As with any major political upheaval, the election of Donald Trump opens the door for long-silenced voices in our political system to make themselves heard, at least for a short period until the dust settles and a new status quo begins to form.
Therefore, let me make a proposal to the incoming Trump administration on behalf of the twenty million students who attend American colleges and universities: immediately embark upon a campaign to reform our nation’s universities and protect students’ basic rights on campus.
There are several steps that President Trump can take to achieve this. The first, which is so simple that he could do it on his first day in office, is to end Title IX abuse.
On its face, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments is a harmless legal code banning gender discrimination in public education. However, under the Obama administration, Title IX has been stretched far beyond its original intent.
On April 4, 2011, the Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague Letter” instructing universities that in order to comply with Title IX, they must do away with basic standards of due process for students accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
This Dear Colleague Letter was framed by the Obama administration as a “significant guidance document,” so as to circumvent the notice-and-comment period that is mandated for all new government regulations. However, it has all the effective power of a federal regulation. Any university that does not comply risks losing federal funding (and almost all universities, even private ones, accept some form of federal funding).
Under the new federally mandated standards, accused students are denied the right to legal representation and the right to cross-examine their accusers. There is no protection against double jeopardy, and the standard for determining guilt is “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a standard typically used for civil violations such as parking tickets, not serious crimes such as sexual assault.
As Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) points out in his short but sobering book Twisting Title IX, it is difficult to imagine anyone – even a Title IX compliance official – who would consent to be tried under such guidelines.
I highly doubt, for instance, that Hillary Clinton would want to be tried under such a system for her alleged violation of the Espionage Act in her handling of classified emails.
Since 2011, countless students accused of sexual misconduct have been suspended and expelled from their universities under this system, often based on the flimsiest of evidence. These students are denied the full benefits of our education system, and the adverse effects on their personal lives and careers are often severe and long-lasting. Their stories have been largely ignored by the mainstream media and political activists.
President Trump cannot allow their stories to go unheard any longer. He must immediately direct his Department of Education to repeal the Dear Colleague Letter, and absolve the records of all students who have been unfairly convicted under this standard.
However, he must not stop there. Title IX abuse, while disturbing, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Colleges all over America routinely violate students’ rights to free speech. These incidents are well-documented in the public record, and need little summary here. Even the most cursory search for censorship on campus turns up more cases than any reasonable person should be able to stomach.
A great many universities have unconstitutional “speech codes” hidden in their conduct policies. (For a full list of such codes, check out FIRE’s website.) Other universities permit the “heckler’s veto” of unpopular opinions, by tacitly permitting, and sometimes even encouraging, mobs of students or outside agitators to shut down unpopular forms of speech. Still other universities openly discriminate in their funding of organizations and events.
Censorship knows no political party. However, there is a clear ideological pattern in the incidents of campus censorship over the past few decades. Overwhelmingly, it is conservative and libertarian individuals and groups who are being silenced by left-wing students and administrators.
These left-wingers on campus feel so confident in silencing conservatives with impunity because they know from experience that they will not be punished. Most of the time, administrators and politicians turn a blind eye to even the most egregious acts of left-wing bullying and censorship.
Donald Trump should make it a priority to ensure that such acts go unpunished no longer. He and his administration, with the help of the Republican majority in Congress, should launch a full federal investigation into free speech and due process violations on campus.
There must be a full reckoning for all that has gone on in American universities in recent years. Civil liberties violations that have been ignored and silenced by those in power must be brought to light.
School administrators who have violated students’ rights must be made to publicly answer for their actions, and, when necessary, pay some form of compensation to their victims.
If a university refuses to guarantee its students their basic Constitutional rights, then it should be summarily deprived of all federal funding until it is willing to do so.
With the Dear Colleague Letter of 2011, President Obama used the threat of losing federal funding to take away students’ rights. President Trump can use the same threat to guarantee students’ rights.
