Saul Bellow’s university caves in to BLM

Saul Bellow’s university caves in to BLM


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2020

A faculty statement from the English Department at the University of Chicago:

For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. 

… We believe that undoing persistent, recalcitrant anti-Blackness in our discipline and in our institutions must be the collective responsibility of all faculty, here and elsewhere. In support of this aim, we have been expanding our range of research and teaching through recent hiring, mentorship, and admissions initiatives that have enriched our department with a number of Black scholars and scholars of color who are innovating in the study of the global contours of anti-Blackness and in the equally global project of Black freedom.  



  • David says:

    Horrible Tag Line. You should be ashamed to publish this piece with the “caves in” idiom. The notion of “caving in” carries with it the implication that your desires are irrelevant and you are doing what someone else wants. Your presentation is, in my reading, overtly racist.

    • Give me a break says:

      Then count me a racist. Of course it’s caving in – what else would it be! This and other universities would never prostrate themselves so shamefully if it weren’t for this Marxist Lesbian pressure campaign. Let’s hope any talent worthy of UofC wises up and goes elsewhere. Time to take a hard line on “BLM”.

    • V. Lind says:

      The text implies precisely that the student’s desires are irrelevant and they will be required to do what someone else wants. “For the 2020-2021 *Graduate* admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting *Only* applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies.

      So I’ve devoted my undergraduate years to specialising in, say, Donne or Spenser (and invested the effort to make graduate school at U of C, and the money), with the hope that if I do well I may get a teaching gig upon reception of my Ph.D. And now i have to divert a whole whack of my time, energy and attention to a subject that bears little relevance to my own? Given the subjects in which I am interested, just how much time am I expected to devote to “working in and with Black [sic] studies”? I assume as my subject is English, I fall into the “with” category, as I am already “IN” another. What exactly does that mean?

      Anyway, I would have thought the 2020/21admissions cycle was long over. Term has begun throughout North America. Does this mean that all of a sudden there is going to be an imposition of one of these diversity training programmes (which hardly constitute Black studies, let alone in an English department on students already, as I recall it, burdened with heavy academic loads and in most cases carrying part-time jobs to help pay for them)?

      I have read the entire statement linked by Emil very carefully. It has some pretty flawed assumptions for a University that is so highly ranked (and historically respected) in the field of English literature. While I agree that “the literatures of African American, African diasporic, and colonized peoples” should probably be a “core competence,” I hardly think slapping it on people with no notice and, if they have expressed themselves clearly, at the graduate school level, is very democratic or in any other way fair.

      And I find this statement just offensive and, to say the least, unscholarly: “Our discipline is responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why. ” Is the U of C considering dropping teaching the Brontes, whose struggles with their own lives hardly makes me think they were much engaged with much outside them other than their created characters, because they were not “engaged,” in the current parlance, with race issues that hardly dominated cultural life in 19th century Yorkshire? Or trying to make Thomas Traherne or Emily Dickinson fit into some sort of political agenda?

      I think it’s right that some study of black literature is a reasonable inclusion on undergraduate English degrees, as should be Shakespeare (though I have seen calendars that suggest it can be dodged). As someone who did English and claimed undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, I am well versed in major writing by American, African and Caribbean authors, and I wouldn’t doubt that some of the South American literature I have read is by black writers. I have also read Asian and non-English European writers. (I personally think Proust, Tolstoy and Chekhov, Dante and Goethe should be among the required readings for an English degree, but in my day, most of us entered the undergraduate programme having read some of that and my JCR lunches were as dominated by enthusiasts of Dostoevsky as of Dickens).

      But comparative literature is not to be compulsory — it would probably impose more colonialist ideas than are already spread by reading English literature from the Anglos-Saxons (talking about colonialists) to Martin Amis (who as a Bellow devotee, may be a little ruffled by this imposition.

      I hold the unfashionable, and perhaps unfeminist, view that Kipling is a great writer and worth reading. I can foresee his being dropped altogether because of his personal support for the Empire. So let’s just drop Wagner from music curricula because of some of his views — or does anti-Semitism not count any more?

      What is wrong with the U of C’s statement, as written, is that it clearly intends to tell, or at least direct, students as to what to think. And that direction is coming from a pretty unscholarly bunch, who are guided by “feeling” rather than logic and thought. That is NOT what universities are for.

      Suit up, profs. It looks as if the trigger warning crowd have just won a big one.

