How Academic Saboteurs Dupe College Students into Activism

Jail time? Expulsion? Sure, but just think of the “development” and “learning.”

The student unrest that roiled the nation’s campuses in the first half of this year was most often associated with the “encampment,” a visible tent-manifestation of scruffy, keffiyeh-swaddled support for the governing of Gaza by the terrorist group Hamas, as well as many other expressions of rank anti-Semitism.

But was it really “student” unrest?

Both faculty and staff have for decades mobilized students for protest, activism, and, at times, illegal activity.University administrators might be surprised (or perhaps not) that much of today’s campus chaos originates, as it always has, with the employees. Both faculty and staff have for decades mobilized students for protest, activism, and, at times, illegal activity. Today’s pro-Hamas student movement, as with so many past movements, is not organic in any reasonably understood sense of the word. Between sympathizing employee agitators and the vagabond non-student crowds-for-hire that trespass onto campuses, actual students often constitute a minority of the players at any given protest, and a not-very-well-informed minority at that.

Let’s take this occasion to assess how university employees use their power and access to students to engage in malfeasance—mobilizing students to risk their futures in the name of a cause the students dimly understand, on behalf of the pet projects of faculty and staff who risk little to nothing.

Mobilizing and Duping Students

Many “student” movements are actually manifestations of radical faculty and staff pet causes. In their public-affairs messaging, bureaucrats give no hint that “student development” and “student learning” include faculty and staff mobilizing students into movements to “create change,” i.e., to demonstrate, to protest, to violate university regulations, to vandalize university property, to harass other students, to jeopardize their academic standing and chances at future employment, and to put themselves at risk of arrest, with the resulting criminal record. They certainly do not acknowledge that such “curricula” constitute the aiding and abetting of criminal activity.

The guise, of course, is the great con-game of “student development” and “student learning.” Such phrases are where the social-justice cause du jour nestles, comfortably hidden. This scam vernacular has become such a ubiquitous and frequent tool of the fake “educators” of Student Affairs that when you hear or see it, it signals 1) the person using it is not to be trusted, 2) it’s an even bet that the term is masking some ludicrous, noxious project, and 3) you should probe deeper to investigate what is invariably an educational fraud perpetrated by the unqualified.

The use of students as proxy foot soldiers for faculty and staff social activists may strike you as unsavory at best. But these campus characters relish it, presenting “student activism” as a positive contribution to “student development,” criminal record and all. Needless to say, student-affairs professionals and their fellow travelers may even enjoy the vicarious thrill of seeing handcuffs placed on their charges, since they have no intention of risking anything. They’re happy in their role of academic saboteurs, encouraging others to sacrifice.

An anonymous bureaucracy has assumed more influence in the first quarter of the 21st century than any campus outsider imagines.Academic Saboteurs

No, they don’t call themselves academic saboteurs. They’ve crafted a shady euphemism instead. They are “tempered radicals,” and they constitute the cadre of subversives envisioned by the neo-Marxist Herbert Marcuse decades earlier. This cadre is the living implementation of Marcuse’s 1972 call for a “long march through the institutions,” which still inspires today’s far left.

Many believe that contemporary reformers must worry primarily about radical faculty, who co-opt departments of sociology, history, and English and then transmit their groupthink in a lockstep pedagogical project. This is partially true, as we see here, here, and here. But this is hardly the entire story in the 21st century. It is not even the major part of the story. In fact, the cliché of radical faculty controlling the agenda has served to mask the actual threat, which involves the real foot soldiers of social justice. These men and (largely) women fill the ranks of clerks, enrollment managers, advisors, ResLife directors, and “student success” counselors, thus forming a largely anonymous bureaucracy that has assumed more influence in the first quarter of the 21st century than any campus outsider imagines.

This phalanx of ancillary support staff has arrogated to itself the moniker “student educators.” Working in the guise of “student development” and “student learning,” they engage in a systematic undermining of university policies and missions in service to an alien orthodoxy called social justice.

“Social Justice,” in fact, is the catchall decanter of a raft of actions, policies, and sabotages designed to “boldly transform” the university. Practitioners believe themselves to be “college educators” like faculty, and they frequently call themselves “scholar-practitioners” or “scholar-activists.” You can read about their pretentious role-playing in books such as Rise Up!: Activism as Education, We Demand, and Identity-Based Student Activism.

Elsewhere, I have written on these far-left bureaucrats and their thought-reform attacks on college students. Their abuse is almost ubiquitous on college campuses, with a significant student-affairs presence in politicized education schools. Such persons originate and propagate their causes, then mobilize college students as unwitting dupes for the “social-justice” protest movement du jour. At the University of Miami (Ohio), for instance, several “scholar-activists” established what they call the “Mobilizing Anger Collective” to recruit students into activism for social justice.

