More college shenanigans: After refusing to pass a motion condemning ISIS, Britain’s National Union of Students votes to boycott Israel

June 3, 2015 • 12:40 pm

I’m afraid Britain’s students have surpassed those of the U.S. in demanding Special Snowflake status, as well as in showing complete obtuseness when it comes to politics. This has just played out in a breathless display of hypocrisy.

In October of last year, I reported that Britain’s National Union of Students deep-sixed a vote to condemn ISIS. As I quoted from The Tab at the time:

Hand-wringing delegates at the NUS blocked a vote to show solidarity with Iraqi Kurds and condemn Islamic State militants because they say it’s “Islamophobic”.

The bill called for the Union – which claims to represent UK students – to support unity between Muslims, condemn the bloody terror of ISIS (also known as the Islamic State), and support a boycott on people who fund the militants.

But the motion offended Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said: “We recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia.

“This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”

That’s arrant cowardice. But now, according to UK Media Watch, they have, as Willard Foxton of the Torygraph predicted, gone ahead and condemned Israel, at least by supporting the BDS campaign whose ultimate aim is to eliminate the state of Israel:

The NUS executive council passed a motion put forward by the School of Oriental and African Studies students union just yesterday to boycott Israel, and voted to align themselves with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign – a movement whose leaders explicitly call for the end of the Jewish state.

(NUS has previously passed resolutions condemning UKIP [the United Kingdom Independence Party] and former Education Minister David Lammy)

As the site notes, the NUS apparently has no problem condemning Islamophobia by refusing to condemn ISIS, but can easily condemn Israel through the BDS movement, which, with their mindset (and, given the BDS’s desire to eliminate Israel) could be considered the anti-Jewish equivalent to Islamophobia, also known as anti-“Semitism.”

*******

Back in the U.S.S.A., the chilling effect of entitled and hyper-offended students on teaching is expressed in a disturbing (and pseudonymous) piece on Vox by a college teacher, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.” An excerpt:

I once saw an adjunct not get his contract renewed after students complained that he exposed them to “offensive” texts written by Edward Said and Mark Twain. His response, that the texts were meant to be a little upsetting, only fueled the students’ ire and sealed his fate.  That was enough to get me to comb through my syllabi and cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad, texts ranging from Upton Sinclair to Maureen Tkacik — and I wasn’t the only one who made adjustments, either.

I am frightened sometimes by the thought that a student would complain again like he did in 2009. Only this time it would be a student accusing me not of saying something too ideologically extreme — be it communism or racism or whatever — but of not being sensitive enough toward his feelings, of some simple act of indelicacy that’s considered tantamount to physical assault. As Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis writes, “Emotional discomfort is [now] regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated.” Hurting a student’s feelings, even in the course of instruction that is absolutely appropriate and respectful, can now get a teacher into serious trouble.

By the way, do read Kipnis’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece, too, “My title IX Inquisition.” You won’t believe what this feminist professor at Northwestern University experienced: two formal complaints for merely writing about censorship. After her earlier essay about overly intrusive campus regulations, she heard from a lot of other faculty:

Most academics I know — this includes feminists, progressives, minorities, and those who identify as gay or queer — now live in fear of some classroom incident spiraling into professional disaster. After the essay appeared, I was deluged with emails from professors applauding what I’d written because they were too frightened to say such things publicly themselves. My inbox became a clearinghouse for reports about student accusations and sensitivities, and the collective terror of sparking them, especially when it comes to the dreaded subject of trigger warnings, since pretty much anything might be a “trigger” to someone, given the new climate of emotional peril on campuses.

I learned that professors around the country now routinely avoid discussing subjects in classes that might raise hackles. A well-known sociologist wrote that he no longer lectures on abortion. Someone who’d written a book about incest in her own family described being confronted in class by a student furious with her for discussing the book. A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and the only thing that will make it better is lawsuits.

h/t: Malgorzata, Jesse

131 thoughts on “More college shenanigans: After refusing to pass a motion condemning ISIS, Britain’s National Union of Students votes to boycott Israel

  1. “the only thing that will make it better is lawsuits”

    Filed by staff for unfair dismissal? Or by students for emotional damage, or whatever (and hopefully lost)?

    It does seem that university administrators need to grow more of a backbone about this sort of thing if it’s really causing the sort of intimidation described.

      1. I think the heart of this problem (or at least addressing it) does land on the administrators’ shoulders. Unfortunately, their motivation is money, so to them, keeping the students enrolled is more important than keeping educators employed. Whether it is in politics, business, or education, money corrupts and creates serious damage. I believe this is an issue that may have to get a lot worse before it gets better.

        1. I wonder how much of an impact on student enrolment there would be if universities just toughed this out. I’m guessing it is only a small, if very vocal, group of students who take this stuff seriously.

          1. Probably true. But then the group of students standing out (and up) for free expression seems to be even smaller and certainly less vocal.

          2. I agree that the demand for university services from students is probably almost completely inelastic. I’ve never heard of a university actually being hurt financially because students wouldn’t enroll.

            What isn’t inelastic, though, are the funds they receive from donors and legislators, and those could be upset by vocal minorities of a variety of sorts.

            1. I don’t think your point about ‘inelastic demand’ holds for smaller liberal arts colleges, which are heavily (80-90%) tuition- driven. Thus a shortfall of 50 students in an entering class of 500 is a significant blow to solvency.

