way critical of women, homosexuals,nand minorities is strongly disapproved.nThe major works of the Europeannliterary tradition are tolerated only asnexamples of “the discourse of oppression.”nConsiderations of race and sexndominate admissions and appointments.nAnd so it goes on, documentednin detail by D’Souza, who makes itnclear that his examples are representative,nnot exhaustive, and that for everyncase mentioned hundreds have gonenunrecorded.nThe result, according to D’Souza, isnthat where the revolution has succeeded,nits effects are disastrous. Favoritismnof minorities enrages the majority, andnworsens relations between the races.nLowered standards of matriculationnand graduation embitter supposednbeneficiaries. The assault on academicnstandards in the name of politics demoralizesnentire universities.nIs D’Souza right? The strength ofnhis book is in its narration of detail andnits presentation of individuals. Case byncase he presents a picture of the Americanncampus that would be profoundlyndepressing were it not for the hilariousnprocession of charlatans, buffoons, andnpoltroons that trots through his pagesnto cheer up the reader. Under thenprotection of race and sex, it seems,npeople talk and act quite without inhibition:nfor instance, a dean of minoritynaffairs denounces dining-hall workersnbecause the nostalgia behind theirn”back to the fifties party” indicatesnsympathy for a segregationist decade; anprofessor of business tells us that “allnrules are unjust,” and a historian renamesnhis course “Cowpersons andnNative Americans.”nThe book’s weakness is its conceptualnframe. If this is a victims’ revolution,nwhy does it proceed, as D’Souzansays, quoting Donald Kagan at Yale,n”from the top down”? Why, moreover,nhas it proved so profitable for thenacademic profession? The last decadenhas seen boom times in academia;nimmense sums have flowed from thengovernment and the foundations intoninstitutional and individual pockets,nand in the humanities and social sciencesnmuch of it has financed variousnaspects of D’Souza’s revolution.nD’Souza does not explain this. As hensays, the makeup of the nation’s populationnis changing, as are its socialnhabits; but there is no necessary rela­ntionship of cause and effect betweennthe observation and the state of academicnaffairs that he describes.nIf one extends the book’s journalisticnfocus beyond the few years it covers,nthen things presented as brand newnlook more familiar. The new illiberalsnregard the university as an agent ofnsocial and political change, but what isnnew about that? People who are grumblingnnow cheered thirty years agonwhen John Kennedy used the steps ofnthe Michigan Union to announce thenfounding of the Peace Corps. Modifyingnthe curriculum to suit differentnkinds of students also has a long history.nWhere else did all those creativenwriting courses come from, not tonmention Freshman English itself? Andnif we are to talk about academic qualifications,nhow is the average selfordainednpoet or novelist qualified tonteach on a college campus?nWhatever aspect of the new illiberalismnone considers, it has annacademic history. Intolerance? Therenwere once two notoriously conservativenEnglish professors at Michigan, and thenliberal wits of that department treatednthem as pariahs: academic conservativesnlearned long ago the trick of self-censorshipnthat their liberal colleagues are nowncomplaining about.nLowered standards? Preferential admissionsnfor nonacademic reasons?nThey are not new. In the 70’s, DavidnTmman, president of Mount Holyoke,ntold faculty members worried aboutnadmissions that the high standards ofnthe late 60’s were abnormal. For a fewnyears an oversupply of matriculantsnallowed colleges to be choosy. Now, asninstitutions struggle to maintain thenhigh numbers of the 60’s, things arenback to normal, but with this difference:nthere is such a surplus of places thatnunqualified students are admittedneverywhere (with catastrophically demoralizingneffects on the high schools),nand preferential admission is being givennto members of racial minorities insteadnof alumni children and the offspringnof Protestant clergymen. Thenminority population, however, is not thenonly source of unqualified students. It isnnot even the major one. It is merely thenmost visible, and the one that suffersnmost, from kindergarten up, from lowerednstandards.nSimilariy, although the crackpot the­nnnories and low standards associated withnBlack Studies and Women’s Studies arenfair game, it is hypocritical to treat themnas an unprecedented^attack on thenacademic citadel. As-^a_ professor ofnphilosophy said when asked why herncollege, a famous one, had introducednBlack Studies: “We let the social scientistsnin sixty years ago, and we haven’tnhad a leg to stand on since.” Complaintsnabout bogus subjects, gut courses,nand lowered standards come strangelynfrom the beneficiaries of a systenn thatnrewards Freudian critics of literature,nfunds chairs in outdoor recreation, andnalways ensures a sufficiency of coursesnpassable by theless than bright. Besides,nthere is. nothing intrinsically fatuousnabout Black or Women’s Studies; bothnare rewarding fields for scholars dulyngrounded in literature, philology, andnhistory.nWhat is new is that this transferencenof privilege is mandated by the administrativenmanagers, and affects just aboutnevery academic and administrative department.nIt has a totalitarian smellnabout it. Affirmative action committeesnhave veto power over appointments,nhence over curriculum and standards.nAs for the faculty involved in thesenpower games, they are pawns, in somencases willing pawns, in others richnpawns, but pawns nonetheless. Theninvolvement of a few genuine Marxistsnand radicals seems coincidental. Butnhave the institutions themselves and thenvalues they represent really changed?nD’Souza’s victims’ revolution looks tonme like an unusually virulent manifestationnof the anti-intellectualism that hasnbeen endemic in higher education for anlong time. The movement takes a leftwingndirection because, ever since higherneducation became subordinate tonstate planning after the 1939-1945 war,nleft-wing sympathies have been profitablenand conventional in academia. Unfortunately,nthe left is nature’s wrecker:nwhen these people walk down a street,nthe buildings fall down behind them.nYet even so, leftism in itself is notnincompatible with high academic standards,nand it remains to be seen whethernthe right-wing orchestra we hear tuningnup in the wings will play a more spiritualnkind of music.nThe universities’ anti-intellectualismnmakes them vulnerable to political andnother influences, but it is not caused bynthem. The odd truth is that highernSEPTEMBER 1991/31n