Report: Bowdoin College Intolerant of Opposing Viewpoints. Rebuttal: Of Course We Tolerate Diversity, You Ignorant Bigot.

Saturday, April 6, AD 2013

This is one of those stories that is both incredibly amusing and frustratingly sad.

First, the background. An investor and philanthropist named Thomas Klingenstein played a round of golf with Bowdoin College President Barry Mills. Klingenstein expressed his frustration with what he perceived as the college’s lack of intellectual diversity and close-mindedness to certain viewpoints. What happened next is a matter of some dispute.

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Word of the speech soon got to Mr. Klingenstein. Even though he hadn’t been named in the Mills account, Mr. Klingenstein took to the pages of the Claremont Review of Books to call it nonsense: “He didn’t like my views, so he turned me into a backswing interrupting, Bowdoin-hating boor who wants to return to the segregated days of Jim Crow.”

The real story, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, was that “I explained my disapproval of ‘diversity’ as it generally has been implemented on college campuses: too much celebration of racial and ethnic difference,” coupled with “not enough celebration of our common American identity.”

For this, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, Bowdoin’s president insinuated that he was a racist. And President Mills did so, moreover, in an address that purported to stress the need for respecting the opinions of others across the political spectrum. “We are, in the main, a place of liberal political persuasion,” he told the students, but “we must be willing to entertain diverse perspectives throughout our community. . . . Diversity of ideas at all levels of the college is crucial for our credibility and for our educational mission.” Wrote Mr. Klingenstein: “Would it be uncharitable to suggest that, in a speech calling for more sensitivity to conservative views, he might have shown some?”

At any rate, Klingenstein commissioned a study to examine the education and culture of Bowdoin. The results of the report, which can be found here, are not a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with the state of college education today.

Funded by Mr. Klingenstein, researchers from the National Association of Scholars studied speeches by Bowdoin presidents and deans, formal statements of the college’s principles, official faculty reports and notes of faculty meetings, academic course lists and syllabi, books and articles by professors, the archive of the Bowdoin Orient newspaper and more. They analyzed the school’s history back to its founding in 1794, focusing on the past 45 years—during which, they argue, Bowdoin’s character changed dramatically for the worse.

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”

Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.

The response of one of the faculty members to this finding demonstrates the effects of life in a cocoon.

“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

Perhaps so. But he’d have a stronger case if, for example, his colleague Marc Hetherington hadn’t written the same year in Bowdoin’s newspaper that liberal professors outnumber conservatives because conservatives don’t “place the same emphasis on the accumulation of knowledge that liberals do.”

Even more revealing are the comments at this section of the NAS website, where several students and other observers chimed in, many critically. This comment is representative:

I always find it interesting when people pass off “studies” without doing any real first-hand research. As a female who attended the college during what could be called the “good old boy” days that the authors seem to be longing for, I feel that nothing in this report echoes of truth. To attack the College for its focus on promoting the Common Good, seeking a diverse student body and educating students on a global topics that cover different races and ethnicities really just points out the incredible narrowmindedness of the authors. Most of the criticisms of the College focused on characteristics that make me proud to be an alum. And as an alum who interviews high school students, I can also say that these are the very same characteristics of the College that attract driven, intelligent and well-rounded students each year.

It’s hard to not read this report and feel that the authors long for a time when the school was predominantly white males from eastern boarding schools. To that I say, good for Bowdoin. Be everything these authors do not want to be. Because that is the direction I, as an alumna, would like to see you continuing to move in.

Well done. The author of these two paragraphs does more to affirm the premise of the report than the report ever could. Not only does she blithely dismiss the report’s authors as individuals pining for the days of Jim Crow and white male domination, she completely misses the point of the report. So in calling out the authors for being narrowminded, she helps prove that it her side of the debate that is narrowminded and unable to get beyond certain stereotypical thinking.

As I said it’s funny but also mainly sad when you reflect on the quality of education and the indoctrination being done to our young skulls full of mush. And is it any wonder why we continue to push kids towards a college education even when, in  many cases, it really isn’t necessary to most people’s careers? College is less and less about providing a well-rounded educational experience and more about teaching young adults to think “the right way.” If you were a left wing power broker, wouldn’t you want as many people as possible to be placed in these indoctrination centers?