          3. I bet you’re right- that if universities toughed it out, there wouldn’t be a marked increase in students “dropping out”. I think the greater damage to universities is that savvy professors won’t try and get jobs at universities who have terminated faculty over this type of non-issue. I’m glad I got my degree in the early 90’s.

            1. If you knew how messed-up the tenure system currently is, you’d know that for a large number of candidates for a professorship, it’s not about choosing where to work, but hoping they get a tenure-track spot somewhere – anywhere.

        2. Isn’t part of the problem the legislation itself?
          That combined with the incessant shrieking from some quarters that complaints are not treated fairly and that the victim always be believed.

      2. In many, if not most colleges and universities today, students = buyers’ market = customers; faculty = sellers market = employees.

        I know this to be so, at least where I taught for a long, long time. The move to this marketing model is the single greatest change I observed during my tenure (tenure! thank goodness!!). The second greatest change is the loss of intellectual curiosity with each entering class. And I suppose this is a kind of corollary to the first. The marketing model has nothing to do with education; everything to do with credentialism.

  2. I am extremely concerned by the two trends addressed here – the rise in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, and the limits being placed on freedom of speech.

    Freedom of speech is a relatively new concept, as is the general recognition that anti-Semitism is a bad thing. I can’t see any direct connection, unless it’s that we’re having trouble letting go of our tribal roots.

    I feel like all I can do is hope that rationality wins.

    1. Well we shouldn’t conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, any more than we should conflate criticism of ISIS with Islamophobia (which is nuts — most of the victims of ISIS are Muslim). I’m pretty confident that criticism of Israel from European liberals is not motivated by anti-Semitism.

      1. When there is only one Jewish state in the world and the world is criticising this state on every possible forum, for every possible real or imaginary crime – check the amount of UN resolution against Israel and against North Korea, for example. The same disproportional amount of reports condemning Israel you will find in Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, World Council of Churches – practically any forum you look at. Count the mass demonstrations in Western capitals against Israel and against Syria, which in recent years killed and maimed incomparably more people than Israel did in defensive wars and against terrorists in all 67 years of its existence. You can criticise a specific policy and you can crticise a specific government. Israel was equally criticised for everything when Labour had power as it is when Likud had power. All this gives a very stark indication that something other is at work here and not only simple criticism of a policy you dislike. And, as both President Obama and Pope Francis said recently, and as Martin Luther King said a long time ago: anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism.

        1. I don’t know much on this topic and readily admit it, but I think it’s possible that the pointed negative focus on Israel might at least partly be the result of a positive association in people’s minds.

          That is, Israel is grouped as being “like us.” The country is seen as aiming towards being liberal and enlightened, part of the Western culture. Thus, they are held to higher standards. Just as folks will (rightly) become outspokenly critical when the U.S. engages in behavior which is commonplace among regressive totalitarian societies, Israel gets it while some country or people mentally placed in the “out group” appears to receive some weird kind of pass.

          As for the “liberal students” and their disturbing tendency to repress anything they don’t like, in my opinion this is partly an unintended consequence of an otherwise proper pushback against bullying.

          Parents, teachers, and children in younger grades have for about a decade now been inundated with constant messages and stories emphasizing being kind and avoiding any behavior which hurts others. Fine as far as it goes, of course. And admittedly it hasn’t seemed to have enough of an effect on bullying per se. But I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the outrage against some innocent child being “shamed” or “damaged” by uncaring brutes is spilling over into cultural areas which don’t really fit the profile — yet people are sloppy and can’t or won’t make the distinction.

            1. And one I agree with – I too think it’s an unintended consequence of the fight against bullying. Also, a lot of people can’t seem to tell the difference between criticism of ideas and personal attacks around things that can’t be changed like race, gender, sexuality etc.

              1. “a lot of people can’t seem to tell the difference between criticism of ideas and personal attacks”

                That is evidently true.

                “around things that can’t be changed like race, gender, sexuality etc.”

                I think the issue is deeper, though, around recognising what can and cannot be changed. Specifically, gender (“change” needs some nuance here) and sexuality.

                /@

          1. 1. I do not doubt that if Japan had the same amount of foreign journalist per capita as Israel has, the same amount of foreign funded NGO on the lookout for every tiniest “sin” Israel commits, you would also have a reason to criticise Japan – and not because Japan has the Western, liberal democracy. It is not a question that they are “like us” but that you are bombarded by information – to a big part distorted, without context or plainly false – which you do not have from other parts of the world.
            2. Over 50% of Israel’s Jewish inhabitants are refugees and their descendants from Arab and other Islamic countries. European Jews made a lightning jump – from being “a foreign, Asiatic presence” in Europe until the end of WWII, to the notion that they are “like us”!
            3. Don’t you think that holding all the Arabs to lower standards of simple decency is rasism?

            1. Don’t you think that holding all the Arabs to lower standards of simple decency is rasism?

              Absolutely. I wasn’t endorsing the stance, I was trying to figure it out.

              1. That’s what I took from your comments.

                There’s a difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but there are plenty of examples where the two are conflated. Anti-Semitism seems to have become a major issue in France in the last few years, for example. There are news reports of the constant abuse thrown at people wearing yarmulkes. Anti-Zionism has made anti-Semitism acceptable for some.

        2. I have to point out that North Korea hasn’t started any wars, isn’t building illegal settlements in occupied territory, etc. At worst they bluster and threaten and impoverish their own people with bad policies. People generally consider them impotent, so it’s no surprise that they’re not taken seriously. There’s also a dearth of information coming out of there.

