Some Truths About Higher Education


Over the past decade, I have been affiliated with Columbia University as a professor, collaborator, and, most recently, a visitor. There was often an undercurrent of antisemitism throughout the campus that was overlooked by the Jewish community, but sat just under the surface. The recent explosion of violence and protests has exposed this truth for the world to see. Student groups, filled with hate and anti-Zionist agendas, have the support of some of the faculty at Columbia, effectively destroying the façade of a commitment to “fighting all forms of discrimination.” While antisemitism has boiled over at Columbia and other schools across the country into violence and real corporal dangers for Jewish students, antisemitism is often more subtle and less overt at other schools. It remains, however, just as toxic and dangerous.

Americans and members of the Jewish community should not overlook the chaos unfolding on college campuses well beyond those in the news. One just needs to look twelve miles north of Columbia, at Sarah Lawrence College, to see the full-fledged hatred of Jews.

The College has an outstanding Title VI claim against it due to a deep and pervasive culture of hostility and antagonism toward Jews. In an indirect response to the complaint, the College’s president made the usual platitudes; the school has a “commitment to provide an environment in which all of our students — regardless of background, belief, or circumstance — have the unimpeded opportunity to actively and fully participate in the educational experience” of the College. The College’s president indicated that she would refrain from political statements on behalf of the College, effectively removing the College from being “the focus of action.

In theory, adopting a Chicago-style Kalven Report policy of neutrality is sensible and responsible. And Sarah Lawrence, in committing itself to helping all students equally, took an appropriate step in the right direction to addressing the harm caused to its Jewish students and community over the decades. However, the College has not lived up to these statements whatsoever. In reality, even after stating that it would take no stance, Sarah Lawrence has taken a clear set of political positions and continued its shameful path of supporting antisemitism. Because of this, Jewish students are threatened and are unable to participate fully and equitably in collegiate life.  

As an example, on April 28th, known antisemite and professor Suzanne Gardinier—who regularly posts calls for the destruction of Israel on her social media accounts—sent an explicitly political email to all faculty on campus over the official College email group lists. Gardinier is an organizer of the overtly political Sarah Lawrence Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine group. Gardinier sent out a note advertising that her group will be “on the lawn outside the campus center, doing an hourlong stand-out: From Yonkers to Gaza, Solidarity with Palestine, Solidarity with Our Brave Students.” The email concludes with “We’d love to see you” and is signed SLFSJP. The school did not send out a reminder that such political advocacy is not appropriate for a professional school-wide list-serve. I suspect that if I sent out an email advertising a Jewish political action or event, I would be immediately contacted, sanctioned, and a statement would have gone out by the administration reminding the faculty of the appropriate use of official faculty lists.

Read the rest of this piece at AEI.

Samuel J. Abrams is a profesor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Photo: SWinxy, via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License.