The public relations industry and all of academia (including development / donor relations departments) should make note of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s editorial this past weekend, entitled “US universities are pushing political agendas instead of excellence.”
Zakaria’s pointed – and, in my opinion, much-needed and long-overdue – comments highlight the toxicity poisoning campus cultures (and young minds) within American higher education’s most vaunted academic brands: including Harvard, MIT and Penn, among countless others.
While the higher virtues of the diversity and inclusion movement’s good intentions indeed include laudable objectives, including many which I support and am working to advance at a local level to promote more robust workforce pipelines into PR / communications careers, there indeed has emerged an underbelly to it when twisted to the whims of left-wing political extremism.
In fact, according to AXIOS’s coverage of an Anti-Defamation League and Hillel International report, “73% of Jewish college students say they have experienced or witnessed anti-Semitic incidents on their campuses since the start of the 2023-24 school year.”
The indictment stands against higher education campus environments at clearly far too many colleges and universities – although I should be quick to interject… not ALL colleges and universities display such a systemic problem.
For example, the University of Florida’s President Ben Sasse (former U.S. Senator – R-Neb.) stands as a case in point, given his strong leadership commentary right out the gate in October:
In support of Sasse, you’ll hear me say something you won’t ordinarily ever hear me say:
And no… it seems rather clear to me that Sasse’s statement wasn’t a result of his PR department being appropriately involved with their helping meticulously word-craft anything.
Instead, the Sasse statement clearly was Sasse being Sasse… in other words, A LEADER.
On that note, I’ll hand it to my PR colleagues straight:
Maybe someone should tell PR industry association PRSA, which, as I wrote earlier, has demonstrated a moral backbone on the matter of Hamas about as rigid as Gumby’s (not that poor Gumby is an anti-Semite!).
Outstanding as it was, Sasse’s statement nonetheless was decried by one of his faculty members as having a “chilling effect on faculty and students’ right to expression.”
Well, that’s a befuddling allegation.
Interestingly, we certainly didn’t see that faculty member lose her job by rendering her push-back, nor has other retaliation against her been reported.
We can’t say the same for conservative academicians, who experience retaliation or threats of retaliation at their places of work, all the time — a workplace-discrimination reality that’s been going on for years and years, with impunity.
From my vantage point as a moderate conservative, I want all students and academicians themselves – regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or economic resource – to share equal access to opportunities, where the merits of their own hard work and outputs can reward and benefit them.
However, American academia now finds itself in a very different place from what I’ve just described as a laudable objective.
To Mr. Zakaria’s point: Rampant partisanship, with retaliation against those who don’t tow a left-wing partisan line that finds its icky ideology in an A-OK!-alignment with hatred against the Jewish faith.
Far too many in academia are actively equivocating on hate speech stoking violence or threats of violence against one religious group. And nothing about that deplorable situation is “A-OK.”
For those higher-ed administrators and academicians who think this status-quo is alright and that there’s “nothing to see here,” they absolutely require the withdrawal of donor support from alumni and corporations and federal / state appropriation funding, to send a clear message that their clouded and unethical judgment will compute precisely into a merited economic consequence.
It’s the law of cause-and-effect.
With due credit but a different take to an X post I saw last week from New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, who cleverly mocked Penn’s Liz Magill’s self-serving PR backpedal: