Education, recent

Like the Campus Thought Police

Smith College police chief Daniel Hect was put on administrative leave after becoming an object of campus hate. Chief Hect’s crime was ‘liking’ (not writing) tweets that fall outside of academia’s ever shrinking zone of toleration. Behold the offending tweets:

“Stay the course Pres. Trump”

“BUILD THAT WALL!!”

“The National Rifle Association wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas!”

The tweets express opinions that most Trump voters would likely support. And the chief stands accused not of originating these tweets, but of merely liking them on his own personal Twitter account. If you are not familiar with Twitter, know that liking doesn’t always imply support.

The official reason given for Chief Hect’s suspension was, as Smith’s President wrote, because “members of our campus community have voiced a lack of trust” in him. Given the protests, “lack of trust” is quite the understatement. Interpreted in the most favorable light, the students might be worried about the chief’s views on immigration.

Smith College is devoted to the spirit of the sanctuary campus movement within “the limits of federal law” meaning that if anyone in the Smith community determines that a student is in the U.S. illegally we should not tell the immigration authorities unless required to by law. Since enforcing national immigration policy falls far outside of the purview of a small-town college police chief, Hect’s views on immigration are utterly irrelevant to his job. But by (very weakly) associating himself with the offending tweets Chief Hect falls outside of Smith’s Overton window, which gives the range of tolerated opinions one can hold in a given environment.

You can’t intelligently discuss views not in the Overton window because right-thinking people mock, ostracize, and de-platform those who hold such ideas. But by excluding mainstream Republican opinions from consideration, colleges deny their students’ intellectual diversity, and prevent these opinions from having any hope of gaining footholds in many young minds.

The hate against Hect sends a chilling message throughout my campus. Imagine you are a Smith student who supports Trump, his wall, or gun rights. How comfortable would you now be speaking up in class?  Even if you know your professor doesn’t punish heresy, you should fear that your fellow students might.

Some on Twitter took what happened to Hect as a reason either to not attend Smith, or to not hire Smith graduates, but this would be a mistake. Many years ago, Smith, a women’s college, became greatly worked up over language that defined all students as female and thus excluded some transgender students. I thought this anxiety over mere pronouns was a harmless but strange peculiarity of Smith culture. Later, when Smith students got extremely concerned about transgendered students’ access to bathrooms, I again thought this was a weird Smith obsession. In truth, Smith is a thought leader among elite colleges and what happens on my campus spreads.

This Hect incident, and the numerous other assaults in academia on people who don’t completely conform to leftist dogma, reinforce ideological purity among professors. A conservative contemplating getting a Ph.D. in the hopes of becoming a U.S. professor would be foolish not to think her political views would greatly diminish her chance of getting professorship. Conservative college employees, furthermore, will take these incidents as reasons to hide.

(Even though I work at Smith College, I can write this article because I’m protected by tenure, a fancy law degree, and a neurodiverse brain that causes me to care less about what people think of me than is the norm. Almost everyone else in the Smith community has far less protection than I do.)

Smith, like most elite colleges, worries endlessly about inequality and classism including on its own campus. It seems deeply ironic that Smith would give some members of its community far more effective freedom of speech than others.

Teenagers hoping to one day gain admittance to a top U.S. college would be smart to avoid associating themselves with Republican views on social media.  While I have no knowledge of anyone going through applicants’ observable internet history, such an investigation seems all too likely, at least in the near future. By controlling access to the upper class, colleges can effectively censor not just those under their control, but everyone hoping to pass through their gates.

What I most fear is technology that would allow colleges to read the emotions of their applicants. Imagine that in the near future machine learning has figured out how to detect your emotional state from your facial expressions. While this tech would bring many benefits, it would have a disastrous effect on intellectual diversity.

