Home/Rod Dreher/SJWs Destroying Universities, Episode MMCCXVII

SJWs Destroying Universities, Episode MMCCXVII

There’s diversity, and then there’s “diversity”:

The University of Iowa has deregistered another 38 student groups after a federal judge found it unequally enforced its human rights policy by kicking off campus a student organization that had barred an openly gay member from becoming a leader.

At least 22 of the newly deregistered groups are organized around religion, culture or ideology.

They include Imam Mahdi, a Muslim-based student organization highlighted by the judge who found viewpoint might have motivated the university’s “differential treatment” last fall of the faith-based group Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC.

The groups that recently lost campus affiliation — and benefits that come with it, like access to university facilities and student fees — automatically were deregistered after failing to comply with a UI request they submit governing documents proving they observe the UI’s human rights policy.

The reader who sent me that story writes:

So the University, instead of simply reinstating that Christian group and modifying their policy, deregisters every group on campus that places some sort of discriminatory requirement on leadership.

So nearly all the Christian groups on campus (though not all).

The Imam Mahdi organization (a Muslim group).

The Sikh Awareness club.

Several multicultural and ethnic groups representing Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Korean students.

And the NAACP.

The NAACP!!!

Don’t forget the Bass Fishing Team, which was deregistered. I’m not kidding. To be technically correct, all these groups were de-registered because they failed to incorporate into their governing documents language indicating that the student organization recognizes that it is “open to anyone, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, gender identity or other protected class.” So if the Imam Mahdi organization refuses to affirm in writing that genderfluid atheists can join it and rise to leadership, it gets deregistered. Because LGBTs are the Chosen People.

The reader continues:

I’m at a loss for words. It’s incredible how the non-discrimination apparatus at the university is so beholden to the LGBT movement that they are willingly to kick any religious group and any multicultural group off-campus that seeks to limit their leadership to the subset of the student population that seek to work with in the first place.

I’m college-aged, I’m from Iowa. Many of my friends from high school go to the University of Iowa. I deeply, deeply respect my friends who are actively Christian that go there. They are under an immense amount of pressure just to practice and live out their faith on campus. Personally, I’m not sure I could stand being in that environment. I chose to go to a large Baptist university in the South (I’m studying Religion, church history in particular) and for all the qualms I have with the institution-the nominalism, hesitance to speak out on traditional marriage, and the Moral Therapeutic Deism that seems to be simmering-it really is a far, far cry from the insanity most students are going through on college campuses around the country. I’ve realized I’m the lucky one.

The bulk of self-identified Christians in my generation attending college are probably at secular campuses. I’m wondering if these crackdowns will serve to strengthen their faith as they move into adulthood, or cause them to capitulate. Probably a good measure of both.

I’m sure that the Bass Fishing Team, and most of the other groups, will be willing and able to change their charters to do what the university requires. But it’s telling that instead of doing the liberal, tolerant thing, and leaving the Business Leaders in Christ alone, the diversity totalitarians at the university de-registered, or threatened to de-register, well over half the student groups on campus — not because those groups were actively discriminating, but because they didn’t affirmatively declare, in writing, that they wouldn’t discriminate. From the Iowa Gazette:

After the ruling, the university in late January and early February reviewed hundreds of its student organizations’ governing documents and found 356 were out of compliance by failing to have the full and correct human rights clause in their constitutions.

Of those reviewed, 157 included the full and correct clause, according to court documents.

On April 20, the university emailed non-compliant groups, giving them until May 3 to update language in their constitutions. On June 1, the university set a final deadline for compliance of June 15.

On June 8, according to court documents, the university had 561 registered student groups — 375 in compliance and 186 still had not complied. The non-compliant total included 50-plus fraternities and sororities, which have not before been required to produce constitutions. [Emphasis mine — RD]

Along these lines, look at what the academic Social Justice Warriors are doing to Medieval Studies. You may not have thought that it was possible to apply 21st century progressive ideology to the Middle Ages. You would be wrong. From Campus Reform:

A prominent association of medieval studies scholars has pledged to boycott the discipline’s largest annual conference over a lack of social justice programming.

On July 11, the BABEL Working Group published an open letter to the organizers of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), which is planning to host its annual conference of about 3,000 academics at Kalamazoo College in May 2019, outlining two “concerns” about the conference.

“Decisions that seem in favor of ‘academic freedom’ or ‘fairness’ to the current small group of decision-makers, for others, reinforce structural inequalities.”   

“The first is that there seems to be a bias against, or lack of interest in, sessions that are self-critical of medieval studies, or focused on the politics of the field in the present, especially relative to issues of decoloniality, globalization, and anti-racism,” the letter explains, adding that the second concern relates to an alleged “lack of transparency around the process by which ICMS programming decisions are made.”

The letter, which has been signed by more than 600 people as of press time, argues that by rejecting workshops such as “How to Be a White Ally in Medieval Studies 101,” “Toxic Medievalisms,” and “Intersectionality and the Medieval Romance,” the ICMS organizers are hurting scholars of color and excluding their perspectives.

“The rejection of multiple sessions co-sponsored by Medievalists of Color (MOC) in particular minimizes the intellectual guidance that scholars of color would provide at the conference, when these scholars are already severely underrepresented in the field,” the letter protests.

Other workshops rejected by ICMS organizers included “Toxic Medievalisms: Misuses and Abuses of the Medieval in Contemporary Culture,” “Race and the Medieval,” “Translations of Power: Race, Class, and Gender Intersectionality in the Middle Ages I and II,” and more.

