Rod Dreher had a great post today discussing “The SJW Crusade Against Laura Kipnis.” Kipnis is a professor at Northwestern University who was accused under Title IX of harming her students. Title IX deals with gender discrimination on college campuses (most memorable for the sports dollars equity it imposes) but Kipnis had just written something in a magazine. It’s an absurd case and she was led through the insanity of the university’s “kangaroo court” (her word) system.
Thankfully, she came out the other end unscathed. But what about the next professor who doesn’t get media attention? It is also notable that Prof. Kipnis is an orthodox liberal, so her opinions on all these topics line up with the prevailing campus culture – she’s just not a full-blown fascist who wants to silence her opponents. What if she were not?
In her telling of the ordeal, “My Title IX Inquisition,” she discusses the role tenure played. Quoting (via Dreher) Kipnis:
Many of the emails I received from people teaching at universities pointed out that I was in a position to take on the subjects I did in the earlier essay only because I have tenure. The idea is that once you’ve fought and clawed your way up the tenure ladder, the prize is academic freedom, the general premise being — particularly at research universities, like the one I’m fortunate enough to be employed at — that there’s social value in fostering free intellectual inquiry. It’s a value fast disappearing in the increasingly corporatized university landscape, where casual labor is the new reality. Adjuncts, instructors, part-timers — now half the profession, according to the American Association of University Professors — simply don’t have the same freedoms, practically speaking.
What’s being lost, along with job security, is the liberty to publish ideas that might go against the grain or to take on risky subjects in the first place. With students increasingly regarded as customers and consumer satisfaction paramount, it’s imperative to avoid creating potential classroom friction with unpopular ideas if you’re on a renewable contract and wish to stay employed. Self-censorship naturally prevails. But even those with tenure fear getting caught up in some horrendous disciplinary process with ad hoc rules and outcomes; pretty much everyone now self-censors accordingly.
In his piece, Dreher goes on to explain how the SJWs will continue on their rampage no matter who/where/what. And I agree completely. But there is a way to get university professors on the side of sanity.
Conservatives must push for mandatory tenure minimums at universities.
As Kipnis mentions above, tenure is dying as colleges attempt to hoover up more and more federal dollars via student loans and Pell grants. The switch to part-time professors shifts the power base in colleges to administrators – the overseers of the SJW kangaroo courts. Essentially, our nation’s universities are policed by the most shrill students crying “oppression” and their pliant SJW administrators.
Since we will not run out of students marinated in Progressive worldviews soon, and the administrative class on campus thrives under the current trends, the best chance conservatives have to make an impact on campuses is to ally with the only group up for grabs – professors.
Republicans would gain new allies (or at least reach a ceasefire) with the hordes of adjuncts out there mired in what is seemingly a dead-end job – low pay, no chance for real promotion, and terrible benefits. (Throw in a few tax reforms for contractors and the self-employed, and you could have a real revolution on your hands – but more on that another time) All it would take is a simple, one-line piece of legislation:
“Section 312 (20 U.S.C 1058) is amended in subsection (b)(1) by adding: (G) has a tenured professor population not less than 85% of the total teaching population”
If you follow the link above, you’ll find the requirements for an “eligible institution” in subsection (b) just near the top. Our simple law would require universities receiving Pell grant aid have most of their professors protected by tenure. That way, professors may recognize again the value of free speech. And maybe we can convince them to extend it even to their opponents, as I am sure Prof. Kipnis would agree is a good thing!