      • Emil says:

        No, that’s not how it works. Departments restrict admissions based on field every year, for whatever reason (sometimes, just because ‘we got a big grant in sub-field X’, or ‘we want to climb in the rankings for sub-field Y’). This is no different. Not all profs admit PhDs every year, again for a flurry of reasons.
        So a student who wants to do a PhD on Chaucer is free to apply to literally any other university in the US where a supervisor exists and is available.

        Example from my studies: I wanted to go to Oxford. Oxford did not have a PhD/DPhil supervisor in my field (well, they had two, and neither of them were open to admitting new PhD students that year). I wanted to go to LSE. Neither of the 2 LSE profs I wanted to work with were admitting students that year. Discrimination? Nah. That’s literally how grad admissions work.

        • AngloGerman says:

          Stop kidding yourself – you would never have got into Oxford, and all the better for it. The elite universities don’t need any more of this racist idiocy.

          • Emil says:

            Perhaps not, but I got offers from Cambridge at the masters (with funding) and PhD level, so I’m not too fussed about that.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Except Harvard, which set limits on Asian students as this was seen to discriminate against other Americans. You’re bright or you’re not.

          • William Safford says:

            Stop reading Stormfront. It poisons your brain.

          • Barry says:

            Emil is simply and kindly explaining how the process works for some people who are not familiar with the higher education application process and all you’ve got is a 5 year old level insult, whilst not engaging at all in the points he makes? Clearly your parents and society have failed to instill common decency and analytical thinking. I feel sorry for you but it’s never too late!

      • againstbigotry says:

        Look, I had my own initial, personal reservations about a department’s stating that it will only consider applicants interested in a particular subject; however, it is honest, and graduate departments always consider graduate students if their particular interests run in line with the department’s. If a Germanic studies department stated that it was only accepting applicants interested in the Biedermeier era, we wouldn’t lament that Kafka is no longer of importance. One would likely posit that they have a dearth of scholars in this particular intellectual field. Looking at the university’s English grad students now, most of them are not exploring English as a subject in a ‘traditional’ way anyway, and English as a discipline in America is far more nebulous than it was 20-30 years ago (most at this university appear interested in studying gender/sexuality through the program), so it may be a correction in part on the department’s end to turn its attention to a less-discussed subject in this department. If you want to explore facets of English literature at UChicago, you can certainly pursue that in a large number of varying departments (Comp Lit; Theater studies for Shakespeare; Social Thought for Dickens). If English students aren’t interested in Black Studies, they are welcome to apply to dozens of other excellent programs across the country that fit their needs.

        In all honesty, with the lack of career prospects for academics in regular tracks, Black studies is probably good career-wise, as a growing number of academic institutions and schools across the United States value this experience. And let me be clear: doctoral students at this university are not paying at this point to study. They are, in fact, being paid to pursue their academic interests in most major American doctoral programs. At a time when lots of departments across the country (including at the University of Chicago) are not accepting applications for funded positions for this application cycle (to start studying there in 2021), it is important to note that the English department has been able to secure any sort of funding for what will, undoubtedly, be a smaller cohort than usual.

    • English ONLY again! says:

      An English department is TARGETED here. No other??

      You certainly don’t see the “African Languages Department” being focused on. NO! Because most US blacks can’t speak one word of ANY of the numerous African languages like Swahili.

      When ever did you hear of black people speaking in one of THEIR languages last??? Unless your watching an African channel, YOU NEVER DO!

      BLM types merely want what the WHITE people have. They don’t ever “fight” to have their legitimate native customs known. It’s all about taking from whites to falsely empower themselves. These particular blacks are just racists and nothing more.

      Obama couldn’t even learn either Swahili or another one to communicate with “black America”. His speech was of the prompter only to appease and never affect any real “CHANGE”.

      There are plenty of other black icons about that I personally like but they are limited to English and French though German at times. No African or say Yiddish.

      • Emil says:

        Yeah, why don’t Black Americans not speak Swahili, for instance? Could there, I don’t know, have been some violent event in history that could explain this? Say, a forced uprooting, where they were forcibly taken from Swahili-speaking countries and transported to English-speaking countries? Could it be that Black Americans have lived in America for over 400 years, since oh-I-don’t-know 1619 or so, and that English *is* their language? Could it be that there are over 400 years of Black literature written in English in America, and even longer legacies in Europe, etc.?
        Guess we’ll never know; someone should study that, why not the University of Chicago?

