Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Former Indiana governor rips ‘moral confusion,’ ‘hypocrisy’ of colleges where antisemitism has festered

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Former Indiana governor and Purdue University President Emeritus Mitch Daniels rebuked American universities for allowing antisemitism to spread on their campuses in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

In a Washington Post column titled, “How Oct. 7 revealed the moral vacuity of U.S. higher education,” Daniels slammed colleges where pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli protests have taken place since the attack. In many of these campus demonstrations, protesters have accused the Jewish people of oppressing Gazans to the point where Hamas launched the assault in retaliation.

Daniels accused these universities of “wallowing in moral confusion and hypocrisy” over the issue and expressed hope that this “disgraceful moment” helps college administrators reflect on their poor decisions over the years.

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Daniels began his essay by reminiscing on how impressed he was with his Jewish neighbors growing up in Indianapolis, stating, “As much as I admired my Jewish friends’ grades and study habits, I marveled even more at the values with which many were raised.”

Providing a couple of anecdotes characterizing his admiration, he continued, “On Halloween, when I was out practicing minor vandalism and raking in all the candy I could carry home, many of my Jewish classmates were out collecting donations for UNICEF. As an incensed nation grieved for three young civil rights volunteers killed in Mississippi in 1964, we were unsurprised to learn that two of the victims who had been working for equality in the South were Jewish.”

The former governor also recalled how he had Jewish roommates in college in the 1960s, and mentioned how he, at that time, witnessed Israel’s neighbors vow to destroy the country and its people amid the Six-Day War. 

Daniels acknowledged that his school “like many others, had discriminated blatantly against Jews for much of its history, and was only then admitting and atoning for it.” He added that he never expected people like himself – “raised in such an era” – to have to face the antisemitism that has come in recent weeks following the Hamas attack. 

He condemned its return, calling it a “cause for dejection at how far the sector has fallen, and how little many young Americans know of essential history once so immediate and universally understood.”

Daniels didn’t just rebuke the confused and ill-formed students, he also admonished their administrators for feeding these ideas in an echo chamber.

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“By now, too many of those running these institutions have, to their detriment, spent their adult lives closeted with people with views identical to their own, but vastly different from a majority of their fellow citizens,” he wrote, adding, “It came as a shock to them that their moral-equivalence dithering over Israel’s right to self-defense met with such outrage.”

He also slammed these faculty members for their tepid responses when they came, stating, “. After pontificating so often about ‘microaggressions,’ ‘hostile environments’ and ‘hate speech’ of vastly lesser virulence and almost never true violence, they could not suddenly remain institutionally mute about the real items.”

The former Purdue president added, “Having suppressed and ‘canceled’ speech at variance with the dogmas dominant on their campus, they had no answer for those who called, unwisely in my opinion, for the suppression of speech or the outright banning of organizations espousing hatred and endorsing atrocity.”

Despite Daniels’ apparent disgust at this proliferation of antisemitism on campus, he expressed hope it might shake things up. “But maybe this disgraceful moment can be at least partially redeemed if it encourages some self-awareness in these administrators and reduces some of the arrogance that has caused increasing numbers of Americans to turn away from attending college altogether,” he wrote.

The former governor concluded, “Higher ed has operated for too long in a homogenous, non-diverse bubble of groupthink. America would benefit if that bubble were burst by the sudden discovery of a larger world of people who see things very differently.”

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