Suppose a student decides to only take electives that explicitly reaffirm her preconceived worldviews. Is it possible to build such a schedule for the 2021 spring quarter at the University of Chicago? It is if you’re a leftist.
In the class “The Politics of Black Queer Feminist Praxis,” up to twenty-five students can evaluate feminism through a decidedly partisan lens:
“This course understands Black Queer Feminism as a political praxis that operationalizes intersectionality by seeking to deconstruct normative and hegemonic systems of power. While many of the attendees of the Women’s March of 2017 were white, over 53% of white women had just voted for [former President] Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. This comes at a stark comparison with the 94% of Black women that voted for Hillary Clinton. As one journalist cleverly wrote, this highlights a ‘53 percent problem in American Feminism.’”
Let’s translate the self-righteous academic jargon. This class is predicated on the assertion that white female Trump supporters are problematic. Never mind that Trump appointed hundreds of women, including working moms, to lead roles in his administration, or that his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was the first woman to run a winning presidential campaign. Such women are presumably unfit to call themselves true feminists.
The course description continues:
“This […] course […] attempts to reconcile this 53 percent problem. […] [H]ow do contemporary iterations of radical Black feminism engage with and resist against the state? How does Black Queer Feminism shape politics and society? The syllabus […] will focus on how the simultaneity of hegemony shapes access to and relationships with power.”
Forget rigorous inquiry and humility. Before class discussion has even begun, the “answers” have already been established: purportedly, only left-wing feminists empower women, conservative women are immoral, and Trump is anti-woman. In so doing, the course provides a safe haven for the pussy-hat wearing #resistance.
Meanwhile, in the class “Media Wars,” students can spend an entire quarter equating speech with “violence,” in keeping with the usual left-wing talking point that words are dangerous and worthy of censorship by “truth-finding” elites:
“Media practices and discourses evoking war or violence are common today, such as the ‘weaponization’ of social media; ‘cyber warfare’ and attacks; ‘online battlefields[’;] ‘guerrilla’ media tactics; ‘The Great Meme War’ and ‘Infowars.com,’ to name a few.”
The description includes snide references to grassroots pro-Trump social media campaigns (“The Great Meme War”) and Alex Jones’ anti-leftist InfoWars.com, whose names playfully capitalize upon the left’s contention that speech is “violence.” However, the description includes no mention of the myriad ways in which left-wing social media platforms censor conservatives.
Nor does the description acknowledge that left-wing “news” organizations often manipulate their narratives and lie to serve their own partisan agendas. The Washington Post recently admitted to lying twice about Trump’s December call about Georgia election results. And in an ongoing defamation action, Project Veritas won a huge victory against The New York Times. However, despite such journalistic malpractice, conservative speech is presumably violent and antithetical to a thriving media landscape, while leftist rhetoric and censorship are above reproach.
Both of the aforementioned courses are unabashedly partisan, and there’s more where these classes came from.
Students looking to spend more time thinking about the “weaponization” of speech need look no further than the class “Life of the Hive Mind: Digital Media, Politics, and Society.” Among other subjects, students in this course can grapple with “the darker side of [new media] platforms, exploring the proliferation of fake news, hate speech, terrorist networks, and gendered issues including trolling and cyber-harassment.”
Hate speech lacks a legal definition in American jurisprudence and the Supreme Court refuses to censor speech merely because it might be deemed “hateful” by some parties. That doesn’t stop this revisionist course from teaching a new cohort of self-diagnosed victims and “kindly” inquisitors to mistakenly equate lawful speech (what leftists call “hate speech”) with unlawful action (terrorism).
In the class “Structural -isms,” students can pose questions with predetermined (and Democrat–approved) answers:
“What does it mean to designate ‘structure’ as the operative force in discrimination against categories of person-as in appeals to structural racism or structural violence on the basis of gender? […] How do we read for structure, in reading for racism and for systemic discrimination on other bases? […We’ll] develop sharper terms for understanding how discrimination proceeds structurally.”
For those who finished reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility over spring break, this is the go-to class. No doubt, it’ll inspire woke crusaders to join the partisan fight to judge others by the color of their skin—while encouraging students to depict white Americans as inherently evil.
Of course, a counter argument could be posed that I just flipped through the course catalog until I found egregious examples of partisanship. To be clear: that’s exactly what I did. That’s the point. Throughout the year, it’s easy to find classes that were clearly designed to advance a left-wing agenda.
But suppose a conservative decides she wants to live in an academic echo chamber this spring. She wants to study strong conservative women, reject tribalistic identity politics as “profoundly dehumanizing,” and evaluate the mainstream media’s double standards and egregious disregard for truthful reporting.
Moreover, she wants to celebrate the inherently democratizing characteristics of American values (such as, say, Trump’s assertion that “whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag”). And she wants to do so, in an environment that scoffs at, and rejects, counter arguments. For this reason, she wants to only enroll in electives that explicitly champion modern conservative principles and dissuade dissent. Which classes will this student take?
She won’t take them because they don’t exist. Were one of UChicago’s rare conservative professors to design a class so as to condescendingly push his preconceived worldviews as “unimpeachable truth,” there’d be a leftist petition to oust him from our community.
The problem is twofold: too many UChicago classes are political echo chambers, and the university simultaneously fails to champion ideologically diverse faculty who willingly engage in bipartisan dialogue.
The whole point of the Chicago Principles and the university’s Inquiry and Impact campaign is that we’re not supposed to hide in our respective enclaves where all ideas are “safe” and “familiar.” That’s not a true education. Insofar as professors silence dissent, reject humility, and pose controversial questions with predetermined, partisan answers, they fail to substantively educate their students.
Of course, all individuals are inherently biased—me included. And I’ve excluded the names of the professors teaching leftist courses because my goal is not to directly criticize them or inhibit their freedom to teach what they believe is true and good.
However, while professors should be emboldened to speak their minds, such freedom must go both ways. If left-leaning professors enjoy university-endorsed platforms to proudly share their convictions, then their conservative peers are due the same. And once individuals have been granted a platform, there’s no excuse for silencing dissent; the conversation has only just begun.
That leads me to the second component of the problem: there simply isn’t enough ideological diversity demonstrated, or engaged with, by UChicago staff.
The university should engage in merit-based hiring practices. And given the diversity of political leanings, this should yield an ideologically diverse faculty who are excited to grapple with disparate worldviews.
Unfortunately, few conservatives exist in academia, and even fewer thrive. At UChicago in particular, a professor recently reported that the university seeks racial and gender diversity, rather than diversity of thought. Allegedly, administrators even discriminate against white males in the hiring arena.
UChicago’s lack of intellectual diversity might be a consequence of misplaced priorities during the hiring process, which champion diversity of immutable characteristics and under-emphasize the need for diversity of thought. It could be a consequence of the academic institutions themselves, whose students are often apprehensive to speak freely, but whose graduates are increasingly liberal. Or, it could be a consequence of cancel culture, dissociation, and soft totalitarianism, which demand ideological conformity and penalize free thinkers. Most likely, it’s a combination of the three.
Regardless, UChicago seemingly ignores the lack of demonstrated intellectual diversity among its faculty. The university profits from national prestige and recruits students like me by championing the Chicago Principles, but it doesn’t live up to the principles it preaches. The university should hire and champion a thriving, diverse community of academics from both sides of the political aisle. A quick glance at this spring’s course selection demonstrates that UChicago currently fails to do so.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.