Richard E. Vatz

American Professors/Administrators’ Antisemitism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been all over the US airwaves in recent days castigating “horrific” antisemitic protests in the United States.

His shock is felt by Jewish citizens in the United States; some will claim he is misperceiving due to his distance from America.

He is not – no one expected this anti-Jewish phenomenon in number or intensity nor the lack of pushback, especially by college and university authorities.

More than 60 years ago, William F. Buckley, author of the book that initially created his fame (if you’re a conservative) or infamy (if you’re a progressive), God and Man at Yale, attacked therein the collectivism and hyper-progressivism at Yale University and by implication other elite universities. His argument against the professorate can be summed up by one of his most famous dictums regarding the haughty self-confidence and irresponsibility of intellectuals in higher education, found in his Rumbles Left and Right and elsewhere throughout his career:

“I am obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.  Not, heaven knows, because I hold lightly the brainpower or knowledge or generosity or even the affability of the Harvard faculty, but because I greatly fear intellectual arrogance, and that is a distinguishing characteristic of the university which refuses to accept any common premise.”

As a guest once on his well-known show’s debating issues of the day and more, Firing Line, in 1985, I know he always held this view. Moreover, he would reiterate it now, amid the worst outbreak of antisemitism in American college and university venues pursuant to the Hamas sneak and unprovoked massacre of innocent Israelis, killing upwards of 1200 people, as well as Israel’s reaction to defend itself and deal with the ongoing hostage-taking.

Much has been written about the left-wing hyper-majority in public and elite college and university social sciences and humanities faculty members and not so coincidentally their students and currently their administrations. This hostile environment for Jewish students and faculty was crystallized in the humiliating Congressional hearings which led to several presidents losing their jobs, unwilling as they were to condemn virulently anti-Jewish protests on their campuses.

Among the worst, and perhaps the worst, element of these elite universities “tolerance,” always their god-term if protests are against Jewish people, is the participation of the professors and top administrators therein to oversee discrimination against Jewish students.

For nearly 50 years I taught at a large metropolitan university, later in earnest pursuit of Research-II status, now the second largest university in Maryland,  Towson University. I was the longest serving member of its University Senate, 41 years, and in the entire time I never personally saw a scintilla of antisemitism:  anti-conservativism, yes, and increasingly so, but no antisemitism. No student even said to me including in private that there was even an incident of anti-Jewish prejudice at our university.

Today there is significant and substantial ugly antisemitism throughout in particular many top large public universities in the United States.

At the age of 17 in 1964, I began matriculating at Vanderbilt University, where there was racism and antisemitism galore. One of my two best friends, Norm Bonner, a wonderful and brilliant but politically unprovocative African-American, had to leave Vanderbilt due to racist actions which threatened his life – we had floor lamps and water was poured under his door.  I myself was given an anti-Semitic roommate who, when I had some problems with a course in my freshman year, told me tauntingly, ”Really?  I thought you Jews were so smart.”

Fast forward to 2024, at Columbia University, wherein The New York Times reported, “Elie Buechler, an Orthodox rabbi who works at Columbia, sent a WhatsApp message to a group of more than 290 Jewish students on Sunday morning saying that campus and city police had failed to guarantee the safety of Jewish students ‘in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.’ “

Shai Davidai, a business professor at Columbia, accused the university’s staff of being afraid to confront pro-Palestinian protesters when he was locked out of campus, ostensible due to safety concerns.

He wrote on Twitter, “Earlier today, Columbia University refused to let me onto campus. Why? Because they cannot protect my safety as a Jewish professor. This is 1938.” He marveled that he was rejected from campus wherein antisemites were not.

Columbia professorial antisemitism has been manifest and increasing, as has professorial antisemitism in other large campuses throughout the country. A friend of mine who recently retired from American University claims he was the target of consistent hated of Jewish professors by his colleagues.


At George Washington University, a sliver of good news: Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), who has pointedly said of the national protests that they are antisemitic, castigated the protesters.

Mike Johnson, Republican Speaker of the House, castigated the protests at Columbia.


Yet there are politicians, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who find this the propitious time to pressure Israel in the middle of a war for their existence to find new leadership.

Prof. Ron Hassner protested the antisemitism at University of California at Berkeley, including administrative inaction and diffidence.

Rampant antisemitism in Harvard’s campus and in classes led to Harvard’s president’s resigning.

An Israeli friend of mine who was graduated from my high school, Israel Pickholtz, writing from  ”Ashkelon [city in Israel], where we watch the rockets from the window,” is utterly dumbfounded and made incredulous by the antisemitism he hears and reads about in the US. He could never have imagined that members of academia here would have reached such a low point.

Vanderbilt University denizens of the 1960’s era used to brag that their school was “The Harvard of the South.”

Today, Harvard and Columbia and other elite antisemitic schools should aspire at least to be the Vanderbilt of the North.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s perceptions are spot-on – the United States has a major antisemitism problem, particularly with timid and fainthearted professors, administrators and politicians’ greasing the skidding.

About the Author
Richard E. Vatz is professor emeritus of political rhetoric at Towson University, wherein he taught and wrote on political persuasion, and author of The Only Authentic of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (Authors Press, 2022) and over 200 other works, essays and op-eds. He was named a Distinguished Professor at Towson University and has won many teaching awards. The Van Bokkelen Auditorium at Towson University has been named after him.
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