It’s now a commonplace that a ‘woke’ mob of ‘snowflakes’ are ruining campus life in the US. In the past month, the Times has covered the story of an American academic who claims he was forced from his job by ‘wokeism’; the Economist has fretted over ‘wokeness’ at ‘elite schools’; and the Netflix show The Chair has dramatised the story of a bumbling professor whose hypersensitive students destroy his life. In Iowa, where I’m a bumbling professor, state legislators tried to pass a ‘Suck it up, buttercup’ bill taking aim at anti-Trump and BLM protests. But the most easily triggered students on campus this year are the ones who think we’re violating their rights by asking them to wear masks or get vaccinated, even as the Delta variant has overwhelmed local hospitals.
The gold dome of the Old Capitol Building in Iowa City is now part of the University of Iowa campus, where I work. It sits in state above the Iowa River, where bald eagles soar and dive. And there I was, running and stumbling through the snow because I was late for the Democratic caucus and had been been told repeatedly the doors would close promptly at seven o’clock. With a touch of Midwestern disdain for the tardy, a precinct volunteer told me I was ‘not going to make it’ as I pushed through the door and sprinted down the stairs. But I did make it, with time to spare. The weird mix of decorum and chaos continued through the night.