Now that Liz Magill is about to become the former president of the University of Pennsylvania, the only sensible reaction is to hope she is the first of many college leaders to hit the road.
Magill’s forced resignation, following her sickening tolerance of antisemitism on Penn’s campus and her smug, disastrous congressional testimony, is reason to hope America’s educational rot has reached peak madness. The test is whether her comeuppance represents a sacrificial one-off or the start of a wholesale house cleaning of administrators who sold their souls to the woke mob.
That’s the moral clarity the nation needs and the moment demands.
Make no mistake: the outbreak of antisemitism on campuses across America is the virulent result of decades of radical professors whose far-left politics have turned elite institutions into anti-American indoctrination factories.
The daily drumbeat of contempt for our nation’s Founders, its military, police and civic institutions have fostered a hatred of Western civilization, its principles and morals. Cancel culture, gender madness and the embrace of racial discrimination in pursuit of diversity and equity are examples of the poisoned fruit of that agenda.
Incubators of hate
In hindsight, it was inevitable that those former citadels of learning would also produce Jew-hating, Israel-bashing supporters of terrorism. And so here we are, the evidence irrefutable that a purge at the top of the academic pyramid is essential.
It won’t be easy or quick because the radicals’ capture of education has been so complete and their tentacles are dug deeply into the culture. That’s how they have been able to resist reform for decades.
The hope that this time could be different stems in part from the simple fact that Magill and the presidents of Harvard and MIT were summoned to appear before Congress in the first place, where their masks of professional trustworthiness were shredded.
The backdrop wasn’t just the antisemitism roiling many campuses since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack. It was also because college leaders have mostly been mum as Jewish students felt threatened and harassed by calls for the elimination of Israel.
Some administrators actually defended the intimidating behavior on the grounds of free speech. Others, like Magill, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of MIT, tried to hide behind legalisms and claims their hands were tied by the Constitution.
That is patently absurd because the same administrators don’t invoke free speech defenses for conservative speakers when student mobs threaten them and shout them down. The clear double standard undercut the three witnesses even before they wilted under the fiery questions from New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.
Even Democrats, the party most aligned with campus radicals, were appalled at the testimony.
When the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, threw his support behind the movement to fire Magill, her fate was clear.
But she shouldn’t go alone.
Although she was the pinup president because of her cold inaction during the past two months while antisemitic incidents piled up at Penn, Magill and her two sidekicks were representatives of hundreds if not thousands of college leaders who are failing the test of adult leadership.
Holocaust is context
My only quibble with Stefanik’s laser-like approach is that she also could have broadened the lesson by turning the presidents’ repeated use of the word “context” on its head.
The real context, she might have said, is the Holocaust and the Oct. 7 slaughter by Hamas, whose charter calls for the elimination of Israel.
In that context, the college chants of “Globalize the intifada” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” make students guilty of supporting calls for genocide, a fact the presidents should have recognized and acted on.
Yet even with the facts so clear and the federal government investigating at least nine colleges over the issue, Roger Kimball, who has long studied and written about the college rot, offers a note of caution.
“Maybe it is a wake-up call, or maybe we’ll just hit the snooze button,” Kimball told me.
His hesitation is understandable given that as far back as 1990, his enlightening book, “Tenured Radicals,” laid out in compelling detail how campus troublemakers in the ’60s and ’70s had returned to the scenes of their crimes.
“Now, instead of disrupting classes, they are teaching them,” he wrote. “Instead of attempting to destroy our educational institutions physically, they are subverting them from within.”
His book’s subtitle, “How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education,” reflected how the radicals had replaced courses on great books and the intellectual traditions of the West with self-congratulatory studies celebrating racial separatist groups and radical feminists. History was being rewritten to make coddled students feel good about themselves and their world views, and only the names of the perpetrators and the details of their work have changed in the intervening three decades.
As Kimball, the editor and publisher of the New Criterion and the publisher of Encounter Books, described it, the academic radicals had become the academic establishment.
He remains astonished at how long they’ve lasted and how much they’ve subverted higher education.
‘All about naked power’
“Nobody would have predicted that the left would regard George Orwell’s ‘1984’ as a user’s manual, but they have,” he said.
As he sees it now, “the critical point about wokeism is that it shows what happens when you can’t appeal to the best argument, to evidence and facts. It’s all about naked power and they have that power.”
The reality makes him hesitant about the prospects for change, but we agreed the donor revolt at Penn, Harvard and elsewhere has the potential to make a dent in the elite schools’ aura of authority and prestige.
The limiting factor is that those schools already have such enormous endowments and global appeal that donors alone won’t be able to force major changes in the short term.
That will come, he believes, only when enough parents conclude that Harvard and its ilk are not the kind of places they want for their children.
“I won’t predict that will happen, but I will egg it on,” Kimball said with a laugh.
The good news is that this time, he’s not alone.
Reader Howard Siegel reflects on a sad state of affairs, writing:
“For the first time in my life, I am afraid to put my Hanukkah menorah in the window of my home. I and all Jews have become collateral damage as President Biden continues to transform America into something I simply do not understand.