Exposing a University’s Hypocrisy
On May 14, 2019, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi gave a guest lecture at the University of California Los Angeles that was laced with distortions of history and anti-Semitic tropes. Abdulhadi characterizes herself as a scholar/activist, an oxymoron that would have inspired ridicule in the academic world I entered as a student in the late 1950s.
If scholarship is the objective search for the truth, how is it possible to be both an ideologue and a scholar? The short answer is the two are visibly incompatible, for a believer will not accept disconfirming evidence of cherished articles of faith.
Nor should they, because the world of faith and the world of evidence are two distinct and different realms. In today’s academic world, however, those realms are inseparable.
Academia is now a place where one is encouraged to proudly embrace one’s commitment to ideology as some sort of badge of honor rather than as a mark of intellectual limitation. That is, of course, if the ideology conforms to the normative standards of leftist/socialist thought and intersectionality.
Despite universities being havens for safe spaces and concrete bunkers to prevent students from hearing ideas that might make them uncomfortable, universities can always dust off the First Amendment when it comes to defending speech that transmits an approved agenda.
It was no surprise that the UCLA invoked the First Amendment to support Abdulhadi’s insufferable and ahistorical nonsense that Israel is a colonial entity based on white supremacy. At a minimum, Abdulhadi should know that more than half of Israelis are the descendants from the Jews of the Middle East that were ethnically cleansed by her kinsman from homelands they lived in for a thousand years before the first Muslim warrior galloped out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century.
I have no objection for any university to invite anyone to enter the free marketplace of ideas and spout their nonsense. The problem is that some nonsense, like Abdulhadi’s, is acceptable while other points of view run up against the trenches of political correctness.
Freedom of thought is highly prized when it is consonant with popular thought on campus. For example, hardly a faculty member would find a loyalty oath palatable, but UCLA requiring a written commitment to diversity as a condition for promotion is not seen as telling faculty what to think.
If a university is going to hide propaganda behind the First Amendment and embrace the objective of freedom of thought, at a minimum it should not make attendance at a propaganda festival compulsory.
No one signed up from the class bulletin to hear Abdulhadi, who as a faculty member at San Francisco State University, issued an “ukase” that Zionists were not welcome on campus. Her declaration was repudiated by the chancellor the state university system.
Abdulhadi’s behavior toward Jewish students on the SFSU campus has long been a matter of public controversy, and the university, on March 20, 2019, entered into an out-of-court settlement to cease what is widely perceived as its longstanding tolerance of both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
To her credit, Abdulhadi makes no secret of her ideology. Consequently, anyone extending an invitation to her should not be surprised by what they are getting, which raises the additional question of what does her teaching and research have to do with a class in anthropology?
This is yet another instance of indoctrination of a captive -- dragooned in this case -- audience of students who pay outrageous tuition to hear the political opinions of leftist activists. It is kind of activity that is producing generations of college graduates that have been told what leftist shibboleths to parrot but not how to think for themselves, which at one time was the function of a college education.
Lest one think UCLA’s raising of the First Amendment shows that it is a bastion of free thought removed from concerns with political correctness, consider Abdulhadi’s presentation in the context of a momentous decision on the UCLA campus, the gutting of its English major in 2011.
As Heather Mac Donald notes, until 2011, UCLA English majors took one course in Chaucer, one in Milton, and two in Shakespeare. These authors represent the foundations of English literature and our connection with Western civilization.
But these authors were outed as dead white European males or part of the white, racist, imperialist establishment. So, UCLA expunged them and replaced them with trendy courses in gender, race, ethnicity, and post-colonial studies, etc. (You can fill in the rest of the politically correct buzz words.)
Thanks to the purging of the foundational authors of English literature, a student in English literature can spend four years at UCLA and have substituted “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class” and never have read Shakespeare.
So, one wonders, can a UCLA student receive a degree in anthropology and never read Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, or Karl Polanyi but know Rabab Abuldhadi’s seminal work in the Islamophobia journal?
There was a time when an education in the liberal arts taught one how to think independently, how to grapple with conflicting ideas, and how to understand the work of the luminaries that created intellectual disciplines. That time has passed.
More than likely Boas, Sapir, and Polanyi, some of the greatest minds of the last century, have been replaced by “alternative rubrics” that are not part of the “imperialistic establishment.” After all, they are not only dead white European males but also Jews. Two reasons not to incorporate them in the politically correct curriculum dominated by “alternative rubrics” and “activist scholars.”
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a distinguished scholar with the Haym Salomon Center.