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A Small College Is Suffering from Self-Inflicted Wounds
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Recently, one of my neighbors saw students from Elizabethtown College, where I taught for many years, walking down the street wearing what looked like the puzzle pieces featured as symbols by Autistic Awareness.

When he asked why they were wearing the all-white puzzle pieces, one of the coeds proudly explained that they were dramatizing the outrage of “white privilege.” About 50 students and alums had pledged to wear these puzzle pins for the next month, until everyone became sensitive to how we were oppressing blacks.

A detailed Daily Mail story concerning this campaign against “white privilege” informed readers, “The school’s 203-acre campus is situated in Lancaster County, where according to the latest US Census data from 2015, more than 90 percent of the population is white.” The article also featured a picture of our administrative building, which it noted was packed full of white people. The borough where the president of the College Democrats wants “to get people to talk openly about race and white privilege” is likewise overwhelmingly white.

The student handing out puzzle pins poured her heart out to the local CBS affiliate with these words: “People of color have to wake up everyday and think about race and just about their life. What they have to do to not negatively impact their life. As a white person we don’t usually have to think about that.”

If this young woman is as deeply concerned as she suggests about the presumed suffering of blacks in the U.S., she should go somewhere where she can find some to help. The few blacks who live in Lancaster County don’t need her help and live here precisely because they want to wake up each morning without having to fear the crime that infests our large cities.

One of our close friends in the borough happens to be a black woman, an accountant, who voted for Trump. She scoffs at the idea that the problems of many black Americans are caused by the “privileges” enjoyed by whites.

The British paper correctly underlined the hypocrisy of whites pretending to be advocating for oppressed blacks while choosing to reside in a lily-white environment. This is the dirty little secret at Elizabethtown that I indiscreetly revealed in newspaper articles while I held an endowed chair at the college.

For decades, some of our departments, such as social work, education, and communications, have been full of young radicals who opt for a college that is at a safe distance from the minorities whom they claim to be championing. More than one such student has complained to me: “We don’t recruit enough students from inner cities to give us diversity.” To that I usually responded: “If you want diversity, then why don’t you go to a college in a black neighborhood, say Temple in Philadelphia?” This invariably caused the complainer to walk away.

The adolescents sporting the puzzle pins exemplify the prevailing spirit at the institution, but such grandstanding hasn’t always been the custom at the college. When I arrived there in the 1980s, Elizabethtown College seemed to be on the right path, educationally, fiscally, and in most other ways.

The president who hired me, Gerhard Spiegler, was a German scholar who hoped to make the institution into a first-rate center of learning. Spiegler hoped to elevate academic standards for students and faculty alike, and he practiced Teutonic thrift by keeping the size and salaries of the administration exceedingly low. He was hated by most of the old guard on campus, particularly by the faculty with terminal master’s degrees in education who taught their courses, as he would say, on “automatic pilot.”

Spiegler also hired assistants who were able to increase the school’s meager endowment and to raise funds for new buildings. Among the buildings that he arranged to erect were a state-of-the-art library and an Anabaptist Center, created for the study of the German Pietist sect that had established Elizabethtown College in 1899. He worked energetically to retain the loyalty of traditional Brethren alumni and donors and continued to look upon their coreligionists as a recruiting base.

Unlike much of the faculty, Spiegler leaned politically toward the Right and had no patience for academic agitators, especially for troublemakers who combined radical political views with a lack of professional accomplishments. Unfortunately, the troublemakers outlasted Spiegler, who laid down his duties in 1996.

During the next two administrations, the troublemakers got the “hope of change” they thought they wanted. It came in the form of lavishly salaried administrators (certainly by comparison to those who preceded them), rapidly escalating tuition, and a shifting emphasis at the college from a strict Pietist environment to the PC fad du jour, lately “white privilege.”

I’ve never seen an institution change so fundamentally within just a few years. The changes came on a number of fronts.

The cultural transformation moved from such Anabaptist-sounding activities as peace studies, to diversity deans and diversity studies through consciousness-raising events for blacks, women, and gays, “safe spaces” for LGBT, and special living arrangements for the transgendered. Black History and Women’s Months went on interminably and brought to the college a steady stream of outraged victim speakers.

Such commotions served a practical as well as ideological function. They gave special prominence to non-ideational disciplines (that is, majors that are more open to expressing grievances than teaching written bodies of knowledge), and the social justice exhibitionists are usually drawn from the students and faculty in these areas. Not insignificantly, those departments are now the cash cows at the college: they don’t require much in the way of equipment and have delivered loads of tuition-bearing students.


