Human Nature on Campus


It’s always gratifying to see someone on the left openly acknowledge how Progressives really feel about freedom.

Harvard Logo (lrg)Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Sandra Y. L. Korn (Harvard Class of 2014) has called for the abolition of academic freedom, a principle she deems “a bit misplaced to me,” in favor of what she terms “a more rigorous standard: one of ‘academic justice.’”

“When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

“The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.”

Now there’s an honest young woman. No lip service to outdated American values like individual liberty. No tortured Obamaesque rationalizations of FCC plans to inspect broadcast news operations under the ruse of defending the First Amendment.

Sandra Y. L. Korn sees liberty as a flat-out obstacle — indeed a contradiction — to justice. And she insists it’s time to man-up (well, person-up) and cast the insidious idea of academic freedom into the ashcan of history.

Her view extends beyond scholarly research. She calls for cleansing university faculties of anyone entertaining ideas inconsistent with how Progressives might want their institutions to look. And as a salutary example she applauds the removal of one Subramanian Swamy, a Harvard summer instructor who imprudently published what she described as “hateful commentary about Muslims in India.” She noted how…

“the Harvard community organized to ensure that he would not return to teach on campus. I consider that sort of organizing both appropriate and commendable. Perhaps it should even be applied more broadly.”

Sandra Y. L. Korn then advocates taking similar action against other errant faculty…

“Does Government Professor Harvey Mansfield have the legal right to publish a book in which he claims that ‘to resist rape a woman needs … a certain ladylike modesty?’ Probably. Do I think he should do that? No, and I would happily organize with other feminists on campus to stop him from publishing further sexist commentary under the authority of a Harvard faculty position. ‘Academic freedom’ might permit such an offensive view of rape to be published; academic justice would not.”

I remember a time when it was scholars of leftish outlook — “speaking truth to power” on university campuses resistant to “change” — who stood behind the shield of academic freedom. Gone are those days.

Sandra Y. L. Korn does not acknowledge that the intellectual purging she advocates is now regularly applied in academic institutions — if less overtly. In fact, it’s pretty much standard operating procedure for faculty search committees and tenure-evaluation boards. But such a process is no doubt too discreet for her taste. Better to conduct public denunciations reminiscent of Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution.

Not surprisingly, Rush Limbaugh has gotten onto the story. World Net Daily quotes him as making a cogent point…

“‘This is not unique. This is not satire. This is not parody,’ Limbaugh said on his nationally broadcast radio program Tuesday. ‘This woman, Sandra Korn, is real, and she’s serious that free speech needs to be abridged because it is threatening liberalism. It means that liberalism cannot hold up to scrutiny. It cannot withstand a challenge. If liberalism were infallible, if liberalism were so powerful and automatic, they would welcome challenges to it — and they would welcome the attempt to persuade and to convert. But instead they’re threatened by it.’”

Rush goes on to cast a wider net…

“‘This is what the left is,’ he explained. ‘Why do you think they want to get rid of this program [Limbaugh’s]? Why do you think they want to get rid of Fox News? Why do they want to silence criticism? What is Obama’s modus operandi? Eliminate the opposition. This is already a movement!’”

Of course, Rush is just an old, unreconstructed right-winger.

But academics themselves suffer from the mode of thinking that can give rise to a Sandra Y. L. Korn (an intelligent and studious young woman, no doubt — I cast no personal aspersions, never having met her nor even known that she existed until her little manifesto hit the news). Indeed, the average university campus today is a virtual minefield through which even the most Progressive-minded scholar must tread with the utmost care.

Ask University of Iowa President Sally Mason, who had to apologize for what would seem a most innocuous answer to a question about campus sexual assaults put to her the university’s newspaper, The Daily Iowan. As reported by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Dr. Mason said…

“I’m not pleased that we have sexual assaults, obviously. The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault.”

So far, so good. But then she added…

“That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that’s unfortunate, but the more we understand about it, the better we are at trying to handle it and help people get through these difficult situations.”

Now, I know nothing about Dr. Mason or her views. But given that she has risen to the presidency of an American university at this particular moment in our intellectual history, I feel relatively safe in assuming she’s probably not a regular Rush Limbaugh listener.

Was Dr. Mason diminishing the moral evil of rape? Dismissing its damaging psychological effects? Was she even making a point similar to that of Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield about the relevance of “ladylike modesty”?

