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Republicans are using antisemitism hearings to carry out a sinister agenda

Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, performed far better than the other Ivy league presidents when grilled by the GOP. But a dangerous threat to academics still looms.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and Israel’s subsequent onslaught on Gaza, American college campuses have been seized by protests as the death toll in Gaza has risen past 34,000. Jewish students charge that these demonstrations are fostering an environment rife with antisemitic rhetoric, intimidation and even violence. Congress has been eager to investigate these claims. In December, it summoned the presidents of Harvard University, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania for a fateful hearing. It did not go well for Claudine Gay of Harvard or Liz Magill of Penn, who both eventually resigned.

On Wednesday, it was Columbia University’s turn to be grilled by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The sarcastic comment of Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fla., seemed to sum up the proceedings quite well, exclaiming, “Columbia beats Harvard and UPenn!”?

The Republican representatives, for their part, gave us a glimpse into another problem.

Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, performed far better than the other Ivy league presidents. She and her colleagues projected an image of an institution actually recognizing a problem (albeit belatedly) and scrambling to fix it. But the hearing itself also highlights how entrenched antisemitism has become at this school. The Republican representatives, for their part, gave us a glimpse into another problem, namely their own gonzo solutions to Columbia’s antisemitism woes. Those solutions should trouble anyone who cares about higher education no matter what their political allegiances might be.?

As for Shafik, she can expect to retain her presidency, which has so far lasted nine months. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tried her damndest, but the congressperson won’t get to claim her third presidential victim in a celebratory tweet.?

An economist by training, Shafik has a record of producing policy-facing research, and she appeared far less coached and programmed than her deposed presidential predecessors. Maybe it was all that experience working with starchy finance ministers and the like, but Shafik was skilled at parrying GOP broadsides. Meanwhile, on campus, pro-Palestinian activists are quite unhappy with her performance; test cancellations and loud protests are being reported.??

Also skillful was the decision to bring the former dean of Columbia Law School, David Schizer, along for the ride. At the disastrous December hearing, the college presidents kept toggling between their own campus laws and those of the nation’s courts, thereby baffling and infuriating everyone in the process. Schizer, by contrast, articulated his school’s rules governing student speech — which seemed reasonable enough. Later on, he noted that he was a conservative and a Jew; another avenue to a GOP assault was blocked off.?

No amount of Morningside Heights administrative pizzazz, of course, could obscure what is actually happening on Columbia’s campus. The GOP questioners raised countless examples of how dire the situation has become. The Columbia delegation, interestingly, mostly affirmed that the examples were correct.?

How dire? So dire the administration has brought NYPD officers back to campus for the first time in 50 years. Muslim and Jewish students report being intimidated walking across campus. A recent unauthorized demonstration, which may have included a student affiliated with a terrorist organization, is being investigated. Many students have been suspended or placed on probation. “When people feel fear and intimidation,” sighed witness Claire Shipman, co-chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, “they can’t learn.”?


This brings us to the professors. When the detective novel is written about who murdered the American professoriate in the 21st century — a guild that seemed almost invincible just a few decades earlier — there will be as many suspects as culprits. Some sleuth will posit that we committed suicide. Not only did we abandon undergraduate teaching, not only did we stop writing prose normal people could understand, but we turned every faculty hiring decision into an exercise in ideological cloning.

At the hearing, Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., called out Columbia’s Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies department, arguing that this unit had been “extremely hostile to both Israel and Jewish students.” Steel, along with Stefanik and Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., roll-called a well-known rogues gallery of Columbia professors known for extremist positions on Israel and other issues.?

Shafik replied that there were 4,700 faculty members at Columbia. But the “few bad apples” approach simply won’t fly. For decades, Columbia, as with many of the nation’s finest institutions, has packed its faculty, especially in the humanities,? with scholars beholden to a vast, and overlapping, array of radical left-wing worldviews. Many of these scholars are thinkers?of high quality. But this does not change the fact that conservative and, yes, even liberal, researchers are greatly outnumbered at elite schools by the far left. Viewpoint diversity is not blooming in this apple orchard.

One member of the Columbia delegation mentioned, rather stunningly, that the university is “rebuilding.” As for the GOP, it had its own suggestions for the rebuild. Some representatives got so into the weeds of Columbia’s internal daily workings that I half expected them to ask why macroeconomics was only offered at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

More than a few members inquired about the present employment status of specific professors. Others explicitly suggested these professors be stripped of tenure — a degree of outside interference once considered unimaginable in higher education. The proposal was floated that entire departments at Columbia be placed in “receivership” (the academic equivalent of a death sentence cross-pollinated with a hostile takeover). Some inquired in great detail about course listings and class sizes. Naturally, there were queries about critical race theory and DEI initiatives on campus.?

In one sense, this is nothing new. In states with Republican supermajorities, this sort of interference with personnel, curriculum and tenure at public universities is a daily occurrence. Wednesday’s hearing demonstrates that private universities may soon be subjected to these purges as well. So while Columbia University survived the congressional onslaught, there is even more reason to believe that the complete dismantling of the American professoriate is proceeding apace.

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