Do radical professors encourage violence? That’s the question some conservative commentators are asking in the wake of the vicious assassinations of two New York City police officers. As I argue in my upcoming book about educational conservatism, this sort of conservative worry has a long history. It goes much farther back than the campus radicalism of the 1960s.
At National Review Online, for instance, Katherine Timpf shares a story from Brandeis University. At that prestigious school just outside of Boston, student Daniel Mael has published violent tweets from fellow student Khadijah Lynch.
Mael blasted Lynch for advocating violence against the government, and Brandeis for supporting her. According to Mael, Lynch had tweeted that she had “no sympathy for the nypd officers who were murdered today.” Earlier, according to Mael, Lynch had written, “I am in riot mode. F*** this f****** country.”
Instead of being punished for such incendiary language, Mael noted, Brandeis had made Lynch an official campus student officer, responsible for advising younger students. She had been a featured speaker at university events and, according to Mael, remained an undergraduate student representative of her academic department.
Is the university to blame for encouraging racial violence?
Timpf is not the only conservative pundit to ask the question. At Minding the Campus, Peter Wood blasts college culture for nurturing violent extremism. Today’s leftist-riddled faculties and administrations, Wood charges, encourage and condone wild-eyed radicalism among students.
Students and faculty, Wood writes, have been implicated in recent anti-police violence in New York City. But that’s not all. On the bitterly divided campus of the University of Virginia, the administration has turned a blind eye to student violence against innocent fraternity members.
Wood gives several examples of graduate students and faculty who have encouraged racial violence. Does this implicate universities? As he concluded,
the links don’t have to be guessed at. They are there to be seen. Some of the connections are in the form of forceful declarations. . . . Some of the connections are in the form of heedless enthusiasm from individuals who have no sense of where this goes.
Wood’s indictment goes beyond the murders of New York policemen. At the University of Virginia, Wood writes, violence against innocent fraternity members has been winked at by the administration.
After the debacle of the Rolling Stone article falsely accusing fraternity members of a horrific sexual assault, a group of UVA students attacked the fraternity house. They were not punished, even though their identities were well known, according to Wood. Wood writes,
faced with the real crime of serious vandalism against a fraternity that had been falsely accused, and having the opportunity at hand to charge the culprits, President Sullivan [of UVA] decided to take no action.
Virginia is not alone, Wood argues. At other schools, a certain sort of student violence is condoned or even encouraged by faculty and administration who sympathize with student attitudes. The radical likes of Ward Churchill and Bill Ayers, Wood implies, are only the most famous cases of red professors guiding student malfeasance.
Wood argues that this campus radicalism has been a problem “Since the 1960s.” But in reality both campus radicalism and conservative denunciations have a much longer history. In some cases, conservative denunciations can seem eerily eternal.
For example, Wood calls out a doctoral student by name at Teachers College Columbia. Aaron Samuel Breslow, Wood writes, has been an active supporter of violent resistance. In 1938, it was Teachers College doctoral student William Gellerman who attracted conservative ire. Back then, Gellerman published a denunciation of American Legion activism. The Legion, Gellerman accused, represented nothing more than
an expression of entrenched business and military interests which attempt to hide their true purposes under democratic guise.
Legion leader Daniel Doherty accused Teachers College of coddling this sort of inflammatory leftist claptrap. Doherty asked an audience at Columbia University,
Why not rid this institution of such baleful influences? The name of Columbia is besmirched from time to time when preachments containing un-American doctrines emanate from those who identify themselves with this institution. . . . Do you like having it called ‘the big red university?’
As I argue in my upcoming book, this sort of anti-higher-ed accusation was a standard part of conservative activism long before the 1960s. Indeed, its roots can be clearly seen in the 1920s.
In the 1930s, the question was clear: Should universities purge their leftist faculty? The same question echoes throughout conservative punditry today, with an inflammatory twist:
Are universities morally culpable in the assassination of police officers?