      • Brettermeier says:

        “When ever did you hear of black people speaking in one of THEIR languages last??? Unless your watching an African channel, YOU NEVER DO! ”

        Some of my grandparents had to flee from Poland. So I guess I have to learn Polish now for some reason?!

        But somehow, nobody asked me to learn Polish. Now, why would that be! 😉

        Oh, and maybe you should work on your English skills before wailing about others not speaking an African language (your vs. you’re, isn’t it “whenever”? Ah well, your the expert! 😉 )

        “Because most US blacks can’t speak one word of ANY of the numerous African languages like Swahili.”

        Why should they. You said it: “US”. But I agree: You guys should reconsider the name, the “united” part seems a bit far-fetched.

        “BLM types merely want what the WHITE people have. ”

        Equality! Boooh!

        Thank you for showing the class why I hate people.

        • Adam Wu says:

          You think so little of blacks that they can’t learn and communicate in their native tongue as the Hispanic, Jewish, French, Asian, German, Italian, Arabian have all these years in America? People CONSTANTLY do this in conversation whenever I’ve been around different people.

          Hang on Brettermeier! You best be sure you didn’t leave your iron on after creasing your KKK outfit. Heavy starch I gather??

          • Brettermeier says:

            “People CONSTANTLY do this in conversation whenever I’ve been around different people.”

            Ich würd mir ja so meine Gedanken machen, wenn meine Mitmenschen ständig in meiner Gegenwart die Sprache wechseln. Liegt aber ganz sicher nicht an Dir und Deiner charmanten Art. 😉

        • H. Figueroa says:

          Another white lib speaking for blacks. How predictable and common.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Very well said. My late father always used to say “it’s always all about WHO gets WHAT”.

      • Louise says:

        “BLM types merely want what the WHITE people have.'”

        Yes. That’s it exactly. Equality. Respect. Opportunity.

        But you got 18 upvotes for “It’s all about taking from whites to falsely empower themselves.” Wow. Apparently at least 18 people hear think Black people should know their place and let the white people have the front of the bus.

        • Darrell York says:

          Louise dear, domestic terrorism won’t work now that ANTIFA-BLM are ending up in jail.

          Also, white people do not possess some “privilege” your ilk can’t even define. If so, why are so many white people still homeless, passed over for jobs, not selected for everything they apply for, treated poorly by members of their own race, etc.

          Frankly, if “white privilege” existed, President Trump would have been respected for the office he was legally elected to like all past presidents. From initial the moments Hillary Clinton failed the Democrats, your kind became a hate group with no substance of your own.

    • Barry says:

      That was exactly my thought too. However, we shouldn’t expect impartiality from this blog and blog owner. Look what kind of commenters this place attracts…! Honestly a shame to the whole music community, and hopefully someone passing through will not think this is representative of our community, because it clearly isn’t amongst musicians.

    • Barry says:

      That was exactly my thought. However, we shouldn’t expect impartiality from this blog or blog owner. Look what kind of commenters this blog attracts…! I hope someone passing by will not see this as representative of our community, because it clearly isn’t, at least amongst musicians.

    • Barry says:

      That was exactly my thought. However, we shouldn’t expect impartiality from this blog or blog owner. Look what kind of commenters this blog attracts…! I hope someone passing by will not see this as representative of our community, because it clearly isn’t, at least amongst musicians. It really is a shame

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    As a UofC grad, I must say this is not giving in. It’s adjusting to the times.

    Admittance at UofC is very low so they will continue to get the high academic quality of students they are used to.

    Most importantly, they are requiring that some of the distribution electives be reserved for Black Studies classes.

    In this time of upheaval, I see nothing wrong with that edict.

    • James Weiss says:

      Did you actually read what they’re doing? It’s anti-academic to say the least. It’s not only “caving in” its forcing students and faculty to jettison classical study for hocus pocus pseudo study.

    • True North says:

      Go away; you’re much too reasonable for this site.

  • Emil says:

    Statement’s here by the way:

    It’s a drastic solution (and one I don’t see them carrying forward in the future), though not necessarily a bad one, for two reasons:
    1- Black literature is often marginalised and isolated in its own discipline (Black studies). To recentre it as a core component of English literature is necessary, and crucial both to the study of Black literature and of anglophone literature more broadly. And it is good to see a major department do so.
    2- It makes sense from an employment perspective as well. University jobs in Black studies is one of the few areas in which more jobs are getting advertised regularly, as jobs in other mainstream areas simply vanish. So, if the University of Chicago wants to have any chance of its graduates getting hired, focusing on Black studies is not a bad bet.