Needless to say, there’s no way the college could return to its historic Anabaptist roots. When I retired six years ago, less than one percent of the students belonged to one of the German “peace churches” once heavily represented at the college. The largest religious denomination among the student body is now Catholic, and our students, faculty, and administrators all lean strongly toward the left wing of the Democratic Party.

But the increasing emphasis on PC and diversity is bringing declining benefits. The incurious students who praise “hands-on learning” (which typically involves little serious learning) seem less and less likely to choose a middling college with a price tag of $55,000 a year. (Even with the negotiated bargains given to prospective buyers, the average yearly cost is around $30,000.) Students can major in primary education, social work, and communications for considerably less at a state institution, where they can also do their demonstrating.

In a nutshell, the college has become too expensive for what it offers its average student; an erosion of the customer base has started. Since 2009, the student body has declined from 1,866 to 1,707 and the school is encountering increasing difficulty meeting its annual goal of 450 entering freshmen. This year it trimmed $3 million from its budget. Justified fear has set in among the faculty that further savings will be extracted from their salaries and benefits.

It’s hard to imagine why one would go to Elizabethtown to partake of a uniqueness that no longer exists. If someone wants safe spaces for LGBT or intends to march against “white privilege,” why choose an expensive college that’s unknown to people outside our region?

Some things have improved at the college since I began teaching. There are more buildings and faculty, and the faculty is on the whole better credentialed than it was in the 1980s. Our diligent students are more likely to be accepted into the better professional schools and graduate programs than thirty years ago. Elizabethtown College has also in recent years produced Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars, an accomplishment that should give it far better bragging privileges than social justice grandstanding.

The school could have made those improvements without the disastrous decisions. It could have kept costs lower, avoided administrative bloating, been more selective about the students it admitted, and aimed at the academic excellence that always seemed pushed to the back in official statements about the college’s goals.

Administrators and their faculty enablers could have built on their traditional Protestant, regional heritage. Instead, they exchanged that heritage for the chance to become a caricature of Berkeley. The college is now hurting.

(Republished from The James G. Martin Center by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Academia, Political Correctness 
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  1. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Elizabethtown and doubtless many other colleges are seeing, or are likely to see, their endowments, donations and enrollments shrink. They appear to pursue incompatible goals, myopically driven by ephemera. University of Missouri was a recent exemplar of that policy. They may need to update the motto from Go Tigers! to Go, Tigers?

    Tiger, tiger burning bright
    In the folly of the night
    Urban campuses blight
    Society’s future fright

  2. botazefa says:

    It seems the author feels victimized by something.

    • Replies: @Ace
  3. woodNfish says:

    159 fewer students at full tuition for 4 years is a loss of almost $32 million. That has to really hurt and makes me very happy.

  4. Ace says:

    Any guess as to what it might be?

  5. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Administrators and their faculty enablers could have built on their traditional Protestant, regional heritage.”

    Mainline Protestantism is gone and hitching the fortunes of the college to some denomination would have brought about the demise of the college.

    SJW was another way to keep the college alive.

    The problem is not the branding of the college but that middling colleges are just too expensive.

  6. “Some things have improved at the college since I began teaching. There are more buildings and faculty, and the faculty is on the whole better credentialed than it was in the 1980s.”

    Right, because these metrics are more important than delivering a solid grounding in how to figure out the world and navigate your way through it, which was the aim of venerable liberal arts colleges of days gone by. The old German sounded like he had his feet firmly planted on the ground … shame he could not find a sympatico successor.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
  7. @The Alarmist

    I thought the article made good points, but he did produce a bizarre list of institutional accomplishments.

    Elizabethtown College has also in recent years produced Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars …

    Elizabethtown College has produced only one Rhodes Scholar in its history and that was in 1995. Fulbright Scholarships are not that difficult to obtan. According to Wikipedia, “In the 2015–16 cycle, 17% and 24% of American applicants were successful in securing research and English Teaching Assistance grants, respectively.” In comparison, Liberty University has a 22% undergraduate acceptance rate.

  8. Gene Su says:

    I think it is high time that someone wrote an article on *why* modern American adolescents are so much more politically sensitive and active than their past counterparts or their counterparts in other countries (most notably, 3rd world countries). Paul Gottfried, Linh Dinh (, Ilana Mercer (, Fred Reed (, and many others have noticed it.

    The explanations given by most commentators are inadequate. Conservatives say that modern youth think they know everything but that only accounts for the arrogance, not political sensitivity. Linh Dinh blames pop media but not everyone listens to pop media. More on the mark is that school children, isolated from the adult world, tend to me more susceptible to propaganda than those who are unschooled. That accounts for them believing rubbish but not constantly demonstrating and freaking out when some policy doesn’t go their way. An observer of the 3rd Reich said that it was made up of a lot of college grads with no real outlet or usage for the training they have acquired in school. I have meditated on this phenomenon and believe that, like most modern social pathologies, the political sensitivity of American youth is caused by the public schools.

