Society creates institutions to do things, and in various ways funds them to do those things. What happens when those institutions decide they’d rather do different things but keep getting paid anyway?
That’s what higher education is about to find out, argues John Ellis, professor emeritus of German lit at UC Santa Cruz, in a column for the Wall Street Journal.
Ellis argues that there “was once internal debate about higher education’s direction between traditional academic scholars and radical political activists.”
The activists won that debate, decisively, he says, and “now firmly in control, have no interest in what the dwindling ranks of scholars have to say.”
He crunches some numbers to show that there was already a pre-COVID drop across the board in college attendance. Pandemic pressures, and this last year’s heightened activism, are likely to accelerate that trend.
Colleges can continue to increase tuition and shake alumni down for donations, but Ellis hopes that they won’t pay to fund the displacement of learning by activism:
When academia’s astonishing message to society is, “We’ll take your money, but we’ll do with it what we want, not what you want,” the response ought to be simple: “No you won’t.” The question is, can the millions of people who make up that wonderful abstraction called “society” act in a way that is sufficiently concerted and organized to deliver the message effectively?
Read the whole column.