“If you see one of those ragheads, shoot him right in the f****** face.” Given the climate on today’s campuses, one would reasonably expect that any student expressing those words would be severely disciplined, if not expelled. The fact that the student who did write such words in an email faced no consequences at all is one of the more eye-opening revelations in Evan Coyne Maloney’s documentary, Indoctrinate U.
The ninety-minute look at political correctness run amok in colleges across the nation premiered Monday evening at the Tribeca Film Center in New York City. As the political right struggles to make inroads into cultural arenas such as film, Maloney’s documentary is a major step forward. While it doesn’t quite have the slick production feel of, say, a Michael Moore film, it still manages to effectively weave learning, controversy, and humor. It leaves the audience both entertained and outraged.
In an interview, Maloney attributed the rise of political correctness to two major factors. One is the ideological bent of the people who were entering academia in the late 1960s. “I think it started with the Vietnam War. A lot of people avoided service by going into the academy….That spurred a big influx of professors who were more ideologically conforming than other generations.” The other factor is spineless administrators who easily bend to the will of left-wing students and professors, and enforce speech codes against conservative students.
“Administrators have a natural desire to avoid controversy on campus,” Maloney said. “Their job is to get students in the door and to extract money from alumni. Anything that gets in the way of that is a major headache for them.”
In the film, Maloney quickly becomes a headache for many of those officials. Numerous times he attempts to interview administrators at various universities regarding incidents of political correctness. His visits were most unwelcome. Those scenes usually end with the administrators calling the campus security to escort Maloney off of the premises. This happened even at Maloney’s alma mater, Bucknell.
Given how arbitrarily university honchos wield their power, it is little wonder that they don’t appreciate seeing Maloney’s camera lens. The email urging the shooting of a raghead came from Justin Rubenstein, a member of the University of Tennessee’s Issues Committee, a student committee that invites speakers to campus. The object of his anger was Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, a conservative columnist for the student newspaper (he is a Sikh*) who had penned a column criticizing the Issues Committee for having a liberal bias. While Rubenstein apologized when the email came to light, the University of Tennessee did not discipline him and did not remove him from the committee.
Maloney juxtaposes this affair with another incident at the University of Tennessee involving fraternity members who showed up at an off-campus Halloween party dressed as the Jackson Five. As part of their costumes, the members showed up in “black face.” This resulted in the university suspending the entire fraternity.
The film balances such outrages with bouts of humor, including a string of students complaining about having to suffer through professors’ political rants in classes ranging from romantic literature to physics. Particularly amusing was Maloney’s attempts to find Men’s Studies Departments and Men’s Centers at a number of universities.
While there is plenty in the film for conservatives and libertarians to enjoy, Indoctrinate U may have appeal to many who are left leaning in their politics. At the post-premiere reception, Nina, a self-described liberal at New York University, praised the film: “As a university student myself, I completely related to a lot of the things the students [in the film] said…I do feel bad for my friends and my fellow students who are Republicans, because they get a lot of flack for their views.” Laura, another self-described liberal, who attends Parsons, said, “I’ve had a lot of professors go off on rants that are totally unrelated to the class. It’s an art school. We should be learning art.”
At present, Maloney does not have a distributor for the documentary. That may soon change. The Indoctrinate U website contains a page where readers can request a screening in their town. The page has a map of the United States with “pins” in an area that has produced at least five requests. As one can see, the map is cluttered with pins.
Will universities and colleges ever dump political correctness in favor of their traditional role as a place for the free exchange of ideas? “That’s hard to predict,” said Maloney, “because I never would have assumed it would have gotten to the level that it is today. But if enough people become aware of what is happening, there are enough people with a stake in the system — parents, students, trustees, alumni — that could change the environment on campus for the better.”
Thus, let’s hope that Indoctrinate U will soon be coming to a theater near you.
*(CORRECTION: Sukhmani Singh Khalsa was incorrectly identified as a Muslim; he is a Sikh.)
David Hogberg is a Washington writer and host of the website Health Hog.