          Israel, on the other hand, is continually mistreating their neighbors, and there’s a steady stream of reports of soldiers and settlers attacking and killing Palestinians, taking their land and water and farms, burning their olive groves, bulldozing their homes, etc. The steady stream of abuses keeps them in the news and in people’s minds.

          There’s also a sense that Israel wants to be seen as legitimate and that diplomatic pressure can actually work.

          So it’s no surprise to me that Israel is the target of more frequent condemnation by the UN than North Korea.

          1. I daresay the NUS executive would agree with every word you say. However, Israel has not started any wars. It has fought several defensive wars and periodically tries to stop the constant low-level warfare waged against it by Hamas. The settlements are not illegal in spite of what you hear. The Palestinians have a much rougher time at the hands of their own corrupt leaders than from the Israelis. Lies and half-truths about Israel are everywhere in our media and in reports by NGOs with a political agenda. The PA and Hamas both openly say that their aim is to destroy Israel, but only Israel is criticised when it defends itself. There is nearly always another half of the story that doesn’t get reported, so people are left with the impression that Israel must be the source of all the trouble.

            1. This is much what I was thinking, from various things I have learned about the situation. ‘Surrounded by enemies that want your total destruction’ is the phrase that came to my mind. Also that the other side is not averse to using civilians as shields, making Israel’s defense look even more heinous, while not really deserved.

              1. Yes indeed. It is odd the way people will use that argument about the disparity between casualty figures without realizing the implications–that one side protects its civilians with rocket shelters while the other side considers its dead civilians good PR.

        3. There were many strong, proud Jews at the time of Israel’s founding, and in the years leading up to it, who were staunchly anti-Zionist — the ones who, when contemplating putting so many Jews together in so small a place in so a hostile a land, said: “Nothing good will come of this.” I would not have agreed with them then, had I been around (and I hope with all my heart that their contention never proves prophetic). Moreover, I disagree with anti-Zionism today, and consider myself a solid supporter of the state of Israel.

          Point being, however, that it is a mistake to automatically equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. (Also, although the “anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism” trope is frequently attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr., there seems to be no good evidence he actually ever said it. While MLK was definitely pro-Zionism, the equivalency seems too knee-jerk to reflect his thinking.)

          On the other hand, holding a current belief that history should be rolled back and Israel should be wiped from the map — that variety of anti-Zionism, if not precisely equivalent to anti-Semitism, largely overlaps with it. (On the other other hand, the belief that Israel should roll back to something like its 1967 borders — whether you agree with that position or not — shouldn’t in any way be equated with anti-Zionism, much less anti-Semitism.) This stuff gets complicated quick — too complicated for simplistic equations.

          1. Before WWII the discussion between proponents of a Jewish state and opponents to it was lively and had some grounds. The argument was less about the dangers of amassing so many Jews in one place, and more about the possibility of Jewish life in diaspora without being persecuted. Left was promoting the second stance having an optimistic outlook and believing in “brotherhood of men”. Pessimists didn’t believe that the Jew-hatred would ever abate and thought that the only chance for Jews is to be able to defend themselves in an own state. As we all know, pessimists were right and if optimists (and the rest of the world) didn’t fight against Zionist with such ardour six million European Jews would have a place to escape to from the ovens of Nazi Germany. Today, after the opportunity for them to escape was lost, and in the face of an existing state of Israel, anti-Zionism is really something quite different than the ideas of pre-war Bund.
            About Martin Luther King’s words: here is an review of the evidence: http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2012/03/in-the-words-of-martin-luther-king/

    2. ‘Freedom of speech is a relatively new concept, as is the general recognition that anti-Semitism is a bad thing.’

      “Relatively new” compared to what? Viewed in the context of the long march from antiquity to modernity, maybe. But neither one is a 20th Century construct, or anything like it. The modern world has had centuries to adjust to these concepts.

  3. Hand-wringing delegates at the NUS blocked a vote to show solidarity with Iraqi Kurds and condemn Islamic State militants because they say it’s “Islamophobic”.

    That makes no sense whatsoever; the Kurds are muslim. Imagine its the 1970s, and some campus is debating a bill that will show solidarity to Catholic Ireland and condemn Protestant Northern Ireland (or vice versa; it really doesn’t matter for the example), and it gets voted down on the grounds that the bill is “anti-Christian.”

    1. The complaint against Kipnis was equally bizarre. Kipnis wrote about how a complaint was generated because of an essay she wrote, and the student then went on to complain that she left things out of the same essay (about the student). So she should have written more? The reasoning demonstrated by the student was so ridiculous, I am amazed it came from a graduate student and was not laughed out of the room immediately by administrators.

      1. I don’t see this kind of complaint as nonsensical in general. You can easily offend somebody by writing only a little bit about them – enough to criticize them but not enough to give readers the full context – in which case either writing nothing or writing more would be an improvement.

        But I wouldn’t be surprised if you were right in this specific case…

        1. Go read the essay by the student who made the complaint and decide for yourself. I found it ridiculous and without merit. Amazed it came from a graduate student.

    2. Re: “Kurds are muslim,” apparently many Kurds, fed up with Islam, are now converting to Zoroastrianism (which some of them consider a more authentically Kurdish religion). I just read an article about it, but I can’t remember where. Also, I don’t know if it’s really “many” or just “a few,” but it is interesting.

    3. Technically, Northern Ireland is split between Protestants and Catholics. That was the source of “The Troubles” — an internal dispute within Northern Ireland (a part of the UK), rather than one between it and the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland to its south.

