Monday, September 10, 2007

UCSC – Most Socialist Campus in America?

FrontPage Magazine has named my Alma Mater the “Worst School in America.” Not because of our academic standing, but due to the overtly leftist position some of the departments at the school take. You can read their whole piece here, and for some background on FrontPage, their Wikipedia page should suffice.

I normally feel that I should come to the defense of my old university when someone calls it the “Worst in America,” but I don’t know if their criticism lacks validity. I recommend anyone picking up a copy of the UCSC course catalogue and synopses: class after class, full of blatantly far-leftist drivel.

But I disagree with the assumption that everyone going through the humanities at UCSC ends up believing in or going along with the opinion of the standing professor. I don’t even have a problem with a professor taking a principled stance and making their ideology clear to the class and the world. The professor’s ideology only becomes an issue if he/she belittles reasonable questions and positions made by students who do not share their world view.

It was actually UCSC’s leftist reputation that initially attracted me to the school when I was a young doe-eyed socialist radical. With dreams of taking part in the next proletarian revolution, I gleefully enrolled in the fall of 2000, and took well to the environment the school “sponsored.”

It was not until after 9/11 and the War in Afghanistan that I started to see the “open” and “pluralistic” environment at the school was not nearly as accepting and as accommodating as I had previously assumed. I worked as a maintenance man throughout college, and was involved in the local AFSCME union that most university laborers were organized under. There was a fight in 2002 (or was it 2003?) to get all dinning hall workers into our union. I was supportive of the cause, but there was fear amongst some workers that they would lose their jobs if they organized because they were not legal migrants. When I brought this up to some of the “Student Labor Supporters” I was chastised for helping “create fear” by asking such questions. Of course, none of these students would be losing their “jobs” if things didn’t go well; they were playing communist revolutionary and they didn’t need to ask the hard questions that the working folks actually did. To claim I was supporting union busting because I brought this up was pretty shocking at the time, and I can almost trace my drift away from the left to that moment.

What is the point of that little story? The point I am trying to make is that I don’t think having radicals as professors is the problem; it’s the environment the students create by crushing all debate and points of view that contradict theirs. I can honestly say that my grades never suffered when I took an unpopular stance that did not match well with the professor’s. The way I was seen in the eyes of my fellow students, was a different issue altogether.

Having said that, shouldn’t UCSC be more responsible by actually putting teachers into each department that deviate from the party line? Shouldn’t this theoretically help bring about a more vibrant debate on the campus and in the minds of its student body? Not only do I want Marxists and Anarchists putting forth their best arguments, I want Liberals, Objectivists, Nationalists, Fascists, Conservatives, Christians, Muslims…you get the point. I want all of those ideas to be given some respect by putting someone in the school who can truly advocate for them. Now that would be a revolutionary university!

(The picture is the view from Cowell College, one of the schools at the University, and the place I worked as a maintenance man for 4 years.)