Disgrace: Shame, Punishment, and Redemption in American Higher Education

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) held its first regional conference of 2019 in Orange, California, on January 11th and 12th. Over 100 academics, public intellectuals, journalists, students, and friends of NAS attended the conference, titled, “Disgrace: Shame, Punishment, and Redemption in American Higher Education.” Chapman University generously opened its campus to NAS, hosting the conference in Beckman Hall and the Argyros Forum.

At this conference, NAS discussed both disgrace as a political tactic of the progressive left and the appropriate disgrace that falls on colleges and universities that countenance such tactics. These tactics include false accusations and intimidation with real threats to life, property, and title. Success in these tactics is measured not in outrage, but in the creation of a self-censoring culture on campus and in American life.

Distinguished speakers at the Chapman conference included Jay Nordlinger (National Review), Darel Paul (Williams College), Mark Bauerlein (Emory University), Helen Andrews (The Washington Examiner), and Heather Mac Donald (Manhattan Institute).

On Friday, Jay Nordlinger opened the conference with a plenary address on the use of shame as a mob phenomenon. Jay told the audience to “remind liberals of their own values, including diversity, diversity of thought, pluralism, toleration, honest inquiry, and all that good stuff. Remind them of what they may have believed in the first place, [...] the better angels of their nature.”

During Friday night’s dinner address, “On Shaming as an Elite Practice,” Williams Professor Darel Paul explained how an ever-increasing body of academic bureaucrats have made emotivism dominant in the academy. The victimhood culture and the shame culture are by-products of this bureaucrat-driven emotivism.

During the luncheon address on Saturday, Professor Mark Bauerlein shamed the humanities, attributing the decline in liberal arts majors to the growing influence of critical studies within these subjects. In the final hours of the conference, Peter Wood bestowed upon Heather Mac Donald the Peter Shaw Award for her service to higher education through a writing career characterized by acute observation, deft exposition, perceptive analysis, and luminous synthesis.

Mac Donald concluded the conference with a rousing speech on the insanity of campus politics and the persistent growth of the diversitocracy. She noted the increased numbers of students who believe they are in physical danger because of perceived “microaggressions,” and commented on the impossibility of requiring all areas of study to include “proportionate representation” of the sexes and ethnicities.

Additional speeches and panels included an analysis of the sociology of shame, a discussion on the means of silencing dissent on campus, the #MeToo movement and censorship through sexual accusation, testimony and solutions from academic “heretics,” and an exchange on redeeming civility. In break-out conversation sessions, attendees discussed how academic governance should be reformed to restore intellectual freedom, if universities should be shamed to uphold traditional standards, and if America has become a shame culture.

We thank our speakers, who spoke clearly and confidently as they defended their positions, listened to others, and took questions. We are grateful for our conference attendees for their thought-provoking questions, inquisitive discussions, and their eagerness to set aside time to discuss these important topics.

We at NAS are especially thankful to our sponsors, The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), the Science for Humans and Freedom Institute, Scott Alexander, The College Fix, David Popenoe, and Roger Sack.

Please subscribe to our email list to receive updates on future conferences, along with videos and photos from “Disgrace: Shame, Punishment, and Redemption in American Higher Education.” Also, subscribe to our weekly podcast as we release interviews from conference speakers Jay Nordlinger, Darel Paul, and Bruce Gilley. 

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