The Witch Cult Of Academia

     Increasingly, it feels as if colleges and universities have become insular communities where bizarre beliefs not only thrive, but are enforced one way or another.   Is college a cult?

“The parallels are suggestive. Parents have wondered about the ever-longer ‘orientations’ their 18-year-olds go through at the start of their college journey. It often starts at check-in with a love bomb from aggressively friendly student volunteers. (These ‘peer assistants’ somehow recognized my daughter, screamed out her name, and started applauding even before we’d parked our vehicle at her freshman dorm.) Soon thereafter, students are separated from their families, who are told, ‘It’s time to say good-bye.’ They are assigned spartan living quarters, to be shared in many cases with complete strangers. From there, students are put through a ringer of immersive, morning-to-night activities for as long as a week. Free time is limited. Sleep deprivation is common. There are lots and lots of speeches. This transition partly takes place in small groups, carefully organized by the administrators who guide students through their acclimation. Here they learn new rules (in particular, about things you should and should not say). Discussions might simply be quirky or awkward (‘What’s your spirit animal?’), though they may veer into more intrusive territory by encouraging students to talk about their sexual preferences. Some activities attempt to create an artificial bond, while others divide and induce shame in ways that a neutral observer might consider to be hazing.


“Compliance is maintained through a system of bureaucratic and curricular sticks and carrots, nudges, and social pressure. Welcome-week orientations have expanded into semester- or year-long ‘first-year seminars.’ These are largely devoid of academic content and taught by staff who curate a ‘first-year experience,’ with required attendance at lectures outside of class time on topics that reinforce the relentless messaging.


“But this is to leave out the other aspect of what people mean when they think of cults, namely, that they hold really weird beliefs. When it comes to incubating odd ideas and indulging idiosyncratic obsessions, colleges can more than hold their own. This cannot all be laid at the feet of administrators and student-services functionaries. Faculty share responsibility on this score.

“Citing examples is like shooting fish in a barrel. One professor identifies Jesus as a masochistic “drag king.” An education department proposes abolishing the word ‘field’ because it evokes memories of slavery. Hundreds of scholars conduct a witch hunt against a philosopher for publishing a heavily-footnoted article in a peer-reviewed journal, on the grounds that she ‘enacts violence and perpetuates harm’ by using ‘phrases like “male genitalia.”’ Entire courses are devoted to zombies and cryptozoology. University-supported research papers find that pigeons are connoisseurs of modern art and that unicorns might exist in another universe. While some of these cases are relatively frivolous, others—expressions of unhinged anti-Semitism, for example—are more disturbing.”

     Wow, it’s not like they’d actually offer formal degrees in something like, for example, witchcraft!

     Oh, wait

“A new master’s degree in witchcraft, magic, and occult science is scheduled to be offered September 2024 at the University of Exeter in England as faculty cite growing student interest.

“The new program will explore ‘specific interests within the long and diverse history of esotericism, witchcraft, ritual magic, occult science, and related topics,’ and ‘build interdisciplinary expertise,’ according to the university website.”

     What a stupid time to be alive.

     A little mood music…

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