The Gradual Takeover of Universities by ‘Woke’ Consensus

Eric Louw Eric Louw
September 13, 2021Updated: April 8, 2022


A visit to Western universities today will lead to one finding a high degree of groupthink in a number of faculties, with barely a conservative thinker in sight.

One can only conclude that for years universities have limited their hiring to three types of candidates: left-leaning liberals, socialists, and radical greens.

An outcome of such skewed appointment practices is that faculties are now characterised by closed-shop, progressive-leaning consensus.

Unsurprisingly, courses that are taught and research that is published, is reflective of this consensus. Consequently, universities are not places where students can go to seek diversity of opinion, debate, or education that prepares them for the real world—where opposing ideas clash regularly.

So how did our universities become, as one professor recently described, “social justice factories.”

A book by American philosopher Thomas Kuhn offers us some insight.

Kuhn’s, Structure of Scientific Revolutions explores the notion of “paradigm shifts,” which explores how paradigms—the basic concepts and frames of reference underlying a discipline—can change and be replaced by another.

Importantly, paradigms guide the questions academics are allowed to ask. And in turn, the questions asked will generate a particular type of answer.

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Students walk through The Quadrangle at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, on May 8, 2013, (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

Effectively, once a new “understanding of the world” (or paradigm) has gained ascendency within an academic community, “previous understandings” are pushed out, sometimes organically.

Those outside universities can see a shift has taken place and wonder how the progressive paradigm gained ascendance. Those inside universities, meanwhile, witnessed the paradigm shift step by step.

A slow Fabian-style build-up occurred in university committees over the years. However, the process of removing alternative paradigms became easy after progressives became the majority on committees, including the peer-review system, academic journals, and publishers.

Most of those who ended up pushing alternative ideas out of their faculties did not consciously see themselves doing so. Instead, a bubble of progressive groupthink simply emerged because it seemed “natural” to appoint like-minded colleagues.

After all, since it was “comfortable” inhabiting a bubble where everybody’s worldview was broadly the same, why not recruit those who thought like you?

Nevertheless, there was no need to purge conservatives anyway because their subsequent “intellectual isolation” (no like-minded folks to talk to) meant most removed themselves over time, while those who did stay were simply marginalised.

Selection committees could be stacked to the point that non-progressives would be denied real decision-making roles (by colleagues who saw them as “unsound”). Conservatives could be starved of resources (by peer-review processes dominated by progressives).

Finally, committees numerically dominated by progressives meant conservatives had no chance of impacting on policy.

But a big shift occurred when Donald Trump became the U.S. president.

The mood on campuses was transformed into one that was far more aggressive.

On a campus in far-away Australia, I watched the mood change from disbelief, shock, fear, and finally anger.

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Front entrance to the University of Queensland on Jan. 12, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Daniel Teng/The Epoch Times)

A few days after the initial shock, what emerged was war-talk. Trump’s election galvanised university progressives.

They saw Trump as an existential threat because academics intuitively realised they were part of the “swamp.”

They knew they contributed to training those in the “swamp,” that they relied upon government funding for their jobs, and that their career paths often involved moving back and forth between the university sector and government jobs.

Even in far-off Australia, Trump seriously threatened their world because any POTUS sets the tone for policy across the Western world.

So progressive academics naturally became opposed to Trump. They closed ranks and saw their universities as bastions to be protected.

But defensiveness soon evolved into a vision of universities as sites from which war against Trump (and other right-wingers) could be mobilised.

This attitude was strengthened by a wave of American academics moving to Australia who deemed themselves “refugees from Trump.”

From then on, the process of making sure faculties were “progressive” became more conscious.

Academics became less tolerant of other ideas and more “missionary” in their approach. A push for more diversity emerged… which effectively leaned towards the hiring of more progressives.

One campaign saw academics mobilise against the creation of the Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation.

But curiously, despite the opposition to “right-wing” or conservative viewpoints, when one speaks with a progressive and listens to them, it becomes clear that their point-of-view is effectively a construct of myths about what the “right-wingers” supposedly stands for.

And because of the decades-long paradigm shift, we now have a whole generation of academics who have effectively never heard an academic argument in favour of conservatives, right-wingers, traditionalists, or nationalists.

Hence, they do not know what these positions stand for. Unsurprisingly, the vacuum created by this ignorance has instead been filled with negative myths of racism, authoritarianism, fascism, white supremacism, traditionalism, colonialism, and so on.

These mythologies about conservatives are enough to terrify anyone.

So unsurprisingly, progressive academics have positioned themselves into a “just,” wider struggle—along with progressive politicians, journalists, and activists—to push back and defeat the opposing view. The real diversity of opinion, meanwhile, withered in the face of such odds.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Eric Louw is a retired professor in political communication with a career spanning South African and Australian universities. Prior to that, he was a former activist, journalist, and media trainer under the African National Congress, where he worked on South Africa's transition into the post-Apartheid era. Louw is an expert on affirmative action, and Black Economic Empowerment policies. His Ph.D. was in the study of Marxism and its postmodern developments. He has authored nine books including "The Rise, Fall and Legacy of Apartheid" and "The Media and Political Process."