The descent of academia into the cesspool of ideological effluvia continues apace. (I cracked open my thesaurus this morning).
As a refugee from the academic world I am no stranger to the wide weird world of academic life. Both my parents were physicists, and I didn’t escape the college and university environments until I was in my mid-30s. One of the several reasons I gave up on my dream of becoming a political philosophy professor was the increasing momentum of the ideological Left in taking over the academic world.
Academics have leaned liberal for as long as I have been aware of politics, but the lurch Left over merely liberal didn’t really begin until the late 80s or early 90s. Professors were politically liberal, but relatively few of them seemed dedicated to doing nothing but spreading propaganda. There were the Marxists, of course, but they were mostly fringe figures. Lots of academics still did real research, even in the liberal arts.
Academics today are a different breed, for whatever reason. There are still plenty of serious scholars, of course, but they now are the fringe. And many are hanging up the medieval robes and leaving. Social justice is the the primary mission of the University today, and that makes it a difficult place to seek truth.
But the problem of academic decline goes deeper than ideological rot. Many academics have lost all sense of dignity, and more importantly of respect for people with whom they disagree. Rather than begin with a genuine willingness to understand others who think differently than them, they have open contempt for the plebs. This doesn’t just make them awful people–and many of them indeed are awful people–it also makes them stupid.
If you care about learning, not just lecturing or hectoring, you need to at least try to listen with respect to others. The search for truth is rather different than the search for self-validation, and it definitely is incompatible with the impulse to cram your own vision of the good down others’ throats.
The latest example that set me off was the vile tweet by a a prominent academic, attacking a prospective student for her fine institution. I can only assume her politics, but I have direct evidence of her trashy character.
Who is Laura M. Chefetz, you may ask? Is she some low level instructor at a community college?
Well no, she is not. She is the Assistant Dean of Admissions, Vocation, and Student Life at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Divinity School. Vanderbilt. Assistant Dean. Vocation. Student Life.
How can such a crass individual hold such a high position at a Divinity School? Well take a look at her bio and make a guess:
Laura is multiracial Asian American of Japanese and white Jewish descent. She was the fourth generation of her family to be born in California, and grew up in eastern Oregon and western Washington. Laura has served on various boards, national and international ecumenical bodies, and has been president of two homeowners associations. She is currently the co-moderator of the Special Committee on Per Capita-Based Funding & National Church Financial Sustainability for the Presbyterian Church (USA). As you might imagine, she is well-versed in people and politics.
Laura and her partner, Jessica Vazquez Torres, the National Program Manager for Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training, live in Nashville, Tenn. with two rescued Shih Tzus. They enjoy all their nieces and nephews, and hope to be such fabulous aunties that the kids smuggle good booze to them in their retirement home. In their free time, Jessica bakes and Laura delivers the baked goods to friends and neighbors.
We can only speculate about why she is in that position. But I have a guess.