A school stereotype that permits assumptions about the type of student the school will attract. Knowing the character attends a particular school implies a set of characteristics.
The schools used for this fall into the following categories:
‘Berserkeley’ is filled with Granola Girls
, rude skaterpunks, angry socialists/communists/anarchists/your choice of far-left political radical howling about how AmeriKKKa is pure evil and that we deserve to die in a ditch
, pissed-off black nationalists
and militant minorities who really hate white students
, angry radical feminists who see sexism everywhere
, irritating, pretentious, elitist hipsters
wearing risible fashions and making nonsensical, offensive pieces of ‘art’ (read: trash) to complain about the mainstream, Hollywood Atheists
, and aging hippies
. The faculty will be all of the above — just with pieces of paper saying they’re better educated.
Every third storefront is a coffeehouse with awful writers reading bad poetry and pretentious beatniks explaining how true their incomprehensible art
is. The city council is packed with people who pass truly absurd and paternalistic ordinances … after they finish decriminalizing weed.
Real schools used to invoke this one:
- University of California, Berkeley, of course. Useful for radical left political flavoring.Trivia
- The entire University of California gets this rap, especially UC–Santa Cruz, which belongs to an already famously liberal town (the town denied permission to the Navy to operate there, and forbade the police to press drug charges against marijuana smokers — especially if smoking in public, and has the largest 420 gathering in Northern California). Even the smaller UCs aren’t immune, as UC–Irvine had an incident where the black students’ club chained themselves together and marched into the student council meeting to protest a racist incident perpetrated by an Asian-American frat.
- Wellesley College — This one is handy if you need a feminist overtone.
- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor — Great for pegging the character as an activist. Actually active, that is, rather than just slinging the activist lingo. Good one for anti-animal testing shenanigans.
- The University of Glasgow in Scotland fits the political part of this but not really the pretentiousness bit. That would be St Andrews or Edinburgh.
- Reed College in Portland, Oregon — they only tell students their grades if specifically asked to, the administration has an extremely lax drug-use policy even for hyper-liberal Portland, and about half of their traditions are weird hippie injokes.note
- The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington — does not assign grades to students at all in favor of “narrative evaluations,”note many of the courses offered are political in nature, and there are no “departments” like you’d see at other schools — all classes are a form of “integrated studies” which approach a single issue from several different academic angles, with freshmen and seniors often in the same class. Professors are addressed by first name most of the time. The school operates an organic farm and a nonprofit vegetarian restaurant staffed and operated by unpaid volunteers who manage cooperatively.note
- The University of Colorado at Boulder — Much like UC Berkeley. A liberal college in a liberal enclave in a conservative(-ish, see The Several States) state, referred to as “nine square miles surrounded by reality”. Ward Churchill (he of the infamous essay alleging that the 9/11 victims were “little Eichmanns”) was a professor here, and like UC–Santa Cruz, it has a large pothead population, and endorses a Halloween nudist run where revellers will wear nothing but jack-o’-lanterns on their heads, which annoys the local police to no end.
- Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos from Perú, The National University of Saint Mark.
- Virginia Commonwealth University, Particularly the school of Arts, is known for its highly liberal use of drugs and high amount of Hipsters.
- Kent State University, Kent, Ohio — Popular for antiwar-style liberals, thanks to the 1970 National Guard shooting that left four students dead.
- University of Wisconsin–Madison — likewise a history of 1960s Vietnam-era activism, long called “Berkeley of the Midwest.”
- Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has a reputation for ‘progressive activism’ where students were known to adorn the interior hallways with left-wing graffiti. Or, as Aileen LeBlanc of NPR’s All Things Considered put it, “The college stands proudly as a progressive place, with a reputation of breeding beatnik, toxic, hippie, gay, New Age, vegan weirdoes.” And she was being sympathetic. The college was closed from June, 2008 to October, 2011 for ‘restructuring.’
- Although many (most?) religious colleges fit easily into the Jim Jonestown University mold described below, a few don’t:
- Ashland University (Brethren Church) in Ashland, Wisconsin, is fairly left-wing. One of the largest majors offered there is in Toxicology/Environmental Sciences.
- Earlham College (Religious Society of Friends — i.e. the Quakers) in Richmond, Indiana, is so left-wing that everybody is addressed by their first name — calling an instructor ‘Mister’, ‘Ms.’, ‘Professor’ or ‘Doctor’ So-and-So is definitely frowned upon.note Students are often at odds with the local and regional Yearly Meetings (the Quaker equivalent of a synod) over sexuality and drinking. (In case you’re wondering, the Yearly Meetings are against both.)
- The University of the Philippines (or UP for short) in metropolitan Manila, Philippines has gained a reputation as a hotbed for activists and radicals spanning the entire political spectrum. Historically, it has been stereotyped as being both Communist and far-left, though with their ideological rivals very close behind.
- The University of Texas at Austin is noted for this, as Austin is very famously a weird and liberal place. It’s somewhat unclear whether the university is weird because it’s in Austin or the city is weird because UT is in it. Either way it often gets contrasted to Texas A&M.
