Patterico's Pontifications

5/1/2024

Columbia Is Unsalvageable

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:14 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Last night the Columbia University administration finally tired of the destructive theatrics of campus agitators (no doubt joined by malevolent forces from the outside) and put an end to the occupation of Hamilton Hall, a historic campus building which had been overrun by the pro-Hamas terrorist sympathizers yesterday morning. NYPD made 300 arrests, including 119 people inside of the captured building. Presumably the NYPD has also by now at long last cleared the tent encampment which had sprung up on Columbia grounds after the past week, immediately returning immediately after it was initially cleared thank to the fecklessness of university administrators.

Columbia’s last day of classes was this past Monday. The remainder of this week is study period, and final examinations will be given next week. Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2024 are scheduled for two weeks from today, May 15. The Columbia administration has asked NYPD to maintain a campus presence through May 17, clearly hoping to get through that annual exercise with no further embarrassment to the reputation of the 270-year-old institution formerly named for King George II. Students, faculty, and staff have been asked to stay away from campus during these contretemps, with only students who live within the campus gates and those working in on-campus research labs supposedly being allowed in. Columbia has yet to announce how this imbroglio will affect graduation and class reunions, so look for that to be a major source of angina for the administration.

We have yet to see the long-term consequences of Columbia’s cowardly acquiescence to the mob, but the school ought to be worried. Today is the deadline for students who were offered admission to next year’s freshman class to declare their intention to matriculate to Morningside Heights this coming fall. Presumably, many Columbia admits have admissions offers from other prestigious institutions of higher learning, and it’s doubtful that the events of the past couple of weeks have been to Columbia’s competitive benefit. It remains to be seen what the “yield” — the percentage of admitted students who enroll at Columbia — will be and how it will compare to previous years. It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Columbia finds itself approaching students it previously placed on the waitlist and offering them a slot in the Class of 2028, nor would it be out of the question that Columbia simply fails to fill all of its available slots. Once thing we can expect is that Columbia won’t be particularly forthcoming with the data if it proves to be disappointing. It’s rather poetic that Hamilton Hall, which unsurprisingly was trashed by the occupiers, is where Columbia’s Office of Admissions is located.

In a sane world, Columbia would have a serious discussion about their campus climate and would ask difficult questions about what sort of school they aspire to be. As an Ivy League school located in a staunchly left-wing urban setting, it can be expected that Columbia would have a progressive orthodoxy. Still, the events of the past couple of weeks have helped to lay bare just how dedicated to fashionable leftism the university has become. Their weak and incompetent leadership, most notably represented by their overmatched president Minouche Shafik, has proven woefully unequal to the task of running a $6.2 billion operation ostensibly dedicated to creating “a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students,” in order “to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.” Pretty much the entire university leadership ought to be immediately cashiered.

But there is a deeper rot that Columbia, and so many other American universities, will need to address. This is of course the baneful influence of a handful of faculty ideologues, who are at best second-rate intellectuals with third-rate temperaments. They poison the well with their noxious beliefs fed by various grievances, and their monomania intimidates their less-engaged colleagues who tend to react by going along to get along. As more responsible institutions of higher learning have quickly moved to prevent the crybullies from imposing their unrelenting self-importance on normal campus life, it has consistently been blighted faculty who have sought to undermine these efforts with their own egocentric interference. This is clearly a problem at Columbia, as witnessed by several faculty reaction to last night’s actions.

This history professor whined that President Shafik wasn’t supposed to involve police without having it cleared through a faculty vote. Others correctly pointed out to him that a sentence in the Columbia constitution which appears two sentences after the lines he quoted gives the president the power to immediately act in an emergency. But in the mind of a leftist, storming a campus building and holding janitorial staff hostage apparently does not constitute an emergency:

A leftist economics professor can’t help himself from condescending towards people whose jobs involve far more danger than being outed for plagiarism:

Lest you think I’m a typical crude right-winger gratuitously accusing professors of being enthralled with communism, here’s a Columbia instructor who apparently is a scholar of Marxism. Her Twitter history strongly suggests that her interest in Marx is more than academic:

There are plenty more examples of the dumb groupthink which dominates the academy these days. And you can tell it is groupthink by noting the incredible degree to which these silly ideologues incessantly retweet each other. As a bonus, allow me to include the deep thoughts of a former Columbia history professor who now makes himself a bother at Yale. Note the typically feeble invocation of “fascism,” the hallmark of a shallow mind:

If you think this is the place where I provide a policy prescription for saving Columbia (or any of these other schools), you are mistaken. I guess I am being extra-grumpy today, but I am to the point where I don’t think Columbia is worth salvaging. Better to close up shop, pink-slip all the faculty (hopefully some of the more capable support staff can find jobs elsewhere), give the students their transcripts, lock the gates, and sell the property to developers. On an NRO podcast last week, Charlie Cooke jokingly suggested that allowing protesters to carry through on their threat to burn the school to the ground would be a great idea. I’m starting to think that’s actually quite true. A wealthy left-wing institution in a huge city dominated by left-wing ideology and leadership is a recipe for disaster, especially when it’s clear that the school has no interest in moderating its crazy beliefs or mending its errant ways. The failure of a school like Columbia would be a shock to the U.S. higher education system, but it might also finally be the catalyst for the kind of reform that is so sorely needed if we are going to be the pluralistic and tolerant nation this this same system claims to aspire to facilitate.

– JVW


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