The Sickness of Our Universities—and the Cure

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

The sheer madness that has gripped many elite universities since October 7 and the butchery, rape, torture, and mutilation of some 1,000 Israeli civilians by Hamas murderers have shocked the public at large.

Campus craziness is, of course, nothing new. But quite novel for campuses was the sudden jettisoning of prior campus pretenses. Universities have brazenly dropped their careful two-faced gymnastics to reveal at last–unapologetically, proudly, and defiantly–the moral decay that now characterizes American higher education.

Recent news stories have exposed this rot to the world, and will have grave repercussions for higher education in the next few years.

The Nazis once desecrated the tombstones of dead Jews. Our campuses have updated that hatred. Students now tear down pictures of Jewish captives kidnapped or murdered by Hamas. University presidents do not condemn the hate-filled rallies supporting the killing of Jews in Israel, even though, according to their own safety-first ideology and prior proclamations about systemic hatred, these rallies instill a “climate of fear” in some students.

An instructor at Stanford separated Jewish students from their belongings, ordered them to stand in the corner, boasted about denying the Holocaust, and singled them out for unhinged rantings. Screaming campus activists and professors openly support Hamas even after its brutal killing of hundreds of Israeli women, children, and infants. That for more than two weeks thousands of rockets—barrages initially designed to enhance the surprise mass murdering of October 7—daily continue to shower down upon Israeli cities is of zero concern to loud campus activists.

An even bolder Cornell history faculty member bragged that he was “exhilarated” on news that Jews were butchered on October 7. A UC Davis professor threatened to go after the children of “Zionist journalists.” “Savages”, “excrement” and “pigs” are the adjective and nouns one professor at the Art Institute of Chicago posted to describe Israelis.

At rallies and protests, hundreds shout about eliminating Israel altogether; students, faculty, and throngs in general occasionally wear masks or wrap their faces in keffiyehs, as if conceding that most would find anyone identifiably mouthing such advocacy despicable. In some sense, such campus haters have become the equivalent of anti-Semitic sheet-wearing Klansmen.

There was plenty of prior evidence to predict the hate-filled, bigoted, campus reaction to the mass murder of hundreds of Jews inside Israel. The ideology of “decolonization” that today condemns Israel, and the West generally, has had many equally rancid predecessors.

Racially segregated housing reappeared years ago as “theme houses.” Effectively segregated, no-go areas are euphemistically known as “multi-cultural rooms.” Any critics who have objected to such institutionalized racism, in Orwellian fashion, have been smeared as racists.

Events that are off-limits to particular races on campus—like separate but equal graduation ceremonies or campus activities—are heralded as “celebrating diversity.”

Joseph-McCarthy-era “loyalty oaths” have returned to campus under the woke veneer of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statements.” Refuse to issue such a personal manifesto—and one will suffer career consequences.

Unpopular or unwelcome questioning of left-wing university orthodoxy is libeled as “hate speech.” Dissenting views are officially censored, slandered and suppressed as “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

Face unproven allegations of “inappropriate behavior” and one can expect to lose one’s 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights in any star-chamber university inquiry.

Admissions to universities, along with faculty hiring, retention, and tenure, are predicated on racial preferences and de facto quotas.

Even before the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action, universities had already galvanized to implement ways to ignore its anticipated ruling—in good Confederate nullification style.

The old notion of “disparate impact” and “proportional representation” that set hiring and admission quota on the basis of racial demographics have given way to a sort of “reparatory” admissions—in which whites, regardless of grades and test scores, are collectively to be admitted and hired in far smaller numbers than found in the general population, and certain non-white groups, particularly East and South Asians, are actively discriminated against.

The old Enlightenment notion of not stereotyping entire groups as a faceless collective, and instead seeing persons as diverse and unique individuals, has given way to sloppy sloganeering like “white privilege,” “white supremacy” and “white rage.” Campuses apparently believe that a working class mechanic in Fresno County or a minimum wage tractor driver in Dayton, Ohio enjoys more power and privilege than Oprah Winfrey or Ibrahim Kendi.

For the last few decades, the public has been willing to put up with all this madness in higher education—even as political correctness squashed free speech on campus and affirmative action descended into woke racial essentialism.


One: universities assured America that their preeminent math, science, technology, and engineering departments—along with their professional medical and business schools—remained largely apolitical, research-orientated, and meritocratic.

