No, Mr. Mayor, Outside Organizers Are Not Responsible for Student Radicalism

While there are malevolent outside actors doing what they can with universities, the influential corruption is internal.

In his May 1 press conference on the university student demonstrations, occupations, and riots, New York Mayor Eric Adams blamed outside professional organizers for radicalizing our young people in universities in New York, on campuses throughout the country, and around the world. Exactly who these sinister outside forces are, the mayor did not specify.

Of course, the mayor is correct that there are outside professional organizers and agitators who have infiltrated campuses and encouraged even more extreme measures by demonstrators. Everyone sees the uniformity across the country of materials provided, such as tents and signs.

Yes, these are malevolent forces bent on transforming or destroying the United States. But funders and organizers are facilitators and enablers, not primary motivators. Mr. Adams is right in saying that professionals are behind these upheavals. But outside agitators and funders are not shaping the hearts and minds of university students. Rather, the professionals responsible for students’ mindsets are not external to universities; they are the employees of universities, who have been working on the students, miseducating them, throughout their entire university careers.

The satirical website Babylon Bee gets it right. With reference to the occupation of the Columbia University administration building, the Bee article headline is “Oh No! Indoctrinated Woke Extremists Destroy Woke Extremist Indoctrination Center.”

Quoting an imaginary university official, the Bee stated: “‘We didn’t see this coming,’ said one official. ‘After spending decades brainwashing young, impressionable people into volatile, savage revolutionaries, we were shocked to see them unleash such volatility and savagery while trying to launch a revolution. We wish there had been warning signs along the way.’”

Would that this were only humorous parody. Alas, it is an accurate representation of our universities in the 21st century. The many professors who have joined the demonstrators-occupiers-rioters, and who knows how many administrators and staff, is proof of the nature of today’s education.

The Bee continued:

“Students who engaged in the violent attack were thankful for the years of intense training they received from the institution they were now actively working to destroy. …

“At publishing time, the school’s leadership was confident that the government would do nothing to impede their ongoing efforts to make the country worse and more dangerous.”

The many pleas from well-meaning observers for the occupiers to desist so that students can return to their classes are beside the point. Their classes are where they were radicalized. The faculty itself is almost entirely radicalized.

Left-wing university monoculture today is nothing like the Enlightenment-based university that I attended in the mid-20th century, where the emphasis was on searching for the objective truth of reality using reason, evidence, and well-founded conclusions. Universities have now rejected the search for truth in favor of activism based on far-left Marxist “truths,” which may not be questioned.

Among these “truths” is the certainty that all people in the world are divided between evil, ruthless oppressors and exploiters and innocent, noble victims. In this class conflict, which is the only important feature of human life, black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), LGBT people, females, the disabled, and Muslims are all innocent victims of whites, Asians, and Jews, heterosexuals, males, the able, and Christians.

“Victims” are represented in universities by grievance subjects, which at first leaked into but then flooded the humanities and social sciences. Feminist, Black, Queer, Islamic, and Disabled Studies do not exist to investigate truth and reality but to advocate for the victims they represent, and to spur change to the advantage of their designated category.

As part of this project, one common belief among grievance subjects, and now the humanities and social sciences, is that Western civilization must be abandoned as oppressive, and Western countries, such as the United States and Canada, must be transformed entirely or destroyed. Anti-colonial studies “prove” that these countries are in any case invalid and that the American and Canadian citizens are “colonial settlers” without legitimate standing.

University administrators are not innocent victims of these trends. On the contrary, they are primary instigators. They impose the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” manifestations of the “social justice” ideology, leading to official implementation of reverse racism, reverse sexism, and segregation. Discrimination against “oppressors” is not only tolerated; it is also systematically imposed and celebrated.

While student bodies have remained consistent in size, and the professoriat has, if anything, shrunk, not to mention the increased reliance on untenured, temporary “sessional” lecturers (a great financial saving), administrations have exploded in size, increasing to double or triple in most universities. One source of this is “DEI officers,” hired at every level and in every unit, at huge cost, to serve as political commissars policing thought and speech, so that no one can deviate from politically “correct” belief and expression.

Any professor, lecturer, or instructor professing opinions not in line with “social justice” and radical change are quickly identified and surrounded by DEI commissars and forced to confess error, go to re-education programs, lose privileges of various kinds—forget promotion and funding—and, if stubborn in deviation, termination outright, and banishment from the university. This puts great power in the hands of students, who only have to say that they are offended by what a professor says, and she (more rarely he today) is on the chopping block.

So while there are malevolent outside actors doing what they can with universities, the influential corruption is internal. If you block the outsiders, nothing will change. The universities are the source of the radicalism.


Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.


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