This year may have brought about peak campus hysteria across the country. Microaggressions, safe spaces, sex assault accusations and protests made headlines around the world, often for their abject absurdity.
I've only been covering these issues since the summer of 2014, but this year I found it nearly impossible to write about anything else, since there was just so much happening on the nation's colleges.
The ridiculousness started in February when Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis penned an article about "sexual paranoia" at colleges and universities. She bemoaned the campus climate of disregarding due process in favor of political correctness and the need to believe all accusers, regardless of the facts and evidence.
Kipnis was then accused by at least two students for alleged "retaliation." The students claimed her article created a "chilling effect" on campus and discouraged accusers from coming forward. Kipnis was accused of violating Title IX — the federal statute that bans sex discrimination and is being used to force colleges to adjudicate felonies. She was not accused of sexual assault, but for somehow violating the law because a few students didn't like her article.
Kipnis was eventually — and thankfully — cleared of the violation, but the message was clear: Dare to speak against the prevailing narrative and suffer painful consequences.
Kipnis was tied up in the same administrative hearing process that many young men (and a few young women) find themselves in when accused of sexual assault. Due process is seen as a hindrance to "justice" and discarded.
But just as Kipnis was vindicated by her employer, many of the male students accused of sexual assault saw their lawsuits dismissed by judges deferring to college procedures.
At Vassar College, a young man who grew up in Northeastern China was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student more than a year earlier. Despite Facebook messages showing the accuser apologized to the young man for not treating him "very well," Vassar expelled the student. A judge (who was recommended for the position by anti-rape activist Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) dismissed his lawsuit on the grounds that Title IX does not require due process and therefore the student wasn't entitled to any.
The judge would be backed up by a Michigan Tech administrator who said that Title IX supersedes the U.S. Constitution.
At Columbia University, a judge nominated to the bench by President Obama (who has also sounded the drum on sexual assault paranoia) dismissed a lawsuit from another accused student. That student was accused five months after the encounter, in which the accuser invited him back to her bathroom suite and even left the room to obtain a condom.
But despite some setbacks, students accused of sexual assault made some gains in 2015. Editorial boards across the country — including the L.A. Times and the New York Daily News – questioned the ability of colleges to handle sexual assault accusations.
A few colleges settled with suing students over due process violations, including Middlebury College and the University of Colorado Boulder. Before the settlement, a judge had halted the expulsion of the Middlebury student. Another judge halted the expulsion of a student who could have been sent to war-torn Syria if the legal system had not intervened, suggesting that the college was more concerned with campus activism than with the lives of its students.
But perhaps the biggest gains for college students came from judges in California and Tennessee. In California, Judge Joel Pressman deemed a University of California-San Diego campus hearing "unfair," and ruled the school had violated a student's due process rights.
And in Tennessee, Judge Carl McCoy ruled that the University of Tennessee improperly shifted the burden of proof from the accuser onto the accused, an impossible task.
In what appears to be a mirror of the campus sexual assault protests and activism of years ago — which led to the current witch-hunt mentality and evisceration of due process rights — the fall brought forth a new outrage: racism.
Charges were lodged against campus administrators who did not sufficiently conform to students' views, as evidenced by the outrage surrounding a Yale administrator who dared to suggest students use reasonable judgment when it comes to Halloween costumes. You see, college students today see "cultural appropriation" and racism in everything, including Halloween costumes and yoga.
Most of the alleged incidents of racism included vague, unverifiable claims told by screaming and teary-eyed students — mostly at Ivy League universities. Many of the claims included "microaggressions," words and phrases that are not intended to be offensive, but which are taken as such by overly sensitive students.
At some schools, administrators resigned over the protests, apologizing for not doing enough to create "safe spaces" for students.
The safe space protests mirrored the sexual assault protests in that the protesters demanded to be believed and for the school to acquiesce without even a shred of evidence.
But it appears these protesters — aptly called "crybullies" by The Wall Street Journal — will not get their way in the long run. Students have pushed back against the protesters, arguing for sanity to return. A former dean at Syracuse University even suggested the microaggressions may become a thing of the past, with schools reinforcing the First Amendment instead of capitulating to young campus totalitarians.
The special snowflakes who have elevated every minor or perceived slight to the level of physical violence or historical oppression continue to gain attention in the media. But their antics have become so outrageous that they have brought earned ridicule and scorn.
Will 2016 see a rise in absurdity? Probably, since those students will continue to get the attention, but I predict a stronger backlash against the students who try to make themselves victims in order to get that attention. At least I hope there will be more pushback.