‘So­cial jus­tice war­fare’ slows lib­eral arts school en­roll­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

Uni­ver­si­ties known for be­ing hot­beds of cam­pus protest and lib­eral ac­tivism are strug­gling with de­clin­ing en­roll­ments and bud­get short­falls, and higher ed­u­ca­tion an­a­lysts say that’s no co­in­ci­dence.

Take Ober­lin Col­lege. Ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment leaked to The Ober­lin Review, the school’s stu­dent news­pa­per, the small lib­eral arts col­lege fa­mous for so­cial jus­tice hoaxes has had trou­ble at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing stu­dents, miss­ing this year’s en­roll­ment mark by 80 and rack­ing up a $5 mil­lion bud­get deficit in the process.

Wil­liam A. Jacobson, a pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Law School who runs the Le­gal In­sur­rec­tion blog, said the “most ob­vi­ous cul­prit” in Ober­lin’s dwin­dling ad­mis­sions is “re­lent­less so­cial jus­tice war­fare.”

“So­cial jus­tice war­fare at Ober­lin has been more in­tense and sus­tained over a longer pe­riod of time than at most schools, and has come to de­fine Ober­lin in the me­dia,” Mr. Jacobson said. “The re­sult­ing mock­ery and de­ri­sion, even in lib­eral pub­li­ca­tions, has dam­aged the Ober­lin brand.”

Sur­veys sup­port the no­tion that, in the era of Trump, con­ser­va­tives have be­come more skep­ti­cal about the value of a col­lege de­gree.

The po­lar­iz­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was felt in the dip in ap­pli­cants at some top-tier col­leges such as Ohio’s Kenyon Col­lege.

“This is a year in which you were vul­ner­a­ble if you were a small lib­eral arts col­lege in a ru­ral red state and you at­tract a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of your stu­dent body from the East Coast or West Coast, which would cer­tainly be the case with Kenyon,” Diane Anci, Kenyon’s vice pres­i­dent of en­roll­ment and dean of ad­mis­sions and fi­nan­cial aid, told the Ohio school’s Kenyon Col­le­gian news­pa­per.

A study pub­lished by the Wash­ing­ton-based Pew Re­search Cen­ter in July found that just 36 per­cent of Repub­li­cans be­lieve col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the coun­try, down from 54 per­cent two years ago.

Gallup re­leased a poll in Au­gust that found just 33 per­cent of Repub­li­can and Repub­li­can-lean­ing re­spon­dents had a “great deal or quite a lot of con­fi­dence in higher ed­u­ca­tion.” Sixty-seven per­cent said they have “some or very lit­tle” con­fi­dence in academia.

High school coun­selors re­port that, in the past few years, par­ents have been more likely to ex­press con­cern about send­ing their chil­dren to schools with pro­gres­sive rep­u­ta­tions.

“Many won’t con­sider Ober­lin or Wes­leyan, and Brown is com­pletely off the ta­ble,” one coun­selor told In­side Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in June.

The prob­lem may be es­pe­cially pro­nounced among the na­tion’s heart­land. In­side Higher Ed­u­ca­tion re­ports that sev­eral pres­ti­gious, small lib­eral arts col­leges in the Mid­west have missed their en­roll­ment marks this year.

Some col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors have taken no­tice. Ac­cord­ing to In­side Higher Ed­u­ca­tion’s an­nual sur­vey, 52 per­cent of ad­mis­sions di­rec­tors from pub­lic col­leges and 28 per­cent from pri­vate ones said they were step­ping up their re­cruit­ment of stu­dents from ru­ral ar­eas in the wake of the pres­i­den­tial race.

De­clin­ing en­roll­ments have pre­vi­ously been ob­served at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that be­came no­to­ri­ous for chaotic cam­pus ac­tivism, in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Mis­souri and Ev­er­green State Col­lege.

By some es­ti­mates, en­roll­ment at the for­mer is down 35 per­cent since fall 2015, when stu­dent protests helped launch the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

Mean­while, Ev­er­green faces a $2.1 mil­lion bud­get short­fall this year since stu­dents took over the cam­pus last spring, bar­ri­cad­ing them­selves in the li­brary, be­rat­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and forc­ing one dis­sent­ing pro­fes­sor to teach off cam­pus out of fear for his safety.

