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.
Go out and hire Ben Shapiro for a tenure track position.
If he’s not available, hire Jordan Peterson.
Clear thinking and rational people.
No more of this grievance bullshit, nor the intellectual infection of victim hood equating to virtue.
Flush the waste out of UChicago.
I don’t think this is as much of a grievance piece as much as it is a noted observation by Audrey. She is simply pointing out a discrepancy and suggesting a course of action.
To add to that, we can debate on whether or not that’s a true discrepancy or not, but to simply equate analysis to complaint seems like a fallacy to me.
Well-argued, Audrey. My hope is that people on either side of the aisle don’t seek out their own echo chambers on University campuses. Offering such classes only enables “the mob” mentality and destroys the concept of academic inquiry as we know it.
Emile is entirely correct.
Good work exposing the bad practices.
Beautiful library, by the way.
Your writing, like your thinking is superb. Even better is your courage. Surprisingly – as a child of the 60’s/70’s – this is where I learned I was a Conservative…because I had professors who encouraged me to THINK and find foundational and consistent philosophies. (Does anyone teach the fact/value distinction anymore?)
Keep doing this; Chicago Thinker is giving hope to more people than you know!
Another superb and penetrating essay. I have always prided myself as having graduated from The Chicago School. It still remains in the forefront of academic rigor and a staunch defender of liberty. However, as your essay makes clear, the undergraduate school in particular is not immune to being infected by the broader trends in academia and illiberal notions that are blatantly one-sided propagandistic platforms. They deserved to be called out for what they are—bravo. Keep up the good work.
Stop the Whining
Where are all the Black Judges Trump appointed! Ha!Tell me about the Black
Isn’t UChicago a liberal arts school?
What are you Right of Attila the Hun types
Hanging in Obama’s hood?
Trying to get into “Good Trouble”? Lol
The phenomenon you observe is not unique to UChicago, but the dissonance is more pronounced given the University’s assertions in speech, combined with its historical basis in rational empiricism. The University’s current president asked not long ago: “What is the value of a university education without encountering, reflecting on, and debating ideas that differ from the ones that students brought with them to college?” (https://mag.uchicago.edu/university-news/readers-sound-30#). As in the culture one observes in a military unit, it all comes down to the “Group Commander.” UChicago leadership embraces compliance with whatever political trends may be opportunistically routinized in its internal operations, intake, and external financial solicitation. These are among the trade-offs when higher education adopts a corporate organizational, governance and risk model. ’96, Booth
This is an article written by a University of Chicago student who does not want to engage with ideas that challenge her pre-existing notions
You need to read the article again. She is engaging the mob mentality that works overtime trying to silence freedom of speech.
A – you would make a great guest on Tucker Carlson Today! Suggest you send this article to his producer/
Silly Audrey! There’s several conservative academics! The West Coast Straussians! The Federalist Society! The ISI! This whole culture war garbage is laughable, as you’re just rehashing the same arguments made by William F Buckley in God and Man at Yale! For all you far-right peeps in the audience, Buckley was an “elite,” specifically a conservative elite! Crazy, right? Furthermore, pointing at a few courses in the humanities catalogue doesn’t show that you’re oppressed; it just shows you know how to use control F. Kudos to that, I guess. There are several classes, by the way, that are not “leftist” in any way. How about American National Security Strategy? The American Presidency? Look Audrey: if you want to stay stagnant and coddled, that’s fine. Go ahead, stay in your “safe space.” You be the student who only takes “electives that explicitly reaffirm her preconceived worldviews.” Just practice what you preach, okay?
fake thinker, name calling dilutes anything you might be trying to say and it identifies you as someone who is intolerant of the beliefs and thoughts of others.
Wow Audrey! Great points! The mob is here, there, and everywhere, even in the places you least expect it! So scary!
May I make a brief observation based in part on some reader comments: there surely is some variety of ideology on most college campuses, but the data show (e.g. the recent Harvard study on political affiliation) that variety is either highly truncated or skewed by consensus faculty hiring, and the overall institutional culture–which students learn from at least as much as by other means–radicalized to the Left, which dampens intellectual integrity. Moreover, one must ask if courses like the ones discussed here are really subjects of scholarship, or merely identitarian accommodation. The same ideology permeates Law, which is largely detached from its legitimate pedagogic charter. Concerning the National Strategy program cited by one reader, it is run by Robert Pape, and fully aligned with current state-centered political extremism. ’96, Booth
You really brought out the big words, huh? I’m unsure to what Harvard study you’re referring to. However, studies done by scholars such as Neil Gross, Matthew Woessner, April Kelly-Woessner, and Amy J. Binder suggest the opposite: conservatives are not descriminated against in academia. While there is a a disparity between liberal and conservative professors, studies suggest that conservatives tend to pick majors in professional areas such as business rather opting for the PhD track.
Furthermore, regarding academic integrity, Neil’s studies found that professors don’t desire to impose their political beliefs on students. Still, if you are so worried about politics infecting teaching, why are you not worried about Alan Sanderson, who writes for the Hartland Institute? He expresses conservative views in his economics courses, and thus, in your view, potentially compromises intellectual integrity.
Fake, you really brought out the intolerance huh? You should be the poster child for people who don’t want to try and understand and tolerate others.
If we’re talking about courses that challenge one’s own opinions, the author would do well to take HIST 12600
Thanks for bringing this to light. It’s so sad to see UC descend into this partisan muck instead of cleaving to its great tradition of rigorous presentation of ideas across the ideological spectrum and open debate.
Research shows Academia has skewed monstrously left in the past 30-40 years, getting worse by the minute. One of the main reasons is that The New Left, realizing they couldn’t change US society directly as they tried to in the ’60’s, went on a campaign to take over Academia and they’ve succeeded. How is a long story. I’m afraid that proponents of free speech and a real, classic liberal arts education will have to start their own institutions.
I applaud The Chicago Thinker and hope you keep it up!
Marsha Familaro Enright
The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute
Interesting to read the “hostile” responses to this very fine essay. Not a single thoughtful response from that crowd. They are evidence that progressivism is unable to cultivate people who can even engage with an idea that is outside their bubble.
My dude, did you even read the comments? The ones in agreement with this article either just offer uncritical sycophantic praise or are full of logical and factual errors (My favorite is the one that claims that “research shows” that “The Left™” enacted some nefarious plot to take over academia. What research? Who constitutes “the Left”? What evidence is there for such a campaign?). And on the other hand, if you look at the comments that disagree with the article, then yes, they are a bit more combative, but one should probably expect that from a comment that disagrees with OP. And the ones that actually do any name-calling are simply echoing the same name-calling that this website has itself participated in (remember when they write an entire article on a first year who dared to disagree with them, and went *this close* to straight-up calling her an idiot on their blog?
Excellent article. How sad that higher education has taken this path. When I entered the College as a naive 15 year old during the Great Books era in the early 1950s most of the professors were probably liberals who voted Democratic, but I do not recall any of them trying to force his views on the students (even my first year social science professor who had run as vice-presidential candidate several times on the Socialist party ticket.) Their task was to teach us to develop critical independent thinking rather than indoctrinate us with a particular world view. The same was generally true at YaleLaw School, although there were some professors who did rather forceably press their liberal ideas. I countered this by eventually becoming Chairman of the Conservative Society permitted to exist, but not funded , by the law school.