[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through VDARE.com]
So the recent flap at Yale Law School did not cause me to swoon in astonishment. It is, though, an exceptionally nasty specimen of Higher Ed Wokeness: partly because it's an incident all of whose points (as they say at dog shows) are very well defined—the pettiness of the imagined offense, the spineless cowardice of college administrators—but also because this is Yale Law School, just about the most prestigious incubator of ruling-class nobility.
Here is the offense. A second-year law student is of part-Cherokee ancestry and so—of course!—a member of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). He is also a member of the Federalist Society, which is an association of Establishment Conservative lawyers, law professors, and law students—all six conservative justices currently on the U.S. Supreme Court are members.
This student sent an email round to classmates on September 15th inviting them to a Constitution Day party event two days later jointly organized by both those clubs, NALSA and the Federalists. The party would be held, he wrote, at "our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House." Refreshments would include "American-themed snacks like Popeye's chicken and apple pie" [A Yale Law Student Sent a Lighthearted Email Inviting Classmates to His ‘Trap House.’ The School Is Now Calling Him To Account., by Aaron Sibarium, Free Beacon, October 13, 2021].
I'd never heard the expression "Trap House" before. Apparently, it's young people slang for any place where they can score beer, although it has some deep etymological history to do with crack dens.
At least nine recipients of the email found it, yes, "triggering." Why? Well:
I can't improve on the explanation given by the Law School's Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Yaseen Eldik [Email him]. Actual quote, which I swear I have not made up:
The email's association with FedSoc was very triggering for students who already feel like FedSoc belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain communities. That of course obviously includes the LGBTQIA community and black communities and immigrant communities.
Diversity director Eldik extruded those words at a meeting with the offending student at which associate dean Ellen Cosgrove [Email her] was also present. Eldik and Cosgrove (right) quite openly threatened actions that would impact the student's career if he did not formally apologize; although Eldik softened the threat somewhat by hinting that they might go easier on him because of his race (he's part Cherokee, remember):
As a man of color, there probably isn't as much scrutiny of you as there might be of a white person in the same position.
They even drafted an apology for him, in the style of the self-criticisms that people had to make to the Red Guards in China's Cultural Revolution. (Eldik, an American-born Muslim, is apparently a “spiritual person who had worked in the Obama White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” [Harvard’s sacred spaces, Harvard Gazette, October 9, 2018]).
Harvard’s sacred spaces https://t.co/99oPJYylao— Harvard University (@Harvard) October 10, 2018
To his credit, the student did not yield. To date, so far as I know, he still has not.
Latest news is that on Tuesday, October 12th—so that's nearly a month after the student's "offense"—Eldik and Cosgrove assured the student they wouldn't put anything in his college record that might cause him career problems.
I'd guess that after the story broke, they were called in by Law School dean Heather Gerken. (right)
If my guess is right, we can take some small comfort from the fact that the senior administration at America’s most prestigious law school is not yet completely insane—or at least that she’s worried about bad publicity. WHICH WE’RE GIVING HER [Email Heather Gerken].
Race and sex—these are the really flammable areas in our culture.
And, because the Anglosphere is a reality, it's not just the U.S.A. that is vexed by these issues. In the land of my birth things are even worse, if you can imagine that. Current case in point: Kathleen Stock, a professor in the philosophy department at Sussex University.
Just a side note here about Sussex University. In England—not Britain, England—there were for the longest time—from the 13th century to the 19th—only two universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Then in the 1830s two more universities came up: the Universities of Durham and London.
That was it for the 19th century. Then in first half of the 20th century another dozen universities were chartered, the so-called "red-brick" universities.
With the collapse of the British Empire after World War Two and a widespread feeling that to stay competitive in the world Britain needed more higher education, there was a rash of university-building. These were the "plate-glass" universities, so-called from their architectural style. Sussex was the first of these, chartered in 1961.
I was applying to universities in the following year, 1962. I wanted somewhere academically rigorous, and Sussex, just through its first year of operation, was an unknown quantity, so I didn't put it on my list. The following year, 1963, I went up to University College, London, and that's where I took my degree.
During those years, though—the first half of the 1960s—Sussex became very trendy. It was the cool place to take your degree. I'm not sure why this happened. Sussex wasn't distinguished academically, or athletically, or in any other way I could see. It was just cool. Perhaps it was the plate glass.
That's just a sidebar. Back to Professor Kathleen Stock, teaching philosophy at today's Sussex University.
Prof. Stock is 48 years old and respectably Woke. She's a lesbian and a feminist. It seems to be her feminism that is causing problems.
It is currently fashionable to deny the reality of sex altogether. "Male" and "female" are just social constructs, you see?—not at all grounded in reality.
Some feminists, however, don't go along with that. They say it denigrates women to say they are just men with a different attitude. You may have heard the acronym TERF, for these feminists: it stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
Prof. Stock seems to be that way inclined. In January this year she was awarded a national honor for services to education, the Order of the British Empire. Yes, that's what it's called, the OBE. Tweeting about this, Prof. Stock made some unkind remarks about what she called "gender identity ideology."
That was taken to be transphobic. Six hundred academic philosophers signed an open letter condemning the lady [Outraged academics condemn government for handing anti-trans professor Kathleen Stock an OBE, PinkNews.co.uk, January 6, 2021].
Then in April this year Prof. Stock published a book, title Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism. I must say, scanning the Sunday Times review [A Controversial Look At Transgender Issues, by Christina Patterson, April 25, 2021], the book seems not totally crazy. I don't think I'd pay for it; but if my local library has a copy, I might give it a try.
In this new book, however, our heroine doubles down on her sex realism. We should respect the feelings of people who think they are the other sex, she reportedly says. But, in the Sunday Times’ Patterson’s summary:
“In my opinion,” she says, “immersion in a fiction about sex change is being coercively required of people.” It’s one thing to choose to do that out of a kind of courtesy, she says, but quite another to “indicate that these things are literally true”.
She's a philosopher, with a proper philosopher's regard for truth.
This book has been too much for the sex-denial activists. With the new academic year starting this month, Sussex University has been roiled by protests against Prof. Stock, calling for her dismissal.
Things have gotten pretty nasty:
Police have advised her to install CCTV cameras at home and implied that she may need security guards to return to campus.
[Academic freedom in British universities is under threat, The Economist, October 16, 2021]
She's giving her classes by Zoom.
Prof. Stock's troubles are to do with sex; but sex, like race, is a biological reality. By scrutinizing your DNA, we can tell which sex you are, a very tiny number of genetic oddities like XYY Syndrome aside. By scrutinizing your DNA we can identify your race, or mix of races, with high accuracy [Racial groupings match genetic profiles, Stanford study finds, AAAS EurekaAlert, January 27, 2005].
Both Race Denialists and Sex Denialists are denying biology.
I find myself wondering what else they will deny when they tire of their current sport.
Chemistry, perhaps? "There is no such thing as states of matter. Solid, liquid, gas—those are just social constructs!"
Or perhaps physics? "Pressure? Oppression? Same root word, see? And forces—like when the oppressor forces himself on the oppressed! Ha!"
I'd better stop here. I may be giving people ideas.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.
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