Life on Campus Really Ain’t So Bad

The Shadow University is a highly tendentious account of Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate’s view of academic and student life in America’s colleges and universities over the last twenty years. Kors and Silverglate see these colleges and universities turning from promoting personal and academic freedom to suppressing open expression and denying basic liberties to students and faculty alike. To make their point, they have scoured college and university campuses from coast to coast to find incidents involving student speech code violations, as well as student and faculty discipline and misbehavior proceedings. They also examine multicultural and diversity programs and other efforts to enlarge the gender and race mix of student bodies and academic staff. Basically, Kors and Silverglate argue against any restrictions on student or faculty speech, call for the same panoply of rights afforded defendants in criminal cases for students and faculty members accused of misconduct, and would prohibit any programs for new students tending to orient them to the more complex cultural life they are likely to encounter on campus or the more diverse community in which they will live. They assert that academic freedom for students and faculty alike can be assured only by the elimination of the particular evils they personally find to exist on college and university campuses across the United States. Inexplicably, Kors and Silverglate cite neither a time in which the standards they advocate were the norm, nor do they name a college or university that passes muster today as far as they are concerned. To support their assertions, they describe in meticulous detail anecdotal incidents from approximately 150 colleges and universities during the 1980s and early 1990s. The institutions referenced range from some as well known as Harvard Unviersity to some as little known as Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Given the breadth of Kors and Silverglate’s charges, the variety of the incidents they offer, and the clearly one-sided descriptions they give, the reader must inevitably be somewhat skeptical of Kors and Silverglate’s descriptions and the validity of their conclusions.