Against the erosion of academic freedom by identity politics

Laurent Dubreuil in Harper’s Magazine:

In August 2017, a few weeks before the fall semester began at Cornell University, I received an email inviting me to participate in a campaign called “I’m First!” The idea was to encourage “faculty and staff on campus to identify themselves, via T-shirt or button, as the first in their family to graduate from a four-year institution.” The rationale for this themed costume party was the following: “This visual campaign will allow first-generation students to clearly identify (and connect with) faculty and professional staff that have had similar experiences as them!” Though I have been a tenured professor at Cornell for eleven years, neither of my parents, who are French, pursued post-secondary education. My father finished high school; my mother learned stenography at a vocational school and got her first job at sixteen. I guess this made me an ideal candidate to wear the nice T-shirt provided by the administration. But I declined. I’m not ashamed of my background, and I don’t underestimate the challenges students face when they are the first in their family to attend college. But the two occurrences of the verb “to identify” in one eight-line paragraph were clear hints that the I’m First! initiative—part of a national campaign—was pushing a new social identity: “first-gen.”

More here.