Since Donald Trump’s election as president, protests have erupted in major American cities and on college campuses (I was actually caught in the middle of a protest in Charleston, SC last weekend). These protests have highlighted the divisions in this country which formed after eight years of an Obama administration, which despite being touted as the first “post-racial” administration, fostered rhetoric and policies that decreased race relations to levels not seen since the 1960s. Under the Obama administration, the Left attempted to institutionalize hyper-political correctness, and nowhere is this more evident than on college campuses.
My friends and I were discussing the impact that rampant, unchallenged liberalism has had on college campuses a few weeks ago, when students at the University of California-Berkeley formed a human chain to prevent straight, white males from entering a building on campus. One of them remarked, “what happened to college in the last few years since we graduated?” He has a point–something is wrong with college campuses, and unless it is reversed soon, American higher education will have utterly failed in its duty to educate the leaders of the next generation by rendering them incapable to engage in critical discourse when challenged by ideas with merit that differ than their own.
Freedom of thought no longer exists on campus. Throughout history, the university has always been a place where differing opinions were debated, discussed, and refined in order to better humanity. Most American universities have ceded this mantle and instead of welcoming intellectual discourse, academia sees differing viewpoints not as the hallmark of a free society, but rather as a danger that not only needs to be repressed, but rather completely eradicated. Rather than turning to George Orwell’s 1984 as a warning on the dangers of the authoritarian state, American academia has begun to see it as a blueprint moving forward in their quest for the dominance of liberal dogma on campus, and once they have succeeded in forming/brainwashing the next generation of Americans, in American society itself.
It’s tempting for moderates and conservatives to write off colleges as a lost cause, but we as Americans cannot afford to do so. Colleges play such a significant role in our society outside of the classroom, from pioneering scientific breakthroughs to having a positive economic and social impact on the communities in which they are located. Most importantly, though, colleges have a responsibility to mold the next generation–and that is precisely why they must be fixed.
It is the duty of government to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of race, color, creed, or beliefs. This is one of the rallying cries of the Left, one which has led to the imposition of “safe spaces,” “sanctuary campuses,” and “speech codes”. Those Orwellian terms are the manifestation of hyper-political correctness on campus, and paradoxically, though they are supposed to protect speech and promote equality, they ostracize and demonize traditional values to the point of absurdity.
I’m not going to go into great detail on the campus craziness that’s occurred in the past few years (I’ll let you Google it–check out Glenn Reynolds’ column in USA Today from last week, linked below), but suffice it to say that the inmates are running the asylum. Students (emboldened by radical faculty), have toppled administrations at the University of Missouri, Ithaca College, and Claremont McKenna College, among others. With administrations unwilling to check students and faculty, whose insistence on hyper-political correctness threatens the right to free speech that all students hold. Only government regulation (as much as it pains me to say), can force administrators to seize back control of campus, ensure the rights of all students are protected, and return colleges to forums of creative disagreement, where exposure to diverse viewpoints and ideas strengthens the minds and convictions of future Americans.
The plan I advance in this column will achieve two goals. Administrators will regain control of campus, a campus where all viewpoints will be protected. This will be accomplished by forcing the hand of administrators by hitting them in their pocketbooks, which will have the benefit of decreasing student loan obligations on both past and current students. I’ve borrowed some of this plan from a proposal put forth by Representative Thomas Reed (R-NY), in addition to research from the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
In order to remain tax-exempt, colleges will need to meet a stringent set of requirements in order to maintain their 501(c)3 status. The four most important elements of my plan are as follows:
From Reed’s plan
- Colleges with endowments over $1 billion must give at least 25% of the income from their endowments to students in grant financial aid. If a college does not meet this threshold, income on the endowment is taxable up to 35% after three years of non-compliance during which they are subject to financial penalties (taken from Reed’s plan). I would also establish percentage tiers for colleges with smaller endowments.
The Common Room’s Additions
- Any income from penalties or taxes is attributed to federal student loan forgiveness. As a point of comparison, according to data compiled by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Commonfund Institute for the year that ended June 2014, the value of the 832 endowments in the data was $516 billion, with an average return of 15.5 percent after fees for the fiscal year. If returns from endowments were currently taxed at 35 percent, the revenue would be an estimated $16.2 billion, according to a December study from the Congressional Research Service (Bloomberg).
- Colleges cannot increase tuition prices more than the rate of inflation.
- Colleges must meet certain standards of civic responsibility set by the Department of Education. In addition to putting their 501(c)3 status at risk, colleges with institutionalized safe spaces, speech codes, or other measures that limit the constitutional rights of any subset of students could be subject to decreased federal funding.
Though these are drastic measures (and ones that run contrary to my small government beliefs), the only way to save American higher education is to threaten the financial viability of the status quo. When the price of hyper-political correctness is fewer tenured faculty positions, a significant decrease in millions of dollars in research funding, and a freeze on construction on new buildings, administrators will steer colleges back to the American mainstream. Colleges will return to places where students are challenged by multiple ways of thinking while having access to increased debt-free financial aid. We must heed the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who aptly warned us of the danger that radicalism on campus poses to our democracy, saying “to educate a man in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”