"When the rape of Israeli women cannot be unequivocally condemned because of their status as Jews... it is clear that many of the country’s putatively best minds are unable to make basic moral judgments." --Ben Sasse
In "The Moral Decline of Elite Universities," published in The Atlantic, Ben Sasse offers a compelling critique of the current state of higher education, emphasizing its impact on Jewish students and the Jewish community. He draws a parallel between the evasive behavior of tobacco executives in the 1990s and the attitudes of today's university presidents, particularly in their handling of issues related to anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sasse's article brings to light the concerning stance of these educational leaders on crucial matters. He underscores the irony of how, in some academic circles, the oppression of Israeli women and calls for genocide need "additional context" before being condemned, illustrating a troubling moral ambiguity when it comes to matters affecting Jewish people.
The piece also delves into the broader issue of "intersectionality" in academia, which Sasse argues has led to a skewed understanding of victimhood and oppression. This, he suggests, has had a direct and detrimental impact on Jewish students on campuses, where their experiences and concerns are often dismissed or minimized due to their perceived societal status.
Sasse reflects on how this ideological shift might affect the perception of historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr. He posits that King's emphasis on universal human dignity might not fit well with current academic narratives, as evidenced by his statement: "It’s gut-wrenching to think that America’s greatest civil-rights leader...would have his 'Letter From Birmingham Jail' criticized and dismissed for citing only dead white males if it were written today."
The article is not just a critique but a call to action, urging a return to classical liberal values in higher education. Sasse advocates for a recommitment to the pursuit of truth, individual merit, and the appreciation of diverse viewpoints, including those of Jewish students and the broader Jewish community.
In summary, Sasse's article is a thought-provoking examination of the moral challenges facing elite universities, especially in their treatment of Jewish students and issues. He calls for an academic environment where intellectual curiosity, respectful disagreement, and the pursuit of truth are paramount, fostering a more inclusive and understanding academic community.