In studios across the nation, as many as 20 million Americans practice yoga every day. Few worry that their downward dogs or warrior poses disrespect other cultures.

But yoga comes from India, once a British colony. And now, at one Canadian university, a yoga class designed to include disabled students has been canceled after concerns the practice was taken from a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the group that once sponsored it…

“I think that our centre agreed … that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” the response read. “I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.”

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The question for today’s campuses has become: What is considered unspeakable? Where do we draw the line? There are indeed some truths that civilized people would not dispute: that women should have the right to vote, that genocide is wrong. Critics who pretend university culture is open to “free speech” about all ideas are being disingenuous. These students aren’t so much trying to shut down free inquiry as they are assuming that, on this topic, it has already happened. “Racism is wrong,” they know—and we all agree. “Therefore, when it comes to that which I find offensive as a person of color, civility and discussion are beside the point.”…

When intelligent people openly declare that logic applies only to the extent that it corresponds to doctrine and shoot down serious questions with buzzwords and disdain, we are dealing with a faith. As modern as these protests seem, in their way, they return the American university to its original state as a divinity school—where exegesis of sacred texts was sincerely thought of as intellection, with skepticism treated as heresy…

But where the protesters’ proposition is “If I am offended, I am correct,” the proper response is, quite simply, “No.” This and only this constitutes true respect for these students’ dignity. It isn’t an easy answer. The naysayer will be called a racist (or self-hating) on social media and on campus for months. However, adults who know that their resistance to mob ideology is based on logic and compassion will survive emotionally. Of course, such people fear for their jobs. But a true university culture will resist sacrificing professors or administrators who are advocates of reason on the altar of convenient pieties.

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I’m not altogether sorry to see the wave of protests, demands, sit-ins and cave-ins sweeping university campuses from Dartmouth to Princeton to Brandeis to Yale. What destroys also exposes; what they are trashing was already trashy. It’s time for the rest of the country sit up and take notice.

For almost 50 years universities have adopted racialist policies in the name of equality, repressive speech codes in the name of tolerance, ideological orthodoxy in the name of intellectual freedom. Sooner or later, Orwellian methods will lead to Orwellian outcomes. Those coddled, bullying undergrads shouting their demands for safer spaces, easier classes, and additional racial set-asides are exactly what the campus faculty and administrators deserve.

In other words, the radical children who grew up to run the universities have duplicated the achievement of their parents, and taken it a step further. In three generations, the campuses have moved from indulgent liberalism to destructive radicalism to the raised-fist racialism of the present—with each generation left to its increasingly meager devices. Why should anyone want to see this farce repeated as tragedy 10 or 20 years down the road?

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Where will the impulse to purge the past of its sins end? Should Washington, DC, named after a slave owner, adopt a new title? Should the Jefferson Memorial be torn down? Or what about the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars or the Wilson research fellowship that Johns Hopkins University, where Wilson taught for years, bestows upon promising undergraduates?

As L. Gordon Crovitz observes in the Wall Street Journal, there are a bevy of malefactors from the past that young students can try to hunt down: “Elihu Yale made his fortune as a British East India Company imperialist. Exploited Chinese laborers build Leland Stanford’s transcontinental railway. James Duke peddled tobacco.” And so on. It’s a game of trivial pursuit with real consequences for the intellectual climate on campus. No longer do students attempt to divine why the leading lights of a different era thought as they did, to attempt to put them in a broader context. Looking at Wilson as a racist pure and simple is rather reductionist. It tells you something about him but hardly everything.

Nor is this all. The push for political correctness has a chilling implication for current debate, which is something that the contemporary myrmidons of virtue are uninterested about. The idea seems to be that their young minds should be kept unsullied from the wider world.

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A Washington State University professor said she would lower the grade of any student who used the term “illegal immigrants” when referring to immigrants here illegally. Another Washington State professor warned in his syllabus that white students who want “to do well” in his “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” should show their “grasp of history and social relations” by “deferring to the experiences of people of color.” Another Washington State teacher, in her syllabus for “Women & Popular Culture,” warned that students risk “failure for the semester” if they use “derogatory/oppressive language” such as “referring to women/men as females or males.”…

Writing in the University of California at Berkeley paper, two geographically challenged students objected to a class featuring Plato and Aristotle and other “economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States).” A branch of the University of California at Irvine’s student government passed a resolution against the display of flags. Written by a student in the School of Social Ecology ( “transformative research to alleviate social inequality and human suffering”), the resolution said flags are “weapons for nationalism” and “construct” dangerous “cultural mythologies and narratives” and “paradigms of conformity” and “homogenized standards” and interfere with “designing a culturally inclusive space.”

