I had the opportunity to revisit Bellevue College yesterday morning, and during the period after I had left academia, primarily for the above reasons, I had harbored fantasies of slow and subtle improvements in the state of academic freedom and free expression on campus. Especially freedom from the clutches of one particularly Marxist social ideology that has been pumped through the minds and coursework of students in the forms of multiculturalism, feminism, anti-racism, and moralistic rhetoric about economic disparity. I wasn't surprised by what I saw, but I was rather depressed. In about five minutes wandering around campus, I observed these five minor but subtly telling indications:
- An article in The Watchdog heralding the election to Seattle City Council of socialist Kshama Sawant as bringing a "new, sexier age in Seattle politics, where idealism doesn't always take a backseat to bureaucracy, political paradigms, and corporate agendas."
- Another article in The Watchdog detailing Bellevue College's paying for 17 students (at around $100 a piece) to attend this year's Budget Matters conference, an explicitly progressive-liberal conference that I attended myself last year, primarily focused on disseminating and enacting their variety of economic policies,
- A flyer for an upcoming informational lecture on Obamacare, to be given by two public health government employees
- Another flyer for a lecture series on such things as "dealing with difficult people," "influence and negotiation," and "communication techniques for leaders."
- The continued existence of Bellevue College's infamous bias incident policy, a policy that FIRE representative Azhar Majeed called a "pretty terrible policy and rather restrictive of free speech rights."
The first four points are not particularly worrisome by themselves, but when viewed together under the stark light of the diversity and equality-oriented political rhetoric of everything the school does, it paints a very troubling picture of the schools' administrative priorities, and of the effect on student perspectives these priorities are having. It would appear that in higher education, ideological conformity and social mobilization are being put in the driver's seat while free inquiry, skepticism and learning generally are relegated to the passenger seat, or the trunk. In some cases, the side of the road is the most apt metaphor.