Sunday, November 22, 2015

Deconstructing and Responding to the Yale Left

Here, we will respond to particular (anonymous) comments in response to the last post, which concerned the ongoing drama at Yale.

He begins:

"As a fellow Yale '82 graduate, I am appalled by this diatribe."

Okay, no surprise here. Read through the rest of my blog. If I'm not constantly appalling you, I'm doing something wrong. But, interestingly, on this issue, many liberals are as shocked and disappointed as I with events on campus, as well as Salovey's response. I guess you're not one of them.

"You clearly have completely missed the point in your pie-eyed nostalgic remembrance of Milton, Yale, and beyond." 

Here, our friend is trying to establish my bona fides as a privileged white male, a tactic designed to limit my participation in the debate. I should "check my privilege," as they now say on campus. I might add that the schools I went to, Milton and Yale, are perhaps two of the most liberal in the nation, so I'm pretty sure I'm better versed in the progressive canon than vice verse. 

"Seriously. Can you not take one second to TRY and walk in the other shoes or at least pretend to imagine what it is like? Or better, imagine what it was likely like in 1982, whether YOU experienced it or not? Seriously? YOUR experience has nothing to do with this."

Our friend means I should try to understand what is was - or is - like to be a minority student. No, I can't imagine what it's like. It's not the life I'm living. I can try to imagine, but I will no doubt come up short. This is why I, and others, rely on others to tell us what it's like. We listen, and we listen very carefully. And this is where many of us have a problem: we're not hearing anything of substance.

If I did hear of something, an actual proven incident, I would be just as appalled as my liberal detractor is with me. I would expect that the university would deal with the issue harshly, and no doubt they would. Yet all I hear are vague charges, like "marginalization," without anyone actually giving substance to the claim. This is why it's very hard to believe that this is anything other than a political power grab.

A fellow Yalie, who blogs under the name Manhattan Contrarian, summed this up well: 

"I'm trying to figure out what the term "marginalization" could mean in the context of something the school is somehow doing to the student, but I keep coming up short. In my own day, here was my entire relationship with the academic end of the school: I chose my classes; I went to the classes; I did the homework; I wrote the assigned papers; I took the tests; I got my grades. Now, suppose somebody had wanted to "marginalize" me. What could they have done to me in the context of this relationship? I can't even imagine what it might have been. Not let me go to class?  Not let me do the homework? Not let me take the test?  Never happened, of course.  But more important,  I equally don't believe that anything like this has happened to any of these protesters who claim they have been "marginalized." Meanwhile, on the non-academic side, I lived in the dormitory and I ate in the dining hall. Nobody ever tried to stop me. I also don't believe that anyone has ever stopped one of these protesters from doing the same.

"So they must be talking about something else. But what? Maybe that they were expecting to develop some kind of deep personal relationships with the professors and it hasn't happened? For myself, I never had the slightest interest in getting to know the professors personally, and I never did it. Occasionally there were lunches where professors would come to the dining hall and eat with a table of students, and talk about their area of scholarship.  Those were open to all, and I went to a few of them. Again, I can't believe for a minute that some students are excluded from those things today, particularly in a systematic way based on race. If someone has an instance, I'd like to hear about it."

You see, we want to understand. Perhaps it's simpler for our anonymous poster to think that all conservatives are heartless bigots, but we simply aren't. If there's real racism going on, we are just as interested in rooting it out as anyone else. For one, it deeply conflicts with our belief in personal liberty. But someone, anyone, needs to articulate the problem before we can understand it. Stop berating us for not understanding something you refuse to explain.

Here's what we do understand. Minority applicants are given an enormous advantage in Yale admissions. Then, most are given substantial aid to attend. While there, the university spends millions on resources to help them through (before, even, Salovey's adding millions more). I'm not arguing for or against any of these policies, at least not at the moment, I'm just stating them as a fact.

I also see one of the most liberal universities anywhere, one that has always taken the concerns of minority students seriously (for the last few decades, anyway). So, if you're going to throw around accusations of "institutionalized racism," I think it's fair for any of us to ask for the details.