Colleges could require all applicants to watch videos on inclusion and diversity while machine learning algorithms study their faces to look for impossible to hide signs of skepticism and contempt. Those who don’t truly believe in the values of the campus community could be excluded with the official justification being the need to protect marginalised groups. High schools hoping to place students at elite colleges would have to stress left-wing ideology so their students could have some hope of becoming true believers. Ambitious parents would respond to college purity tests by forbidding their kids from being red-pilled through exposure to problematic media sources from Tucker Carlson and Jordan Peterson, to Quillette.

Daniel Hect, who was also in charge of Mount Holyoke’s campus police, understandably turned down my interview request.

 

James D. Miller is a professor of economics at Smith College. Follow him on Twitter @JimDMiller.

54 Comments

  1. Grandma says

    A compelling argument to never employ a Smith graduate.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Grandma

      I would certainly never tell a Smith graduate anything in confidence.

  2. Nick E says

    “Why are these institutions held in such reverence?” a friend asked me around 40 years ago after we had been turfed unceremoniously out of a church hall for whatever reasons. “Beats me” I said. “They don’t seem to have much in common with Jesus and giving to the poor.” (thinking of ourselves as poor)

    A couple of years ago that church was demolished to make way for condos, the main protests against this happening were because of its architecture, not about any ‘good work’ that was being done there. The congregation had diminished to less than a dozen. Bye-bye church.

    Even 40 years ago the influence of these institutions was fading, it helped, but was no longer necessary to have contacts in the church to get into a good profession or meet the ‘right’ kind of people. The writing was on the wall, thus it will be for these increasingly discredited schools. They are the stomping grounds of the spoiled brats of spoiled brats, at least we knew enough to keep our mouths shut, nowadays the preface “I just have to say something..” unleashes torrents of idiocy from expensively educated mouths.

    Eventually the facade will fall away, probably a lot sooner than 40 years. Bye-bye-fancy school!

  3. E. Olson says

    So a working class guy who has almost certainly helped/saved/protected a lot of Smith community members over the years, pays taxes to support the government, and is very likely a member of a public employee union has fewer rights and less security than someone in the country illegally, who almost certainly gets government benefits, doesn’t pay taxes, and is more likely to commit crimes than a citizen. And this is apparently the widely held viewpoint of the “elite” members of the US, who almost all come from privileged backgrounds, certainly vote D on election day, and claim to support the working class? What kind of brain damaging drug do they put in the water in elite coastal areas of the once great USA?

    • Jay Salhi says

      As I’m sure you know, there are precious few illegals living in their midst save perhaps for a random student who inadvertently overstayed his visa. If they had large numbers of huddled masses yearning to breath free living in close proximity, they would be singing a different tune.

      • E. Olson says

        Jay – you mean the woke activists at Smith are ready to ruin a working class citizen’s life for purely symbolic purposes? Well then, that makes it a lot better.

        • Jay Salhi says

          Working class is so passe. White man = white privilege = evil. Must destroy him for the greater good.

          • Kencathedrus says

            @Jay Salhi: Exactly. Clinton’s ‘Deplorables’ are the working poor. By labelling them racist bigots they can conveniently be denied a voice while the Democrats pretend to go about reducing inequality.

    • Michael Casey says

      The union question came right to my mind as well. Presumably Hect is a member of his Association, which I assume is grieving the heck out of this abuse. Since when can employees be let go for mainstream (I mean, Trump is president, even though I find him repulsive) political opinions expressed on social media?
      If the Association is worth a damn, Smith is in some trouble here. Hope they have deep pockets.
      Full disclosure, I am a former president of my local teacher’s association. This should be a slam dunk.

      • Possibly not.

        Hect is chief of the Three College (Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire) Campus Police. They are special police of limited jurisdiction licensed by the Massachusetts State Police. There is no wider association I know of and they may not even have a union as a recent vacancy announcement made no mention of a union.

        It is certain that the Massachusetts Attorney General, Moira Healey, won’t do anything.

