• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Columbia’s president encouraged protest. Look what happened

Columbia's president encouraged protest. Look what happened

Minouche Shafik wanted “a reordering of our societies” to create “a more generous and inclusive society.”

Instead she had to cancel commencement.

Columbia University’s president is just one of the progressive elite who encouraged a generation to become activists — but, now that their students are pitching tents and smashing windows in the name of Palestine, they’re reaping the consequences of creating these self-righteous monsters.

Campus protesters at Columbia took over Hamilton Hall. AP

In her 2021 book, “What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society” Shafik seemed eager to usher in radical change, propelled by a new generation of activists.

“Here we are again in need of a new paradigm,” Shafik writes. “Profound changes…. have revealed the extent to which our existing social contract is no longer working.”

Shafik’s carefully burnished CV — the World Bank; the International Monetary Fund; a spell as a senior British civil servant pushing “international development”; the presidency of the hyper-elite London School of Economics; and teaching gigs at Georgetown and the Wharton School of Business — places her solidly in the heart of the elite academic machine. 

Her resume — and her pro-activist stance — is precisely what elite higher ed selects for.

Minouche Shafik, Columbia’s president, previously wrote a book about the need for a new “social contract.” But her endorsement of “activism” has come into touch with reality at the university she leads. AP
Minouche Shafik’s book “What We Owe Each Other” makes the case for “a new social contract.”

It’s full of causes and organizations where pieties and reality rarely collide. An elite whose members are insulated by extreme privilege from the consequences of their actions.

A lack of diversity — of viewpoints and of socioeconomic class— is precisely why higher ed is suffering. And why left wing politics are able to go virtually unchecked on campus.

Shafik certainly got more than she was bargaining for, as her students passionately adopted the pro-Palestine cause and a new paradigm she did not see coming.

They pitched tents, screamed into bullhorns, and took over the campus quad. 

Columbia students pitched an encampment on campus in support of Palestine. Getty Images

When protesters (joined by outside agitators) took over Hamilton Hall in the name of Palestine by force — smashing glass, using campus furniture as barricades, and unfurling an “Intifada” poster out of a window — Shafik had to authorize NYPD officers in riot gear to clear the campers and arrest more than 100 of them.

Even after weeks of disruption, things continue to be so tumultuous on campus that the university can’t properly function: Final exams are being conducted remotely and seniors, who missed out on their high school graduation ceremonies thanks to the pandemic, will now miss out yet again thanks to campus agitators.

It’s certainly a new paradigm. And exactly what campus leadership was asking for — just that they didn’t realize it.

Shafik’s jargon-filled book full of academic gobbledegook calls for society to hold those in power to account.

This was the aftermath of the occupation of Hamilton Hall, after students and outside agitators took all too literally Shafik’s idea of protesting in favor of a new paradigm. NYPD

“Achieving a better social contract is ultimately about increasing the accountability of our political systems,” she writes.

And, within their academic systems, Columbia students seem to think they’re doing just that —  by championing the “little guys” in Gaza, and also by tearing down “power structures” of campus leadership.

“Moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity,” Shafik writes in her book. Her students have certainly seized on the opportunity of war in the Middle East to promote their own conceptions of justice.

Student activists have been coddled in pursuit of their causes time and again.

Shafk wanted a new social contract but instead she got the NYPD in to clear out the building occupied by her students. NYPD

When student protesters were upset about Trump’s election, some campuses canceled classes to accommodate them. When Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal enraged lefty students, universities offered mental health support.

And George Floyd’s murder prompted colleges — including Columbia itself —  to concede activists’ demands by committing to “antiracist” endeavors. 

When universities agree with their students’ causes, they passionately enable their activism. But this time was different.

To her credit, Shafik did call in the NYPD to clear out Hamilton Hall. And she was willing to condemn calls for the genocide of Jews (unlike other elite university presidents). 

At Columbia signs include this “Dykes 4 Divest,” despite the Hamas regime in Gaza persecuting gay, lesbian and transgender people. Rikki Schlott

But it’s time she — and university leadership around the country — recognize the fact that they’ve actively egged on activism for the sake of it.

Does Shafik remember when she lauded “young people [who] have already mobilized in pursuit of action” in her book? 

Now, they’re waving “dykes for divestment” signs and trashing campus buildings in the name of progress.

In light of that development, let’s hope Shafik is beginning to recognize that this generation’s righteous protesters aren’t creating the new paradigm she wants. They’re simply causing chaos.

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