What's Happened At Elite Universities Since October 7?
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Claudine Gay Groyper updates us on what’s going on at elite universities since 10/7:

Hi Steve and commenters, I finally made another effort-post. I appreciate any constructive criticism you may have👍

After October 7th there were a lot of thinkpieces in conservative media declaring that wokeness was finally finished (“The wokes have finally gotten owned by facts and logic”). As best I can tell things here on campus seem about as woke and/or anti-woke as they were before. Since we’re now a couple months into Israel/Palestine being the “current thing” (with no chance of peace breaking out in the middle east in sight), I’d like to take a chance to reflect back on the underlying demographic trends at work on elite college campuses and make some predictions about the direction intellectual discourse will take in the future.

Despite all the sturm und drang on campuses over the past couple months, it’s worth noting that pretty much no elite university (I’m aware of) has changed any of their underlying free speech or hiring policies. The whole claudine gay congressional antisemitism hearing turned out to be a massive momentary PR fiasco, but it’s not as if the underlying DIE apparatus at Harvard (or any ivy league school) is different now than it was before. The strategy of most university administrations has been to tell both the pro-Israel and pro-Palestine constituencies on campus what they want to hear and basically ride this out: “We pledge to combat the officially certified 10000% increase in both antisemitism and islamophobia”. This seems to have been more-or-less the correct strategy from a fundraising and CYA perspective.

The Philosophy Professor and blogger Brian Leiter has been linking to a bunch of pro and anti free speech open letters at different universities, and what’s striking is how predictable it all is, and how the same demographic trends appear on basically every campus (from UChicago to Harvard to Yale). The most recent petition is at Yale where a bunch of professors signed an open letter saying that universities should put academic excellence and open inquiry ahead of social justice activism (seems reasonable enough to me). Not surprisingly the signatories were disproportionately law/STEM/classics/Econ professors and also maybe 75% male. On the other side, the “rejoinder” letter was disproportionately English/Anthropology/Women’s Studies Professors and about 75% female. One of the signatories to the rejoinder letter is our old pal, the “Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy” (Jason Stanley) who might be the intellectual titan of the group.


One interesting test case to look at is Yale Law School, where there were 15 professors on the academic freedom letter vs. 6 on the social justice letter. Yale Law School is usually ranked as the top law school in the country, and the average LSAT of an admitted student is 173 which corresponds to about a 140ish IQ, which means the Professors are probably even a fair bit smarter. Whatever one thinks of lawyers, at the very least they’re able to evaluate opposing arguments in a thoughtful way. Also, for the record, I personally think lawyers are the moral bedrock of society.

So I think there are a couple ways of looking at what’s going on demographically at elite universities involving pretty much any “current thing” controversy (beyond the obvious “red team” vs. “blue team” divide):

-145 IQ vs. 130 IQ
-shape rotators vs. wordcels
-analytic philosophy vs. continental philosophy
-straightforwardness vs. sophistry
-thinking in terms of general trends vs. thinking in terms of anecdotes
-high T vs. low T
-male vs. female
-Boomers vs. Millennials
-Chad vs. Virgin

So I actually think the demographic trends at work are unironically intersectional (there are a couple different dimensions at work simultaneously). For instance, one of the signatories to the academic freedom letter is a boomer English Professor who studies John Milton. On the social justice letter side the professors are almost all millennials studying *exactly* what you think they would be studying, and same for their grad students. A couple years ago Steve used the term “lumpen-intelligentsia” to describe what’s going on with millennial grad students (studying things like Lacan or Chicanx literature) and people dumb enough to fall for the MFA swindle.


It seems like a pretty big trend over the past decade or two has been relatively more intelligent/politically moderate/male students self-selecting out of the worst parts of the humanities to the point now where 1990s English departments seem almost based in retrospect. One funny book that describes these dynamics pretty well is “Disgrace” (1999) by JM Coetzee, which is in part about a Jewish professor studying Byron who gets metoo’d (paging Larry David).

Here’s my 2009 review of the movie adaptation of Disgrace with John Malkovich as the South African professor.

