Yale University and its sister universities have grown increasingly paternalistic over time, infantilizing their student body and saddling them with increasing regulation. Litigiousness has led the university to take the concept of in loco parentis to an extreme. Few universities any more allow the faculty to create policies. Just as university presidents have become fundraisers rather than intellectual leaders, university policies are now crafted in rapidly expanding general counsel shops. Lost is both a culture of accountability that allows students to fail or that hold students responsible for their own stupidity and also a culture that prizes individual freedom and liberty.
A little encouragement from the federal government can be a dangerous thing: A bit over a year ago, some fraternity pledges shouted silly things in front of Yale’s Women’s Center. Their words were stupid, but so too was the Yale Women’s Center’s response which, in effect, sought to criminalize speech—a truly noxious concept at any university. The Women’s Center’s response surprised no one: For decades, the group has marginalized itself by conflating women’s issues with leftism and then staking out positions which even many progressives would find extreme.
The University sought to take a middle line—reprimanding the students but also reminding everyone that “the results of free expression are to the general benefit in the long run, however unpleasant they may appear at the time.”
Enter the U.S. Department of Education, which a year ago announced that it would investigate the University for creating a “hostile sexual environment” based on the university’s “inadequate” response to the frat pledges’ chants. In response, Yale University panicked. It has since doubled down on its infantilization of students, instituting ever more workshops about consent and communicating with people of the other sex. Mind you, the target audience for these workshops is adults. The university also sought to increase its control of campus culture by more strictly regulating student groups. To register, group leaders would have to submit themselves to further workshops. Now, Yale is going from the sublime to the ridiculous, as the administration considers a policy which would forbid freshmen from attending off-campus fraternity-sponsored events during their first semester.
Now, when I was an undergraduate at Yale back in the early 1990s, fraternities were not my thing, although I did go to a few fraternity parties here and there. Many friends, however, were in fraternities, and despite university administrators’ Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, or Old School fantasies, they focused more on mentoring, community service, and networking. Yale prided itself on attracting students with varied interests, and if some wanted to make fraternities an outlet of their extracurricular time, so be it.
It’s bad enough that Yale administrators seek to so closely regulate student speech and activities on campus, but the idea that they would now try to regulate what students can and cannot do off-campus is deeply troubling: Simply put, it is not the university’s job and it certainly is not the U.S. Department of Education’s job. That a federal department which at most, should administer grants and at least, should not even exist, can bully universities in pursuit of its own social engineering goals is deeply troubling. That university administrators refuse to stand up and fight back is even more so.