With Magill out, academic heavyweights start to speak out against university wokesterism

With the resignation of woke University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, following an execrable performance addressing antisemitism in Congress, some kind of dam has broken. Now, academics with actual achievements are beginning to speak out against the wokesterism that has laid low the reputations of their universities.

CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria, who's best described as a left-leaning moderate, has thrown down the gauntlet about woke universities, calling them indoctrination centers, not places of learning, and demanded that universities return to their core mission of seeking the actual truth, demanding excellence, instead of creating their own "truths."

He's on fire here:

He wrote up his remarks in this CNN commentary holding that America’s top universities should abandon their long misadventure into politics, retrain their gaze on their core strengths and rebuild their reputations as centers of research and learning.

My take:

— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) December 10, 2023 ">here, concluding:

What we saw in the House hearing this week was the inevitable result of decades of the politicization of universities. America’s top colleges are no longer seen as bastions of excellence but as partisan outfits, which means they will keep getting buffeted by these political storms as they emerge. They should abandon this long misadventure into politics, retrain their gaze on their core strengths and rebuild their reputations as centers of research and learning.

He's not just criticizing wokesters, he's offering a way out -- through the sorely needed return to focus on excellence.

He cites DEI as a villain, discriminating against achievement in favor of skin color, along with racial quotas in admissions, again, penalizing the achievers in favor of racial numbers, then speech codes, which are obvious chillers of free speech, and then grade inflation, rendering anyone who earns his good grades just as meritorious as a slacker, and the vast bloated bureaucracies and administrators of so-called diversity, which he notes, includes diversity of everything but ideas.

He might have added censorship, which top academics, such as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya at the medical school at Stanford University and leading monetary expert Professor Steve Hanke at Johns Hopkins University, have experienced firsthand.

All of that has led to irrationalism now seen on campuses, and he includes the George Floyd defund-the-police movement (which has gotten a lot of students killed, actually), as well as the current anti-Semitic protests, which have left Jewish students blockading themselves in libraries and afraid to go to class. At USC in Los Angeles, a leading professor of development economics, John Strauss, who is Jewish, was banned from his own campus after challenging pro-Hamas protestors who smeared him with a phony video, while at UCLA, a professor of music and her husband were stalked and threatened by pro-Hamas fanatics.

All of these things are the inevitable result, the logical, inevitable culmination of the lunacy that Zakaria describes above.

It was so powerful that it immediately drew endorsement from well-known heavyweight academics, such as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, whose achievements in medicine at Stanford University are indisputable.

There was also Simon Schama, at Columbia University, author of some of the finest, deepest, most readable, history books in existence:

It's as if the talent within academia is stirring, and has had enough of wokesterism, too.

I have another friend who teaches at Columbia, where I went, who once told me he was afraid to bring a cheesecake to class out of fear of triggering someone and drawing a complaint that would endanger his tenure quest, which tells us a lot about the atmosphere Schama has to operate in. I can only think that someone of his excellence would have little use for the growth of bureaucrats, the grade inflation, the non-merit-based hiring, and the triggered micromanagers that characterize today's wokester universities. And Schama is no political conservative, just a historian whose political views do not intersect his high-caliber scholarship.

The Big Kahuna of free speech gave his nod, too:

On a separate track, former New York Times editorial writer Bari Weiss, another moderate, was roused to write another eloquent piece calling for a return to excellence in academia:

My main point here is that Magill’s resignation, by itself, doesn’t solve anything. But it—along with the turmoil at Harvard—marks an important moment. Now everyone can see how deeply academia is broken. And you can’t fix something until you look, carefully and realistically, at the thing itself.


My view is that, above all else, we must focus on returning American higher education to its original purposes: to seek the truth; to teach young adults the things they need to flourish; and to pass on the knowledge that is the basis of our exceptional civilization. 

She called for the end to DEI, the end of double standards on free speech, the hiring of professors committed to the pursuit of truth (and allergic to illiberal Ideologies), and eliminating the ideology that replaced truth as higher education’s north star. She also calls for "building new things," and creating new universities.

This can only be called a paradigm shift -- particularly because these voices aren't conservative ones; they are reasonable ones with whom reasonable conservatives can agree easily. What these voices are associated with is excellence in their fields, which is what universities were once known for before the wokesters took over.

Now, as university presidents get knocked off like bowling pins, the victims of their own woke culture that brought them to power, something's changing. Heavyweight scholars are stepping forward, and they're not afraid. They are, in reality, demanding to be heard. A tide is turning, and one can only hope that it becomes a floodgate. That can only be good for universities and their prospects.

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