    Finally, I’d note that if applicants really want to do something that has no connection to Black studies, there are hundreds of PhD programs in the US that will accept them.

    • James Weiss says:

      I don’t think of literature as “black” or “white.” I think of literature as good, bad, or mediocre. The fact is that 99% of the great literature of history was written by white men and women. That is a fact. We can discuss why that is but we can’t pretend that’s not true. But elevating a few black writers to the same plane as Shakespeare or James is ridiculous and anti-intellectual. When I’m asked why I don’t teach black writers of the past I always respond “find me the black Dickens or Austen and I’ll be happy to teach them.”

      • AOC says:

        For the sake of time, I’m going to ignore your incredibly false insights on black authors, and address the fact that you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of a graduate program in English.

        A graduate program (or PhD program) is meant for scholars to further their scholastic endeavors, with the intention of writing their dissertations, and eventually going on to be hired into the world of academia. One does not getting a PhD in English so that they can READ Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare, they are getting a PhD in order to pursue their own scholastic endeavors. Also at this point if you browse through the recent dissertations at any major university, I think you would find that you are hard-pressed to find anyone writing a dissertation on Dickens, Austen, or Shakespeare. This is not a competition of literature, it’s just where University of Chicago‘s English Department is trying to align their scholastic engagement.

        And for any upcoming English PhD applicants that don’t have interest in working in Black Studies? Well, they can apply to hundreds of other graduate programs!

      • Le Křenek du jour says:

        “But elevating a few black writers to the same plane as Shakespeare or James is ridiculous and anti-intellectual.”

        What is anti-intellectual is the abandonment of all critical criteria in the name of ideological purity and righteously indignant Woke orthodoxy.

        If there could be an open-minded discussion about what makes Shekespeare or James great, or even relevant, and whether the same criteria apply to the understanding and evaluation of writers originating from other cultures, we should all be grateful.
        Such an investigation could be enlightening.
        We may legitimately ask whether Goethe’s notion of “Weltliteratur” has any merit.
        Do we aspire to universality, and do we have the means to express it, or are we eternally condemned to dwell in our respective ghettos?
        Such questions need to be investigated; all the more so in the age of global communication.

        But do we truly expect a critical, open-minded investigation on such matters from the new courses at U of C? Based on comparable academic output hitherto, I’m not exactly holding my breath. Ready to be surprised, yes; but not exceedingly hopeful.

      • Emil says:

        There is a variety of reasons to study literature, not all of which are about establishing a canon of the best texts. In fact, studying texts to gain wider knowledge about a society’s range of thought and intellectual landscape is a very worthwhile endeavour in itself. Quentin Skinner suggested as much in intellectual history in…1969.

        As for not seeing literature as ‘white’ or ‘Black’, that’s just nonsense, and completely ignorant of how literature is formed, how it interacts with its cultural milieu, etc. And if the literature you study reflects only some of the literary history of the world, well then you only know about some of the world.

    • Give me a break says:

      Black “literature”? What, a couple overrated angry James Baldwin pity novels and some self satisfied poetry! Yeah, have fun with that.

    • Marfisa says:

      Thank you for the link to the full statement. I absolutely agree that Black literature in English belongs with mainstream English literature, and not in a (can I use the word here?) ghetto. What is slightly depressing is the emphasis on studying Black literature in the context of ‘anti-Blackness’ and ‘Black freedom’. If you read the novels of, for instance, Chinua Achebe *only* to explore racism and the evils of colonialism, you will miss a lot. (To James Weiss – what do you think of Achebe, or Tutuola, or Sowinka?)

      And thank you, Slipped Disc, for a few stimulating and educative Covid-19 weeks. But the predominance of reactionary attitudes makes for an unhealthy environment, so this is my last post.

      • John Rook says:

        But the predominance of reactionary attitudes makes for an unhealthy environment, so this is my last post.

        Oh well, better get back to your smug little echo chamber, then.

  • K says:

    I support the overarching aspects of BLM, but sadly, this is not a solution, and will only give the radical right/ QAnon more “There,I told you so!” ammunition.

    • Emil says:

      When ‘police should stop murdering Black people’ is already too extreme a position for many, how much exactly should ‘BLM’ compromise?

      As far as I know, this has no organisational ties to the BLM organisation; it’d be a mistake to view it as a strategic calculation.

