Campus Radicals De-Platform Trump…but It’s Not What You Think

Didja see this one? Conservative campus pundits may have thought they had figured out the provocation playbook. But the treatment of Donald Trump Jr. at UCLA confounded their expectations.

SAGLRROILYBYGTH know the usual story: Conservative provocateurs have had easy pickings so far. Organizations such as Turning Point USA have been able to dictate the terms of many campus confrontations, turning their activists into willing “punchbait.” Attention-seekers like Ben Shapiro have had a field day poking the intellectual soft spots of leftwing campus activists.

shapiro-by_katie_cooney_720

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro speaks freely at the University of Wisconsin.

This time, however, the usual script just didn’t work. Speaking at UCLA, Donald Trump Jr. trotted out the usual accusations. “Name a time,” Junior accused,

When conservatives have disrupted even the furthest leftist on a college campus. It doesn’t happen that way. We’re willing to listen . . .

Junior probably expected cheers from his conservative crowd, but instead he got shouted down. The even-more-conservative activists in the crowd demanded a question-and-answer session with Junior. He would not oblige, and the angry conservatives wouldn’t let him finish.

Watch the clip. Then ask yourself: Has the short-sighted strategy of conservative groups such as Turning Point USA finally come back to bite them on the behind?

Is Trump the Real Menace to Evangelical Higher Ed?

We’ve had a lot to talk about this week. When Beto O’Rourke told CNN he would try to revoke the tax-exempt status of any religious institution that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage, he set off a firestorm among the evangelical-higher-ed community. As two Democratic congresspeople pointed out this week, though, the bigger threat to evangelical higher ed might actually be coming from a very different direction.

As SAGLRROILYYBYGTH are aware, the discussions at evangelical universities and colleges about LGBTQ rights have been intense. By stating that he would revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that did not recognize same-sex marriage, O’Rourke raised the specter of Bob Jones University v. USA. Back in the 1980s, that SCOTUS case proved that the government really could deny tax-exempt status to schools that insisted on maintaining racial segregation. Might the government make a similar move about LGBTQ rights?

Evangelical intellectuals reacted furiously. As John Fea commented,

Beto has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination. His campaign has been on life support for a long time and last night he probably killed it.  You better believe that his comment will rally the Trump base and legitimate the fears of millions of evangelical Christians.

In my opinion, too, Beto’s comment was a poorly considered response to a badly worded question. I’m no evangelical, but like Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta, I disagree with Beto on two counts. First of all, the government should not be in the business of policing religious belief. (When we want to talk about federal funds for student loans, we will need to have a different conversation.) Second, though, simply strategically, Beto goofed. In short, when the clown car of Trumpism is on fire, opponents should do everything they can to help people escape. It makes no strategic sense to lock people in.

Unnoticed in all the hubbubery about Beto’s comments, though, two Democratic congresspeople this week sent a letter to Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos. Representatives Andy Levin of Michigan and Jamie Raskin of Maryland complained that the Trump administration was selectively enforcing its rules about campus free speech.

As they noted, President Trump signed an executive order threatening to withhold grants from universities that do not welcome free speech. The idea was to punish public universities such as the University of California that de-platformed conservative speakers. As the congresspeople noted, however, the worst offenders against campus free speech are conservative evangelical colleges like Liberty University.

As the Congresspeople complained,

Despite Executive Order 13864, which directs the Department to ensure institutions promote free inquiry, you have failed to act in cases of suppression of ideas that involve the administration’s political allies, such as Liberty University.

It’s not just Liberty U., which by any standards is an outlier in the field of evangelical higher ed. As I’ve argued in these pages and in Fundamentalist U, free speech presents a unique challenge to conservative evangelical higher education as a whole. Restrictions on speech and belief are the defining feature of evangelical universities. Unlike mainstream colleges, evangelical colleges do not claim to represent forums for all sorts of controversial ideas.

liberty letter devos

Dear Queen Betsy:

Threatening to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that don’t believe in same-sex marriage might sound scary to conservative evangelicals. But Trump’s warning to revoke student grants from institutions that don’t recognize free-speech rights should be of more immediate concern. To be fair, Trump’s executive order specified that private institutions should only be pushed into

compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech.

