Universities Have Infantilized Their Students, Here's How to Reverse That


There's a rather marked difference between the college demonstrators of today and the ones of the 1960s. The demonstrators of today demand more regulations, rules, programs, agencies, for their goals. The demonstrators of the 1960s demanded breaking down rules that held down an entire class of individuals in the United States, and they acted in their own power. The demonstrators of today cede their power to another entity, and are doing the exact opposite of empowerment: they are infantilizing themselves, and colleges seem more than happy to help.

Since that time, the number of minority students has greatly increased in higher education. As Dr. Jordan Zimmerman of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development writes, this increase in minority students has also seen a parallel rise in the number of administrative staff at colleges.

These years also witnessed a dramatic shift in patterns of university employment, away from faculty and towards administrators. In 1975, universities had almost twice as many professors as administrators; 40 years later, the administrators outnumber the faculty. Over this span, the number of ‘executive, administrative, and managerial employees’ at universities rose by 85 per cent; meanwhile, so-called ‘professional staff’ – accountants, counsellors, and so on – ballooned by an astonishing 240 per cent. Part of the reason lay in the perverse economic competition between different schools, which offered a host of new student services and amenities in order to attract more paying customers. There was also a growing maze of federal and state regulations, which required new teams of officers to ensure compliance. Consider the recently promulgated federal instructions under Title IX of the US education code, which requires universities to establish systems for preventing and punishing sexual assault. That in turn forces them to hire dozens of counsellors and investigators, lest the universities run afoul of the new rules.

In other words, one of the unintended consequences of the Civil Rights movement was that colleges had to become more bureaucratized in order to keep up with the demands. That's unfortunate, because the bureaucracy makes college more expensive for everyone.

The cost of college is one of these consequences, but there is now the consequences of infantilization in Dr. Zimmerman's assessment. With a large bureaucracy administering an almost innumerable amount of regulations and guidelines, the students at these colleges have often come to believe that any problem they have must also have a solution from the all-powerful bureaucracy.

Officials are expected to remove every trace of racism, ranging from outright bigotry to smaller ‘microaggressions’; examples include asking a minority student if she is from ‘the ghetto’, or whether she was admitted to school under affirmative action. Protesters in November demanded that universities institute penalties for these types of comments, like mandatory diversity training for miscreants.

Restrictions on speech at public universities have been found unconstitutional by just about every single court in the United States, yet the demands continue. And if they are not met by the bureaucrats, the students will take things into their own hands, and form mobs to literally shut down an opposing speaker's event (such has happened to Ben Shapiro and Charles Murray, just to name two).

This is no formula for a free and thriving people. This kind of behavior shows a low-level of emotional and social maturity. (I'd contend that constantly appealing to a higher entity stunts growth in these areas). Dr. Zimmerman has several recommendations.

We might start by encouraging students to revive older traditions of direct action, which would leverage their own power instead of ceding yet more of it to university officials. If you’re the target of racial slights or insults, don’t wait for your school to institute yet another speech code or diversity training: organise your own teach-ins and rallies, where students can enlighten each other. If sexual assault is rife on campus, don’t rely on administrators to eliminate it: stage protests outside dormitories and fraternity houses, reminding everyone what goes on inside of them. If the school newspaper prints an article that offends you, don’t tell the university to de-fund the paper: publish your own online blogs and journals, and circulate them far and wide.

A free people organize their own communities and social groups to solve problems on their own initiative and with their own resources. If the demand to solve a problem is always directed at a college bureaucracy or a government, those demanding such action are not acting as free people. We must encourage and motivate our fellow Americans to act in accordance with our social traditions of independence, and discourage ideas that lead to infantilization and ineptness.