Jim Jonestown University
Run by the harshest, most conservative Dean Bitterman
imaginable and his goons, bordering on fascism
. The only things in town are a huge Corrupt Church
and a Walmart, and the school itself is filled with Jerk Jocks
, Corrupt Hicks
more interested in lining their pockets, abusing their students, and drilling conservative values into them than teaching, Alpha Bitches
, rich assholes who can’t care less about education and bought their way in
— and out
who constantly teach lies and intolerance in the classroom
and will give the worst punishments to those who even think otherwise, and Moral Guardians
blaming the downfall of America on the lack of Jesus and the presence of boobs on TV. The faculty and students will often be incredibly racist, sexist, and/or homophobic, and anyone who doesn’t fit into the herd gets beaten down — literally, in some cases — or worse.
Anyone who has half a brain turns out to be either a Stepford Smiler
, Holier Than Thou
, or Ax-Crazy
. The city council, if it exists, will be packed with Corrupt Corporate Executives
and oppressive, right-wing pastors
who want to eject anyone who dares to be liberal. Being a historic university, its founding charter frequently comes with a long and detailed list of complex bylaws and regulations which just seem tailor-made for the Dean to abuse our plucky heroes.
Schools in this continuum:
- Religious schools that primarily turn out pastors and missionaries (Bob Jones, Regent, Liberty, Oral Roberts, Brigham Young, etc.).
- All of these schools (except BYU) are rather infamous for their morality codes which threaten summary expulsion for heinous acts like fraternizing with the opposite sex, dressing in immodest clothing, drinking alcohol, listening to contemporary music or getting a unconventional haircut. BYU has a morality code, but it's more concerned with things that go against Mormon beliefs, mainly alcohol, tobacco, and especially sex outside marriage. As for the other schools mentioned, Regent tends to be a tiny bit more laid-back than the others, mostly because a large proportion of the school is graduate students.
- Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru) is a private university that has this characteristic with granola girls in the mix.
- Deep South schools big and small can get this treatment (Washington and Lee, Tennessee, South Carolina, Ole Miss).
- Texas A&M gets a big (not exactly unwarranted) reputation for this, especially compared to its more liberal and diverse neighbor/rival, University of Texas. Until 1960, it was closed to women and minorities (then again, ‘liberal’ colleges such as Harvard were closed to women as well) and required all students to train as reserve officers in the Army (ROTC, basically). Even after the end of that requirement, A&M’s Corps of Cadets is far larger than the average and A&M remains one of the most conservative schools in the country.
May overlap with a Wizarding School
, Boarding School of Horrors
or an occult-filled Miskatonic University
. Will undoubtedly overlap with Politically Motivated Teacher
Not to be confused with
an upcoming Wii U
title about scarecrows.
- PCU, in the film of that name, somehow manages to be both. The campus is, shall we say, polarized. This trope was basically the entire point of the movie.
- Faber College from National Lampoon’s Animal House is a Jim Jonestown University. Politics don’t come into play, thank God, but it’s definitely a stuffy and stodgy place without Delta House’s Wacky Fratboy Hijinx. (Toward the end of the movie, the Deltas also go on a road trip and pick up some women at a ‘socially activist’ women’s college that is hinted at being a 1950s/early ’60s version of Berserkeley. The movie takes place in 1962, two years before the free-speech movement, when Berserkeley was still an Unbuilt Trope.)
- Not a college, but American Eagle Christian High School from the film Saved! qualifies as a Jim Jonestown High School.
- In John Singleton’s college drama Higher Learning, Columbus University is obviously supposed to be a stand-in for one of the University of California campuses — but the faculty, as represented by Professor Phipps, are actually quite reasonable folks who aren’t angry at the world. A disproportionate number of the students, however, appear to be unhinged militants in full-blown Berserkeley mode, screaming everything from “White power!” (yes, even the neo-Nazis come off as lefties in this movie) to “Dead men don’t rape!” and calling the school’s namesake “nothing but a thief and a murderer.” Even the ‘good guys’ are misguided: one student, dismayed at the gang violence, organizes a school-wide “Peace Fest.” It doesn’t end well.
- In Iron Man, Stark asks the annoying (but not evil) liberal journalist if she graduated from Berkeley. (She actually went to Brown.)
- In the Van Wilder prequel, Coolidge College is portrayed as a Jim Jonestown University. Van is able to turn things upside down by the end of the film, of course.
- The titular school in Neal Stephenson novel The Big U manages to avoid either extreme version of Strawman U, but the SUB and the unionized professors would fit in well at a Berserkeley, and the administration and Temple of Unlimited Godhead (a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot) are close to a Jim Jonestown.
- In the early years of Doonesbury, Walden College was a Berserkley variety.
- If you think this is just a modern phenomenon, you’re wrong. In Aristophanes’ The Clouds, Socrates is running an ancient Greek Berserkeley and we see a debate with a strawman conservative from another school.
- Extreme Jim Jonestown example: The ‘University’ in Sarah Kane’s play Cleansed is really a concentration camp, run by the evil Tinker, where there are peepholes in the showers that lead to Tinker’s private viewing room, for his pleasure, and students are tortured by Tinker and his goons.
- Echo Bazaar has both — Benthic College is Berserkeley (to the point of having a few devils on its roster) while Summerset College is a Jim Jonestown University.
- The South Park episode “Die, Hippie, Die” features an invasion of hippies, the main group of which has a University of Berkeley bumper sticker. One of them continually called people “little Eichmanns,” a reference to controversial (and discredited) professor Ward Churchill, who used the phrase to describe the American victims of 9/11.