Presumably, that wouldn’t help Liberty much, but it would give cover to conservative evangelical colleges that respect their own official rules restricting student and faculty speech. However, in the big picture, by threatening to take federal action against schools that restrict free speech, Trump might be planting the seeds of a longer-term problem for evangelical institutions.

After all, the language of LGBTQ rights has some wiggle room. Plenty of evangelical institutions could plausibly claim to recognize the rights of LGBTQ students and faculty while still embracing their religious skepticism about LGBTQ “practice.”

When it comes to free speech, however, evangelical universities have been built on a promise of restriction. If they were forced to abandon those rules, it would force them to give up the biggest single feature that distinguishes them from mainstream higher ed. It is free speech, not LGBTQ rights, that is the most important thing separating evangelical colleges from others.

Beto is talking a lot, but the real danger to evangelical higher ed might come from the other side. It might be Trump, in the end, who blunders into undermining the very foundation of evangelical higher ed.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

A professor fired for threatening Christians. Christians fired up about Trump the Blasphemer. Christian colleges on the rocks. And, yes, racist organic farmers in Indiana. All these stories and more made our list this week:

How can a professor get fired in Iowa? By saying, “It’s not pretty, and I’m not proud, but seeing what Evangelical Christians are doing to this country and its people fills me with rage, and a desire to exact revenge.” At IHE.

White evangelicals once changed their minds about lovin a president. Will Trump be next? At WaPo.

“Whether we like it or not, a major problem we face as evangelical Christians today is the identification in the popular mind of the religious position we represent with the Nixon administration and its actions. We are ‘middle America,’ the group sector that gave President Nixon his ‘mandate.’ We are the war party, the white backlash (if not racist) party, the Watergate scandal party.”

nixon graham wapoSome evidence that younger white evangelicals are already giving up on Trumpism, at 538.

But there are increasing signs of a generational rift: Younger white evangelicals have not fully bought into Trump’s politics and are less receptive to Trump’s message of cultural decline. The age gap among white evangelicals in some ways just mirrors the age gap among the public overall with regards to Trump, but in conversations with a number of younger white evangelical Christians, many said they are reexamining the way their faith informs their politics and whether the two have become too tightly intertwined. . . . Two-thirds (66 percent) of young white evangelical Christians (age 18 to 34) say that immigrants coming to the U.S. strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents, a view shared by only 32 percent of white evangelical seniors (age 65+). A majority (54 percent) of older white evangelical Christians believe that immigrants are a burden on American society.

evangelical youth and trump 538

…still a lot of Trump-ism in there.

…or maybe all the blasphemy will drive evangelicals away? At WaPo.

Trump is neither the “Second Coming of God” nor the “Messiah.”. . . .

I am a conservative evangelical who cast my vote for Trump for the very same reason many other evangelicals did: his conservative stance on issues concerning abortion and religious freedom. I visited Washington last October for a briefing at which faith leaders listened to White House officials address many policy issues. . . .

We must . . . vocally denounce [Trump’s] blatantly egregious actions, including not only Wednesday’s tweets but also his consistently negative interactions and dialogue with people of different races, genders and ethnicities.

Christian mom vs. teacher-led school prayer, at Christianity Today.

Though I understand it’s pleasant for some to hearken back to a day when a tight-bunned teacher led children through a crisp Pledge and a Prayer (no matter what her heart, mind or soul actually believed) as somehow holier, better, safer, they weren’t. Schools with teacher-led prayer refused to admit black children. Schools with teacher-led prayer burnt to the ground. Students were still bullied. They still had sex, got abortions, and got high. Homes were still broken. Kids were still confused and frightened by their sexuality. Even back then. Even with all that prayer.

Yoga: Banned in Alabama, at CBS42.

