The pursuit of knowledge and truth is more important than ever—which is why we must fight to save our universities.
The basic problem I see is that the crazies now outnumber the scholars among university faculty. And the students seem, for the most part, to be on the side of the crazies.
So it is really not enough for scholars to stand up for scholarship. Even if multiple scholars stand together, they can still be picked off one by one by cabals of students who are determined to see them punished for not joining the crazies.
Perhaps, in some departments, where scholars still hold the majority and sit in positions of power on hiring and tenure committees, it might be possible to make some headway: not hiring crazies and denying tenure to any who have been hired but don't yet have tenure. But in departments where crazies are the ones in power, the faculty will only get crazier with each new hire.
It seems to me that the only way to save universities is to create new ones or restructure old ones, dedicated from the top down to scholarship instead of craziness. How many university administrators have the will to stand up to the crazies?
Beautifully written but lacking in substance. In essence this essay is college itself. If you can avoid being star struck by the eloquent language you’ll notice the lack of content.
One simple fact sets the whole thing on fire. The poison cannot be the cure.
As a tenured, full professor I have been speaking up. I am tired of others “thanking me for my boldness” as they say nothing. We need to address the creep of illiberal, intolerant and anti-intellectual ideas from the administration, curriculum, research conferences and journals focused on social justice’s justice across disciplines, disproportionate to actual discipline-specific research and teaching.
The suggested solution is not workable. Asking professors to “police” themselves, to be brave, etc… given what has transpired over the past two decades is a fools errand. I say burn down just enough of these schools in order to eliminate the excess degrees that cannot be absorbed by the marketplace. I appreciate that academia needs bench strength to experiment and explore. And that’s fine. But this investment needs to be more tightly managed and not hoisted and the backs of graduates whose earnings potential cannot absorb “experimentation.”
I was dismayed and disgusted by the intellectual and moral rot universities displayed in mandating the Covid vaccines for students. These novel shots did not stop transmission—kind of an important point!—had zero liability, despite Pfizer having previously paid an over two-billion dollar fine for malfeasance, and of course there was no long term safety data. Students were known to be at an extremely low risk of death from Covid. Yet the professors were silent and complicit. No shot, no education—no problem! In many colleges, students studying remotely had to be vaccinated (Another sign of the great brains running our universities.) Even now some colleges maintain the Covid vaccine mandate while in many European countries the shot is not even offered for this age group, much less coerced. Professors and university administrators who tacitly supported this egregious violation of medical rights are not to be intellectually admired on any level. Uh, what’s the Latin word for coward?
I absolutely think this essay is great. He is cogent, sticks to his theme, and uses language beautifully. Not only that, but he's not speaking from some ivory tower of academia; he was thrown off that a few years ago... He genuinely seems to be practicing what he's preaching and knows the value of passion and wisdom, not academia pigeon-holed into so-called activism. He very briefly touches on something that bothered me in this sphere, and it's the necessity of publish, publish, publish... even when there's nothing to say. It floods fields of study with useless or repeated, often wrong or useless information. Not every academic endeavor needs to be or should be shared with the public; this is an artifact of the commercialization of academia. When profs have to rely so heavily on outside funding to secure their job, their academic freedom or academic integrity is usually at stake to some degree. Either they are swayed to produce results that align with the funders' wishes, or they feel pressure to publish drivel that adds to the noise of many published papers that say nothing or that say something wrong. The dramatic increase in admin staff, the ever-increasing need to provide students with unnecessary luxuries in order to lure them to their institution, and the subsequent inflation of college tuition to support this business model are not cohesive with academic freedom and learning about Homer and the Hittites.
I think we need to quit approaching college as a consumer and start approaching it as a student or apprentice again. I also think this logically means that not everybody should attend university; it should be reserved for the passionate, curious, and independent. It's not a rite of passage into adulthood, where you learn how to curb your alcohol intake; that's a very expensive way to learn how to make mistakes (guilty). It should be a bastion of academic learning (learning for learning's sake). I'm not sure how to reclaim this idea, but I think if we follow the money, that's a good start.