      Otherwise, though, your point is valid.

      1. It reads like it could be an excerpt … an excerpt from The Trial by Kafka or Malamud’s The Fixer.

  4. NUS “officials” have said dumb things like this for as long as I can remember – they were just as bad when I was an undergrad in the 80s. We were all members of NUS, but we still regarded the Union leadership as buffoons, and I doubt its much different now.

    The offence-mongering and consequent self-censorship is new, though, and pretty horrifying.

    1. Not just the 80s: the NUS were the same in the late 60s! At grown-up universities they were regarded as a standing joke. It is important to realise that they have little constituency or influence beyond the tiny number of their activists.

      AFAIAA UK universities are not yet afflicted with demands by coddled students to be excused contemplating anything that might upset their little minds to the extent that some of their US equivalents are. But I am not too optimistic about the future.

    1. Above, I tried to make the case that it’s partly unintended consequences regarding anti-bullying campaigns. Coupled with a decades old cultural emphasis on enlightenment-through-therapy, a laudable desire to respect the weak and heal the damaged manages to morph into a darker mandate to pick through any and all controversies to see who is being made weak and damaged — and get those responsible.

      1. Good point, well-stated. Though the consequences can no longer be passed off as “unintended” (I recognize you meant by the original anti-bullying campaigners) as group after group, and their enablers, have come to see the power in portraying themselves as “victims.”

      2. I think it reflects a much older trend in liberalism than that. Think back to their defense of communism in the face of all the reports of atrocities emanating from the regimes they idealized.

        1. Keep in mind that, during the same period, there was always a large and vocal anti-Stalinist contingent on the Left. The pro-Stalin Left of the ’30s is best seen as a reaction to the Great Depression and to the historical vendetta waged by rightwing robber-baron capitalists against the nascent organized labor movement, especially in the context of fear over the rising tide of European fascism and some leftists’ acute enthrallment with Marxist … well, “theology” seems not too strong a metaphor.

          I do not see a connection to the political correctness of today (although I concede that tracing the various stands of historical leftism becomes somewhat opaque to me from around the time of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, through War 2, into the McCarthy/HUAC era, and out the other side).

          Are you saying you see an ideological connection between the pro-Stalinst left and today’s PC social justice warriors? Or are you saying that there is some quirk in the leftist psyche that leaves it vulnerable to such errors and missteps, both then and now (a view that seems to be an article of faith in Far Right cant 🙂 )?

          1. I see a similar commitment to an ideology in spite of strong evidence that contradicts it. There were liberals so in love with the ideals of communism that they overlooked numerous reports of brutality and draconian social engineering. Today we have those so committed to the idea of oppressed Muslims (for one example) that they dismiss blatant evidence of violence, terror, misogyny, etc.

            At the same time I think there has always been a vein of true liberalism (i.e. “the kind I like” 😀 ) pulling its hair out over these clueless ideologues.

            (Ah, you remind me of a great book I read some decades ago on the history of the US union movement. It was the first time I realized how much a role the communists played in the battles. With any luck at all it’s buried in the basement someplace–I must try to unearth it.)

  5. From the Vox piece:

    And as writer and academic Freddie DeBoer writes, they don’t even have to be formally fired — they can just not get rehired. In this type of environment, boat-rocking isn’t just dangerous, it’s suicidal, and so teachers limit their lessons to things they know won’t upset anybody.

    I wonder, in fact, if we may be underestimating the economic component; the supply-demand skew for professors might be a critical factor in how seriously administrators take (previously termed) trivial student concerns. When there are lots of replacement professors, take complaints seriously because hey, there is always another horse in the stable. When there are few, ignore them; you need that prize stallion/mare.

    1. The model in academia seems to be much like that at Apple (and many other corporations)–hire ’em young, and when they are at the point in their careers where they should advance, seize on any pretense that will allow you to fire them and hire the next round of cheap young aspirants.

  6. The students in Britain are more of a concern to me. I teach evolution and I have had plenty of complaints made by students to my higher-ups. “He told us we came from monkeys!” was one memorable accusation by a student (who badly misunderstood what I had said in lecture). No complaint ever made it past the eye-rolling Dean and nothing was ever entered into my file. I’ve never once even considered changing how or what I teach. I think the real problem here in the USA is the spineless administrators. At some point, one of them should have said of the Kipnis complaint “This is BS.”

    1. “He told us we came from monkeys!” was one memorable accusation by a student (who badly misunderstood what I had said in lecture).

      Was it clear why the student complained about this? Were they just to thick to see it as anything but an insult or was it … religion?!

      /@

      1. The student in this particular instance was an observant Muslim. So, yes, it was religion. I’m not sure what the student was expecting in such a course (Human Origins).

    2. The problem seems to be more the Title IX thing which provides a legal door for the complaints and probably leaves administrators with little choice but to investigate and I suspect would open them to legal problems if they didn’t-hence them using lawyers.
      In this case the investigation seems very dodgy Kipnes should have had her own lawyer on the ground from day one. The refusal to provide clear charges, allow recording etc sounds BS to me.

      [And Jerry, half way through writing this I was interrupted by the courier delivering your book which has bow reached the benighted antipodes.]

    3. ‘… a student (who badly misunderstood what I had said in lecture)’

      He didn’t understand when you said that these were halal monkeys?

    1. Oh, it’s been freely available for years!

      Origin
      On October 15th, 1999, the film Fight Club[1] was released. The film features one of the protagonists, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) telling the men looking to join the fight club:

      “You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.”

