Culture Wars and the University

Civil wars, as in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century in England, are often fought simply for power. One group has it. The other group wants it based on grievances against those who hold the power. When the institutions are lacking or, at the very least weakened, that adjudicate power conflicts, civil wars often result.

But some civil wars are as much about ideology as power. Just over a century and a half after the culmination of the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil War broke out in the seventeenth century. This time the war was not between and among members of the same class, the landed nobility, but between the rising commercial classes (merchants, traders, manufacturers) versus the nobility. Ideology was used in the service of the rebels against the aristocracy to enable the new rising class to breach the oppressive grip of the feudal order that was strangling the “upstarts.”

The upstarts claimed to be the authentic democrats. The resistors in power claimed the loyalty of the ordinary people in opposition. Did the ordinary folk side with the Democrats or with the ruling economic elite who purportedly represented custom and tradition? In the English Civil War, “When ordinary men and women got it into their heads that it was a fine thing, by the grace and power of God, to be ‘downright separatists,’ the secular as well as the spiritual order was threatened. The ‘gathered Churches’ of the separatists were democratic institutions. The congregation came together of its own will, chose its own minister by free election, supported him by contributions freely organized and given. Now that all authority was shaken and every speculation possible, the ‘gathered Churches’ would soon be taken by some as the pattern for a reformed secular order, a society which came together by free consent of the governed, by agreement of the people.” (C. V. Wedgewood, The King’s War, 1641-1647, 481)

Currently, growing speculation in the United States suggests that if Donald Trump wins a second term or if he refuses to give up his elected throne if he is defeated, there is a danger of civil war in the United States with both the North-East and the Western states attempting to secede from a system that inherently favours Red States over Blue States given the structure of the Senate and the way the Electoral College works.

A symbolic civil war precedes the ideological one in what is dubbed as “The New History Wars.” (Cf. Jeremy Adelman, Director of the Global History Lab at Princeton University, and Andrew Thompson, Co-Director, Global History Centre, University of Oxford, “The New History Wars,” Project Syndicate, 22 September 2020.) It is a war over public monuments to imperialists and slave owners fought between the heirs of the victimization and those unwilling to allow the pillars of their sense of identity become a source of shame. (

As in England, the crisis erupted initially in the centres where the priesthood is located and educated. In our current age, that is the universities which spew out the priests for our contemporary society, especially now that the universities have increasingly fallen under the control of a new moral order. (See my last blog.) The universities are the locales where the degeneration and disintegration first take place, for that is where society’s priesthood is trained. For universities are not just the guardians and reproducers of skills and symbols needed by society. They are also the locales where the sacredness of the core values receive their recognition.

Trump has already declared war on the universities claiming that they are dominated by leftist doctrinaires who seek to deconstruct the American political system, its values and the lofty principles of the founding fathers. Those insisting that American society is riddled with structural racism will soon be countered by Trump’s 1776 National Commission to “promote a curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,” most basically that the nation was founded on the principles of freedom, not oppression.

The Commission will celebrate patriotic norms rather than radical egalitarianism. “Patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country. American parents are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at work or the repression of traditional faith, culture and values in the public square. Not anymore,” claimed Trump. The educational elites have betrayed America, not Donald Trump who arguably had another write his exams and even his essays.

Criticism of existing institutions, criticisms of the police, criticisms of America’s core beliefs are all unpatriotic. America is a beacon of freedom and democracy, and a moral leader and not a racist and oppressive system. “What we’re witnessing today is a result of left-wing indoctrination in our nation’s schools and universities. Many young Americans have been fed lies about America being a wicked nation plagued by racism.” America was founded on liberty, not on racism. Trump had already declared war on the federal bureaucracy banning racial sensitivity training in the name of American exceptionalism.

It is ironic when those in power, those with great wealth, present themselves as aggrieved and appeal to White fears and insecurity. The war against the liberal university is a real one. Just last week, the federal education department sent a letter to Princeton University announcing an investigation of the institution, more specifically the “systemic racism” of the university that runs contrary to the anti-racism laws of the United States. The argument of structural racism is being turned against the universities themselves, not to establish that they are racist, but really to harass them and tie them up so that the members are not free to work for liberal and progressive candidates.

Robert King, Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education, using adminfare to tie universities in knots, sent a letter to Christopher L. Eisgruber, President of Princeton University, dated 16 September 2020. ( The university Diversity Office two weeks earlier had launched a program of scholarly and operational initiatives to counteract racism.  (

The federal government letter made the following points:

  • Since 2013, the university had received $75 million of taxpayer funds (presumably for research undertaken by scholars and scientists at the university) and certified that the university was in compliance with the Civil

Rights Act of 1964;

  • Title VI provides no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance;
  • The university has also made equal non-discriminatory and opportunity representations to students, parents and consumers;
  • The university’s own letter of 2 September claimed the university had been racist;
  • Logically, that meant that the university was not in compliance with Title IV or with laws requiring honest advertising.

