Universities: Maybe We Should Just Shut Up?

The moral nihilism and leftist willfulness of American higher education have finally been exposed by the harsh light of the Hamas barbarism, and for a change there are consequences. When a squishy, status-conscious centrist like Jon Huntsman tells the University of Pennsylvania that his “checkbook is closed” to further donations (Huntsman’s family has given tens of millions to Penn over the years) because Penn is “deeply adrift in ways that make it almost unrecognizable,” mired in “moral relativism” and a failed leadership that “fueled the university’s race to the bottom.”

At Harvard, the Wexner Foundation has terminated its long-term relationship with the Kennedy School of Government:

So after years of seeing universities issue official statements on ever major event like George Floyd, Trump’s election, Ukraine, etc, uniformly from a leftist perspective, suddenly the Chronicle of Higher Education says—maybe university leaders should stop making statements about every controversial news event, and embrace neutrality instead.. (File under: Barn door, meet horse.)

[C]ollege leaders are expected to issue statements on behalf of the institution on a variety of current political issues, for instance those related to sex and gender, racism, abortion, global warming and its remedies, regional conflicts, and so on. Such statements clearly please many people on campus.  But — often less visibly — they disturb others, especially those who hold legitimate alternative views and object to assertions of a single institutional position on the issue in question.  . .

The author, former Harvard medical school dean Jeffrey Flier, repeats himself with an important additional qualification noted in bold:

Institutional leaders are increasingly expected to issue statements on behalf of the university on an array of issues. They do so because they think this is the right thing to do, because they are pressured to do so by a subset of the community that favors the position being articulated, or some combination of these. In such environments, leaders will be — and should be — evaluated in part on which issues they choose to respond to, and how they state their views.

In other words, cowardly administrators give in to the braying left. Every time.

The University of Chicago embraced the stance of not making statements way back in 1967, as the Flier notes:

The sentiments expressed in the 1967 Kalven Committee report of the University of Chicago, which argues for “a heavy presumption against the university taking collective action or expressing opinions on the political or social issues of the day … not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity … but out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints.” Exceptions should be made only for situations that “threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry”

Harvard and the rest of the leftist rabble are slow learners, to be sure, but fifty years? They all deserve every bit of heat and donor defections they are currently receiving. Sadly it will probably change very little. Most college presidents are likely just waiting out the storm, and will return to anti-Semitic business-as-usual by the spring.

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