NYU Students Punch Down at Adjunct
“Punching up vs. punching down” is an inane, stupid standard for behavior. Power in human affairs is not found along a simple ordinal scale, but exists in all manner of dimensions. Power relations are irreducibly complex, not a matter of simplistic binaries pre-tuned for culture war.
But, OK, let the activists have it their way: we can now say with great certainty that at New York University students punch down at their contingent professors. Celebrated organic chemistry professor Maitland Jones Jr. had high standards, and we can’t have that in 2022. NYU students - who are, by any rational measure, some of the most privileged people on planet earth - organized a petition and got him fired. I hope you never get treated by one of the doctors who emerges from this mess. For years and years, I’ve used the example of adjunct vs. college students to trouble the artificial punching up vs punching down binary; adjuncts hand out grades and have ostensible power over their students in class, but in the 21st-century university, students have power in almost every way that matters. And yet the wokies continue to represent students as oppressed truth-tellers and advocates, rather than as entitled consumers who expect to be handed everything in exchange for their crushing loan debt. Well, here we have it folks, the central dilemma of social justice politics: the belief that you are a powerless subaltern under the thumb of the injustice of oppressors who you can nevertheless get fired at your whim. It’s almost enough to make you think that the world’s more complicated than the simplistic binaries everyone is so deeply dedicated to.
This will, of course, get worse. Rigor is already under absolute assault thanks to the communal politics of people in the humanities and social sciences, and whatever holdouts there are in the sciences will give way to the customer service model of education, bootstrapped with social justice rhetoric. In a sense, students are just demanding that higher education drop its vestigial attachment to education entirely, so that the whole edifice becomes a simple matter of partying for four years and trading $100,000 for a credential that denotes nothing. You’d think they’d want more for their money, but they demanded less.
NYU students: the world is a hard, tragic place, and its pains will catch up to you sooner or later. Experience its inevitable hardships so that you grow resilient against them, or don’t, and suffer more later. It’s up to you.