        In an amusing side note, last week a Massachusetts district court judge in Newton, Middlesex County, was indicted by the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts for conspiring with the her court officer and a defense attorney to obstruct justice by assisting an illegal fugitive from justice to escape arrest by an ICE officer by banning ICE from the courtroom and using her key to open the back door for the felon.

        AG Healy spent the weekend calling ICE agents the Gestapo and comparing them to slave catchers.

    • Wut? “than someone in the country illegally, who almost certainly gets government benefits, doesn’t pay taxes, and is more likely to commit crimes than a citizen. ”
      Err, no, that’s downright idiotic to claim. 🙂
      Not sure where you are but even here, in the liberal bastion of NY State, if you are illegal you don’t get any benefit at all, period (your kids may can if they were born in America but that makes them American, of course.) Similarly if you work and make any less-than-decent amount of money (ie more than some badly underpaid cleaning or construction person) you either use someone else’s or a fake SSN and you do pay taxes accordingly, or have your own business which also files corporate tax returns, paying corporate taxes. Finally all statistics show that immigrants actually lot less likely to commit crimes but I am sure you knew this one, it takes few seconds to Google,it you just wanted to whip up your primitive anti-immigrant BS with the usual fake claims, right? 🙂

      • Lewis says

        Kamm –

        What are you talking about? $27 million for tuition for illegals doesn’t count as a benefit?
        WIC doesn’t count as a benefit either?
        Free pregnancy services and childbirth?

        Less likely to commit crimes? Obviously you don’t live on Long Island with the ever-climbing body count courtesy of MS-13.

        Maybe you spend less time on Google and more time looking around our state.

      • Stephanie says

        Kamm, immigrants as a whole are less likely to commit crimes, but illegal immigrants are much more likely to commit additional crimes. (Of course illegal entry and visa overstay are crimes, so by definition 100% of illegals have committed a crime.)

      • Peter from Oz says

        Kamm
        It’s time you learnt the difference between someone being anti immigrant and someone being anti-illegal alien.
        An illegal alien is not an immigrant, but a person who has committed an offence.
        But the lefties keep using the word immigrant as a means of pretending that we on the right oppose legal immigration.
        Stop doing it matey, you are only making people think you are an evil sod.

  4. Truthseeker says

    The opposite of “diversity” is university …

    • George G says

      @ Truthseeker

      excellent point, can we get the woke to campaign to rename all Uni’s as Diversities? its the kind of futile, hollow, virtue signalling gesture the woke usually love.

      Oxford Diversity

      • TarsTarkas says

        And of course Diversities are way into disinvestment . . . . . .

  5. Barney Doran says

    Don’t apply, don’t donate, and if your child is in one of these ideological straight jackets, don’t pay. They ‘ll get the message.

  6. Jay Salhi says

    “Colleges could require all applicants to watch videos on inclusion and diversity while machine learning algorithms study their faces to look for impossible to hide signs of skepticism and contempt. Those who don’t truly believe in the values of the campus community could be excluded with the official justification being the need to protect marginalised groups.”

    That might not be such a bad thing. I suspect many of the leaders and card carrying members of the SJW outrage mob would be exposed as frauds who do not genuinely believe what they preach.

    • TarsTarkas says

      But they would get a pass as long as they are the right demographic and/or apologize profusely (not!).

      • Jay Salhi says

        I envision a system where a mob stands by as the results are revealed publicly. Those not meeting the purity criteria are immediately stoned to death. No time for Joe Biden and Beto-like apology tours.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Jay Salhi

      Ha! Yes, what is the ratio between the True Believer and the Bandwagoner? Haidt or some other real scholar should look into that. What was that study that determined that [nuts I can never remember the numbers …] 12% of the population are actually woke? Most folks just drift with the tide of course, and right now the water is flowing to ever more Correctness so we can expect the heard to sit through the two minutes hate and do what they have to do.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KeX5OZr0A4

      But, were we able to read their minds …

      ‘Twas ever thus. Even now in the States a politician is well advised to pretend to be a Christian, tho that is finally slipping. I expect that in 20 years being a Christian will disqualify one from office, but at that time some will be secret believers. It is interesting that tho all fundamentalisms attempt to destroy all opposition, leaving society entirely Pure, somehow it eventually rots out and revolution happens. Latest good example was the fall of Communism in the East (tho not in the academic West, where it is always in fashion).

