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Travis Rowley: Ivy League Shame

Monday, October 24, 2011


“I was cheering when the Pentagon got hit because I know about the brutality of the military. The American flag is nothing but a symbol of hate and should be used for toilet paper for all I care.” – Anti-War Protester (Brown University, 2001)

“What happened on September 11th was terrorism. But what happened during the Gulf War was also terrorism.” – Brown Professor of English, William Keach (2001)

A college classmate of mine (let’s call her Suzy) once articulated the power Brown University could exercise in regard to the University’s longstanding ban of ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) from its campus. Suzy argued that – in order to reverse the policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Brown should allow for this military presence in order to cause change “from the inside, giving future generals four years of liberal learning.”

A Brown education had come to be widely regarded as mere liberal indoctrination. Why stop the brainwashing at the doorstep of the Armed Forces, Suzy contended.

But it wasn’t as if Suzy was arguing that the American military is a dynamic and vital institution that Brown should make available to its students. And it wasn’t as if Suzy was calling on other liberal activists to actually live up to their own creed of tolerance and diversity. No, Suzy was attempting to advance liberalism, so she received no hostile backlash from other left-wing activists for her resistance to a very popular campus mission – assuring that ROTC never returns to College Hill.

Brown Radicalism

While one had to respect her deviation from the campus groupthink, Suzy had clearly not yet come to comprehend the roots of Brown’s radical liberalism.

In 1969, Brown’s Faculty Executive Committee voted to expel ROTC from campus. This was consistent with the anti-military demilitarization movement that sprang from the protests over the Vietnam War. A misguided and immoral decision from the outset, shunning the ROTC was shielded by the populism of that particular era. Many college campuses were joining the crusade against the U.S. military, and the media was busy glorifying the Left’s anti-war movement.

Eventually, however, the troops came home. A more conservative decade was ushered in, and the haze of hippie extremism began to clear. Throughout the country the Left’s hostility toward the military was becoming seen for what it truly was – unpatriotic, and deep-rooted in Marxist anti-Americanism. Many schools began welcoming ROTC back to campus.

But the war waged on at Brown University (currently “the lone Ivy League holdout on ROTC”). Brown achieved a reputation for incessant left-wing activism with its protests against “sweatshops” in the 1980s, and the Gulf War in the 1990s. Controversial accusations of rape and racism typified the campus, politically motivated incidents that led to unjust expulsions, lawsuits, and a severe sense of political retribution on campus. Heavily influenced by radical feminism, at Brown a “rape” is considered to have occurred if it is determined that the female student was “intoxicated.” On the race-obsessed campus, all incoming freshmen are forced to attend sensitivity-training sessions during their campus orientations. Politically correct speech codes have been etched in to official university handbooks. Within recent years it was discovered that 94.7 percent of Brown faculty members are registered Democrats.

Conservative speakers are rarely invited to College Hill, and are often besmirched and disrupted if they somehow make it past the Ivy gates. Author and professor Camille Paglia once called Brown “the most viciously intolerant campus that I ever visited as a lecturer.” Student activists champion causes such as the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms, the abolishment of Valentine’s Day, and the renaming of Columbus Day. Inside prestigious university buildings, the Queer Alliance hosts depraved “naked parties” called “Sex, Power, God” and “Starf*ck.” Administrators and feminist student-groups co-host annual sex-toy workshops.

That’s what became of Brown University.

Evolving Arguments

During the course of Brown’s radicalization, Ronald Reagan won two elections and was augmenting the might of the American military, enacting policies of “peace through strength.” The Soviet Union collapsed, and the American people chose former CIA Director and war-hero George H.W. Bush to succeed President Reagan. American populism had clearly shifted in favor of the Armed Forces.

Brown activists had to find a new excuse, other than hatred for the military and the “imperialism” that it imposed, for continuing to spurn ROTC. The reasoning behind Brown’s ROTC-ban transitioned from demilitarization to objections over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Bigotry against gays was a more faddish and palatable reason for incoming student activists, who were becoming too removed from the demilitarization movement anyway. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would serve as a call-to-arms that would sustain the Campus Left’s underground contempt for the U.S. military for the next two decades.

Several months ago, however, President Obama ended the practice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Those still under the impression that modern-day liberalism is actually a sincere philosophy were probably shocked to still discover hard-core resistance to people now calling for ROTC’s return. Brown activists, including University President Ruth Simmons, are now justifying the ROTC-ban by pointing to the military’s alleged “discrimination against transgender individuals.”

Conservatives Were Right

Needless to say, Brown’s newest excuse is doing much to confirm what many people have always suspected: The ideological underpinnings of most campus activism has always been covertly hard-left; and the intellectual climate on campus is still largely steered by far-left progressives and leftover radicals from the 1960s – professors such as Paul Buhle, a former SDS activist who is now a prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who teaches a course titled The Sixties Without Apology, and who once wrote, “Professorial support and sponsorship of radical activities on campus is elementary, even if time-consuming;” professors such as Abbott Gleason, who believes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of an “imperial foreign policy,” and who understands that kicking ROTC off Brown’s campus in 1969 signified a “repudiation of American foreign policy,” and is thereby concerned that “[inviting] ROTC back now would be to make a political statement for continued military presence" in the Middle East.

Brown’s continued resistance to ROTC’s return is also serving to verify many conservatives’ longstanding analysis of the Left’s deceptive politics, mainly that issues such as racism, sexism, environmentalism, and homophobia have always been trumped-up in order to channel impressionable students behind genuinely anti-capitalist campaigns; and that Brown’s decades-long discrimination against ROTC never had anything to do with the military’s policies toward homosexuality.

Poor Suzy. She actually believed the Left cared about gay people.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of Out of Ivy: How a Liberal Ivy Created a Committed Conservative, and is a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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