Professor Jonathan Marks, Ursinus College, reviews Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know by Jonathan Zimmerman in the Wall Street Journal.
“In May, student protesters at Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci College bared their psychic wounds. The college had “traumatized, othered, tokenized, and pathologized” them, assaulting their “mental and emotional well-being.” That is, Matteo Ricci had maintained its signature humanities core, with its focus on classics of Western civilization. It had thereby “erased” the “personal and ancestral voices” of some students and neglected their “pain.” The protesters demanded that this “psychologically abusive” behavior end. They demanded a curriculum that “decentralizes Whiteness” and focuses on “systems of oppression,” such as “capitalism.” And they demanded the head of the college’s dean, Jodi Kelly.
“Rather than question any premise of the protesters, Ms. Kelly promised a “comprehensive review” of the curriculum “in response to [their] concerns and requests.” Faculty and staff would undergo “racial and cultural literacy training.” Consultants would be hired. Seattle University’s president, Stephen Sundborg, hastened to add that he, too, wished to sit at the protesters’ feet, that he could not “pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings.” Ms. Kelly, placed on administrative leave, has escaped into retirement.
“If we resist the urge to pronounce the protesters insane and the administrators craven, we might ask whether student activists are right that even the most liberal campuses in America are bastions of prejudice. In “Campus Politics,” a valuable attempt to understand the protests that have swept American universities, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and education at New York University, explains why this question is rarely even posed within those universities…”