Opinion: Campus chaos and America’s character

A sign that reads Gaza Solidarity Encampment is seen during the Pro-Palestinians protest at the Columbia University campus on April 22.

A sign that reads Gaza Solidarity Encampment is seen during the Pro-Palestinians protest at the Columbia University campus on April 22. Stefan Jeremiah / AP

Protestors gather at Columbia University on April 24, 2024, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS)

Protestors gather at Columbia University on April 24, 2024, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS) Barry Williams


Published: 04-28-2024 4:00 PM

Vikram Mansharamani of Lincoln is a candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District. He was previously on the faculties of both Yale and Harvard.

Jewish students being warned to avoid college campuses for their own safety. Angry mobs pounding on the doors of academic buildings containing Jewish scholars, who are told to hide in the attic. Streets filled with crowds chanting antisemitic slurs, telling Jews to “go back to Poland.” Intimidation, harassment, and physical violence spreading like wildfire as a Jewish professor is denied access to his classroom and universities are shut down.

This isn’t Nazi Germany in the 1930s. This is America in 2024. And the perpetrators aren’t Nazi Brown Shirts; they’re privileged college students at the country’s most elite schools. A violent spasm of antisemitism is creating campus chaos with an ugliness and viciousness that were heretofore unimaginable. Ever since the horrific Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, these protests have only grown as academic leaders from Harvard to MIT to Penn, as well as other universities, have failed to display any semblance of moral clarity. Israel was attacked, Israelis were killed, raped, and tortured, and reports show that Israeli babies were decapitated or burned alive.

And in response to these despicable acts, thousands have flooded the streets and campuses across America to protest… against Israel. In the confused, bizarro world of such protestors, Israel is the aggressor. Calls for a ceasefire fail to recall there was a ceasefire on Oct. 6.

These protests are now openly supportive of terrorism, complete with calls for Intifada and praise for the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. “Glory to Our Martyrs” is proclaimed on signs and projected onto buildings as protesters honor Oct. 7 as a historic victory. Jewish students are taunted as being the “next targets” and told that “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.”

Ironically, these perverse protests aren’t really about concern for the Palestinians or humanitarian aid or a ceasefire. These protests are now about hatred and venom, and this hatred and venom isn’t only anti-Israel; it’s antisemitic.

There are calls for genocide. In America, in the 21st century. On Ivy League campuses.

How did we end up here? As a student at Yale and MIT years ago, and a teacher at Yale and Harvard in the years since, I had a front row seat to this growing “illiberal liberalism.” What started as political correctness morphed into safe spaces and speech codes, censorship and the de-platforming of conservative speakers. Academic leaders lived according to a new creed, one that promotes selective free speech: “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

The new religion spilled beyond the academy and is now felt broadly across America. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives are replacing equality of opportunity with equity of outcomes. A new religion now describes everyone and everything as either oppressor or oppressed. This growing intolerance grew into a full-blown panic during the summer of 2020 in which rioters tore down statues of George Washington and burned American flags.

Within this framework, Israel is an oppressor, Palestine is the oppressed. The actions of the so-called “oppressed” are automatically justified and defendable, regardless of how violent or perverse. This warped thinking was on full display during recent congressional hearings in which the presidents of elite universities simply couldn’t bring themselves to condemn calls for genocide, saying it depended on the context. A moral rot is metastasizing within our leading universities, and if we don’t stop its spread, it threatens to destroy our society.

Sadly, it seems Americans no longer share a common understanding of our country and its history, what we stand for, and what it means to be an American. There was a time when terrorist attacks like those of Oct. 7 would have united our country in condemnation. Shockingly, we instead find ourselves in a country in which some are rooting for the terrorists. They are chanting “Death to America” on American campuses and raising the Palestinian flag.

Enough is enough. It’s time to stop this nonsense. Students should be expelled and acts of violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Foreign students who harass Jewish students or commit acts of violence and vandalism should have their student visas revoked and be deported immediately. Colleges and universities that cannot or will not protect their Jewish students should suffer consequences as well, having their federal funding suspended. Alumni should suspend donations to their alma maters. And under no circumstances should universities cancel graduations or force students into virtual classrooms. There should be thorough investigations, and university presidents should be forced to resign, or be fired.

It’s time to define who we are as Americans. We need to strongly condemn hatred and bigotry, call out antisemitism, and stand firm against political violence in all its forms. There cannot be room in any democracy for acts of violence and intimidation. Our very character as a nation is now at stake.