“I don’t know if it is the school system or if it is a polarized subject, like abortion or common core,” Gray said. “It’s one of those things that people think is bad.”

Another good time not to be the mayor of Bloomington, Indiana. What are they supposed to do with racist organic farmers at their farmers’ market? At NYT.

Bloomington has declined to remove Schooner Creek from the market. Mayor John Hamilton said the farmers had First Amendment rights to their personal views as participants in a city-run market, and said the farm did not appear to be breaking any written rules about how vendors should behave at the market.

While some in Bloomington want Schooner Creek to leave, others said they wished protesters would drop their cause. In late July, an associate professor at Indiana University was arrested as she held up a paper sign in front of the Schooner Creek stand. Protesters yelled “Shame, shame!” as police officers escorted her away from the market.

racist farmers NYTTough times for evangelical colleges, at WORLD.

Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) school in the New York City area, received an independent audit in 2017 with an opinion any institution dreads: “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

What will the future hold for LGBTQ exemptions? Will evangelical institutions be forced to comply? At The Atlantic.

For religious groups and institutions that teach that homosexuality is a sin, and that men and women were created as such by God, the prospect of this kind of legislation is worrying. “It would be years of litigation—that’s what we would look forward to under the Equality Act as currently drafted,” Shirley Hoogstra, the president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), told me. For the nearly 140 Christian institutions that are members of her organization, she said, the bill “would put federal funding, it would put accreditation, it would put hiring rights, it would put campus student-life policies all at risk.” Fundamentally, these kinds of groups want to be able to preserve what they see as religious integrity in their own spaces—and they object when that is described as bigotry. “The Equality Act as currently drafted has caused Christian institutions to really wonder about whether their particular educational contribution is valued in America,” Hoogstra said.

Send in the clowns: A historical review of clownish leaders at HNN.

Making fun of those who have power over us is a small blow against authority. But the clown princes go further. What could be more anti-elitist than to take politics to the polar opposite extreme? Elitists read books, use evidence to make arguments, rely on science, demand proof; the clown prince needs no such intellectual crutches; they rely on passion, emotion, feelings. Lashing out is their feel-good option.

Women, transgender women, and sports. What is the fair solution? At Arc.

Free speech on campus: A new book argues that conservative gripes are bogus, at IHE.moskowitz IHE

Is denying someone admission to a college a threat to that person’s free speech? Is failing someone in a class a threat to their free speech? Is a student not being able to disrupt a class whenever they want a threat to free speech? We take these limits as a given, and even a positive in colleges, yet when it comes to students requesting or demanding that colleges not allow professors or students to say racist, transphobic and other offensive language without punishment, that becomes a step too far for administrators. So I would question whether they’re really afraid of limiting speech (which, as I said, they do all the time), or whether they’re afraid of confronting just how common and ingrained transphobia, racism and other forms of oppression are on their campuses.

 

When “Repugnant” Isn’t Enough

Professor Wax is out. But The Koala is back in. Two campus free-speech cases this week went in different directions, but for some reason they both harp on the same unusual word. It leads to some questions: Does student speech deserve more or less freedom than faculty speech? And does serious speech need more policing than humor?

koala dangerous space

The joke’s on…who?

Here’s what we know: Inside Higher Ed has reported that Professor Amy Wax of Penn Law has been condemned by her school for alleged statements at a recent conservatism conference. According to one reporter, Prof. Wax said,

our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.

The Penn Law community reacted with outrage. Wax’s dean said her comments were

repugnant to [our] core values and institutional practices.

Meanwhile, across the country at the University of California—San Diego, a student group has successfully sued for having its humor magazine kicked off campus. Back in 2015, The Koala came under fire for its satiric article about the university’s new “Dangerous Space on Campus.” The article used the “n-word” and referred to violent sex acts.

The administration denounced The Koala, calling it

profoundly repugnant, repulsive, attacking and cruel.

After a few legal back-and-forths, though, The Koala has triumphed. An appeals court ruled that the university could not set up a competition for student funds, then ban only one publication from the competition.

