Academia's Red Light District
Here's an irony for you: Each year, the most prestigious universities in America—some of them founded long before our country—are ranked to great fanfare by the staff of a third-tier news magazine that has actually stopped its print edition. Its college ranking is pretty much all that's left of U.S. News and World Report—which is really a shame, since its reporting was always better than Time's or Newsweek's. I'm less thrilled about its rankings, which are heavily biased in favor of rich schools that are already famous, where teaching typically comes second to research—much of which is obscure or politically charged.
The top National Universities choices are pretty predictable: Every year, the three or four top Ivies shuffle places with a few massive state schools—not surprising, since nearly half each college's score is based on a) What administrators at other schools say about a college and b) how much the college spends per student. What is worse, the U.S. News guide pretty much pretends that campus politics, classroom bias, and threats to free expression aren't problems—which is rather like ranking restaurants without worrying about their hygiene. To supplement U.S. News' 2010 Liberal Arts Colleges and National University rankings, I'd like to honor the three Most Politicized Colleges in the country:
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT. (#13): Politically monolithic, Wesleyan makes a cult out of “diversity,” defined by sexuality and demographics—not ideas. One of its special-interest houses on campus is the Open House, “a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, flexual, asexual, genderf**k, polyamourous, bondage/disciple, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” Yep, they use all the letters.
Barnard College, N.Y., N.Y. (#30): Barnard’s radicalism is so pervasive that most students have, according to one professor, “no awareness that what they’re being taught is varieties of ‘leftism.’ It’s just different aspects of the truth, since there is no alternative ever contemplated.... If the only perspectives on offer are variants of leftism, then the choice is simple: Become ‘active’ in a leftist cause of one sort or another, or else ‘apathetically’ confine your leftist ideas to the classroom and don’t do anything to put them into action.”