More specifically, there is Trump’s distinctive style of cultural populism and alt-right conspiracy-mongering, which mocks and even flagrantly assaults (at the level of both policy and political rhetoric) the highest ideals of the university: the methodical pursuit of truth, and respect for all members of the campus community, very much including those from marginalized groups. Most colleges, from world-renowned research universities on down to community colleges serving working-class populations, welcome immigrants and foreigners as students. They also tend to see themselves as contributing to the benefit of humanity through the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge (and consequent vanquishing of ill-informed prejudices). That makes campuses places uniquely inclined to oppose everything Trump and his most vociferous supporters stand for.

Then there are the conservative student groups that deliberately invite right-wing rabblerousers to campuses, not primarily to broaden the range of acceptable topics for public debate (which is an important and admirable goal), but in the hope of provoking an overreaction on the part of left-leaning students and faculty members. This is then made even more volatile by the presence in some communities of “antifa” left-wing extremists who appoint themselves arbiters of acceptable thought and take it upon themselves to mete out violent punishment to those they judge guilty of ideological transgressions. When clashes between these opposed illiberal groups get out of hand, images and stories of angry denunciations and violent actions get repurposed as propaganda in the right-wing media, which promotes them as evidence of generalized lunacy in American higher education.