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Are Universities Morphing Into Orwellian States?

Are Universities Morphing Into Orwellian States?

© Wit Olszewski | Dreamstime.com

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Tuesday, 28 January 2020 08:50 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The Americans are experimenting with methods similar to China's social credit system. By tracking student movements and regulating faculty to standards of political correctness, they risk socializing young people to the methods of high-tech authoritarian state control.

Syracuse University, the University of North Carolina and others are installing wi-fi apps and Bluetooth devices to monitor class attendance and visits to libraries, recreation centers, dining halls and potentially every other campus location. These create profiles that faculty and administrators can use to reward good learning habits, flag mental health issues, and impel students to modify personal habits to norms of model student behavior.

For the typical 18-year old, college is a place between adolescence and adult life without a net where they refine their executive skills by managing the competing demands of five or six courses, reasonable and not so reasonable professors, and academic and social lives.

Students have to get themselves out of bed in the morning, attend class and learn to be disciplined about study time - Mom is not there to manage their lives. And that's a good thing, because she won't be with them at their first job - and can't do much to help them land one.

By rewarding model student behavior from breakfast to bedtime, these electronic nannies can deprive students of an important hardening process - the success and disappointment that go with good and bad choices.

That's what creates resilient adults able to cope with unreasonable bosses, tough career choices, and stress in personal relationships when college counseling services are no longer an easy walk across campus.

It's a short leap to thought control.

If universities monitor students' class attendance and other activities, they can easily learn what they read, their associations and ideas they embrace. And sort those good from bad through the prism of hard-left values so prevalent at our universities.

Several campuses at the University of California and elsewhere now require candidates for faculty positions to sign diversity, equity and inclusion statements that profess commitments to specific social goals. Hiring rubrics are emerging that instruct search committees to grade candidates to DEI standards by assessing their activities.

These are little more than political litmus tests and terribly reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths that required faculty to swear they were not members of the Communist Party. And those are reflective of pervasively enforced campus codes that compromise freedom of thought and speech.

Over the last several decades, broadly understood norms requiring faculty and students to abstain from intolerant speech or enabling bigotry have morphed into codes of behavior and disciplinary tribunals. Those investigate students and faculty for posing ideas other faculty, students and administrators decide are homophobic, racially charged or otherwise out of step with more enlightened, post Eurocentric thought.

Legitimate course content that challenges students to question liberal orthodoxy - or an innocent turn of phrase twisted by a disgruntled student or aggressive radical - can land faculty in the dean's office, bring down harsh sanctions, or cost them their jobs.

Try to get a decent raise, support for research or fairness in course scheduling if you don't toe the liberal line or even have research interests colleagues consider inappropriate.

Trust me, my decades in the asylum taught me the latter.

As a defensive mechanism, instructors are removing material from syllabuses that challenges cultural norms, values and prejudices. A professor of film at CUNY has dropped "Birth of Nation" because it deals with racism and "Tootsie" because it brings up too many gender stereotypes.

Americans are rightly agitated by the likes of Google and Facebook tracking our web surfing, shopping and physical movements, and then trading data to advertisers, political operatives and even the veiled agents of foreign governments to peddle products, candidates and fake ideas.

The advent of web monitoring, smart cities, and facial recognition will equip authorities with the ability to both identify and pre-empt terrorists and the simply deranged before they act.

But those could also permit population control and social credit systems similar to those China's President Xi Jinping has established in the Western province of Xinjiang to pacify Muslims and is now planning to build out throughout China.

Stepford students who act and speak as automated liberal scholars will emerge into adult life quite comfortable with their ideas and activities tightly controlled..

Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1

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Electronic surveillances, speech codes don't let students become independent free thinkers
universities, orwellian, states, students
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2020-50-28
Tuesday, 28 January 2020 08:50 AM
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