Those departmental commitments to excellence without political interference had in the past always ensured American dominance in global research and development.

Two: the bachelor’s degree was once acknowledged as solid proof of a general education.

Graduation from college once supposedly certified that a citizen entered the work force with historical literacy, as well as enriched by philosophy, literature, and art.

Graduates also then purportedly understood our Constitution and civic life. They were assumed to have basic computational skills, as well as being versed in inductive reasoning and in analytical reading, writing, and speaking ability.

In other words, millions of college graduates were to share common skill sets— and that reality would help to ensure a complex and moral American democracy.

Unfortunately, neither of these two arguments for widespread college enrollment is any longer true. It is unnecessary to rehearse the sad decline of the humanities and the associated general civic education courses at today’s universities. Everyone is by now familiar with the multitude of “grievance studies” courses, therapeutic studies classes, and social activist degrees that have largely replaced conventional history and literature programs. Tragically, the rot has also spread to the sciences.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was systemic, campus-led censorship of dissenting scientific views, witch hunts of distinguished health care professionals, and de facto suppression of open scientific debate over the safety and efficacy of vaccines and the cost-benefit value of the lockdowns.

Medical-school doctors were demonized if they argued that there was scientific support for augmenting COVID-19 treatment with existing cheap, off-label pharmaceuticals, and even vitamin and supplement regimens. Authors of scientifically-based arguments that the origins of the COVID-19 virus was to be found at the Wuhan virology lab in China were demonized and their conclusions smeared rather than refuted.

In addition, any university-related scientific dialogue over the degree of and remedy for man-made, fossil-fuel-induced climate change must adhere to strict orthodoxies. Any apostates will risk having their careers curtailed and endangered.

It is also perilous for researchers, doctors, and public-health experts on campuses to question the recent dogma that sex is entirely socially constructed rather than biologically determined.

The university-trained computer minds that fuel Silicon Valley’s high tech industry have weaponized their Internet search results to prioritize links deemed socially and politically preferable.

University graduates are also past masters at Internet shadow-banning, doxxing, blacklisting, and canceling any person, institution, or idea that is felt to be detrimental to or at odds with the progressive agenda.

As for business, law, and medical schools–they now transfer much of their finite resources away from honing professional skills to ideological indoctrination in supposed diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As a result, universities have lost their century-long credibility as guardians of free and open scientific inquiry. Any contemporary university scientist who followed a renegade devotion to disinterested science–as embodied by Democritus, Galileo, or Copernicus–would encounter the same premodern character assassination, groupthink opposition, and efforts to destroy his career.

In sum, if exorbitantly priced higher education can no longer produce either a class of broadly educated citizens, or an empirically-trained and elite scientific, professional, and technological class, then why would Americans any longer put up with universities’ unapologetic indoctrination—a sort of interference with the university’s mission so reminiscent of the disastrous Russian commissar system that had nearly destroyed the Red Army at the outset of World War II?

Reform will only come through curtailing the government handouts that fuel multibillion dollar university endowments. Such unprecedented affluence ensures lavish campus budgets that in turn subsidize racist, anti-Semitic, and McCarthyite policies and institutions.

Just tax the income from the roughly $1 trillion of America’s tax exempt university endowments and perhaps there would not be quite enough money for courses on cartoons, cross-dressing, and BLM, much less for thousands of DEI commissars and censors.

Stop federal funds to any university that refuses to ensure Bill-of-Rights protections for its students.

If the SAT and ACT are increasingly dropped for admissions to universities, then an exit version of them should be required to ensure that all BA and BS degrees certify at least a minimum competence in math, science, and general knowledge.

Get the government out of the $1.8 trillion student loan business—and perhaps campuses would understand the concept of moral hazard. Only then would they monitor carefully extraneous expenditures and begin graduating students in four years—with the skills that employers so desperately need and the knowledge that a democracy relies upon.

If thousands of big donors who give billions of dollars to Ivy League and other tony universities were to “just say no,” then perhaps grasping deans, provosts, and presidents would begin to wonder whether they could fund any more rock climbing walls, latte bars, DEI czars, drag shows—and hate-Israel courses and student organizations.

