We’ve all seen the news coverage,the videos, the photos, the quotes, the hashtags.

Students across the country have erupted in protest and campus takeovers in response to perceived institutional and interpersonal racism on their campuses, most notably at the University of Missouri and Yale, but also at Ithaca College, Amherst College, and Claremont McKenna College. At the same time, weak-kneed administrators have for the most part appeased the student mobs, with the president of U. Missouri and the dean of Claremont McKenna ultimately resigning.

Make no mistake: the conflagration witnessed all week did not spring up out of nowhere.

Just take a peak at College Insurrection to see what has been going on the past few years, but understand that the degradation of higher education in this country began decades ago.

Since the 1960s, college administrators and faculty have  inculcated a culture of appeasement and entitlement among their students, and whenever that was not enough—such as when black and Hispanic students at Cornell partook in an armed takeover of a building on campus—they doubled down on their efforts to serve students whatever they wished.

The more recent developments of the ridiculous notions of trigger warnings and safe spaces are only the latest manifestations of this self-defeating endeavor to placate the increasingly deranged mindset of the most perturbed and eccentric of students.

[Protest against Christina Hoff Sommers, at Georgetown]Photo Credit: Georgetown U. Republicans]

[Protest against Christina Hoff Sommers, at Georgetown][Photo Credit: Georgetown U. Republicans]

College administrators, unfortunately, have neglected to heed the wisdom of Winston Churchill, who once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

A lot has already been said about these student protesters. Robby Soave of Reason concludes the protesters really just want “Mommy and Daddy”, and,  in the interest of saving the republic, Glenn Reynolds of USA Today wants to raise the voting age to 25. Katherine Timpf writing for the National Review mocks the “idiotic, lawless” protesters, and David French has a particularly poignant overview of the liberal and illiberal domination of college campuses. Rush put it best when he began referring to colleges as “institutes of higher victimization.” 

All well-put, but I want to answer a question no one else has even asked: what is actually driving these student protesters to think and act as they are?

To say that the answer is “they’re whiny brats” or “they’re spoiled and coddled wimps” only scratches the surface. Those are all true, but being coddled wimps doesn’t drive a thousand students to occupy a quad or threaten violence upon reporters.

Rather, the root cause behind these escalating protests, outlandish lists of demands, acts of vandalism, and everything else is psychological compensation.

Psychological compensation is a well-known concept. Psychologist Alfred Adler devised it in 1907, relating it to the concept of inferiority in the sense that one who feels inferior in some area will try to compensate for it somewhere else. For example, someone who is sickly and weak might compensate by buying a large, powerful-looking car.

What are the student protesters from Missouri to Yale to Ithaca all compensating for?

To understand, first keep in mind that the protest leaders are mostly self-stylized Marxists, communists, socialists, or hold similar radical political beliefs; for example, students participating in the Million Student March at Cornell called for the “abolishment of the wage system,” bemoaned “ruthless individualism,” and likened capitalism to a “great vampire squid.”

These students adore their revolutionary heroes, like Che Guevara. However, central to the notion of political Marxism and Communism is the concept of “struggle.”

As the word implies, it refers to physical and mental tribulations and conflicts between different classes in the ultimate battle for political control. Think of the Russian Civil War, which cost over 1.2 million Red deaths; Mao’s Long March, which decimated over 90% of the First Front Red Army; and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara barely eking out existence in the mountain jungles of the Sierra Madre Maestra for five years.

But, in the United States in the 21st century, free enterprise capitalism and expanding democracy have given the citizens of this country undue wealth, opportunities, and an unrivaled standard of living.  While there do exist large discrepancies in wealth and standard of living among different neighborhoods and sectors of society, when compared to the rest of the world there is very little complaining. Anyway, the trend for the past 240 years of this country’s existence has only been continuous improvement.

Much to the chagrin of these would-be revolutionaries, modern America leaves very little room for “struggle.”

In order to compensate for the lack of struggle like that experienced by their heroes, the student protesters now combat slights, snubs, offenses, mean-spirited comments, claims of unsafe campuses, etc. as as their form of struggle. This largely explains the advent of microaggressions, intersectionality, invalidated experiences, and hurt feelings as major transgressions and offenses treated equivalently to bodily harm, and the advent of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes as remedies.

[U. Missouri Protesters confront student journalist]

[U. Missouri Protesters confront student journalist]

Granted, I am not a psychologist, but as a college student I have witnessed, written about, and analyzed many student protests, speeches, and documents (usually lists of demands), mainly in my capacity writing for The Cornell Review. I have seen and heard countless times the word “struggle” invoked by student protesters, and similar rhetoric either directly or indirectly implicating themselves in something tantamount to “struggle.”

For example, student protesters at Yale, now calling themselves Next Yale, submitted a list of demands to University President Peter Salovey, with laughable demands including better dental coverage. Next Yale students claim their protesting activities have come “at great expense to [their] health and grades, to fight for a university at which we feel safe…” Herein is the struggle: the devastating toll on health and grades which accompany screaming at administrators, chanting slogans, and holding signs.

Sometimes the protesters are savvy and avoid explicitly using the word “struggle”, in which case they substitute with verbiage like “expression of agency” or “acts of resistance” which really have the same meaning.

The saddest part of all of this is that every time the rational and even-headed come out on top, or whenever the students are appeased but not to the extent they want, they take this is a validation of their struggle: the “system” is designed to oppress them. Administrators think they have acquiesced enough, while the students simply gear up for the next set of demands, after having invented even more offenses and elements of their never-ending struggle.

What can be done to stop this? That I honestly am not sure of. But first it’s important to understand what we’re up against.

[Featured Image- Million Student March Flyer via Cornell Review]

[NOTE: This post originally has a tweet and commentary about @AmherstUprising twitter account. It turns out it is a parody account, so the tweet and commentary were removed.]


Casey Breznick is the Editor-in-Chief of the undergraduate journal, The Cornell Review.


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