      • Arthur says:

        Please spare me. You and the ‘BLM’ crowd try to make it sound like police just drive around, find black people and kill them outright. Actually if you come after a cop with a knife or a gun, you get killed, white or black. BLM Out!

      • K says:

        There may be no overt/direct organizational ties to BLM, but this obviously is a reaction to the recent events of this past spring and summer, and to the historical events involving African-Americans and their struggle for freedom and equality in this (US) country. And I believe that your assessment is off; this is a deliberate strategic calculation.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Black people should stop murdering each other. I think that’s more to the point.

        Why are Jews and Asians generally far more successful in everything they do? Because they have strong family structures, discipline and values.

        But you can pretend this isn’t the case and continue on the current destructive and futile course.

        • Kevin Piccini says:

          1. Typical response from your ilk. Do you actually know any black people or their families? I doubt it.
          2. There are plenty of unsuccessful members of all types/groups as there are “strong family structures, discipline and values” among all types/groups. Why this is so is much more deep-rooted than what a person looks like or what religion they practice or where they came from. You don’t seem capable of exercising the sort of cognitive alignment that would come to that perspective, so why don’t we make a value judgement about you. Done.

          • Salim B. says:

            So you don’t and never have lived in a black neighborhood in Chicago or in one like Compton, CA spouting off about emotional arguments you glean from edited CNN stories. lol

      • V. Lind says:

        The statement endorses “Black Lives Matter” by italicising it in its opening line.

  • Alank says:

    Not the University I attended in the late 1970s. Although a Biology major, I, like all students were compelled to take rigorous courses in Western Civilization and in the Social Sciences. Not a place for snowflakes as I can still recall the harsh critiques of Professors and their TAs of my sophomoric essays on the ancient Greeks. When of UoC goes BLM that is truly the end of liberal arts education in America

    • Emil says:

      Alank, Black literature *is* part of Western Civilization and the social sciences.

      • Alank says:

        What BS. They will force feed so called literature solely based on the race of the writer rather than the merits of the writing. Despicable

        • Emil says:

          Alank, my Bachelors degree is literally called BA “Western Society and Culture”, Honours. I studied in what was then a quite conservative program, focused on the ‘great books’ of the Western tradition. Yet Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was on our syllabus.
          He was Black; he wrote books. He wrote them in English. He wrote them in America. Is he not a “Western” author? Is that book not a work of “Western Civilization”? Is it not a work of “English literature”? Is it not a book that can be a part of “Black Studies”?
          Roughly 13% of the American population identified as Black on the last census, and they have written literature too. Social sciences is also about them.

          • Give me a break says:

            Black literature,,, please. A handful of minor writers, some retelling of a few old tropes, James Baldwin making a name for himself as the oracle of the struggle and Maya Angelou cashing in a couple decades later. You can cover the lot in a week in a good High school English course. Not AP English, either. You hardly need a whole course for black “literature”.

          • V. Lind says:

            As far as I am concerned, “Western Society and Culture” is sociology. Which is exactly where issues like Black Lives Matter should be discussed. (Can they be discussed? Or only obeyed?).

            Leave English departments to literature. Which does not mean omitting or ignoring black literature — as I said above, I am all for it. Whole courses in it — there is no shortage of high quality material to choose from. (Check out the Booker Short List if you don’t believe me). I am personally drawn to Caribbean literature as I have spent so much time in the region — and also to some African. We read black Americans as a matter of course when I was a student. And there is no reason why graduate students should not offer their Ph.D theses on black writers. I’m sure there have been many on Toni Morrison or Zadie Smith or Edwige Danticat or Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka or Derek Walcott or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

            Yes, we don’t live in an age where all this does not matter. Which is a pity, because the above writers can take their places alongside any of their contemporaries, But, alas, we do live in an age where a bunch of indulged, under-educated, unreferential types — and here I am vigorously referring to people of ALL races but most particularly white — are looking for any excuse for reductiveness, i.e. not having to put the work in to get the marks, because they never had to try hard to get the treats, from the cradle.

            I hope this move is calculated in the same scholarly tradition that has seem a rise in graduate work (which is, let’s face it, where the research and serious writing is done) in both American literature and 20th-century literature. Probably hard to remember now but for a long time many universities — and not only British ones — were a little resistant to the notion that there was enough American literature to form a division of a department, or to warrant the research time and resources to provide for a Ph. D programme.

