BOOKS & THE CULTURE When Victims Victimize Political Correctness, Academic Freedom, Due Process BY JAMES SLEDD THE SHADOW UNIVERSITY: The Betrayal of Liberty On America’s Campuses. By Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate. The Free Press. 415 pages. $27.50. wo heterosexual white male graduates of Prince ton, one a Boston lawyer and the other a historian of the Enlightenment, attack politi cal correctness in heavy handed, angry prose. Rooting zealously to turn up sin, they align themselves with the restrained and respectable against censorial crusaders for and among the unwhite, the unmale, the sexual other. Faint damnation might seem the highest praise that Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate deserve, for nothing is duller than diatribes against p.c. Like Republican attempts to assist in the President’s self-destruction, the shouting match has just gone on too long. Such dismissal of The Shadow University would be deeply mistaken. A fair number of viewers with alarm have waxed indignant, even justly indignant, against the tyrannizing tribes of “victims” against academics, for example, who denounce “strict construction of the First Amendment” as “just another yoke” around the necks of women; but Kors and Silverglate go well beyond the usual right-wing sputtering and spluttering. Their book combines a rational, legally informed analysis of the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom with a profusely documented condemnation of their violators. It may change minds unwilling to be changed. What is it that Kors and Silverglate versity”? On the face of it, the label might apply to brain coaches, complacent faculty, pliant tutors the deeply corrupting subterranean machinery of Pigskin U. that al legedly turns semiliterate athletic superstars into real students doing real work in real courses. Or the label might apply to administrative holders of cozy corporate directorships and to other instruments of the covert dominance of education by transnationals. The politically most incorrect are in fact the most guilty of “the betrayal of liberty on American campuses.” Those socially protected malefactors, however, seem presently invulnerable. K & S have earned the two cheers for hitting an easier but quite specific target more squarely than less scrupulous marksmen have done. The personnel of the shadow university as K & S describe it includes deans of student life and their retinue, sensitivity facilitators, sexual harassment counselors, classroom climate advisers, and numerous other middleand low-level bureaucrats of the university as surrogate parent. Their aim is to detect and punish wicked isms: ableism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, looksism, racism, sexism, statusism. Their means are polysyllabic ations: freshman orientation, extracurricular indoctrination, “the promulgation of codes and regulations,” institutionalized intimidation, special systems of adjudication, and “the administration of what passes, on our campuses, for justice.” “Whole departments of the liberal arts” have been subjected to these “self-designated ‘progressives,'” who hope to make universities “the revolutionary agency of our culture.” The “core beliefs” of the thought-reformers in the shadow university \(always liberal education.” The reformers’ Great Satan is “the continued oppression of women and of racial and sexual minorities,” who have moral credit because they have been oppressed, while their historical oppressors are moral debtors. About race, gender, sexual preference, and culture, “there is only one appropriate set of views”; and “holding an inappropriate belief, once truth has been offered, is not an intellectual disagreement” but a sin against the light. The unacknowledged goal of such benighted opposition is to perpetuate the Great Satan’s reign. To K & S, p.c. is thus the attempt to rectify past injustice and build utopia by inflicting present wrongs. If p.c. is so evil, one asks immediately why savvy administrators tolerate it. At this point in the argument, the anger of the correct may cool, for K & S delight to denounce academic bossdom. Administrators, they say, aren’t ideological zealot:; like the framers of speech codes. Instead, they are spineless, self-serving careerists, intent on saving the appearance of managerial competence by avoiding riot and disruption. No administrator will ever tremble at the warning “The Lutherans are marching” or “The theologs are enraged,” but there’s acute administrative phobia about militant radicals. More interested “in avoiding high-profile problems than in achieving academic and intellectual greatness,” presidents and chancellors cover their rears by delivering the shadow university into the hands of ideologues sympathetic to the militants. At the expense of justice, they buy peace in their time. Tomorrow, they themselves will be fattening in greener pastures, the still more elevated positions which lubricity will have achieved. Old hat? Bare summary sounds all too familiar, but the saving grace for K & S is the unique analysis and support with which they accompany their indictment. After their “Introduction,” their book has five parts: “The Assault on Liberty,” “The Assault on Free Speech,” “The Assault on the Individual,” “The Assault on Due Process,” and “Restoring Liberty.” That constructive fifth part includes two chapters, “Sue the Bastards” and “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant.” Silverglate begins his antiseptic contribution in Chapter 2 of Part I, with his analysis and history of the First Amendment. He concludes that speech codes are likely to be judged unconstitutional, because they 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 25, 1998
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