Gutkin: A Decade of Ideological Transformation Comes Undone

In a wide-ranging essay in the CHE, Len Gutkin asks, “Why, in the last 10 years, have elite colleges in particular become sites of such relentless ideological confrontation and objects of such severe political contestation?” In the essay, written after the Senate hearings on antisemitism on college campuses, Gutkin observes:

…From one point of view, the antisemitism hearings were only nominally about antisemitism; they were instead a vehicle for a much larger set of grievances around a perceived campus takeover by the left under the banner of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican of South Carolina, put it, “Diversity and inclusion are a George Orwell 1984 implementation.” That might have been the hearing’s real message.

But a remarkable feature of the responses to the antisemitism hearing is that such criticisms no longer come just from the right and from a handful of contrarians on the left. On CNN, for instance, Fareed Zakaria — a reliable barometer of centrist consensus — lambasted “the broad shift that has taken place at elite universities,” in which they “have been neglecting a core focus on excellence in order to pursue a variety of agendas, many of them clustered around diversity and inclusion.” In The Washington Post, the Harvard political scientist Danielle Allen wrote that, while “the values of lowercase-i inclusion and lowercase-d diversity remain foundational to healthy democracy,” nevertheless campus “DEI bureaucracies have been responsible for numerous assaults on common sense.” Coming from Allen, who was co-chair of Harvard’s Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, these are very strong words…