Of course, the logic is absurd. It is possible to be non-discriminatory in policies yet have continuing discriminatory practices.  

The federal government also attacked the new initiative to explore ways to extend Princeton’s teaching to a new range of students disproportionately affected by systemic racism and that, because of racism, race-based diversity measures would be utilized in hiring, procurement and teaching. This, in itself, was now regarded by the government as racist since the policy favoured some races over others.

Given that the university had admitted to racism, its applications for funds may have been false and were knowingly false at the time. The university also had engaged in misleading advertising. Such a claim would have no merit. The illogic was too evident. However, on the basis of such a charge, the university was asked to deliver to the department reams of documents and personnel to answer questions under oath. “Princeton should provide requested records, make available the identified Princeton personnel for transcribed interviews under oath, and answer the specified questions in accordance with the deadlines specified below.” Princeton should also “make every effort to answer our requests fully and completely”

The letter warned that the government could and would request repayment of funds if indeed the university was deemed in non-compliance with Title IV and with provisions of false and misleading advertising. “(T)he serious, even shocking nature of Princeton’s admissions compel the Department to move with all appropriate speed.” The university was given 21 calendar [not work] days – i.e. 15 work days (excluding in my list the elaboration of a request) – to supply the following:

  • Each record that you identified, referred to, described, relied upon, reviewed, or used in any way in preparing your written response. Please also identify and describe in detail each such record;
  • All records concerning, relating to, or referencing the President’s Letter from 1 April 2020 to the present;
  • All records concerning, relating to, or referencing the Diversity Measures;
  • All records concerning, relating to, or referencing Princeton’s “systemic” and/or “embedded” racism from January 1, 2013 to the present;
  • A spreadsheet identifying each person who has, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, been excluded from participation in, been denied the benefits of, or been subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance as a result of the Princeton racism or “damage” referenced in the President’s Letter from January 1, 2015 to the present;
  • All records concerning or relating to Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity representations to the Department, to other federal government departments, agencies, or instrumentalities, or to the public from January 1, 2015 to the present;
  • All records concerning, relating to, or referencing Princeton’s promise in its Program Participation Agreements with the Department of compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and the implementing regulations from January 1, 2015 to the present;
  • All records Princeton relied on in making its assurances of compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and relevant implementing regulations, barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin as of January 1, 2015;
  • A spreadsheet of all Princeton employees and outside advisers or consultants (including but not limited to legal counsel) who were consulted regarding or who participated in collecting information for and drafting the President’s Letter and/or the Diversity Measures. The spreadsheet should contain: (1) the name and job title of each such person; (2) current contact information for each such person; and (3) a detailed narrative description of each such person’s role and activities.

I provided the elaboration on the last request to illustrate the degree of detail required in all the requests. Clearly, anyone aware of how a university operates would know that it would take virtually the entire university administration six months to a year to produce the requested documentation. Further, much if not most of the material requested could not be produced. No university could comply. This is just a mode of harassment aimed at liberal institutions to deflect them and advance the Trump position denying systemic racism in the United States.

The letter then went on to elaborate on the different types of records requested.

“Records” mean all recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received, and including metadata, such as email and other electronic communication, draft and final word processing documents, social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) posts, PDF documents, animations (including PowerPoint™ and other similar programs) spreadsheets, databases, calendars, telephone logs, contact manager information, Internet usage files, network access information, writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images, financial statements, checks, wire transfers, accounts, ledgers, facsimiles, texts, animations, voicemail files, data generated by calendaring, task management and personal information management (PIM) software (such as Microsoft Outlook), data created with the use of personal data assistants (PDAs), data created with the use of document management software, data created with the use of paper and electronic mail logging and routing software, and other data or data compilations, stored in any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the responding party into a reasonably usable form. The term “recorded information” as used above also includes all traditional forms of records, regardless of physical form or characteristics.

Instructions were also given on how those records should be collected and transmitted. In addition to the written records, a number of officials were to be made available for transcribed interviews under oath within 28 days. There were then three questions to which replies were required within 21 calendar days. Let me give just one to illustrate the absurdity of the request: “How many individuals were, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance by Princeton between January 1, 2015 and the present?” No organization could answer such a question.

The university would resort to its own adminfare and lawfare requesting clarifications, further elaborations, justifications, etc., to stall as well as prepare court challenges for the requests if push came to shove. The object would be to delay compliance until after the 4 November election in hopes that Trump will be defeated and the political directions to the government altered.


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