Haverford publicly caves in to its entitled students

December 21, 2020 • 1:30 pm

On December 5 I described the meltdown happening at ritzy Haverford College (tuition: $57,000 per year, total expenses $76,000 per year) following a police shooting of a black man in nearby Philadelphia. The students went on strike and issued a long series of demands to the College, as outlined in my article and in an informative piece in Quillette by Jonathan Kay.

What was remarkable about the Haverford protests was how readily the administration caved in to the student demands, which comprised the usual laundry list of no punishments for strikers, more money for diversity initiatives, defunding the police, changing the curriculum, the institution of pass-fail grades, the creation of ethnically segregated spaces, and getting rid of the President (he’s now resigned). It seems that the students suddenly discovered the university’s “systemic racism”, which wasn’t a problem before the shooting (see Kay’s article about the harmony that used to reign at Haverford), and used this discovery to try getting everything they wanted.

The response of Haverford administratores, who cringingly abased themselves online, was in strong contrast to the response of nearby Swarthmore College (equally ritzy), whose black President, Valerie Smith, basically told the students to bugger off and stop making anonymous demands instead of engaging in civil discourse.

And, by and large, the Haverford students won. An article at the Haverford Clerk, the College’s independent student newspaper (click on screenshot below) recounts the administration’s surrender and links to a list of the students’ demands and the administration’s item-by-item responses, with the vast majority of those responses being “yes, we will.”

I’ll give only one excerpt from the newspaper piece, which saddens me since it’s about the Biology Department. Heretofore science departments have been resistant to or not interested in changing themselves to fit student demands for a social-justice curriculum, but that’s changing (it’s also changing at the University of Chicago). The excerpt:

Without any overarching guidance from the administration, faculty members took a number of different approaches to respond to the two-week interruption in classes caused by the strike and finish the semester.

One notable response came from the Biology department. Before the strike had even ended, the department had discontinued classes for the remainder of the semester in order to focus on redesigning the curriculum with equity and inclusion in mind. All classes, including thesis sections, were canceled outright. The department adjusted thesis requirements and deadlines to reflect this change.

Yet students in most biology classes still completed the entirety of their coursework for credit—just without traditional in-class hours. Instead, students learned from classes recorded in-person last year. Students requiring in-class hours for visas, alongside all students interested in participating, were able to participate in a credit-bearing seminar entitled “Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum”.

No in person biology classes at all! You can get credit for last year’s classes, but they’re old ones, and online. Instead, the biology department retreated to develop a curriculum centered on “equity and inclusion”. And, for students who needed in-person classes to meet visa requirements, they could take—no, not evolution or genetics or physiology or molecular biology—but “a credit-bearing seminar entitled ‘Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum’”.  What a waste of a chance to learn biology! The purpose of a biology department, which I shouldn’t need to recount here, is to teach students biology, not inculcate them with the tenets of Critical Race Theory. And you just know what that new curriculum will be like!

Oh, one more excerpt, which involves those professors who decided to keep having classes and giving assignments during the strike:

On the other hand, some professors never canceled class during the course of the strike and pushed ahead as they originally planned. If and how students were allowed to make up work varied from class to class.

“There was no guidance and no support,” said one student, who found themself [JAC: is that an error or a new pronoun? I suspect the latter, but shouldn’t it be “themselves”?] weeks behind their classmates who didn’t participate in the strike after their professor chose not to cancel class and move deadlines for assignments. “I felt that not only had I missed materials presented in lectures, but in independently making up materials, I was unable to analyze it at the same level,” they explained. “The quality of education that I received drastically fell because of the professor’s unwillingness to support the strike.”

That last sentence would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. If the professor supported the strike by canceling classes and exams, the plural student would also have a lower quality of education, for there would be nothing to learn! As it is, there were classes, the student decided not to attend, and the student is beefing because of their own decision. At least there was a chance to learn something!

Anyway, it’s useful to read the list of student demands and the administration’s responses. Here’s the first one—one of the few the administration refused (click to enlarge):

Below are the demands I find especially scary, for they involves ideological policing of the faculty by the students, who get paid to monitor the faculty’s ideological purity:

The demands (note the claim that “this body will not be punitive”):

The administration’s response (white background for white-background demand above, grey response for grey-background demand. “FAPC” is the “Faculty Affairs and Planning Committee”.

