Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I Went to Columbia, but My Kids Will Not

Liberal brainwashing has always been a part of an Ivy League education, but I'm surprised to hear about the current dispute at Columbia University over the alleged anti-Semitic sympathies of certain faculty members in the Middle Eastern & Asian Languages department. I attended Columbia over 20 years ago, and a large number of the students (around 30%) and faculty (perhaps around the same percentage) were Jewish, which is not unusual since the college drew largely upon New York City's population. Back then, I even recall Columbia being referred to as "the Jewish Ivy".

Determining the boundaries of this dispute is a slippery exercise. At root it is about some Jewish students and recent graduates, who could number several dozen, contending that in recent years they felt mocked and marginalized by pro-Palestinian professors. They have not, however, pointed to any grade retribution. Complaints of this sort have buzzed around campus for some time, but the issue flared into international news in late October, when the news media was shown a film, "Columbia Unbecoming," which had been made at the behest of unhappy Jewish students at Columbia by a pro-Israel group in Boston called the David Project

The quarrel has also become about whether the department in question, known by the acronym MEALAC, is heavily unbalanced in favor of Palestinian sympathizers, not that anyone entirely agrees what "balance" means in academia and whether it is even warranted. And the whole matter has come to be wrapped in the broader cloth of academic freedom.

Pro-Israel professors on campus, who have been conspicuously quiet, say they feel cowed and nervously out of fashion. "Many Jewish faculty members feel uncomfortable with this whole issue and wish it would go away," said Stephanie G. Neuman, a senior research scholar and the director of the university's comparative defense studies program, who has taught at Columbia since the 1970's. "Most of them come out of the same leftist, assimilationist background as I do. We're uncomfortable with the idea that the left has abandoned Israel and maybe abandoned Jews. We're in cognitive dissonance."
What Columbia and the New York Times have virtually ignored is not just departmental "balance" in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian question, but the ideological make-up of the faculty as a whole. Does anyone have any doubt that the Columbia faculty is overwhelmingly liberal in its sympathies, and that Bush-bashing is an accepted norm in its classrooms? In speaking about the issue, one faculty member manages to get in a swipe at President Bush (italics are mine):

Said Andrew J. Nathan, a political science professor who is dubious about the students' charges, "Now it is not clear to everyone that the classroom is where the faculty is in full control. I teach a course called Introduction to Human Rights. We had a whole week on the torture memos of the Bush administration. Now I'm starting to wonder whether there's somebody in my class of 143 students who might grieve against me, that I indoctrinated them, that they went through emotional suffering to hear about these things."
Back in the 1980s, I observed that Reagan-bashing was an everyday occurence at Columbia, but support for Israel was also very high. Liberalism today has apparently evolved to the point where Jew-hating is one of the core pillars of its ideology. Given this, I have often wondered why Jewish voters continue to support the Democrats in overwhelming numbers. Now, maybe Jewish students and faculty at Columbia are asking the same question.


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