Hardly. She was expressing a hope for greater insight into the dynamics of sexual assault — which certainly sounds like a scholarly view.

Yet her remark sparked outrage. Along with the requisite campus demonstrations. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that…

“Some interpreted her comment to mean that sexual assault is human nature, which led to the creation of a website called The group rallied virtually [collecting] hundreds of signatures on an online petition asking UI to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault, reform its assault communication, provide funding for educational prevention measures that address what they call a rape culture on campus, and for Mason to publicly apologize for the statements in the newspaper article.”

I’ve never been on the UI campus, so I don’t know what might be happening there that could approach the level of pervasive wickedness suggested by the term “rape culture.” But it was predictable that someone would take this opportunity to demand more funding. Which means more research money. Which means more stipends and assistantships. Maybe even a paid sabbatical to study sexual assault prevention methods at other schools around the country.

But really now, nothing Dr. Mason said would seem to justify the pique seen at UI, right up to a special session of the university’s Board of Trustees called to discuss her transgression.

Actually, her transgression was far more subtle than it appeared, though no less disturbing to Progressive sensibilities. Dr. Mason had dared to suggest that there is something called “human nature,” a fundamental essence, a deep unchanging core within the hearts of men and women.

Whether or not she intended it, Dr. Mason was making a religious point. She was saying that there is a thing, a place, a center that encapsulates the uniqueness and dignity which Judaism and Christianity identify in each individual human being. Something that has both positive and negative aspects, that is capable of sin and redemption, but that tends to resist Progressivist schemes for human improvement.

And that truth is intolerable in today’s academic environment. Because it demands recognition of the individual’s freedom — freedom to espouse views that are pleasing or views that are offensive — which Sandra Y. L. Korn and her Progressive cohorts reject in favor of whatever arbitrary and transient justice might be defined by current intellectual fancy.

The motto of Harvard is “Veritas.”


How goes the progress of pursuing truth at that venerable institution?



Harvard Logo (sml)Here’s a link to Sandra Y. L. Korn’s Harvard Crimson essay…


World Net Daily LogoPlus one to the World Net Daily report on what Rush had to say…


Press-Citizen LogoAnd to the Iowa City Press-Citizen story on campus furor over the UL president’s remark about human nature…


UPDATEAmerican Thinker Logo

The conservative online journal, American Thinker, is running a slightly edited version of this post at…


Stubborn Things LogoI’m pleased to note that a site called Stubborn Things has also picked up the piece…



  1. Tom says

    Bill — Excellent analysis! You’re really on to something here. It seems like this nation — and much of the “civilized” world — is entering a period somewhat akin to China’s Cultural Revolution. Note the targets of the animus: It’s not young people. It’s people who are engaged in, as the Red Guard used to term it, “old thinking.” The vitality of the new thought is found in the vanguard of youth and those who feel compelled to indoctrinate our youth. I believe that this movement is still in its infancy, but it is gaining momentum. It began with a media and academically driven consensus on those things which were considered to be “politically correct,” and has advanced to the point where certain opinions are now actually considered to be verboten. The use of the law to silence opposition thought (not action, mind you, but thought), is starting to gain speed. Those who embrace this new thought can and will use the law and threats of societally protected violence to enforce their positions (see the “Occupy Wall Street” movement or the French riots of 2005 and 2012, as examples). It will only get worse. There will be a push-back as well. The result will be chaos and martial law. I suspect that America and the rest of the so-called “Free World” have already gone past the tipping point, and that we can expect trouble in the years to come.

  2. Kimberly says

    Progressives loathe freedom. It’s only a good tool when they need it to gain power. Once in power, they must demolish it, lest anyone else gain from it as they did.

    Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  3. Al says

    I’m in favor of the Reasonable/Realistic Movement. Absolutes and who determines absolutes are a dangerous path to follow. Sally Mason’s comments were realistic. An ideal would be no more sexual assaults. The reality is that no matter the school’s policy, they are going to happen. She was not giving a nod to sexual assault at all. She was saying make the best of a bad situation when it happens. And it will be happy. The “just say no” fantasy is just that, a fantasy.

  4. says

    Oh, you little conservative types are inviting all kinds of persecution. I mean, just look at the way you’re dressed — you’re really asking for it, you know. You wanted it, even though you said no, we know what you REALLY meant was yes. It wouldn’t happen if you were good or if you didn’t invite it or if it wasn’t God’s will.