Do I need to tell you what happened next? ICMS groveled and accepted what the Social Justice Warriors demanded. 

Shame on those gutless medieval studies academics — the ones who ought to have stood up to the radicals, for the sake of protecting the scholarly integrity of their field from the SJW barbarians. These SJWs destroyed the academic study of literature, and now they’re going to destroy the study of medieval history. And when they are all jobless because nobody outside their insane asylum regards the academic study of the humanities as anything other than left-wing ideological indoctrination, they will blame everybody but themselves.

You know what I’d like to see? A university that cares about traditional scholarship, and only that — and a university that doesn’t feel the need to police its student organizations in more than a very general way. In other words, I would like to see a university that runs itself in accord with old-fashioned pre-1960s liberal standards.

UPDATE: A former medieval historian comments:

I used to be involved in the field of medieval history, so I’d like to comment on the BABEL Working Group (under a different handle than the one I normally use here) and provide additional context. Rod, I apologize for leaving such a long comment.

The main members of BABEL are medieval-studies scholars who have cultivated their community online through blogs and other social media for more than a decade. At their core, there aren’t very many of them, but over the years they’ve positioned themselves as both radical outsiders (which is risible, since many of them are tenured professors, and at least a couple of them are department chairs) and as the unheard majority voice of their field. They’ve become one of the most prominent if informal factions of medieval scholars in the online world, even if they may not be all that representative of the field at large. Up-and-coming scholars who want to have a social media presence often feel forced to have at least a passing acquaintanceship with them.

Interestingly, some of these scholars largely reject the premises of the humanities. At least two of them are Object Oriented Ontologists, who believe we privilege the perspective of humans over other things in the world, such as rocks. (As Dave Barry used to say, I am not making this up.)

Meanwhile, the ICMS conference in Michigan is vast. It contains multitudes. If you attend the conference, you’ll see monks and priests doing church history, historians talking about medieval history in obscure corners of Europe, and to be honest, you’ll find no lack of “queering the Middle Ages” seminars. Thousands of people attend, and if memory serves, this year they were up to more than 500 sessions over the course of four days.

I’ve seen so many sessions on blatantly progressive themes that I simply can’t believe the conference organizers would reject sessions about race and gender based on their subject matter. Since a four-day conference can accommodate only so many slots, my hunch is that the Medievalists of Color group submitted a large number of session proposals, most of which would be attended by the same core group of people over and over again. They probably knew that most of them would be rejected—and again, these sessions were likely rejected because the ICMS conference needs to accommodate everyone, ranging from conservative church historians to radical literature scholars.

My working theory is that the people who are complaining aren’t happy that their representation at the conference would be roughly in proportion to the field’s actual interest in their subject matter, which is small. Instead, they want their radical race-and-gender approach to dominate the conference. I don’t think they would at all disagree with me if I called them activists who are working to radicalize medieval studies. (Please note that I’m not talking about the type of English professor we’ve all known who’s obsessed with a feminist reading of every single text. This faction is far more radical, activist, and politicized than the go-along-to-get-along progressives in these fields.)

I would also add that even though medieval history is a field where you can still find out-and-proud conservatives, it’s extremely likely that the ICMS leaders making decisions based on fairness and academic freedom are not conservatives. Quite the contrary: Most of them are probably all demonstrably liberal, which makes this another one of those cases of “liberals versus woke radicals,” with the same dynamic in which an older, reliably liberal generation is being shamed for appearing not to keep up with the times.

More context: the people in the fields that make up medieval studies are still very white and male and probably still more Christian than those in other branches of the humanities. (And why not? They are studying a Christian era.) Nationalists in Europe and alt-righters and white nationalists in the United States often use the Middle Ages for their propaganda, which makes scholars nervous and unhappy. However, since you won’t find neo-Nazis or white nationalists actually employed in scholarly fields in North America, radical scholars have had to demonize the closest people they can find. Two recent examples are a retired scholar who is now revealed to be one of those Men’s Rights guys and a historian who is (strangely, to me) outspoken in her love for Milo Yiannopoulos. Both of them are outliers in their fields, but they represent the Enemy Within, and a great deal of ire and shame sent their way was meant to send a message from the activists in medieval studies: we won’t tolerate nonconformity. In a field where one person, your advisor, holds much of your future in his hands, that’s terrifying, especially in a field where an oversupply of graduate students are engaged in mortal combat for a minuscule number of jobs. Sea turtle hatchlings probably have a better survival rate than the aspiring careers of would-be medieval scholars.

On the other hand, I looked at the list of people who signed the “open letter” and was surprised to see that many progressive scholars of my acquaintance, including people who are fanatically attentive to the needs of outsiders and minorities, did not sign it.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with looking closely at the field, its racial dynamics, whether or not anyone is being treated badly, or the extent to which history is misused for political purposes. At its best, that’s thoughtful historiography. However, there’s already so much miserable navel-gazing in these fields that as far as I’m concerned, there really don’t need to be multiple sessions every single year to re-hash the same grievances voiced by the same people who are only speaking to each other anyway. Besides, if these radicals were to be successful, these fields would die, because few students want to take medieval history classes that are all about race, class, and gender. As it stands, there are strong signs right now that student interest in the Middle Ages is waning, along with support for these subjects from college and university administrations.

I left the field not because of ideology but for personal and financial reasons. When I see the mess it’s become, made worse through social media, I have no regrets, but I hope some sanity survives in the end.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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