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November 22, 2015 6:16 pm

The Campus Uprisings, Israel, and the Downfall of Larry Summers

avatar by Edward Alexander

Email a copy of "The Campus Uprisings, Israel, and the Downfall of Larry Summers" to a friend
Anti-Semitic stencil used to create signs on the SF State University campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

Antisemitic stencil used to create signs on the SF State University campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

The Wall Street Journal of November 14-15 carried an astute article by Roger Kimball (editor of the New Criterion) entitled “The Rise of the College Crybullies.” The lethal mixture of trembling sensitivity and mob ruthlessness in these student insurrectionaries has turned the country’s universities into a vast bedlam with a thousand wards. He tells how “the crybully…has weaponized his coveted status as a victim” with two calling cards: race and gender. He uses these to exploit to the fullest extent what Joseph Epstein has called “the unassailable virtue of victims.”

The past month alone has seen the humiliation and forced resignation of assorted faculty members, deans, and even university presidents. Some schools have run up the white flag of surrender even before they were invaded, or tried what might be called preemptive action to ward off the wrath of the new brownshirts by appointing presidents and provosts who proclaim their unswerving devotion to diversity training; or to appointing (more) deans of equity; or to fighting “minoritization” and “marginalization”; or to celebrating gay marriage and transgenderism; or to requiring “trigger warnings” about dangerous books; or to implementing race quotas; or to realizing all the other countless desiderata of campus radicals.

At NYU, for example, “Students of Color” currently list no fewer than 28 “demands” but encouraged the submission of still more. Their counterparts at Brandeis (as of this writing) lag behind with only 13, but are more peremptory and menacing about deadlines by which their demands must be met. Yale’s revolutionaries complain that their uprising against the school’s administration has come “at great expense to our health and grades,” and expect to be compensated accordingly. UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union and its satellites want allocations of money, black faculty, and black psychologists to bring them up to the achievement levels of Asian students at that noble institution. So far Mitch Daniels of Purdue University seems to be the sole exception in the entire country to the rule of presidential surrender to these campus insurrectionaries.

Kimball uses the well-known story of Lawrence ‘Larry’ Summers’ demise at Harvard in 2005-06 to illustrate what might be called the pre-history of the present debacle. He asserts that Summers was forced to resign his presidency at Harvard because he had violated progressive dogma on race in 2001 and on gender in 2005. (Summers, it should be added,  had also irritated many Harvard faculty by his candor about phony subjects, laughable grade inflation, and the pedantry of professors who know so much about so little that they can neither be contradicted, nor are worth contradicting.) “Race,” says Kimball, “came first” when Summers publicly suggested that Harvard’s heavily petted Cornel West use his comfortable chair for something more in the line of scholarly work than producing rap CDs. A storm erupted, several black professors at Harvard threatened to resign, and West himself headed south to Princeton.

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In 2005 Summers delivered a lecture at a conference on “diversifying” the workforce in science and engineering in which he mentioned the possibility that women were underrepresented in these disciplines because they might have different aptitudes from men. That mere conjecture was, according to Kimball, Summers’ fatal blunder.

But Kimball has surely left out something of considerable importance, both in the history of Summers’ being sent down from Harvard, and in the definition of his case as a precursor of the current upsurge of mob rule on the campuses. Summers had violated liberal dogma and aroused liberal dictatorialness in a third instance. In September 2002, later than the Cornel West conflagration but earlier than the “gender” controversy, he gave a speech to the Harvard community deploring the upsurge of antisemitism in many parts of the globe. He included synagogue bombings, physical assaults on Jews, desecration of Jewish holy places, and denial of the right of “the Jewish state to exist.” But his most immediate concern was that “at Harvard and…universities across the country” faculty-initiated petitions were calling “for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university’s endowment to be invested.” This brought an avalanche of attacks on Summers from Israelophobe professors throughout this country and also the United Kingdom. Judith Butler of Berkeley, well-known as a practitioner of Queer Theory (and the stupefyingly opaque prose that accompanies it), published in the London Review of Books of August 21, 2003 a furious attack on Summers called “No, It’s Not Anti-Semitic.” His accusations of antisemitism, Butler insisted, were “a blow against academic freedom,” his words had had “a chilling effect on political discourse.”

