I’ve been looking for someone who is knowledgeable about what is happening behind the scenes at Brandeis University in the wake of the withdrawal of the invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree. Yesterday I spoke with such a source.
Brandeis has put forward the best case for itself. According to Brandeis, they didn’t know what they were doing when they chose to confer the honorary degree on Ms. Hirsi Ali. Brandeis has pleaded ignorance regarding Ms. Hirsi Ali’s views. This despite the fact that the selection process for recipients of honorary degrees is a highly formalized process to vet the candidates for such degrees.
The worst case arises from the circumstantial evidence that the university was merely responding to pressure put on it by the usual suspects. In support of this view one can cite the Brandeis Shoot report by Emily Stotts, “Students’ outcry prompts Brandeis to reconsider award.” I think Ross Douthat goes with the worst case.
My source could not necessarily shed light on the motivations at play, but he was familiar with events on campus over the past week. He told me that Brandeis had convened an emergency meeting of the board this past Friday. He told me further that Brandeis had engaged or was about to engage a crisis management firm that will meet with the administration on Monday.
Reading yesterday’s incredibly lame Boston Globe editorial, I wonder if the crisis management firm isn’t already on the case. Yet the mainstream media can be relied on to provide the necessary support to liberals and liberal institutions in crisis without prompting.
The involvement of the board of trustees raises an interesting question for members who are men of substance. What does Michael Sandel or even Tom Friedman, among others, have to say about what the university has done? Aren’t they obligated to speak up and say something at a crucial moment in which an issue of principle is implicated? Or is this just a matter of university public relations?
So it appears that Brandeis is operating in the mode of damage control. My source tells me that Rwandan president Paul Kagame is scheduled to appear on campus April 23. He tells me that since the controversy over the withdrawal of the invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali became public, Kagame’s pending appearance has become a sensitive matter. Publicity has been placed under wraps. As with the withdrawal of the invitation to Ms. Hirsi Ali, assuming the information regarding Kagame’s pending appearance is accurate, one can only infer the reason why.
This morning I wrote the Brandeis professor who I believe would know most about the appearance of Kagame. I have also reached out by telephone to the office of the president since late Friday afternoon, but calls go straight into voicemail. This morning I left a message inquiring about Friday’s board meeting and about the possible appearance of Kagame at Brandeis on April 23. If I receive additional information from any source I will post it immediately.
PAUL ADDS: Brandeis is saying that it was unaware of “certain of [Hirsi Ali's] past statements,” presumably her most controversial ones to the effect that we are at war with Islam. Apparently, the source of that statement was a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine, though it might have appeared elsewhere too.
It’s quite possible that Brandeis didn’t uncover this statement during its vetting process. Indeed, I think this scenario is likely, since it’s implausible to believe that the powers-that-be at this leftist institution knew about the most politically incorrect aspects of Hirsi Ali views and nonetheless decided to honor her.