    An American child has zero control over what school he or she goes to. The child has zero control over what he/she learns, who he/she learns it from, and what other children he/she will learn it with. The child might also not have any control over what his/her activities will be on the weekend. Many extracurricular activities are selected by the parent, not the child. The child does not have any control over who takes care of him/her after school or how he/she spends his/her summers. If they don’t like any of this, they are told “Tough! Adjust!” A child who is constantly subjected to this will become far more sensitive about who is politically in charge and what their policies are.

  9. MarkinLA says:
    @Gene Su

    It has a lot to do with the general pussification of society and I mean that guys aren’t out doing anything but hanging around looking at their phones all day long.

    In the past you had guys doing guy things like building their cars or riding their dirt bikes. You still have that but very little of it is in the urban areas. How many young boys do you see playing baseball with their friends in the park after school. There doesn’t appear to be as many as in the past. Since they have nothing important to do they have plenty of time to pretend to worry about what are really unimportant things to young people.

    Technology has something to do with it. It used to be that a real guy had to work on his own car so he would know something or be at the mercy of some mechanic. He learned to change the brakes, tune the car, and change minor parts on the car. This was a regular thing when brake pads only lasted 12,000 miles. The boys usually helped their dads.

    Most of the food had to be cooked and not nuked and pulled out of it’s steam in bag. The girls usually helped mom.

    The kids didn’t have time for what really isn’t important to a normal teenager.

    • Replies: @Gene Su
  10. @Gene Su

    What you describe must be even more pronounced in China or Japan, surely? Why isn’t it happening there ?
    Does the high rate of Divorce, Family Breakdown help cause this ? Are the silly sums American parents give their children to go on useless College courses causing these children to despise their parents ? Does sending lots of poor quality students to college result in idle minds and idle hands ? Are these idle minds recruited by scurrilous agitators to intimidate people they don’t agree with ? Are many of these agitators University teachers and other employees?
    Isn’t it time sensible parents stopped spending large sums of money on their children’s college fees ? Isn’t it time parents just gave their children such money as they can afford when their children reach their majority ? Isn’t it time most colleges went out of business as a result ?
    Where is Andrew Napolitano when you need him ?

  11. Gene Su says:

    I remember when I went to 4th grade (early 90’s) that the Home Economics and Woodworking Shop classes in my elementary school were replaced by something stupid called “Enhancement Module.” If it sounded like leftist drivel, it was because it was. All the newly hired annoying leftist teacher talked about was things that were going on in the newspapers and stuff like that. I don’t know why they got rid of those two practical classes. Maybe they thought they were unsafe for the young children (handling stoves and saws)? I have a funny feeling that this sort of transformation took place decades earlier in the inner city. Many boys today don’t know how to fix a bicycle, much less a car.

    • Replies: @Ivy
    , @dc.sunsets
    , @Reg Cæsar
  12. Ivy says:
    @Gene Su

    Prior generations had schools with shop classes and various vocational arts options. Kids got a lot out of learning about tools, safety, craftsmanship, budgeting and related topics, and many had a lot of fun doing so. I amused some neighborhood kids one afternoon recently by letting them take turns sawing a 4×4 into pieces. They had never seen a saw before and were eager for more turns.

  13. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Gene Su

    I disagree with laying the blame at the doorstep of public schools. A few decades ago, practically everyone in the US went to public schools and the students were not filled with an excessive amount of PC nonsense. PC culture only became a widespread thing when private schooling expanded dramatically. When you force white kids to attend school with minorities, it knocks the nonsense out of them. You can only entertain delusions of PC ideology if you’re completely isolated from all the trouble-making minorities of the world.

    The PC-indoctrinated believe it’s bad teachers and bad schools that explain why minorities in public schools don’t do well. If whites had gone to schools with poorly performing blacks and Hispanics, they’d know these people do poorly because they’re just dumb. One episode of your black classmates beating you up for being white because they think like gang members and that is just what gang members do, is the best real-world anecdote to PC culture ever.

    • Replies: @Gene Su
  14. Gene Su says:

    As I have said once before, I don’t care for your racist comments.

