Universities: The Last Refuge for the Left

When Brandeis shut down an exhibit of Palestinian art last week, the organizer promptly found a new home for it

When Brandeis shut down an exhibit of Palestinian art last week, the organizer promptly found a new home for it across town at MIT. Then this week a group of Brandeis faculty started a petition drive to have the exhibit brought back to Brandeis. They have gotten 90 signatures, including many Jews. I’ve posted it below. Yes the art was censored, but it’s up again, with a ton of attention.

The support underscores something Alan Dershowitz says—that universities are hotbeds of leftwing thought. I agree. The question is why? Why are leftwing ideas that are marginalized elsewhere in the culture doing fine at universities?

I think the answer is, There’s nowhere else for these ideas to go; and they are less dangerous in universities than, say, in Washington. Consider the alternatives. It’s virtually impossible to be a leftwing intellectual in the Washington thinktank community: you don’t get funded. Yes there’s George Soros, but he’s the exception that proves the rule. It’s fine to be a leftleaning liberal in the Maistream Media, where everyone is a Democrat who supports abortion and has murmurous questions about Iraq; but you can’t be too outspoken about it, or again you’ll get marginalized. Weekly opinion magazines are also not very hospitable to lefties, and it can’t be easy to be a leftwing analyst in the Executive Branch staff positions that help form policy. All those Arabists at State, for instance, keeping their heads down. Colleges are the only game in town.

It is a conservative-dominated country. Big business plays a huge role in our public life. It funds the thinktanks and the media. It funds campaigns. There are tons of privileged Americans with leftwing views, but not many places for them to actually apply their thinking. The universities are deemed harmless enough. There these thinkers will only educate young people, in places far from Washington.

The sad part for the left is that its braintrust is so unengaged in the real world. Its idea-people are alienated, and don’t have a practical bone in their bodies. They get to hold forth at dinner parties.


Brandeis University
May 8, 2006

To: Jehuda Reinharz, President
Marty Krauss, Provost

Statement regarding the removal of Lior Halperin’s (’09) exhibit from the
university library.

A group of concerned faculty decided last night, Sunday, to collect signatures
from the faculty on the statement below. We circulated the list through
colleagues, who in turn sent it on to their colleagues. In less than 24
hours, we have collected some ninety signatures. It is our hope that the
university will very quickly find a way to do as the faculty members, who
have signed the statement, have urged, namely find a suitable way to
re-exhibit Lior’s project.

We did not use a university-generated mailing list, and there may well be many
members of the faculty who have not seen the statement or had a chance to
submit their names. For this reason, we request that the university
circulates the statement and the list of signatures by email to the entire

We, the undersigned, regard the removal of Lior Halperin’s (’09) exhibit from
the university library as a mistake, and we expect the university to find a
suitable way for Lior to exhibit her project.

Mark Adler (MATH)
Silvia M. Arrom (HIST)
Robert A. Art (POL)
Mark Auslander (ANTH)
Lisette Balabarca (SPAN)
Marc Brettler (NEJS)
Bernadette Brooten (NEJS)
Seyom Brown (POL)
Joan Bryant (AAAS)
John Burt (ENG)
Steven L. Burg (POL)
Mary Baine Campbell (ENG)
Anne Carter (ECON)
Stephen Cecchetti (ECON)
Bulbul Chakraborty (PHYS)
Ruth Charney (MAT)
Trenery Dolbear (ECON)
David Engermen (HIST)
Irving Epstein (CHEM)
Gordon Fellman (SOC)
William Flesch (ENG)
Dian Fox (ROCL)
Bruce M. Foxman (CHEM)
Gregory Freeze (HIST)
Richard Gaskins (AMST)
Anne Gershenson (CHEM)
Michael T. Gilmore (ENG)
Nance Goldstein (WSRC)
Jane Hale (ROCL)
Karen V. Hansen (SOC)
Erica Harth (ROCL)
Michael Henchman (CHEM)
James Hendrickson (CHEM)
Donald Hindley (POL)
Eric Hill (Theater Arts)
Eli Hirsch (PHIL)
Mark Hulliung (HIST)
Caren Irr (ENG)
Ray Jackendoff (PSYCH)
Paul Jankowski (HIST)
Gary Jefferson (ECON)
Patricia A. Johnston (CLAS)
Jackie Jones (HIST)
Peter Jordan (CHEM)
Jane Kamensky (HIST)
Edward Kaplan (ROCL)
Thomas A. King (ENG)
Jytte Klausen (POL)
Ann-Olga Koloski-Ostrow (CLAS)
Daniel Kryder (POL)
Robert V. Lange (PHYS)
Susan S. Lanser (ENG, WGS)
Richard Lansing (ROCL)
Blake LeBaron (IBS)
Henry Linschitz (CHEM)
Marya Lowry (Theater Arts)
Harry Mairson (COSI)
Jim Mandrell (ROCL)
Rachel McCulloch (ECON)
Robert B. Meyer (PHYS)
Chris Miller (BIOL)
Laura J. Miller (SOC)
Paul Miller (PHYS)
Robin Feuer Miller (GRALL)
Paul Monsky (MATH)
Leonard Muellner (CLAS)
Jeremy Ravi Mumford (HIST)
Carol L. Osler (IBS)
Richard J. Parmentier (ANTH)
Daniel Perlman (PHYS)
Gregory A. Petsko (CHEM)
Susan Sondej Pochapsky (CHEM)
Bonit Porath (NEJS)
David Powelstock (GRALL)
David Rakowski (MUS)
Michael Randall (ROCL)
Esther Ratner (COMP)
Mary Ruth Ray (MUS)
Art Reis (CHEM)
Timothy L. Rose (CHEM)
George Ross (POL)
Ellen Schattschneider (ANTH)
Gerald W. Schwarz (MATH)
Aurora M. Sherman (PSYCH)
Dawn Skorczewski (ENG)
Richard Slaven (PHYS)
Marion Smiley (PHIL)
Faith Smith (ENG, AAAS)
Jennifer Stern (Fine Arts)
Ibrahim K. Sundiata (HIST, AAAS)
Andreas Teuber (PHIL)
Cheryl L. Walker (CLAS)
David Wilson (Theater)
Aida Yuen Wong (Fine Arts)
Bernie Yack (POL)

Universities: The Last Refuge for the Left