Alumni cancel donations over social justice warrior protests
posted at 1:21 pm on August 5, 2016 by John Sexton
The social justice warriors making noise on campus are also making an impact on alumni. The NY Times reports some older, successful alumni are pulling back on donations because they are so turned off with what they see happening on their former campuses:
A backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year. Although fund-raisers are still gauging the extent of the effect on philanthropy, some colleges — particularly small, elite liberal arts institutions — have reported a decline in donations, accompanied by a laundry list of complaints.
Alumni from a range of generations say they are baffled by today’s college culture. Among their laments: Students are too wrapped up in racial and identity politics. They are allowed to take too many frivolous courses. They have repudiated the heroes and traditions of the past by judging them by today’s standards rather than in the context of their times. Fraternities are being unfairly maligned, and men are being demonized by sexual assault investigations. And university administrations have been too meek in addressing protesters whose messages have seemed to fly in the face of free speech.
Scott MacConnell, who graduated from Amherst in 1960, is registering his discontent with campus culture by writing the school out of his will:
“As an alumnus of the college, I feel that I have been lied to, patronized and basically dismissed as an old, white bigot who is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the current college community,” Mr. MacConnell, 77, wrote in a letter to the college’s alumni fund in December, when he first warned that he was reducing his support to the college to a token $5.
The whole story is worth reading as it contains several more complaints by alumni about why they don’t want to support what is happening on campus these days. However, almost as refreshing as the story itself are the comments left by NY Times readers. Here’s a sample:
Todd Stuart writes: “Good for the alumni. It feels like these institutions have lost their focus. Their historical mission was to educate in the liberal tradition. That tradition is based on presenting ideas, challenging and sometimes difficult ideas to students. It goes back to the days of Socrates. But recently students have decided they are entitled to pick and choice which ideas they want to hear, and need safe spaces to recover from exposure to the hard ones. This is combined with a shocking lack of understanding of free speech. Why would anyone who believes in the true mission of education support the current institutions financially. To do so is tacit approval of their present condition.”
Frank L writes: “I am much closer in age to this millennial generation than the alumni described in the article but I sympathize with the latter. This absurd mindset of victimization, needing “safe spaces” and feeling vulnerable to “triggers” starts to look like a pathology. They should savor their victories on the campus while they can because the real world will not rearrange itself to quiet their tantrums and outbursts.”
A woman professor who chose not to give her name writes: “I am an Asian lesbian professor of the humanities, and am increasingly weary of my profession because of the ludicrous touchiness and ignorance of many students and faculty. A colleague teaching an LGBT film class was hauled up because two students complained he had failed to issue a “trigger warning” before showing Boys Don’t Cry. I have taught Coetzee’s Disgrace (which I consider a masterpiece) for several years but am now thinking of dropping it because I perceive several students gearing up to declare that they feel offended. More important, because of the lack of an adequate core curriculum, English majors and even MAs graduate without ever having read a Victorian novel or a Romantic poem. One has to begin every class, whatever its theme, with a potted history lesson, because one cannot take for granted that students know when the World Wars or the American civil war occurred, or when Socrates lived or Shakespeare wrote. But all of them know the laundry list of ideas that should offend them. And all they can really write about is their own limited lives. As one colleague of mine says, the educational system is highly successful – it set out to inculcate self-esteem and it has done so.”
There are many more comments like this including quite a few like the last one above that obviously come from progressives. Of course there are several progressive writers who have written about this issue (Jonathan Chait comes to mind) but there was also a backlash against him and anyone else who suggested social justice warriors on campus were a problem. Vox published a piece last year titled “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me,” but then offered a rebuttal titled, “I was a liberal adjunct professor. My liberal students didn’t scare me at all.”
The response to the NY Times story, at least the early response from readers, seems strongly tilted against the SJWs. Maybe that’s cause for hope.