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From In Loco Parentis to Leviathan

One of the fruits of the sexual revolution was the rejection of longstanding rules and guidelines governing behavior of students at the nation’s colleges and universities. Known as in loco parentis—“in place of the parent”—these institutions were understood to stand in for parents, and hence dictated rules regarding dormitory life, dating, curfew, visitations, and comportment. Adults—often clergy—were charged with patrolling the dormitory halls and campus grounds, seeking to discourage any opportunity for young people to do what teenagers and young adults have always sought to do—engage in a bit of hanky-panky beyond the watchful eye of their elders.

Some 50 years after the liberation of students from the nanny college, we are now seeing not a sexual nirvana, but widespread sexual confusion and anarchy, and a new form of in loco parentis—the Parent State.

An article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Fight Against Sex Crimes Holds Colleges to Account [1]” describes how a number of universities are now under federal investigation for claims of mishandling cases of alleged sexual crime, abuse, and harassment. It details how the federal government is becoming more aggressive in compelling universities to doggedly pursue accusations of sexual harassment under provisions of the Title IX nondiscrimination statues. It also tells of reporting requirements mandated by the Clery Act, which requires all institutions of higher education that receive federal financing to disclose the number of sexual assaults on or near their campuses each year. This, and an increasingly aggressive Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education, are putting colleges and universities on notice that they had best doggedly investigate any and all accusations of sexual assault, lest they fall afoul of federal authorities and put their federal funding in jeopardy.

As a member of the faculty at Notre Dame, I recently received an email from our campus security officer reminding me that I am considered to be a “Campus Security Authority” and that I am therefore required under the Clery Act—a federal law passed in 1990—to report any and all incidents of possible sexual assault that I might encounter. This requirement applies whether I am told directly, or overhear accidentally discussions of such incidents; whether I have been asked to keep the incident confidential (perhaps even by someone who does not want to file a claim or accusation); whether they happened on or near campus (what is “near”?); whether they are rumor or third-hand tales; whether they are happening now or happened at some point in past (no evident statute of limitations, so be careful what you brag about on your 50th college reunion weekend). The email lets me know from the campus’s “Clery Manager” that am required/obligated/it is my duty/responsibility under federal law to report anything I might hear that would then be subject to further investigation.

The lifting of in loco parentis rules on college campuses was done in the name of liberating students—adults—from the watchful and even invasive eye of campus authorities. It has led to a condition of sexual anarchy [2] in which young women especially seem to be vulnerable (“compounded by a culture of binge drinking”), according to the New York Times article. But one must speak of their safety, not vulnerability.

As a consequence of that liberation, campuses are now being required by the federal government to be more aggressive in investigating and bringing forward for prosecution those who have been accused of various forms of sexual assault. Having gotten out of the business of overseeing and seeking to guide the behaviors of young people, universities are now being required by the government to investigate and potentially punish offenders after incidents have occurred.

In this one corner of our nation’s activities, we see a microcosm of the trajectory of liberalism [3]. Longstanding local rules and cultures that governed behavior through education and cultivation of certain kinds of norms, manners, and morals, came to be regarded as an oppressive limitation upon the liberty of individuals. Those forms of control were lifted in the name of liberation, leading to regularized abuse of those liberties. In the name of redressing the injustices of those abuses, the federal government was seen as the only legitimate authority for redress and thereby exercised powers (ones that often require creative interpretations of federal law to reach down into private institutions) to re-regulate the liberated behaviors. However, now there is no longer a set of “norms” that seek to cultivate forms of self-rule, since this would constitute an unjust limitation of our freedom. Now there can only be punitive threats that occur after the fact. One cannot seek to limit the exercise of freedom before the fact (presumably by using at one’s disposal education in character and virtue); one can only punish after the fact when one body has harmed another body.

In effect, this immorality tale is Hobbes in microcosm: first tradition and culture must be eliminated as arbitrary and unjust (“natural man”). Then, we see that absent such norms, anarchy is the result (“the state of nature”). Finding such anarchy unbearable, we turn to a central sovereign as our sole protector, that “Mortall God” who will protect us from ourselves (“the social contract”). We have been liberated from all custom and tradition, all authority that sought to educate by habit and within the context of ongoing communities, and replaced it with a distant authority that punishes us when we abuse our freedoms. And, now lacking any informal and local forms of authority, it’s virtually assured that those abuses will regularly occur, and that the role of the State in ever more minute personal affairs will increase (“Prerogative”).

