Beau geste or mal geste?

This column is about two venerable institutions which, until fairly recently, functioned quite differently from their present governance practices.

Each institution has devoted special efforts to actions which seem to have been designed pointedly to affront that part of the constituency of each, once in the majority and now in the not-even-disguised-despised minority. One is my collegiate alma mater, which, for perhaps misplaced reasons of loyalty, I won't identify here; the other is the fourteenth state, the historical label claimed by Vermont even though there was briefly a state labeled no. 14 named Franklin in Appalachia, its short political and geographical life ending just as Vermont's began.

Both institutions-university and state-share a common history; within living memory both were quintessentially conservative in population membership and governance outlook-neither one is any more. The once majority outlook on institutional purpose-education and/or governance in the historic "liberal", not the modern "progressive" sense-having been reduced to minority status by an aggressively dominant left-leaning governing majority.

A defender of what happened could well say that both were just as ideologically motivated then as they are now, albeit in different directions, then as what's now called "conservative" and today as what's now called "liberal".

A rebutter might argue that the university's educational menu, particularly in the soft subjects (not the hard sciences), wasn't nearly as ideologically directed then as it is now, while conceding that state governance on the Jeffersonian model is just as much of an ideological template as the progressive concept of the intelligent governing the stupid (for our own good, of course).

The verb alienate should be enlarged to convey what I'd guess was the motivation for these symbolically valuable actions: to the minority of alumni and voters alike, the unspoken message is "sit down, shut up, and send money; we're in charge now, and we don't need or want your input".

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