The Compromised University

Let’s face it. There is nothing hallowed per se about the university. Like any human institution, it can profane its founding principles and grow corrupt and oppressive. As many have pointed out, the prestigious German universities of the 1930s, for example, were sloughs of degraded scholarship and outright propaganda mills, softening up their students’ minds for the preposterous theories of National Socialism. Even a presumably master philosopher and teacher like Martin Heidegger, appointed rector of the University of Freiburg, used his considerable intellectual powers and prestige to further the Nazi supremacist dogma. For Heidegger, the function of the university was to provide what he called, in his rector’s address, “service to knowledge” as an obligation to the National Socialist state.

What Heidegger had in mind, obviously, was not service to knowledge but service to an ideological parti pris masking as knowledge, really a form of epistemological closure. One must always remember that the university may as easily become an engine of indoctrination as a generator of intellectual vitality or a transmitter of genuine knowledge. We must remain skeptical of slogans and professed ideals such as the shibboleth of “academic freedom,” which can be misused as a cover for illiberal thought and slavish conformity to a ruling ideology. As such, the university can become a ramada for some of the most extremist elements, faculty activists, and incompetent “intellectual workers” in a given society, as Roger Kimball has painstakingly shown in his groundbreaking Tenured Radicals.

This is no doubt why our left-leaning academia seems to have entered upon what David Horowitz has called, in his book of that title, an “unholy alliance” with various Islamic organizations. It hosts aggressive Muslim Student Unions, features Israel Apartheid Weeks, is prone to America-bashing, accepts funding from dubious Islamic sources, and is generally unwilling to confront the practice of Islamic terror and stealth jihad as strategies of warfare. For the university is partial to its own form of intellectual jihad in the ongoing culture wars, the theory and practice of which it considers legitimate. In my own country, the University of Toronto was the originator of the scandalous Israel Apartheid Week hatefest and has currently accepted and posted a blatantly anti-Semitic master’s thesis. York University is notorious for Jew-bashing, much like the University of California at Irvine, and has just hosted the infamous Hamas supporter and pro-Islamist agitator George Galloway. According to Richard Cravatts of Boston University, York is a “cesspool of anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian activism,” but his depiction pretty well applies across the academic board.

As Horowitz indicates, the academic left’s growing rapprochement with the metastasizing Islamic movement is the latest sign of its abdication from founding principles and the betrayal of its mandate. This is one of the most troubling aspects of the so-called “liberal” university as we have come to know it, which offers an unseemly and unreciprocated hospitality to Islamic themes, curricula, and organizations. Indeed, the humanities departments of many, if not most, major Western universities, with their revisionist professoriate and craven administrations, differ little from their Islamic counterparts. True, the science and technology departments will generally tell a different story, as reflected in the disproportion in scientific achievements between Western and Islamic universities. Nonetheless, our universities, in the words of the Manhattan Institute's Abigail Thernstrom, are becoming “islands of repression in a sea of freedom.”

It seems undeniable that many universities appear to be in the business of pimping for the Arabs, considering all the Saudi money (as well as “donations” and “gifts” from other Muslim nations) gushing into university programs and endowments. Harvard and Georgetown accepting millions of dollars from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is only one instance of a massive Arab subsidization scheme that began more than a generation ago, thus creating, as Campus Watch Associate Fellow Asaf Romirowsky writes, “bastions of noncritical, pro-Islamic scholarship within academia.”