The conflation of academia with politics became a hot-button issue last Friday in a discussion led by conservative writer and activist David Horowitz, CC ’59.
In an appearance organized by the Columbia University College Republicans, Horowitz discussed his new book, One Party Classroom, and a chapter in it about Columbia called “Uptown Madrassa.” Public Safety officers guarded the doors of the Roone Arledge Cinema as Horowitz addressed a crowd of about 30 students. He talked about “the disturbing intrusion of political influences on its [Columbia’s] academic culture,” which he attributed to “radical professors” bringing their agendas into the classroom.
“I can’t tell you how many students have told me about the most outrageous abuses in the classroom, but they won’t say anything because they’re afraid they’ll be punished by their liberal professors,” Horowitz said, discussing what he described as Columbia’s “disdain for intellectual diversity.”
Horowitz particularly focused on Teachers College, saying that while it is regarded as the premier graduate school of education in the country, it is an institution where there is no distinction between teaching and politics. He said that the Teachers College mantra of “teaching for ‘social justice’ is just a mask for political agendas.”
Horowitz also discussed this phenomenon at the undergraduate level, specifically citing issues he has found in the women’s studies department here and at other institutions across the country. Within this department, Horowitz said, the idea of the subordination of women has been considered a premise—not a question—which precludes the opportunity for discussion and the consideration of more conservative viewpoints.
“I have no objection to a radical feminist, provided they are teaching students how to think, not teaching them what to think,” Horowitz said. “That means when you present the theory, you inform students it’s a theory, an opinion, and you present them with the opposing idea.”
He went on to talk about specific professors at Columbia who have entered the media limelight for their political statements, alluding to anthropology professor Nicholas DeGenova who was known for expressing his wish for “a million Mogadishus” on the U.S. military in March 2003.
“Garbage! Intellectual garbage is what is being shoved down your throats here,” Horowitz said, adding, “You guys pay $40,000 ... you should be enraged.”
But beyond the curriculum, according to Horowitz, Columbia’s atmosphere at large is also one of intolerance.
“I can’t talk about Columbia without mentioning that it is a center of Jew hatred,” Horowitz said. He cited Columbia’s speaking invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he described as spearheading “a global movement to complete the job Hitler didn’t finish, to create a second Holocaust in the Middle East.”
At the same time, he acknowledged that Columbia as a whole remains a superlative institution with leading professors in their respective fields.
“90 percent of the professors here are good professors,” Horowitz said. “They are scholars and they bring into the classroom material in order to analyze it and dissect it.”
Students who attended gave the event mixed reviews.
“I think he’s right when he says that 90 percent of professors here are great, and teach their students how to think, not what to think, and there are just a few that are a problem,” said College Republicans executive director Lauren Salz, BC ’11, who is a Spectator columnist.
“He correctly pointed out that students who don’t get exposed to divergent ideas are the ones that are being most hurt by the lack of academic diversity on University faculty,” she added.
But others took issue with his speech, particularly his discussion of racism and religion.
“What connection does he have with Israel?” Roxanne Moadel-Attie, BC ’12, said. “I don’t think he has any more than I would, since he’s lived in this country for, like, clearly, generations.”