Columbia Gets Citizenship Wrong

Ashley Thorne

Heather Mac Donald has a trenchant article in Commentary on Columbia University's new mandatory sexual assault prevention program called the "Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative." The "Community Citizenship" part of the title is mysterious but surely it corresponds to a certain type of citizenship Columbia wants its community to learn. One of the program's aims is to train students for "bystander intervention," when a student who is too drunk to consent to sex is in danger of being taken advantage of. So presumably being a good citizen at Columbia means intervening in such gray areas, where "bystander" interference is always unlikely. Mac Donald says that instead, "university administrations should perform an 'intervention' on the entire booze-fueled hook-up scene." 

Freedom of conscience and freedom to focus on academic work aren't factors in this version of citizenship. A Ph.D. candidate who chose to focus on his research rather than prioritze the program's requirements is now facing academic discipline. He told Mac Donald, “People like me might be losing the right simply to be silent, to be left alone. [...] For the first time I, along with anyone else remotely willing to dissent, am not even being allowed to stay quiet and keep my opinions to myself. The initiative implies that agreement with the ideology—indeed, with a university-mandated code of sexual ethics—is actually required for attendance at this institution.”

Citizenship has always been conditioned on virtue, but the version of civic virtue Columbia is forcing on students comes in the form of last-resort intervention rather than a substantial confrontation of a deeply troubled culture of casual sex harmful for women. The university coerces students to waste time that could have been productively spent in relevant academic work, and it requires students to agree with a pre-set ideological code in order to graduate. On the meaning of citizenship, Columbia has misfired.

Image: Alma Mater by Daniel Chester French / Creative Commons

  • Share

Most Commented

December 7, 2022


New Study Tracks Rise of DEI in STEM Departments, Associations, Grants, and Literature

A new study published today by the National Association of Scholars, Ideological Intensification, offers an in-depth quantitative analysis of just how far DEI has advanced into STEM fields....

January 9, 2023


NAS Celebrates the Nomination of Reform-Minded Trustees to the New College of Florida Board

The National Association of Scholars is delighted with Governor Ron DeSantis’ nomination of six education reformers to the Board of Trustees of the New College of Florida....

October 20, 2022


NAS Statement on Nomination of Ben Sasse for University of Florida President

We believe that Senator Sasse would make an excellent president of the University of Florida, and we urge the Board of Trustees to follow the search committee’s recommendation....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...

January 5, 2023


NAS Condemns the Attacks against Jordan Peterson

The National Association of Scholars condemns the unrelenting illiberal attacks being levied against Dr. Peterson and against anyone who dares push back against the enemies of intellectual f......