In place of the parent we now have a distant power which, perhaps like a parent, seeks to punish us when we act against decency and civilization. But, unlike a parent, it does not educate or seek to cultivate its wards into self-governing adults. It infantalizes us by saying that we don’t have to grow up—just don’t get caught. Of course, know too that your professors and every adult on campus—while we can’t speak of norms or character or morality or virtue (and most don’t even believe in such things) will be acting as “agents” and reporters. You are free, but Leviathan is watching.

Follow @PatrickDeneen [4]

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#1 Comment By Egypt Steve On May 7, 2014 @ 7:37 am

Perhaps Prof. Deneen can elaborate on the Federal statues and the liberal politicians that compelled Notre Dame to give up its practice of guiding its students in loco parentis, and using clergy to keep sex and booze out of its dorms.

#2 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On May 7, 2014 @ 8:27 am

To improvise on an old adage “An ounce of prevention (tradition) is worth a pound of cure” (governmental authority).

#3 Comment By Jack Shifflett On May 7, 2014 @ 8:56 am

I live in a university town where the problems of binge drinking and sexual misbehavior by students are well known. The fact that universities are being required to take seriously and to act upon allegations of sexual assault (not, by the way, “a little hanky-panky”) doesn’t strike me as a bad thing,and the message that it sends should also have some deterrent effect–or do conservatives no longer believe that punishment is a deterrent?

#4 Comment By TomB On May 7, 2014 @ 8:58 am

If Deneen’s piece raises disturbing polito-philosophic concerns the more immediate and pragmatic legal type of concerns raised by the things he talks about are even far more immediate.

Starting from first principles what, after all, are universities and colleges doing essentially enacting laws with near criminal-law consequences? Is not their proper place essentially to be like that occupied by any other civil organization and individual to merely report crimes to the authorities when they observe same, so that the criminal laws passed by our elected representatives can be applied? With all the rights we have so painstakingly worked at giving those accused of such crimes, including their ability to challenge their constitutionality? Such as violations of their free speech? The right to have an attorney, a jury of one’s peers, and on and on and on?

And yet what do we see here? Universities and colleges passing and prosecuting rules about, for instance, “sexual harassment,” that could never withstand the slightest scrutiny under the First Amendment or the others guaranteeing the rights of their accused if passed or prosecuted by the State as a formal law, now being ever more *forced* into same by the State as sort of an extra-constitutional proxy power.

And of course we’ve seen much the same in the private business sector with the government not just approving interpretations of civil-liability law that sees corporations punishing people for such things as unbridled free speech, but telling the business sector that if they don’t *it* will be the subject of the government’s wrath?

So what will free speech (among other things) mean when every institution needed to be attended to so as to live a normal life in this country is strong-armed by the government to enforce rules against free speech that the constitution would never for a second allow the government to pass?

Talk about fascism…

#5 Comment By SDS On May 7, 2014 @ 9:07 am

I did not realize that college was supposed to be an extension of family training; I thought at 18+ the ethical training was either complete or had failed….
Howver; as you are now not supposed to actively herd the youngsters but are tasked with only whacking them when they stray too far from the herd; what has changed? If you weren’t going to whack them previously; then you were derelict in your duties; just as now. The only difference I see is that the parents have let them go so far that the feds have to show interest….. since the school authorities have not…..

#6 Comment By stef On May 7, 2014 @ 10:05 am

Here’s some background on the Clery Act (signed into law by that big liberal, George Bush I), which Deneen has somewhat distorted.


It’s not just about “reporting sexual assault.” It mandates that universities have to report all crime statistics (*not* just sexual assault) on-campus to students. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Colleges hate it because they can’t sweep wrong-doing under the rug (well, not as much.)

Nobody forced Notre Dame to liberalize its residential housing situation – except for that big bad meanie, the “free market.” If parents are willing to pay $60K *per year* to send their darlings to a school like ND, they’re going to dictate the terms. ND is perfectly free to lose market share to other colleges who will comply with what students want, and what parents are willing to pay for.

