So..man, these guys, talkers, like Rush, and writers, like Will, who write so damned well and address so thoroughly the ills of America...what will their over-all contribution be to the cause of making it Right, or more correct?
They'll write an article, talk up a sponsor and get paid.
Sideline pro's never having run for anything, but had plenty to say about everything.
I am done with them.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

G in in CT replied:

So I guess you would consider Thomas Paine a 'Sideline-Pro' as you put it.
I figure you would have to research who he was, and what he said.
He said plenty, never ran for office (though he was appointed to a position later). Perhaps you would tell us what you have physically done to make things 'more correct' aside from changing the channel with your remote.
If you're done with them, I can assume we won't have to listen to you complain about them anymore.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

G, there's always going to be someone who critizes others but does nothing themselves to rectify the problem. I'm like Mac, I'll do what ever it takes to keep from paying taxes.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 1:32 PM

GAK in Richmond VA replied:

Paine at least wrote Common Sense...Will, well he writes..op-eds. Don't hold your breath for Will to be appointed anything buddy.
Today he (Paine) would be locked up as a secessionist.
Don't mean to make anyone in Connecticut mad, but in essence was I was saying was that the time for preaching to a choir, here or elsewhere has past.
As to what I've personally done G in Connecticut, that's none of your damn business it's mine.
In presupposing you speak for a "we" G, you're in far greater a position to do something.
Lead on Custer.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 7:28 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA replied:

Your pay off Obamacheck is in the mail.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Nam_Vet68 in Philadelphia said:

The problems we are seeing today all started in 1969 with the likes of John Kerry and his army of liberal scumbags.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Rozann in Iowa replied:

Actually the problems began a longer time ago, back in 1913 when changes were made to the Constitution in the form of Income tax and popular votes electing Senators. Then major changes during the FDR years provided the mays and means to fundamentally change the US. Since then we have been progressing steadily and stealthfully toward what we are today, a nation divided, with almost more on the dole than working. I haven't checked the numbers of government workers, maybe counting all of them (federal, state, local) there are more takers than producers. The answer is a return to a strict interpretation and adherence to the original US Constitution. But how to accomplish that remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 5:32 PM

Stephen in NH replied:

It can be accomplished by electing the right people. And that means gutting the halls of Congress of people like McConnell, McCain, Graham, and anyone else who voted for a single piece of legislation that is repugnant to the constitution or fails to respect the rights of the citizens or sovereignty of the states.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:08 AM

Orf in Pittsburgh replied:

That would eliminate almost all of the congress-things. Nice to think about, very hard to accomplish.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Gregory in Yakima Wa. said:

Censorship is wrong. I thought we had learned that lesson....but it depends on who is reading what material and who is being offended.

By the way, this 2008 case was resolved in the janitor's favor: "Thanks to FIRE's involvement and the extensive media coverage of the case, the finding against Sampson was eventually overturned and his school record was cleared, but the story behind this incident is still disturbing months later. Filmmaker Andrew Marcus has produced a short documentary on Sampson's case in the hopes of restoring his reputation and bringing to light the incidents of censorship that are all too common on college campuses today. "

Conservatives also censor...it wasn't too long ago that anyone criticizing the then proposed invasion of Iraq was guilty of treason. Remember?

Vigilance is the key to preventing censorship. Not just vigilance of reporters or justice departments but you and I too. Of course we're busy or unqualified, not personally involved or other factor that prevents us from dropping everything to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of
Rights.

That's why I support the ACLU. Protecting our freedoms from encroaching authority and making government honor our rights. By the way...no student is prohibited from praying in school or attending Bible studies. Those rights have been challenged by others but successfully defended by the ACLU.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Ed Watts in Near Palm Springs replied:

No, I don't remember that business about objections to the Iraq war. Who, exactly, was found guilty of treason and imprisoned and/or executed for voicing an objection or an opinion?

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Gregory in Yakima Wa. said:

I should have said "accused of treason"...not guilty of treason. Here's another example of right wing censorship. I wonder how many here will be or are in favor of this: "Right Wing Escalates Drive to Censor and Investigate the Smithsonian
Thu, 12/02/2010"

"Even after successfully demanding that the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery censor part of its “Hide/Seek” exhibit, congressional Republicans and conservative commentators have continued their attacks on the Smithsonian. House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor joined right wing extremists like Bill Donohue and Glenn Beck to pressure the Smithsonian to remove a video by the late artist "

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Ed Watts in Near Palm Springs replied:

OK, who, then was presented for trial on treason charges? An accusation of treason brings arrest and trial, doesn't it?

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Chauncey Freeman in New York City, NY said:

When fascism comes to America it will be carrying a peace sign wrapped in a rainbow flag. AND IT HAS.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Michael Willis in Edmonds, WA said:

This is all a one-way street of course. It's perfectly acceptable for liberals to harrass and intimidate anyone not sharing their mindset.

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Carson in Alabama said:

Resorting to anecdotes now, are we ?

My wife knows of someone who had something happen to them. It must be an epidemic.

George Will lamely feeding the political Right's anti-intellect / anti-higher education sentiment. As well as feeding the Right's desire to see themselves as oppressed victims of those darn Liberty-thieves. It's all beyond ridiculous.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

The only epidemic in this country is liberals refusing to see the truth. They've dumbed down education to incredible levels to satisfy their insisting that everybody needs a college education. They always fail to mention that your son or daughter is going to be indoctrinated into believing the government is the cure for all our problems. It is amazing how stupid most college students are when it comes to the history of this country. They also know very little about how the government works. Now the big push is to revise our history so it matches the liberal mindset. Two of our Founding Fathers are now considered someone not to be looked up to because they owed slaves. Washington and Jefferson were a product of their times and no amount of revision will ever take away the good they did in helping to establish the United States. Also, now the Constitution has become a "living document" that has to be amended to match the times. It is amazing that it worked so well for over 225 years before the liberals decided its not working anymore.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Orf in Pittsburgh replied:

Are you the mentally handicapped nephew of Rachel? Her version of eco-wackism was the one responsible for the death of millions worldwide. If you had a brain as large as the malarial parasites that caused this mass homicide, you would not be proud to be one of the phony intellectuals of her lineage.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Graciela in San Jose, CA said:

Where is Voltaire?

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

SJL in South Carolina said:

Best not to send our kids to a liberal college, but one that has a conservative side.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 2:06 PM

RedBaker in Florida said:

Scratch a liberal/progressive/socialist and you find a fascist. This topic was brilliantly covered by Jonah Goldberg in "Liberal Fascism". Socialism is their religion, by any means necessary. They are thoroughly un-American.

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:50 PM