To the Editor: Betsy DeVos, the improbable and should-have-been impossible (but nonetheless Senate-confirmed by the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote) U.S. Education Secretary, is a massively flawed cabinet member.
It is hard to avoid condemning her because she has abused and soiled her official position. It sticks in my craw and goes against my grain to concede she has taken one sensible step.
But she has. A fluke rarer than a blizzard in June.
She recently warned about the wildfire of anti-Semitism on college campuses. It takes many forms, is spewed by different sources, cloaked in coded language, ancient libels, historical revisionism and geopolitical half-truths, conjured by a variety of pretexts, hijacked and driven by corrupt ideology and inspired by vile and wilful ignorance.
Sometimes it has been overt violence that has been fostered by the passive tolerance of authorities too misguided or otherwise ill-equipped to quash it. (College presidents make a lot of money.) It has been finessed into debates on world affairs to give it a patina of legitimacy and insinuated into impertinent philosophical confrontations.
Some college administrations have failed to defend the free-speech rights of all students without fear or favor. Invited guests of student organizations, which are subsidized in part by Federal funds, have been forced to cancel their appearances at open forums and in some instances flee under police escort.
If the speakers were given to hate speech or extremist views, an argument might be made whether their presence should be accepted, even if begrudgingly. But for the most part they have been no less mainstream than those who have mobbed and sometimes assaulted them.
Perhaps the college administrations are simply taking the path of least resistance.
But history teaches us that keeping the peace at any cost may smack more of cowardice than of principle. We must guard against a resurgence of anti-Semitism on college campuses in all its pretexts and guises. It may be contributing to the grievous spike of crimes against Jews, who are the leading religious group targeted for hate crimes in America today, according to the FBI.
My personal views on topical issues in the news that directly or may tangentially relate to Jewish “interests” or “causes” should not be taken for granted or assumed.
But if Betsy DeVos recognizes and condemns anti-Semitism and is prepared to wield the powers of the Federal Government to unequivocally fight it, she is acting honorably, even though she must step out of character to do so. Colleges that receive Federal funding but violate equal-protection clauses should not enjoy the endowment of taxpayers.
My hands are indisposed to clapping for Betsy DeVos, but I applaud any reasonable action to stop pogroms on the college quad.
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