ACTA in the News | Intellectual Diversity

The anti-civilizational ideology at the heart of higher education exposed

Even after the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania lost their jobs, too many others have failed to respond consistently and effectively to policy violations on their campuses.
BLAZE MEDIA   |  May 2, 2024 by Steven McGuire

After Israel suffered atrocities that should have shocked the conscience of the entire world, 34 student groups at Harvard University inaugurated the academic year by cheering on Hamas’ savagery and blaming Israel for the terrorist attack it endured. Now the school year is ending with protesters camping out on campuses across the country, nominally to protest Israel’s response but, in reality, to call for the destruction of the Jewish state. These events bookend a year of virulent and disruptive protests that have laid bare the moral and intellectual corruption of America’s elite academic institutions and paralyzed their leaders.

Americans already knew higher education leaned to the left. What many did not know is how many faculty, staff, and students are so committed to corrosive, anti-civilizational ideologies that they could not even pause to acknowledge victims of terror or condemn their attackers.

As some unleashed their hatred of Israel, Jews, or both in the wake of October 7, large numbers of others applied the simplistic oppressor-oppressed, post-colonialist narrative they have imbibed during their time in our educational institutions and turned out to protest and disrupt their campuses.

Meanwhile, most college and university presidents were dumbfounded. Perhaps they, like many Americans, did not know what some of their employees and students really thought. More likely, they knew but did not expect so many of them to say the quiet part out loud.

Either way, they had to contend with a problem they had not faced when responding to past social and political events. They could denounce Hamas and stand with Israel but alienate a large contingent on their campuses, or they could appeal to principles of neutrality and freedom they had historically violated and incur the wrath of donors, alumni, politicians, and many others who would rightly smell the rank hypocrisy.

As they fumbled their responses, they allowed disorder to spread across their campuses, mostly without consequence, even as Jewish students filed lawsuits and Title VI complaints reporting alleged incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination.

Jews and others who believe laws have been broken should absolutely pursue legal action, but authorities can and should have readily dispersed many of the disruptions, including the current encampments, for violating content-neutral policies regarding time, place, and manner.

Some administrators have acted and should be applauded for doing so. When students rushed into Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr’s office building a few weeks ago, she gave them 10 minutes to leave and then suspended the students and had them arrested.

At Vanderbilt University, 27 protesters who forced their way into a building housing the chancellor’s office lasted less than 24 hours before the administration had them marched out by police, some in handcuffs. In the end, four students were arrested, three expelled, one suspended, and over 20 placed on probation. Chancellor Daniel Diermeier explained the school’s approach: “We clearly state the principles and rules that support our mission as a university. Then we enforce them.”

This is precisely what campus leaders must do. Allowing students to break the rules with impunity or applying rules inconsistently leads them to push the limits further while opening leadership up to charges of hypocrisy when they discipline some offenders but not others.

Even after the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania lost their jobs, too many others have failed to respond consistently and effectively to policy violations on their campuses.

This can partly be explained by administrators’ historic antipathy toward disciplining their students. Unlike what happened at Pomona, when Princeton University students occupied President Christopher Eisgruber’s office for 33 hours in 2015, he responded by agreeing to address their demands and punishing no one. Is it any surprise that the students planning the encampment there told recruits not to expect serious consequences even though they knew they were breaking the rules?

This cannot all be explained by an imprudent or soft commitment to leniency. Matters have clearly gotten out of hand. But these institutions are what they want to be. They screen for professors who are committed to the right causes using devices such as mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, and they admit students who focus on activism instead of learning.

A few years ago, Stanford University admitted a student whose application essay simply repeated #BlackLivesMatter 100 times. At Vanderbilt, one of the ringleaders was a known activist who was admitted on a “merit scholarship for activists and organizers,” according to the Associated Press.

Now campus administrators across the country are faced with a monster of their own creation in the form of unruly encampments that violate university policies and create a hostile environment not only for Jews, but also for students who simply want to attend class and learn. Some university presidents have shown leadership, calling in the police when they could not disband the encampments on their own, but too many others have failed to stand up for the rights of others at their institutions.

At Columbia University, President Minouche Shafik called in the police, only to allow the students to set up camp again. Then she waffled and pleaded as the protesters held the university’s commencement hostage, and they repaid her by smashing windows and occupying Hamilton Hall.

Shafik has finally done the right thing, calling in the police again and this time asking them to stay through graduation. But she should have nipped the whole thing in the bud at the start. She was lucky that the NYPD cleared out the protesters so flawlessly. At UCLA, administrators were slow to stop their campus from descending into violent chaos.

Free expression includes the right to protest, but these encampments have gone beyond free speech and violated campus rules and the rights of others. It should have been an easy decision to shut them down and to make an example out of the disruptive students with suspension or expulsion. Instead, too many administrators have tolerated them and made things worse.

This article appeared on Blaze Media on May 2, 2024


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