The college campus’ cult of fragility breeds faux trauma
in higher education” is partly a response to two principles now widely accepted on campuses: Anything that can be construed as bigotry and hatred should be so construed, and anything construed as such should be considered evidence of an epidemic. Often, Asher noted, a majority of the academic bureaucrats directly involved with students, from dorms to “bias response teams” to freshman “orientation”, have graduate degrees not in academic disciplines but from education schools with “two mutually reinforcing characteristics”: ideological orthodoxy and low academic standards for degrees in vaporous subjects like “educational leadership” or “higher-education management.”
The problem is not anti-intellectualism but the “un-intellectualism” of a growing cohort of persons who, lacking talents for or training in scholarship, find vocations in micromanaging student behavior in order to combat imagined threats to “social justice.”
The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald says that between the 1997-1998 academic year and the Great Recession year of 2008-2009, while the University of California student population grew 33 percent and tenure-track faculty grew 25 percent, senior administrators grew 125 percent. “The ratio of senior managers to professors climbed from 1 to 2.1 to near-parity of 1 to 1.1.”
In her just-published book “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture,” Mac Donald writes that many students have become what tort law practitioners call “eggshell plaintiffs,” people who make a cult of fragility — being “triggered” (i.e., traumatized) by this or that idea of speech. Asher correctly noted that the language of triggering “converts students into objects for the sake of rendering their reactions ‘objective,’ and by extension valid: A student’s triggered response is no more to be questioned than an apple’s falling downward or a spark’s flying upward.” So the number of things not to be questioned on campuses multiplies.
Students encouraged to feel fragile will learn to recoil from “microaggressions” so micro that few can discern them. A University of California guide to microaggressions gave these examples of insensitive speech: “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” and “Everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.” Fragile students are encouraged in “narcissistic victimhood” by administrators whose vocation is to tend to the injured.
These administrators are, Mac Donald argues, “determined to preserve in many of their students the thin skin and solipsism of adolescence.”