Victor Davis Hanson

Our Psychodramatic Campuses

by Victor Davis Hanson  // PJ Media 

Dartmouth College students recently staged an overnight sit-in the office of

Dartmouth College circa 1834

Dartmouth College circa 1834

their president Philip Hanlon. They had over seventy demands. Apparently, they grew out of their alleged suffering at the hands of “racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, trans-homophobic, xenophobic, and ablest structures.”

Translating into English, the students elaborated, “Our bodies are already on the line, in danger, and under attack” — suggesting conditions similar to the teen-aged Marines who stormed Fallujah in November 2004, or perhaps the iron-workers who tip-toe on girders 1,000 feet above Manhattan, or an acquaintance of mine whose work clothes reveal that he pumps out quite messy rural cesspools. As redress for their suffering, the oppressed students issued Orwellian calls to ban particularly hurtful vocabulary, to create new faculty positions based entirely on race, and to ensure gender-neutral student housing.

Most of the students represent the .01% of American society. They can enjoy their four- to five-year hiatus from the American rat race, either due to wealthy parents or to charity in the forms of grants that allow them to pay the $60,000 per year plus in room, board, and tuition. Again, most Americans either do not have such money or access to such money to afford the quarter-million-dollar “under attack” Dartmouth experience.

President Hanlon apparently felt the students’ pain of what they had called “micro-aggressions,” or the day-to-day psychodramatic angst that these young elites feel that are their own versions of the world of the Wal-Mart checker, the roofer in Delano who nails in 105 degree August heat, or the tractor driver who has disked half-mile long rows day in and day out on the farm. If you have never done such things, and you have $60,000 a year to spend on Dartmouth, then I suppose you could conceivably dream up a micro-aggression of being tortured to read woman for womyn, or having to use either the boys’ or girls’ bathroom.

The odd thing is that the students did have a point about the university’s illiberal oppression, but hardly in the manner that they had dreamed. About every year, the Dartmouth board of trustees meets to announce that undergraduate tuition for the upcoming academic year will rise about five percent over the current year’s tuition rate. When they add in similar increases in room and board, the price tag for this next academic year will easily exceed $60,000. In defense of such indulgence, Dartmouth, like other Ivy League atolls, then reminds parents and students that the real costs are about $120,000 and the difference subsidized by gifts and endowments.

But why do very liberal universities do very illiberal things like raise their costs consistently above the rate of inflation, for which, in similar circumstances, food markets or gas stations would be chastised? And why do very liberal professors over the last three decades insist on teaching fewer classes for more money, in a world where nurses do not serve fewer patients for greater salaries? And why do universities in general depend on graduate teachers, part-time lecturers and adjunct faculty to teach many courses that are identical to those taught by full, tenured faculty at rates of compensation three times higher — in an exploitative way that Target or Costco would be fined for? And why, if students are suffering from such micro-aggressions, do they have dorms and student unions and recreation centers that have metamorphosized from the motel like conditions of the past into Club Med resorts, with indoor pools, rock-climbing walls, and Starbucks latte bars?

The point is that the Dartmouth students themselves are creations of the very exploitation they project onto others. They and their faculties enjoy privileges undreamed up by 99.9% of the population. DeVry and Phoenix trade schools cannot afford to offer Dartmouth-like race, class, and gender courses to contextualize their accounting, computer programming and nursing programs because none of their students have the cash for such psychodramatic indulgences. Our aggrieved .01% can play act that they are embattled, precisely because free market capitalism gave them those dramatic opportunities in a way unknown in Mexico or the Congo.

So in the spirit of the egalitarian anguish of the Dartmouth students, I offer to the protestors a sample revolutionary proposal to president Hanlon:

“We, the Dartmouth micro-aggressed students, demand that the college hire no more part-time or adjunct faculty unless they are compensated in the comparable fashion to our regular professors. We insist our faculty face the same sort of accountability that all the service workers must face at Dartmouth, and therefore demand an end to lifelong guaranteed employment that tenure ensures. We insist that we be allowed to double up in our dorm rooms to ensure room and board costs remain affordable for the less well off among us. We demand student enablers who can identify all the superfluous .01% comfort indulgences that are both antithetical to our working-class shared values and likewise drive up expenses for the indigent among us. We demand further a mandatory BA exit exam in basic math and English to certify that we were given a proper educational product for the exorbitant Dartmouth $250,000 price tag of our educations.

“Furthermore to cut overhead, we ask the university to allow those privileged among us whose parents can pay full room, board, and tuition to adopt a less well off Dartmouth student, and thereby directly to pay their full costs as well, in an envisioned ‘Adopt a Poor Guy Program.’ We ask for an end to privileged student internships and summer programs abroad and in our major elite cities, but instead insist that we are sent to work along side carrot pickers in Huron, lumberjacks in Medford, and frackers in North Dakota to learn first hand the trauma of what the muscular classes suffer each day at the hands of the financial elite that has subsidized our educations.

“Finally, to equalize admission and remove the inherent and odious class biases that so arbitrarily punish the proletariat, we demand an end to SAT scores and GPA requirements that so obviously reflect unwarranted privilege. Instead to diversify our student body, we demand a five-part admission check list, entailing 1) demonstrable ability at welding, 2) the ability to do basic wiring, 3) proof of a one-year internship at Wal-Mart or Costco, 4). Evidence of at least three months of waitressing at a major chain restaurant, and 5) one-year residence in an inner city neighborhood. Unless our demands are met, we will destroy all latte machines on campus and wreck all the stair-masters in our fitness centers.”

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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