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10 Responses to Report: Bowdoin College Intolerant of Opposing Viewpoints. Rebuttal: Of Course We Tolerate Diversity, You Ignorant Bigot.

  • “A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

    Well I guess that solves the problem of there being more intellectual diversity in the old Soviet politburo than on most college campuses today. I assume the professor is correct. After all, it isn’t as if college campuses were imposing speech code to attack politically incorrect speech, or that conservative speakers were routinely howled down at these citadels of free speech and open inquiry.

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  • College hiring committees will fall over themselves to recruit faculty
    representing every sort of sexual and ethnic minority one could name.
    Presumably this is because it’s felt that a white, liberal male professor
    cannot fairly reflect minority views in classroom discussions. No one
    in academia bats an eye at that assumption, no one dismisses it as
    “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting, and, fortunately, wildly

    Those same liberal academics who so willingly admit they cannot
    do complete justice to minority perspectives in the classroom are yet
    so insulted at the idea that they might not be doing complete justice to
    the perspectives of that conservative minority still tolerated on campus.
    It looks like identity politics do not apply if you have the wrong politics.

  • General Chamberlain would be proud.

    Bowdoin administrators must be devastated. They need to recruit some other 1960’s terrorist. NYU snapped up Kathy Boudin: Weather Underground murderer.

    All left-wing, commie brainwashing all the time. Teach them what to think, not how to think.

    Brain bleach sold here!

  • I think that inclusion and not diversity is the operative word for business in this century. Bowdoin is a last century, guilt ridden college that feasts on disparaging the USA which is a an unfortunate byproduct of the 60s mentality. It is a self loathing and worthless institution that has little relevance to the needs of today. Frankly, the east coast is losing population, the richest, to the south and west and Bowdoin will become a shuttered relic to the past similar to what happened in the old south.

  • lol@”queer gardens”

  • I never cease to be amazed that parents are willing to pay tuition for their children to attend these institutions or, for the less fortunate, that students are willing to become indebted to attend these institutions.

    St. Augustine onced observed in his dialogue, On The Teacher: “What parent would be so absurdly curious as to pay tuition for a teacher to tell the student what the teacher thinks?”

  • College is less and less about providing a well-rounded educational experience and more about teaching young adults to think “the right way.”

    Well, yes. But if employers keep requiring college degrees for jobs that don’t really need them, then people will keep enrolling. I’d wager that for the majority of students, college is simply a means to the end of obtaining gainful employment. Sure, 90% of the stuff they cram down you will be irrelevant to your job, outside of technical degrees and courses. For these required fluff courses, you memorize the shluck, spit it back on the test, and then forget it.

  • Think “the right way”

    Calling it thinking is a bit generous. Parrotting is more accurate.

  • I think they are being indoctrinated with what to think not being taught how to think: to weigh the evidence and come to the truth.

Save Us From the saVE Act

Thursday, May 5, AD 2011

You might think that the following snippet is from The Onion.  Oh, that it were.

A new law proposed in the Senate would require universities to have stricter policies against sexual harassment and have mandatory relationship training–and some free speech groups say there are problems with the law.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Act (The Campus saVE Act) which would require universities to enforce new disciplinary guidelines against crimes of sexual violence. The law would amend the existing Clery Act, passed in 1990, which requires universities to report all crimes committed on campus.

While the law attempts to define and combat all manners of sexual harassment, it would also require all incoming freshman and university employees to attend mandatory classes on dating and healthy relationships.

There’s really one reaction appropriate for something like this.

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4 Responses to Save Us From the saVE Act

  • In fairness to FIRE, the most salient of their activities is legal representation of students in the cross-hairs of college administrations. They would tend to view the problem through a prism ground according to what they do all day. (One suspects that the reporter may have truncated the gentlemen’s remarks as well, adhering to a journalists’ template which sees all social phenomena in terms of conflicts over individual rights and entitlements).

    Heather MacDonald has treated the likely source of this legislation here:

    These people have a durable grift.

    You have to wonder about the mentality of Casey and Murray. Between them, they have been in electoral politics for 40 years. You think that would suffice to persuade them not to take what a lobbyist tells them at face value.

  • My guess is that the law ties the requirements to federal funding for universities, which would avoid the constitutional issue.

  • Reason enough to end state patronage of philanthropies.

  • UVA was one of the first to sell-out in ordler to stay in sugar daddy’s good graces: