Wokeness on campus

2021 marks my 31st year as an academic faculty member in a U.S. university, most of them at a “public ivy” and the last few at a smaller school in a quiet town with less traffic. During my tenure, our universities have gone rather insane, completely seized up by this woke religion. I’ve found myself wondering how this happened, and the best answer seems to be Hemingway’s: “gradually and then suddenly”.

I found this essay by “Eugyppius” to be of interest. His thesis is:

People tend to believe things that further their personal interests, and universities are no exception. Wokification succeeded largely because it gave a lot of different people a lot of different things that they wanted.

It certainly has seemed to provide refuge for a number of incompetents but who’s in charge of this crazy conspiracy? His answer: no one in particular.

The bottomless mediocrities who helped construct the subgenre of critical theory on which the whole Woke phenomenon rests are not in charge of the Wokeness Circus. The administrators who promote and participate in Wokeness are not alone in running it, and they could never turn off or redirect the machine over which they appear to preside. Stepping out of line would only mean their personal destruction. The donors, the trustees, the tenured faculty, the powerful committees – none of these hold the reins either. Wokery is a self-organising decentralised movement. It is the sum of all the actions and opinions of all the people who have opted into it.

So it’s kind of like a virus. It does seem to spread like one, and hurt its host like one:

While Wokeness provides many personal incentives for true believers, it is destructive for the institutions that foster it. Those schools that have advanced very far down the woke path face semi-regular hate speech hoaxes and student protests, hordes of incapable hostile junior faculty, and massive curricular disarray. They are pretty miserable places to work and study and they are bleeding talented people and rapidly burning through the cultural capital they accumulated in prior, more reasonable decades. Nor is Wokeness, at the end of the day, even the best thing for many of its most committed adherents. Alas, this doesn’t matter either.

So, how the heck do you cure this woke plague? By this point, Eugyppius has related wokeness to draconian Covid policies, and he has this depressing answer for both malignancies:

If I could wave a wand and send the whole globalist crew on a twenty-year mission to conduct a thorough tree census of Siberia, I would. But that wouldn’t stop any of this. Containment would continue on its current path, and a new collection of clowns and loser philanthropists would emerge out of the woodwork to take their place. Before long, Siberia would be very full of tree counters, and we would still be facing vaccine mandates and lockdowns and all the rest of it.

Finally, Eugyppius anticipates a objection:

You’re ignoring the fact that this is evil: No, I say all the time that it’s extremely evil. I am arguing merely that the locus of evil is not condensed in any single actor, but rather distributed, like a foul-smelling gas, throughout the entire system.

I think about retirement a lot.