Archie Glazer, 16, poses for a portrait at his home in Newton, MA on March 23, 2024. Archie is interested in attending a Southern university, part of a growing movement of students from northern cities seeking something different. (Sophie Park for The Free Press)

The Kids Skipping Elite Colleges and Heading South. Plus. . .

Taylor Swift’s new album. Bari Weiss on freedom. And more.

Today from The Free Press, Bari’s lecture on antisemitism and choosing freedom, Freya Sanders reviews Taylor Swift’s new album, Big Toilet™ saves San Francisco, and more. 

But first, our lead story. 

The mounting chaos on Ivy League campuses in recent days is only the latest chapter in a longer story of America’s elite colleges sabotaging their hard-earned reputations. And now, some prospective students and parents are wondering: Are these really the best places to spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars? 

Some are taking Nate Silver’s advice.“Just go to a state school,” he tweeted Sunday. “The premium you’re paying for elite private colleges vs. the better public schools is for social clout and not the quality of the education. And that’s worth a lot less now that people have figured out that elite higher ed is cringe.” 

Other prospective students are heading south to colleges like the University of Miami, Clemson, Elon, and Georgia Tech, where the weather is nicer and campus life is more relaxed. 

Here’s Eric Spitznagel on why South(ern) colleges will rise again:

The recent wave of violent protests and arrests at elite universities like Yale and Columbia have only confirmed for Scott Katz that he made the right decision to attend Elon University. The North Carolina college, where he is currently wrapping up his sophomore year, is a long way from his hometown of Lafayette Hill, the predominantly liberal Philadelphia suburb where the average home costs $610,000.

Katz, who is Jewish, says the antisemitism that’s increasingly visible at colleges nationwide—especially in the Ivy League, and other elite institutions like Stanford and Berkeley—hasn’t even touched his campus.

“I haven’t been affected by it at all,” Katz told me. “I definitely feel very safe on campus regarding my religion.” 

He notes that Elon was one of only two universities in the country to get an A grade from the Anti-Defamation League for its policies protecting Jewish students against hate. (The other is Brandeis.) According to the ADL ranking, Elon has seen zero “severe antisemitic and anti-Zionist incidents” and zero “hostile anti-Zionist student groups.”

“It was a big deal,” Katz says of the level of comfort he feels on campus.

Katz is part of a burgeoning trend in higher education. An unprecedented number of students are gravitating away from Ivy League universities and looking to Southern colleges that wouldn’t have been on their radar twenty years ago. The exodus is fueled, sources told me, by warmer weather, great college sports, and a more relaxed atmosphere, which stands in stark contrast to the Covid restrictions many Northern universities put in place from 2020–2023. But the progressive politics sweeping elite schools in the northeast is another major factor.


The latest show of antisemitism on elite campuses comes as Jews are about to celebrate the holiday of Passover—otherwise known as the festival of freedom. And our next offering is on that theme. It’s a speech Bari gave a few months ago—with only a little fanfare—at the 92Y in New York on “The State of World Jewry.” Bari argued that the Jews depend on the state of the free world. Click below to listen to the full speech: 

For more on Passover and the meaning of freedom, read Alana Newhouse in Tablet on “The Jews Who Didn’t Leave Egypt.” A fascinating essay for Jews and gentiles alike. 

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

  1. Trump attempted to “corrupt” the 2016 election by paying off Stormy Daniels, prosecutors said in the first day of oral arguments in New York yesterday. Missing from the courtroom: the former president’s wife. Read Maureen Dowd on Melania’s trials. (ABC)

  2. A Jewish professor at Columbia trying to get onto campus discovered that his ID had been deactivated by the school after they said they could not guarantee his safety. (New York Post)

  3. Shocker: Americans aren’t excited about the election. Sixty-four percent of voters said they have a high level of interest, a lower figure than at the same time in 2008 (74 percent), 2012 (67 percent), 2016 (69 percent), and 2020 (77 percent). (NBC)

  4. The head of Israel’s military intelligence has resigned, citing failure to anticipate Hamas’s October 7 attack. “The military intelligence directorate under my command did not live up to our mission,” wrote Aharon Haliva in his resignation letter. “I have been carrying that black day ever since, day and night.” (Semafor

  5. The UK has banned smoking for everyone born in and after 2009. Read Peter Hitchens defend the move. (Compact)

  6. Last week we brought news of the pitiful amount Caitlin Clark is being paid to play in the WNBA. This week, we’re not feeling so bad for the phenom, who is reportedly about to sign a $28 million deal with Nike. Clark’s going to be just fine! (CNN

  7. Terry Anderson, the reporter who was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985 and held hostage for nearly seven years, has died. “Though my father’s life was marked by extreme suffering during his time as a hostage in captivity, he found a quiet, comfortable peace in recent years,” said his daughter Sulome Anderson. (AP)  

  8. This year, in Jerusalem. Lou Weiss—who happens to be Bari and Suzy’s dad—reports from the Holy Land. (And by the way, this isn’t nepotism, it’s a ransom, since I’ve been told I can’t work here if I don’t include this piece.) (WSJ)

  9. NBA player Jontay Porter has been handed a lifetime ban for betting on himself and giving information to a bettor to improve his odds. ICYMI: Read Joe Nocera’s Free Press piece on the Porter case, Shohei Ohtani, and why the prudes were right about gambling on sports. (Vox)

  10. To understand the limits of AI, listen to baseball commentary, argues Yair Rosenberg. “The automated imitation of emotion isn’t exhilarating; it’s alienating—a soulless simulacrum lacking the essence of human interaction.” (The Atlantic

Photo illustration by The Free Press and images via Getty.

