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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.”

In The Uncivil University, authors Gary Tobin, Aryeh Weinberg, and Jenna Ferer demonstrate how politicized Middle East studies in particular have become: “Scholarship in the Middle East today has become a platform from which to fight perceived Western domination and to absolve the Arab world of wrongdoing. It is also an attempt to ascribe blame specifically to the United States for any and all of the political, cultural, and social problems ongoing in the Middle East.” Under the mantle of diversity of opinion, free expression, and the unfettered exchange of ideas, many of our universities have given the dais to homicidal despots and enemies of the state while protesting against and even prohibiting anti-Islamists, conservative thinkers, and patriots from speaking freely and engaging students in discussion. The same bias holds in the realm of academic publishing. John Perazzo’s compendious report on the subject leaves little doubt about the extent to which “university presses reflect academia’s dominant worldviews in every way, promoting the tenets of doctrinaire leftism,” disparaging America, and resting “unconcerned about any threat from radical Islam.”

Who benefits? Certainly not truly liberal institutions or intellectual scholarship. As Denis MacShane comments in Globalising Hatred, “The role of the liberal university tradition is to defend liberty, not to promote politics that reduce it. One would have thought that all adults who teach at or administer our universities would subscribe to that vision.” Could anything be more obvious? Not, apparently, to many of our professors and their poodling administrations who, as MacShane suggests, give little indication of living in any relation to reality. It seems, to cite from Tennyson’s “The Kraken” — that the “unnumbered and enormous polypi” of the mind have risen from the preceptorial deep and identified with America’s, and the West’s, enemies.

What too many of our students are now receiving is not education in the authentic sense of the term — e-ducere, a leading out of [ignorance] — but the pedagogy of deprivation, by which I mean the want of impartial study, of comprehensive rather than selective knowledge, of scholarly respect for the subject and for the proponents of different political positions, of a grounding in Western history and its philosophical, political, and cultural tradition and, last but not least, of the fostering of native curiosity. Instead, they are increasingly at the mercy of teachers who have betrayed a noble profession. As Thomas Sowell contends, the professors have become fact filterers, that is, indoctrinators who “in the interest of their own vision, are denying to others the right … to … reach their own conclusions.”

I am forcibly reminded of Russell Hoban’s apt description in his post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker of what could well be our educational  institution: “Yet unner neath that Zero Groun I lissent up a swarming it wer a humming like a millying of bees it wer like 10s of millyings.” Our millyings of professors are humming away while the barbarians remorselessly approach. Perhaps, as C.S. Lewis says in The Abolition of Man of the factitious teachers Gaius and Titius, these pedants “do not fully realize what they are doing, and do not intend the far-reaching consequences it will actually have.” But the chances are that they do, as they engage upon “a clean sweep of traditional values and start with a new set.” Only, the new set is not so new.

Democracy cannot survive in default of a reasonably alert and educated public and a viable university system. The almost daily capitulations of our intellectuals, opinion-makers, politicians, and academics to the invasive forces of what is nothing less than a global jihad, whether conveyed through terrorist, demographic, jurisprudential, or rhetorical means, along with the virtual exclusion of alternative discourses, must be seen for what they are: omens of approaching dissolution. And the soi-disant liberal university has become the “Zero Groun” of intellectual ruination, its busy bee professoriate invidiously programming its students with both a left-wing, statist agenda and a misplaced tolerance for radical Islamic thought and practice. David Horowitz points out, as an instance of this nuptial complicity between the left and Islam on university campuses, the interesting fact that “the pro-terrorist Muslim Students Association and the Young Communist League” are part of the same “Peace Workers” coalition.

Intellectuals and academics have long shared a pronounced tendency toward the “philotyrannical,” in its fascist, communist, and Islamic guises. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Stephen Norwood methodically reveals the sympathy of American universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, during the 1930s with the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini; and even after the war, “there was widespread indifference in academia … about the fascist past.” The general hospitality for left-wing causes and Communism itself in the academy is common knowledge. And true to form, as we have seen, the university has become one of the chief incubators of pro-Islamic sentiment — and its natural correlate, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rancor — in the Western world. Far from being the bulwark and harbinger of liberal civilization, the university seems more than willing to compromise its mandate and welcome into the once “quiet and still air of delightful studies” precisely those who would subvert it. As for the first part of Milton’s lovely and nostalgic phrase, “beholding the bright countenance of truth,” fuggedaboudit. The family mafia of left-wing professors, department heads, administrators, and syndics is simply not interested.

The prognosis doesn’t look great. As the 14th century Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun theorized in the Muqaddimah (“The Introduction”), when a civilization begins to decay and enters the twilight of its existence, it is invariably vanquished by a society of barbarians. Looking about us today — at the media, the entertainment industry, the political establishment, and especially the liberal academy — it is hard to disagree.