- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2020

Among the sales pitches employed by modern American universities, “Hey, Wokey McWokeface” does not seem typical.

But then New St. Andrews College sees itself as atypical and doesn’t intend it as a sales pitch.

“We do want to grow as a school, but I don’t want to be here saying what we think is a ploy or crafted to raise money,” the college’s president, Benjamin Merkle, told The Washington Times. “With schools today, what they all say is they are trying to inculcate the skills and habits of leadership or some similar phrasing. None of that is true.

“None of it is innovative or courageous or bold. It’s all about complete conformity,” said Mr. Merkle, 47, a native Idahoan and Oxford doctorate.

New St. Andrews is no stranger to controversy.

With its bedrock classical and Christian beliefs, the 200-student college that shares Moscow, Idaho, with the state’s flagship university has found itself in the crosshairs of the mayor and the town’s liberal establishment before.

In June, the school posted a video showing the side-by-side doors to men’s and women’s public restrooms near the campus. After the sound of toilets flushing, a man and a woman walked out of their assigned facilities.

“We’re not science majors, but we know science even better than the Supreme Court,” the voiceover declared. “Accepting students who know the difference, in person, this fall.”

Mayor Bill Lambert felt compelled to post social media notices that neither his office nor the city cared much for the “boys will be boys” video, and some residents denounced it as transphobic and “hateful” toward the LGBTQ community.

Mr. Merkle was unswayed by Moscow’s disapproval.

“The conservative world waited way too long to take education seriously,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of them realized that education is the Deep State, that it’s taken control of this country and is steering it in a way that works on emotion, not principle.”

In the past week, three other incidents seem to buttress Mr. Merkle’s contention that higher education is both “the mob and terrified of the mob.”

Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts deleted a tweet that it intended to be inclusive with the line “Dear conservative students: your viewpoints are important.”

After furious Twitter users attacked the tweet for including conservative students, a school spokesman said the intention had been clouded.

An incoming freshman at Marquette University in Milwaukee was interrogated about her politics by school officials after posting a brief TikTok video in which she expressed support for President Trump but cited no specific policies or positions.

Social media armies mobilized immediately. Some comments offered the woman violence, and petitions were started to cancel or defend her. After initial reports that Marquette may rescind its admission offer, the school confirmed it had not done so but said the student was subjected to questioning about her beliefs.

On July 4, just over a week after Princeton University stripped former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from one of its schools because of his “racist thinking and policies,” at least 400 faculty members signed a letter to the president and deans with a list of demands linked to the explosion of Black Lives Matter protests.

The signatories said Princeton must push its faculty’s composition past its 7% population of people of color, appoint the first person of color to head its Humanities Council, and establish a committee to “oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of the faculty.” Punishment would be meted out to perceived offenders.

Those Orwellian developments would never be countenanced at New St. Andrews, said Mr. Merkle, who has been president of the school since 2015.

“What you have is the raw exercise of power,” he said. “I think what we’re seeing is the unmasking of the progressive left, which always preached ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ but which you’re now seeing never really wanted those things. They weaponized tolerance.”

The latest student recruitment video critiques what Mr. Merkle said is the “complicated issue” of separating the idea of Black lives matter from the trademarked Black Lives Matter movement.

Over a montage of pulped Black fetuses from the trial of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of killing three infants born alive, the video declares that “every single Black life matters, from conception to the grave and beyond to all eternity.”

Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, “is a Marxist front that doesn’t care about Black lives even half as much as an average White, pro-life, flyover, Trump-voting evangelical,” the voiceover declares.

Over photos of Princeton’s Wilson, along with Margaret Sanger and Andrew Carnegie, the video claims they are “white supremacists [who] have been running a vile, genocidal population control campaign in America.”

Again, the college elicited howls from some, cheers from others.

Mr. Merkle’s office fielded countless calls of support and a flood of enrollment applications.

It is difficult to imagine such a recruitment video from most other higher education institutions, even those such as Hillsdale College that accept no federal funds. Mr. Merkle said the administrative apparatus and the regulatory edicts that accompany federal funds clash with New St. Andrews’ principles but also siphon off too much money that should be spent in the classroom.

“I once attended a gathering of university presidents, and one of them told me he ‘felt guilty if he didn’t see a crane on his campus,’” he recalled. “I’m not a jerk at dinner parties, but it does seem to me that the education establishment is political rather than saying what it really thought. You have to own it.”

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