As everyone expected, after her disastrous performance before a House committee and three days of cleanup that rivaled Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath for effectiveness, University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill is out. She “resigned,” so take that for what it’s worth. The truth is, while this is an important and bracing moment in the post-Oct. 7 awakening to the daily horrors on campuses when it comes to the coddling of progressive extremism, it’s not worth that much. For one thing, Magill only just became president of Penn in July 2022 and would not even be there had longtime president Amy Gutmann not accepted an ambassadorship from Joe Biden.
For another, the entire administrative apparatus at Penn remains in place, and while Magill’s words before Congress were awful enough for her to have to go, she was simply the rotted cherry on top of a poisonous sundae that was in place before she got there and will remain there now that she’s out. The board that appointed her—and that made no moves on her or did anything on its part to show its disgust for the happenings on campus over the past two months—has been shaken, with the parallel “resignation” of a board chair Scott Bok. He had defended the campus’s pre-Oct. 7 openly anti-Semitic Palestine Writes Literature Festival on the grounds that while there were some “reprehensible speakers,” Penn stands for free speech and would never pre-clear such speech.
First of all, Bok knew full well that at Penn Law School, massive efforts have been made to drive the incredibly provocative Amy Wax from her tenured perch solely on the grounds that her speech is offensive. Second, Bok could not contain his disgust at Penn grad Marc Rowan’s claim that the school has exercised “double standards,” the “pursuit of social justice,” and “politically correct speech.” These hint, Bok exclaimed, at a political agenda! Rowan was seeking to divide the campus, he said, at a time when “hundreds of Penn community members gathered for a peaceful vigil on College Green to acknowledge the innocent lives that have been lost and to comfort one another. Magill and other University leaders were in attendance.”
Yes, you see, Marc Rowan and the people standing up for Jewish students and demanding Penn live up to its unwarranted reputation for being a defender of speech and a community open to all are the real problem. Rowan and others, like my friend Cliff Asness, are putting their money where their mouth is by informing Penn their dollars can no longer support the institution that has done such wrong. And I presume it is, implicitly, to stop the financial bleeding they began that the ouster of Magill and Bok has occurred.
But satisfying though their defenestrations might be to some, they’re not actually the problem. They’re just drones that have been deactivated. The system that powered and empowered them is still in place. Individual academic leaders so cowed by or brainwashed by the fetid conventional wisdom on campuses these past 20 years—according to which white people are the most destructive force on the world and that Jews, whom they ignorantly consider “white,” are therefore part of the oppressive elite—are expressions of the fetid conventional wisdom. And that can only be got at by digging hard at the root.
The root, in this case, is the adminstrative setup at these universities, which employ dozens if not hundreds of officials whose job it is to inculcate this totalitarian ideology—and to excuse all those who bow to it even when they cross the line into evil. And they are going to be answering for their repellent ambitions. Sure, a president or two may go. But the prominent universities themselves, which are all recipients of federal grant money, are in what seems to be prima facie violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states simply that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The fact is that Jewish students are subjected to exactly the kind of unequal treatment—by which I mean those who threaten, menace, or aggress against them are not disciplined under the codes of conduct these schools promulgate on their own—forbidden by Title VI. One such lawsuit has already been filed against NYU. You should read the complaint. It’s very convincing. The same firm, whose partner Dan Benson is on COMMENTARY’s board, has filed a similar complaint against the University of Pennsylvania, And it’s my sense that dozens of comparable suits will be filed against these schools, which may lose hundreds of millions of dollars each in federal funding unless they take very specific action to counter the imposition of the fetid conventional wisdom—like by dismantling their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion regimes. The average university has 45 employees working full-time on DEI. And hundreds more in other aspects of university life entirely informed by DEI principles.
Yes, it can happening. It’s happening already in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill dismantling the Texas state university system’s DEI regime. Just as other lawsuits will follow the private action against NYU on the grounds that its standing as a federal contractor obliges it to obey the dictates of the Civil Rights Act, so too will other red-state governors follow Abbott’s lead. Indeed, just now, the University of Wisconsin system has agreed with the state legislature that the time has come to “reeimagine” DEI—and is freezing the number of its DEI personnel for three years. This fight has only begun. Liz Magill and her appalling smirk will be little remembered and long forgotten. May her “resignation” be the first major step on the road to the renovation and salvation of our universities.