• September 4, 2015

The Shame of Academe and Fascism, Then and Now

College presidents didn't rally against the Nazis, but maybe they'll do better with Iran

The Shame of Academe and Fascism, Then and Now 1

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Ernst Hanfstaengl (center, waving), a Hitler confidant, Nazi foreign-press chief, and former Harvard cheerleader, was feted at the 25th reunion of the Class of 1909 by the university’s president, James Bryant Conant.

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close The Shame of Academe and Fascism, Then and Now 1

Boston Public Library, Print Department

Ernst Hanfstaengl (center, waving), a Hitler confidant, Nazi foreign-press chief, and former Harvard cheerleader, was feted at the 25th reunion of the Class of 1909 by the university’s president, James Bryant Conant.

How should America's university presidents respond to the savagery in Iran today?

The incarcerated student protesters forced to lick toilet bowls. The imprisoned dissidents beaten to death in holding pens, some with their fingernails torn out. The many murdered protesters, including Neda Agha-Soltan, the now-iconic young philosophy student shot in cold blood. The banning of foreign and domestic journalists from honest coverage or even access to news events. The arrest of professors and shuttering of academic institutions.

Here are a few hints from another era.

Night of the Long Knives. Kristallnacht. Auschwitz. Nuremberg.

Too strong a comparison unless what takes place next in Iran is mass murder?

Granted, vast differences exist between Nazi Germany then and Islamic Iran now. But the vast similarities are also plain. The insistence that state power trumps individual rights. The unaccountable supreme leader. The mass trial. The phony exhortations by rulers to a nonexistent Volk, a unified people. The attacks on and discrimination against women. The existence of militia-like forces, wreaking violence on dissidents. Fascism is fascism.

What's a university president to do? Most of us wouldn't expect the species to be more heroic in the presence of foreign evil than the public at large. The value of that characteristic to fund raising is, after all, unproven. The Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Father Kolbes, and Gandhis come along rarely and tend not to get hired by boards of trustees. The ruling personality bent of many academics—play it safe, take care of friends, advance one's own career and those of like-minded people, do some good along the way—trickles upward.

This time, though, our academic leaders should get it right. Because Stephen H. Norwood's just-published, brilliantly researched, utterly thorough and morally upsetting The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses (Cambridge University Press) shows how they got it wrong in the 1930s. A chilling chronicle of pro-Nazi enthusiasm, shabby indifference, and amoral tolerance toward Hitler in elite American academe of the 1930s, this book should exert direct impact in this season of cracking heads and bones in Tehran. It relentlessly names names, depositing fact after sordid fact before the reader in a way that leaves its implications for then and today overwhelming.

Norwood, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, attracted media attention when he unpacked some findings in the past. At a conference last year about Columbia University's ties to Nazi Germany, he detailed how its longtime president, Nicholas Murray Butler, invited the Nazi ambassador Hans Luther to campus in 1933, remained friendly with Nazi-run German universities into the mid-30s, and punished Columbia faculty members and students who protested.

Speaking at a 2004 Boston University conference on the Holocaust, Norwood shared other research that now appears in his fully detailed chapter on Harvard's bad behavior. In the updated version, he describes in gruesome detail how prominent "Harvard alumni, student leaders, The Harvard Crimson, and several Harvard professors assumed a leading role in the 10-day welcome and reception accorded the Nazi warship Karlsruhe when it visited Boston in May 1934."

At the 25th reunion that year of the Class of 09, writes Norwood, President James Bryant Conant, who'd sailed the previous year to Europe on a Nazi ocean liner, feted Ernst Hanfstaengl, "one of Hitler's earliest backers" and his foreign-press chief. In the summer of 1935, Harvard allowed its student band to perform regularly on a Nazi ship. In 1936, Conant dispatched a delegate to help celebrate the 550th anniversary of the Nazified University of Heidelberg, despite its bonfire of "un-German" books in 1933. Conant allowed the German consul in Boston to place a laurel wreath, swastika affixed, in one of Harvard's memorial chapels. Conant continued to maintain until Kristallnacht, Norwood writes, that Nazi universities remained part of the "learned world" and should be treated politely. In the 1950s, Conant, then U.S. ambassador to Germany, drew repeated denunciations from Congressional officials for his efforts to free Nazi war criminals, including some of the most bestial.

