In 2012, John Gray published a very popular book titled, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Dr. Gray argued that men and women are as different as beings from different planets. Not everyone complies with stereotypes, but readers thought it still useful to learn about the code of conduct of the opposite sex.
University students are also like beings coming from a planet very dissimilar to their parents’. College students today—as the last few months have shown—are very unlike the parents who pay for their room, board, tuition, entertainment, and occasionally do their laundry. Students typically want higher grades, easier courses, and more beer. Their new demands are not nearly so modest.
We should not stereotype college students any more than we would like them to stereotype their parents. Still, it is useful to look at some of their “demands”—that is the word they use. We can do a rough run-through, in alphabetical order. Let’s start with Amherst. The students have an official website, so you can see their most recent update of demands. They call their cause the “‘Amherst Uprising’ movement” and date the movement’s birth at precisely Thursday, November 12th, at 1 p.m.
The Amherst students “demand that Amherst become a leader in the fight to promote a better social climate towards individuals who have been systematically oppressed.” The students say, “We as a compassionate student body have gathered to address the legacy of oppression on campus.” However, they immediately follow with a warning: “If these goals are not initiated within the next 24 to 48 hours, and completed by November 18th, we will organize and respond in a radical manner, through civil disobedience.” (Emphasis added.)
Amherst University President Martin and the Chair of the Board of Trustees must apologize for “white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx [sic] racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.” As for free speech, that goes out the window: there must be a “zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.” The Amherst students also assure us that more demands will be on the way.
Boston College starts off a bit more modestly. It offers a three-point guide on how to end racism. It’s very big in “diversity,” the buzz word of the day. It wants the school to appoint a “Diversity Officer at Every College to Sit on a University-wide Diversity Council.” (The demands favor writing in capital letters.)
Brandeis students think that most problems can be solved by throwing money at them. Brandeis must increase the minimum wage of all hourly university employees by 15 percent. The school must increase the number of black faculty and staff by 10 percent but must increase the number of black students by 15 percent. They offer no reason for the differences in percentages.
Brown University students want “compulsory, in-person, and regular anti-oppression training for faculty, staff, DPS [Department of Public Safety], and administration,” led by “people of color.” There must be a yearly assessment of “all racist hiring and retention policies and anti-Black pedagogy.”
Claremont McKenna College students want yearly sensitivity trainings so that all “students, faculty, and staff” know “what qualifies as Islamophobia and the harms of it.” Nothing about training to avoid anti-Semitism, the more serious problem.
Dartmouth students want the admissions office to be more transparent, so the students want to know “how many Black, Latin@[sic], and Native students applied, their test scores, class, etc.” (Not much concern for the privacy of these students.) They also have an unusual prosaic concern, to “Enlarge bedrooms” apparently so the students are more comfortable in their dorms.. They want also affirmative action of “undocumented students,” i.e., students who are aliens without immigration papers. They want mandatory “training for all staff and faculty (across all departments) that adequately prepares them to aid undocumented students in regards to future professional and academic plans.” In connection with that, they want to “Ban the use of [the words,] ‘illegal aliens,’ ‘illegal immigrants.’” They want more financial aid for undocumented students. They want a “class that discusses the history of undocumented immigrants to the United States,” and increase the “interdisciplinary academic focus on sexualities.” There must be mandatory “training for all staff and faculty (across all departments) that adequately prepares them to aid undocumented students in regards to future professional and academic plans.” [The students understand that it is harder for undocumented alien students to find employment.] They insist that “47% of post-doctoral students are people of color.”
Duke university students demand banning all “hate speech,” which they broadly define as any speech that “offends” based, e.g., on race, color, religion, gender identity, gender expression, or (perhaps to make sure they did not miss anything) “other traits.” They also want to “increase the number of Queer people of color serving as faculty.” (The job interview will be unusual: “Your record looks good; tell me, are you also Queer?”)
Harvard students want, among other things, “mandatory training on race and privilege for all students, post-docs, staff, and faculty, developing case studies that challenge social injustice, and increasing practicum opportunities on themes of racism and health. This process should begin by the spring semester and incorporate student input.”
And so it goes. I’m only up to the H’s (and I haven’t covered all the schools from A to H.) Students at many other schools are making similar demands. In other cases, the students are less organized, but they still make demands and universities are falling over themselves in an effort to comply. Recently, administrators at Cornell, Oberlin, Syracuse, Vassar and Yale agreed to rip up copies of the U.S. Constitution distributed off campus after a person posing as a student described the document as “triggering” and “oppressive.” We can see and hear Carol Lasser, Professor of History, and Director of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Oberlin College, tell us, “The Constitution is an oppressive document.” She’s not a lone wolf. Professor Wendy Kozol, the Chair of Comparative American Studies at Oberlin, agreed. The Oberlin Review reports, “The Constitution in everyday life causes people pain.” It also protects Kozol’s right to attack the Constitution. She apparently forgot that part.