(The Daily Signal) – American institutions of higher education won’t reform on their own.
The recent explosion of antisemitism on college campuses has made many Americans—including high-profile donors—turn against modern academia.
How could our schools be filled with so many frothing antisemites who hate Jews, hate America, and hate the West? This has prompted many to understand the depth of our current civilizational crisis.
What can be done to change things?
Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School, argues in a column for Quillette that the obsession with diversity, equity, and inclusion on college campuses is destroying free speech and the very mission of higher education.
“DEI programs promote speech codes inconsistent with free expression that lead many to self-censor, an outcome that encourages ‘cancel culture’ by silencing its critics and emboldening its advocates,” Flier writes. “More limited in their goals at the outset, DEI programs and administrators now influence faculty recruitment and curricula, previously the sole dominion of the faculty.”
Flier argues that the problem for higher education is that this DEI obsession is eating away at colleges and universities from within, but efforts by lawmakers to remove it will destroy the schools from without.
He lays out a plan for schools to recommit themselves to free speech, double down on protecting students and faculty from physical harm, embrace institutional neutrality, and attempt to create more viewpoint diversity.
Although many of Flier’s suggestions would improve the state of college campuses to a certain extent, there is virtually no chance that our elite schools will adopt those suggestions on their own.
I’d bet on them remaining as partisan, one-sided, and fanatical as they are currently, or more so.
Although some on the Left deny it, it’s easy to see a straight line through DEI ideology to hatred of Jews and Israel.
Jews now are defined as oppressors, Palestinians as the oppressed. That’s all the narrative the Left needs to excuse or dismiss Hamas’ atrocities Oct. 7 in southern Israel.
History and truth don’t even matter. For the Left, civilization must be condemned while savagery is contextualized.
But the campus response to the terrorist attacks Oct. 7, and the pathetic excuses for rampant antisemitism from Ivy League presidents, wasn’t the beginning of the problems in academia. It was just a dramatic demonstration of the moral rot that’s been eating away at it for generations.
Harvard’s inability to remove President Claudine Gay is one example of what our schools really prioritize. Her disastrous testimony in front of Congress on antisemitism and her recent exposure as a serial plagiarist should have been plenty of evidence that Gay shouldn’t be leading a premier academic institution.
Yet, she remains at her post.
No matter how many plagiarism accusations roll in and are proven correct, this simply doesn’t seem to matter to the powers that be at Harvard. They would rather ride out the storm than back down from the woman in charge, and more importantly, the cause.
This makes sense if you consider that the powers that be at Harvard are more committed to the ideology of DEI than they are to rigorous academics, the transmission of knowledge, or the seeking of truth.
Was Gay hired as Harvard’s president because of her remarkable academic career and enlightening scholarship? No. She was hired to demonstrate the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially following the “racial reckoning” of 2020.
On that end, Gay has been an enormous success. Not only is she Harvard’s first black, female president, she’s been hard at work building a “DEI Empire,” as journalist and activist Chris Rufo called it.
“Between 2018 and the summer of 2023, as the dean of the largest faculty on campus, Gay oversaw the university’s racially discriminatory admissions program, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional,” Rufo wrote for City Journal.
Gay spearheaded numerous programs on campus that were aimed at the “historical reckoning with racial injustice.” Although these programs did little to produce better research or create a more dynamic academic environment, they did help demonstrate Harvard’s commitment to cultural revolution. And that’s all that really matters now.
Rufo noted that she’s played her role perfectly as “the dutiful racialist, skilled at the manipulation of guilt, shame, and obligation in service of institutional power.”
At this point, telling Harvard administrators, faculty, and trustees to abandon diversity, equity, and inclusion is like telling them to abandon their religion.
Just look at how much resistance other schools have put up even when they have been pressured by states to reform.
The University of Wisconsin was willing to walk away from $800 million to avoid limitations on DEI programs. Schools in Texas are scrambling to rebrand DEI programs to skirt new state laws prohibiting them.
That’s how committed these campus administrators are. Will a handful of dissenting academics in their ranks really convince them to change their ways? It’s good that they are now speaking up, but it’s doubtful.
The leftward lean of higher education has been clear to the American public since William F. Buckley wrote his influential book “God and Man at Yale” over 70 years ago. Since that time, there has been no pivot to the center, no attempt to reform or create anything resembling viewpoint diversity.
In fact, Yale, Harvard, and pretty much every other elite university has since become monolithically left wing.
A 2021 study found that in the 1970s and 1980s, about a third of college professors leaned conservative. Now that number is just under 6%.
The apparatus of most of this country’s elite schools—and, in most cases, the nonelite ones—is geared toward reinforcing orthodoxy. Those who oppose the orthodoxy are shown in countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they aren’t welcome, that the road to success is in playing by the DEI rules that people such as Gay enforce.
Our schools no longer are dedicated to creating a wise, patriotic elite to help guide young minds to the truth and our country to greater success. That was the vision of our Founders, men whom Gay and many others would like to purge and memory-hole. Instead, they are now geared toward reinforcing a self-perpetuating elite that pressures governments, big business, and the rest of society to accept and promote a particular brand of left-wing ideology.
If we want real change, it’s going to have to come from the American people.
Stop funding institutions that create hives of hateful radicals. Stop supporting schools that saddle generations of young Americans with debt, expecting that taxpayers will bail them out.
Start acting like Florida and Texas by insisting that schools abandon DEI programs that stifle speech and put racial and sexual identity above education and academics. Start restructuring schools in the mold of the New College of Florida and move in the direction of classical education.
That’s how we will fix American higher education and prevent this country, perhaps the entire West, from slipping into a new Dark Age.