            But I still bristle at that word “only.” If you are not welcome to GRADUATE studies at U of C unless you buy into a political agenda that has spilled over into literary studies, I thin one of the great departments of English in North America is going to lose its reputation. And unless undergraduates learn the canon as well as the best of black writing, they are not studying, they are just reading what they prefer. English departments are about teaching literary criticism, not sociology. Socio/historical contexts, yes, but not the ideology and “wokeness” of a current movement.

          • Emil says:

            “Western Society and Culture” was a liberal arts degree, predominantly literature, intellectual history, and philosophy. And Black lives and existence should be discussed in every possible field of humanities and social sciences (and, to some extent, natural/health sciences as well), as they are intimately relevant to all of them.
            You make the mistake of reducing Black literature to “BLM”. BLM might be the starting point – and, as a movement, probably is best discussed in political science and sociology; but Black literature is not (only) a “BLM” issue – it’s an issue for the field of literature. What U of C has done is identified a field of English literature that is grossly understudied and in need of scholarly attention, and that they propose to study. I’m not sure what is so abhorrent about that.

            And for the last time ‘Black literature must be studied’ is a scholarly agenda as much, if not more, as it is a ‘political’ agenda (whatever the distinction is). There are overwhelming academic reasons to study Black literature.

          • V. Lind says:

            “Only?” What are the students who have been preparing for years to work on Chaucer or Milton or the pastoral in Renaissance literature supposed to do while scholars prepared to supervise them through their work sit twiddling their thumbs in Chicago?

            You’re going to reduce either the student intake or the calibre of the teaching at Chicago by acts such as this — which sounds suspiciously like the more extreme agendas of BLM, to eliminate white history and culture.

  • James Weiss says:

    Anti-intellectualism at its “wokest.”

  • sam says:

    1) I’m surprised that the UChicago English department thinks that it has enough depth in Black Studies to take PhD students only in that area.

    Here are 2 possible scenarios:

    The top 50 applicants in Black studies accept, is the faculty bench deep enough to take them all as PhD advisees? Of course not, those students who are stuck with faculty members not scholars in Black studies will see their research and career prospects wither.

    The top 50 applicants in Black studies also applied to the top Black studies departments at Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, etc. If they all go elsewhere, then what Chicago is stuck with is the least talented applicants who otherwise would not have gotten into Chicago, but because Chicago is committed to accepting only Black studies students, they must take what they have on hand. Meanwhile, the top applicants in Renaissance literature, etc, will have applied elsewhere, and Chicago loses its normal share of such top applicants.

    2) There is no strict definition of “Black Studies”, and PhD students are a clever bunch, it’s easy to figure out some “Black” angle, no matter what their real interest is. Like: I’d like to study the lack of black characters in Chaucer’s works. Or: I want to analyse the textual consequences if Shakespeare had written Shylock as a Moor, and Othello as a Jew.

  • annon says:

    How is this not admissions based on race, which is illegal?

    I bet my last bottom dollar that 99.99% of Black studies students are non-whites, and the Supreme Court will look at Chicago’s scheme to admit only “Black studies” students as simply a proxy for admitting only “Black students” (or students of color).

    Guarantee you that’s how the Supreme Court would rule!

    Even worse, if Chicago wants to appear to be “race neutral” and admits white students in Black studies. It’d be the laughing stock of the very woke left it wants to impress. And it’d be utterly pointless: what’s the point of admitting only Black studies students if they turned out to be White Men??

  • Rogerio says:

    The United States should ask for United Nations intervention. After all, they have experience as intermediaries in racial conflict … and America could certainly use the help.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This attempt to diminish racism is, ironically, racist in itself – what the formulation clearly demonstrates.

    • V. Lind says:

      That is certainly the current orthodoxy. Basically what you are saying is that if someone accuses someone else of something, the someone else has no choice but to plead guilty or else he is automatically judged guilty. Sounds sort of like a trial in — I was going to try to pick a country in western Asia but I’ll stick as this is a literary discussion, to Kafka and Orwell.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The trick of trying to hurt people by labelling them ‘racist’ is fading in efficacy and authenticity. Just so you know.

    • John got it!!! says:


      Black people who think this way are racist against white people.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    This spontaneous giving of positions and prestige based on skin color is institutional racism. Real, not imagined. U Chicago is making itself a joke in academia.

  • Mark (London says:

    If a candidate is nonwhite not heterosexual then its chance of getting into many institutions is massively increased . Nothing to do with talent or ability ! Pity the white straight genders

    • John Borstlap says:

      My nephew Louis, whom we all call black-and-white Lou because he’s colour blind, applied admission for [redacted] university and was rejected because he could not identify black literature in spite of his handicap.