In short, colleges are now a bad deal—far too costly, too political, and too incompetent in fulfilling their mission to the country. They no longer can deliver on what they were created for, and they simply will not stop fueling things that are not just unnecessary, but downright injurious to the country, scary, and destructive.

Who wishes to continue with all that?


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45 thoughts on “The Sickness of Our Universities—and the Cure”

  1. We’re watching the implosion of the once-great United States of America. I doubt that even Donald Trump could reverse it now. It was good while it lasted.

  2. Any foreign students should lose their visas and any chance of gaining citizenship.
    American students should have Civic courses as a requirement.

    1. Tje gradeschool I attended in the 1950’s taught civics well and completely, right alongside the history of our founding era. By fourth grade’s end I understood the structure, form, and function of our federal government, adn that of my state. Fifth grade we went deep into our founding era history. That is still with me sixty years on. WHAT have we lost? Can we get it back?
      turn out the traitors and perhaps we can, IF we decide we must.

  3. Robert Westmoreland

    Problem is, the parental demand for prestigious window stickers to advertise Caitlin’s or Justin’s admission to Yale appears to be inelastic.

  4. We love Victor. He is a very important thinker who is trying to defeat the wokeism of the left. However he is terrible at predicting elections. In 2022 he predicted a landslide for the GOP in the House and Senate and it did not happen largely because SCOTUS overturned Roe v Wade. Now Victor is not giving Trump much of a chance to win. Victor was wrong then and he will be wrong now

    1. I hope you are correct on this coming Presidential election. It is The Donald’s to lost the Rep.nomination, and if we entered a recession ( highly likely) next year, that is @90% certain defeat for any incumbent. CNBC – no right wing network- reported last week
      that Trump would beat Biden if election held today.

      1. Trump will when if the election is not stolen. I believe it was stolen in 2020. So let us learn from that.

        I also believe if things were on the up and up, Kari Lake would now be governor of Arizona.
        I recall her saying that one predominately Republican precinct had an extended “glitch” with the voting machines. They ran out of toner ink and it took hours to get some. Voters waited as long as they could, but many had to leave before being able to vote. They were effectively denied their lawful vote.

        Still the legitimacy of the vote tally in this district was allowed to stand. This is simply unfair.

        Here (in my view) is how this situation should have been handled:
        All votes should have been tossed out for this precinct and there should have been another special election for this precinct in a couple of weeks, or so, later. This time make sure it will go smoothly. Have extra back-up machines, toner, observers, etc., etc. on hand.

        This remedy should be a model for all such precincts where there were significant voter irregularities. Such irregularities must not stand.

        Strange that such irregularities disproportionately occur in precincts that favored Trump!

    2. Hope you’re right about Trump being elected. We need strong, commonsensical leadership which the other Republican candidates don’t seem to offer in much abundance. Most everything they say seems to be nuanced, so as not to offend any voters.
      Conservatives & independents need to turn out in droves to defeat the woke, Marxist agenda based on race & gender that can only result in mediocrity and a gradual, now hastening, decline of civilization.

    3. Trump was a good President. Not a very nice man, but a good President. He needs the vote of the Establishment Republicans he belittles, but, ruffled, they simply will not vote for him. Plus, the Left counts the votes and controls the voting apparatus in swing states. They did not allow Trump to win in 2020, and will not allow him to win in 2024. Republicans are shortsighted and incompetent, “led” by Mitt Romney’s niece. Biden will not be on the ballot. It really doesn’t matter which Social Democrat is on the ballot. Democracy no longer works in America. Just look at who is President, who is VP, and who occupies Democract seats in the House (a sordid bunch). John Adams rightly said that our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people, and is solely inadequate to the government of any other. By any measure, we are no longer a moral and religious people. John Adams was right.

  5. Two things changed college education and reduced it to just a piece of paper.
    1. The Globalist Communist infiltrated and pushed like minded teachers and professors to follow Alensky’s plan to brainwash the young people.
    2. Mass increase in bogus for profit colleges like Phoenix, Colorado Technical College, Webster, SNHU, ITT, etc. These “colleges” need to stay in the Tech School market with 2 year certificates, not fake diploma’s for Bachelor degrees.

    This is what killed Universities.