In October 2003 Tony Judt’s “Jewish” call for an end to the state of Israel (largely because it caused him undeserved shame at cocktail parties) was published by the New York Review of Books. In November Harvard itself played host to Oxford’s poetaster Tom Paulin, who had urged, in one of his doggerel productions in the London Review, that Jews living in Judea “should be shot dead.” This was, of course, explained by his sponsors (not only at Harvard but also at Columbia, where he was a visiting professor) as “criticism of Israel.” If Summers’ speech had had a chilling effect on antisemitic clarion calls, including incitement to raw murder, one would not want to know what the fully heated versions sound like. Once Summers had failed the litmus test of contemporary liberalism called “the Palestinian cause,” he was already in great danger. Questioning “gender” doctrine was his third strike, not his second; and calling the BDS movement what it most assuredly is—antisemitic–was the only “heresy” he did not recant. It is hardly a secret that antisemitism is rife on American campuses, from Poughkeepsie to Austin to Irvine, especially among the very groups that are dispatching  presidents and deans into early retirement. Matthew Arnold was prescient when he wrote (about Oxford, England’s Harvard): “there are our young barbarians, all at play.” Summers would eventually find out that in this game, as in others, three strikes and you’re out.

Edward Alexander’s most recent book is Jews Against Themselves (Transaction Publishers).

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  • Nelson Marans, Jr.

    This fact-aversive analysis would be considered absurd if it were not so pathetic. (Or as the case with Ben Carson, autobiographical.)
    Summers is the only person to ever be fired as President of Harvard. His most egregious mistake- and there were many, including the women comment- was treating the Harvard faculty as peons rather than as the- national and even international- assets which many of them are. In other words, Summers followed the Donald Trump model of being CEO; and as an executive, he was an adherent of the John Bolton ‘suck up- kick down’ school of management.
    There is also the matter of the $1.8 billion in poor investments he cost the Harvard endowment.
    Feeling himself embattled, as the last refuge of an intellectual coward, in a bid for sympathy, he then played the anti-Semitism upsurge card.

  • Francis Figliola

    The fascist left wing cancer has metastasized into most public colleges and universities. It has metastasized into all of the bureaucracies of the Federal government. The Einsatzgruppen and the Staatspolizei have risen like the Phoenix. They are doing for the liberal universities, colleges and the Federal Government what Josef Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler did for Nazi Germany! God help us.

  • Perhaps all the lecturers, deans, rectors, etc. simply resigned out of gratitude that they’d no longer be pestered by these shallow, out-of-control students?

  • Ephraim

    The brown shirt analogy is 100% true. However, I take issue with your use of liberalism. You are intelligent enough to speak truth, and there is NOTHING liberal about the left-wing fascists calling themselves liberal. Liberals would do NONE of the abominations covered in this article. The trouble is, there are very few liberals in the public debate. The left-wing brown shirts have ‘appropriated’ titles such as liberal and progressive and are, in reality, as liberal as was Hitler.

  • Peter Joffe

    The decay brought about by Obama and his quest for authoritarian Islamic rule is well advanced. The USA has forgotten about the rights of the majority. Minority rights are backed up with threats. Before Obama the USA was a leader in freedoms but now it is leading in the dive into Fascism. Eventually the downfall of all places of higher learning will lead to the degrees offered in them will be worthless and the ‘graduates’ will be unemployable. At the end of the day, employers will have the final say and will not recognize USA ‘graduates’. Form the best to the worst in 2 terms of Obama. Obama is a disaster for the entire free world.

  • brenrod

    the competent leave the sinking ships… no one cares about yale or harvard.. the real world is busy with real things and those leaving want to be in the real wortld. those blacks will get no meaningful jobs other than being squeaky al shrpton wheels, those jobs will not last. the industry knows who is worthless and who cant do a job. We shall see the rise of other universities that the induestry knows turns out blacks and whites who can get the job done, come up with solutions, solve the equations… I feel no empathy with the demise of harvard, yale and princeton… they are overated with too much cash and the gobbling of that cash by useless blacks is the jhust end. Meanwhile real blacks at SUNY will be seen to be the competent who can sole the equations alongs with whites who enjoy a beer together. Lets drink to the just demise of harvard and yale and the blacks who have nothing more than being squeaky wheels seeking grease.

  • art

    Not only are the “crybullies” taking over the educational aspect of our colleges and universities and destroying all and anything they may not happen to agree with. They are also taking over the vast monetary resources and power of the universities. Imagine the damage they will do with the endowments and investments of these schools. This movement is more dangerous than most think.

  • steven L

    The liberals have created a monster they can’t control. They failed to tell their students that besides a mind set, to be a liberal you need to belong to “those who have” because “the have not” can’t afford it.

  • Florres

    They’re calling for 500,000 Jews, the most persecuted people in human history, to be shot dead. The ones in Judea are invarioubly poor, economically on top. Who is calling to kill the murderous racist?

    Why are these people not dead or in prison, they are and the attacks show it, are murderers. They are part of a Jihadist lead antisemitic genocide of this generation.

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