#7 Comment By Lord Karth On May 7, 2014 @ 10:57 am

SDS writes: “Howver; as you are now not supposed to actively herd the youngsters but are tasked with only whacking them when they stray too far from the herd; what has changed?”

Schools have been held liable for damages as a result of the actions of students, or of “administrators” not being sufficiently watchful.

As with so many other things in this society, it’s all about the money. Along with the fact that said administrators want to keep their cushy jobs and the power, salary and perquisites that go with said jobs.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#8 Comment By FF3psyc On May 7, 2014 @ 11:29 am

Patrick, while I can appreciate your concern over the level of government (i.e. federal) taking an interest in criminal matters on college campuses, I take issue with your seeming endorsement of the idea of in loco parentis.

It has been well-established since at least the middle of the 20th Century that if an American citizen can drive a car, be drafted or enlist into the military and vote, they can pretty much be considered an adult. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 (because enough Americans believed in the tradition that one becomes an adult at age 18.) The Family Educational Rights Protection Act (FERPA, or the Buckley Amendment) codified privacy rights for the student as well.

This presents the institution of higher education with a problem: Yes, students are accepted to, and pay tuition to, the institution. Yet, society and the courts consider students to be adults by all rights. Thus, can an institution legally treat an adult as anything other than an adult? The answer, for better or worse, is no. So yes, like in most areas of life, the only time an institution of higher education can truly take action against a student is when a crime/infraction is actually committed. Colleges can have orientations, lectures and conferences about good behavior, etiquette, etc, and have security cameras everywhere, but at the end of the day, unless an actual crime has been committed, the institution can’t do much.

You bemoan the fact that due to the lack of norms, or traditions, or codes of conduct, the federal leviathan has now swooped in. In truth, colleges and universities do indeed have such things: they are codified in student codes of conduct. Diversity training, sexual harassment training, etc all have become staples of college community life. If you are looking for a college to say, “Don’t have pre-marital sex because God told you not to,” that’s not going to fly in today’s society.

#9 Comment By David Naas On May 7, 2014 @ 11:30 am

Anarchy leads to tyranny?
What a concept, and so novel!
Why did Aristotle never think of this?
(What! He did? Well, he’s just a Dead White Male anyway.)

#10 Comment By I Don’t Matter On May 7, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

Are not “freedom” and “personal responsibility” selebrated Conservative causes? Sounds to me like the colleges are becoming the very embodiments of such Conservative ideas: the adults have freedom to act (see: Mises), and there are consequences to their wrong actions.
Or is the author lamenting the passage of a Nanny Sta… err, College? Would it not be a Liberal idea to guide the poor souls to proper behaviors in order to protect them, thus restricting their Freedom?
This is all very confusing.

#11 Comment By Rob G On May 7, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

In former times the colleges used to discourage partying and “hanky panky” actively; they now allow them and even encourage them to a certain extent, the problems associated with said behaviors gaining attention only when “someone gets hurt.” You can’t seek to prevent the causative behaviors anymore (that’s too limiting). You can only clean up the resulting messes after the fact and then punish the perps.

This is exactly the type of society we’re headed towards at large: radical autonomy combined with universal surveillance.

#12 Comment By ck On May 7, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

“It has been well-established since at least the middle of the 20th Century that if an American citizen can drive a car, be drafted or enlist into the military and vote, they can pretty much be considered an adult.”

It’s becoming more readily apparent, especially in contemporary times, that considering such people to be adults is a mistake.

#13 Comment By ck On May 7, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

“In former times the colleges used to discourage partying and “hanky panky” actively; they now allow them and even encourage them to a certain extent, the problems associated with said behaviors gaining attention only when “someone gets hurt.””

No college administrator wants to be seen as a Dean Wormer:

#14 Comment By Court Merrigan On May 7, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

I believe Egypt Steve has a good point.

#15 Comment By Margaret Kelly On May 7, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

Deenen seems to miss a major difference in kind between the kinds of behaviors that tradition and culture, on one hand, and the university bureaucracy (the “Leviathan”), on the other, seek to regulate. It’s not merely that tradition and culture regulate behavior before the fact, or regulate habitual behavior, and the university bureaucracy regulates behavior after the fact, or isolated instances. It’s that traditional/cultural morality seeks (sought?) to regulate behavior chosen by individuals that violated moral norms (“hanky panky”) and that the university bureaucracy seeks to regulate behavior that is NOT chosen by one party – that is violence perpetuated against one person by another, and is, besides that, illegal. Deneen conflates sex that is consensual and lawful (but that which may be considered morally aberrant) with sexual assault. The gratuitous references to binge-drinking do not support his thesis.