Finally, the Trump administration must embark upon a program of proactive academic reform designed to ensure that conditions of censorship do not once again manifest themselves in our universities.
These conditions have come about because entire academic departments in the modern university, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, are staffed almost exclusively with left-wing ideologues.
In many of these fields, openly Marxist professors outnumber Republican professors by significant margins. Far-left ideas which most Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, would consider beyond the pale of radicalism are often taught as near-dogma in these academic departments.
Any ideological monopoly in academia – including a right-wing monopoly – would be concerning and run contrary to the values of the liberal university. However, the current far-left monopoly is especially dangerous to our society, because it goes beyond bias and indoctrination to open activist training.
A number of academic departments, gender studies in particular, are devoted almost completely to the promotion of what is known as intersectionality theory. In this paradigm, the entire world is divided into countless categories of oppressor and oppressed, bourgeoisie and proletariat.
Even the most complex social dynamics – such as the male/female gender dynamic, or the relationship between the different racial groups in America – are simplified until they can fit into this paradigm. Any evidence that runs contrary to this paradigm is typically discarded as being motivated by hegemonic power and its continued desire for dominance.
Departments like “women’s studies” and “black studies” exist with the explicit purpose of indoctrinating students in this ideology, and training them to be activists who will fight to overturn the current social system. They teach students to enter the institutions of our society – the courts, the media, the fine arts, even the business sector – effectively as sleeper agents, and slowly subvert these institutions to the social justice warrior agenda.
This is all part of a process that Marxist activist Rudy Dutschke referred to as the “long march through the institutions of power.”
Large swaths of the modern university, in sum, less closely resemble an institution of higher learning than they do a bizarre, indoctrinating quasi-religious cult with “social justice” as its god.
Don’t believe me? Read the class syllabi, or the bizarre “research” papers published by academics in these departments, and you will see that my assessment of the situation is a fair one.
And all of this, from the ideological echo chamber to the activist training, is entirely subsidized by the public, which often has little idea what it is supporting.
Most older Americans are peripherally aware that the universities lean left, but most do not have any idea how deep the bias runs. If they did, then they would be deeply unnerved… and they would start to demand their money back.
Of course, all professors, including those on the left, are entitled to academic freedom. But when a single, socially destructive viewpoint is promoted on the public dime to the exclusion of all others, then this is an abuse of a collective good.
In 1972, Ayn Rand proposed a fairness doctrine for higher education, based off the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. Although that Doctrine is now defunct, another legal precedent exists: affirmative action. If underrepresented races and genders deserve a leg up, then underrepresented ideologies do as well.
In addition to investigating universities that violate free speech and due process, President Trump should implement some sort of academic reform designed to ensure that all federally funded universities provide their students with a bare minimum level of ideological diversity.
Complete fairness might be impossible, but universities can certainly ensure that some number of professors in the humanities and social sciences are conservative, and that students in these departments are exposed to multiple perspectives on every major social issue.
If a university refuses to provide its students with their basic right to a full and ideologically diverse education experience, then it can do so on its own dime, with no federal funding. Taxpayers are under no obligation to fund ideological training camps.
Education is an investment in a public good, and academics who use their positions to promote their own political ideology, while producing nothing of tangible value to society, should be made to publicly answer for the value of their teaching.
Trump’s administration should shine a light into the dark corners of the modern university, and see what it can uncover.
Of course, such reforms will be difficult, and the academic lobby will oppose them at every step of the way – but if anyone has proven his ability to achieve the unthinkable in politics, it is Donald Trump.
Because academics are often the intellectual trendsetters for society, what happens on campus affects us all. In fact, much of the culture of stifling political correctness that Donald Trump successfully ran against has its intellectual roots in our nation’s universities. Although Trump has not spoken at length about higher education reform, it is difficult to imagine anything more in line with the spirit of his campaign.
If President-Elect Trump is sincere in his commitment to “drain the swamp,” then he will find no greater swamp to drain than that which has consumed the American university system. I hope that he and his administration rise to the occasion.