In a post yesterday I provided a link to Peter Wood’s comments regarding a recent essay by Camille Paglia. In the Paglia essay, she made the following point:
Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it’s invisible. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (“racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it’s positively pickled.
To which Wood responded:
Independent thought and critical analysis of argument just cannot live in the same company with a curriculum in which the central premise is that all of cultural and social life can be reduced to the privileged oppressing the weak. When the terms of analysis are reduced to the race-gender-class triad, real analysis must stop. Independent ideas are instantly categorized as “bias” of one sort or another, while conformity to the stale “theory” is routinely praised as “independent thinking.” In contemporary elite education, all the intellectual exits have been blocked.
The “invisibility” that Paglia mentions is ensured by a curriculum that simply ignores what cannot be conveniently comprehended under the current ideological terms. Moreover, this has been going on for decades. Colleges can now pretty safely assume that candidates for faculty appointment who have attended American graduate schools have never seriously studied anything outside the charmed circle of ideological conformity. They need not be intentionally biased. They simply have no concept that dissent from the prevailing academic orthodoxies can arise from anything other than deep-rooted antipathy to manifestly wholesome ideas.
Now, in support of both Paglia’s and Wood’s contention, we have this recent case from East Georgia College.
The abuse of campus sexual harassment policies to punish dissenting professors has hit a new low at East Georgia College (EGC) in Swainsboro. Professor Thomas Thibeault made the mistake of pointing out—at a sexual harassment training seminar—that the school’s sexual harassment policy contained no protection for the falsely accused. Two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault was fired by the college president for sexual harassment without notice, without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing. Thibeault turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
“If you were to write a novel about the abuse of sexual harassment regulations to get rid of a dissenter, you couldn’t do better than the real-life story of Thomas Thibeault,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Anyone with a modicum of respect for freedom of speech or simple fairness should be aghast at this blatant abuse of power by East Georgia College.”
Thibeault’s ordeal started shortly after August 5, 2009 when, during a faculty training session regarding the college’s sexual harassment policy, he presented a scenario regarding a different professor and , “what provision is there in the Sexual Harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case, ridiculous?” Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision to protect the accused, so Thibeault responded that “the policy itself is flawed.”
Two days later, Thibeault was summoned to EGC President John Bryant Black’s office. According to Thibeault’s written of the meeting, which was sent to Black and which Black has not disputed, Thibeault met with Black and Smith. Black told Thibeault that he “was a divisive force in the college at a time when the college needed unity” and that Thibeault must resign by 11:30 a.m. or be fired and have his “long history of sexual harassment … made public.” This unsubstantiated allegation took Thibeault by surprise. Black added that Thibeault would be escorted off campus by Police Chief Drew Durden and that Black had notified the local police that he was prepared to have Thibeault arrested for trespassing if he returned to campus. At no point was Thibeault presented with the charges against him or given any chance to present a defense. Refusing to resign, Thibeault understood that he was fired.