• College Campus Chaos And Why We Left Higher Education Administration

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    Across the nation, especially at ivy league schools, well-organized protestors have recently wreaked havoc on many college campuses. This chaos has resurrected memories in me of why my husband and I left jobs in higher education administration. In the mid-1990s, we saw the ideological sprouts that have borne the spoiled fruit displayed at college campuses through these antisemitic, anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protests.

    My husband and I met after we graduated from Baylor University. We both had such a positive undergraduate experience that we chose careers in higher education administration. We married and started graduate school together in the same program at Texas A&M University in 1994. I pursued a master’s degree and he pursued a PhD in higher ed administration.

    As I recently watched Columbia University’s president fail to remove the protestors after they ignored her deadline to leave campus, I remembered our higher education management class. We evaluated different managerial styles—bureaucratic, autocratic, political and collegial—and chose the one best suited to a university.

    Collegial decision-making was highly valued because it involves gathering input from constituents, such as discussing pay raises with professors. Yet, as we have witnessed, collegial decision-making does not work when confronting protesters who threaten Jewish students, destroy property or disrupt a graduation ceremony.

    During graduate school, my husband was criticized for quoting Bill Bennett, President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, in a paper. We soon learned that we couldn’t quote the Dartmouth-educated Dinesh D’Souza and his 1991 Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race. Though as an Indian American D’Souza was a minority, his viewpoint was not welcome because of his Republican-leaning politics.

    Likewise, we were not allowed to cite Alan Bloom, who raised alarms about higher education’s downfall in his 1987 blockbuster book, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. Bloom warned against universities replacing the pursuit of truth with moral relativism. Through these recent college protests, we are witnessing the results of this Frankenstein experiment right now.

    In short, while diversity was the preferred buzzword of higher education administration in the mid-1990s, diversity was paper thin, a farce. It was clear to me that in practice, diversity did not include tolerance for Republican viewpoints.

    While my husband completed his PhD, I finished my master’s degree and began working in Texas A&M’s media relations office. I was the event planner for official ceremonies. This included the opening events for the academic programs at President George H.W. Bush’s Presidential Library.

    That experience, along with a friend who worked for Texas Governor George W. Bush, opened another door. Although my husband finished his PhD, we changed fields and worked for Governor Bush in state government positions. Then when Bush became president, we moved to a Washington DC suburb. I worked as a White House web designer for two years while my husband worked in policy positions for several agencies throughout President Bush’s tenure. I left in March 2003 to have children and write books.

    As I’ve watched these recent campus protests and reflected on my experience, I’m drawn to a simple conclusion. The Frankensteins have turned on their makers—the colleges.

    Though I wasn’t allowed to quote him in graduate school, I can quote him now. Bill Bennett recently weighed in on the campus chaos on the Fox News Channel.

    This is what happens when adults capitulate their authority. They give it up. Who’s in charge at Columbia? Who’s in charge at Rutgers? Who’s in charge at UCLA? Certainly not the administrators,” Bennett told Laura Ingraham.

    Bennett explained that over the years these universities would hire “these leftists and these leftists would hire their own leftists who would then hire other leftists and we would see this transformation of the university.” Indeed.

    Instead of prioritizing critical thinking, these colleges instilled critical theory, a Marxist ideology brought to Columbia University by Herbert Marcuse and others in the 1930s from the Frankfort School in Nazi Germany. Critical theory is a Marxist, Communist ideology that pits social classes against each other. It eventually gave way to critical race theory, which pits races against each other.  This ideology divides people into oppressors versus the oppressed. These antisemitic protestors believe they are opposing the oppressors.

    Bennett also gave Alan Bloom a shout-out: “We saw this occurring and we didn’t take the steps to prevent it from spreading.”

    To their credit, Bloom, Bennett and D’Souza tried to stop the creation of illiberal monsters but higher education administrators didn’t heed their warnings.

    Watching these protests has made me glad that I did not continue to work in higher education administration. As an author, I have been freer to pursue my own scholastic endeavors. I don’t have to publish a book to please a dean so I can get tenure. I’m free to use original sources, such as the writings of George Washington, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Adams to write literary nonfiction. My latest books are a series of nonfiction stories about the flag and patriotic songs for children called Revolutionary Readers for America’s 250th.

    There is hope. In the midst of chaos, students at the University of North Carolina hoisted Old Glory after protesters had replaced it with a Palestinian flag.

    North Carolina student said he would have protected the American flag with his ‘dead body’ from ‘Marxist horde.’”

    What should happen to these elite universities? They need reformation. Colleges should prioritize teaching students to pursue truth, use critical thinking skills, follow logic and debunk fallacies. They should revisit the works of Bloom, Bennett and D’Souza’s The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society. They should disavow antisemitism in word and deed.  

    Now is also a good time for parents to consider new models of higher education, such as the Excel College in North Carolina, which prepares students for life not just a living. Students work at jobs in the community throughout their three years in college. Yes, three years, not four. Students also leave without debt.

    Money talks, especially when it walks. It’s time to walk away from today’s model of higher education and demand better.

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    Jane Hampton Cook

    Jane Hampton Cook is a presidential historian, former White House staffer and author of 10 books, including Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War. Janecook.com.

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