#16 Comment By JLF On May 7, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

“This is exactly the type of society we’re headed towards at large: radical autonomy combined with universal surveillance.”

It’s going to be a lot like the universal health care that replaces Obamacare: equal access (and inevitable shortages) for everyone, but free. And that trade-off, like the privacy trade-off being discussed on this thread, will be quite alright for most.

#17 Comment By AnotherBeliever On May 7, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

The old social rules are not going to come back, particularly not for people who have reached the age of legal majority. If you are concerned about federal overreach, remember that the requirement is to report allegations to local law enforcement. There is no good reason why rape, which is a crime, should not be tried in a court of law. I have this same opinion about military cases. Non judicial proceedings are no forum to handle rape and sexual assault. I do see an argument for confidential channels if a victim wishes to avoid recrimination or scrutiny. But the point still stands: try criminal violations in court. Not some (no doubt well intentioned) academic board.

#18 Comment By AnotherBeliever On May 7, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

I also don’t think your local PD rises to the level of Leviathan, Homeland Security sourced SWAT gear notwithstanding.

#19 Comment By Larry On May 7, 2014 @ 8:50 pm

Great piece. Once again the liberal readers are left confused and confounded by logic and reason.

#20 Comment By Rob G On May 8, 2014 @ 9:10 am

“It’s that traditional/cultural morality seeks (sought?) to regulate behavior chosen by individuals that violated moral norms (“hanky panky”) and that the university bureaucracy seeks to regulate behavior that is NOT chosen by one party”

True as far as it goes, but an oversimplification, as if the entire matter could be reduced to simply one of consent. If that’s the case we’ve got exactly what Prof. Deneen describes.

#21 Comment By Leslie On May 8, 2014 @ 11:59 am

I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with the premise of this article.

I went to college in the early 90s, and believe me, there was sexual assault and binge drinking galore. Sadly, I learned to be very wary in high school, when a friend drank too much (because she drank for the first time ever), was unconscious, and raped by a classmate. This kind of behavior was just very rarely spoken about. I’m sure it was also going on for decades before that, just even more secretively in the 50s and earlier.

The author seems to be advocating sweeping all this unpleasantness under the carpet. Colleges have been doing this for years, and the problems have not gone away. God forbid they be forced to deal with it.

#22 Comment By Michael Powe On May 8, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

At no point in the piece did the author address the possibility that the university had any responsibility to teach young MEN not to indulge violence toward women. At no time has ND or any other university taken charge of ethical supervision of MEN. He’s angry about having to protect young women from the young men he declined to supervise. You’ve reaped the whirlwind you sowed yourself, Professor.

#23 Comment By Sean Scallon On May 8, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

It may well be a good thing for outside intervention considering a female Notre Dame student committed suicide when her allegations of sexual assault went up against the “local traditions and customs” i.e. the football program and weren’t exactly taken seriously. And any institution who wants to take the Feds’ money for research or grants better be prepared to play to their tune. Otherwise go the route of Bob Jones University (which has its problems too with ahem “local customs and tradition.”.

#24 Comment By collin On May 8, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

“In former times the colleges used to discourage partying and “hanky panky” actively; they now allow them and even encourage them to a certain extent, the problems associated with said behaviors gaining attention only when “someone gets hurt.””

When was this period for college? Before the WW2 because this college freedom has been there since 1950s. Anyway, I don’t the statistics of college life partying is all that different from the college life the 1960s – 1990s.

#25 Comment By John Willson On May 8, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

Sadly, rather few of the commenters get Dr. Deneen’s point. The Clery Act and the entire attitude it expresses is that the individual is free to engage in practically any kind of consensual behavior, as defined by the individual or the national government, and while the college has little authority to make the rules for behavior, it has the responsibility to enforce whatever the government decides those rules are. Parents have no authority, either. It is part of the essence of contemporary liberalism that the traditional institutions of responsibility and authority–family, church, neighborhood, voluntary associations–get pushed out of the way in favor of “freedom” of the individual and state control.