The two cases lead us to a few questions this morning:

  • 1.) Should universities have different rules about free speech for students and professors?
  • 2.) Does offensive language deserve more protection when it is used satirically?
  • 3.) And finally, is the word “repugnant” ever used in any other context? Why is it so popular among campus condemnations?

Star Conservative Professor Rejects Evangelical Higher Ed

I don’t think he meant to do it. But conservatives’ favorite star academic just trashed the entire tradition of conservative evangelical higher education.robert george christian colleges

It’s pretty safe to say that Professor Robert P. George of Princeton didn’t mean to badmouth conservative evangelical colleges. He was talking—broadly speaking—about the proper way for students to react to campus ideas they didn’t like. They CAN protest, Prof. George wrote, but they really shouldn’t. Even when they are confronted with ideas that strike right at the very heart of who they are as people and as Christians, George advised, students should do something else entirely. They should listen politely, ask questions boldly, and think deeply.

What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. But in his next bit, Professor George inadvertently criticized the entire body of conservative-evangelical universities and colleges. As he put it,

You [students] are there [in college] to be challenged and unsettled—to have your deepest, most cherished, identity-shaping beliefs subjected to scrutiny. That’s what liberal arts learning is most fundamentally about—leading the examined life.

FWIW, I agree entirely. As I found in my research for Fundamentalist U, however, if we accept Professor George’s vision of “what liberal arts learning is most fundamentally about,” we would be forced to admit that conservative-evangelical colleges are not really colleges at all.

After all, though it is fiendishly difficult to define “real” evangelical higher ed, both friends and foes of conservative evangelicalism agree on one thing. Namely, the higher-educational movement that began in the 1920s and included leading evangelical schools such as Wheaton College and Gordon College as well as fundamentalist institutions such as Bob Jones University and Liberty University was built on a profound dissent against Professor George’s vision of proper higher education. They were built, instead, on a promise to carefully control the ideas to which students would be exposed.

For example, though schools such as Bob Jones and Wheaton are worlds apart in many ways, they have always been united by their insistence that all faculty members adhere to a statement of belief. From their beginnings or re-beginnings in the 1920s, conservative evangelical colleges promised evangelical parents, in the words of school founder Bob Jones Sr. (1928), they would have a school in which

Fathers and mothers who place their sons and daughters in our institution can go to sleep at night with no haunting fear that some skeptical teachers will steal the faith of their precious children.

At evangelical colleges and universities, students were never supposed to have their “deepest, most cherished, identity-shaping beliefs subjected to scrutiny.”

It wasn’t only at fundamentalist Bob Jones College. At more-liberal Wheaton, too, the ideas that students encountered were carefully curated.

In 1949, for example, a student group invited a liberal, non-evangelical professor from the nearby University of Chicago to give a campus talk about the Bible. The student leader told Wheaton’s president that his group did not want to shake students’ faiths. Rather, he only wanted to strengthen their faith by giving them the experience Professor George describes.

The trustees did not take to such arguments. Professor George’s vision of proper higher education, one conservative insisted, was “a gross violation of the principles for which Wheaton stands.” Moreover, from the trustee’s point of view, this “inclusive, compromising policy” was nothing less than “clearly destructive of every foundation principle for which Wheaton has stood.”

And, lest one think that such anti-free-speech principles have been left behind in the dustbin of history, consider just a few recent cases. Wheaton students who press for greater LGBTQ inclusion have been squelched. Wheaton faculty who question (or maybe who just look like they might question) evangelical theology have been fired.

In my opinion, and the opinions of the thousands of students who thrive in evangelical institutions, these restrictions are part of what makes conservative schools great. Yes, there are significant restrictions on free speech. Yes, the schools are built on the premise and the promise that some ideas will not be given equal space. But there have always been significant advantages to those restrictions, advantages that many non-religious schools are now looking at with envy. (See, for example, trends toward new in loco parentis rules or creating “safe spaces.”)

