Mitch Pearlstein writes at the Center of the American Experiment about a key source of the current college campus craziness.

I’ve just read the most insightful essay I’ve ever seen on a key source of political correctness in American higher education and the intellectual and other absurdities that have flooded ever after.

The author is Neil Gilbert, the Milton and Gertrude Chernin Professor of Social Welfare and Social Services at the University of California, Berkeley. …

… The core of Neil’s argument in “Institutionalized Discontent” (Society, August 2016) goes like this:

“Over the last several decades federal regulations and funds have created an alternative bureaucracy within universities that is devoted not to the core academic mission of teaching and research, but to improving the social climate of university life.” The “legitimacy and power” of this new bureaucracy, he writes, “depend on heightening the perception that academic life involves a dangerous environment, from which students need protection.” This perceived need, he continues, has led to campaigns for “safe spaces”; efforts to help students “recognize micro aggressions”; educating and training them in “sexual assault prevention”; and demanding faculty participation in “sensitivity training.” Among other rote requirements.

How big is this new bureaucracy? Neil reports that between 2000 and 2015, “the number of full-time, ladder-rank teaching faculty at Berkeley increased by 1%, while the number of full-time staff providing student services and health care increased by more than 100%, at which point they outnumbered the teaching faculty by 13%.”

Or from another angle, in addition to “inhibiting spontaneity, humor, and controversial ideas, the social climate bureaucracy” at Berkeley consumes a fortune, as costs “include not only outside consultants’ fees and faculty time, but the addition of 700 professional staff offering student services hired over the last 15 years, during which time only 70 positions were added to the roster of full-time ladder-rank faculty.”

To the question, by the way, has Professor Gilbert been called nasty names, and have other not-nice things been done to him over the years for raising issues like this, the answer is, what do you think? There was the time in about 1990, for example, when he critiqued what was manifestly inaccurate but exquisitely politically correct research about sexual assaults on campus. In response, he writes, students “organized a candlelight vigil” and fliers invited others to join in. “By all accounts,” he recounts, “it was a lively affair during which they marched around campus chanting ‘Neil Gilbert cut it out or cut if off.’” A short time later, “a creepy anonymous threat was slipped under my office door and a student petition was sent to the administration asking them to censure my work.” To its credit, the administration never said a word to him about it.