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Two Intellectual Loves Lost

By: Bradley C.S. Watson
November 23, 2015

When I arrived in Claremont in the fall of 1990, to commence graduate studies in political science, two things quickly became apparent: I would be studying mostly with faculty from Claremont McKenna College, and—not coincidentally—CMC was an institution that was different. It was at CMC—and only there, among the Claremont Colleges (or almost anywhere else for that matter), that my two intellectual loves—constitutionalism and political philosophy—could be seriously pursued. For generations, CMC has in effect drawn not just undergraduates, but graduate students interested in political science, thereby being a particularly good citizen of Claremont’s unique “Oxford-style” cluster of colleges. And alone among the Claremont colleges, or among virtually any other elite institutions in America, CMC was recognized for its refusal to genuflect before the gods of political correctness. Much of CMC’s reputation, and that of the neighboring graduate university that draws heavily on the faculty of the Claremont Colleges, is linked to these facts. Far from being a conservative institution, CMC for as long as I have known it has been a diverse institution: dominantly liberal, but with a healthy and intellectually formidable minority of conservative faculty concentrated in the government and economics departments.

Diversity is what has made CMC a particularly rich target of opportunity for the forces now amassing on campuses nationwide. These forces dedicate themselves to promoting an even greater degree of intellectual conformity than currently exists at institutions of higher learning—not to mention a dour apartheid of “safe spaces.”

A recent, widely circulated video shows that these forces are now as loud and obnoxious at CMC as anywhere in the nation. Watching it, one might conclude that CMC is chock-full of the “marginalized” who have suffered the repeated sting of “microaggressions” over the course of their short, sad lives. And “micro” is a key adjective and prefix. As attendees of one of the most competitive, expensive, and prestigious colleges on the planet, these shouting members of the microaggressed community no doubt find large-scale aggression hard to proclaim with a straight face—much less document. Real or imagined teeny-weeny aggressions—and one suspects there are far more of the latter than the former—seem to have multiplied at CMC, as the grievance culture has grown. All this has reached fever pitch under the apparent reign of terror of the current CMC president. But what can one expect as CMC administrations in recent years have themselves encouraged the college to throw off its unique former identity so that it may keep up with the spirit of the age?

A widely-circulated snippet from the aforementioned video gives only an inkling of the rot at CMC. In it, an Asian woman causes her fellow protesters to shift uncomfortably, grumble audibly, and lead her aside when she remarks that “black people can be racist,” and insists that we must see people “individually.” But that is just the tip of an iceberg.

The full video is far more damning, and is must-viewing for anyone interested in the infantilization of higher education in America. CMC’s president, Hiram Chodosh, walks to the stake…er…stage, at about the 18 minute mark. It’s hard to conjure a more shameful or humiliating performance by a grown man—and certainly not one that a self-respecting man, or the board of trustees to whom he reports, can allow to be repeated. President Chodosh seems not to have read Tom Wolfe’s "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers"—or if he has, he didn’t realize Wolfe was mocking the unfortunate bureaucrats whose job in the liberal white establishment was to look concerned, take abuse, and be gamed by the race-hustlers all around them.

The CMC president bears witness to an hour or more of foul-mouthed whining and shouting from the junior Committee of Public Safety, the whole point of which is to berate him, his oh-so-caring dean of students (who subsequently resigned), and the entire institution he leads. He seems to accept at face value the protesters’ grab-bag of grievances and proposed solutions, ranging from temporary and permanent safe-spaces to diversity training and curricular revisions.

At the end—the ritual humiliation having exhausted itself, the show trial called to a close, the auto-da-fé complete—the immensely privileged barbarians posing as students run off to a purportedly safer space, leaving the president to strip his sleeve and show his scars, hoping (probably in vain) for the approbation of progressive elites everywhere. But for them…“never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”