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On campus, ‘cultural humility training’ is actually just humiliating

This is not “higher” “education”

By now the playbook at most universities is mind-numbingly familiar: Some kind of outwardly racist or sexist incident occurs on campus—maybe it’s a hoax, maybe it’s not—after which students turn out en masse to to demand of their university administrations a laundry list of diversity-centric initiatives; university officials respond with fawning, cringing, servile obsequiousness, promising to “heal” the “harm” caused by a random offensive chalking or a mean Facebook post or a video in which a student utters a bad word; a new on-campus Vice Provost for Assistant Equity Initiatives for Stxdents of Cxlxr is rolled out, along with a third or fourth mandatory diversity training initiative; students furiously claim that these eight-million-dollar initiatives aren’t enough; everything quiets down until the next Tuesday and the next incident, after which the cycle starts over again.

Will it ever end? Probably not. At Iowa State University last month, officials there continued the dreary dance between student intransigence and administrative fecklessness: Responding to a lengthy list of demands from a student group there, the school said its upper-level leaders will undergo “cultural competency and cultural humility training.” Why? Does anyone believe that the problem facing Iowa State was that its president and its deans were not culturally competent and/or culturally mortified to a sufficient degree? Was that a pressing demand the university simply couldn’t avoid filling?

We all might, in some way, feel sorry for the aging administrators who (albeit willingly) subject themselves to this tortuous charade. Most of them grew up in a different time, when campuses were hotbeds of nothing more than conventional liberal radicalism: Your average college president went to school during a time of boilerplate progressive activism, some of it (like the Civil Rights movement) good and necessary, much of it (sexual profligacy and stinking hippie anarcho-communism) not so great. But all of it was to a large degree predictable and unremarkable. It wasn’t the deranged, nearly psychotic brand of activism that populates most campuses today. That must seem like a much simpler and more preferable time to the Baby Boomers who largely shaped modern American higher education as it is today.

Just the same, in the end they have only themselves to blame. It would not be hard to stand up to these silly crowds. All you would have to do is tell them, “Nope, sorry, this is silly, we’re not doing this.” You might get some major protesting on campus as a result. That’s fine—that’s their right. You might get some property destruction as well; arrest whoever partakes in it. But campus administrators don’t seem interested in being grown-ups; they rather seem to desire the kind of abject, abased relationship they increasingly cultivate with their students. That is a shame. In the end, if you submit yourself to “cultural humiliation,” you’re more than likely to just end up humiliated, and rightfully so.

MORE: Iowa State promises major new diversity initiatives, including ‘cultural humility training’

IMAGE: Lolostock / Shutterstock.com

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