    Smell the irony? No?

    Okay, go back to Fox News and swallow the Kool-Aid. I’ll go back to academia so I can think up all kinds of new ways to deprive your kind of what you think is your liberty. You know, because I don’t have anything better to do all day, like work.

    Doh! I did it again!

    Bill’s posts inspire that reaction in me :)

    • Bill Kassel says

      “Dear Dr. Galileo:

      “I regret to inform you that the Academic Standards Committee has decided not to grant you tenure.

      “The research you have been doing into the movement of celestial bodies is so deeply offensive to Christian beliefs and feelings that we are convinced it does not represent academic justice or reflect how our students, faculty and workers see the university.

      “Your service will conclude at the end of the current academic year.

      “We wish you the best of luck.”

      That’s sort of how we’ve always heard the story, isn’t it, Dana? You comfortable with that?

  5. says

    Galileo was proven correct, as I recall, with evidence to back him up — not the fake kind that Ken Ham uses for his argument, mind you, but the credible, reproducible kind that withstands the rigors of peer review :)

    A couple of Popes threatened him and punished him, and with more than denial of tenure. Imprisonment, right? Could have been worse, of course. Penalties under the benevolence and grace of the Catholic Church were a bit more stiff back in the day.

    BTW, is that clown Lawrence Summers still working at Harvard? I don’t think peer reviewed studies support his hypothesis, either, but the right cried foul over the flack he took for voicing it.

    My personal experience has been that tenure and continued employment in academics, like most everything else, comes down to dollars. You get funding and raise the standing of the Institution (and don’t do stupid things like sleep with students, steal money, or tick off your department chair), you can keep your job.

    Interesting argument you make for fixed human nature and external control over one’s moral compass by a deity — “She was saying that there is a thing, a place, a center that encapsulates the uniqueness and dignity which Judaism and Christianity identify in each individual human being. Something that has both positive and negative aspects, that is capable of sin and redemption, but that tends to resist Progressivist schemes for human improvement.” I don’t believe in the devil on the right shoulder/angel on the left (or is it the other way around?) any more than I believe that what’s in our DNA absolutely defines us and is immutable. We’re far more complex than that. I’m sure you and I would disagree on the external and internal drivers, but I believe we can agree on the matter of choice and personal responsibility.

    Always fun to check out what’s going on with the other side. Thanks :)

    • Bill Kassel says

      It’s a much-repeated falsehood that Galileo was imprisoned. Actually, he was sentenced to what today we’d call “house arrest,” and he continued in his studies and wide-ranging scholarly correspondence for the rest of his life.

      In any event, the fact that Galileo was eventually proven correct underscores the point of my little flight of historical fancy. I know it’s painful to consider the possibility, but what if some bit of wild, anti-feminist conjecture was eventually substantiated by independent, peer-reviewed research? Wouldn’t that validate the original offensive hypothesis? And wouldn’t it be wrong if that subsequent research had been prohibited because of ideological objections?

      Your comments are always interesting, Dana, and I enjoy receiving them. But Ms. Korn’s Harvard Crimson essay really demands a simple answer to a basic question: Do you believe in academic freedom?

  6. says

    At one point in history, eugenics (a study supported by racism), was considered legitimate science. It was wrong, it was hatred-inspired propaganda, and it led to all manner of evils. Do you believe this falls under the umbrella of academic freedom? I don’t. Propaganda and efforts to subvert the rights of one or more groups of people disguised as academics or religion is not something I support. I see gray areas in the many fields, and politics do become involved on the right or left from time to time, of course, but on this issue? No way, buddy.

    House arrest, was it? Ah, it appears they were soft on crime! Ah, my mistake, obviously.

    I’ll answer your question, show me the evidence supporting what you call anti-feminist conjecture supported by independent, peer reviewed research, and I will treat it with the same level of objectivity and skepticism that I apply to, well, everything. I’d love to see the evidence. I’ve yet to find it anywhere. I find plenty of rants from angry, blustering, media-loving Limbaugh-types, but not evidence.

    I would be very curious to know how your wife, daughter (if you have one), or any other woman for whom you care feels about the conservatives’ obsession with blocking pay equality measures, reproductive freedom (not event the A-word, mind you, but access to mammograms, pap smears, and contraception), ‘legitimate rape’ (explain THAT one — as a human being I challenge you to defend that non-sense), and blatant lack of scientific understanding underscored in comments like “a woman’s body rejects pregnancy if she’s raped.”

