Last week, Columbia University’s president, Minouche Shafik, was called to testify before Congress and explain how Alexander Hamilton’s alma mater had become a hotbed of anti-Semitic vitriol. She delivered the Ivy League equivalent of the Bart Simpson defense: I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove a thing. The smart set praised Shafik for her evasiveness—the presidents of Harvard and Penn were far less astute—and considered the case against Columbia closed.

The kids had other ideas.

No sooner had Shafik left Washington than hundreds of students—about 800, by the latest count, or one-fifth of the undergraduate student body—put up dozens of shiny new camping tents and renamed the Morningside Heights campus the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. The American flag up the tentpole outside of what once was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s office was taken down, replaced with the green flag of Hamas. Students with loudspeakers chanted slogans like “There’s no God but Allah, and Allah loves martyrs.” An Israeli-Arab who stopped by to explain, in Arabic, why cheering on murderous terrorists was a bad idea was punched in the face and left with his mouth dripping blood. Jewish students were told to “go back to Europe” or were greeted by a kaffiyeh-clad classmate holding a sign saying “al-Qassam’s next targets,” a reference to Hamas’s military wing. Things eventually deteriorated so badly that the university had to cancel in-person classes. As of this writing, the situation is still unfolding, not only in Columbia but also at Yale, where a Jewish student was stabbed in the eye; in Michigan, where students are handing out pamphlets advocating “death to America”; and elsewhere.

Two urgent questions, both obvious, suggest themselves. The first: How did we get here? The second: What do we do now?

Answering the first question fully would require a comprehensive analysis, but for brevity’s sake, a simple reminder is in order: What we’re seeing on college campuses these days isn’t an aberration, some strange phenomenon that emerged, like a monster from the deep, with little or no warning. It’s the result of decades of deliberate planning by a complex network of administrators, lawmakers, NGOs, and media outlets, eager to convert our universities from seats of learning and inquiry to beachheads in the war for absolute political power.

For a brief taste, look no further than the Obama administration’s Dear Colleague letter of 2011. The letter’s ostensible purpose was to offer guidelines under Title IX, the civil rights law that protects people from sex-based discrimination, and demand that stricter measures be put in place to protect women from being assaulted by men. And assaulted they were in droves, the administration insisted: “one in five of every one of these young women who is dropped off for that first day of school, before they finish school, will be assaulted in her college years.”

As you might’ve guessed from the peculiar syntax, the speaker of these dubious lines was then-Vice President Joe Biden. Obama, too, repeated the startling statistic. Neither man bothered adding that the claim was based on an online survey that offered a $10 Amazon gift card to anyone completing it, generated abysmal response rates, and was largely deemed, to put it charitably, to be less than conclusive. But the one-in-five ratio was eagerly repeated by reporters and editors, who then cheered on the White House for telling universities that if they wanted to guard America’s daughters from the ravages of toxic masculinity, they should do away with pesky things like due process and deliver swift judgments instead. Not surprisingly, sexual harassment lawsuits against universities boomed. Many were eventually found utterly baseless, but not before they managed to ruin the lives of the men accused of wrongdoing. It was a small price to pay, however, for bringing up a new generation of automatons trained to think about sex not as something sacred but as just another struggle between the wretched of the earth and their oppressors—a paradigm of progressive thought.

The same dynamic, alas, is in play right now. The throngs occupying Columbia’s manicured lawns aren’t there by chance. They are the ones whom the university, which boasts an admissions rate that hovers under 4 percent, had chosen. They are the ones the university had indoctrinated into hating Israel and the Jews. And they are the ones who are now simply doing what they’ve been for so long instructed to do.

What do we do now? Here, things grow grimmer and more complicated. We can, and must, immediately deport each and every foreign student expressing support for terrorism or terrorist groups; that is an easy enough proposition, with ample legal grounding. We should also deny our elite universities their billions in taxpayer dollars unless they show tangible commitment to keeping their students safe; that, too, is a no-brainer.

But the problem runs deeper. As could be expected, the calls to replace Shafik grew louder the more volatile the situation on campus grew and the more evident it became that the president had no real interest in addressing it, or even naming the culprits. Her letter to the Columbia community spoke vaguely about various student communities feeling unsafe for some undetermined reason. But here’s the reality: anyone replacing Shafik is likely to be just as morally and intellectually bankrupt, because morally and intellectually bankrupt people are what our universities have spent the last several decades producing.

Need proof? Just look at Columbia. One professor, Israeli-born Shai Davidai, spoke out against the madness; the administration rewarded him by deactivating his keycard and barring his access to campus. Many more gleefully sided with the marauders, visiting their encampment and expressing solidarity with the young Hamasniks. And many, many more stood by idly, unwilling to speak up.

I’ve been reporting on the situation at Columbia for more than a decade. I know these people well. I’ve spoken to many personally. Again and again, I’ve heard blustery talk about “working behind the scenes” or “making an impact from the inside.” Despite being shielded from any consequence by their tenure, these quivering mediocrities will not say or do anything that could in any way jeopardize their shot at a slightly bigger scrap of power come the next round of appointments. In this, they’re the perfect example of Homo Academicus, a species rendered so nasty because the stakes, as a wise man once quipped, are so low.

The administrators, then, seem beyond redemption. Sad to say, but the students are, too: very few at Columbia, veterans of seminars about allyship and intersectionality, bothered stepping out and standing together with their beleaguered Jewish peers.

Maybe it’s time to let Columbia, Yale, and other elite schools become what they already basically are: finishing  schools for the children of Chinese, Qatari, and other global elites. And let anyone interested in America’s future pursue education elsewhere. For some, this will mean applying to alternative institutions, like the University of Austin; for others, trade schools might offer a remunerative alternative. The undying American spirit of innovation will likely come up with more initiatives that cost less and offer much more than four years in an airless, ideological gulag.

It’s time we approached our elite universities not as critical institutions that we must repair but as national security threats that we must address forcefully. The message out of Columbia this week is that there’s nothing left on campus but fanatics awash in foreign funds, and fawned over by a faculty that long ago lost its decency, its courage, and its reason. Let’s waste no more time trying to reform the unreformable. Let’s hold the violent zealots accountable, and then get to work building new institutions worthy of our children.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images


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