Good Lord! If I were looking for a job as a biology professor now, I sure as heck wouldn’t consider Haverford—knowing that the students would constantly be watching me to ensure that I wasn’t an ideologically “problematic professor.”  Nor would I want to have to center my class around “inclusivity”: I’d just teach evolutionary biology the way I’ve always taught it, giving the best view of current knowledge I could.  If that’s not inclusive enough, I’m not sure what would be. But maybe that already makes me “problematic”. I teach everyone the same, and I treat all my students the same. To me, that’s the best I can do to adhere to inclusivity and equality.

But do parents really want to fork out nearly a third of a million dollars to buy this kind of “education” for their students?


h/t: Luana

34 thoughts on “Haverford publicly caves in to its entitled students

  1. This is crazier than the Soviet bloc before 1989! A cultural revolution!
    (To be fair, I am currently also teaching online, due to a government lockdown decree, but at least the curriculum is biology and not ideology.)

    1. Oh, there are plenty of Woke who demanding exactly that: A Cultural Revolution. Such tiny minds, with such incredibly short memories and gross ignorance of history.

  2. Good Lord! If I were looking for a job as a biology professor now, I sure as heck wouldn’t consider Haverford—knowing that the students would constantly be watching me to ensure that I wasn’t an ideologically “problematic professor.”

    Although getting old sucks, there are some benefits to retirement!

  3. It makes one feel sorry for anyone graduating from high school these days and heading off to college. As if there aren’t enough reasons already.

    1. I am a bit worried about my son. It’s coming soon. We are talking to him about this. He has learned to think for himself. We discuss all kinds of things, especially biology and other science subjects. Also in detail into current events, Trump-era politics, etc.

      He’s pretty tough and smart. He may get himself into trouble at university. But we trained him to avoid controversy around religion. Minnesota is amazingly churchy – he got bushwhacked by a couple of school acquaintances into going to church-related events (false pretenses). He handled them well. We were appalled at the nerve of these parents taking other people’s kids to these things without asking. He stopped associating with those kids afterwards. Lie to me once …

      One time, I read one chapter of the Bible to him. So he could say, without lying, if he really got pressed by some kid, that “we read the Bible at home on our own.” He’s never had to pull that out, thankfully. It’s amazing how people will try to pry into your religious stance sometimes!

      I’ve read the entire Bible, chunks of the Koran (translated, so it doesn’t count!), the Hindu scriptures, etc. Probably like Jerry’s looking into religion. I wanted to actually read the stuff. I was a functional atheist before I got to college, but I was raised by very sincerely religious parents. Though I was functionally atheist, I still had that “soft spot for religion” having been raised in it. Reading The God Delusion crystalized my thinking and I was then an overt atheist.

      1. We did that “read it out loud at home together” thing when our kids were young. But in our case it was The Lord of the Rings. 😉

        (I had been an atheist since my teens but for me things “came clear” with Sam Harris’ The End of Faith.)

  4. Dr. Coyne, you had posted that the President of Swarthmore college had not capitulated to demands.

    She is a black woman. Does her gender and race give her the moral standing to say “no” to the students? And if she weren’t, Would she have capitulated?

  5. What does a shooting in Philadelphia by police have to do with this school besides proximity? How about a shooting in Chicago or maybe a president of the country lying about the last election. Why not protest the Corona virus for attacking more people of color while your at it. My little knowledge of problems with the Philadelphia police, and they have some, are not going to be fixed at all by students at this college.

  6. A brief perusal of the “Biology” Department’s course catalog, which I suspect still reflects the pre-controversy offerings, finds that you couldn’t have learned much about either evolution, ecology or behavior. In this case, going woke might actually improve the range of topics available.

