Just two months into my freshman year of college, I caught my first glimpse of political correctness run amok. In October 2015, Professor Erika Christakis wrote an email suggesting that the university should not police students’ Halloween costumes. Big mistake. A mob promptly confronted Professor Christakis and her husband, Nicholas, on the perfectly manicured Cross Campus, and denounced them as racists. They were forced to resign shortly thereafter.
Now that the struggle session has gone national, you may wonder how we got here.
Scott Johnston’s recent novel Campusland is a good starting point (disclosure: Scott is a friend of mine). Campusland takes place at a fictionalized version of Yale University. The protagonist — a literature professor from Alabama named Ephraim Russell — finds himself embroiled in a scandal after violating the elite university’s abstruse social code. The rest of the novel takes us from the frat house to the Progressive Students’ Alliance to the university president’s office. It’s delightful from start to finish — equal parts funny and tragic.
Today, when fiction cannot hold a candle to the absurdity of reality, the satirist faces an acute challenge. But Scott’s mix of wit and social insight makes Campusland a must-read for those hoping to understand the contemporary university.