Kenyon College, once a respected liberal arts college in Ohio, appears to be the latest prestigious college to sacrifice itself on the altar of political correctness.
The Weekly Standard has a depressing article about two recent developments at Kenyon: the shutting down of a play after campus activists accused it of being "racist," and the creation of a "whiteness group" that subjects white students to intimidation by minority students.
The shuttered play is The Good Samaritan, by faculty member Wendy MacLeod, about illegal immigrants who work near Kenyon. The play is said to deal satirically with what would happen if one of these immigrants was accepted at a school like Kenyon.
Instead of waiting to see the play and either giving it a bad or good review, Kenyon students decided that it was "harmful" and thus could not be produced:
Following the circulation of the play’s transcript, brigades of students, joined by some professors and campus administrators, pressured for the play to be censored. They justified such censorship on the grounds that it was "harmful on many levels."
One student emailed the administration and faculty complaining about the race of MacLeod, the author: “I personally take issue with The Good Samaritan because it’s yet another narrative written about a person of color from the uninformed perspective of a white academic.” He claimed that the play was “an exercise in cultural hegemony with heavy notes of white savior complex.”
In the Kenyon student newspaper one professor claimed that after reading The Good Samaritan “she has identified 40 instances of ethnic insensitivity.”
MacLeod withdrew the play “out of respect for the concerns of students and members of the faculty.”
It may have been a lousy play, but it doesn't respect faculty or students to assume that they are incapable of viewing it and then discussing it intelligently.
I also suspect that the real reason MacLeod cancelled the performance was that she was intimidated.
Speaking of intimidation, the cancellation of the play coincided with the creation of the aforementioned "whiteness group." Here is Weekly Standard writer Adam Rubinstein's description of that:
The group was founded by a student, Juniper Cruz, and is notable not just for its name, but for its rules, which state that “no white person can ask a person of color questions; white people must try to answer their questions for themselves. And no spreading rumors about what people say during the meetings.”
If you were going to set out to create a more illiberal student group possible at a college, you would be hard-pressed to do so.
And as for [Kenyon political science professor Fred] Baumann’s suggestion [made at a panel called to discuss the withdrawal of the play] that liberal education was finished at Kenyon, he’s certainly on to something.
Following the panel where Baumann made his stand, one student took to Facebook, saying that if liberal education “necessitates the silencing of marginalized communities, the protection of racism, and our complicity with both, then let the damned thing die.”
All of this has nothing to do with education. It is a dramatic abandonment of the idea of the university as it developed in Western civilization (and helped create civilization, but I imagine that the "whiteness group" would hold that against universities).
If colleges and universities persist in this kind of behavior, let's at least acknowledge that it is a break with what has been the university.
The "whiteness group" would no doubt welcome this redefinition, and in this case they would be right: it would clarify what the modern university risks becoming, an illiberal place where intimidation, not ideas, reigns.