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Have Elite Colleges Produced Amoral, Condescending Authoritarians?

Have Elite Colleges Produced Amoral, Condescending Authoritarians?
Harvard University (Getty Images)

Laura Hollis By Friday, 29 March 2024 12:00 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

It is becoming increasingly clear that some of America's most serious problems can be traced back to our colleges and universities — or at least the ones educating the country's most powerful people.

The Vietnam War era aside, it has traditionally been uncommon for events at universities to make national headlines. Absent something extraordinary, like a president giving a commencement address, a dramatic scientific breakthrough or the award of a prominent international prize to faculty, headlines with university names in them have tended to relate more to national championships in sports.

Not anymore.

Over the past few years, news items about events on college campuses have come to dominate headlines. The subjects are some of the country's most fabled institutions. And the stories are often negative, if not outright shocking.

Last December, the congressional testimony of three university presidents — Claudine Gay from Harvard University, Elizabeth Magill from the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — set off a firestorm.

Under questioning by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., about antisemitic speech and conduct on their campuses, the three women dodged and deflected, unwilling to state definitively that calls for the genocide of Jews violated university policies and codes of conduct.

The response was swift. Within days, Magill resigned. Gay survived the initial maelstrom, but the bad publicity prompted critics to start digging through her professional past, and she resigned less than a month later, following accusations of plagiarism in her research publications.

Some of the nation's largest donors to these universities — many of them Jewish — began announcing that they would cease or pull back donations totaling in the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The chaos on campuses has only increased since, with pro-Palestine protests and marches at dozens of colleges and universities, and horrific rhetoric bumping up against speech codes and demands for free speech.

Across the country, Jewish students describe themselves as "living in a climate of hatred and fear" amid dramatic increases in antisemitic conduct, threats, slurs and actual violence.

This week, Stanford University sophomore Theo Baker published "The War at Stanford" in The Atlantic, in which he describes how the Israel-Hamas war has affected his campus. One Arab American graduate student told Baker that he thinks President Joe Biden "should be killed" and that Hamas should rule America.

Pro-Palestine protesters set up sit-in "camps" for months and shouted for the destruction of Israel, chanting, "We don't want no two-state; we want all of '48!" Guest speakers brought in to facilitate campus discussion of the complex issues have been shouted down. Stanford employees have been threatened ("We know where you live!"), the interim president's home has been vandalized, and his effigy was carried around campus covered in fake blood.

The administration, Baker says, seems paralyzed, indecisive and defeated.

This isn't an isolated incident at Stanford, and the Israel-Hamas war hasn't caused it. Last March — months before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel — Stanford Law School students shut down a talk being given by federal judge Kyle Duncan, shouting at him every time he attempted to speak or engage the audience, screaming epithets and holding up signs with vulgar accusations and calls for violence against Duncan's daughters.

Similar behavior has been displayed at other schools, having nothing to do with claims of colonialism in the Middle East. Swimmer and activist Riley Gaines was cornered and forced to hide in a classroom at San Francisco State University last year, prevented from giving her talk about limiting participation in women's sports to biological women.

In 2017, author Charles Murray's scheduled talk at Middlebury College was interrupted by a mob that later physically attacked him and his faculty host Allison Stanger. Stanger's hair was pulled so hard by a protester that she suffered a concussion.

The poisonous rhetoric, intolerance and violence is just the tip of the iceberg.

In an interview with The Daily Signal podcast host Rob Bluey last week, national pollster Scott Rasmussen described what he called "the most terrifying poll result I've ever seen."

A recent Rasmussen poll asked Americans "to suppose there was an election and it was close but your candidate lost. And if their campaign team knew they could win by cheating and not get caught, would you want them to do so?"

According to Rasmussen, only 7% of American voters overall said they'd rather cheat to win. But among the group that he calls "the elite," that number jumped to 35%. Among the "politically obsessed elite" (those who "talk politics daily"), it was a staggering 69%!

So who are these "elite"?

Rasmussen explains that they are the top 1% of the population. They make more than $150,000 a year. They live in densely populated urban areas. They have not only college but postgraduate degrees. And large numbers of them "went to one of 12 elite schools."

He doesn't name them, but we can hazard a pretty good guess which schools they are.

"The reason I bring that up," he continues, "is about half the policy positions in government, half the corporate board positions in America, are held by people who went to one of these dozen schools." And, he says, they also shape "the mainstream media narrative."

Not only does this group think it's acceptable to cheat to win an election, but 70% believe there is too much individual freedom in the United States, and an equal number trusts the government — which, of course, they control.

"They really believe," Rasmussen says, "that if they could just make the decisions and get us out of the way, we would be a lot better off."

What's going on at our most prestigious and exclusive universities? How have they produced generations of amoral, condescending authoritarians? And how do we put a stop to it?

Those are questions Americans need answers to.

Laura Hollis is a professor of teaching at the Mendoza College of Business, as well as a professor of business law and entrepreneurship at Notre Dame. Her career as an attorney has spanned 35 plus years. Her legal publications have appeared in the Temple Law Review, Cardozo Law Review and the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. She has written for The Detroit News, HOUR Detroit magazine,, and The Christian Post. Read reports by Professor Hollis — More Here.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

It is becoming increasingly clear that some of America's most serious problems can be traced back to our colleges and universities — or at least the ones educating the country's most powerful people.
elite colleges, authoritarianism
Friday, 29 March 2024 12:00 PM
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