Princeton University’s ATO Breakthrough

“Our research demonstrates conclusively that as a liberal education becomes more expensive it is also becoming less liberal and less educational.”

T.J. Maxx PhD


I would have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Maxx. America’s great universities are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge by developing important new academic disciplines—novel ways of understanding the world. My alma mater, for example, is on the verge of granting degrees in a path-breaking new field of study, colloquially known as ATO (Art of Taking Offense). After they receive their ATO degrees, Princeton graduates will be able to discern every sleight (however slight), every offense (real or imagined), every subtle hint of distaste or disapproval. Their SQ (Sensitivity Quotient) will have been permanently elevated.

To appreciate just how rapidly the science of ATO has advanced at Princeton, consider the EDP / UC dichotomy.


Just forty years ago, in elections for Class President, there was one jokey candidate who called himself El Deuco Perverto (EDP). Along with several sidekicks, El Deuco Perverto showed up at campaign events wearing dark glasses, a trench coat, and no pants. The potential OTQ (Offense Taken Quotient) of El Deuco Perverto was extremely high –- El Paso, El Salvador, Eldorado, Eloise, El Capitan and Chicago’s El train had all been viciously slandered. But such was the undeveloped state of ATO that El Deuco Perverto was merely viewed by the Princeton Community as a silly, amusing, inane, clever campaign gambit. Nothing more. Clearly a lost opportunity for injured outrage.


Fast forward to 2015, when the Princeton Community – having made dramatic advances in ATO – was torn asunder by a sophomoric student gambit quite similar to El Deuco Perverto’s. At two talent shows the swimming and diving team – exclusively comprised, not incidentally, of white males – styled themselves “Urban Congo” and trooped out on stage wearing only their speedos to perform a slightly amusing drumming, chanting and dancing routine. No reference to a specific ethnic group or region. No nasty lyrics. No demeaning innuendo or hint of threat toward anyone. The Offense Taken Quotient was actually pretty low, as these comments from YouTube viewers demonstrate:

  • “How is that offensive? It is not even a satire, just a parody. Jesus Christ, people, grow a thicker skin.
  • Not offensive. Just weird!
  • I don’t get why ppl find this offensive
  • Yo peeps, as an African I can assure you that nothing of this video offends us.
  • That’s not racist, just stupid.
  • This is not offensive. AT ALL. WHAT is offensive about this?”

Concocted Campus Crisis

Sadly, none of these commentators have mastered ATO, but such is not the case for many Princeton students and professors, who were greatly offended by Urban Congo’s antics. The leafy campus was plunged into a week-long period of angst and anguish about the horrid, hurtful, hateful performance. The head of Urban Congo was forced to recant; he assured one and all that he recognized his error and had been thoroughly reeducated by Princeton’s diversity police. The crisis culminated in a convocation at the university chapel where Princeton’s President and a few faculty members expressed their pain, their sorrow, their outrage.

Princeton’s president: “On our campus and in our society, members of minority groups too often find themselves hurt, excluded, or diminished by stereotypes, by ignorance, by thoughtlessness, and by hostility” — including, one presumes, Urban Congo’s clearly non-racist performance. Translation: to stay out of trouble, you should only tell black / brown / Hispanic / female / LGBT students what they want to hear; don’t challenge them with ideas outside their comfort zone, or you will be accused of racism / sexism / homophobia. Of course, this is the opposite of a liberal education, but Princeton’s President wants to keep his job.

One professor reported that black students felt Urban Congo “crossed the line” of free speech because the black students were “negatively impacted.” . . . . “they are tired of the idea that in America, generations of people, deemed educated, can have effectively no knowledge of Native American or African cultures and history.”   So black students can shut down a performance that does not conform to their own values or world view. Again, the opposite of a liberal education.

Another professor said, “We’re opting to wake up each morning and swallow a colorblind hallucinogen, numbing ourselves to the racial reality. . . . We’re playing dumb about the fact that humor and entertainment always have been the handmaidens of racism and sexism. . . . [there are] devastating inequities in education, health, and incarceration that continue to damage our body politic [that must be addressed].” In other words, this professor’s outrage over Urban Congo was overtly political; the performance simply did not set the proper cultural tone for the Progressive reforms she believes Princeton should pursue. I wonder how this Professor would react to an outside lecturer who explained why Barack Obama’s tax/spend/over-regulate agenda has been a disaster for African Americans, whose median household income was 9.2% lower in 2013 than 2007.

Official Princeton’s week-long freak-out about a sophomoric talent show routine that probably took a half hour for students to prepare shows that the University is effectively banning any speech or cultural display that offends hyper-sensitive minority students and liberal professors. I must apologize to the aforementioned Dr. Maxx; he was indeed correct that “liberal education” is becoming less liberal and less educational.

Copyright Thomas Doerflinger 2015. All Rights Reserved.



About tomdoerflinger

Thomas Doerflinger, PhD is a prominent observer of American capitalism – past, present and future.
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