    • Albigensian says

      The problem with such “training” is that it is almost invariably counter-productive, in that it produces more of what it is supposed to prevent.

      The technological fix is not visual algorithmic emotion detection but chemical alteration of human brains so that one can only think correctly. Or, should that be impossible, a means whereby detection of ‘bad’ thoughts shall trigger a nasty burst of pain.

      It’s hard to say if those pushing this intolerance to non-conforming thought don’t realize they’ve become nasty totalitarians, or if they’re just “liberals in a hurry” who’ve decided that if they can’t convince you then they may as well force you (somewhat as when a declined beggar might decide to rob you).

      Stalinism and even Naziism were limited by gedanken sind frei (“thoughts are free”): they could make you do things, but they couldn’t make you believe things.The future may be less kind.

      And, yes I know it’s nowhere near that bad. Yet. But I suspect it would be if it could be.

    • Steve S says

      Sounds like a Scientology audit. Just keep repeating the excercise until you attain Clear/Woke status. Bio-feedback brain-washing.

  7. Farris says

    “James D. Miller is a professor of economics at Smith College. Follow him on Twitter @JimDMiller.”

    Can’t help but wonder if following Mr. Miller could be harmful to one’s career?

  8. Farris says

    Purges are a modern creature of the Left, from Stalin to Castro/Che to Mao to Vietnam and Laos. Why should anyone expect the western Left to be any different? The unfortunate reality is the rights of citizens are only as secure as the commitment of the people to protect them. The Left fails to comprehend that failures to protect the rights of others and purges only serves to make all less secure (including those on the Left). “…..and then they came for me.”

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Farris

      Traditionally an Englishman understood that the constitution was written on his heart and guaranteed by his refusal to relinquish his rights. The American understood that the constitution might be written on paper, but, it was guaranteed by his right to take up arms to defend it. ‘The tree of liberty …’ In Canada and Oz, we just hope for the best. There is no such thing as a secure system of government, there is only what the people will put up with, and what they will not put up with.

  9. Jim Gorman says

    What word comes to mind when describing why someone would rejoice in ruining a person’s career and quite possibly their life?

    Hate seems to be the best descriptor to me.

    SJW warriors should reflect a little on whether their ends justify the means.

  10. Craig Willms says

    Saw the word Twitter and immediately lost interest. Nothing, and I mean nothing good comes from Twitter.

    • Bill says

      This is your view. But very many people see the world also/only through Twitter. And for this guy just one “Like” was enough to be in serious trouble.

  11. Kencathedrus says

    ‘Colleges could require all applicants to watch videos on inclusion and diversity while machine learning algorithms study their faces to look for impossible to hide signs of skepticism and contempt.’

    This is why I wear my ‘V for Vendetta’ mask whenever I’m behind a computer.

  12. Richard says

    Nothing makes me happier about Smith College than walking by the campus and seeing a statue of Calvin Coolidge. Those students deserve every bit of his scowl. How long before they demand the statue to be covered or removed?

  13. “Imagine you are a Smith student who supports Trump, his wall, or gun rights. How comfortable would you now be speaking up in class? Even if you know your professor doesn’t punish heresy, you should fear that your fellow students might.”

    I graduated from Smith in the 2000s, and was there during the 2004 election. If the climate at Smith is anything like it was then, this article doesn’t surprise me at all. I hated nearly every moment of my time at Smith and would have transferred in a heartbeat if it hadn’t been for my parents, who were paying for my education and basically disallowed me to transfer. I spent most of my time at Smith either in classes or hiding in my room or the library. The vast majority of students were either openly hostile to anything remotely conservative, or they stood by silently as others expressed that hostility.