#26 Comment By Rob G On May 8, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

“When was this period for college?”

As one example, when I was shopping around for a college in 1979 there were still quite a few schools that did not yet have coed dorms. This sop to the sexual revolution had not fully taken hold yet, although the writing was on the wall. By that time the “resistance” may have been only symbolic, but at least the symbolism still had some resonance. I imagine now that the only schools that don’t have coed dorms are the religious ones.

#27 Comment By Rob G On May 8, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

“I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with the premise of this article…The author seems to be advocating sweeping all this unpleasantness under the carpet.”


“He’s angry about having to protect young women from the young men he declined to supervise. You’ve reaped the whirlwind you sowed yourself, Professor.”

Sheesh. Well, one thing’s for sure: reading comprehension seems to be at some sort of all-time low. I suggest you read the piece again, as he’s expressing neither of those things, even implicitly.

#28 Comment By indyconservative On May 8, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

Well, you can pick your (ineffective) poison, either sacrifice to pass along you values or expect the situation whined about in this article. The author posits that somehow “moral constraints were eliminated from college, ultimately necessitating the state”. The real reason we got where we did is that parents did not communicate and pass their values to their children, whether they didn’t want to be constrained themselves, were too busy chasing other things, etc. College campuses merely reflect what is common at home (e.g. divorce, second parents, cohabitation, TV, I could go on), and are hardly unique in their rejection of “traditional values”. Anybody who believes otherwise obviously is not too familiar with what goes on in their own back yard. College is a place of excesses, in part because college students are experimenting with life, have not internalized social norms (if they even seemed to exist at home), and so naturally awful things happen. And the natural reaction is to perhaps go overboard to keep the bad things from happening, a reaction that I see shared by conservatives and liberals. But let’s not delude ourselves into believing that college liberalization or the sexual revolution is the cause, because it’s not. Colleges merely reflect what parents want and what the rest of society is used to, and to be blunt, if parents are not willing to make the effort to pass their values on to their kids (and many are not, especially a lot of parents who claim conservative values), they ultimately are making it necessary for the state to step in to protect a form of law and order. In short, don’t point the finger at colleges or at liberalism or even the state, look in the mirror.

#29 Comment By Marvin A On May 9, 2014 @ 3:28 am

Umm, rape and sexual assault have NOTHING to do with liberalized sexuality. Consent did not go by the wayside with the sexual revolution. If anything, sexual assault is being addressed more than ever because victims are no longer afraid to come forward—in a supportive environment which is itself a product of liberalism. Frankly, this essay is the product of a weak mind.

#30 Comment By Jude On May 9, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

I am beginning to wonder if any conservatives have the ability of introspection or even attempt any research outside their own narrow views? The notion of “traditional values” as a cure to social ills is not only preposterous but unfounded.

“Hanky panky” has always occurred on college campuses. Date rape and other forms of sexual abuse have always occurred on college campuses. Today, there only appears to be more such activity because our “liberal” society has not only reduced “shame” on reporting sex crimes but better codified such acts.


“The 1960s and 1970s were accompanied by a wave of feminist advocacy that challenged many discourses and institutions in the United States. One of the primary areas in which feminists sought reform was rape laws.(n1) Women’s groups across the country launched grass-roots campaigns, lobbying state legislatures for rape law reforms.(n2) The lobbying led to reforms of rape laws in every state by the mid-1980s.(n3) Rape law reform was intended to have both symbolic and instrumental impacts. Symbolically, reforms were intended to reflect women’s autonomy in American society and to encourage respect for their diverse roles and behavior.(n4) Instrumental goals included “increasing the reporting of rape and enhancing prosecution and conviction in rape cases; … improving the treatment of rape victims in the criminal justice system; … prohibiting a wider range of coercive sexual conduct; and … expanding the range of persons protected by law.”(n5)