A spokesper­son for Ober­lin Col­lege did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The school’s prob­lems can­not be traced to a sin­gle in­ci­dent but to sev­eral.

In Fe­bru­ary 2013, mass hys­te­ria en­sued af­ter racist and anti-Semitic fly­ers and graf­fiti be­gan to ap­pear all over cam­pus. Classes were can­celed, meet­ings were held and stu­dents be­gan to see racism around ev­ery cor­ner, in­clud­ing when some­one re­ported see­ing a mem­ber of the Ku Klux Klan on cam­pus. It turned out to be a woman walk­ing around wrapped in a blan­ket to keep warm.

Not only that, the per­pe­tra­tors be­hind the racist para­pher­na­lia turned out to be two pro­gres­sive stu­dents, one of whom was con­firmed to be an Obama sup­porter, try­ing to get a re­ac­tion out of their class­mates and the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Rather than ad­mit the whole thing was a hoax and move on, the Ober­lin ad­min­is­tra­tion dou­bled down on a so­cial jus­tice agenda, in­clud­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a priv­i­lege and op­pres­sion “re­ori­en­ta­tion” for first-year stu­dents.

In the en­su­ing years, Ober­lin stu­dents would go on to make fre­quent de­mands of the univer­sity, rang­ing from the end of cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ated meals at the din­ing hall, such as Gen­eral Tso’s chicken and sushi, to the elim­i­na­tion of grades be­low a C.

In 2015, af­ter the Univer­sity of Mis­souri protests, the Ober­lin Black Stu­dent Union is­sued a 14-page let­ter mak­ing 50 de­mands of the ad­min­is­tra­tion. They in­cluded exclusive “safe spa­ces” for black stu­dents and the elim­i­na­tion of grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments for classes in Western civ­i­liza­tion.

Last Novem­ber, Ober­lin stu­dents tar­geted Gib­son’s Bak­ery, a beloved store in Ober­lin, Ohio, af­ter an em­ployee called po­lice when he saw some­one at­tempt­ing to shoplift by con­ceal­ing two bot­tles of wine un­der his jacket. The ac­cused shoplifter turned out to be a black Ober­lin stu­dent.

The Black Stu­dent Union, Ober­lin Stu­dent Se­nate and Col­lege Democrats spear­headed a boy­cott of the bak­ery and or­ga­nized protests out­side of the store. Even the Ober­lin ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­spond­ing to calls from Black Lives Mat­ter sup­port­ers on cam­pus, stopped pur­chas­ing goods from the bak­ery.

Three stu­dents in­volved in the in­ci­dent ended up plead­ing guilty to at­tempted theft and ag­gra­vated tres­pass­ing. As part of a plea deal, the stu­dents ac­knowl­edged that the bak­ery’s ac­tions were “not racially mo­ti­vated” and that the store was “merely try­ing to pre­vent an un­der­age sale.”

Most of the en­roll­ment deficit at Ober­lin came from a smaller-than-ex­pected fresh­man class, which to­taled 742 in­stead of a pro­jected 805.

Peter Wood, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars, said that dropoff is more se­ri­ous than it may ap­pear.

“That doesn’t sound like an as­ton­ish­ing num­ber of peo­ple not com­ing, but weighed on a per­cent­age ba­sis, that’s a huge drop in just one year,” Mr. Wood said. “And Ober­lin has for some time been strug­gling to make its classes. This wasn’t just some neg­li­gence: ‘Oh, we didn’t re­al­ize that we had to try harder to get stu­dents.’ They’ve been try­ing re­ally hard to get stu­dents, and stu­dents just aren’t com­ing.”

He said Ober­lin can eas­ily re­coup the $5 mil­lion deficit by cut­ting the “ap­pa­ra­tus of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” that has swelled in the past sev­eral years. When that hap­pens, he said, it will be a sign that the school is se­ri­ous about re­form.

“The sig­nal that I would look for is when they be­gin to di­vest from the large num­ber of per­son­nel who are em­ployed wholly be­cause of their po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions,” he said. “When that hap­pens, I think we will have seen a col­lege that has de­cided to re­po­si­tion it­self in the mar­ket. Un­til then, it’s all just show.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.