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The madness of the modern academy — sometimes you just have to laugh about it

The madness of the modern academy can be a source of great humor

A few examples of campus lunacy from the past week alone:

– At Cornell, the president’s office has commissioned a task force in response to several racial controversies on campus; a sub-committee of that task force, titled “Regulation of Speech and Harassment,” will determine whether Cornell is “sanctioning discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct appropriately,” as well as if the university has “appropriately promulgated principles and regulations that address free speech on campus as well as prohibit discrimination and harassment.” If you can’t see “free speech curtailment” written all over that in big neon letters, you should look again.

– At the University of Southern Indiana, the school’s Housing and Residence Life hosted a culturally sensitive Halloween costume workshop (no, that is not an extended typo). “Say NO to cultural appropriation!” a handout blared. Instructional material at the workshop directed students to refrain from dressing up as Native Americans, Arabian swordsmen or Mexican vaqueros; students were directed instead to dress up like the Mario Brothers, Fonzie and Rosie the Riveter. “Create costumes, not stereotypes!” a flyer declared.

– At Evergreen State College—the school that experienced a Nietzschean-style slide into social anarchy this past spring—we learned that the school’s “Bias Response Team” had at one point last year “banned criticisms of Black Lives Matter, saying somewhat innocuous posters critiquing the movement hung on campus ‘diminish the disparities experienced by people of color'” and were a violation of the school’s discrimination policy. “Biased messages are unacceptable,” the school declared with no sense of irony whatsoever.

These are just in the past few days alone; in reality these types of goings-on are happening constantly on campuses across the country, day after day and even hour after hour. There are good and defensible reasons to despair for the future of the American university. But sometimes—every so often—you just feel like laughing about it.

There is a certain kind of dark hilarity, after all, in a group of well-educated, grown-up men and women coming together to form a committee to address the “Regulation of Speech.” It reminds one of a comedy bit, perhaps a dry, deadpan send-up of George Orewell’s 1984 put on by the Monty Python troupe. And I’m sorry, but a college passing out flyers instructing students not to dress up like “Pochahotties?” Were we to sit down and write a parody of modern college political sensibilities, we couldn’t come up with a better joke than that one. It’s just plain funny.

There is much work to be done on our campuses—important and necessary work. Reversing the tide of noxious progressive influence is not going to be easy, nor short. But take heart: every once in a while it’s okay to allow yourself a chuckle over all of this. But be warned: don’t let the president’s task force catch you laughing. And for goodness’s sake, whatever you do, don’t fall into the hands of the Bias Response Team.

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