Recent events at Yale and the University of Missouri (Columbia) have their distinct flavors but both follow a generic script that has been around since the 1960s. Everything begins with some hazy incident, real or imagined, or just a rumor, conceivably an African American hearing the “N” word. This is then followed by noisy demonstrations and the issuing of allegedly non-negotiable demands: recruiting more black undergraduates, hiring additional black faculty, special minority outreach programs, mandatory campus sensitive training, and on and on. Matters conclude with white administrators “promising to do more” to help blacks which, in practice, means creating special committees, appointing a diversity and inclusion functionary and setting aside a few million dollars for recruiting and other ameliorative measures
Sad to say, universities are currently defenseless against such disruptions and there is little they can do to prevent their re-occurrence. Thanks to the successes of the civil rights movement, boisterous demonstrations as the pathway to progress are almost hard-wired into the African American psyche. Can any university police force prevent a racially offensive hoax? Or handle every race-related incident so as to satisfy the most sensitive soul? Worse, such race-related campus conflicts are almost inevitable since universities are forced to admit academically marginal, often delusional black students convinced that their classroom tribulations can only be solved by rage.
Nevertheless, the impact of these confrontations can be minimized. James Madison’s Federalist #10 argues that the mischief of factions is best cured by a large, diverse Republic—with so many factions, none can dominate. Elsewhere (Federalist #51) he makes a case that Liberty is best protected not by virtue of leaders or ordinary citizens but by pitting ambition against ambition.
These lessons are applicable to today’s campus–just treat black malcontents as merely one of many grievance factions and let other covetous factions defend their prerogatives against rival trouble-makers. Surely a superior solution than hoping that spineless administrators uphold standards
Here’s the plan. First, create a School of Social Justice (SSJ) with separate departments of, say, Black Studies, Women’s Studies, Latino/a Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Studies and the like. Then hire a Dean, various Associate and Assistant Deans, and Diversity Directors, counselors, all of whom differ in politically relevant personal traits. Add generous funding for conferences, preferably far, far from campus, specialized academic journals for these professors to publish their obtuse rants and hefty research grants plus whatever else is necessary to satisfy the self-defined, marginalized professors. Finally, minimally police the area surrounding SSJ to provide safe space to people of color.
This arrangement would immediately attract academic strugglers. Football and basketball players would flock to it and keep their eligibility for all four years, even graduating. Indeed, wealthy sports-minded alums may thus be major School donors. An SSJ would also up the university’s minority student population while relieving non-SSJ professors of the obligation to face these ill-prepared, opinionated students in class. The minority student graduation rate would also skyrocket as would the number of minority professors would increase thanks to their appointment in the SSJ.
To put Madison’s plan into motion, SSJ will receive a lump-sum budget to be divided up among the component departments. Radical academic politics now becomes a zero sum game guaranteed to be vicious given the very nature of academic politics. Financial victory for the LGBT contingent thus becomes a loss for Black Studies. Guaranteed, bitter disputes centering over alleged grievances/privilege will also plague carving up well-paid administrative positions. Fights will also regularly break out over teaching responsibilities since departmental budgets typically reflect enrollments. So, for example, which SSJ department will offer the Economic Exploitation and Repression in America course? And who will decide how this course will be taught, what exploited groups will be included, whose reading material will be assigned?
Now all the anger and vitriol that infuses today’s Leftist identity politics will be directed against fellow social justice warriors, not the university more generally. A proposed Scientific Law: the quantity of agitation is constant so anger directed towards one object means less resentment directed elsewhere (“conservation of rage and resentment”). In fact, given the Left’s ideological passions and obsession with minute distinctions, many of the School’s departments will be in perpetual turmoil. The Department of Gender Studies, for example, will naturally divide by sexual orientations (at least half a dozen, I suspect), assorted ethnic loyalties, those claiming sundry disabilities and just about any other distinction that could motivate pigies at the trough.
And now for the happy bottom line. The School of Social Justice will attract every malcontent social justice warrior on campus. These warriors, from the most delicate transgendered snowflake to gangsta rappers, will now daily hear confirmation of their beliefs, told how smart they are, receive top grades and otherwise have their sensitive ego’s messaged. Moreover, the School would have its own housing and cafeterias to minimize any contact with the hostile outside world. Imagine all the acrimony over menu’s and other food-related issues let alone bathroom designations.
And with some administrative tinkering, degrees could be earned entirely in the School of Social Justice. Nobody at the SSJ will ever have their writing style criticized, the historical accuracy of their assertions challenged or anything else that would bring discomfort. It would be as if all the SJW’s had died and gone to PC heaven. Yes, there would be misunderstandings, alleged micro-aggressions and insensitivities but the resulting anger would all be directed at fellow warriors, not cowardly university presidents.
This solution will spread like wildfire. If one university created a School of Social Justice, minority students elsewhere would hold rallies and demand one at their school. Savvy administrators would of course acquiesce to these ultimatums to keep the peace.
But what about post-college employment prospects? Surely these SSJ graduates have learned few job-related skills. Wrong. Employment opportunities abound in the non-profit sector (especially in mainstream Protestant sects) where these empty-headed social justice champions can toil as community organizers and professional protestors. Many can find employment as academic diversity and inclusion consultants or secure positions in the mainstream media to monitor inequality, offensiveness and exclusion. Of course, nearly all of these graduates will lack basic skills such as literacy or organizing a cogent argument, but no matter. Knowledge is all about slogans, not competence, and provided the demographic details are correct, nobody cares.
This strategy is just what Madison had in mind–curing the mischief of faction, not creating a wise or effective government (in this context, academic excellence). His concern was protecting the Republic from mob rule and his lessons remain as relevant as before. When it comes to today’s campus nonsense, the goal is to minimize damage, not restore the university to its alleged past grandeur.