      And my uncle Arnold, who is an anthropologist, wrote about the discrimination of albino people in Congo-Konshasa and was expelled from his tenure at [redacted] university, for ‘serving a rightwing white supremacy agenda’. It’s ironic since he married a very dark woman he met at his travels through Kameroun, and to whom he always surrenders all authority he might have had in the household.


  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    In(s)anity, thy name is Wokeness.

    Lama Abu-Odeh, a feminist, Palestinian-born professor of otherwise impeccable liberal credentials at Georgetown University, and a writer on gender, multiculturalism and law issues, has been miscreant enough to write a scathing, inside-informed analysis of the current Orwellian wave sweeping through campuses, ivy-overgrown or not :

    “What the new generation of scholars want is for the academic micro culture in which they grew up to be universalized as the general norms of the university; indeed, of the larger culture.
    At first, the norms that were jointly developed in the micro culture of white progressives and their minority protégées, and was confined to those relationships, found no resistance from outsiders who treated it as a peculiar local subculture in academia. Yet once they were launched as a universal project, they naturally met with pushback. And since the new agents of history see their project as moral and have little interest in persuasion, they instantly read every resistance to their designs on norm universalization as immoral. Like children coddled by sympathetic elders, they were shocked once they left home to find that the big bad world disagreed with them. To argue against our norms makes you a bad person, they insisted. What is demanded of you is to become a white progressive: to act as if you were one and to believe as one.”

    In other words: what is demanded of you is to become a Rhinoceros.
    The Northern White Rhinoceros may be on its final legs in its native habitat, but it has found a happy new home at the U of C English Dept.
    Appropriately, a herd of Rhinoceros is called a ´crash´.

    • John Borstlap says:

      US academia seems to be in a spirit of self-destruction.

      First, it was the wave of french quasi-philosophical relativism / structuralism (Foucault, Derrida) which wanted to dissolve any awareness of academic quality, now it is the woke ideology. The tragedy is that it works against the very thing it is supposed to awake: consciousness about racism and all forms of discrimination.

      • Emil says:

        Why stop there? It was all Theodor Adorno! The German critical theorists took over! Wait, it was Marx! No, it was Hegel! Jean-Jacques Rousseau! David Hume! Francis Bacon! Look at nature? Empiricism? What kind of scholarship was that? Scholarship is all about theology! Yes, let’s go back to the Academy as it was when the first universities were founded in Bologna and Paris. Theology and Law, that’s it. Now we’re talking. Pure scholastic scholarship.

  • Westfan says:

    This is for one academic year only. There is no future commitment to do it after that. If a graduate student doesn’t want to attend, they can go elsewhere. Or perhaps they take a deferment and wait a year when the parameters will be different.

  • Scott says:

    Here’s another one: USC Marshall suspends professor for using common Mandarin word in class that sounds like an English racist term.

    • Emil says:

      Three things:
      1- Every movement has its excesses, and finding what the boundaries of that are is largely by trial and error. That, in itself, does not invalidate the movement.
      2- “A USC Marshall spokesperson told CNN that Patton has not been suspended from teaching; he has only stepped away from the specific course in question, and continues to teach his other classes.” He was not, in fact, suspended.
      3- This complaint has been widely condemned and ridiculed, including just two days ago by the ‘Woke’ Daily Show and Trevor Noah.

      • The View from America says:

        Yes, lots of “error.” And it certainly is a “trial.”

      • psq says:

        Has USC given the reason why Patton has to “step” away from that course? Pray tell why is Patton not suitable to give that course?

      • psq says:

        “….finding what boundary …..”
        It is unfathomable that it was not recognized immediately that the boundary was abundantly crossed when the common usage of a Mandarin expression was damned and somehow found (by whom?) unacceptable. Make the US a Mandarin free zone!?

  • Max Raimi says:

    If they had room for such appalling idealogues as as Milton Friedman, Robert Bork, Aaron Director, and Antonin Scalia at the U of C (not to mention Ralph Shapey, who wrote what may well have composed the most unrelentingly ugly piece of music I ever played in my life), I think a few scholars of color are the least of their worries.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    American universities should rather promote scholarships on Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and (yes, it’s time) Norman Mailer.

  • Bellow hated postmodern relativism, and threw himself into the sometimes contentious realm of Jewish and African-American relations. He is remembered for a rather racist remark: “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust of the Papuans? I’d be glad to read him.”