      /@

  7. A well-known sociologist wrote that he no longer lectures on abortion.

    A note of hope.

    I was involved in teaching a bioethics course in the last calendar year at a fairly liberal university. I braced myself for negative student reactions to some of the material, but I was pleasantly surprised that the students addressed the topics like the grown ups that their age suggested they are. Most of the students were freshmen from a variety of majors, about half science of some sort, usually biology related, about half liberal arts of some sort. The class was very large, so there was ample sample for me to expect troublemakers. Many of the topics were difficult, including addressing questions of personhood in the context of abortion and organ donation from encephalopathic babies, DNA testing and privacy, forensic DNA testing, including lots of disturbing cases of murder, rape, and both true and false convictions for these crimes, compulsory vaccination, euthanasia, right to die, GMOs, and medical research, including the Henrietta Lacks case, the Tuskegee abomination, and many other disturbing episodes. Although I had both a few very religious students with strong opinions on some topics, and a few social justice liberals with equally strong views on the topics, none were overbearing nor tried to shield themselves from the material or the need to address their views through the lens of the ethical theories we were studying (Kantianism, utilitarianism, etc.) The five essays they had to write mostly sucked, as freshman essays tend to do, but none of them came unhinged when discussing any of the topics.

    Now, perhaps if I taught this course for ten years, or it was my main job, I would feel more concerned. Still, I found the experience to be a rare spot of encouragement about humanity.

    1. That is a note of hope; I’m glad you shared it. It also sounds like a class I would have loved to take (I was a lit major).

    2. I’m guessing that the incidents we’re talking about still only occur for a relatively small minority of classes or penned essays. However even if its only 1% of classes, we can expect almost every non-tenured professor to alter their behavior because of (1) the statistical likelihood of it happening to them at some time, and (2) because there is no institutional incentive to not alter behavior, no counterbalance. When bosses punish you for trying and failing, but don’t reward you for trying and succeeding, nobody’s going to try. Why would they?

        1. I should probably know this, gluonspring, but–do you teach in the US?

          (Oh please, oh please!)

    3. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I can understand university teachers getting a little edgy about the odd student who might complain because his or her sensitivities have been offended but, on the whole, young people want education. There is a mean-spirited and pompous attitude to students in some of the comments in this thread that does not gel with my experience of students at all.

      1. Any comments I have made about “students” in this, or any related, thread are specifically directed to the students whose conduct prompted the OP in question. I’m in no position to quantify their number (and defer to what appears to be your greater familiarity), but the events at issue seem to be common enough that, while the students involved may be odd, it is more than just the “odd student” involved.

    4. One of you favourite courses in university was an elective I took on biomedical ethics. I’m glad you experienced the students acting more like how my fellow students acted over 20 years ago.

  8. Kipnis was accused under title IX of being critical of ways title IX was being used. The whole system is devouring itself.

    (don’t get me started on the Jenner deification)

  9. I think things have come to the point where profs & lecturers show record their lectures, just in case some asshole tries to attack with a falsehood. Buy a digital recorder, stick in your inside jacket pocket, and be covered.

    For audio recording, a 16-gig chip will cover HOURS and HOURS of lecture.

        1. “Gee, I just happened to have left my personal-notes recorder running that day.”

          You don’t have to admit to the existence of other recordings. Of course, you’ll have to hide them well and be prepared to lie convincingly when required.

          I have two general rules about life:

          #1: The unnecessary infliction of pain is evil.

          #2: When someone attempts to use the truth against you in an unethical fashion, you lie, lie convincingly and without guilt.

          Over the decades, I’ve found #2 situations occur about once every 3-5 years. Depending on your vocation, your frequency may vary.

          1. You may want to steer clear of law school — or, should you go, to bone up on ethics. (Then again, from the horror stories I hear from colleagues, you may be perfectly suited to the profession.)

            Speaking of the law, anyone inclined to follow your advice regarding recording should first determine the legalities in their jurisdiction, since some require securing the consent of all parties to a recording. The failure to do so can constitute a felony.

    1. At McGill (but not at UBC or CMU so much) there were so-called notetaking clubs, which amongst other things, audiotaped lectures. (This is before everyone had a smartphone.) At one point there were so many tape recorders on the lectern of a psychology class I took I wondered why the faculty member agreed to do it. It seemed to be horribly intrusive to allow all of them. (Having several different clubs is of course the problem.)

      I note that it was only the bioscience and some engineering classes where this was done. Even the big philosophy classes it didn’t seem to be as much of a thing.

      Of course, this is students, not faculty doing their own …

  10. I’d like to take back much of what I wrote yesterday in the Ginsburg thread.

    In light of the current state of terror in academia, I now propose, in all sincerity, that Please Master or similar materials be required reading for all students by the age of ten. We should also at the same time hit them with the dystopian classics like 1984. We should even have them do things like compare and contrast Twain’s use of, “nigger,” with modern rappers; did Twain’s reportage style make it okay, and does the violent misogyny of rap ameliorate the use of the epithet by a black man?

    Yes.

    For ten-year-olds.

    And I’m serious.

    Some of them will be traumatized, yes. And many will open up conversations that will be even more traumatic for their parents than for the children.

    But, you know what?

    They’ll get over it, and damned quickly.

