Have colleges lost their way? Yes, but don’t blame ‘wokeness’

(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Have colleges lost their way? Yes, but don’t blame ‘wokeness’

Opinion, Education

LZ Granderson

Dec. 18, 2023

Believe it or not, a recent divisive week in Washington succeeded in producing a cause that 303 members of the House of Representatives agreed on: convicting the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard.

In between the impeachment talks and the fight over Ukraine’s funding, the House of Representatives passed a resolution addressing anti-Semitism on college campuses, as well as testimony from college presidents who participated in a congressional hearing.

earlier this month


12/5; this is scheduled for Monday 12/18, via pgray

One of them, Liz Magill, has already resigned as president of the University of Pennsylvania. Harvard’s Claudine Gay and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth have both received support from their schools and appear safe for now. The three got into trouble for not explicitly saying that calls for the genocide of Jews would violate campus codes of conduct.

Since Hamas attacked Israel in October, university administrators and faculty have struggled to find the balance between decency and freedom of expression. Protests in support of the people of Gaza are interpreted as pro-Hamas and anti-Israel. There are also unequivocal expressions of anti-Semitism. No wonder campuses provide such rich political fodder.

But it is misleading to call the president’s equivocation a sign that our campuses are too political. It’s certainly far-fetched to imagine that diversity is somehow to blame, as critics like investor Bill Ackman have suggested by suggesting that the administrators’ shortcomings are related to their gender or race.

First, universities have always been political. What did you think segregation was? Why weren’t women allowed? This idea that the congressional hearing revealed a big surprise is political theater at its worst.

The criticism is all part of a larger effort to dismantle the hallmarks of diversity in general and on campus in particular. That is why the issue of merit arises from affirmative action programs, not from legacy credentials or the power of the donor class.

During a recent monologue, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said that our universities have migrated from centers of excellence to institutions that push political agendas, as if the American education system welcomed integration with open arms in the 1960s. Or as if the campus anti-war protests and the Kent State shooting didn’t happen in the 1970s.

>> NEEDS A TRANSITION to costs as this discussion is not about that OR moves this. >>While it’s true that the number of young people who view college as very important has fallen from 74% in 2013 to 41% in 2019, it’s also true that student loan debt is an increasing deterrent. The average borrower owes almost $30,000. If you’re in Washington DC, the average college graduate is walking around with nearly $55,000 in student debt on their shoulders.

The answers the university presidents gave backfired because they tried to add nuance to yes-or-no questions. These administrators were not serving some grand hidden agenda.

They were just trying to protect their institutions and themselves. This is what rich universities mainly do now. That should be clear

the size of the endowments from schools like Harvard and MIT, along with the


the cost of attendance and the crippling debt incurred by so many who attend. The agenda is selfish socio-economic exclusion. Given the history of this country, that is an agenda that usually involves racial and gender exclusion.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia once said that a joke only works if everyone agrees. In this example, the resolution passed in the House of Representatives because 303 members from both sides of the aisle agreed that the presidents’ responses were unacceptable.

Some lawmakers agreed that these officials should resign.

But some critics of diversity are taking the hearing in a direction it doesn’t belong.

Go after the college presidents for their answers about the code of conduct. But if elected officials are so interested in the impact of politics on our college campuses, take a look at who is giving the money and why. Wonder why colleges hoard wealth while students rack up debt.

There’s a lot more meat on that bone.

Amway founder Richard DeVos once threatened to withhold millions of dollars from Michigan’s Grand Valley State University if the school went ahead with its plans to offer benefits to same-sex partners. The university backed away from this move. That was in 2000. If that last name sounds familiar, it should. His daughter-in-law Betsy later became education secretary despite a lack of qualifications.

If you have a problem with what the presidents said, I have your back. But their answers did not come from the culture of diversity.

These administrators played it safe and put institutions above ideals.

This is not new on American campuses.



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