    1. Point number one, start with the local rot within the US already, and bubbling bubbling toiling and troubling since about the time of the Great New Deal and the early commie influencers back in the twenties.. nineteen twenties, that is. Examine tthe record of how the government funded school system coopted locally run schools, launching a very costly and ineffective leviathan. Yes, there are outside infiltrators these days, but the soil of this rot has been long tilled since the 1920’s or earlier.

      Your second cause is a non0starter. tthese private wannabe college/trade/voc schools are NOT competition for the major universities. NEver have been. Horse of a nuther colour.

  6. As a 1977 College graduate for my BS and a 1981 graduate for my MS degree in Entomology, I say AMEN Victor. It was worth it then, but meaningless and destructive now.

  7. Bobbie Frankenfield

    You hit it out of the park, again. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible ability to see it as it is.

  8. At a professional society meeting last week, a colleague who is Panamanian and who lived and worked in the US for twenty years, said that students in Latin America no longer view US universities as the “gold standard,” but prefer to apply to European and Latin American universities.

  9. Well, they have certainly outed themselves now as the racists that we knew they are when pointing their fingers at everyone else who is white. Parents who pay for this indoctrination are not very educated either.

  10. The cure only happens if free citizen voters elect candidates legitimately. Otherwise no one turns off taxpayer aid to the degenerate academia.

  11. Victor Davis Hanson is correct on many levels. I graduated with a BS degree in 1970 and have watched the decline in education as I raised my children and watched my grandchildren attempt to become “educated” adults. I have worked with and supervised many college grads and have noted the decline in their ability to reach simple standards in our written language and in simple math requirements. Now in my twilight years I fear for the future of us “old folks” but equally worry about the situation facing my children and their children as they are forced to confront this miasma. “In a democracy, you don’t get what you want, you get what you deserve.” (Auth. Unk)

  12. You can get a better education at Hillsdale, Liberty University, Trinity University, Bethel College, and others that are better than Harvard, etc. I turned down Princeton for Trinity University in Deerfield, IL. Liberty University has a good law school. This said, I hope the old once standards in education wake up and get back to basic quality education that made America the greatest nation in the world.


    Dear Dr. Hanson:
    1. Thank you
    2. Let’s stop referring to universities as “elite.”
    3. Tax the endowments and the donors to the endowments at the top rate (no write offs).
    4. Use existing endowment funds to pay off student debt.
    5. For those of us to be reprogrammed (per Ms. Hilliary’s wishes), use the universities. I need a useless MBA or PhD.
    6. Does anyone think this group of current students or professors would hesitate for 1 minute to use Hamas tactics or Nazi eugenics against their fellow Americans who may disagree with the woke? They only need a little more convincing that they will face no consequences! They had a nice trial run in nursing homes during the pandemic. My news feed is full of propaganda about why boomers and other groups are so hated, trying to make it the norm!
    7. Today’s college education appears to be the ability to speak nonsense with perfect diction!

    1. I mean, like, yoo know, but then maybe um someone said sompin like maybe….. ya know? Uh, kewl, I mean……

      “perfect diction”? Not that I’ve heard lately. FEW can carry on an intellligent conversation, far fewer still can do so without the above air-filling meaningless drivel.

  14. Fox. Henhouse. This will never happen.

    If we eliminated the Dept of Education, I could see possibly a glimmer of hope. You have to start somewhere.

    Other than this small issue of reality, I agree with VDH’s ideas for fixing our universities.

    The media is the biggest problem. They are in charge of shaping the “realities” of our citizenry, which have nothing to do with actual reality. The media appears to be controlled by governmental forces, given their lockstep agreement in promoting obvious lies.

    So I ask: Why should the government stop trying to control the public through the media? Why would the government stop supporting bogus and one-way research in our universities?

    Our only chance is through concerted and focused public action. Don’t send your kids to woke universities. Don’t pay attention to lying woke media. Don’t buy products from woke corporations. Vote out woke idiots whenever possible.

    The people will turn this around, not government action.

    It’s either that, or we keep drifting further into the many woke fables forced upon us everyday.

    1. Thank you, I agree with much of what you say, especially about a concerted & focused public action to defeat the leftists.

  15. I wonder if the demonstrators and the people supporting them should be investigated for connections to the terrorist group Hamas. Are they not offering ‘aid and comfort’ to the terrorist activities?