While “Mobilizing Anger” is surprisingly straightforward, these saboteurs often mask their ideological agitation under the euphemisms “student development” and “student learning,” as previously mentioned. These phrases are a con-game vernacular. They constitute proxies for a crypto-Maoist, Freirean-inspired ideology. Such phrases serve as red flags to identify the con-game being played. Here is one particularly egregious piece by Chris Linder that reveals the scam vernacular of “development” and “learning” to be a thin mask for recruiting students into social-justice causes. (Linder: “I argue educators must understand power, privilege, and oppression to effectively support and guide learning and development among student activists.”)

The scam vernacular of “student development” is a thin mask for recruiting students into social-justice causes.The unfortunate truth is that some faculty and many staff on American campuses guilt students into working for “social justice,” encourage them to neglect their studies in favor of “doing the work,” and ask them to embrace protest movements they barely understand, demonstrate publicly instead of attending class, break university regulations, and put their futures at risk.

But again, faculty and staff don’t put themselves at risk. Dr. Adrianna Kezar is “Dean’s Professor of Leadership” at the University of Southern California and the author of a highly influential piece on faculty and staff manipulating students in the guise of collaboration. She observed that

because faculty and staff are part of the institution, they risk their jobs if they push too hard for changes. Students are less at risk if they picket, contact the media, boycott, rally, or engage in other forms of overt activism. […] [W]hen a topic gets too hot on the campus, students can maintain a leadership role when faculty and staff have to step aside.

Kezar doesn’t elaborate on why faculty and staff must “step aside,” nor why students do not “have to step aside.” If you believe that this is on the up-and-up, Kezar explains the deception and duplicity involved:

On the most politically charged issues, faculty and staff worked behind the scenes, invisibly with students on campus. To stakeholders across campus, the effort was purely a student activist issue; no one would know about the faculty and staff involvement. However, faculty and staff were instrumental and directly involved in mentoring students, helping them to determine strategies, helping them to negotiate with the administration, and assisting them to overcome obstacles and navigate power conditions.

All while faculty and staff stand in the clear.

Too Close to the Fire

When faculty actually do show up on the fringes, as they did at Emory University this year, they discover how divorced from reality their surreal enthusiasms actually are. Take Emory philosophy professor Noëlle McAfee, who was arrested on April 25 at Emory for exercising what she called her “superpower.”

Faculty and staff mobilize students for “activism” to accomplish goals that the students themselves only dimly understand.McAfee said: “I know the police, and I was very careful to have a nonconfrontational posture, to look calm. It’s a superpower of mine.” McAfee asserted this in a bizarre interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which she spun the illegal pro-Hamas encampment as a Summer-of-Love manifestation: “Before this it was sunshine. […] It’s so peaceful. […] It’s just a beautiful day. Then the Georgia State Patrol just run in and attack.”

McAfee’s sense of self-importance oozed from her interview as she shared her interaction with the police. She harrumphed, “You know, I have an external review going on. I was just standing there. I have a meeting. Can you just give me a ticket and let me go, and I’ll go to court?”

You see, the officious McAfee had things to do.

Many faculty seem to believe that it’s okay for students to be arrested but that their status as faculty should somehow protect them. “I’m a professor!” squealed Emory economics professor Caroline Fohlin as she was wrestled to the ground after approaching an officer from behind while he was in the midst of a forcible arrest, tapping him on the back of his head while his pistol in its holster was clearly visible.

All of this indicates what many outside of academia have long suspected and what many of us inside academia know as fact: Shifty faculty and staff, with their own crusades, mobilize students for “activism” to accomplish goals that the students themselves only dimly understand. The fig leaf for all of this is that students “benefit” in vague ways suggested by the scam vernacular of “student development” and “student learning.”

The sooner parents, students, and senior administrators understand that this nonsensical verbiage masks a subversive agenda clearly articulated in the literature of the far-left, the sooner forceful steps can be taken against the culprits. Those culpable include some radical faculty, most “educators” of “Student Affairs,” and many off-campus guilds such as ACPA, NASPA, and NACADA. Without question, the issue merits vigorous exploration by conservative legal minds.

A college or university risks legal and financial exposure in permitting such behavior, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Might faculty and staff who explicitly encourage and guide college students to abandon their studies for social causes be legally responsible for the damage that follows? Are those faculty and staff who “mobilize” students for their own causes guilty of malfeasance at the very least? It would prima facie seem so.

Perhaps more importantly, can faculty and staff who use their positions to influence college students to engage in illegal activity be held personally and financially liable for their actions? I’m not a lawyer, so I cannot say for certain. But it would be immense fun to find out.

Stanley K. Ridgley, Ph.D., IMBA, is clinical full professor at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. He is a former military intelligence officer with a Ph.D. from Duke University and has taught in Russia, China, India, Spain, and Colombia. He is the author of Brutal Minds: The Dark World of Left-Wing Brainwashing in Our Universities.