    My favorite faculty member at Smith was the late Pat Skarda, English professor and one tough old lady. The current nonsense on campus must be making her spin in her grave.

  14. Rev. Wazoo! says

    From the Massachusetts ACLU: “Democracy depends on the freedom of expression and association, and the ACLU defends these rights for everyone—especially those disproportionately affected by suppression and censorship, such as whistleblowers, reporters, photographers, activists, protesters, religious and racial minorities, the poor, artists, students and professors.”
    https://www.aclum.org/en/freedom-expression-and-association

    • MMS says

      @Rev – Really, the “new” ACLU is run by star struck wannabes who have disavowed the defense of free speech absolutism and their former neutral stance on political partisanship. The ACLU is a shadow of its former self… Sad,

    • Lightning Rose says

      Yeah, and back in Amerika if you want to keep your job in academia, you don’t let on to anyone, even in your innermost circle of friends, if you harbor traditional American conservative leanings.
      You just can’t. I do not for the life of me understand the compulsion to “tweet,” to “like” or “retweet,” can’t such “smart” people see this is the equivalent of stepping willingly into the jaws of a bear trap?

      I tell people, “Don’t put ANYTHING up on social media that you wouldn’t want your name signed to on a 50′ billboard on the side of Interstate 95!” The world is changing so fast, today’s PC could be tomorrow’s third rail. Just STFU. It might just save your paycheck, pension, and neck. One could wish it otherwise, but we’re living in the world we’ve got. Which we made, I might add.

  15. Rev. Wazoo! says

    PS: I like the double entendre embedded in the title, “Like the Campus Thought Police” (Or Else…) as both a comparative and an imperative.

  16. As soon as the author indicated that Smith was an all girls college it all made sense.

    Generation vagina is going to be the end of the west, not that there’s anything left worth preserving at this point.

  17. Rational Number says

    So the program of “inclusiveness” does not include opposing political views. They seem to lack “tolerance”.

  18. Donald Collins says

    When you can not talk about conflicts, whether of opinion or fact, there is but one other way to resolve the differences….

    Fight. Literally fighting is the only option left, as few bow down their belief systems simply because another party disagrees. Do leftist do that? No. Then why, without debating the issues would anyone expect the right to do so?

    I look forward to the fight not because I enjoy fighting, in fact I detest it, however I will bow no knee to anyone that can not make their case verbally to me and show me exactly why I am not correct and then presents facts, not feelings, about why they are correct.

    Resolve, not obedience is what is needed in these times

  19. Anon says

    The part about using machine learning to detect dissidents hits a nail dead center. This technology is just around the corner. Diversity training directed by charlatans and bogus implicit bias tests are already being administered, the thought of them having a test that actually measures something reliably is unsettling. Who do you bet will get there first: Communist China or the compassionate progressives?

  20. Felix says

    Not directly related to the main argument of the article but a question worth asking:

    Why do US universities always have campus police? In Germany (where I’m from) such an institution doesn’t exist. If necessary you just call the regular police, regardless of whether you happen to be on campus or outside of it.

    This has some fortunate practical implications. While it’s certainly the case that the police is reviled by far-left leaning students (we do have quite a number of them) and looked upon very sceptically by another significant section of students and faculty, this simply doesn’t matter as the police is not considered part of a “campus community”.

    When necessary the police comes, does its job and then leaves again. Of course there may be grumbling afterwards, even smaller protests in a few extreme cases but no one would think of enforcing campus norms among police officers.

    Considering the current politicisation on US campuses it is probably inevitable that campus police would get embroiled. So wouldn’t it maybe be better to move police off campus altogether?

