Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Rise of the Campus Brown Shirts

fusillade of attacks by students and faculty on commencement speakers and honorary degree awardees at four of our better known schools — Smith, Haverford, Rutgers and Brandeis — has tarnished this year’s commencement season beyond any in recent memory. - Roger L. Simon/PJM

Speakers as distinguished as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, former Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been forced to withdraw even as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the most courageous fighters of oppression on the planet, had to walk from her honorary degree from a university established in the shadow of the Holocaust. Go figure.

What next? The Bill of Rights gets repealed? An academic “War on Women”? (Three of the four attacked are female.) A new generation of undergraduate Brown Shirts comes back from 1930s Berlin to smash every college window and burn every school library book by unapproved authors in a renewed Kristallnacht?

Of course all of the above dignitaries finally walked away voluntarily from their campus honors, underlining the juvenile absurdity of these same students and faculty, not to mention the paleo-milquetost behavior of their administrations. Mercifully, William G. Bowen, the former Princeton president who replaced Lagarde as Haverford commencement speaker, called out the protestors as “immature” and “arrogant” during his speech, an understatement, to be sure, but welcome nonetheless.

This would all be great fodder for Saturday Night Live, if it still had any spine. Or a tough conservative or libertarian comedy show, if there were one. But in the final analysis, it’s not all that funny. Something is seriously wrong with our university system — as if we didn’t know. And the fault is less with the students — they are what they are and finally just young people — as with the faculties, especially in the social sciences and what’s left of the humanities....

William Bowen’s welcome response to university commencement “disinvitation season” - JOnathan Adler/Washington Post
It’s “disinvitation season.” Several high-profile commencement speakers have been “disinvited” or have withdrawn from university commencement ceremonies in response to student and faculty protests. First Ayaan Hirsa Ali was deemed too controversial for Brandeis University. Then former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice withdrew from commencement at Rutgers University after students and faculty objected due to her role promoting the Iraq War and counter-terror policies during the Bush Administration.

More recently, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, withdrew from Smith College’s commencement in the face of protests over various IMF policies. Abby Phillip noted the irony that “one of the most accomplished and powerful women in the world” was apparently unfit to address Smith’s graduates.
Haverford College commencement speaker lambastes students - Susan Snyder/Philadelphia Inquirer