If, however, we take Professor George’s word for it, real higher education requires a different approach. I don’t think he meant to do so, but by defining proper higher education as disturbing and soul-shaking, Professor George has accidentally insulted a vast network of successful conservative institutions.

Will THIS Make Colleges Think Twice?

It doesn’t matter how deep your pockets are. An $11,000,000 fine still hurts. I can’t help but wonder this morning if colleges will see Oberlin’s punishment as a wake-up call to rein in their activist students.oberlin protest real.jpg

Here’s what we know: A bakery across the street from Oberlin’s uber-liberal campus has just won a whopping $11 million judgment against the school. Back in 2016, three African-American Oberlin students stole from the bakery. The owner chased them down and they were caught. They admitted to the attempted crime and agreed that the incident was not racially inflected.

Before the students confessed, however, outraged Oberlin students took to the street. They chanted that the bakery was racist and waved signs and banners. According to Inside Higher Ed, the administration of the college assisted with the student protest, suspending business with the bakery, organizing protests, and providing materials such as gloves for the protesters.

In light of the facts of the case, the bakery successfully sued for libel. It convinced a state court that the protests

interfered with business relationships, inflicted emotional distress and libeled the owners.

Will this judgment make other college administrators think twice about supporting student protests? As we all know, no matter if a school is conservative, liberal, or other, no administrator is willing to risk legal liability. I can’t help but think that this case will make cautious university presidents reconsider their knee-jerk support for student activism.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Still getting snow up around here, but May is just around the corner. The weather wasn’t the only wild thing this past week. Here are a few of the stories from the interwebs that captured our attention in the past seven days:

I didn’t say what I said: Trump’s NRA speech fact-checked by NYT.

god guns trump

Make Buttons Great Again…

Michael Ruse on “Darwinian existentialism,” at HNN.

Darwin did not disprove God. When he wrote his great Origin of Species, 1859, he still believed in a deistic god, a god of unbroken law.  But he made it possible not to believe in God and to be, in the words of Richard Dawkins, a “fulfilled atheist.” More importantly, Darwin suggested that the deity is like the common perception of the God of Job, indifferent to our fate.

Unintended consequences: San Francisco’s deseg plans makes schools more segregated, at NYT.

You really didn’t do the reading. But you’re not alone. At CHE, an analysis of college-student reading and a prescription to improve it.

Women and the Christian Right: An excerpt from Emily Johnson’s new book at R&P.

Professor Coyne makes the case: Secular humanism is not a religion. At Quillette.

the absence of evidence is indeed evidence for absence if the evidence should have been there. That’s why most of us are confident that the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist. The same should go for most religious truth claims.

How has the religious composition of the major political parties changed since 1978? Great charts from RIP.RIP dems change

Houston high school enacts dress code…for parents. From AP.

“No one can enter the building or be on the school premises wearing a satin cap or bonnet on their head for any reason,” Principal Carlotta Outley Brown said in a letter to parents dated April 9. “You also cannot wear a shower cap of any kind in the building.”

Let em debate: A conservative case for free conservative speech at NR.

High-school artist takes heat for her painting, at IME.

trump nope

Acceptable student art?

 

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another week, another reminder of how education really works. The rich get embarrassed but they still get into Stanford…

The ugliest story everyone was talking about: Admissions scandal rocks elite higher ed, at IHE.

The story more people SHOULD be talking about: Queen Betsy loosens restrictions on ties between religious private schools and public ones, at NYT.

Conservative defense of a conservative professor, at NR.

  • Are these student demands “crazed?”:

We demand that Samuel Abrams’ position at the College be put up to tenure review to a panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color. In addition, the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students, whilst apologizing for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed. Abrams must issue a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women. (Emphasis in original.)

If you needed any further encouragement to avoid self-flagellation

Why are Catholics and Anglicans so over-represented in Congress? A new Pew poll finds that the religion of the public doesn’t match the religion of the leaders.

Pew congress faithFL pushes vouchers, at AP.

What does it take for good Christian to also be a good American? At Providence.