Students on Columbia University’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board suggested trigger warnings for persons who might be traumatized by reading, say, Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” wherein some myths portray bad sexual behavior. But a feminist blog warned that the phrase “trigger warning” itself needs a warning attached to it because it might remind people of guns. But, then, the word “warning” might [substitute word for “trigger”] fright.

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My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps — the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.” I had never heard the snapping before. When it happens in a large auditorium it is disconcerting. It makes you feel that you are facing an angry and unified mob — a feeling I have never had in 25 years of teaching and public speaking.

After the first dozen questions I noticed that not a single questioner was male. I began to search the sea of hands asking to be called on and I did find one boy, who asked a question that indicated that he too was critical of my talk. But other than him, the 200 or so boys in the audience sat silently…

That night, after I gave a different talk to an adult audience, there was a reception at which I spoke with some of the parents. Several came up to me to tell me that their sons had told them about the day’s events. The boys finally had a way to express and explain their feelings of discouragement. Their parents were angry to learn about how their sons were being treated and… there’s no other word for it, bullied into submission by the girls.

And Centerville High is not alone. Last summer I had a conversation with some boys who attend one of the nation’s top prep schools, in New England. They reported the same thing: as white males, they are constantly on eggshells, afraid to speak up on any remotely controversial topic lest they be sent to the “equality police” (that was their term for the multicultural center). I probed to see if their fear extended  beyond the classroom. I asked them what they would do if there was a new student at their school, from, say Yemen. Would they feel free to ask the student questions about his or her country? No, they said, it’s too risky, a question could be perceived as offensive.

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Everyone seems to be talking about those American “values” of tolerance, diversity, and pluralism. Obama has been on a tear about how rejecting refugees is “not American” and how those refugees are akin to the pilgrims who arrived on our shores. He pays rote lip service to denouncing murderers in Paris…

As for our values, student protesters and their enablers on and off campus offer a full-throated rejection of America’s (classical) liberal principles and, at times, America itself. By now you’ve heard it said that “free speech” is just code for “white privilege” or even “hate speech.” Tolerance itself has become a dirty word for many…

It’s gotten to the point where even admiration for non-European culture is denounced as bigoted if that admiration blossoms into so-called “cultural appropriation.”…

For generations, we’ve heard that “diversity makes us stronger.” I’ll leave it to another day to question whether this premise can withstand the test of reality. The relevant point is that many of the chief beneficiaries — or at least their self-proclaimed leaders — of what was once called “Diversity Inc.” now reject the logic of diversity at the most fundamental level. The famous “melting pot” is now derided as a kind of cultural genocide.

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One of the central demands repeated by protesters at campuses across the country has been for university administrators to transform campuses into “safe spaces,” where students are protected not only from physical violence but also from ideas that they find threatening or offensive. However, the “safe spaces” envisioned by these protesters seem to matter only when the interests of those who share their political persuasions are affected.

There has been conspicuously little attention paid to incidents of anti-Semitism reported, for example, at Hunter College, where students supportive of Israel were chased away from a rally blaming high tuition fees on “Zionist administrators,” and where protestors shouted “Zionists out of CUNY” (the City University of New York), by which they meant Jews…

Where are the cries for safe spaces for Jewish students faced with such blatant intimidation?…

The hypocrisy of protestors demanding protection from potentially offensive ideas while simultaneously insulting and harassing people who fail to demonstrate adequate levels of enthusiasm for their agenda should be obvious to all. But too few university administrators and faculty call out these hypocritical students for their double standard.

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Why do so many students see themselves as so vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous texts, arguments, comments? Why so fearful?

A pattern is clear: Too many students doubt that their community is, or can be, strong enough to stand up for itself, entertain arguments and strive to persuade opponents. The extremity of their reaction suggests that they lack confidence that reason and values are on their side. They may well resent the fact that, after decades of civil rights reform and feminism, they still have to argue against people who “don’t get it.”

One can only speculate about the forces that drive this crisis, but odds are that we are witnessing a cultural mood that cannot be reduced to political-economic considerations. There’s a generalized anxiety when one has always been supervised, as this generation has. Moreover, students suffer under mountainous debt loads. Professional work is being destabilized. Careers dissolve into serial jobs, or the insecure “gig economy.”…

When movements lose their belief in a larger community that can prevail, they lose their momentum, dwindle into closed circles, become more suspicious, more indiscriminate in welcoming enmity.