    I think someone also needs to write an article on *why* American youth have bought into the big Leftist lie that there is nothing in Western society worth defending. I have wrote this 2 or 3 times on this web site and I will write this as many times as I need to:

    The leftist PC drivel is not just caused by the intense isolation many white kids have from lower class blacks. Nor is it solely propagated by our “malfunctioning media” (to use Ilana Mercer’s words). The problem is that during his/her adolescent years, a white child is more likely to encounter a white thug in public school than a black thug. Part of this is caused by America’s intense racial segregation. Part of this is also caused by the massive decline in discplinary standards in our schools. A few years ago, redneck commentator Jim Goad wrote a nasty piece detailing how a black public school allowed its trouble makers off the hook and gave them passing grades. What he was not honest about was that it is also very difficult to expel or discpline a white troublemaker in a suburban school. A child who witnesses this might conclude that the Western European society from which these trouble makers come from is rotton to the core and has nothing to offer.

    I lived near a black city during my childhood, but because I was kept under close watch by my parents and caretakers, I was not allowed to venture into the bad parts of town. I didn’t see any of the black thuggery that Fred Reed described until I move to New York for college and even then, I didn’t think anything of it. One time, I saw some black girls pounding one another into the sidewalk. I wasn’t shocked. When I was 14, I saw two white cheerleaders pummeling one another over a guy in my elementary school.

  15. @Gene Su

    The schools of today simply reflect the social decay of the parents.

    We have the Special Ed Inclusion Model (courtesy of just another 1970’s era well-meaning folly) and we have the “medicalization” of behavioral aberrations.

    Now, the same teacher is expected to instruct easily four standard deviations of IQ across a 27-student classroom, and can (as is the case in my wife’s grade now) have kids as low as 56 IQ (tested!) in the classroom. Imagine trying to simultaneously teach pre-primer reading and novels, or basic addition and long division, at the same time, in the same crowded room.

    This is bad enough. Worse, even relatively severely emotionally disturbed students sporting all manner of “diagnoses” are placed in the classroom, ticking time bombs of emotional outbursts accompanies by top-of-the-lungs screaming, throwing furniture, etc. The school now literally has a padded room to where such apoplectic kids are dragged or carried.

    45 years ago, kids were expected to show up to grade school (much less high school) with a modicum of self-control. Now it’s the exception, not the rule, that a kid can remain on task when the teacher is occupied in one of the hourly crises across the room.

    Significant numbers of parents exhibit ZERO interest or ability in teaching their children self-control. Exhibits abound of 9 year olds telling their parent to go to hell. Kids spend their lives on TV, video games, tablets and cell phones….yes, 9 year olds. Electronic babysitters are ubiquitous.

    Just as physicians give the mother whatever “diagnosis” she demands for her little angel (so he or she cannot be disciplined for a “handicap”), schools are bending over backwards to give parents whatever they want, which in most cases is to relieve the parent of responsibility for feeding, socializing or teaching their own child.

    I do not exaggerate one bit. Very few people who do not work in a classroom today have any idea just how dysfunctional is the cohort of kids in grade schools now, whose parents are themselves the second generation of people who were raised without standards. We are now witnessing the offspring of the Lord Of The Flies show up in schools.

    • Agree: ScarletNumber
  16. I attended a small private university for undergrad and sincerely hope they all crash and burn.

    Universities in general are all con games now, but charging $120k to $200k or more for a bachelors degree makes The Sting look like kindergarten.

    When my kids were in late high school they’d have friends who went on “college visits” and “Fell in love with the campus.” My favorite line was, “I hope they enjoy all those trees. Each one of them will be costing them tens of thousands of dollars in payments and interest.”

    A fool and his money are soon parted. Nothing better illustrates this today than any private university.

  17. @Gene Su

    Many boys today don’t know how to fix a bicycle, much less a car.

    Fathers teach their sons these things.
    Mothers teach their daughters how to cook and clean.

    Sadly, parents abdicated these jobs long ago. I taught my sons to use tools, and their mother taught them to cook, knowing that every adult should know how to do a spectrum of tasks.

    Every one of my daughters-in-law had to learn how to cook after college. Not one of their mothers taught them beans.

    I can’t take credit for my youngest son’s auto expertise. He literally learned how to put lowering springs on a car, pull the engine, add twin turbochargers, and (not kidding) change it from an auto transmission to a 5-speed manual by chatting with people on an Internet enthusiasts’ forum.

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects! —Robert Heinlein, from Time Enough For Love

  18. @Gene Su

    …classes in my elementary school were replaced by something stupid called “Enhancement Module.”

    That sounds like a product advertised in the back pages of low-rent men’s magazines.

    • LOL: Kyle McKenna
  19. @Gene Su

    I have wrote this 2 or 3 times on this web site…

    Past participles are so passé, aren’t they? I guess it was “wrote” in the stars.

