by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column at National Review Online probes recent college campus shenanigans.
The strangest campus derangement is the graft of Victorian prurience onto postmodern crudity. Students who are quite sexually active, and routinely use drugs and alcohol, nonetheless revert to virginal preteens who must be shielded from rough language or mere rudeness. They demand Victorian rules of sexual etiquette, but not commensurate 19th-century notions of abstinence, housing segregated by gender, dress codes that discourage randiness, or prohibitions against drug and alcohol use. Pick-and-choose campus feminists do not wish doors opened for them, but insist that sex codes delineate the stages of arousal, from foreplay to postcoital pleasantries. How strange that “adult” students want to dress up in little kids’ costumes on Halloween, and then act like children terrified of scary things in the night.
There is another common denominator to this epidemic of madness. Why are universities free from norms that apply to other American institutions? Is it the implied social contract that their educational mission is so sacred and so dutifully fulfilled that they simply cannot follow the rules or expectations that the rest of us do?
Free speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment, but not necessarily at universities. They assume that their own codes supersede the Bill of Rights and can limit any sort of expression that a minority of students arbitrarily defines as hurtful. Equal pay for equal work may be a national rallying cry. Yet for some reason, academia expects that it can pay a graduate-student teaching assistant or a PhD-holding part-time instructor a fraction of what it would pay a tenured full professor for teaching the identical class. The gulf between a full professor and a part-timer — in terms of money, power, and status — far exceeds that between the WalMart manager and his greeter at the door. And at least the latter pair have far different tasks. Is such disparity liberal?