‘What, Like it’s hard?’ Reforming A Lawless System

As the Vice President of Students Supporting Israel Movement, I recently had the opportunity to share my insights with American Family News regarding the encampment phenomenon that has beset Columbia University and NYU, where students ‘occupy’ university grounds, enclosing themselves in a privileged, voluntary chamber. When asked if I believed other universities would follow suit, my response was unequivocal. As esteemed Ivy League institutions like Columbia set the precedence for educational prestige, it’s only natural that other students would seek to emulate the Ivy Leaguers. The ripple effect of this encampment fad is all but certain, and it’s crucial that we address this issue for what it truly is: Ivy League privilege.

From my experience working with students daily, along with the viral videos of campus interactions, it appears that students are being indulged for their petulant behavior, with law enforcement tolerating their juvenile tactics and failing to address blatant threats and even physical assaults. The phrases, ‘we are all Hamas’ – which openly advocates for the genocide of Jewish people, per the Hamas governing charter, and ‘death to America’ – are being chanted and completely ignored by institutional authority. This lack of accountability enables students to engage in lawless behavior, perpetuating a culture of intolerance and hatred. And while I am a huge proponent of freedom of speech, incitement of violence and terrorism undeniably defy the constitutional natural-born rights that this country was founded upon. As a Kent State graduate, I am no stranger to the repercussions of campus protests being escalated by law enforcement interference. The lessons of May 4th, 1970, are entrenched in all generations of Kent State students, serving as a cautionary reminder to what took place on the very grounds from which we were learning. Students engaging in the anarchic behavior we are seeing on hundreds of campuses are NOT the students of Kent State University almost 53 years ago to the date. Invoking law enforcement on campus communities should be a last resort, reserved for only the most extreme circumstances – circumstances like students priding themselves on being a member of a designated terrorist organization. We must ask when this strange-loop cycle of tolerating truly barbaric behavior will end. At what point do we declare ‘enough is enough’? If universities allow these actions to go disregarded, what boundaries or standards will they establish to ensure the safety and reputation of their institutions? The lack of consequences for such behavior raises pressing questions about the limits of academic freedom and the responsibility of universities to protect their students. 

Parents who appease their tantrum-throwing children with candy in public are breeding a sense of entitlement and expectation that they will carry with them into adulthood. This harmful reinforcement cycle not only fails to address the underlying behavior but also incentivizes future tantrums. As a result, children develop a crutch that the real world will not tolerate. But these are not small children that we are dealing with; these are college students at top-tier universities, who are being indulged and excused for their entitled behavior. These are the future leaders of the free world with far-reaching implications for the future of society. They will shape the societal norms that we accept as part of our everyday lives. The threat lies not just in their “immaturity,” but in the very real danger that their entitlement poses to the fabric of our society. The longer we dismiss their threats as mere youthful indiscretion, the closer we come to eroding the foundations of America and Israel as we know it. 

​​These words are not merely fear-mongering threats; they highlight a critical issue that demands feasible solutions. One such solution lies in the example set by tech/trade and vocational schools, which have a significantly lower rate of protests compared to liberal arts universities and 4-year degree schools. Students attending these schools have a clear career path in mind and are focused on acquiring specific skills, unlike many ‘exploratory-majored’ college students who often get bogged down in protests, complaints, and DEI initiatives. Graduates of trade schools are equipped to pursue their chosen field with a relevant license, a trait that esteemed institutions like Columbia, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania once embodied. Imagine if cosmetology students, mid-lesson, abandoned their training, set up tents, and expected a free pass on the state board test, allowing them to apply chemicals to human hair without proper education. It’s unthinkable. Cosmetology professors wouldn’t allow it, clients wouldn’t patronize, and certainly salon employers wouldn’t accept such unqualified individuals in the workforce. Universities can learn from the structured approach of tech schools, where rules and regulations ensure educational excellence. Google for example, recently fired 50 of their employees over protests on company property against Google’s ties to Israeli contracts.  Actions have consequences. Institutional reform is crucial to restore balance and academic rigor across college campuses. An Ivy League rebrand must ensue in order for students to become well-rounded members of society, and earn credibility – for the sake of all campuses.

Reforming academic integrity demands a rigorous vetting process for professors to ensure they teach relevant and accurate content in their field. Regular class attendance is essential for students to engage with the material and develop a deeper understanding of coursework, without exception for political bias or activism. Paying tuition should imply paying for the hours which you are actually learning, not setting up campgrounds dancing with strings on campus in demonstrative interpretations. Students should be encouraged to engage in open discussion and debate without fear of academic punishment for holding dissenting opinions. Department heads, Deans, and administrators must be held to a high standard of professionalism, reflective of the university’s reputation. This fosters a culture of intellectual excellence, where institutions compete for attendance and academic rigor, rather than appeasing political agendas which force parents to decide which campus will hate their children the least. Those who refuse to adhere to these standards will face the consequences of failure – a result of their own choosing. Accountability is a skill that must be cultivated and reinforced through consistent expectations and consequences, not assumed to be inherent in humanity. 

These suggestions are not outlandish, nor influenced by my Zionist ideology. I simply believe that education should focus on academics and intellectual exploration, while advocacy should be pursued outside of the classroom, or with relevance to demonstrate practices relating to academic subjects. If individuals want to become professional activists, they don’t need to hijack universities to do so. As House Speaker Mike Johnson so aptly put it, “Go back to class. Stop wasting your parents‘ money.” This approach will help restore the integrity of our academic institutions while promoting a more focused and effective learning environment. If we don’t take this alarming step in reformation of our institutions, the generational progress of humanity will expire, and we will surely conform into a society of anarchic normalcy. 

In the movie Legally Blonde, Elle Woods famously quipped, ‘What, like it’s hard?‘ when asked about her admission to Harvard Law School. But today, Elle wouldn’t need to crack open a book to get into Harvard; she could simply don a keffiyeh and out-pout her peers. This is a troubling reality. I hope, for the sake of future generations, we can revive the esteemed Ivy League standards of the past. ‘Ivy League privilege’ has permeated campuses nationwide, creating an environment where antisemitism is acceptable, and outlawed behavior is permitted.  We must raise the bar and expect more from our students and institutions, rather than accepting substandard regulations, prejudiced professors, and condoning bullying from our universities. Through reformation, we can ensure a brighter future for all of society.

About the Author
Sophia Witt is the Executive Vice President of Students Supporting Israel Movement. Prior to joining the SSI Movement, Sophia worked in the political sphere, helping college and high school students of all backgrounds advocate for Israel on campus. She has been a featured speaker across several political events, college campuses, and community affairs, addressing antisemitism, Israel, Zionism and student government involvement. Sophia has led over 15 trips to Israel for students and political figures. Sophia holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Speaking with a focus on Jewish Studies from Kent State University and a Masters of Business Administration from Youngstown State University in Marketing. Sophia is based in Cleveland, OH.
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