This is not activism so much as it is preening would-be totalitarianism. If college is to become something more than a collection of trade schools on one end and a group of overpriced coffeehouses on the other, Americans have to think about how we got here and how to restore some sanity to the crucial enterprise of higher education.
First, we have to recognize a shameless dereliction of duty among faculty and administrators. Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system. Faculty, both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.
Instead, in the name of respect and relevance, even tenured faculty sometimes quail before the anger of people barely out of high school. Paglia has always been a notable exception here, and it is encouraging to see Swarthmore College’s president, Valerie Smith, refusing to meet with student protesters unless they end their occupation of college offices. (The students want the fraternities disbanded, which happened; they want a promise from Swarthmore that they will never come back. They’re staging an occupation not over losing, but over not winning quite enough to suit them.)