  16. Do you mean to say my $205,000 Masters in Medieval Transsexual Mime is useless? Well, let me tell you something, mister! Oops, I’ll get back to you later; I have a customer.

  17. Most colleges are a joke, and everybody knows it. The more “elite”, the bigger the joke.

    It’s time to go our own way with Schools like Hillsdale. Stop giving treasure to communist organizations. Now.

  18. This was very well discussed as the results of these colleges deviating from their original missions to prepare Protestant Clergy.

    The best book on this, The Soul of the American University, by George M Marsden. Below is an update. But if you are really historically minded, start with Academe post Civil War when the German model of research university took hold.

  19. As a non Jew student I’d have that professor lining up the Jewish students running for the door. Guess I’d also be the one the university would be willing to admonish and press charges against 😂

  20. Dear Victor and Friends, Thank you very much for sharing my earlier comment. I just now finished listening to Robert Fritz’s The Path of Least Resistance on Audible, narrated by Rosalind Fritz. Also now available on Audible, Creating by Robert Fritz, narrated by Rosalind Fritz. Robert’s most recent and last book, The Path of Least Resistance for Artists. July 1992, I discovered Robert and Rosalind. He’s America’s #1 Self Help, Business Management Author. All Children, Teenagers, Adults and Seniors Can Learn 1 Proven, Dependable and Repeatable Method 2 Create The Path of Least Resistance 2 Better Serve. Please investigate Robert and Rosalind Fritz. Creatively Yours, Russell Warren Kukla PS: ASAP We Need Robert On TED ;~)

  21. The real problem is that they are being taught by professors who received fake PhDs from non-rigorous academic programs and are hired on the basis of their race/gender/political views who teach students who are in non-rigorous academic programs.

    Proof: How else do these fools have the time to babble on these issues rather than be in class, labs, and studying?

  22. I picked up a 1941 high school yearbook at a Connecticut yard sale a couple years ago. I was astounded at the pictures of students who appeared eager to join the adult world. They dressed in what would have been considered business attire 30 years ago. It then occurred to me that the youth pull down the grown-up rather than the grown-ups pulling up the youth. We need to define what grown-up is and don’t compromise it.

  23. Our son has a degree in music. He wasn’t able to study the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute of considerable beauty) because the Prof didn’t want to be accused of “cultural appropriation”. Our son was born in Chiba, Japan. My daughter has chosen to pursue a career that does not require going to Uni. I have three degrees. My true love has two. We value education, but we don’t believe for a minute that our daughter would get one here in Canada so we are delighted with her career decision.

  24. The cure is to disappear all professors and administrators. Then bulldoze all the buildings down. Finally we can start over.

  25. An instructor at Stanford separated Jewish students from their belongings, ordered them to stand in the corner, boasted about denying the Holocaust, and singled them out for unhinged rantings.

    these students must lawyer up and file a formal grievance. They were discriminated against based upon their ethnic background, they were denied their liverties as guaranteed by our US Constitution, were threatened, had their pwersonal effects taken unrightfully. The corrupt individual imposing this discrimination upin them MUST be hald to account.. else no one else is safe. He walks away scot free, it will guarantee this lout does it again.
    I would have stood my ground and demanded law enforcement to come and mediate. Having experienced a situation like this, no matter the outcome, I’d be done with that institution anyway, so standing firm gets me in more trouble? Fine. Nothing lost. And plenty of evidence for a big fat lawsuit, and criminal charges against this dirtbag.

  26. Ronald Reagan: “Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

    A recent Wall Street Journal survey reveals that young people in particular are responsible for driving the loss of importance of patriotism. 59% of Americans age 65 and older say that patriotism is “very important” to them, compared with only 23% of adults under age 30. Similar gaps with respect to interest in religion, hard work and having children.

  27. Lowering standards at Universities has consequences as it does elsewhere. Remove funding and let them tap their huge endowments. Unfortunately, I don’t see any leadership that has the will to call out the hatred and evil yet defund these despicable institutions.

  28. I don’t understand why any parent would send there children to any school in America? They no the school will make there children stupid and strip there morals away. It makes no sense to me. The schools and colleges would straighten up or close with half the class gone. Parents love to bitch but got no balls any longer. I here it all the time from them but they take no action. We have collectively grown weak. I think Islam will soon wipe us out, cause we got no balls, no fight in us. America, I’m afraid, is done.

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