In this study, we examine different aspects of rape law reform in each state and the District of Columbia from 1970-1992. Our goal is to understand the complexity of rape law reform and to test whether reforms have affected two aspects of case processing: the number of reports of forcible rape that police believe are well-founded (“actual rapes”) and the consequent number of arrests (“clearances”).(n6) Thirty years have passed since rape law reform began, and much controversy about the success of the reforms still exists. While rape law reform has continued in the direction favored by most advocates since 1970, the effects of reform on the criminal prosecution of sexual crimes have not been comprehensively studied previously. Until recently, most studies focused on one state for a period of no longer than three years after the reform.(n7) Prior to this study, no study had examined the impacts of particular reforms across states; the most comprehensive study simply compared jurisdictions (cities) that had generally strong reforms with ones that had generally weak reforms.(n8)

The results of our study strongly suggest that implementation of more liberal and feminist-oriented legal provisions during the years 19701991 did, for the most part, increase the number of rape reports that police agencies deemed well-founded.(n9) In particular, the following rape law reforms significantly increased the number of “actual rapes”: defining sex crimes in terms of a single continuum, subjecting spouses and cohabitants to prosecution, limiting the admissibility at trial of the victim’s past sexual history with the defendant, limiting the admissibility of the victim’s past sexual history with persons other than the defendant, and denying a mistake of incapacity defense. The increases in the number of “actual rapes” that resulted from those reforms also carried through to increases in the number of “clearances.””

#31 Comment By Jude On May 9, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

I also want to add that the HIGHEST levels of sexual abuse occur in close-knit, conservative religious communities.

#32 Comment By Dan Baccus On May 9, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

It is quite possible that Mr. Deneen has some misdirected anger. I think Deneen is upset at the death of Catholicism at ND and not the federal government.

It seems as if ND is a willing participant in the Progressive agenda considering Barack Hussein Obama gave the commencement speech a few years ago. Obama, a radical leftist who favors abortion any time, any place for any reason, speaking at ND is probably very confusing for the ND students who are not interested in allowing liberal professors to strip them of their religious and moral compasses.

Deneen should take his case to ND’s administration and the Vatican not the federal government.

#33 Comment By Dan Baccus On May 9, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

The national politicians and fedgov bureaucrats know that money talks and they can push their agenda as long as they offer up tax dollars in exchange for submission to the regulations that come with those tax dollars. One of the saddest things about America is that virtually every business, school, local government, state government, and individual can be bought.

ND is not interested in Catholicism or molding its students into well-rounded, morally upright human beings because of the tax dollars that flow from the fedgov in the form of federal student loans, grants, etc. ND is no longer a Catholic university or private university, it sold its soul to the fedgov long ago.

#34 Comment By JROR On May 9, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

John Willson, it seems, was the only one capable of grasping this piece by Mr. Deneen. Perhaps, which is likely, the reason for this is the complete control of the mind by liberalism. Liberalism produces, sadly, degeneration in civility and a complete lack of respect for one who critiques liberalism’s main theme: individual anarchy.

#35 Comment By Jude On May 10, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

Mr. Baccus;

As somebody who attended Catholic University, I can assure you that abortion was a non-issue to most students at my school. Virtually everyone was pro-choice and rightfully so in a free society.

Your characterization of President Obama as a “left-wing” radical is baseless as President Obama’s views on most issues reflect beliefs of the majority of Americans and in some instances, by a wide margin over conservatives.

Your statement on President Obama’s abortion position is also incorrect. President Obama, like most pro-choice individuals, supports bans on late-term abortions, provided they include exemptions for the mental and physical health of the mother.

#36 Comment By Fisc McTang On May 11, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

Without saying it directly, this post seems to assume — naively, in my view — that were fewer sexual assaults perpetrated back in the good old days when “tradition and culture” were honored. I doubt that.

In fact, one part of that tradition was to ignore sexual assaults in a wide variety of ways. As a result, they tended not to be reported at all, or they were hushed off to the side by authority figures of every stripe.

The old tradition, despite its virtues, was really quite awful in a number of ways. We overthrew it for a reason.

#37 Comment By Jake On May 12, 2014 @ 9:48 am

Great article. The academic left and other liberal subgroups want it both ways – they want freedom from traditional morals and yet they want the security and other benefits that those morals have, by and large, provided. The problem is that human nature gets in the way of having their cake and eating it too.

#38 Comment By Rob G On May 12, 2014 @ 9:58 am

“John Willson, it seems, was the only one capable of grasping this piece by Mr. Deneen.”


