CNN host Fareed Zakaria said Sunday on his show “Fareed Zakaria GPS” that American universities were “pushing political agendas” over academic excellence.
Zakaria said, “Three university presidents came under fire this week for their vague and indecisive answers when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their institution’s codes of conduct. But to understand their performance, we have to understand the broad shift that has taken place at elite universities, which have gone from being centers of excellence to institutions pushing political agendas. People sense the transformation.”
He continued, “American universities have been neglecting a core focus on excellence in order to pursue a variety of agendas, many of them clustered around diversity and inclusion. It started with the best of intentions. Colleges wanted to make sure young people of all backgrounds had access to higher education and felt comfortable on campus. But those good intentions have morphed into a dogmatic ideology and turn these universities into places where the pervasive goals of political and social engineering, not academic merit. As the evidence produced for the recent Supreme Court case on affirmative action showed, universities have systematically downplayed merit based criteria for admissions in favor of racial quotas. Some universities’ response to this ruling seems to be that they will go further down this path, eliminating the requirement for any standardized tests like the SAT. That move would allow them to then take students with little reference to objective criteria. Of course, those who would suffer most would be bright students from poor backgrounds who normally use tests like PSAT to demonstrate their qualifications. In the humanities hiring for new academic positions now appears to center on the race and gender of the applicant, as well as the subject matter, which needs to be about marginalized groups. A white man studying the American presidency does not have a prayer of getting tenure at a major history department.”
Zakaria said, “The most obvious lack of diversity at universities, political diversity, which clearly affects their ability to analyze many issues, is never addressed assuring that these goals are not centrally achieving to sustaining or building excellence. Out of this culture of diversity has grown the collection of ideas and practices that we have now all heard of: safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions.”
He added, “The Jewish groups would wonder why do safe spaces, microaggressions and hate speech not apply to us? If universities can take positions against free speech to make some groups feel safe, why not us? Having coddled so many student groups for so long, university administrators found themselves squirming, unable to explain why certain groups — Jews, Asians don’t seem to count in these conversations. Having gone so far down the ideological path, these universities and these presidents could not make the case clearly that at the center of a university is the free expression of ideas and that while harassment and intimidation would not be tolerated, offensive speech would and should be protected.
Zakaria concluded, “America’s top colleges are no longer seen as bastions of excellence but partisan outfits, which means they will keep getting buffeted by these political storms as they emerge. They should abandon this long misadventure into politics, retrain their gaze on their core strengths, and rebuild their reputations as centers of research and learning.”
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