How Were the Universities Lost?

After October 7, the public was shocked at what they saw and heard on America’s campuses.

Americans knew previously they were intolerant, leftwing, and increasingly non-meritocratic.

But immediately after October 7—and even before the response of the Israeli Defense Forces—the sheer student delight on news of the mass murdering of Israeli victims seemed akin more to 1930s Germany than contemporary America.

Indeed, not a day goes by when a university professor or student group has not spouted anti-Semitic hatred. Often, they threaten and attack Jewish students, or engage in mass demonstrations calling for the extinction of Israel.

Why and how did purportedly enlightened universities become incubators of such primordial hatred?

After the George Floyd riots, reparatory admissions—the effort to admit diverse students beyond their numbers in the general population—increased.

Elite universities like Stanford and Yale boasted that their so-called “white” incoming student numbers had plunged to between 20 and 40 precent, despite whites making up 68-70 percent of the general population.

The abolition of the SAT requirement, and often the comparative ranking of high school grade point averages, have ended the ancient and time-proven idea of meritocracy. Brilliant high school transcripts and test scores no longer warrant admissions to so-called elite schools.

One result was that the number of Jews has nosedived from 20-30 percent of Ivy League student bodies during the 1970s and 1980s to 10-15 percent.

Jewish students are also currently stereotyped as “white” and “privileged”—and thus considered as fair game on campus.

At the same time, the number of foreign students, especially from the oil-rich Middle East, has soared on campuses. Most are subsidized by their homeland governments. They pay the full, non-discounted tuition rates to cash-hungry universities.

Huge numbers of students have entered universities, who would not have been admitted by the very standards universities until recently claimed were vital to ensure their own competitiveness and prestige.

Consequently, they are no longer the guarantors of topflight undergraduates and professionals from their graduate programs.

Faculty are faced with new lose/lose/lose choices of either diminishing their course requirements, or inflating their grades, or facing charges by Diversity/Equity/Inclusion commissars of systematic bias in their grading— or all three combined.

The net result is that there are now thousands of students from abroad, especially from the Middle East, far fewer Jewish students, and student bodies who demand radical changes in faculty standards and course work to accommodate their unease with past standards of expected student achievement.

And, presto, an epidemic of anti-Semitism naturally followed.

In such a vacuum, advocacy “-studies” classes proliferated, along with faculty to teach them.

“Gender, black, Latino, feminist, Asian, Queer, trans, peace, environmental, and green”-studies  courses demand far less from students, and arbitrarily select some as “oppressed” and others as “oppressors”.  The former “victims” are then given a blank check to engage in racist and anti-Semitic behavior without consequences.

Proving to be politically correct in these deductive gut-courses rather than pressed to express oneself coherently, inductively, and analytically from a repertoire of fact-based-knowledge explains why the public witnesses faculty and students who are simultaneously both arrogant and ignorant.

At some universities “blacklists” circulate warning “marginalized” students which professors they should avoid who still cling to supposedly outdated standards regarding exam-taking, deadlines, and absences.

All these radical changes explain the current spectacle of angry students citing grievances, and poorly educated graduates who have had little course work in traditional history, literature, philosophy, logic, or the traditional sciences.

Universities and students have plenty of money to continue the weaponization of the university, given their enormous tax-free endowment income. Nearly $2-trillion in government-subsidized student loans are issued without accountability or reasonable demands that they be repaid in timely fashion.

Exceptions and exemptions are the bible of terrified and careerist administrators.

Faced with an epidemic of anti-Semitism, university administrators now claim they can do little to curb the hatred. But privately they know should the targets of similar hatred be instead blacks, gays, Latinos, or women, then they would expel the haters in a nanosecond.

What is the ultimate result of once elite campuses giving 70-80 percent of their students As, becoming hotbeds of dangerous anti-Semitism, and watered-down curricula that cannot turn out educated students?

The Ivy league and their kindred so-called elite campuses may soon go the way of Disney and Bud Light.

They think such a crash in their reputations is impossible given centuries of accustomed stature.

But the erosion is already occurring—and accelerating.

At the present rate, a Stanford law degree, a Harvard political science major, or a Yale social science BA will soon scare off employers and the general public at large.

These certificates will signify not proof of humility, knowledge, and decency, but rather undeserved self-importance, vacuousness, and fanaticism—and all to be avoided rather than courted.


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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: (L-R) Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies at American University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing to investigate antisemitism on college campuses. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. But the erosion is already occurring—and accelerating.

    I suppose it would be asking too much if the acceleration caused some universities to actually close their doors.

  2. Another problem with the acceptance of these foreign students into our universities - they are taking the place that would normally be an American student. These foreign students squeeze out Americans of the PHD and other graduate programs, thus squeezing out Americans of jobs.

    These universities are taking millions of dollars from foreign governments and needs to stop. I suggest we start sending these kids home.

  3. Hmm. This is a very superficial treatment of the subject. To read Prof Hanson, all was well until what - Trump? George Floyd? No. I cannot possibly describe the entirety of New Left’s Marxist subversion of academia here, but it started long ago. The ‘free speech movement’ championed in Berkley in the '60s was a result of decades of agitation by Commies and it’s victory ensured that Marxism was now accepted as legitimate on American campuses. Up until then we were fighting back institutionally.

    It seems the entire nation laid down for the scumbag commie Marxists in the '60s. And now we wonder why everything is so effed up?

    All the kids these days are doing is taking their neoMarxist professors seriously. Fyi when I say neoMarxist I’m including post structuralism, postmodernism and all critical theory based analyses and ideas in that bucket.

    What did Prof Hanson do along the way to fight the commies? Cuz without driving the Marxists and Marxism out of our universities, we will never win. Never. It’s all noise. Joe McCarthy was correct. The commie fighters of the '50s were correct. But today? Marxists teach schoolchildren and university students that all that crazy anti-communist stuff was just ‘the Red Scare’ and Red Baiting etc. That McCarthy was crazy - he was not. No less a light than M. Stanton Evans associated with this institution straightened out the corrupted historical record on him.

    One of the new Right wing media platforms should launch “Reclaiming History” series with real historians telling the truth about the communists first. We can branch out from there cuz our downfall springs from them. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History, for example, needs to be ripped out of every educational institution in the U.S. We need to essentially ban Marxist thought cuz it’s innately and axiomatically revolutionary and seditious.

    Does VDH have the guts to call for that? Fyi, he seems particularly incensed by the Jewish thing - I could care less. They do a lot to make themselves targets. I care about the overt white hatred and racism white people face. I care about being ‘replaced’. I care about the millions of young Americans (mostly men so nobody cares) who do not get a shot at a college/university slot to study STEM cuz some foreigner from India or China or Egype got their slot. Fyi, Chinese and Indians are FAMOUS for cheating in school. It continues once they get here, but professors are told not to discuss it.

    Will VDH open his mouth about all this?

  4. VDH has been a constant and consistent voice for historical common sense and direct commentary on present movements that repeat the errors of the past. He has opened more eyes and defogged more brains than the bayonet chargers ever could.

  5. telling the truth about the communists first. Dennis Prager’s book - Still the Best Hope should be required reading

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