University buildings with trees
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Martin Center Column Highlights University Alumni Concerns

Jay Schalin of the Martin Center writes that some university alumni have decided to be “sheep no more.”

[D]espite such slow progress on so many higher education fronts, I have great hope for a new development; on Sunday, October 17, the formation of a new organization was announced in the Wall Street Journal. This organization is called the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA); its members are reform-minded alumni at five prestigious institutions: Princeton University, Davidson College, Washington and Lee University, Cornell University, and the University of Virginia.

Alumni have long been an important voice all too absent in higher education governance. Of course, other stakeholders are also missing in action. Boards of trustees have increasingly shirked their duties for over a century. Reform-minded student groups lack the critical mass or staying power necessary to effect major change, as they are vastly outnumbered by their officially supported “woke” peers, and their time on campus is short. Business as usual means that all these stakeholder groups are fed lip service while the woke machine marches steadily on.

And alumni have been the least vocal of all. The administrators have figured out how to herd them like sheep, with social events and slickly produced magazines that are not forums for serious discussion but glowing endorsements of the status quo. Official alumni groups are now little more than extensions of their administrations, and alumni appointed or elected to boards tend to be not independent leaders but are selected for their propensities to yield to the administration. Whenever alumni intent on providing leadership emerge, as happened at Dartmouth or Yale, their efforts—and future presence on the boards—are squelched by procedural changes in the bylaws governing board elections and appointments.

But there is great power in the alumni. As a stakeholder group, they are more tethered to the real world and tradition than their more fanciful counterparts in the faculty lounge, and it may be that a sleeping giant is finally waking up in response to the current push to remake the university system into one, big indoctrination camp.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...