For context, Coetzee was a math/english double degree student as an undergraduate at University of Cape Town who worked in England as a computer programmer for a couple years after graduation (sort of like a South African Bertrand Russell). If you look at enrollment trends, there’s been a long term decline in humanities enrollments (as a percentage of all undergraduates), but the downward acceleration only started around 2014 (when there weren’t too many JM Coetzees and Harold Blooms left in English departments).

As an undergrad, I took a bunch of English/CompLit classes and I always felt as if the female professors (especially above a certain age) actually kind of appreciated having a man in class in order to make funny and moderately politically incorrect observations about the novels we were reading. As long as you don’t activate any sort of crime-think detection system on the part of the professor it’s usually a pretty easy A 🙂


The New Yorker did a piece last year on “The End of The English Major” which was fairly good and discussed some of these trends. The reporter talked to professors at places like Harvard and Columbia, but also at state U multi-racial party schools like Arizona State. A couple of the professors had funny lines, but most of them seemed too self-unaware and innumerate to realize what’s going on demographically. One thing that also wasn’t discussed fully is the role of Asian students at elite colleges especially with respect to the 2023 SCOTUS affirmative action decision. As elite universities become more azn, there’s almost certainly going to be an enrollment shift away from humanities and towards STEM/pre-professional/Shape Rotator fields.

Also, in 2026 the post-financial crisis baby bust is going to arrive at colleges, and almost certainly a massive number of private colleges (those without large endowments) are going to go bankrupt. Furthermore, republican state legislatures (which control half the country) are cutting grievance studies programs at state colleges.

This all means that the number of new tenure-track job openings in the humanities is going to shrink pretty drastically over the next 10 years (if trends continue), which will have a trickle-up effect at PhD programs at more elite universities. If you read chronicles of higher education (which I wouldn’t recommend) it’s basically non-stop shrieking about how Western Washington University (or some other directional state college) is cutting its English department.


One other propitious trend over the past couple of years has been the collapse of the vice/buzzfeed tier of the journalism industry. In Ben Smith’s book Traffic (2023), which I would recommend, he talks about how peak hype for “new media” startups (like Buzzfeed, Vice News, Gawker, Jezebel, Vox, HuffPo etc.) was around 2013 and that already around 2016/2017 it was clear to smart people that these ventures weren’t going to be profitable. Boomer Media Moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Bob Iger poured a lot of money into these companies at the peak (“how do you do, fellow kids?”), but they’ve all pretty much bankrupt at this point (with millenials who tried to make a career in journalism holding the bag). Likewise, almost all regional newspapers in the US are dying, which was hastened by Brandon’s election and “the return to normalcy”™. The NYT and the WSJ are basically a cooking app and a high-end real estate section respectively. Whatever one thinks of Unz Review, Elon Twitter and Substack (and their effects on political discourse), it’s hard to get much worse than mid 2010s Jezebel/Buzzfeed-era journalism. The thought police are being defunded.


There was a micro-controversy a couple months ago where some guy named Jonathan M. Katz wrote a piece in The Atlantic called “Substack has a nazi problem”. The clear intention was to try and remove/suppress wrong-thinkers from the platform (like what happened on Twitter after the 2016 election), but the censorship effort mostly just fizzled out after people pointed out the logical flaws in his arguments.

Finally, I’d like to talk about L’Affaire Stancil and what it says about intellectual discourse in the future. If you look at Will Stancil’s academic pedigree (Wake Forest Class of ’07, two masters degrees so he must be extra smart, and a UMN Law School Degree Class of ’13) you can begin to understand how he can’t really hold his own in an argument. He also embodies a couple of the millennial demographic trends I’ve been describing above (particularly the low T and medium IQ part). Normally, I’m a bit skeptical of therapy culture, but in the case of Will, I genuinely think he needs to see someone (BetterHelp?). Stancil doesn’t seem to be particularly bright or well-read (he’s not exactly Hegel or Sartre), and most of his arguments consist of redeploying memes developed by people like Stephen J. Gould in the 1970s and 80s. These ideas don’t even really make sense in a post-23andMe world. If this were 2017, Will would probably be doing a “historian here” authoritative deboonking of “neo-phrenology” in Vox, but fortunately in 2024 people on twitter are able to evaluate both sides of the argument and come to their own conclusions.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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