At least 18 months ago, several of my savvy friends predicted that the rise of Regressive Leftism among students would have a serious backlash Older alumni, whose donations are crucial for American Universities, would, said my friends, begin withholding their money, appalled by the shenanigans of Regressive students and the way that colleges like Yale, Harvard, Brandeis, Amherst, and Oberlin give in to ludicrous student “demands” or, like Harvard, even impose their own regressive standards (see below).
Well, it’s happening; alumni money is tapering off as donors don’t like seeing what’s going on on campuses.
Anybody could have seen this coming, but a new article in the New York Times calls this alumni reaction “an unexpected aftershock”:
Scott MacConnell cherishes the memory of his years at Amherst College, where he discovered his future métier as a theatrical designer. But protests on campus over cultural and racial sensitivities last year soured his feelings.
Now Mr. MacConnell, who graduated in 1960, is expressing his discontent through his wallet. In June, he cut the college 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.
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.
And these disapproving alumni aren’t all Clint Eastwood style Curmudgeonly Conservatives. In fact, they seem to be people much like me—and perhaps you.
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 C. Johnston, who graduated from Yale in 1982, said he was on campus last fall when activists tried to shut down a free speech conference, “because apparently they missed irony class that day.” He recalled the Yale student who was videotaped screaming at a professor, Nicholas Christakis, that he had failed “to create a place of comfort and home” for students in his capacity as the head of a residential college.
“I don’t think anything has damaged Yale’s brand quite like that,” said Mr. Johnston, a founder of an internet start-up and a former hedge fund manager. “This is not your daddy’s liberalism.”
“The worst part,” he continued, “is that campus administrators are wilting before the activists like flowers.” Yale College’s alumni fund was flat between this year and last, according to Karen Peart, a university spokeswoman.
Good! And I hope the fund begins declining. The way Yale treated the Christakises was appalling. Both fine teachers, neither now teaches at the school because of a dustup over Halloween costumes. Nicholas might return to teaching, but neither he nor his wife Erika will be masters of Silliman College, and Erika will no longer teach. And although student complaints about the racism of former college President Woodrow Wilson were worth hearing, Yale summarily expunged some images of Wilson from the school (one is the mural below):
Harvard, my own alma mater, has threatened to punish students who belong to single-sex associations that are not affiliated with the University, violating their freedom of association. I wrote to President Drew Faust about it, and got a noncommittal and generic response. Harvard Faculty have protested, and we’ll see what happens.
The Times reports that donations have dropped, on average, at 35 small liberal arts colleges, precisely the places where Entitled Students hold sway. These apparently include Amherst and Princeton. The article reports that some alumni are also chagrined at the replacement of core curricula in favor of more multifarious ones. I can share their sentiments, but I think it’s much more valid to complain about how universities bow to ridiculous student demands than to dictate curricula in a changing world.
And speaking of student demands, do you think the mural above should have been removed because Wilson was a racist (he certainly was, as judging by his statements)? But if you hold those standards, then there could be no portraits of people like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, who were worse than racists, for they held slaves. Tomorrow we’ll deal with a similar case, but this time dealing with Native Americans.