And who knew that the "stiff-armed Nazi salute and Sieg Heil chant" was "modeled on a gesture and a shout" that Hanfstaengl had used as a Harvard football cheerleader?

After Norwood's 2004 talk, The Boston Globe reported that David S. Wyman, the leading scholar of America's response to the Holocaust, put current Harvard administrators on notice: "Harvard should issue an apology without excuses and say, 'We as an institution would never conduct ourselves like that again.'" At the time, Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn issued a statement that said, "Harvard University and President Conant did not support the Nazis." Wrinn also urged: "If there are new facts, they should be added to the archives of history and the dialogue of those times."

Welcome, then, to The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower. Norwood appears to have mined every microfilmed college, labor, and Jewish newspaper, every minor publication of the 1930s, every dusty collection of diplomatic correspondence related to his subject. His findings astonish, especially if you naïvely believe that America's academic leaders must, on the whole, have been on the side of the angels.

Norwood begins shrewdly in his opening chapter, "Germany Reverts to the Dark Ages: Nazi Clarity and Grassroots American Protest, 1933-1934." Offering one citation after another, he demonstrates that within months after Hitler came to power, on January 30, 1933, the news that Nazis were beating Jews in the streets, degrading them, banishing them from public life or yanking them off to torture cellars and early concentration camps was widely reported. Public figures outside of academe were already condemning Hitler.

On March 7, 1933, Norwood relates, Boston's The Jewish Advocate declared that Germany's entire Jewish population of 600,000 was "under the shadow of a campaign of murder." Days before, the London Daily Herald had predicted the Nazis would launch a pogrom "on a scale as terrible as any instance of Jewish persecution in 2,000 years." On April 7, the Nazis enacted the law expelling Jews from the civil service, which included all professors. By spring 1934, the Manchester Guardian correspondent Robert Dell opened his book, Germany Unmasked, by quoting a diplomat in Berlin: "The conditions here are not those of a normal civilized country, and the German government is not a normal civilized government and cannot be dealt with as if it were one."

The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower continues like that: chapter and verse of journalists and diplomats reporting anti-Semitic violence, public figures such as Einstein and La Guardia denouncing the Nazis, grass-roots activists successfully fomenting a boycott of German goods and services—while the leaders of America's universities "remained largely silent." Worse, the latter sometimes defied the anti-Nazi boycott, trading exchange students with Nazi universities, "warmly receiving Nazi diplomats and propagandists on campus."

In one remarkable chapter, Norwood exposes how "many administrators, faculty, and students at the elite women's colleges known as the Seven Sisters—Vassar, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, and Barnard—shared a sanguine view of Nazi Germany and enthusiastically participated in academic and cultural exchanges with the Third Reich." As Norwood shows, the solidarity could only be regarded as bizarre, given that the Nazis were pressuring German women to have a "five-child family," eliminating women from the professions, and imposing a "quota limiting women to 10 percent of those admitted" to universities. Erika Mann, Thomas Mann's daughter, noted in 1937 that not a single female full professor remained in any German university.

Other chapters recount how the University of Virginia's Institute of Public Affairs gave Nazi apologists repeated respectful hearings, how more than a few departments of German amounted to "nests" of Hitler sympathizers, and how Catholic universities and their leaders repeatedly spoke up for Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and even Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal's dictator.

