by Robert Oscar Lopez, American Thinker:
Columbia University is no longer a legitimate university. It is simply a joke. One recent event – the “Julian von Abele Affair” – has shown that this organization no longer serves the common good, advances learning, or contributes anything to society.
Sadly, this joke is on the American people. The tragedy here consists of the fact that Julian von Abele’s good name has been dragged into one of the most embarrassing campus imbroglios I have seen in twenty years in higher education. More on what has happened to von Abele a little later. For now, suffice it to say, I stand with this young man because I think what has happened to him is horrendous. Nonetheless, I think he needs to do something else with his life other than attend Columbia. The institution clearly hates him and blames him for vicious attacks against his own person that he didn’t deserve. He should not attend this university, because it should not exist.
Why Columbia University Is an Utter Disgrace to Our Nation
Consider this. The framers of the Constitution studied the great works of antiquity, such as Plato’s Republic. They feared the rise of timocracies (Plato’s term). Hence, in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, they noted that the United States could not give titles of nobility at any level.
They knew that a society that falls too much into the veneration of titles and honors quickly finds the pursuit of prestige more important than the pursuit of what is good for citizens.
The rule against noble titles becomes complicated in ways few have noticed. The United States government does not grant people honors that border on nobility. Yet many institutions do. Universities give degrees unrelated to an immediate trade or profession. They and other such organizations incorporate by registering with the state. Most often, they claim tax-exempt status as “non-profit” charities. To qualify as a non-profit, they have to police themselves for conflicts of interest and prove that they serve the “public good” as opposed to the selfish interests of one clique.
Sadly, universities like Columbia become enormous hubs of financial corruption and obscurantism as people park assets there without paying taxes on them. Why? Such colleges qualify as non-profits. This happens even if they make secret and arbitrary tenure decisions, refuse admissions to people who want to attend, hold enormous endowments, maintain exclusive and powerful alumni networks, grant legacy privileges to graduates’ children, and charge repugnantly high tuition. Not only do they skip out on taxes that the general taxpayers have to foot the bill for, but such non-profits receive huge grants and benefits such as student loan guarantees.
Indirectly, the government acts as accomplice in the very timocracy the Constitution sought to thwart. Commissions such as WASC grant a limited monopoly to established schools by accrediting them while they block competitors from jumping into the game. (It is not uncommon for administrators active in running colleges to serve as commissioners despite a serious potential for graft.)
The king of England founded Columbia in 1754 and affiliated it with the Church of England, prior to the American Revolution. Then the colonies were under the monarch, who had no obligation to observe a separation between church and state. Technically, Columbia should have been abolished, but like Harvard, Yale, the College of William and Mary, and others, Columbia managed to rebrand itself under the post-revolutionary regulatory regime.
Complex tax laws and agency regulations exist as a supposed safeguard against entities like Columbia skirting the “no titles of nobility” clause and creating an unconstitutional aristocracy. Civic institutions chartered to serve the common good – such as non-profit universities with tax exemptions – have to follow their written charter. They must advance a good outside their members’ own narrow self-interests or pet fascinations.
If civic institutions stray from their mission and fall away from objective standards of truth and the common good, they become foolish timocracies. The framers knew this. In a progression described in Book VIII of Republic, timocracies collapse into oligarchies, then ochlocracies, then ultimately tyranny.
The framers had this in mind, but Columbia University, which produces much of America’s ruling class, has other ideas entirely. Its elite status has only accelerated due to its ties to two popular two-term presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower (Columbia president, 1948-53) and Barack Obama (undergraduate class of 1983). Columbia’s current president, Lee Bollinger, has served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The university’s ties to Wall Street are unmistakable. Judith Butler, grandmother to the vexed transgender movement and unofficial Jeanne d’Arc of the anti-Semitic BDS movement, serves as a Columbia professor and as the president of the Modern Language Association, arguably the most powerful single faculty organization due to the massive size of writing, literature, and language faculties across the country. Due to its proximity to Wall Street as well as New York mass media, more power networks crisscross at Columbia than anywhere else.
Racial ironies stagger the mind. Columbia University sits in Harlem. The college has displaced historic black communities through gentrification, eminent domain, and property seizures (connections to government sure come in handy). The famous 125th Street of urban lore is no longer a landscape of black city life and storefront churches – one would have to travel uptown many blocks to see that. Due to Columbia, the bustling stretch of western Manhattan from 96th Street past 125th Street has been transformed into a chic, expensive, and not predominantly black section of the “Upper West Side.”
A College in Harlem Should Be Able to Discuss Race
If we need to have frank dialogue about race, Columbia ought to be the place where that happens. It produced the only black president in U.S. history and stands as a testament to racial inequality, urban displacement, and tough social justice questions.
We need a dialogue about race, we hear. I agree, as long as we actually talk about it honestly, rather than showcase superficial issues and only let one side shout down the other while the big and ugly conundrums go unresolved (like why not dissolve Columbia and give all this back to the American people?).
The United States has always had a problem with race. We should give ourselves a break, since it is not really our fault. It all began with a man who gave Columbia University its name.
Columbia’s namesake, Christopher Columbus, landed in the West Indies at the end of the fifteenth century. Right about then, Queen Isabella, having emerged from a civil war in Spain, chose to escalate the Spanish Inquisition.
Shortly thereafter, a Protestant revolution and Catholic response would explode, leaving England and Spain as belligerents in a religiously charged rivalry to shape the globe for centuries. While Protestants and Catholics dueled, Jewish dispersion across Europe intensified. Also, Muslims encroached from the Ottoman Empire in the East and butted against the Habsburgs, paving the historical pathway to World Wars I and II, the Holocaust and founding of modern Israel, the East-West politics of the Cold War era, and current tensions with the Middle East.
Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish priest, defended the rights of Indians vigorously in the sixteenth century. His accounts of Spanish and Catholic cruelty against the Indians boosted an English Protestant public relations war against Spanish barbarism in the New World. Perhaps without intending to, Las Casas also boosted the African slave trade by saying Indians deserved freedom without rebuking his contemporaries who thought black slaves imported by the Portuguese from Africa should replace the Indians as the captive labor force in America.
The English would thereafter claim that their colonization was kinder and gentler than Spain’s. This affirmed Anglo-Saxon identity as rooted in human rights and the Magna Carta. Much of the Spanish-speaking world would thereafter play the victim and call gringos meanies. Blacks in both realms got a raw deal and have grown to be blunt about how they feel about it.
What an incredible mess. But that’s America’s history in a nutshell. Columbia University stands in Harlem, a historically black neighborhood. If Columbia cannot help people – at the very least its own students – make sense of all this, it does not deserve to exist. It should cease to operate.
Columbia Is a Joke
On a brisk night on Columbia’s campus, one skinny white youth wanders into the bottomless pit of American racial psychosis. See this video.
In what appears to most people a typical folly of drunken youth, the boy (I say “boy” because this white youth seems too young to call a man yet) declares that he loves white people, he loves being white, white people have done amazing things like medicine and industry and science, and “white people are the best thing that ever happened to the world.” It is not clear whether he is also coming out as gay, since he cries out, “I love my white men.” I hope he means in the agape sense.