    And we’ll never again have to deal with this bullshit of jackbooted wimps terrorizing everybody into painting saccharine pastel rainbows over everything.

    b&

    1. They’ll get over it, and damned quickly.

      And we’ll never again have to deal with this bullshit of jackbooted wimps terrorizing everybody into painting saccharine pastel rainbows over everything.

      Unlikely (IMO). As has been pointed out elsewhere (and you might even have pointed it out to me), these snowflake parents and students leave the classroom in righteous indignation only to listen to profanity-ridden music, play Grand Theft Auto, and watch porn on their own time.

      Some theists have suggested I just need to attend a church service and then I’d understand their perspective. Won’t work; what they don’t (but should) realize is that I did that lots already, lack of exposure isn’t the issue. I would hazard a guess the same is true here: lack of exposure is not the root issue.

      1. Oh, I’m not at all suggesting that mere exposure is sufficient.

        But I do think that simply refusing to infantilize children, even younger children, and treating them with dignity and respect…and the expectation that they’re perfectly capable of reading poetry and novels, even raunchy poetry and traumatic novels, without being scarred for life.

        And if “Yes Master” is fair game for ten-year-olds, then we can all properly ridicule college students who’re terrified of a bit of Twain. Give them some age-appropriate reading material — like non-toxic library paste.

        b&

        1. Ben, you are so far out of the loop concerning childhood development you should be embarrassed.

          1. Not that far off. My son started reading at an early age and besides newspapers, he’d already read quite a bit about US – Native American relations including accounts of the Trail of Tears by the time he was ten. I see nothing wrong with exposing children to diverse topics.

              1. I did say, not that far off. Please Master isn’t my cup of tea and I doubt many 10 year olds would understand the poem. However, if the point is exposure to and discussion of sex and violence at an early age is a good thing, then I agree. It needn’t be as graphic as Please Master if the parent isn’t comfortable with whatever questions might arise, I don’t think I would be able to do that, but some people can.
                I’ve had people tell me exposing my son to the brutality of US – Native American relations at an early age is horrific and others that I shouldn’t have let him read newspapers.
                I’m also confused why you singled out anal sex. I assume it’s more a concern about the graphic nature of the poem than it is about the type of sex.
                Full disclosure, my son is Native American and his grandfather was a respected historian for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

              2. Indeed. Ten-year-olds are already typically very curious about sex and likely masturbating, even if they’re careful to not let their parents know about it — with the few late bloomers only a year or so behind at the most.

                And, more to the point, “the talk” really should come before they get to that stage so they have some idea of what’s about to hit them. And a single talk is no more enough for a subject such as this as it would be for algebra or the history of the Middle Ages or astronomy…or even just how to drive a car.

                We’ve got overwhelming evidence of the inverse correlation between sex education and bad sexual outcomes. It makes sense, too…the kids are going to want to know about these things whether parents want them to or not. So if parents try to “protect” children from knowing about sex, that just makes it one of those irresistible secret mysteries for the kids to explore on their own. Take the mystery out of it and you remove that particular motivation for experimentation…and replace it with all the reasons to not do anything stupid.

                Diane, I imagine some of the reason you’re pushing back against me is because “Yes Master” isn’t straight heterosexual sex, but kinky gay sex. But, if you think about it…if a child is old enough to know about straight sex, complete with anatomical details, what possible justification could there be to still try to “protect” that child from knowledge of the other things people do with their anatomy? And for the BDSM angle…children are already well familiar with role-playing games, including Cops and Robbers and, at least once upon a time, Cowboys and Indians. Should a child really find it surprising that people like to play those kinds of games at the same time they have sex?

                And what kind of sex education could honestly be called complete if it doesn’t include both gay sex as well as a discussion of fetishes?

                I understand that parents really, really, really don’t want to think about the sexuality of their children. And the natural aversion to that is a very good and healthy thing — for the gene pool, if nothing else. But…well, those children are going to grow up, and they’re going to have their own sex lives. And those sex lives will be as straight-laced or as kinky as they themselves want them to be.

                As a society, we owe it to the children to give them a thorough classroom education on sex, along with politics and history and literature and violence (I assure you, the Trail of Tears was far more horrific than anything Ginsburg ever even dreamed of doing in the bedroom) and all sorts of other uncomfortable and disturbing subjects. And, especially because of all the problems associated with having parents teach kids about sex, kids need to learn about it in the classroom.

                Isn’t that the whole purpose of schools in the first place? To have experts teach children things that parents aren’t particularly well qualified to teach?

                b&

              3. “Diane, I imagine some of the reason you’re pushing back against me is because “Yes Master” isn’t straight heterosexual sex, but kinky gay sex.”

                Wrong.

                You are making so many fucking assumptions about my attitudes, my child-raising, my experiences, my opinions, simply because I disagreed with the appropriateness of what happened in one specific case. Knock it off.

              4. Then won’t you tell us what it is you object to? About as specific as you’ve gotten is your response of a couple times back, which read, in its entirety, “And you see no difference between reading about the Trail of Tears and anal sex?” Can you forgive me for therefore concluding that your objection is to anal sex, or for my characterization of anal sex as kinky gay sex? (And, yes, heterosexuals have kinky anal sex, too, but the sex in, “Please Master,” is unquestionably gay.)

                If the objection is to sex in general, why the therefore-unnecessary qualifier of, “anal,” in your response? And, if the objection isn’t to sex in general, but anal sex in particular, doesn’t the rest of my argument address that head-on?