The problem with higher education is too many people. There’s too many students and too many teachers. There’s a bunch of mediocre intellects teaching classes and many more mediocre minds taking those classes. When you have functionally illiterate people graduating university, there’s a wee bit of a problem.
Tax the endowments. No student loans for “studies” majors. Eliminate DEI. Then we can talk about not taking a wrecking ball to the ivy towers.
Given that the prefrontal cortex doesn't gel fully until the age of 25, there is some practical danger in allowing 18-22 year-olds to stew in perversity and self-destructive anti-Americanism for four years. And they're already primed for it by their teenage internet use, much of it supplied by foreign powers that wish us ill. Maybe Justice Scalia was wrong; perhaps the constitution really is a suicide pact. I admire the blue sky optimism of this piece, but I wonder if the rot is too deep for wishin' and hopin'.
When universities began in the late 1980s to openly attack rather than debate the concept that great men mold and shape history through the force of their character, the decline in civilization was instantaneous. Ideas and creativity are defiled by universities.
Anyone who has managed large groups in important enterprises knows the reality of leadership.
So obvious: Caesar, Christ, Einstein, Shakespeare. Benjamin Franklin & Thomas Edison & Graham Bell created the modern world with unprecedented inventions of business and form of government and electricity. Rockefeller and Carnegie's will power for industry transformed the planet. The vast majority of their critics are anklebiters, gnawing at some inconsequential cinder flung from the foundries of invention. Today, Musk is endlessly censured for displaying those same qualities and his critics too, are mere gnats.
When professor or university attacks or ridicules historical precepts that have been wildly successful for thousands of years, that culture is in jeopardy.
Many thanks to the Free Press for publishing this! It’s bracing to read an account of what is still good in academia, and what can be done in its defense.
Only the trustees have the power to effect positive change. Do they have the courage it takes? Here is my open letter to them: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/how-to-get-into-harvard-open-letter-to-trustees
My 11 year old son is sitting next to me translating Greek texts for fun. He found my books and hasn’t been able to put them down.
He won’t be going to Yale, nor will he be governed by Yale or any of the rest of the inbred pipelines of power.
The time has come for a New Republic with new towers. This young man, and others like him, aren’t Tick Tok drones. They need a nation in which to thrive. The angry, thoughtless drones are a burden. Send the drones to the ivory towers. Let them learn the religion of the drones, seek their priorities, and pursue life through whimsical delusion. The rest of us want truth. We want peace. We want to thrive. We need a New Republic.
The points made are good, but the author himself left the university setting. It remains unclear how the universities can be rebuilt from within, if all the academics who value free thought and open inquiry have to leave to be able to safely speak out. Abandoning the ones that won't support open discourse sends a more impactful message, while simultaneously building new universities or strengthening those that aren't too far gone. Maybe that's the point he was trying to make. But ultimately he also abandoned academia, in the sense of leaving the university setting.
"Be brave" is not a solution to the structural problem of institutional capture. This argument here is that something good remains amidst the rot - and it is striking that this argument needs to be made - but Katz has no suggestion of how to cut out the rot while saving what is healthy. If this is the best argument for conserving universities, then I think the case is made that we do indeed need to burn down the ivory towers and start over.
Yes, don’t burn it all down, it needs to be selective.
I read a while back that the typical USA university used to have less than 0.2 staff per student but is now over 0.7 in some cases?
That seems like the entire problem. DEI, humanities programs and too many overseers/comisars.
It seems like countries only need 1-2 social justice grads per year.
I’d suggest severely curtailing funds for soft courses, let Soros fund those out of his own pocket.
Instead all public funds, and allow directed donations, all go only to STEM. Useful studies.
Stem is suffering because it’s hard, soft “sciences” are all about feelings.