"By the way, if you are going to spout intellectualism, read it ALL - - not just the stuff you want to read. Think about it all. Consider it all."

I'm not sure what intellectualism I was spouting, but thanks for the compliment. As for the holes in my reading list, perhaps our friend could recommend some things? Bear in mind, I don't have time to read it ALL, and please don't say Proust.

"And by the way - - this has nothing to do with Free Speech. You get that, right? There is no irony. William F Buckley conference or none.
(or perhaps THERE is the irony...)"

This is where things get risible. This has everything to do with free speech. On campuses, the left has been shutting down conservative voices for years (without a single case the other way around, to my knowledge), but this latest strain of activism has gotten far bolder. I'm sure most readers saw the Mizzou professor calling for "muscle" to get rid of a reporter. At Yale, protesters tried to prevent Ayaan Hirsi Ali from speaking last year. More recently, Gerald Walpin law students at Yale nearly blocked Gerald Walpin's planned speech on the 14th Amendment. I could go on, there are a thousand examples. The campus left does not want differing opinions to be heard. 

No irony? Protesters try to shut down a conference on free speech, and it's not ironic? I must be misinformed as to the definition of irony. And for what it's worth, "You get that, right?" is not a rhetorical device that wins a lot of debates.

"And regarding the woman in the Silliman courtyard - - she will regret her loss of control for the rest of her life. That is done. But instead of focusing on and vilifying a barely young adult's loss of control in a moment, at least ask WHY such a promising and otherwise lovely (apparently) young woman WOULD lose control..."

I kind of doubt she's regretting it, frankly. I suspect she's a hero to many, and there are apparently no actual consequences for her actions. I very much doubt she's learning any lesson at all. As for trying to understand her, well that's exactly what we've been trying to do, but frankly, no one's cluing us in. Halloween costumes? Really, is that it? Because if that's it, I think she's been seriously brainwashed by the campus outrage industry.

Give us something real, and we will have all the sympathy in the world, but meltdowns over the mere prospect of someone dressing as the Frito Bandito ain't gonna cut it.

So, my empathetic friend, if you know something the rest of us don't, we're all ears. Tell us.


  1. Scott, while I don't normally suggest anyone tangling with a tar baby, you have thoughtfully (as usual) stated your case (or in this case a rebuttal), with a balanced refutation of the spittle-flecked post by "Anonymous". Well said, and thank you for continuing to provide much-needed balance to the shrill arrogance of the newly-empowered "progressives". As to irony, just when you think it couldn't get any more ironic, the next batch of huffy accusations come spilling forth.

    The civil rights movement of the 50's & 60's is certainly an important and painful process that this country went through, and is in fact still going through. Unfortunately, "micro-aggression" is NOT the same as "whites only" bathrooms, segregated lunch counters, locations of bus seats, or the integration of schools. To spend additional precious resources on supporting cultural diversity centers rather than strengthening the undergraduate curriculum and retaining highly-skilled and thoroughly engaging associate/assistant/tenured professors (regardless of their race, creed or gender) is a better "issue" for students and alums to rally behind and support, in my opinion.

  2. Wonderful polemic, Scott. While nobody is suggesting you read Proust, it is worth dipping into Dostoevsky, especially his novel "The Devils", where the liberal, tolerant, and woolly-minded Stepan Verkhovensky fathers a son who nihilistic, totalitarian, and destructive. The cozy academic liberals who run Ivy League institutions are now dealing with their ideological offspring.

  3. I'm a little late to the party on this one, Scott, but I'd like to add that Anonymous from the previous post automatically assumes that you have not thought or read "outside of your sphere." It has been so for my entire life. Liberals have always believed that anyone who disagrees with them is an ignorant Archie Bunker or a racist George Wallace. I think this conceit explains much of the soft logic that they employ. I am convinced that this is why they are often unprepared and must resort to ad hominem attacks when faced with well-reasoned opposition.

  4. As a liberal I can say with confidence that I agree with everything you have said here.

  5. I though this was topical