Phi Beta Cons

Capitulating to Campus Bullies has Consequences

Last fall, American campuses were wracked by ugly protests over tiny incidents that mob leaders easily turned into grounds for absurd demands. The most infamous of those protests was at the University of Missouri, where the protesters managed to bring down the president because he didn’t kowtow to them at first.

Several months have passed and the campus has returned to calm, but long-run damage has been done. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, University of Missouri law professor Thomas Lambert takes a look at the after-effects of the capitulation.

He sees three self-inflicted wounds: fewer applications, especially from high-scoring students; loss of free speech; and a worsening to race relations.

The university is getting fewer applications this year, with the big drop coming in out-of-state students (who pay much more to attend) and students with strong ACT scores. Also, applications from black students are down, and also applications for grad school. Lambert writes, “It’s hard to believe that last fall’s widely publicized protests aren’t largely to blame for the decline.” Certainly — why spend lots of money to attend a campus that might re-erupt at any time and where you have to watch what you say for fear of being reported to the speech police?

Declining enrollments will lead to financial stringency, but, thanks to the way the protests have poisoned the well, less money will be forthcoming from the legislature and from donors. I have heard others confirm what Lambert mentions about the response from long-time donors: Not another dime.

Second, free speech is suffering. There is more aggressive enforcement of the university’s rules against “hurtful” or “offensive” speech. You’ll love the story Lambert tells about the doctor who was going to give a talk to his medical colleagues and students, but was prevented from doing so by the Diversity Office. You see, his chosen title could have been offensive.

Finally, racial tensions will probably be exacerbated because there will be fewer black applications at the same time there is pressure to increase the numbers admitted. As a result, the academic mismatch problem will become more acute, and that in turn will give those eager to protest about “implicit bias” grounds for doing so.

What is happening to Mizzou due to the administration’s spinelessness is sad, but at least other schools might learn something from it and not grovel when campus bullies start issuing demands.

 

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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