                And, yes, I’m trying to be provocative here, but emphatically sincerely so. I really do think that sex education for children, including young children, is as important as the three “R”s and history and the arts and all the rest, and that sex education should be as complete as for any other subject. If a ten-year-old is old enough to learn about the Western migration of Europeans across the Americas with all the romanticized wagon trains and what-not…that same ten-year-old is also old enough to learn about the Trail of Tears and the plague blankets and the Conquistadors and all the rest that were critical elements of that migration. And if that ten-year-old is old enough to learn just how, exactly, with details and pictures, babies really do wind up in womens’s tummies, that child is also old enough to learn just how, exactly, gay people engage in similar non-procreative sexual activities.

                And running through all this is my thesis that it is not right to protect children (or, more importantly, their parents) from embarrassment and discomfort in the classroom, but that embarrassment and discomfort should be sought out and embraced. Some of the subjects really shouldn’t be cause for embarrassment and discomfort, plus students really do need to learn the skills of dealing with embarrassing and uncomfortable subjects in an adult manner.

                b&

        2. Your second paragraph seems a bit incomplete. If we do X, and Y, and Z…then what?

          But maybe I can answer it anyway. My point is, “scarred for life” for them seems to have something to do with context, not just content. You are making the argument that if they all view the content early, they’ll stop complaining about having to view it in the college classroom. But I think we already have evidence (grand theft auto, etc.) that this is patently untrue. I’m saying that even if you make them perfectly comfortable viewing it/discussing it in other circumstances, they may still complain about having to view it in the context of a college classroom.

          1. I’m saying that even if you make them perfectly comfortable viewing it/discussing it in other circumstances, they may still complain about having to view it in the context of a college classroom.

            …and being uncomfortable in a college classroom is a reason to drop it from the curriculum? And isn’t a really, really big point of education, especially college education, to push students out of their “comfort zones”?

            Those students uncomfortable with dissecting frogs likely aren’t at all uncomfortable with eating chicken wings….

            b&

            1. No, now you’re shifting the discussion point. I agree its not a reason to take it out of the classroom. I’m saying the solution you propose in #16 for making everyone less complainy won’t work.

              1. Not sure about that. If kids are first exposed to Twain in classrooms when they’re pre-teens — the same age as some of the characters in the books — then it’s hard to imagine anybody even thinking to get offended by re-reading Twain in college.

                And that also gives you a chance to address racism head-on when the kids are young, and to show them why calling the dark-skinned amongst them niggers can be so hurtful. The light-skinned will at least know the pain they’re causing even if they continue to do so, and the dark-skinned will understand the source of the pain…with all of that going a great way to defuse the pain at the same time.

                Then, when they re-visit the works in college, all the “You just hurt my fweewings by making my eyes pass over the ‘N’ word!” bullshit is a decade or more behind them, and you can focus on the actual rhetorical brilliance Twain displays and help students learn how to emulate it. (Because, presumably, by then you’ve also thoroughly covered the non-nigger content as well so they’re well familiar it from a reader’s perspective.)

                Of course, there’s all sorts of other excellent provocative literature in addition to Twain; no need to beat the kids over the head with just one author.

                But they should be made uncomfortable with “adult” literature from a young age, or else you’ll turn them into exactly the precious pathetic privileged prats Kipnis and his compatriots are so afraid of.

                b&

              2. If kids are first exposed to Twain in classrooms when they’re pre-teens — the same age as some of the characters in the books — then it’s hard to imagine anybody even thinking to get offended by re-reading Twain in college.

                Its incredibly easy to imagine that happening, because (IMO) it does happen. Students who use the n-word in their day-to-day conversation walk into a classroom and get highly offended if a the professor uses it, even in the context of discussing Huck Finn. This is so extremely common that there are probably stories about it every single year, every time a new class takes on the material. Being exposed to the language at an early age does nothing to prevent the students from getting offended when that same language is used or discussed in an academic context. Getting exposed to themes of violence, rape, etc… at an early age in movies, games, etc… does nothing to prevent the students from getting offended when those same themes are discussed in an academic context.

                What you’re seeing here is (IMO) much more related to postmodernism than it is any sort of discomfort with the content. What these students find offensive is ‘outsiders’ analyzing an ‘insider’ perspective, critiquing it because that feels a lot like passing judgment on it. Or possibly they think they, as insiders, ‘own’ certain language and themes and find it offensive when other people stake some claim to be able to legitimately talk about it. They have no problem speaking and viewing the content; they have a problem with you, the professor, intruding on that space, challenging how they think about that content, and attempting to change their minds about it.

    2. I listened to 1984 on an audiobook about 20 years ago. It disturbed me deeply, and permanently. And, if I may be so flippant, I am really quite “triggered” to re-experience a bit of that disturbing audio ordeal whenever I hear a politician whipping up fear and paranoia and endless war against terrorism, or when I encounter the ideology and many of the tactics of certain liberal snowflakes and their daily two minutes online hate. These things make me shudder. As they should.

    3. ‘… traumatized, yes…’

      Traumatized, no. Fleetingly discomfited, is more like it.

      Or, as gluonspring points out, disturbed…but in a good way.

  11. I think the pendulum has swung much too far over towards protect children (and young adults) from everything.

    I know many teachers and their work lives are becoming crazy.

    One child has been bullying other children. But, because her parents are vocal about: Thou shalt do NOTHING that makes my snowflake unhappy (including any sort of discipline for misbehavior), almost nothing can be done.

