MARSCHALL: Tepid praise for Columbia's trustees amid the university's crackup

​The belief that radical revolutionary ideals never go beyond classroom discussions belongs to the world of yesterday. Columbia's leaders let their radical faculty get out of control and lost control of their leftist students in the process.

Hours after Columbia University President Minouche Shafik greenlit New York City police to arrest over 100 anti-Semitic students Thursday for their unauthorized occupation of campus grounds, pro-Hamas activists demonstrated just off campus. They promised an October 7 “1,000 more times”.

Higher education breeds anti-Semitism in its lecture halls and on its quads. That hatred - until now veiled by pro-Palestine rhetoric - permeates campus boundaries and ensnares the ignorant and unfulfilled mass of lost individuals into its fold with the allure of purpose and belonging in a politically fashionable movement. 

Columbia University is an allegory for the crackup of polite American society. It is an Ivy League institution seemingly incapable of redeeming its august, elite status, which has until now weathered generations of radical students’ protests and occupations. 

No more. 

No longer do leftist students protest within the confines of polite society. No longer can anyone pretend that anti-Israel sentiment is not anti-Semitism. No longer can the media isolate higher education’s role in radicalizing the political left. 

Columbia’s leaders know this. I attended the Apr. 17 House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing on anti-Semitism at Columbia University. The witnesses - Shafik,  David Schizer (Emeritus Dean of Columbia Law), and Board of Trustee Co-Chairs Claire Shipman and David Greenwald - acknowledged that the institution’s policies to control protests and fight antisemitism are outmoded. 

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They acknowledged that Columbia’s mechanisms for enforcement rely on a status quo that no longer exists. “Designed for a different world” is how Shafik put it in her testimony.  

The arrested protesters are a different kind of political animal. Friday morning shows that the students remain defiant and some encampments still exist. 

The suspended campus groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace organized the occupation. They are entitled and unafraid of Shafik’s disciplinary regime, which ranges from warning letters to suspensions. 

Clearly in over her head, Shafik is unfit to eradicate anti-Semitism at Columbia. Her stammered gasps and tense aborted hand gestures revealed a woman unwilling to make absolute judgments against those who hate Jews. 

Shafik has a naivety about anti-Semites informed by her cosmopolitan conceits. She still thinks the situation is merely a matter of benign cultural differences and misunderstandings among diverse populations. She cannot grasp that hatred drives student protesters and antisemitic faculty to attack Jewish students. 

She has to go. The testimony proved that Shafik is less capable of handling this mess than her colleagues on the board. Shafik fumbled in the second half of the hearing, when she ran out of prepared responses, and allowed Rep. Ilhan Omar - whose daughter was charged in the occupation and suspended from Barnard College - to manipulate her responses. 

Schizer, Shipman, and Greenwald know they have failed Jewish students. They rebuked Shafik’s testimony to Omar that there are no “anti-Jewish” protests at Columbia. They corrected Shafik’s inaccurate definition of anti-Semitism and gave direct answers that the president could never muster. 

[RELATED: VAIDA: I’m an Israeli citizen. Students’ pro-Iran bile exposes new depths of anti-Semitic rot in higher education.]

Shipman was a particularly impressive witness. She understands the breadth and depth of the problem and is visibly frustrated by how slow change occurs at large institutions like a university. Greenwald, who is Jewish, is clearly mad at his institution and determined to fix it. 

Good intentions are not enough, however, and both Shipman and Greenwald are accountable for every attack and insult Jewish students have experienced on campus. 

Nonetheless, I do applaud these trustees for their condemnation of the leftist ideologies and values that sustain anti-Semitic protests and student activism. 

The only way forward for Columbia is to break itself apart from its radical elements and restore its traditional mission to provide a de-politicized liberal education. 

The belief that radical revolutionary ideals never go beyond classroom discussions belongs to the world of yesterday. Columbia’s leaders let their radical faculty get out of control and lost control of their leftist students in the process. 

If Columbia is to preserve its reputation and status, and perhaps lead the restoration of higher education, it must do away with these individuals and their hatred. 

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.