    You can see where this is going, right?

    Can you defend this? Would you?

    • Bill Kassel says

      Let’s try this another way…

      What if that subsequent research were to demonstrate conclusively that our little bit of wild, anti-feminist conjecture was entirely false. Wouldn’t it have been worth giving a specious theory its moment in the sun if its flaws are ultimately revealed?

      Such a possibility, in itself, argues for academic freedom — or so it seems to me.

      In any event, your list of presumed conservative opinions might suggest a number of interesting blog topics. We can debate each of them in turn, if and when I write those posts.

      For now, I take it that your position on the question of academic freedom is that you support it — sometimes … for some people … under certain circumstances … maybe.

  7. says

    So, when the Nazis were investigating the superiority of the Aryan race, with so-called scientific experts lobbying for the extermination of Jews, should we have allowed the flawed hypothesis to continue its course under the name of academic freedom? You support ‘freedom’ in absolute terms, as I am interpreting from your statements.

    Yes, we can debate many things, I am sure. Perhaps I’ll revisit your blog when you do, but in the meantime, I challenge you to think about some of these things from the POV of women, particularly those you know. It is much more difficult to trample over human rights if you know the human in question.

    Thanks for the fun debate!

  8. Brad Nelson says

    This is a great article. Thanks, Bill.

    I rarely mince words. And this won’t be one of the times: If you are a Cultural Marxist (aka, a “Progressive” or socialist), you are morally and intellectually ill.

    The thing about Cultural Marxism is that is has no coherent governing philosophy. It is just like a virus entering a healthy body — which it can surely take over and subvert. But other than subverting the normal functions, it has no way of governing the body.

    Cultural Marxism (political correctness, multiculturalism, social justice, “equality,” Communism, etc.) is a virus-like belief system. Underpinning all of Cultural Marxism is the idea that the majority (the white, male, capitalist, heterosexual, Christian majority) is an oppressive force that must be split up.

    Thus Cultural Marxism is based upon an endless number of “victim” splinter groups. And there just is no “off” switch in regards to this grievance-based view the world. That is, there is, and can be, no governing philosophy other than endless destruction of “reactionaries.” The Left lives on this. That’s why Jonah Golderg (and others) have rightly called them “Liberal Fascists.”

    That your average low-information voter thinks he is “saving he planet” (or whatever) by believing these idiots shows both their laziness/narcissism and/or the successful marketing of the Left. At the end of the day, one must give them that.

    It might one day occur to these brainiac low information voters that the “liberals” they keep supporting are quite illiberal. But can we expect those who can’t see through the scam of the supermarket “club card” (where prices are raised artificially then, with a special card, they come back down to their usual level) to see (especially women, frankly) through the scam of Cultural Marxism?

    But if we must condense things down to sound bytes for the edification of the low information voter, here’s one: Why is it always the homosexual’s feelings and inclinations that matter and no one else’s? Who died and made them God? The same regarding the feminazis. Why are only the sensibilities of these man-hating zealots to be respected and those of no one else?

    NOTE: Brad Nelson is editor of the online journal, Stubborn Things, which has reproduced my article. You can check in with Stubborn Things at…

  9. says

    You shouldn’t name-call, Mr. Nelson. It’s not nice.

    *bats eyes and blows kisses*

    Your friendly neighborhood feminist who loves her man just fine but thinks you’re kind of sad and angry. They make medication for that. :)

  10. Eileen says

    “The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.” (Sandra Y. L. Korn )

    Is Sandra also aware that the power to end this Marxist political indoctrination also comes from the same sources?

    Seriously! If universities campus classrooms were filled to the brim with young adults who were fully educated in, and completely committed to, and capable of defending the “Faith of their Fathers,” their godless Marxist professors would wither in the face of their righteousness. Godless Marxism could NOT stand!

    Today, nearly every teacher in this nation (from pre-K through university graduate school) was trained by godless Marxists in Marxist-run colleges and universities. Yet — Conservatives and Christians are oblivious to the danger to their children and to our nation! This **IS** OUR NATION’S MOST SERIOUS THREAT!!!!!

    While conservatives run around like flies with their wings pulled off, chasing the latest political crisis of the day, the Marxists are laughing at us. They have the kids!

    (Yes, I am shouting, jumping up and down, and having a fit! )

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