“rape and sexual assault have NOTHING to do with liberalized sexuality. Consent did not go by the wayside with the sexual revolution.”

No, just the opposite. Consent became the only limiting factor in an otherwise anarchic world of sexual behavior, which colleges have little authority to regulate. They are, however, expected to enforce the government’s rules on same. The college acts as a sort of one-legged surrogate of the state — unable to make the rules but also unable to choose not to enforce them.

This is precisely what conservatives have been saying for decades: liberalism marginalizes all mediating/buffering “voluntary” associations and leaves only the radically autonomous individual and the state.

#39 Comment By Dan Baccus On May 12, 2014 @ 4:13 pm


You might want to take a look at Senator Obama’s voting record on abortion. In 2013, Obama the POTUS threatened to veto the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” after it passed the House, but he didn’t have to veto it because it did not get through the Senate.

I went to a Catholic university and not just in name only, it is an actual Catholic institution that adheres to Catholic teachings unlike places like Boston College and Georgetown.

Freedom does not give you the freedom to do wrong no matter what the majority favors. To live in a society without the rule of law and sanctity of life would be a return to the state of nature, which is no society at all.

Majority rules is no way to live, just ask the Jewish people who lived in Germany under Hitler.

#40 Comment By Thomas Butler On May 12, 2014 @ 9:34 pm

Jude’s and other comments above lead me to conclude that Mitt Romney was entirely correct with his “47%” comment. It really is the case that the goal of autonomy, in the sense of the total liberation of one’s will to do whatever one wishes without consequences (provided anyone hurt in the activity cannot speak up to complain about it), is so alluring that we Americans will do anything, anything, anything to secure it. This includes a) reducing justice to consent and b) elevating the State to be the sole arbiter of good and evil.

Since many readers are flinging unsubstantiated doxa about, I’ll add one of my own: the “old tradition” was “overthrown” for no good reason at all. Our ancestors did not know what they were doing, but were no less purblind and lustful than the modern stooges of Leviathan, who continue to throw off every instructive tradition and discipline and sell off every intrinsic good for the sake of freeing up more space for the roaming of their wills.

#41 Comment By Rob G On May 13, 2014 @ 9:58 am

“Starting from unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.”

Shigalyov in The Brothers Karamazov. As usual about such things, Dostoevsky was right.

#42 Comment By Dan Baccus On May 13, 2014 @ 11:43 am

Thomas Butler is correct. Rob G. provides a very suitable quote from Dostoevsky

I get that Professor Deneen is not happy with the idea of being an informant for the feds, but the requirement is coming down from the leviathan, which is upsetting to him.

Professor Deneen is lamenting the fact that the federal government wants him to be a cop/informant for the national politicians and fedgov bureaucrats who prefer people to be completely free to do whatever they desire as long as nobody outside the womb gets hurt. Unfortunately, it has come to the attention of fedgov bureaucrats that some subjects’ bodily desires have led to harmful acts against other subjects, so it is necessary for the fedgov bureaucrats to forcibly deputize professors to act as their cops/informants.

The leviathan is not concerned about its subjects’ souls or intellects, it is only concerned with making sure their desires are met with no resistance from any outsiders. Abortions, abortifacients, and free condoms are tools of convenience that allow loyal government subjects to fulfill their bodily desires unencumbered by religion, morality, and nature. The modern day bread and circuses are abortion clinics, abortifacients, and free condoms.

#43 Comment By mrscracker On May 14, 2014 @ 10:46 am

You know, back in the day, an “adult” was 21 years old, not 18.Colleges had a legitimate reason to act in stead of parents.
Two of my children attended conservative Catholic colleges where the old dorm rules were followed strictly & they appreciated the safety & security that afforded.
Parents may pay for college but students over 18 are considered adults.I’m confused about colleges “acting as parent” when, outside of alcohol, young adults over 18 can make their own choices.Even if those are poor choices.

#44 Comment By JonF On May 17, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

Re: It seems as if ND is a willing participant in the Progressive agenda considering Barack Hussein Obama gave the commencement speech a few years ago.

The President of the United States invited to speak at a major university! Shocking! What are the times coming to?
(You do realize that by peddling over-the-top outrage over utterly mundane matters you folks make yourselves sound like unraveled nuts not to be taken seriously by anyone with any sanity)