Taylor Swift: Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

I thought the pop star had grown up, writes Freya Sanders. But her latest album shows she’s still acting like a teen, taking cheap shots at her exes.

Last year, Taylor Swift broke up with Joe Alwyn, the man she thought she’d marry—and she’s not trying to be mature about it. In her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, she literally sings, Everything comes out: teenage petulance. One of her songs is called “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” and it absolutely crucifies an ex-boyfriend for wanting weird sex and creepily sliding into DMs and texting her friends for drugs.

This would be fine but for the fact that everyone—even I, who claim to hate it when women are reduced to the men they date—listens to the new Swift songs wondering, “Which boy is this song about?”

We can’t help sniffing for clues about Alwyn, who was so notoriously private he was photographed with her maybe ten times in their six-year relationship. When it was all over, not only did every glossy magazine dust off its listicle of her exes, but everyone weighed in on her wretched rebound: Matty Healy is “problematic!” He must be dumped! 

Taylor seems to address Healy, who may or may not be “The Smallest Man,” as well as the target of her delightfully titled song, “But Daddy I Love Him.” She describes her fans’ reaction to their relationship as “bitching and moaning.” And dump him she did.

Taylor Swift, obviously, knows people listen to her songs for clues about her ex-boyfriends. She’s taken legendary potshots at John Mayer and Taylor Lautner and Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal. Which is why, when Tortured Poets dropped on Friday, I texted a friend the following one-line review: 

This album is SO MEAN!!!


On Our Radar

→ Kennedy hurting Trump more than Biden: Poor RFK Jr. First his family clubbed together to shoot an ad for his presidential opponent Joe Biden. Now a group of his former colleagues in the environmental movement have written to him urging him to drop out of the race. “In nothing more than a vanity candidacy, RFK Jr. has chosen to play the role of election spoiler to the benefit of Donald Trump—the single worst environmental president our country has ever had,” write his (former?) buddies.

But while the left turns the screws on Camelot’s wayward son, a new poll shows that it’s Trump, not Biden, suffering more from Kennedy’s presence in the race. A survey published by Marist yesterday showed Biden (51 percent) three points ahead of Trump (48 percent) in a two-way contest, but that extends to a five-point lead when other candidates are included. In a five-way contest, Biden is at 43 percent, Trump is at 38 percent, RFK Jr. is at 15 percent, and Cornel West and Jill Stein both register 2 percent.   

Before we continue, an update from the Trump trial, presented without comment:

→ The Bass break-in: On Sunday, a man broke into the official residence of Los Angeles mayor Karen Bass. It appears that Bass and her family were at home during the break-in—and that no one, thankfully, was hurt. This is the second time Bass’s house has been broken into. 

We derive zero pleasure from this news, but let it be noted that Bass, despite having pledged to expand the Los Angeles Police Department, is presiding over a historic downsizing of it. By this summer, the LAPD is expected to include just 8,908 officers—its lowest level in two decades.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out, Bass ran as a progressive in her 2022 race against developer Rick Caruso. She waxed poetic about “the unhoused.” And she was, as so many wealthy progressives were fond of pointing out, the “diverse candidate,” which they found impossible to resist. Not that any of the city's diverse residents care about that at a time when the murder rate in Los Angeles, unlike other cities, is going up. —Peter Savodnik

→ True believers on campus: I suspect I am not the only Free Presser who, watching the violent protests on Ivy League campuses, recalled Rob Henderson’s entry in our Prophets series on Eric Hoffer from earlier this month. Hoffer was a fascinating figure: a blue-collar autodidact whose most-read work, The True Believer, was published more than seventy years ago but, as Rob argued in his essay, remains a brilliant explanation of what drives mass movements. 

Consider the extreme chants of the college kids—chants like “Burn Tel Aviv to the ground” and “Red, black, green, and white, we support Hamas’s fight.” Or watch this zombie-like crowd who Jessica Schwalb, a Jewish student they targeted, says “felt like a page out of a dystopian novel.” 

And then read the longshoreman philosopher make perfect sense of their radicalism:

[I]n a mass movement, the air is heavy-laden with suspicion. There is prying and spying, tense watching, and a tense awareness of being watched. The surprising thing is that this pathological mistrust within the ranks leads not to dissension but to strict conformity. Knowing themselves continually watched, the faithful strive to escape suspicion by adhering zealously to prescribed behavior and opinion. Strict orthodoxy is as much the result of mutual suspicion as of ardent faith. 

Read Rob Henderson’s essay on Eric Hoffer in full here. 

→ Big Toilet saves San Francisco: San Franciscans celebrated the installation of a $1.7 million public toilet Sunday. Encompassing just 150 square feet of the Noe Valley Town Square, the public restroom became a laughingstock in October 2022 after city officials announced that the project would take two years and nearly two million dollars to build, due to high construction costs and burdensome government bureaucracy. Facing ridicule, politicians began distancing themselves from the project, and Governor Gavin Newsom took back the state money that was slated to fund the project. In the end, the project was saved by Chad Kaufman, CEO of the aptly named Public Restroom Company, who donated a modular toilet and paid for union labor to install it. The total cost to taxpayers: $200,000. The state gave back the $1.7 million to the city, which says it will use it to. . . build more toilets. Or more likely, toilet. God willing, more benevolent toilet magnates will step up in the future—that’s not something that should be said about one of the richest cities in the world but clearly, it needs to be said. Big Toilet™, you are our only hope. —River Page 

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

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