A Degree Too Far

Brandeis disinvites Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary doctorate; Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard is not amused. In “A Note to Supporters of Brandeis,” Kristol writes:


As Lori Lowenthal Marcus notes, Brandeis University has in recent years bestowed an honorary degree on Tony Kushner, who called the creation of Israel as a Jewish state “a mistake” and who attacked Israel for ethnic cleansing and for causing “terrible peril in the world.” Brandeis has also honored Desmond Tutu, who compared Israel to Hitler, attacked the “Jewish lobby” as too “powerful” and “scary,” and complained of the “Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.”

Unfortunately, that’s business as usual in the modern academy, including at an academic institution founded out of a special concern for the well-being of Jews in America and elsewhere.

But when it comes to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a courageous woman who has fought for human rights around the world—and who may actually like the state Israel—well, that’s a bridge too far. In recent weeks, Brandeis president Fred Lawrence came under “pressure”—i.e., received complaints from some students and whining from some faculty—and promptly caved. He has disinvited Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary doctorate this year.

His justification for caving was pathetic. Lawrence announced that “we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”


“Did no one at Brandeis bother to Google Ali before offering her the degree?”, Ed Morrissey asks:

Her speeches don’t pull punches about her perspectives on Islam and its practices. It’s a little late in 2014 for President Lawrence to be shocked, shocked at “certain of her past statements” in relation to the work that they apparently wanted to honor.

To answer the second question — because so far, questions one and three don’t lend themselves to answers other than incompetence – what changed is that the faculty erupted in outrage when it saw Ali on the list. Out of 350 faculty, “more than 85″ signed a petition demanding her removal from the honors list. The petition was started by the Muslim Students Association, which should have been easily foreseen by Brandeis in the first place. If popular opposition was enough to cancel the offer, then Brandeis shouldn’t have made it in the first place. Now, they look both incompetent and pusillanimous.

I wonder what the University’s namesake would have thought about the school that bears his name surrendering to the will of the Muslim Students Association?


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