From the Right



What's Wrong With America's 'Elites'?

: Laura Hollis on

It is becoming increasingly clear that some of America's most serious problems can be traced back to our colleges and universities -- or at least the ones educating the country's most powerful people.

The Vietnam War era aside, it has traditionally been uncommon for events at universities to make national headlines. Absent something extraordinary, like a president giving a commencement address, a dramatic scientific breakthrough or the award of a prominent international prize to faculty, headlines with university names in them have tended to relate more to national championships in sports.

Not anymore.

Over the past few years, news items about events on college campuses have come to dominate headlines. The subjects are some of the country's most fabled institutions. And the stories are often negative, if not outright shocking.

Last December, the congressional testimony of three university presidents -- Claudine Gay from Harvard University, Elizabeth Magill from the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- set off a firestorm. Under questioning by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) about antisemitic speech and conduct on their campuses, the three women dodged and deflected, unwilling to state definitively that calls for the genocide of Jews violated university policies and codes of conduct.

The response was swift. Within days, Magill resigned. Gay survived the initial maelstrom, but the bad publicity prompted critics to start digging through her professional past, and she resigned less than a month later, following accusations of plagiarism in her research publications. Some of the nation's largest donors to these universities -- many of them Jewish -- began announcing that they would cease or pull back donations totaling in the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars.


The chaos on campuses has only increased since, with pro-Palestine protests and marches at dozens of colleges and universities, and horrific rhetoric bumping up against speech codes and demands for free speech. Across the country, Jewish students describe themselves as "living in a climate of hatred and fear" amid dramatic increases in antisemitic conduct, threats, slurs and actual violence.

This week, Stanford University sophomore Theo Baker published "The War at Stanford" in The Atlantic, in which he describes how the Israel-Hamas war has affected his campus. One Arab American graduate student told Baker that he thinks President Joe Biden "should be killed" and that Hamas should rule America. Pro-Palestine protesters set up sit-in "camps" for months and shouted for the destruction of Israel, chanting, "We don't want no two-state; we want all of '48!" Guest speakers brought in to facilitate campus discussion of the complex issues have been shouted down. Stanford employees have been threatened ("We know where you live!"), the interim president's home has been vandalized, and his effigy was carried around campus covered in fake blood. The administration, Baker says, seems paralyzed, indecisive and defeated.

This isn't an isolated incident at Stanford, and the Israel-Hamas war hasn't caused it. Last March -- months before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel -- Stanford Law School students shut down a talk being given by federal judge Kyle Duncan, shouting at him every time he attempted to speak or engage the audience, screaming epithets and holding up signs with vulgar accusations and calls for violence against Duncan's daughters.

Similar behavior has been displayed at other schools, having nothing to do with claims of colonialism in the Middle East. Swimmer and activist Riley Gaines was cornered and forced to hide in a classroom at San Francisco State University last year, prevented from giving her talk about limiting participation in women's sports to biological women. In 2017, author Charles Murray's scheduled talk at Middlebury College was interrupted by a mob that later physically attacked him and his faculty host Allison Stanger. Stanger's hair was pulled so hard by a protester that she suffered a concussion.


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