  20. It is difficult to overstate the tragic, catastrophic destruction of American colleges (even — especially– the private, religious ones) by the neo-Stalinists.


  21. Anon45 says:

    I thought college was supposed to separate out the smarties from the dummies. Then enhance the smartiness. But then again, they’re probable just money making scams like most everything else.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  22. @Anon45

    No, today’s college separates the proto-adults from their future earnings and hands them to the University-Industrial-Complex.

    Fools and their money…..

    It’s a neat trick, to bank today what people haven’t even earned yet.

  23. Icy Blast says:
    @Gene Su

    You are such a wonderfully virtuous person! I hope everyone in the world reads your heartwarming remarks. Perhaps you will be offered a job in TV production!

  24. jack ryan says: • Website

    There seems to be very little hope in American education. I had lots of hope for Mormons – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when I joined them 20 years ago.

    But my take on the LDS Mormons is that they just want to be liked and accepted by “the powers that be” – LDS want to be considered some of the “good Whites” as John Derbyshire describes them.

    LDS Mormons like to be accepted in places they weren’t – like at Harvard and Yale. What healthy, intelligent male or female wants to be accepted with the likes of Supreme Court Justices Lesbian Elena Kagan or Ruth Bader Ginbzberg or that fake native American Indian Mass Senator Elizabeth Warren?

    Even with Islamists blowing off the limbs of runners at the Boston Marathon – this seems to have little or no effect on political correctness Lib Left nonsense on US colleges.

    Well at the least the University of California Berkeley had one guy with a set of ba****


  25. norm741 says:

    Black on Black violence is the problem not White Privilege

  26. Art Deco says:

    Who did this to Elizabethtown? Its trustees. Why did they do it? Likely because they’re vacuous fad-chasers like every other college trustee in the United States.

  27. anon • Disclaimer says:

    What I have noticed is that #1 is the ideology of sustainability. That is far more aggressively pushed than PC and diversity. Well, it is PC, of sorts.

    But back in the day …. I was a huge opponent of the War in Vietnam. Because. They wanted to send my ass over there.

    We can talk about virtue signaling. But hell, how is that any different than status seeking or conforming or anything else? I suppose the practice of ‘calling out’ on Facebook has made it more popular, etc.

    However, as far as idealism, we are in wars. Not that I bother paying that much attention, but we seem to be supporting KSA in starving half Yeman’s population. Who seem to be under a state of siege.

    Not to mention our idiotic semi wars that we always fail to win.

    The only point being that being against war. That is a really good thing for college students to be idealistic about. I let them know it whenever I can. And chide them for being obsessed about micro aggressions but oblivious to aggressive aggression. Like droning and bombing.

    What the hell happened to the peace movement. Why do SJW’s skip that part of virtue signaling? I don’t get it. The college could have promoted that as a specialty virtue. And give the students a niche virtue. They shoulda. Anyway.

  28. I was an undergrad involved in the College Union Board at a state school in NJ. The CUB student overseers were in turn overseen by higher level administrators. Their ferocious pandering to upper level administration was grotesque. I didn’t encounter such dedicated sycophants again until I joined the military as a “90 day wonder.” Wardrooms on United States warships ships were equally full of zombie-fied ass kissers. Back to the state school – its now grossly overbuilt and changed it’s name. A lovely chapel was razed, one of the prettiest buildings that ever graced a campus. In a word the place has gone to hell. Two graduate level diplomas later (I’m a glutton for punishment), I am sour on all formal education except home schooling, technical school training and apprenticeships. The demoralization of the American public is several generations old now and the flowered seeds of our destruction were planted in K-12 public schools by internal enemies of the state and of religion. “Professor Doom” runs a web sight that documents the reasons for the fall of Academies in America – recommended you give him a look-see.

  29. Wally says:
    @Gene Su

    It all boils down to them trying to avoid working for a living.

    Hence they conjure up excuse after excuse.
    They live with their parents seemingly forever, they side with Marxist Bernie, they major in low thinking subjects which do nothing to prepare them for employment, and then they scream that they cannot find a job.
    All so convenient.

    • Replies: @Anon
  30. Wally says:
    @Gene Su

    He’s “racist”?
    Oh yawn. I sense projection on your part.

    He’s actually quite the REALIST.

    Your denial of racial crime statistics is telling. I guarantee everyone here that you live nowhere near black / brown neighborhoods, probably very much the opposite.

    You wouldn’t last a day in Compton or East L. A.

  31. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    You seem to be saying that there is a generational difference in wanting to work for a living. Do you have an explanation for why that is?

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