When Professors Propagandize, Students Suffer

Gil Troy

Gil Troy

The academics pressuring Columbia University and other institutions of higher education to forgive their antisemitic, anti-American and pro-Hamas “protesters” have exposed academia’s moral rot. They pressure college presidents, but the professors are the problem, not the presidents. Many academics now define their mission as political not educational and they have raised a generation of social-justice warriors who act like sanctimonious thugs.

After Columbia’s president Minouche Shafik had 100 students arrested and then suspended for disrupting university business, the local chapters of the American Association of University Professors hyperbolically condemned “her unprecedented assault on students’ rights.” Fifty-four Columbia Law School professors claimed that Shafik overreacted to mere “assertions” that the protesters “severely disrupt[ed] campus life.” More than 1,400 academics worldwide are boycotting Columbia and Barnard in support of the “peacefully protesting students.”

Not one of these academics acknowledged that, since Oct. 7, pro-Hamas protesters have continuously attacked Jewish students physically and verbally. Columbia became so out of control that the semester would end with Zoom classes for those feeling harassed. Beyond violating their academic commitments to context, subtlety and complexity, these professorial propagandists have clearly failed as teachers. Good educators demand a constructive educational environment for every student.

Good educators also want students to grow morally, not just intellectually, and to understand that actions have consequences. Indulging violent students only encourages more violence. It is self-defeating institutionally and irresponsible educationally to demand “amnesty” for students who have violated university rules and sometimes the law by blocking fellow students from attending classes, harassing classmates, vandalizing university buildings and trespassing.

And please spare us the false 1960s’ analogies. Most college activism then opposed abstract entities like “the man,” the “establishment,” the “president,” the “war.” Today, too much of the “activism” is deeply personal, especially against fellow students who dare to be Jewish or Zionist.

Blinded by their “oppressor-oppressed” paradigm, these professorial fanatics bully less ideological colleagues into silence. If more academics, especially pro-Palestinian professors, had escorted pro-Israel students who felt threatened past the screaming mobs and told the protesters, “We agree with you but don’t disrupt classes and stop menacing Jews,” this crisis would have ended long ago. Instead, we are seeing professors who ignored their Jewish students’ fear for months volunteering to escort the student hooligans and protect them from the police trying to enforce the law.

Fortunately, more than 3,000 faculty members and alumni signed an “Open Letter in Support of Campus Safety and Academic Freedom.” The signatories empathized with Shafik’s “difficult” dilemmas in trying to “secure safety, speech and civility.” They recognized that Columbia’s Charters and Statutes authorize summoning the police if a campus “disruption” threatens “persons, property or the substantial functioning of any division of the university.”

This letter detailed many threats against Columbia’s Jews, including beatings, flag-burnings, vows that Jews are the “Al-Qassam Brigade’s next target” and cries for Jews to “go back to Poland” or “Germany.”

For some time, universities have conned parents by charging them top dollar for teachers judged by research, not teaching. Today’s Great University Con bankrupts parents so ideologues can turn their kids against the skills and values their parents mastered in order to afford the $89,587 it costs to attend Columbia.

Many professors still lack political agendas; especially in science, math and technology. But more and more learned societies in the humanities and social sciences define their mission in hyperbolic political terms. The American Sociological Association, for example, champions “dismantling power inequalities.”

When scholarly disciplines go partisan, they only hire, promote and honor their political allies. This “by any means necessary” approach has spawned generations of campus commissars who treat little, democratic, multi-cultural, polychromatic Israel as the ultimate expression of racism, imperialism, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.

Without decades of this demonization, it’s hard to believe that today’s students would be so comfortable shouting — at fellow students — “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you” and “Yahoodi, Yahoodi, f*** you.”

It’s time to retake the campus and the classroom.

The abusive students’ masks are their “tell.” Still addicted to the careerism that got them into college, they hide in an attempt to preserve their job prospects. Universities can restore order by threatening every student hooligan’s academic status — and thus their future finances.

Small groups of rabid haters will continue holding universities hostage until the majority of parents and students identify fighting educational malpractice as a consumer’s rights issue. Why pay so much to purchase politicized education and secure credentials that more and more employers don’t respect?

Universities should enforce clearly stated rules by immediately suspending, for the remainder of the year with no tuition refund, anyone who disrupts university business or harasses fellow students. Every student harassed or assaulted should hire private, university-recommended lawyers to sue the guilty students — and their parents. Send these masked grade-grubbers home in disgrace with their behavior costing their parents another year’s worth of tuition and a possible lawsuit.

At the moment, academic freedom and tenure make it difficult to challenge professorial propagandists who treat their classrooms as platforms for indoctrination. Perhaps if “tenure” guaranteed a series of five-year renewable contracts contingent on continued teaching quality, professors might start acting like educators again. If each campus established non-partisan, reading-and-writing-oriented Centers of Traditional Liberal Thought, the quality education provided there would attract many open-minded students fed up with politicized academic oppression.

At Harvard in the 1980s, old-timers proudly recalled a night in 1969 when student radicals threatened to blow up Widener Library and some professors patrolled the stacks, trusting that these students wouldn’t target individuals.

When I arrived at McGill, that story inspired me. After I entered a disgusting library bathroom during finals week, I insisted that the library staff arrange regular cleaning and inspections. My professors had taught me that, as educators and the universities’ permanent residents, we’re responsible for everything on campus from defending its libraries to improving our students’ living conditions to protecting them from abuse.

Today, we face the silence of the tenured lambs cowed by the hooliganism of a cowardly few. Our universities are overdue for some carefully administered punishments with no do-overs. They have also earned a consumer revolt that demands a real return on investment through a genuinely open-minded liberal education for every student — including Jews
and Zionists.

Professor Gil Troy is an American presidential historian.


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