American colleges and universities, historically speaking, have served as a cultural check on those in our society who veer far too much on the side of obedience and conformity. UC Berkeley’s free speech movement from 1964 to 1965 catalyzed the idea that students had the right to exercise their right of free speech on campus, especially when it came to challenging status quos. This explains why many universities ascribe their institution the term “liberal.” This disposition emphasized their against-the-grain individuality and freedom to think outside traditional mores.
Fast forward to 2021, and the residual effects of such a movement have been washed away by ideological status quos that punish certain schools of thought in an effort to prop up other ones.
Academic institutions have been mobilized in the fight for “social justice”, with those daring to issue their dissent being charged with whatever ‘-ism’ or ‘-phobia’ that may come to mind.
On October 2, Fox News reported that UCLA professor Gordon Klein, who teaches financial analysis, law, and public policy, filed a lawsuit as a result of the university suspending him because he refused to grade black students with more leniency than non-black students. Professor Klein’s ordeal began when a student emailed him requesting that black students be graded with more leniency on his final exam due to the “unjust murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the life-threatening actions of Amy Cooper and the violent conduct of the [University of California Police Department] have led to fear and anxiety which is further compounded by the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the Black community.”
Klein promptly refused to give preferential treatment to his black students because he understood that discriminating on the basis of race, regardless of who it benefits, is wrong. As Klein himself wrote in his guest article in Bari Weiss’ Substack Newsletter, Common Sense with Bari Weiss:
“But academia has so corrupted these words [diversity and inclusion] that they are now hollowed out corpses devoid of their original meaning. Today, “diversity” means ideological homogeneity. And “inclusion” means the exclusion of some from a taxpayer-supported university to favor others deemed more deserving of an educational springboard to prosperity.”
Gordon Klein was not only suspended from his professorship at UCLA, but also had his character attacked by the UCLA administration on social media. There are plenty of other stories like Professor Klein’s – stories of professors and university faculty getting flamed by a mob of angry students because they said something that went against the grain of Woke orthodoxy. There is often no due process, and university administrations often cave to angry mobs with disturbing ease.
Such a phenomenon takes me back to yet another featured article in Bari Weiss’s Substack: an essay entitled America’s True Believers and Their Gutless Enablers by Peter Savodnik. The essay beautifully articulates such a phenomenon: the zealous True Believers who conquer a mile’s worth of territory with every inch ceded by their Enablers. The True Believers, of course, are the students, or children, who are only partially to blame. For children will continue to engage in bad behavior if not corrected by their elders. When such elders fail to correct the behavior—which they ought to be able to discern as unacceptable—the children will continue to act out, often to their own detriment. Furthermore, when the elders consciously submit to the bad behavior of the youth, for fear of their livelihoods, reputations, or even lives, they willingly and knowingly contribute and help to maintain such a ruthless cycle, hence the term “gutless” being the author’s adjective of choice.
In situations like these, it’s appropriate to invoke the well-known saying: the inmates are running the asylum.
Here’s a controversial take for today’s generation of highly educated brats: you shouldn’t attempt to have a professor fired simply because you’re offended by what he said, or what he might have said, in a lecture or email. And you certainly shouldn’t get to have that faculty member fired when he refuses to grant you preferential treatment when grading your exam that you didn’t study for because you feel your skin’s concentration of melanin to be a disadvantage.
Your Change.org petition should mean absolutely nothing.
Universities, often praised for their history of being bastions of free speech and intellectual diversity, only have that history and reputation because there is (or used to be) a clearly defined distinction between faculty member and student. This means that students don’t have the same authoritative weight as faculty do; and the idea that they should be able to demand, as a collective, that a certain faculty member be fired and unpersoned, for asserting that black students shouldn’t be treated any differently from white students, is patently absurd.
A good professor is one who prudently moderates discourse between students, keeping his own opinions to a minimum and allowing for a diversity of opinions among his students. But a good professor also rushes to intervene when one’s right of free expression is violated by a vocal minority of students who have appointed themselves the arbitrary gatekeepers of what you are or aren’t allowed to say. As Peter Savodnik states in the essay:
“We forget this sometimes. We forget that there are people with the power to turn off this nonsense. Those who made room for the new radicals in the first place, who fired the miscreants, who issued apologies, who pleaded for understanding, who stayed silent, who adopted the new lingo, who made promises, who laughed nervously, who promised to do better, to ‘do the work,’ to unlearn.”
We often forget that there are people in power who could have nipped this malignant tumor of disenlightenment in the butt by simply telling the students no—that this behavior isn’t only unacceptable, but antithetical to a free society that supposedly dedicates itself to that sacred ideal termed “the public square.”
Professor Klein’s fight against UCLA isn’t simply in protest to that one student’s request to grade black students with more leniency, at least not anymore. Rather it is to subject UCLA to a round of well-needed shock therapy: that though the adults have left the room, it’s about time they walked back in.