ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Barely Believable Bias

October 22, 2014 by Alex McHugh

One of ACTA’s Oases of Excellence—the Alexander Hamilton Institute—recently released an interview with Hamilton College alumnus Elizabeth Farrington, one of the “first undergraduates to be nurtured by the AHI.” The interview primarily highlights how AHI supported her studies—Farrington was a brilliant student, winning the Putnam Prize in American History—but it also includes a peek into some barely-believable cases of bias and intellectual browbeating that she suffered at the hands of Hamilton’s faculty.

Farrington recalls two cases in particular. The first, from her freshman year:

One of my first papers in college was about Gertrude Stein’s "Three Lives." I happened not to enjoy the book, and so focused my paper on its failings. When I received the paper back, I was completely horrified to discover that I’d gotten an F. The professor’s comments filled the margins—things like "you write like a conservative," comparisons to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and the (still absurd) statement that "an intellectual reads with sympathy for the protagonist."

Without access to the AHI mentorship Farrington received, experiences like this could shut up a student for good. She describes feeling cowed by the experience and not speaking up in class. Not only a disservice to Farrington, this “lost” period robbed her classmates and professors of the ideas of a talented peer and student.

When the second incident occurred, Farrington was very involved on campus. She thanks AHI for the ability to “ultimately make [her] point” despite feeling “infuriated” during the incident. In the wake of an arguably offensive fraternity party, Hamilton convened a conference which Farrington attended. But the behavior of some faculty there was more offensive than the party itself. She relates:

A particular point of offense was that the invitations to the party featured a professional female golfer kissing a phallic-looking glass trophy … After discussion had ended, one professor continued to rail at the hurtfulness of the photo until one of the fraternity members actually showed it to him. He was visibly surprised by its banal lack of sexiness, but quickly recovered to tell us that “any woman” would find the image offensive. I told him that I (the only woman present at this point) had seen the image previously and was not offended. Surprised again, he proceeded to chastise me for being ignorant of the “history of womanhood” and “cut off from my femininity.”

Infuriating indeed! The professor eventually backpedaled, but later referred to the incident as an “educational moment.”

The idea that bullying of this sort is in any way educational is a pernicious one. It discourages students with minority viewpoints from voicing their opinions and encourages professors to use class time for political grandstanding at the expense of time spent actually teaching.

Thankfully, many students see this for what it is and—like Farrington—they learn to “avoid some of the more outrageous and aggressive professors” and find those who actually teach. Unfortunately, however, some may never learn to question what they’re taught and may, as Farrington did initially, simply retreat into silence when told their ideas aren’t valued. 

Comments

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FrancisChalk

October 24, 2014 - 8:48 AM |

Sadly, much of what passes for education at the university level is little more than Marxist indoctrination. The liberal arts are awash in unrepentant and terminal Leftism. Graduates of such programs are more ignorant than educated. Only be rejecting much of what’s taught can a student actually learn anything useful or true in any university curriculum other than engineering or the hard sciences.

Fred Baumann

October 24, 2014 - 8:49 AM |

Most of what you describe is indefensible, I agree.  But the “still absurd” claim that one should read with sympathy for the protagonist would make sense if it were revised to mean that before one can condemn a book one has to have tried to understand it from the viewpoint of the author’s intention.  This takes an effort which requires, at least initially, sympathy.  It’s at least possible that that, expressed snobbishly and inaccurately, is what your professor meant.

Peg

October 24, 2014 - 8:55 AM |

In 1969, my freshman year at U of WI Madison, I made a comment in my honors English class that “there are differences between men and women.”

My female professor then roundly pronounced that I sounded like “Hugh Hefner.”

Call me crazy, but 45 years later, I contend that Hugh and I were - and are - correct.

MMTown

October 24, 2014 - 9:11 AM |

This kind of article, along with Farrington’s tale, is useless without the professors being named.

Wendy

October 24, 2014 - 9:22 AM |

“But the “still absurd” claim that one should read with sympathy for the protagonist would make sense if it were revised to mean that before one can condemn a book one has to have tried to understand it from the viewpoint of the author’s intention.”

This sentence needs revision.

Art Deco

October 24, 2014 - 9:45 AM |

This kind of article, along with Farrington’s tale, is useless without the professors being named.

It’s not useless, but, yes, name ‘em and shame ‘em.  The four current faculty members whose stated expertise includes the period in which Gertrude Stein wrote are Tina Hall, Doran Larson, Benjamin Widiss, and Steven Yao.

Alan

October 24, 2014 - 9:47 AM |

And this is precisely why I’m doing my Masters at a Jesuit university. 
The stupidity level is almost zero.

