Having served for nearly 40 years on collegiate faculties – at Clemson University and, mostly, at George Mason University – I long ago accepted the reality that almost all of my colleagues across campus detest, and will continue to detest, the classical liberalism that I warmly embrace. My embrace of liberalism is warm in no small part because I grasp what most of my colleagues don’t – namely, the basic, beautiful logic of markets in which adults, trusted to pursue their own peaceful goals in their own mature ways, generate immense prosperity for us all. “Why,” I often wonder, “can’t English professor Smith or history professor Jones learn the important material that freshmen in my ECON 101 course master within a month?”
I still wonder about faculty members Smith and Jones, but I also respect them as individuals and as professionals. Almost never do I question their decency as human beings or their dedication to their students. My respect for the typical university administrator, however, is rapidly disappearing. For some time now I couldn’t quite identify the core reason for my growing unhappiness with these administrators. But a recent event at George Mason finally brought clarity: I loathe the now-prevalent assumption that my colleagues and I are all uncivilized brutes.
The event in question is the forced resignation, on allegations of sexual harassment, of a member of the faculty of George Mason’s Scalia School of Law. If the allegations against this professor are true, his departure is appropriate, as, perhaps, are additional punitive measures. Predictably, however, the University administration isn’t stopping at suitably disciplining a misbehaving faculty member. Among other over-reactions, it just announced that every member of the faculty and staff must undergo additional sexual-harassment “training.”
How annoying. How asinine.
Everyone who graduates from high school knows that it’s wrong for a professor to exchange higher grades or privileged treatment for sexual favors. Everyone also knows not to crack raunchy jokes among students and colleagues, not to comment on a student’s or colleague’s looks, and not to expose oneself in public. The amount of what all decent people know along these lines is vast. Instilling such knowledge requires no formal training; it’s gotten by living in a civilized society. The relatively few individuals who violate these well-known rules of proper conduct don’t do so because they’re unaware of the rules; they do so because they’re unethical. And such individuals won’t be made ethical by being lectured at by underlings of the Deputy Assistant Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Nevertheless, all of my campus colleagues and I must now, on the insulting assumption that we have the moral immaturity of pimply teenage boys, be subjected more intensively to university mandarins ‘teaching’ us what all of us already know and what, if we did not know it, cannot be taught in 90-minute formal sessions – namely, how to conduct ourselves as civilized and mature adults.
Such childish treatment isn’t confined to sexual-harassment “training.” University faculty must also attend comically pointless sessions aimed at curing us of what is presumed to be our latent racism and homophobia. The prevailing assumption, it seems, is that, but for these “training” sessions, campuses would be overrun with blackface-wearing homophobes who routinely trade grades for sex.
Unfortunately, this mania for presuming that faculty and staff are boorish swine who can nevertheless be sufficiently enlightened by a few hours under the tutelage of university bureaucrats isn’t limited to George Mason. While I can find no reliable count of the number of colleges and universities that today require such “training,” a quick Google search reveals this number to be distressingly large. And I’m sure that it’s growing.
Colleges are supposed to be places where young men and women come of age and learn from adults who are entrusted to instruct and tutor them. Yet college administrators increasingly treat we adults who are given this trust as if we are inherently unworthy of it. If college faculty members really are as morally depraved as woke administrators suppose us to be, the proper response isn’t more “training” sessions, but tearing the existing academy to the ground and starting anew from scratch.