At times, Norwood's details make one wince at what one might charitably call academic tunnel vision. President Walter S. Hullihen of the University of Delaware, who maintained that stories of Nazi persecution in the American press were "grossly exaggerated, in many cases utterly false," lamented that "the Night of the Long Knives had thrown the Junior Year in Munich program into temporary disarray because Germans prominent in leading or administering it had been murdered by the SS." Talk about unforeseen consequences! Similarly we read that "Kristallnacht pushed Junior Year in Munich Inc. director Edmund Miller into a 'slough of Despond.' Miller had hoped after the September 1938 Munich Conference that Neville Chamberlain's concessions to Hitler ensured 'unperturbed development' for the program and 'normal enrollment [for] the following year.' He now worried about sending American students into 'such a depressing environment.'"

Thankfully, a procession of the sensible and righteous also existed in those years, both in and out of academe. William E. Dodd, U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1938, refused to accept any German honorary degrees and expressed disgust at Nazi activities. President Daniel Marsh of Boston University was "one of the very few university presidents or administrators to speak publicly against Nazism at protest rallies or forums." The conductor Arturo Toscanini, the only non-German ever invited to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival, canceled his contract to protest Nazi anti-Semitism and instead conducted an orchestra of Jewish refugee musicians in Palestine. The American Federation of Labor put its weight behind the boycott of German goods as early as October 1933. Sen. James Davis of Pennsylvania denounced Nazi Germany as "an insult to civilization." Clarence Darrow expressed the hope that someone would kill Hitler. A student protester at Harvard in 1934 waved a sign that Hanfstaengl should be awarded a "Doctor of Pogroms" degree.

Indeed, students, journalists, labor leaders, and elected officials—at least some of them—are the heroes of Norwood's book, showing more moral courage and activism than university administrators did.

Those who lack specialized knowledge of the 1930s may be surprised to realize that the United States maintained diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany throughout the decade, so that various forms of business as usual—speaking dates by the Nazi ambassador to the United States, student-exchange programs—continued. By contrast, the United States hasn't had diplomatic relations with Iran for decades. Given the sanctions on Iran, administrators needn't review the kind of junior-year-abroad programs that propelled American undergraduates into the arms of Nazi propagandists in the 30s.

Do such differences make the moral challenges that face our university presidents today subtler, or more clear-cut? Columbia President Lee Bollinger's highly publicized invitation to (and confrontation with) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad two years ago reflected some of the changed circumstances. Bollinger adopted a halfway strategy unseen in Norwood's pages. First he invited the morally reprobate foreign leader and let him speak (upholding the courtesy and free-discussion principles of academe that were supposedly of great importance to Conant and others). Then he confronted him critically, in person, before an audience—something Conant and most of the academic leaders in Norwood's pages fought hard to avoid. Showing how controversial such strategies remain, Bollinger took heavy criticism (and some praise) for his choices.

The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower presents stark moral challenges to today's leaders of those institutions that, Norwood shows, acted shamefully in the 1930s. Apologize or do nothing? Clear the record of students and professors punished for their anti-Nazi activities, or do nothing?

The distinguished historian Drew Gilpin Faust, now Harvard's president, must read this book and take a stand on two of her predecessors: Conant (who "displayed impatience with, and often contempt for, Jewish and other activists determined to publicly expose Nazi barbarism") and Abbott Lawrence Lowell (reported here to have "voiced his anti-Semitism publicly" and shown hostility to Jews and German academic refugees). President Richard C. Levin of Yale also has some required reading to do about his predecessor, James Rowland Angell. That goes for a host of other top guns—see Norwood's index and extensive notes.

Another moral challenge is how university presidents should apply the lessons of Norwood's disturbing history to Iran. It's a familiar ethical dilemma: When does business as usual stop? When does the immoral behavior of an individual or regime go so far over the line that it overrides etiquette? When does the warning to speak out against abuse of others, and not just abuse of one's own tribe, become second nature?

