Dartmouth’s Problem May Be Its Liberal Culture

As a Dartmouth alumni, I am very disrturbed by the recent news from the college. This Stephen Hayward article gets at what may be the underlying issue there and elsewhere where the liberal culture runs the campus. 

The Washington Post reports today that the president of Dartmouth, Philip Hanlon, is decrying
“extreme behavior” on the campus. Is he taking proper note of the students who occupied his
office with their extreme demands for preposterous things? That would be a “No.” Instead:
Dartmouth College’s president lamented Wednesday that the Ivy League
school’s promising future “is being hijacked by extreme behavior,” including
sex assaults, parties with “racist and sexist undertones,” and a campus culture
in which “dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception.”
I’ll leave it to the Dartmouth alums on Power Line’s higher education desk to parse out the
whole thing, but there’s one aspect of the wider story here that deserves note. Hanlon is
implicitly siding with the current rage about “rape culture” on campus. Some conservatives
have questioned the general statistic that even President Obama has cited that one out of five
women experiences rape in their college years. Leaving aside this quarrel, allow me to
suggest that Hanlon and the feminists are actually right about a larger point: college campuses
currently tolerate—indeed actually encourage—a predatory climate toward women in which
there is enormous social pressure to have sex, and are permissive about massive alcohol use
by undergraduates whose chief purpose is to undermine inhibitions.
Step back and note something obviously out of whack with this whole controversy. It is said
that college campuses are the prime venue of “rape culture.” But most college campuses are
run by liberals, and liberalism and its correlates—maximum individual liberation in all things
sexual—is the dominant orthodoxy. Why is this problem ostensibly most severe where
liberalism reigns? Perhaps for the same reason that poverty and social dysfunction are worst
where liberalism reigns supreme (Detroit). Hanlon notes a rising number of reported rapes at
Dartmouth. He should be embarrassed by this. But he ought to ponder this question: is
sexual assault a problem at conservative colleges like Hillsdale, Patrick Henry, Liberty
University, or Regent University? I wonder why not. Actually I don’t. Hillsdale and other
conservative colleges actually take seriously their role as moral instructors of young adults,
and extend this responsibility to enforcing the alcohol laws, basic behavior and manners, and
even dress codes. Liberal universities like Dartmouth might want to borrow a clue, but don’t
hold your breath.
Maybe the next group of students that occupies Hanlon’s office will bring this up.

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