Be rigid and stodgy and faithful to the dictates of your church. And demand your fellow Christians do the same. Remember that we can only afford to be liberal in our politics so long as we are steady in our inner lives. So avoid cliché like the devil. And be the best Christian you can be. Only then will you find, incidentally, that you also make a good American.

A century of American anti-Semitism: the legacy of Madison Grant’s ‘scientific racism,’ at The Atlantic.

Remembering the My Lai Massacre, at VQR. Mass psychosis, brutal policy, or both?

This picture of actual reward for atrocity and cover-up of war crime leads us to the largest supposition frequently ventured about the massacre and its continuing moral centrality to American memory of the Vietnamese war: that, despite its astonishing and horrifying magnitude, it was in a many ways a microcosm, an abstract or epitome, of the American way of war in Vietnam.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another doozy of a week here at ILYBYGTH International! Here are some of the top stories that caught our eye:

Florida teacher on why the state can’t find enough teachers, at WaPo.

“Ridiculous:” Trump’s angry plan to punish universities for banning free speech, at CHE:

In 2018 the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an effective champion of free speech on campuses, recorded just nine attempts at disinviting or shutting down speakers. In the same year, 20 — if you’re keeping score, that’s 11 more than nine — colleges and universities adopted versions of the University of Chicago’s model principles of free expression. . . . None of that would seem to warrant sending in the feds to manage speech at our colleges and universities. Granted, our standards for declaring a national emergency have grown lax, but this is ridiculous.

More people support “legacy” college admissions than support race-based admissions, at PRC.pew admissions factors

Sympathy for the anti-vaxxers, at NYT. HT: AP:

I know people whom I think of as otherwise intelligent and well intentioned who aren’t convinced that vaccines are safe.

Bad news for Biden 2020: WaPo uncovers some dirt from the 1970s.

The latest anti-AOC rhetoric from CPAC:

They want to take your pickup truck! They want to rebuild your home! They want to take away your hamburgers! This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved!

Forget AOC. America’s most influential conservative sets his sights on a different target: Earl Warren. At NR.

What biden was trying to avoid

What Biden was scared of in 1975:

Are teachers’ strikes really about the students? Or more about protecting the teachers’ union itself? At TC.

Historian Beth Allison Barr on evangelical women.

Beth Moore said the problem isn’t with Hollis; the problem lies with how conservative Christianity has failed women.

Most Americans (90%) believe in some higher power, but only 56% think it is the God of the Bible, at PRC.

Evangelical colleges in the Civil Rights Era and the “colorblind campus,” at the OAH blog.north park college

God and Man still on the outs at Yale, says one conservative law student. At The Federalist.

Do you buy it? Conservative predicts Trump landslide, 2020, at TH.

Trump handwriting on the wall

A coming Trumpslide?

The New Conservative Campus Strategy: Punch-bait!

You’ve heard it before: Conservatives have long felt bitterly estranged from mainstream higher education. I’m wondering if we’re on the cusp of a weird new conservative strategy, one in which young conservatives try their hardest to get punched in the face.

Here’s what we know: Hayden Williams has attracted a lot of attention recently as the victim of a conservative-bashing at Berkeley. President Trump brought Williams up on stage during Trump’s CPAC speech to help introduce Trump’s new hard line against universities. As Trump crowed,

Ladies and gentlemen — [Williams] took a punch for all of us. … Here’s the good news: He’s going to be a very wealthy young man. Go get ’em, Hayden.

Williams was on campus as part of Turning Point USA’s recruitment drive. In the past, Turning Point USA has provoked attention on campuses for recruiting students to its brand of millennial conservative campus activism. In Nebraska, for example, a Turning Point USA member garnered significant political support in her fight to be heard on campus.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk was quick to capitalize on the Berkeley bashing. As he told CNN,

Our amazing grassroots organizers courageously face threats of violence and discrimination as they fight for the right for conservative voices to be heard on college campuses.

So how about it? Maybe the most effective strategy for conservative pundits will be to get punched in the face. After all, nothing goes further to prove their claims of persecution and anti-conservative discrimination.