Abacab

October 24, 2014 - 9:58 AM |

“But the “still absurd” claim that one should read with sympathy for the protagonist would make sense if it were revised to mean that before one can condemn a book one has to have tried to understand it from the viewpoint of the author’s intention.  This takes an effort which requires, at least initially, sympathy.  It’s at least possible that that, expressed snobbishly and inaccurately, is what your professor meant.””

Would the professor wish to apply the same standard to works with which he politically disagrees? In extremis, for instance, the autobiography of Rudolph Höss? Or Mein Kampf?

John Greene

October 24, 2014 - 10:04 AM |

Students to not have to put up with the propaganda of their leftist “educators”.  Join FIRE and Start a student free speech movement on your campus.  http://www.thefire.org/

Larry J

October 24, 2014 - 10:13 AM |

I have four young grandchildren. If the claims that one in five college women are sexually abused is true, then why should I encourage my granddaugher to go to college? And if the claim isn’t true, why should I encourage my three grandsons to attend college where one accusation and a kangaroo court can ruin their lives? One way or the other, it seems that college is too dangerous for my grandchildren.

Even if the current PC insanity blows over before they attend college (unlikely as the oldest are now 10), why should I want them to submit to years of political indoctrination masked as expensive education? The boys at least would be far better off learning a skilled trade that’s in demand such as welding, diesel engine mechanic, or machinist.

Daniel Kleitman

October 24, 2014 - 10:15 AM |

The strange thing about the first incident is that Gertrude Stein was a strong advocate of free enterprise as opposed to socialism. The left hated her and accused her of being right wing and hence pro-Nazi (though the Nazi’s were big government socialists themselves).

Steve S

October 24, 2014 - 10:23 AM |

I have to wonder how I would do in the university today…?

I had an English Professor who was about as opposite from me as could be. We battled throughout the semester. All of my papers came back dripping in red, as she disputed and countered me.

I got an A. She told me that I was the most engaging student that she ever had.

KKat

October 24, 2014 - 10:32 AM |

“he proceeded to chastise me for being ignorant of the “history of womanhood” and “cut off from my femininity.”

Feminism is to femininity as Intellectualism is to intelligence.  In the words of Bill Whittle, “Intellectualism is what happens to intelligence after it’s been sitting in the back of the refrigerator for seven months.”

Janice Lyons

October 24, 2014 - 10:33 AM |

Intellectual integrity is the victim in all this.

Rocinante3d

October 24, 2014 - 10:56 AM |

I remember quite clearly in my undergraduate days being forced to read all of Das Kapital.  My teacher was a card carrying communist from the United Kingdom no less and he made us read it all.  I was also forced to read books from the official organ of the Soviet Union.  This was in the early 1980’s.

My teacher actually said, “Piven & Cloward are the only way to solve the problem of the poor.”  It is extraordinary to say that not much has changed except the price of tuition. 

However they never shy away from calling me to ask for contributions.

Tex Taylor

October 24, 2014 - 11:30 AM |

I wonder how long it will be before even the most uninvolved of parent while still footing the collegian bill will recognize that 75% of the college curriculum is wasted time and resource, or worse Leftist indoctrination?

I went back to school for a second career in medicine and was truly taken back at what had happened to higher education in 30 years, and not for the better.

My bioethics class more resembled Marxism than it did the Hippocratic Oath.  I should add that many of the participants were right there with the feckless professor in opinion.

Will

October 24, 2014 - 11:47 AM |

While a student at Harvard, Michael Crichton kept receiving bad grades for his writing, which he thought was pretty good. He conducted an experiment where he retyped a George Orwell essay, word for word, and turned it in as his own work. He received a B- on the essay.

Rich

October 24, 2014 - 12:01 PM |

Will: re: He conducted an experiment where he retyped a George Orwell essay, word for word, and turned it in as his own work. He received a B- on the essay.

The problem with George was he left the fold and so anything he wrote has to be castigated.  He should have picked an approved leftest author to see what would happen

Chuck O

October 24, 2014 - 12:57 PM |

While a student at the University of Connecticut, my son spoke of blatant bigotry against conservative minded students. He also spoke of how students not of a liberal bent were considered less than human –particularly women. My son was an engineering major, and has since graduated. On recent conversations, he stated how difficult things were, particularly if you uttered an opinion contrary to that of the very liberal professors.

TBlakely

October 24, 2014 - 1:01 PM |

Unless you come from a wealthy family who can indulge you, nobody should go to college unless they want a degree in eng or a hard science.  Everything else is an utter waste of money and in many cases you end up more ignorant after college with all the drivel they currently pass off as an education.