    This kid was punching others and shoving them into lockers, etc., kicking them. She lies, pretends she doesn’t remember clearly articulated instructions, etc., etc. This is a 2nd-grader, about age 8. (Well on her way to being a sociopath, IMO.) She invited a classmate to her house for a sleep-over (first one for either of them), then proceeded to lock the other girl in a closet, beat her, and verbally abuse her. And then she was outraged when the other girl wouldn’t play with her anymore!

    They had a meeting with the principal, social worker, etc. The point of the meeting was to define a behavior plan for the kid.

    At the end of the meeting, the father says, “I think this is too negative for X. I think we all need to tell X that she’s a good person now.”

    One of the victim kids has a parent who is a lawyer and threatened to get a restraining order against the bullying kid. I think that finally got the school the backbone to move the kid to a different classroom. Where she complained about missing activities in her old classroom and that the kids in her new classroom “didn’t like her.” So the old classroom had to let her participate in the year-end special activities (though on a carefully sequestered basis).

    There’s a reason the other kids don’t like you. You’re an asshole! Stop being an asshole and people will like you! (Of course no one can say these obvious truths.)

    1. Although I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I do think it’s important to remember that kids that young are not just little adults (as opposed to the college students mentioned in the OP, who are not kids anymore). You may think it’s weak or just semantics, but with a kid like that I think it’s important to tell her that she’s “acting like an asshole,” not that she “is an asshole.” Maybe she is an asshole, but maybe she’s confused, abused, scared, etc. and acting out in the only way that gets people to pay attention to her, or trying things on other kids that someone’s been doing to her.

        1. Empathy with others maybe partially genetic, but its also partially learned. I say this as a parent of a young child: you have to get them to think about the feelings of others, or they often won’t ‘naturally’ do so. I’m just guessing here, but I’m betting this girl’s parents don’t spend much time having the “how would you like it if someone did that to you” conversation with her.

          1. Both of my kids learned a lot of empathy simply from having pets. It did seem to transfer to humans. 🙂

      1. Absolutely use phrases like acting like rather than, being one.
        And something must be up with the parents, where would you get behaviour like that?

    2. I don’t know what a “behavior plan” is, but it sounds terribly oppressive. (The first search result was full of so many insincere-sounding quotes that the whole modern disciplinary process sounds absolutely infuriating.) Give me honest, even angry, criticism over sugar-coated, passive aggressive lies any day!

      I’m also reminded of George Carlin’s skit “You lost, Bobby!”.

    3. At the end of the meeting, the father says, ‘I think this is too negative for X. I think we all need to tell X that she’s a good person now.’

      “X, dear, you’re a good person — but your behavior is some fucked up.”

      “You, dad — now you are an asshole. Where in god’s name were you when your 8-year-old was torturing another kid during a sleep over at your house?!”

      Feel free to paraphrase as needed.

    4. There are a number of psychiatric diagnoses for young children who are so antisocial. It accomplishes nothing to call them “assholes.” They are probably severely impaired.

  12. My first thought about the NUS was “What on earth are these student learning?” and then I wondered “What are these students capable of learning?”

    1. Well, my immediate reaction would be that, since they are NUS ‘officers’ and activists, they are probably not doing any meaningful work at all! And their pronouncements suggest that they have learnt, and are capable of learning, very little.

  13. After all the treasure in lives and gold spent in the attainment and defense of freedom

  14. How could you not condemn ISIS? They cut heads off. They burn people alive. They broadcast the videos. They take women as sex slaves. Does any criticism of horrific acts by Muslims amount to Islamophopia? The world is going crazy.

    1. How could you not condemn ISIS? Because that’s what the white, straight, hetero-, cis-males want you to do. And if you align yourself with the white, straight, hetero-, cis-males on any issue, that makes you a misogynist, racist, fascist, supporter of the patriarchy. You don’t wanna be a misogynist, racist, fascist, supporter of the patriarchy, do you? Then you better not condemn ISIS.

    2. How could you not condemn ISIS? Isn’t it obvious? If you think that they’re bringing the Caliphate that Muhammad promised.

      Dollars to donuts these same people would also refuse to condemn stoning for adulterers and apostates and all the rest. If you can stomach it, there’s YouTube video readily available of Muslims being asked point-blank and failing to do so.

      b&

  15. The National Union of Students’ blocking, on Islamophobia grounds, of the vote to condemn ISIS proves too much (for Islamophobe-phobes). No way NUS would have nixed a vote to condemn as bad an actor as ISIS if it only incidentally happened to have Muslim members. It is only because ISIS is overtly Islamic, ostensibly operating according to religious doctrine, that its condemnation could in any sense be characterized as Islamophobic.

    Preventing rational, reasonable people from expressing their disapprobation for entities as odious as ISIS through threat of their being labeled Islamophobic dooms “Islamophobia” as a concept. And the pusillanimous coddling of student “feelings” on campus is doomed for the same reason: What is patently ridiculous in public life must at length give way in a society that permits free expression and governs itself according to democratic principle.

  16. It’s unfortunate that the most strident people are the ones who make the biggest impact on the lives of others. If people truly can’t get by without being harmed by the offending material, then they should censor the material for themselves and let others make the same determination. Don’t ruin society for the rest of us…

  17. There was a recent piss-take(possibly in Private Eye) of Russell Brand, comparing the way he sees himself, which is as a Che Guevara for the new millennium, to the way other people see him, which is as a modern version of left-wing student loser Rik from sublime 80s BBC comedy The Young Ones.

    When I think of the students in this article I also picture a whole legion of Riks; sanctimonious, pompous and hypocritical – only these students are not at all funny.

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