Will Worsley

Book Review: Campusland

If Tom Wolfe were alive to mock the current climate on college campuses, he would have written Campusland, Scott Johnston’s hilarious satire about an elite Northeastern university roiled by progressive ferment. At Devon University, which Johnston modeled on Yale, an English professor struggling to win tenure is first charged with racism for teaching the politically incorrect works of Mark Twain and then falsely accused of sexual harassment by a spoiled co-ed desperately seeking attention. The professor, a progressive from Alabama doing his level best to conform to Devon’s radical culture, soon learns the extent to which the lunatics have taken over the asylum. The university administration, led by a spineless president who lives as much in fear of student activists as he does the tyrannical Dean of Diversity, comes down hard on the poor professor, who discovers he has no legal rights whatsoever. Getting tenure becomes the least of his problems. He will be lucky to keep his job.

Scott Johnston, a Yale alumnus, does a brilliant job of describing in Wolfian style the oppressive reality of today’s university, where any deviation from progressive orthodoxy is met with threats to one’s teaching career. It’s all done with tongue in cheek, as Johnston follows members of Devon’s various factions—from the Marxists to the frat boys—as they struggle for power in what used to be a place devoted to higher learning.

If you’ve been wondering what the heck has happened to your beloved alma mater over the last few years, Campusland is highly recommended. Tom Wolfe would be proud.

By Scott Johnston
322 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $27.99