What did Brandeis know and when did it know it?

When I visited Brandeis in 2005 with my daughter (then a high school junior), the admissions office bragged about the University’s activist tradition, including the fact that its alums include Angela Davis and Abbie Hoffman. None of the prospective students seemed to have heard of these left-wing criminals; apparently we parents we supposed to tell our children how cool they were.

In recent years, Brandeis has conferred honorary degrees on Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu. Kushner calls the creation of Israel a mistake. Tutu has proclaimed the situation in Israel as “worse than apartheid.”

Brandeis, then, is a radical leftwing institution. Accordingly the surprising thing about its encounter with Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not that it withdrew the offer of an honorary degree but that it made the offer in the first place.

Brandeis says that it made the offer without knowing the full extent and depth of her critique of Islam. John Podhoretz dismisses this claim as “laughable” since a Google search is all it takes to “find out everything one would need to know about [Hirsi Ali], including the controversial aspects of her views.”

However, it is more implausible to believe the following: an institution as radical as Brandeis found, for example, the interview in which Hirsi Ali declared that “we are at war with Islam” and that “there’s no middle ground in wars” and still decided to grant her an honorary degree. Those who believe in this scenario are giving Brandeis too much credit by underestimating its leftism.

It’s far more likely that Brandeis did sloppy research or, conceivably, that the research was done by an underling who hasn’t fully internalized the radicalism of Brandeis.

The real scandal, then, isn’t mistreatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali or an allegedly spineless president. The real scandal is the same one that infects nearly all major private colleges and many public ones — capture by the radical left.

The mistreatment of Hirsi Ali, as hurtful as it was to her, provides a valuable lesson for those who haven’t heard, or have heard but don’t believe, how vile and hopeless American and colleges are becoming. Unfortunately, such lessons are easily forgotten. And soon the weight of public opinion will be with those who were educated under the current regime and, thanks in part to that education, find little objectionable about it.


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