Here’s distressing news from Villanova, and I’m not talking about the release of a new paper from America’s Theological Sweetheart™ either. This is a Wall Street Journal column by professors Colleen Sheehan and James Matthew Wilson, who say that the ideological mania for “diversity” is turning their school into a place where it’s very hard to get a liberal arts education. Excerpts:
Last fall we were notified by the Villanova administration that new “diversity and inclusion” questions would be added to the course and teaching evaluations that students fill out each semester. In addition to the standard questions about the intellectual worth of the course and the quality of instruction, students are now being asked heavily politicized questions such as whether the instructor has demonstrated “cultural awareness” or created an “environment free of bias based on individual differences or social identities.”
In short, students are being asked to rate professors according to their perceived agreement with progressive political opinion on bias and identity. Students are also invited to “comment on the instructor’s sensitivity to the diversity of the students in the class.” Professors are rated on their “sensitivity” to a student’s “biological sex, disability, gender identity, national origin, political viewpoint, race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.” The “etc.” in particular seems like an ominous catchall, as if the sole principle of sound teaching has become “that no student shall be offended.”
That is staggering. I’m not kidding. What kind of university puts its professors up for ideological monitoring by students? The professors say that this policy will make faculty afraid to teach about anything controversial, for fear of triggering students. More:
And what about sensitivity to social identities, given Villanova’s Catholic character? Those who teach courses about Catholic doctrine on marriage and the family may now live in fear that their own university will treat such views, and those who teach about them, as insensitive or worse. In fact, the “sensitivity” questions appear almost perfectly designed to stifle Catholic moral teaching in the classroom.
This is not a false concern. Several years ago, a friend who teaches theology in a Catholic university told me that he would not teach in a neutral way the Church’s own doctrines on sex and sexuality, or even quote Pope Francis on same in the classroom, out of fear that a triggered student would complain to the administration, and that the administration would side with the triggered student. I checked with other professors at this same institution, and they said yes, that’s how it is here. If a professor were dismissed under a “bias” cloud, he or she would have a hell of a hard time trying to find work at another institution.
So, this particular Catholic university graduates students who have been denied knowledge of the Catholic tradition of moral theology because professors rightly fear for their jobs and their careers if they present this teaching to students. This college I’m talking about is not Villanova, but under this policy that Sheehan and Wilson decry, why wouldn’t it be?
One last bit from Sheehan and Wilson:
The larger implications are even more disturbing. The new evaluations will allow a professor’s professional performance to be recast as a human resources or even a legal problem. Think about it: You can’t fire a professor for being conservative, but you certainly can fire him for creating a “hostile work environment.” At a minimum, all charges of insensitivity, injustice and bigotry will become part of the faculty’s permanent record. How long will it be before professors cease to challenge their students for fear of losing their careers and livelihoods?
It seems to me that a real opportunity is coming for educational entrepreneurs to create real liberal arts universities where real educations, free from ideological strangulation, can take place. Imagine being a professor in a college that didn’t shackle you like this. Imagine being a student in a college where the professor was free to speak her mind, to challenge you and be challenged by you. I had an education like that, at a state university in the 1980s, and it was wonderful.
It costs $68,000 to attend Villanova for one year. Imagine paying that, or going into debt to pay that, to be taught in an environment where professors are afraid to present material to students for fear of losing their jobs. Back in 2015, I sat in on one of Prof. Wilson’s classes at Villanova, and called it “thrilling.”Because it was!
It is a crime that a prize-winning scholar like Prof. Wilson — or any professor — would have to worry about the Woke Stasi in his classroom. It’s a crime against him, and a crime against students who come to college to learn, not be coddled and indoctrinated into progressive militancy. What is wrong with Villanova? Time to end this outrageous policy.
SAY IT AIN’T SO, ‘CATS
I’ve contributed to my alma mater (@VillanovaU) every year since I graduated (1973). Not enough to subsidize an endowed chair in English Literature, to be sure; but this could prompt me to cease and desist. @JMWSPT https://t.co/ttz86DbkNZ via @WSJ
— PhilipTerzian (@PhilipTerzian) March 30, 2019
UPDATE: It’s not just Villanova. A reader points out that Texas A&M is now going to institute its own version of indoctrination into leftist cultural politics. From the campus newspaper:
New changes in the university Core Curriculum will start in the fall of 2019, affecting freshman entering that fall. The International and Cultural Diversity (ICD) credit requirements are being revised to include a 3-hour Cultural Discourse (CD) credit in order to promote students’ international awareness.
“The ICD requirement would include a new set of well-defined goals aimed at expanding a student’s cultural or international awareness,” the Faculty Senate’s Core Curriculum Council said in a factsheet. “The new CD requirement is aimed at helping our students engage in difficult conversations related to topics such as gender, race, religion and politics.”
So now Texas A&M wants all Aggies to be Social Justice Warriors. Even Texas A&M. Man.