Mona Charen

This week millions of high school seniors across the nation will mail forms and checks to colleges announcing their intention to matriculate. It's the culmination of what some say was the toughest year ever to pry open the golden doors of academe.

My husband and I are still a few years away from writing those whopping checks to doubtless already well-endowed institutions, but a spirit of rebellion stirs in my soul at the thought of it. We tamely fork over tens of thousands of dollars (about $45,000 per year) for the privilege of having our young indoctrinated.

Why are we such sheep?

Do you know how authoritarian and surreal the atmosphere on campus can be these days? At Colorado College in Colorado Springs, a couple of insouciant students circulated a flyer that parodied one distributed by the Feminist and Gender Studies program. The FGS flyer called itself the "Monthly Rag" (charming) and reportedly advertised a lecture on "feminist porn" and carried an approving mention of "castration." The student parody flyer, the "Monthly Bag," referred to "tough guy wisdom," the range of a sniper rifle and "chainsaw etiquette."

The students responsible for the parody were at first threatened with expulsion, which was later reduced to a violation of the college's student conduct policy on (get ready for it) "violence." Dean of Students Michael Edmonds acknowledged that the flyer was a satire, but "in the climate in which we find ourselves today, violence -- or implied violence -- of any kind cannot be tolerated."

Translation: If someone uses words you find offensive, he has committed an act of violence. This does violence to the English language, apart from the assault on free speech and free thought. The offenders will be forced to attend a forum to discuss the issues raised (read: reeducation seminar) and will have a disciplinary note placed in their student files. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (www.thefire.org) is agitating to have the students cleared of all wrongdoing.

Administrators at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis had seemed to be vying for the title of most ludicrous educators in America. The story began when a student, Keith John Sampson, who worked in the university's janitorial department, was seen reading the book "Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan" in the break room. Sampson was notified by the university's Affirmative Action Office that he had committed the offense of "racial harassment." He protested that the book lauded the Notre Dame students who had taken on the Klan in 1924. Never mind, said Lillian Charleston, the AAO director. By "openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject," he had violated university policy.

The university has since reversed itself and expressed "regret that this situation took place." But consider the fascist environment the PC police have created. That the student felt constrained to defend the book's content as politically acceptable is an outrage in itself that goes to the heart of academic freedom. Welcome to an America where you must glance over your shoulder to wonder whether your co-workers will inform on you for reading forbidden matter!

The stifling effect of racism and sexism allegations has led some to extremes. Richard Peltz, an award-winning law professor at the University of Arkansas, felt trapped by accusations of racism. Peltz had alienated some of his black students in the following fashion: 1) he participated in a panel discussion on affirmative action and argued against it, 2) he displayed in class a satirical article from The Onion that mentioned, among other things, Rosa Parks' death and 3) he illustrated the unfairness of affirmative action policies by offering to give all minority students an extra point on a test just for signing a form.

Members of the Black Law Students Association, together with a black lawyers group, then accused Peltz of "hateful and inciting" speech. They complained to the administration that this "racist" professor should be dismissed or at least disciplined. The university declined to fire Peltz but did withdraw him from teaching required courses. Now Peltz is suing his former students for defamation (assuming a mediation recently undertaken fails) and so academic freedom spirals down and down.

How do we avoid this swamp for our own kids? We should all donate to FIRE. Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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