    • Marian Hennings says

      Your idea is excellent. US high schools in many cities have resource officers who are part of the city police department, not employees of the school district. They have enough problems as it is, though, since they are still accused of racism on a regular basis. (It is true that many police training videos could stand to include more white perpetrators. In the ones I have seen the perps were all black or Latino.}

  21. WesternMass says

    Hey author, greetings from a Western Mass grad! I remember when the hypothetical tranny student debate went down at MoHo too. I also remember all the screeching about the equally hypothetical “female genital mutilation” issue there. So much pointless blather without addressing the real venom on the Holyoke Confessional (I’ve collected a few 5C email accounts in my day).

    Anyway, sorry that all the frumpy dykes over at Smith have become so insufferable in the last decade. It was already pretty bad when I was at Hamp, only Amherst and UMass were relatively normal. Just wanted to drop a line and let you know that some of us who were reared in the Pioneer Valley crucible are doing okay.

    Eat a slice of Mimmo’s giant pizza for me. Thanks.

  22. Lightning Rose says

    All this Leftism on campus is nothing deeper than declaring yourself a member of the Cool Kids’ Clique. Because the Cool Kids, helicopter parented with participation trophies, somehow missed that Age 5 talk about the Facts of Life, basic reality, minimal manners, and the fact that the entire universe doesn’t revolve around your juvenile needs and “feelings.” Shoot, I’ve got an 8-week PUPPY with more self-control than these people!

    Guns, religion, marriage, having kids, common sense, practical occupations etc. aren’t “cool” because they’re what the Middle Class (and laboring class) do. Illegal immigrants are “cool” because their status is so very far below that of the Cool Kids that they’re no threat. However, the Cool Kids’ mortal terror is being seen as Lower Middle Class (Oh, that SOOO “LMC!”) and they’d rather be ripped out of their Patagonias and yoga pants and skinned alive.

    These people are the radical fringe of the culture, they make noise and because it’s all about clicks and eyeballs on the advertising, their caterwauling gets media attention. But then so did the sideshow at the circus, which is the only place you used to find bearded fat ladies, pink-haired “women” with penises and those in the grip of apocalyptic raving delusions. People overestimate their numbers and influence grossly.

    Most places (as in nearly ALL) in the world, boys and girls grow into men and women, train for jobs, form families, and pay rents and mortgages. They eat from WalMart and Cosco, not vegan artisanal bistros in Brooklyn. They watch Game of Thrones and pop a beer. They are not lining up to see “Hamilton,” (anyone else get the irony of the “diverse” replacement of the Founding Fathers?) or fawning over “Hillary and Clinton” on Broadway. They don’t read The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NYT or Wash Po. If they know who AOC is, they think she’s a poltroon.

    All the rest is a circle-jerk within an increasingly irrelevant BUBBLE. The rest of us haven’t been listening to Our Betters since around the time Jerry Garcia sang, “This is it, we are on our own, ON OUR OWN!”

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  24. Aerth says

    If Trump was in 10% as bad as Left is claiming, he would already “solved” the problem of Left indoctrination on campuses. Likely by closing all Social studies at every college.

    Commies had no problem with doing just that in Easter european countries. Philosophy students were protesting in Poland? Bye-bye philosophy studies in Poland.

  25. Mazzakim says

    –yawn– Charges that (elite) colleges have been engaged in leftist indoctrination have been leveled for literally generations, well before my time at an elite university in the late 80s/early 90s. The truth of the matter is often within five and certainly by ten years after graduation the vast majority of all of us move well beyond whatever campus politics we were obsessed with and become focused on jobs/careers, marriages/children, home ownership, etc..

    In other words, campus “indoctrination” is a vastly overrated dynamic mostly limited in impact to what happens on campuses,

    • Jay Salhi says

      “campus “indoctrination” is a vastly overrated dynamic mostly limited in impact to what happens on campuses,”

      Tell that to Hollywood. Or to CNN or the Washington Post. Or to Google or Microsoft. Most college students will grow up when they are mugged by reality but the ideological drivel has seeped into the mainstream.

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