Men on college campuses have been enduring the new definition of deviance, where due process protections have been withheld from them for nearly two decades. Title IX administrators on college campuses like Georgetown and Boston College admit that there is “no presumption of innocence” for males accused of sexual assault. It is ironic that the same congressmen—like John Conyers (D-NY)—who helped create the Title IX nightmare that pressed colleges and universities to withhold due process protections for students is now himself accused of sex abuse, and demanding due process.
The other principal way that colleges and universities entice people to enroll at high prices for questionable academic programs is by dazzling families with “scholarship” (discounted tuition) and flashy explanations of how the costs can be covered by an array of federal loans and tax credits. The House bill certainly won’t bring an end to Las Vegas-style flashing lights and upbeat tempos with jackpots every minute, but it will curtail some of it. Taking $65 billion off the table is a start.
I heard the same thing in literary studies several years ago when the job market tanked after the financial crisis. Back then, though, graduate students resented the advice. They went into the programs because they wanted an academic job. They sat in undergraduate classes, looked up at the professor at the podium, and thought, “I want to do that.” They idealized the life of the mind, imagined themselves writing books and essays, delivering lectures to colleagues at conferences, and spending summers in archives in Paris and Bologna and Mexico City. To be told that they should consider something else, a curator or archivist or writer for a not-for-profit strikes most of them as a letdown.
The National Association of Scholars is, of course, better known for defending academics who have come under attack for promoting ideas that run against the grain of the domineering campus left. We have recently, for example, defended , a professor of English at Springfield College, whose research and teaching interests on “men in literature” have brought down the wrath of his college’s feminists, including his department chair and his provost. We have defended , professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, who along with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law, published an in which they extolled mid-twentieth century America for upholding the value of marriage, hard work, obeying the law, patriotism, neighborliness, civic-mindedness, charity, clean language, steering clear of addictive substances, and respect for authority. Professor Wax was excoriated by many of her fellow law professors at Penn and by her dean. And we defended , professor of political science at Portland State University, after his publication of an essay, “The Case for Colonialism,” unleashed an international torrent of abuse against him, including death threats.
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Horowitz—I’ll retreat to the patronym from this point on—has plainly failed at that part of his intellectual project represented by this book. He has not arrested the radical left’s takeover of the university, let alone restored the ideal of a university that teaches “how to think, not what to think.” The diversity of ideas and outlooks that he has tirelessly promoted as the sine qua non of higher education is less in evidence today than it was when he started. Repression of conservative ideas and highhanded treatment of the people who voice those ideas has grown steadily worse. The dismal situation brought by the triumph of the progressive left on college campuses has darkened still further as a new generation of even more radicalized identitarian groups has emerged.
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My debt to David Horowitz came home vividly to me in reading his new volume of collected essays—volume eight in a series collectively titled “The Black Book of the American Left.” This volume, The Left in the University, bears the hefty burden of gathering his significant writings on American higher education, 1993 to 2010. A fair number of the 53 essays collected here, I’d read before. Reading them afresh and as part of a whole, however, is to see them in a more valedictory light.
I cannot end even a short review of one of Horowitz’s book without acknowledging the quality of his writing. He is a superb essayist who excels at telling compelling stories without deviating a jot from the larger compelling ideas he is arguing. The Left in the University is valued as a preciously detailed account of how the radicals have despoiled American higher education, but it is also a collection of superbly written and argued accounts from the battlefield. Horowitz’s book might be thought of as war correspondence from a war most Americans didn’t realize was being fought.
However, it would be wrong to attribute the marginal position of conservative academics in the humanities and social sciences simply to self-conscious acts of discrimination. Since the end of the Second World War, conservative ideas have become marginalized within the key cultural and intellectual institutions of western society. In a frequently cited statement, the American literary critic Lionel Trilling declared in his 1949 Preface to his collection of essays that right-wing ideas no longer possessed cultural significance: