Patterico's Pontifications

12/17/2023

Constitutional Vanguard: The Hypocrisy of the University Presidents on Calls for Genocide

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:19 pm



In my occasional lengthy newsletter, I have weighed in on the topic of the university presidents who were interrogated by Chief Trump Apologist Elise Stefanik. Excerpt from the free portion:

Reader, I’d like to ask you a hypothetical question.

A student at a private university is standing on the main quadrangle of the campus. It’s a high-traffic area through which many, if not most, students must pass as they make their way to class. The student has a bullhorn, and he is shouting: KILL ALL THE BLACKS! A large mob, consisting entirely of other students, echoes his rhythmic chant. Each time he calls for the killing of all black people, the mob echoes his chant: KILL ALL THE BLACKS!*

Should this kind of conduct be grounds for discipline of the chanting students?

Does the answer depend on the context?

And the most salient question of all:

Does any sentient being reading this believe that any private university would allow such conduct to go undisciplined?

And from the paid portion:

This gets us back to the example I started the post with: a student at a private university standing in the center of the main quad with a bullhorn, leading a chant that says “KILL ALL THE BLACKS!” Whatever you think about context, that is going to be considered harassment by a college administrator.

This is how we all know that the college professors being interrogated by Stefanik were playing such a disingenuous game at that congressional hearing. They were posing as Staunch Advocates of Free Speech, who supposedly allow all kinds of uncomfortable speech due to their Great Respect for the Important Value of Free Expression. [Capitalized words can convey a sense of mordant irony as effectively as exclamation points. — Ed.] And that pose is simply a pile of horse droppings.

Discussing this issue on the Dispatch Podcast, Steve Hayes made reference to two salient facts about Harvard University, an institution which serial plagiarist and Harvard President Claudine Gay portrayed in the hearings as a bastion of free speech. First: FIRE has published its 2024 rankings of 248 colleges and universities in terms of their tolerance of free speech. Of all 248 schools, guess which one ranked dead last?

If you guessed “Harvard University,” you win the kewpie doll.

I always feel defensive about the sporadic nature of these missives, and so I feel compelled to point out that today’s piece contains some 4300+ words for free, and some 3100+ words for the paid subscribers. If a standard newspaper op-ed is 800 words, this is the equivalent of over nine op-eds, including nearly four for the paid subscribers. I think I have realized over time that, perhaps unlike many writers, I tend to deliver more value when I can really crawl inside a topic and take it apart in detail, and that takes time and space. If you’re the type who can only read 800 words at a time, feel free to read these missives in chunks. I try to split them up into sections to make that possible. In any event, thanks to those of you who are patient both with the intervals of time between missives and with the length of the pieces.

Read it here. Subscribe here.

21 Responses to “Constitutional Vanguard: The Hypocrisy of the University Presidents on Calls for Genocide”

  1. Hi there

    Patterico (87311a)

  2. Private universities are not bound by the First Amendment, but they are protected by it. I would have told Stefanik — an elected official exercising an Article I power — that her inquiry into my institution’s speech codes was outside her purview and unconstitutional. But I don’t have vocal academic and student groups and big donors, all already in an uproar, to consider.

    And that’s what that theater was about, really. A show put on for their respective constituents. And Stefanik was the more practiced actress with better rehearsed lines.

    nk (985e77)

  3. There is much to your argument, nk.

    Patterico (87311a)

  4. I’ve spent considerable bandwidth on the case of University of Pennsylvania now former President Liz Magill, and now we have The Philadelphia Inquirer coming up with a new defense: this was all unfair to the university presidents in question, ’cause the Committee was picking on girls.

    Even if we suppose that Presidents Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth were referring to academic freedom, in the context of a doctoral dissertation or perhaps a collegiate debate in a controlled, debate-scoring environment, can anyone picture a debate being allowed on the question, “Should this university admit black students?”

    Dana (613601)

  5. nk wrote:

    And that’s what that theater was about, really. A show put on for their respective constituents. And Stefanik was the more practiced actress with better rehearsed lines.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

    The law firm WilmerHale prepared both Gay and Magill and also met with MIT’s president, Sally Kornbluth.

    The three presidents were (supposedly) prepared for the kinds of questions they’d receive, and all responded in eerily similar terms. Yet this idiocy was the best up with which they could come?

    President Magill of Penn clerked for Associate Justice Ruth Ginsberg, was a law professor and later Dean of the University of Virginia law school.

    Dana (613601)

  6. @ nk,

    And that’s what that theater was about, really. A show put on for their respective constituents. And Stefanik was the more practiced actress with better rehearsed lines.

    While it may have been political theater (and to some degree it was), that doesn’t negate or minimize the clear hypocrisy of the schools (as demonstrated by Patterico).

    Dana (932d71)

  7. While it may have been political theater (and to some degree it was), that doesn’t negate or minimize the clear hypocrisy of the schools (as demonstrated by Patterico).

    I agree. I don’t believe that their avowed principles and pious affectations are anything more than expediency.

    nk (bb1548)

  8. If the Presidents were more shrewd, they would have thrown some back in Stefanik’s face: “Yes or no, if a student is overheard in his dorm room suggesting if it might be best if all the Jews were eliminated, should that student be expelled from the university?”

    The answer is likely maybe, but more likely no. The correct re-direct would have been to imagine a situation where the language may in fact been rough, but the threat was hardly imminent or blatant, like the semi-private dorm room coversation. They should have followed that up with a clear example that would have violated the school policy and caused a sanction.

    By being caught in the nebulous world of “maybe”, it made them look like they were wobbly in protecting Jewish students. It might not have been the full truth, but it’s what people reasonably inferred.

    AJ_Liberty (695c74)

  9. While President Magill was trying to couch her answers in terms of support for freedom of speech and academic freedom, the University of Pennsylvania is also the institution for which William “Lia” Thomas swam, for three years as a male, then after two years off, a year as a female swimmer. With some discontent among the real women on the Penn women’s swim team, the University “strongly advis(ed)” the actually female members of the school’s women’s swim team not to speak out to the press about Mr Thomas and tried to instill fear in the women that if they did, their future employment prospects would be diminished.

    Apparently Penn wasn’t all that committed to freedom of speech!

    Dana (613601)

  10. Private universities are not bound by the First Amendment, but they are protected by it. I would have told Stefanik — an elected official exercising an Article I power — that her inquiry into my institution’s speech codes was outside her purview and unconstitutional.

    Private institutions that accept federal student aid, tax exemptions and research grants are subject to a number of federal laws, non-discrimination being among them. To turn a blind eye to threats against and mistreatment of students based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality is indeed a federal interest.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  11. Is “kill all the Jews” a true threat when confronting Jews?

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  12. How about chanting kill all hamas and if you disagree your anti-semetic. If you have reservation about to many palestinians being killed by Israel you are also an anti-semite. If you equate Islamaphobia with anti-semitism your also an anti-semite. Freedom of speech is not for speech we agree with. Remember myer kahane and nazis at skokie.

    asset (6e8da7)

  13. Private institutions that accept federal student aid, tax exemptions and research grants are subject to a number of federal laws, non-discrimination being among them. To turn a blind eye to threats against and mistreatment of students based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality is indeed a federal interest.

    You’re reading too much in the Harvard Asian case.

    In the first place, Title VI applies to race, color, and national origin. Not religion. Brigham Young gets federal and state money and still can, and does, require an “ecclesiastical recommendation”.

    But now that you mention it, the “Kill all blacks!” hypothetical might not be exactly on point for that reason.

    In the second place, First Amendment scrutiny is not Title VI/Equal Protection scrutiny. In the simplest terms, if the government cannot bust the haranguers, neither can it bust the universities for not shutting them up.

    Before the Texas Confederate license plates case, I would have said that a government nexus in fact strengthens the right of every Tom, Dick and Hussein to go to a campus and set up a soapbox, but who knows what five black robes will consider “government speech” and not private speech any more.

    nk (bb1548)

  14. There is a federal interest in how the massive university endowments are treated. After many years of not being taxable, income from the billions in endowments are minimally taxed at 1.4%. That can be increased at will by Congress and, even if the universities didn’t show themselves unworthy of such preferential treatment, probably should be.

    lloyd (a04e9c)

  15. Dana (613601) — 12/17/2023 @ 5:13 pm

    Yet this idiocy was the best up with which they could come?

    They had to give the same answer as to whether or not it violated heir policy against bullying and harassment when it came to calling for murder of blacks and murder of Jews, without getting into the details as to what meant what.

    Sammy Finkelman (c2c77e)

  16. One question — obviously, students are bound by what’s in the student handbok every college has. Is there a case that a failure of the university to abide what’s in the student handbook is actionable?

    Appalled (fc546b)

  17. A tax rate of 1.4% is tiny, but raising the tax would be coercive and permanent.

    How many terms are in use in the USA to describe all of the levies. Taxes, fees, surcharges etc etc etc.

    Favorite tool in any government toolbox

    steveg (b46606)

  18. In the first place, Title VI applies to race, color, and national origin. Not religion.

    And I said:

    “To turn a blind eye to threats against and mistreatment of students based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality is indeed a federal interest”

    Two out of three.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  19. How about a tax on large college endowments to support, say, Pell Grant expansion or a student loan bailout?

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  20. The library at Harvard was occupied by protesters the other day.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)


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