Campus Collectivism Should Come With a Price(tag)

Taxpayers are on the hook for student loan defaults. Perhaps intolerant colleges should be stuck with it instead.

Arnold Ahlert · Feb. 22, 2018

In a thoughtful piece entitled, “We All Live on Campus Now,” columnist Andrew Sullivan takes a long-held assumption about the college generation’s transition into adulthood and stands it on its proverbial ear.

“Over the last year, the most common rebuttal to my intermittent coverage of campus culture has been: Why does it matter? These are students, after all. They’ll grow up once they leave their cloistered, neo-Marxist safe spaces,” he writes.

For decades, the long-held assumption was that the students who entered the real world would be forced to adapt to the greater society. For the current generation, this rite of passage would mean the progressive worldview they were force-fed on far too many campuses would no longer be considered sacrosanct. Especially with regard to finding employment, the notion one might expect on-the-job accommodations akin to the kind of campus coddling that included post-election “stress busting” activities — as in providing students with play dough, coloring books, Legos, hot chocolate, healing spaces and puppies — was the stuff of adolescent dreams. So too was the assumption that terms such as “white supremacy,” “rape culture,” “white privilege,” or “microaggressions,” would elicit much more than a derisive chuckle, or eye-rolling from the so-called adults in the room.

Sullivan believes this dynamic has been reversed. “When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based ‘social justice’ movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well,” he warns. “If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”

Sullivan’s piece was published on Feb. 9. Nine days later, a column by James Traub entitled, “Selfishness Is Killing Liberalism,” reveals who is most interested in making sure identity politics thrives beyond the ivory towers of academe. “I doubt whether the near-obsession with identity issues can be uprooted from the heart of the Democratic Party,” he admits.

Traub further asserts that the appeal of liberalism has always “sprung from its commitment to the language of collective interest,” and that liberals must “either return to the old ‘we’ or deploy their own version of ‘us and them.’”

First, any genuine language of collective interest is usually referred to as brotherhood. But since Traub declared in his opening paragraph that God died “half a century ago,” his brand of collective interest sounds a lot like cultural Marxism.

Moreover, the choice he presents to liberals centers on a less-than-principled motive. “I don’t know which is the shorter path to political victory,” he states.

Thus, modern-day liberalism remains all about the acquisition and maintenance of power — by any means necessary.

Political analyst Michael Barone reveals who is best enabling that ambition. “There is increasing evidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter — whose leaders flatter themselves as enablers of free communication and neutral disseminators of information — are suppressing conservative opinions as ‘fake news,’” he warns. “Those aware of campus life will not be comforted with the knowledge that the decisions about what gets downplayed or deleted are being made by ‘social justice warriors’ recently hired from campuses.”

Social justice warriors who, as Sullivan so astutely points out, believe there is no such thing as objective truth. “The culture is now saturated with the concept of ‘your own truth’ — based usually on your experience of race and gender,” he explains. “In the culture, it is now highly controversial for individuals in one racial/gender group to write about or portray anyone outside it — because there is no art that isn’t rooted in identity.”

In other words, the enlightened collectivism for which Traub yearns doesn’t exist. It has been supplanted by rank tribalism that uses the concept of cultural appropriation like a club to prevent anything resembling assimilation, meritocracy and ultimately, freedom itself.

And if Sullivan is right, the Constitution, and most specifically the Bill of Rights, will not provide the necessary bulwark against America’s would-be oppressors. As Angelo Codevilla warns, “By far the greater part of the restrictions on freedom of speech that we experience come from outside formal government — from academe and corporate America. No one disputes the effective existence of speech codes there. Just beyond the First Amendment’s reach not only does the ruling class penalize expressions at variance with its catechisms; people now feel pressed publicly to confess adherence to their tenets, or else.”

An open letter signed by more than 100 University of Chicago professors, aghast that Steve Bannon was invited to speak on their campus, is highly illustrative of the intellectual bankruptcy that is now making its way into the larger society. It states in part, “The university should model inclusion for a country that is reeling from the consequences of racism, xenophobia, and hate.”

How do they propose to model that inclusion? “We believe that Bannon should not be afforded the platform and opportunity to air his hate speech on this campus,” it adds.

Linguistics Professor Salikoko Mufwene frames such suppression as the university’s failure to uphold the “communal responsibility” to its minority students. “You can say it’s a matter of free speech but when he is coming here to say things that will hurt some of our members, we don’t want that,” Mufwene declared.

One suspects decent Americans don’t want colleges acting as surrogate parents tasked with protecting students from, rather than exposing them to, divergent ideas. But that is exactly what far too many of them have become.

As a result, Sullivan envisions a dark future. “The goal of our culture now is not the emancipation of the individual from the group, but the permanent definition of the individual by the group,” he explains. “We used to call this bigotry. Now we call it being woke. You see: We are all on campus now.”

If that’s the case, it’s time to rattle the campus cage. Currently there is more than $1.48 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. The average Class of 2016 graduate owes a whopping $37,172, and the current delinquency/default rate is 11.2%. Per the passage of the Affordable Care Act — that’s right, ObamaCare — the American taxpayer is on the hook for any and all student loan defaults. Unsurprisingly tuition costs continue to skyrocket.

It’s time to end that odious dynamic and make colleges themselves partially responsible for loan defaults. If the campus crowd insists on embracing identity politics and the massive diversity bureaucracies necessary to facilitate that agenda — bureaucracies that also drive up tuition costs — they should bear some of the burden when any number of their grievance study graduates can’t find a job with enough compensation to live and pay off their loans.

In short, those universities that seek to change the world, one social justice warrior graduate after another, should have some proverbial skin in the game.

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