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The Radicalization of Colleges and Universities

I am, among other things, a college professor. As a result of that part of my professional life, I tend to pay attention to how college students comport themselves – not only in my own classes, but at other colleges and universities around the country (and even globally to a degree). It’s a fascinating undertaking. And it’s not just student behavior that fascinates me. Some of the more radical professors can put on a real show as well.

At many colleges and universities, there are large numbers (certainly not the majority) of students who are not really there to learn anything, and as a consequence, they don’t learn much of anything. What these particular students are there to do is to engage in political activism. Such students, I have found, are easily manipulated by agitators who tell them what to believe and how to behave (usually destructively) and the students I am referring to simply fall in line without giving it another thought. And radicalized professors are really no different. They don’t think they are there to teach as much as indoctrinate. I suspect the activist-students imagine they are about to do something exciting and meaningful. Some likely believe they are going to change the world by changing the campus.  The various causes they engage in are causes they usually do not really understand, but they don’t realize the paucity of their understanding.

Take, for the current outrage of the day, the conflict between the country of Israel and the Palestinians, the latter being a group of people who are led by Hamas, a terrorist organization. Hamas attacked innocent Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023 and brutally raped, beheaded, tortured, maimed, and butchered over 1,000 people, both men, women, and children. Some Israeli women were so monstrously gang-raped by brutal savages that their very pelvis collapsed from the trauma. The student-radicals of today either are completely oblivious to what Hamas did, or they believe that what Hamas did was justified, even lovely. But as media influencer Zach Sage Fox has discovered by interviewing these very students, they know nothing about what it is they are protesting. Not a thing. He offered such students $100 if they could answer even the most elementary of questions, such as which river and sea are being referenced by the oft-heard Hamas slogan “From the river to the sea.” No one knew. Nor did anyone know what the number 1 stated goal is of Hamas. They didn’t have a clue how many years Israel has occupied Gaza. They couldn’t answer what the word “Zionism” meant. And they hadn’t the slightest clue what the word “intifada” meant. I’m not sure if they could identify the flag of Israel, find Israel on a map, or correctly name the primary language they speak.

Yet in truth, I am not all that bothered by students who mindlessly glom on to a cause they know little if anything about, and then go around and harass Jewish students, or block entrance to parts of campus, or seize control of this or that building.

What I find astonishing is that the adults in the room – the college and university administrators (i.e., the Deans, the Provost, the President, etc.,) sit back like frightened squirrels and placate to the student radicals, actually considering their demands, often instantly caving to them, and allow the mayhem to fester. That is what is truly mind-blowing.

I often hearken back to the senate hearings of December 5, 2023, where the Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania were called to account for the rampant anti-Semitism taking place on their respective campuses. My jaw dropped when President Claudine Gay of Harvard, under questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., stated that the calling of genocide of Jews would only be a violation of Harvard’s Code of Conduct depending on the context. Come again? There is actually a “context” in which student radicals could call for the genocide of Jewish Harvard students that would not violate Harvard’s Code of Conduct? Just what, exactly, would that context be? I’d like to know. . .

Penn’s President, Liz Magill, resigned from her position shortly after the hearings. Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president, initially showed defiance and insisted she was not resigning. But resign she did after the wave of warranted criticism hit her like a Tsunami. Sally Kornbluth of MIT is still in her swanky job as president, even after she said this during the hearings: “I’ve heard chants [on the campus of MIT] which can be antisemitic, depending on the context, when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people.” Again, like President Gay, hiding behind “context,” as if there is a context in which calling for the elimination of the Jewish people could possibly be acceptable. . .

While I wish our nation’s students exercised more judgment and critical thinking in terms of what causes they latch on to, I expect our leaders (University Presidents) to have the wisdom that comes with experience, and to have the resolve to do the right thing in reigning in anti-Jewish extremism. But alas, we don’t always get what we wish for.

And that, my friends, is the latest elephant in the room.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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