Readers of this column know well that much space has been reserved in order to bring to the public’s attention two immense industries that otherwise aren’t typically recognized as such. They are the Academic-Industrial-Complex (AIC) and the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).
Readers also know that the AIC, for all of its massiveness, is actually but a facet of the vastly larger RIC. Some recent examples from the world of Higher Education make this abundantly, painfully clear.
(1) Duke University just dropped Professor Evan Charney. His defenders, particularly his student defenders, suspect that Charney, a white man, was let go because the manner in which he critically engages his students led some to charge him with making his classroom into an “unsafe space” for minority students.
In a letter published by more than 100 of Charney’s students in The Duke Chronicle, some of Charney’s students, including his international students, defended him against the charge that “his class reproduces systems and structures of inequality involving notions of class, privilege and power.” Charney, the letter reads, has a “teaching style” that is “wonderfully thought-provoking and challenging. His students’ ideas are vetted and sharpened through rigorous debate and discussion” on a range of issues, and everyone is made to feel uncomfortable through exposure to “viewpoints that conflict with how they think and what they value.”
Charney is known by his students for his “Socratic format,” a style that leaves no “thought…unexamined” or “assertion…unchecked.”
At one point—perhaps this was the final trigger to have broken the leftist juggernaut’s back—Professor Charney used a whole class period to critically interrogate “the motivations and tactics” of students who staged a weeklong sit-in over a racially-oriented event that occurred in 2016. He “challenged” students to “argue cogently in favor of or against the movement,” an approach that “put the burden on protesters in his class to justify their actions [.]”
Though Charney’s publications include analyses of “liberal bias,” neither he nor his students are in any obvious way “conservative.” At least this is the most reasonable conclusion to draw from looking at the views expressed in the student letter to the Chronicle and a listing of some of the classes that Charney typically teaches. While his area of expertise is “genomics and genetics,” specifically “behavioral genetics,” Charney regularly taught a seminar on “Global Inequality research.”
In fact, that Charney would even take up class time to discuss issues that seem to fall well beyond the jurisdiction of his courses suggests that his instincts as a professor are more at home among the ideology of the colleagues and students who favor his termination than they are the approach to teaching traditionally found among more conservative professoriate.
(2) Yet even faculty who have spent their lives on the left are discovering that they are not safe. Brett Weinstein is a left-leaning professor at Evergreen State College in Washington. When he objected to a “Day of Absence,” an event during which whites would avoid campus while non-whites, or “POC” (People of Color), hold workshops, both he and his students were subjected to harassment and intimidation. When campus police informed Weinstein that they could not protect him, he was forced to hold class off-campus at a park.
Administrators decided this year that in place of a Day of Absence, Evergreen would instead hold an “equity symposium.” Student activists, however, resolved to hold their event despite the school’s change of plans. The theme of this year’s affair is, “Deinstitutionalize/Decolonize.” According to the RSVP page:
“The mission of this event is to bring POC together in order to create a reclamation of space and move forward into the future. In reaction to [the] institution’s consistent disregard for our safety, we are operating independently of the college. This is a day for us, by us.”
If whites insist upon attending, they will be directed toward “antiracist workshops.”
(3) The University of Michigan is among over 230 colleges and universities nationwide with a “Bias Response Team.” Yet it is among “the most established,” according to The Detroit News. Whether the “bias” is “intentional or unintentional,” if team members determine that speech contains unacceptable bias, it exacts disciplinary action that ranges from requiring “restorative justice” to “individualized education” to “unconscious bias training.”
Fortunately, the University of Michigan is now on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
According to the complaint, such is the restrictive nature of the University’s interpretation of “bullying,” “harassment,” and “bias” that it threatens “staggering amounts of protected speech and expression.”
Nichole Neilly, whose Japanese-American parents met in an internment camp during World War II, is especially sensitive to infringements of liberty. She is the head of “Speech First.” The University’s current system, given that it incentivizes members of the school community to anonymously blow the whistle on others, “is not workable,” Neilly says. “Students should be able to express themselves without fear of retribution.”
Speech First found that in just this past year, UM investigated over 150 incidents of alleged “bias.”
Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation says of speech restrictions of the sort found at UM that they are “Draconian” and reminiscent of East Germany and Orwell’s 1984.
(4) At Georgetown University, left-wing student activists are laboring to prevent campus police from being armed. If police are armed, the students maintain, minority students will be threatened.
On a Facebook post, “Georgetown United Against Police Aggression” self-identifies as “a group of students concerned about GUPD’s impact on Georgetown’s communities of color.” The group shares a letter that it issued to the school’s president urging him “to not arm GUPD [.]”
Among the 30 or so signatories to the letter are such groups as: African Society of Georgetown; Black Student Alliance; Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Forum; Casa Latina; GU Women of Color; Georgetown University College Democrats; Georgetown Young Democratic Socialists; Hoyas for Immigration Rights; Muslim Students Association; Native American Student Council; Queer People of Color; and Students for Justice in Palestine.
The Racism-Industrial-Complex knows no bounds, but academia is a bastion of it. Of course, RIC has facilitated the Academic-Industrial-Complex as well.
Anyone who can still doubt this is either naïve or in denial.