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Like all far-left political movements, the new PC has shown a tendency to devour its own. That is, PC crusaders often save their most vindictive attacks for people who were formerly leftists in good standing. The response so far from professors and administrators who come under attack has generally been to fold, apologize, and try to make amends. But history shows that this kind of process can’t go on forever; there must be an endpoint somewhere down the line. PC activists probably imagine the endpoint to be a harmonious world ridded of triggers and unsafe spaces. But this, like Marx’s notion of a dictatorship of a stateless society, is an ideological fantasy. More likely, PC will collapse under the weight of its own excesses. Haidt doesn’t expect this to happen anytime soon, though:

“It’s going to get much, much worse over the next couple years and at that point some universities may start changing policies. By that point, many or maybe most American parents won’t want to send their children to the top universities, and there will be an enormous market opportunity for second-level universities that offer a much less coddled campus culture.”

We’ve said before that there are two campus crises—a crisis of political culture, and a crisis of affordability. These crises could converge if high-profile PC incidents make the American public question whether the existing college economic model, complete with its massive diversity bureaucracy, is actually worth it.

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The consequences for civil society are important. But the aftermath has implications for college costs and postsecondary opportunity, as well.

College execs typically respond in the way they know best: by promising to layer new deans, services, and centers onto an already enormous administrative apparatus. Ironically, protests against the administration will almost certainly grow the ranks, power, and budget of administrators, and somebody will have to pay for the additional overhead. More often than not, students will be stuck with the bill; higher tuition prices, in turn, may further depress access for needy students…

But crises—bad press, student protests, competition from rival schools—provide a more immediate reason for colleges to gin up additional administrative positions. Whether an additional dean and some support staff will “solve” the problems on campus (they almost certainly will not), hiring them signals to campus activists and the media that leaders are doing something.

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Dear President Eisgruber,

We write on behalf of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition to request a meeting with you so that we may present our perspectives on the events of recent weeks. We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse. Thanks to recent polls, surveys, and petitions, we have reason to believe that our concerns are shared by a majority of our fellow Princeton undergraduates…

This dialogue is necessary because many students have shared with us that they are afraid to state publicly their opinions on recent events for fear of being vilified, slandered, and subjected to hatred, either by fellow students or faculty. Many who questioned the protest were labeled racist, and black students who expressed disagreement with the protesters were called “white sympathizers” and were told they were “not black.” We, the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, refuse to let our peers be intimidated or bullied into silence on these–or any–important matters

Across the ideological spectrum on campus, many people found the invasion of your office and refusal to leave to be troubling. Admittedly, civil disobedience (and even law-breaking) can sometimes be justified. However, they cannot be justified when channels of advocacy, through fair procedures of decision-making, are fully open, as they are at our University. To adopt these tactics while such procedures for debate and reform are in place is to come dangerously close to the line dividing demonstration from intimidation. It is also a way of seeking an unfair advantage over people with different viewpoints who refuse to resort to such tactics for fear of damaging this institution that they love…

We firmly believe that there should be no space at a university in which any member of the community, student or faculty, is “safe” from having his or her most cherished and even identity-forming values challenged. It is the very mission of the university to seek truth by subjecting all beliefs to critical, rational scrutiny. While students with a shared interest in studying certain cultures are certainly welcome to live together, we reject University-sponsored separatism in housing. We are all members of the Princeton community. We denounce the notion that our basic interactions with each other should be defined by demographic traits.

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One website, TheDemands.org, has compiled the demands made by similar groups on a few dozen campuses. As of the morning of Nov. 25, the compendium of demands included the word “speech” 21 times — always in a negative or at best wary sense…

[W]hen newspaper editorials appeal to these Enlightenment principles to scold the campus protestors, they are begging the very question. When these radicals demand we change the rules, it makes no sense to tell them they’re breaking the rules.

To combat the campus radicals, you can’t simply appeal to Enlightenment ideas — you need to defend Enlightenment ideas. That’s a more laborious argument, because in standard American political discourse liberal principles are the common ground. But it’s also a crucial argument…

The campus radicals have begun a debate over first principles. Those who cherish Western values should welcome the opportunity to defend our worldview — because beyond our shores there are far more dangerous foes of the West.

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