College Administrators Have Stockholm Syndrome

Jonathon  Burns
Dec 8, 2009 at 6:26 PM

I’m tired of hearing the excuse from college administrators: “I’m just doing my job.” Such an excuse is an insult to the square community. First, it’s lame:  I’m going to totally mistreat you, but I want your sympathy so that I won’t feel quite so bad about my cowardice. It’s such a cop-out too, and it implies that the person is somehow held hostage by their position.

Though it’s true:  Sometimes people are simply held hostage by their jobs. Sometimes, people have to do some pretty horrible things to stay employed – like pay obligatory, involuntary union dues, for example.

But one cannot remain in a position where one has to consistently screw people over – unless of course, one adopts the ethos of the overlord. There’s an explanation for such behavior: Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome refers to the process by which kidnapping victims gradually come to sympathize with their captor. The phrase became famous in the early 70’s after a group of kidnapped bank tellers at a Stockholm bank became emotionally attached to their kidnapper bank robbers, and even defended them at trial after their release.

When a person learns about a particular wrong they must consistently do as a condition of employment – such as when you work for the IRS and you foreclose on the homes of families who are in arrears on their taxes simply because it’s “just part of your job,” – they are faced with an internal inconsistency which must be settled. They must either quit the job and find another, agitate for change, or gradually come to accept, internalize and ultimately, vigorously defend the position of the overlord.

In classic Stockholm Syndrome, the sympathy from the captive to the captor stems primarily from A) a genuine desire on the part of the captive to believe that things are going to work out and improve, B) the subsequent projected belief that the captors cannot be so entirely self-serving as they appear (they must be good, deep down),  C) the captive’s alignment of his own outcomes with those of his captor, and D) the continued alignment and bond with the captor even after the catalytic incident which has brought the two together has run its course.

Both “A” and “B” are self-explanatory: the captive yearns for the ugly truth not to be so, and wishes away the trouble. In “C” we observe the survival focus of the captive. "C" is also the transition step. All captives simply want to survive. Initially, it's not clear whether or not the captive will be better off casting his lot with the captors as opposed to the hostage negotiators, swat team, or even a band of other hostages working together to escape. In "C," the captive chooses for whatever reason that his desired outcome (survival) is best secured through coordinating his actions with the wishes of his captor.

But doing the bidding of the captor isn't always pretty. Sometimes the captor might need other hostages executed in order to demonstrate his own resolve. The captor might ask the sympathetic captive to execute one or two hostages as a "show of good faith." But nobody wants this burden on his conscience. And this brings us to "D." In order to quell his conscience, riotous as a result of his misdeeds, he must rationalize, justify, defend his actions. Gradually the captive, acting more and more like the captor, identifies himself as belonging to this same group or class  -- this captor class. In "D" we see the total alignment of outcomes of captor and captive, so that the two are essentially the same.

Historically, this alignment of sympathy is not uncommon at all. Tyrannical rulers have always relied upon this initial weakness (which grows into willing complicity) in order to build their despotic and deadly regimes. The "I was just doing my job" defense was used pretty consistently by Nazi concentration camp guards and officers when testifying at Nuremberg. Since there hasn't been a Nuremberg for the atrocities committed in the former Soviet Union, we can only guess what Gulag guards might say in their defense. I'm sure however that "I was just doing my job" would be among the excuses they would give.

So what does all of this mean? It means your administrator-overlords have sold-out. They're part of the 'captor class' now. Whatever decency they had as people prior to holding their present job is now gone. They will trample upon your rights wittingly or unwittingly. And it doesn't make a damn bit of difference to them even if they realize it, because their agenda is the same as the school's: enforce the agreed upon agenda of the prevailing winds of power -- which at this point happens to be anti-liberty. Whereas real hostages at least are held at gunpoint, these administrator clowns serve their masters voluntarily and gleefully. So the smashing of student rights is a job they are charged with as well as a vocation. 

So I guess the bottom line is that you shouldn't expect justice from your captors -- they've already given themselves over to the dark side. The key is not becoming hostages yourselves. By staying resolute and committed to liberty and the rights of you and your fellow students, you avoid becoming complicit in future attacks against the first amendment and indeed, liberty.