A banner at Stanford this week. (Via @mualphaxi / X)

Campus Cowardice and Where the Buck Stops

Microaggressions are met with moral condemnation. But actual violence is tolerated—even glorified. On the rot inside our universities and what to do about it.

American universities are places of exquisite sensitivity. Just ask Greg Patton. Patton is a USC professor who was suspended from his job a few years ago because he said a Chinese word—a filler word, like the word uh—that happened to sound like an English slur. 

Or ask Leslie Neal-Boylan. She is dean at the nursing school at University of Massachusetts. Or she was, until she was fired when she wrote the following sentence in an email: “BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS.” A math professor at the University of North Texas lost his job for disparagingly joking about microaggressions. NYU fired a lecturer because students complained his chemistry class was too hard. 

Yale professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis resigned from their roles as deans of a residential college after Erika sent an email suggesting that college students could handle the sight of offensive Halloween costumes. For that sin, she and her husband, who defended her response, were accused of failing to create a “safe space” for Yale students. 

None of these people actually did anything wrong. But according to the prevailing ideology that rules American college campuses, violent acts include “misgendering” and “harmful language,” and so these acts must be condemned publicly in the strongest possible terms, the perpetrators punished.

When it comes to the mass slaughter of Jews in Israel by a genocidal terrorist organization, however, such condemnations and consequences are curiously absent.

Contrast what colleges will tolerate with what they won’t. Microaggressions are met with moral condemnation. Meanwhile, campuses will tolerate—even glorify—the wanton murder of Jews—actual violence. Indulge in this at UCLA and you can get extra credit.

Yale professor Zareena Grewal has spent the last few days apologizing for Hamas on social media. “Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard,” she said on X, as more horrifying details emerged about the pogrom in southern Israel. Grewal also explained that you shouldn’t feel too sorry about the kidnapping of an Israeli woman taken back to Gaza on a motorbike by Hamas because she had once served in the IDF.   

And what of “safe spaces” for Jewish students? Since the Hamas attack on Israel, in which terrorists carried out an orgy of violence that included the decapitation of babies and the burning alive of families, this is a sampling of what universities had to offer:

  • The president of Cornell University described her statement as a “Response to World Events,” lamenting it is “impossible” to respond to all of the world’s tragedies. 

  • The president of Northwestern University said: “Northwestern does not intend to make an institutional statement.” This, about the largest single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. 

  • Stanford’s interim president Richard Saller wrote with Provost Jenny Martinez that, while they condemn terrorism “as a moral matter,” that they “believe it is important that the university, as an institution, generally refrain from taking institutional positions on complex political or global matters that extend beyond our immediate purview, which is the operations of the university itself.”

  • Sian Leah Beilock, Dartmouth’s president, has yet to explicitly condemn Hamas. Same with Columbia president Minouche Shafik.

The campus administrators—so quick to offer statements on climate change and the war in Ukraine and Roe v. Wade—offered silence or equivocation this week in the face of mass murder. Meanwhile, student groups at some of the most elite college campuses in the country were positively gleeful.

  • Over 30 student groups at Harvard said of the 1,200 Israelis who have been slaughtered that “The apartheid regime is the only one to blame.”

  • A joint statement from Columbia University’s Palestine Solidarity groups wrote “we remind Columbia students that the Palestinian struggle for freedom is rooted in international law, under which occupied peoples have the right to resist the occupation of their land.”

  • Northwestern University’s Middle Eastern and North African Student Association “grieves for the martyrs and the civilians lost in this time.”

  • A student group at California State University in Long Beach advertised its “Day of Resistance: Protest for Palestine” event on Tuesday with a poster that showed a crowd waving the Palestinian flag and a Hamas paraglider—a symbol of mass murder—in the top corner. 

  • At Stanford, hand-painted signs appeared on buildings declaring: “The Israeli occupation is NOTHING BUT AN ILLUSION OF DUST.” (In The Stanford Review, Free Press intern Julia Steinberg wrote that, on Instagram, “my classmates posted infographics declaring that, ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ ”)

  • Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Virginia declared on Sunday that “The events that took place yesterday are a step towards a free Palestine.”

The satirical news site The Babylon Bee pretty much hit the nail on the head in a single headline: “Harvard Student Leaves Lecture On Microaggressions To Attend ‘Kill The Jews’ Rally.”

The capture of American universities by this moral rot has left many professors who are committed to old-school ideas—like, say, the outlandish notion that universities should be dedicated to the pursuit of truth—heading for the exits. 

That is the subject of Francesca Block’s excellent reported essay today: The Exodus of Wrongthinkers from American Universities

Block spoke to professors at universities across the country who are leaving the one occupation that offers total job security because they are fed up with the illiberal orthodoxy. Here’s how Joshua Kleinfeld, a legal scholar and philosopher at Northwestern University, put it: “People who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy have to make a very painful choice,” he told The Free Press. “They can speak their mind and accept the fact that their professional life will be a war zone. Or they can hold their tongue and avoid that controversy, accusation, and battle, but at the cost of a part of their soul.” 

One person who is fed up with the moral cowardice on our college campuses is Marc Rowan, the co-founder and CEO of Apollo Global Management, who sits on the board of overseers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Writing for The Free Press today, he calls for the resignation of Penn’s president and board chair, arguing that “leaders have for too long allowed this kind of anti-Jewish hate, which sanitizes Hamas’s atrocities, to infect their campus.” And he holds himself to account: “Trustees, myself included. . . have sat by quietly as the pursuit of truth—the ostensible mission of our elite institutions—was traded for a poorly organized pursuit of social justice and political correctness.”

Rowan offers a straightforward solution: University Donors, Close Your Checkbooks.

College leaders, this isn’t complicated. If you’re still confused, take a leaf out of University of Florida president Ben Sasse’s book. Two lines stick out in the statement from the former U.S. senator from Nebraska. First: “What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism.” Second: “We will protect our Jewish students from violence.” 

See how easy that is?

Read Francesca Block and Marc Rowan below.

For more coverage of the war on Israel, read Yaakov Katz on how Israel got ambushed. And watch our new short film: The Kiss. (Trust us, you don’t want to miss it.)

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