    1. I went there, but didn’t take any biology. The history of the bio dept is interesting as I’ve heard it. It’s a small school now and was smaller in the 60s. That was the time they made the move to make the bio dept 100% mole & cell. I think they were pretty cutting edge doing that. From the get go, they attracted very high quality faculty in the area. So no students don’t get evolution or population or organismal. But they do get top rate foundations in what is arguably the core of the field. And they are well prepared to expand their horizons later. It may be a fair way to run a dept of what was usually like 4 faculty I think.

  7. It seems there might be a market for a college guide that evaluates the extent to which schools have turned into playgrounds for student activists and their enablers in the administration.

    I would certainly want that information if I were choosing a college today.

  8. I was both a Biology major and a managing editor of the student newspaper at Haverford during the pleistocene epoch. Sigh. The very idea of “a credit-bearing seminar entitled ‘Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum’ ” as a Biology course reveals that my alma mater has plunged into the ranks of Williams, Oberlin, and—fingers tremble on the keyboard—Evergreen State. [The latter pioneered in the new, echt-Progressive trend to “deal with problematic professors”.] Biology, alas, is the softest target in the STEM category for campaigns of agitprop, as events in the USSR once made clear. One has the uneasy feeling that a new version of that tragicomedy is being replayed in many of our ivory towers.

  9. I wonder what parents think and feel about these conditions. I suspect most of them consider a basic college education a requirement for their children to survive. Also in my limited existence many parents are paying at least part of these expenses; how do they feel about the “use” of their contribution.

  10. I can just imagine what some of my lecturers would make of a statement like ‘problematic professors’ and especially about how they might ‘change their thinking/behaviour moving forward’.
    I remember one lecturer, Robert Young, a a very no nonsense philosophy lecturer, who would not in any way countenance such purile arrogance. He wouldn’t take shit from anyone.
    This was around the time of the Vietnam war protests so protesting itself was not a problem but to have some arrogant youngster try and dictate how an adult, wo has already put in hard work in the world, should change their behaviour would almost result in an extremely interesting exchange. Especially in my imagination.
    But really, this crap is beyond the pale.

  11. What I am puzzled by is when do these kind of students develop this mentality. Is it:
    (1) At home from their parents
    (2) K-12 school teachers
    (3) College professors at their first steps in college
    (4) Popular culture
    (5) Something else

    I would appreciate any reference to some research looking into this question.

    1. Don’t forget that student politicians have *always* been idiots like this.

      The only difference now is that administrators pay attention to them.

  12. OMG — Consider for a moment, PCC (E), you and I and many of the good readers here are actually lefties (my qualifications there are a tad to the right of Pol Pot – call me a moderate 😉 – and this outrages us …. what the hell is the Fox News/OAN /MAGA crowd making of all this? The blowback against this madness is going to be (is already?) huge. I’ve been afraid to even glance at Fox in the last year but they must be bouncing off the walls. With glee. And those guys do schadenfreude and outrage at a “high art” level.

    I’m glad you keep us informed as the crazy seems to be popping up all over the place. Notice the similarities between the “demands” (sheesh!) at various colleges.

    D.A., J.D.

    *my pronoun is “click click” – Kalahari click, mind you, not that colonialist, erasive Xhosa click.
    *Written from the PURCHASED land of Manhattan

  13. I wonder how well students from Universities centering their science education on Social Justice will fare after graduation? They will most likely find it hard to compete with peers properly trained. Oh well, I suppose they can always become teachers and indoctrinate more students.

    1. I don’t know the situation in America, but on this side of the pond at least, “going into education” generally requires a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate of Education) or equivalent to “convert” a B.Sc into a B.Ed, taking a year or two which goes onto your debt. Teaching isn’t the “those who can’t do, teach” dumping ground that it had a reputation for in the 70s.
      I think the move started before I entered the jobs market in the 80s, but since I never considered teaching for one femtosecond, I didn’t exactly look at the administrivia.

    2. EXACTLY. If this has been happening for a few years already, it probably explains developments
      at several expensive private schools.

  14. Calling on administrative staff to “be brave … disrupt the status quo …”?
    There might be more snowflakes there than the average New England blizzard, but at least one of them isn’t afraid to deploy irony. Not that it’ll be recognised by the rest of the pitchfork and flaming torch mob.

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