Daphne Patai is one of the sharpest critics of contemporary liberalism, and higher education in particular. In this Minding the Campus essay, she identifies the source of the contagion spreading over our campuses: political correctness.
“What has happened,” she writes, “is that over the past couple of decades, ‘political correctness’ became mainstreamed: it went from characterizing only certain parts of the university (above all “identity” programs, such as women’s studies, openly committed to particular kinds of social change and intolerant of divergent views) to enjoying an obligatory and sincere endorsement by many faculty and administrators. This involves a massive redefinition of what higher education is and ought to be.”
Precisely. That is why a small number of militant protesters speaking in PC phrases can now overwhelm colleges great and small. Patai continues, “when professors stop defending their academic endeavors in intellectual terms and opt instead for ersatz politics, they are rapidly outclassed by young people who can do that better: with more energy, more time, more anger.”
To her analysis, I would only add that the “diversity” mania has added a lot of fuel to the fire. Upper-tier and flagship schools have recruited “critical masses” of students who have been taught to see the world through PC lenses. They’re at elite schools not so much because they desire to study anything as to “make a statement.”