Seriously, most kids leaving high school should go to a good trade school and learn a profession that they’ll enjoy and make a good living from.

mikesixes

October 24, 2014 - 3:03 PM |

Yeah, I got an F on a high-school paper on the The Grapes of Wrath because I argued that the Joads were primarily to blame for their own troubles. I was really offended by this, because my arguments were solid, but the teacher considered me impertinent for even considering anything but the ways in which society failed this poor family.

Marie

October 24, 2014 - 4:15 PM |

Ms. Farrington’s professor must not have been an intellectual; he did not read Ms. Farrington’s paper “with sympathy for the protagonist.”

Chris

October 24, 2014 - 5:17 PM |

  /\
  I  
Thread winner.

Jane

October 24, 2014 - 6:13 PM |

Regarding the professor who claimed Miss Farrington was cut off from her femininity, even back around 1976 I had a similar experience from a graduate student who was teaching a section of American literature.  From the glow of the newly created department of “women’s studies,” he rattled off a list of books I should read so that I’d understand what it means to be a woman.  I responded to his suggestion with polite silence. Privately I thought he was an idiot.

Art Deco

October 26, 2014 - 3:56 PM |

He should have picked an approved leftest author to see what would happen

The incident in question would have happened around 1962, when the academy was less of a monovox than it is today.  (Though you hear stories from that era; Paul Greenberg was tossed out of a graduate program in American history in 1960 (at Columbia University).  By his account, he was asked a mess of political questions during an oral examination.  One of the professors responsible for ejecting him slept through most of the exam).

Art Deco

October 26, 2014 - 4:10 PM |

Unless you come from a wealthy family who can indulge you, nobody should go to college unless they want a degree in eng or a hard science.  Everything else is an utter waste of money

About 60% of the degrees awarded at baccalaureate-granting institutions are in vocational subjects, so your advice is inapplicable for a comfortable majority of those enrolled. (In and among the vocational programs, there are terrible problems with teacher training and social work, of course).  I have some data issued by the state colleges in New Jersey.  The top arts-and-sciences majors at the sum of those six institutions are psychology and biology, the latter a natural science and the former (depending on the program) with a vocational aspect and a natural science aspect in addition to everything else.  Most graduating with an arts-and-sciences degree appear to have been outside dubious departments (English, History, Political Science, and Sociology).

David

October 29, 2014 - 6:00 PM |

I am a graduate of Hamilton College, and bemoan that the largest current student enrollment is in economics.  One professor recently had to schedule his intro class at 8 a.m., MWF, hoping to discourage the large enrollment backlog from choosing the course.

I have nothing against a grounding in this subject, but majoring in economics makes me wonder what the rationale is.  I fear entering freshmen do so for the wrong reasons—thinking that economics will be the best avenue to a job.  How sad to me it is to see these kids settling into a subject area most of them know nothing about, rather than the broader liberal arts that Hamilton has been known for over the last two hundred years.  What an unfortunate diversion of intellectual capital!

One must also note that liberal arts institutions are partly responsible for this, with the bias of many faculty agendas toward feminism, revisionism, indoctrination and repression of free thinking among their students.  And we know that entering students get the lowdown on certain professors and their teaching methods and basic fairness from upperclass students just after they arrive on campus and before they register for classes. 

 

fred baumann

December 30, 2015 - 8:50 AM |

Wendy:  You’re right; the sentence should have been revised.
Abacab:  Yes, even Mein Kampf.  For one thing you can’t understand your enemies unless you get inside their heads. But if you can’t understand them, you have problems fighting them.  In fact, I had to teach an excerpt of Mein Kampf once.  I did my (limited) best to think like the author, to see it his way.  But please realize that this is only a starting point.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to make a judgment on the worth of what you are reading. But you can’t really make it effectively if you don’t at first see the author’s intention.  And that can’t reliably be done without putting yourself, as best you can, in his place.  (Small point, Abacab—it’s Rudolph Hess,not Hoess. ) Big point:  it would be far better to hold the academic left to what they claim is their own principle when it comes to the many great books they trash on ideological grounds without even trying to see them sympathetically to begin with.  Plato and Shakespeare would be much better taught and understood by teachers who really followed the principle of sympathetic understanding and didn’t just find racism and sexism wherever their righteous eyes turned.

Aidan Annear

March 22, 2016 - 4:26 PM |

I’ve read the book and really enjoyed Google it. I like the idea of some exercises to do at the end of each Google Articles.

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