The unsuccessful move was led by the Stanford Review, which petitioned to replace a course called Thinking Matters with a Western civ requirement.
As the Daily Beast, hardly a bastion of tradition, reports the original requirement was dropped because of the anti-Western civilization protests led on the Stanford campus by none other than the Rev. Jesse Jackson:
In 1988, the Rev. Jesse Jackson—then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination—joined students at Stanford in chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!”
With that spectacle, the university promptly dropped required courses in Western Civilization. Fifteen texts—a “core list” that included Plato, Voltaire, St. Augustine, and Marx and Engels—were replaced by a more diverse canon.
It was the beginning of a wave of protests against Western culture on college campuses in the 1990s that, today, has seen a resurgence in the form of trigger warnings on syllabi, safe spaces, and policed speech.
The Weekly Standard has described it this way:
The Scrapbook is old enough to remember without fondness the astounding spectacle of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1987 leading Stanford University students chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Western culture's got to go!" The witless infantilism of the chant perfectly encapsulated its substantive content: Who needs to study the poetry of Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton when you can rhyme "ho" and "go"? And what could possibly be a good reason to try to understand a culture you reject—well, unless somebody asked, you know, why you reject it?
The largely successful assault on Western culture on college campuses in the 1980s has evolved seamlessly into the culture of speech codes, trigger warnings, and grievance on campus today.
The wholesale rejection of the achievements of Western civilization goes a long way towards explaining why we are in such a mess today. Our culture and politics reek of ignorance and much of this self-assured ignorance was bred at prestigious universities such as Stanford.