Writing in National Review, Dan Gelernter asks a very important question: Why aren’t the people in charge on college campuses acting like adults? Why do administrators and professors kowtow to each whim, outburst and demand of indignant students acting like toddlers throwing a tantrum?
If they don’t get their house in order, it might come crashing down. Gelernter writes:
Now the adults have surrendered their authority. Professors ask students to call them by their first names. They apologize for being racist all the time: See the shocking videos of Yale professor Nicholas Christakis confronting a gaggle of indignant students — indignant because the professor’s wife, also a professor, suggested that one might dress up on Halloween without fear of “cultural appropriation.”
The obliging, genteel, overwhelmed professor is confronted by a tall student who steps out of the crowd, goes nose-to-nose, and demands, “Look me in the eye.” One wishes that the professor had promptly told the student he’d be expelled and then called campus security. Instead, Christakis humbles himself and pleads for a reasoned conversation. As a reward for his efforts, he was subsequently forced to resign, along with his wife.
But blaming the students for the situation is the wrong answer: This is the fault of the universities. It is up to adults to act like adults, to enforce standards of behavior and respect and discipline. The faculty is there to teach and build character, not to be the students’ chums or playground companions.
Today’s professors might remember how their own teachers carried themselves: They wore jacket and tie, and they failed students who didn’t learn the material. And, just as a good parent always supports the other parent’s decisions, the faculty reflexively supported its professors when the students behaved like children. Today’s universities can learn this lesson quickly or simply cease to exist — in their desire to be relevant, they will have dissolved the distinction between teacher and student, and the $200,000 liberal-arts degree will dissolve with it.