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To Combat Campus Anti-Semitism, End DEI

April 25, 2024

 “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you!” the masked man bellows at a Jewish woman.

The date references the murder—and in many cases rape—of 1,200 Israelis at the hands of Hamas last year.

Jewish students are told to “go back to Poland!” and “stop killing children!”

A Jewish student is physically attacked after displaying an Israeli flag.

A rabbi and leader of the Jewish community urges Jewish students to leave campus because he doubts the college administration’s ability to guarantee their safety in the face of this explosion of anti-Semitism.

These aren’t scenes from Nazi Germany. They all happened in the past week at Columbia University, one of the most prestigious and expensive institutions in the country. At this Ivy League school, anti-Israel student protestors have occupied a section of campus, refusing to leave until the administration meets their demands, which include “complete divestment” from Israel and “amnesty from any disciplinary measures for students participating in the protests.”

Thus far, the feckless Columbia administration has failed to end the occupation and restore order. Instead, in a cruel development for students who lived through remote learning during the pandemic, the administration has moved classes online for the rest of the semester. Students paying $68,000 in tuition will need to finish the school year in front of a screen. And the administration is legitimizing the occupiers who have disrupted students’ learning by negotiating with them.

The coddling of the extremist groups that support these protests—organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine that call for the destruction of Israel—represents the logical endpoint of the discriminatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) ideology that permeates education, from K-12 to the college level. DEI ideology divides the world into the simplistic binary of “oppressor” and “oppressed,” calling for discrimination against those deemed “oppressors” to achieve “equity” and “social justice.” In the upside-down world of DEI, Jews—a group that has endured the Holocaust and countless acts of repression—become “oppressors” because of their alleged proximity to “whiteness.”

DEI also promotes “decolonization,” a poisonous idea that labels countries like the United States and Israel as illegitimate “occupiers” of land belonging to indigenous people. Advocates of decolonization often call for violence to remove “settler-colonists” from the land. Students for Justice in Palestine states that “decolonization is a call to action…it calls upon us to engage in meaningful actions that go beyond symbolism and rhetoric. Resistance comes in all forms—armed struggle, general strikes, and popular demonstrations.” In the parlance of leftwing activists, decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization calls for very real violence against “imperialists.”

The educational establishment has placed DEI at the center of its mission, forsaking the pursuit of truth and the development of practical skills. K-12 schools prime students to become DEI crusaders in college. The Free Pressrecently revealed that a California public school district paid students $1,400 to join a social justice club run by a leftwing nonprofit.

DEI suffuses the curriculum at institutions of higher education. A recent report found that 67 percent of major American universities require students to take DEI courses in order to graduate. Khaled Barakat, a former official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—a designated terrorist organization—recently observed that “colonialism, racism, and slavery studies” in school curriculums had swayed young people in America to “support armed resistance.” On March 25, Barakat participated in an event at Columbia organized by the Columbia University Apartheid Divest student group titled “Resistance 101.” Barakat thus prepared radical students to occupy the Columbia campus.

You might think that university faculty—people who are paid to educate students—would object to student protestors who disrupt classes and harass Jews. But many faculty unequivocally side with the anti-Israel occupation. Faculty of Barnard, the women’s college associated with Columbia, marched to the president’s office and demanded amnesty for student protestors. Not to be outdone, Columbia faculty staged a massive walkout in support of the anti-Israel occupation.

The faculty’s conduct presents America with a stark choice. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has identified two competing visions of higher education: Truth U and Social Justice U. It is impossible to pursue both truth and “social justice” at the same time, as the faculty reaction to the Columbia occupation demonstrates. When presented with the choice of opposing students’ interference with the truth-seeking activity of college classes or supporting students’ “social justice” activism, many faculty chose the latter.

Although Social Justice U and DEI ideology are ascendant, Americans can reverse this rise. Around the country, the Goldwater Institute is working to enact our suite of reforms that help to restore the pursuit of truth to the center of universities’ missions. Several states have already adopted Goldwater’s policy to eliminate DEI offices at public universities that promote this discriminatory ideology—including Texas, where Goldwater passed the nation’s most powerful law to completely dismantle DEI bureaucracy in public higher education.

Many universities require job applicants to submit a “diversity statement” that acts as an ideological screening mechanism to weed out candidates who do not pledge fealty to the DEI regime. Goldwater’s report on the prevalence of these statements in Arizona public universities prompted the Arizona Board of Regents to eliminate diversity statements from all job searches.

Nationwide, Goldwater is also working to enact our reform that addresses the flawed curriculums at public universities that favor DEI over rigorous academics. This policy prohibits universities from requiring politicized DEI courses as a condition of graduation. No student should be forced to sit through lectures in the DEI ideology that has arrested education at Columbia and prompted appalling acts of anti-Semitism.

Public universities, accountable to the public through elected representatives and university boards, need not go the way of Columbia. Concerned citizens must directly address the hateful DEI ideology in higher education that has led to the disgusting explosion of anti-Semitism around the country. These reforms take the first step in restoring the promise of higher education for all students regardless of race, color, or creed.

Timothy K. Minella is a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy. He advances policies and develops programming that promote constitutional principles in education and public life.



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