For Universities, Moratoriums, Yes; Money, No


            Pearl River      Free advice is usually worth even less than that price, since it’s unsolicited and there’s no demand for it.  In the current confusion between university bosses and student protestors on various sides of the Gaza war, it seems a free for all, so I’ll jump into the dogpile with a suggestion FWIW, for what it’s worth.

In times of division, in my brief tour on campus during the 60’s turmoil and protests over war and race and how universities should respond, one common demand to try and find consensus and agreement was a moratorium.  A moratorium was a campus-wide shutdown that mobilized everyone on campus from administration, faculty, and students to participate in teach-ins and discussions of the issues.  In the background, it offered space for negotiation and a temporary cessation of hostilities.  In the foreground, it allowed dissident voices on all sides of the question to finally be heard, and sometimes even heeded.

Hey, no guarantees, but it might work.  It would definitely work better than calling the police.  One observer after another, whether press or pundit or prof, have actually ventured into the scrum of tents and reported back that students are nonviolent, sincere, and deeply disturbed about the war.  Some come away feeling students are naïve or this or that, yes, I’m talking to you Wall Street Journal op-ed page, but still they come away in a better place than they were earlier.   Furthermore, a moratorium reminds one and all that this is a really something that should be settled within the walls of the university.  Period.  Louis Menand writing in The New Yorker made a powerful argument about how this mishandling of protests on campuses today is destroying the character and ideals of higher education and the role of professors and students, especially when it comes to academic freedom.

Loudmouths have always stepped up to criticize student activity, whether cultural or political or whatever.  Nothing is new about that.  The kowtowing by university professors to rightwing politicians all seems a lowbrow exercise in McCarthyism, and it doesn’t work any better than calling in the police.  Furthermore, after they fold like cheap suits, most of them seem to be out the door within minutes.  Why isn’t there a lesson for them to try something different?

There is another lesson everywhere, though, and that is the corrosive impact of money and the donors that give it.  If there was ever any confusion about how university presidents see their main job as raising money and pussyfooting with the donors who can give it, we have that now.  Education and the students have little or nothing to do with it.  The only proper response from donors threatening to withhold their contributions because of student protests is, “so long!”  Currying favor from the rich has no place in educational life on campus.  Any administrator who doesn’t understand that, should be stepping.  Look how quickly, Dublin’s Trinity University had to change course and capitulate to protests when they got caught too transparently putting money ahead of education and listening.  A sad and tragic embarrassment from someone proving that their base is only donors and the rich now also comes courtesy of Hillary Clinton of all people who has joined the peanut gallery essentially calling the students no-nothings.  How far she has fallen, or like the college big shots, has now revealed true colors.

My point is simple.  What happens on campus should be allowed to stay on campus, and let the parties work it out there between themselves, one way or another, be it a moratorium or a direct negotiation, and tune out the rest of the chaos and let the rich keep their money in their pockets.