    There might be some excesses in academia, but citing Bellow in the above manner, and using terms like “caving to BLM” do little credit to anyone.

  • Why not speak of the city of Studs Terkel–a much better representation of Chicago than Bellow’s near-sighted chauvinism.

  • Simon says:

    and off to the re-education camps we go! This is absolutely sick. Another institution caves to the mob.

  • mary says:

    It was inevitable once the University of Chicago became home of the Obama Presidential Library.

    Just as the University of Florida, future home of the Trump Presidential Library, will become the center of White Studies.

    • V. Lind says:

      There’s a poisoned chalice. Trump makes George W. seem well-read.

    • #BLM brotha says:

      The fact that Obama is too afraid of Chicago to move back speaks volumes.

      The freedom of choice he exercised in moving to a lilly white, exclusive neighborhood doesn’t set well with BLM either.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    The overt racism in many of these comments is overwhelming.
    This is a classical music blog, and therefore I would hope to see here some acceptance of the concept of “Alle Menschen werden brueder”.
    I am disappointed, and ashamed.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “The overt racism in many of these comments is overwhelming.” / “I am disappointed, and ashamed.”

      Yes. (And this is why I hate people.)

      “Alle Menschen werden brueder”

      “Brüder”, aber ja. 😉

  • Oscar says:

    Yes, the University is dumbing down. Check out some of the professors for these courses. No biography by their photos. Too ashamed to admit they have no credentials other than being black. And the courses will now include interracial relationships (can’t wait to see those Kim Kardashian videos), and such paragons of literature such as Toni Morrison, who writes pulp fiction for dummies. I wouldn’t go to that university now if you paid me.

  • fflambeau says:

    Chicago’s rankings will tumble and then this nonsense will stop. You can study Black Lives Matter and other things too.

  • Anon says:

    What is this bit of dogwhistle racism doing on a blog focussed on music? If you don’t think it’s dogwhistle racism, try the thought experiment of describing a call for academics focussing on a different group of authors as “Caving in to JLM”.

  • sam says:

    Secret recording of UC English department meeting:

    – Senior faculty (white, natch): “Yoohoo, I get to take a de facto sabbatical, no whiny grad students to advise next year, and no classes to teach!”

    – Junior faculty (black, natch): “Shit, now on top of trying to get published so I can get tenure, I have to supervise more whiny grad students, grade more papers, hold more office hours, and keep sucking up to the Senior faculty, who in 7 years, will look back and say, Gee, you didn’t publish much in 2021 did you, sorry, no tenure, SUCKER!”

  • sam says:

    Just in from the UC Physics Department:

    “We will now only accept students studying Black Holes, Black Body Radiation, Dark Matter and Dark Energy.”

    • Emil says:

      Yes – as a matter of fact, that’s how academic departments work. They choose subjects to concentrate on, and sometimes year on year they have specific concentrations. For instance, my department specialises in Middle Eastern politics. Come and study Iran, that’s great. Come to study Brazil and you’ll likely get rejected. We just don’t accept students in that area because the profs in the department don’t work in that subfield.
      Departments choose concentrations for a variety of reasons, including:
      1- Available expertise
      2- Scholarly interest/relevance
      3- Marketable/competitive advantages.
      Now, as I mentioned above, all three of those are relevant to the U of C’s English Departments’ decision to concentrate on Black studies.

      • V. Lind says:

        Being black does not make you an expert on black literature. If you are already on the faculty of Chicago English, you are a scholar in another subject. Is it to be assumed that a scholar used Hardy or Jane Austen as a stalking horse to be poised to jettison serious studies for courses in Representations of the Civil Rights Movement in late 20th century literature?

        Possibly the latter as your third point may well be valid and scholars are scrambling to find a niche.

  • sam says:

    It’s a brilliant money making scheme: admit a bunch of black (studies) students to the terminal master’s degree (ie, no funding or stipend for a PhD), let them take out massive student loans to pay the UC tuition, at the end of the year, give them a piece of paper with “M.A. in English” printed on it.

    Cost of tuition to student: $50,000.
    Cost of paper to UC: $0.05.
    Profit per student: $49,999.95

    Repeat formula the following year.


  • Skippy says:

    Chicago alum here (A.B. ‘84). The University of Chicago I once knew no longer exists except as a branding exercise.

  • Edgar Self says:

    çhicago is also the city of Ben Hecht, arl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand, Frank Baum, and dozens of other writers. Take your p ick.