The acts of conscience undertaken by students and others during the 1930s provide ideas for today. Activists back then created "libraries of burned books" to shame Nazi universities that had made bonfires of such treasures. Maybe the same could be done today with what Iranian autocrats have censored. Activists tracked and harassed Nazi speakers in the United States; the same could be done with Iranian diplomats here. (Anti-Nazi activists, of course, didn't possess Twitter, which has given brave Iranian citizen-journalists an extra weapon to monitor the government and keep the outside world informed.) Alvin Johnson founded the University in Exile for refugee scholars as a graduate division of the New School for Social Research, in New York. A similar institution could be started for Iranian exiles. Finally, and most important: Our university presidents could repeatedly, loudly, and defiantly speak up, regardless of whether their warnings fall on deaf ears.

No one stopped Nazi and Italian fascism before it killed millions. Perhaps someone will stop Iranian fascism. Wouldn't it be wonderful for a scholar to look back, decades from now, at how America's academic leaders spoke out against the thugs and butchers of Tehran?

Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle Review and literary critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years, teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania.


1. tfarnham - August 10, 2009 at 07:48 am

I suspect the author is confused on the definition of fascism. It is normally defined as an economic system whereby the government "controls" private enterprises for the collective benefit of the state; perhaps similar to what we in the US are doing to health care (don't know yet), auto industry, banking, etc.

2. 11156156 - August 10, 2009 at 08:59 am

the summary of Norwood's book is indeed chilling but the parallel drawn to academe and Iran today is inexact, because there is no anti-Persian tradition in the US historically comparable to the horrific anti-semitism common everywhere, not just in academe, before and after the 1930s. Remember the book and film 'Gentleman's Agreement' with Gregory Peck, anyone?

3. 11179021 - August 10, 2009 at 09:53 am

Mosty of these academicians got in bed with and embraced the current President and majority leaders in Congress; when most would have second thoughts, if they had looked into, and took seriously, who they chose as friends and mentors during college and formative years, their adult work histories and associations; political accomplishments and writings, and the veracity of their speeches during the 2008 campaign season. We do not have to look as far as Iran.

4. morgahl - August 10, 2009 at 10:15 am

I suspect tfarnham is confused on the definition of fascism. Benito Mussolini, the CEO of Fascism, wrote in 1932: "...Fascism [is] the complete opposite of...Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production.... Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect." Given the war mongering, the torturing and killing of prisoners of war, and the trampling of the U.S. Constitution by the Bush/Cheney Administration, how should America's university presidents respond to the savagery in America, yesterday and today?

5. jdbeard - August 10, 2009 at 10:17 am

Carlin is right about American university leaders support for European fascists in the 1930s, but there is no parallel to be drawn with Iran today. There is no American university supporting Ahmadinejad and his policies, so he has nothing to complain about. If Carlin believes university presidents have a duty to protest foreign governments and their policies, then Iran would only be one candidate on a very long list, including China, which never has had an election.

6. jpstreet - August 10, 2009 at 11:27 am

"No one stopped Nazi and Italian fascism before it killed millions. Perhaps someone will stop Iranian fascism." Just who will this someone be? It took a world-wide commitment of blood and treasure to stop fascism in WWII. What is the author suggesting? War? Invasion? Bombing?

7. dan_roe - August 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm

@tfarnham is NOT confused about the definition of fascism, he's only speaking to its economic character, corporatism, or the control of the state by large interest groups (notably corporate America in this case). Universities have not only been silent as Wall Street commands Washington through fear mongering to bail out their failed enterprises and pay out their bonuses, they have provided a pseudo-intellectual justification in their arrogant claim to understand the causes of the current economic turmoil! And they've done this while completely ignoring the growing problem of student loan debt (among others), which they helped to create. Who's interests will university presidents consider when that one hits the fan--students or corporations (e.g., SLM)??? Fascism is multi-faceted, and jackbooted thugs are just one expression of a deeper mentality, that power should be given to the heroic and already powerful (look at our culture's perverse hero worship of the "best and brightest" on Wall Street).

8. eelalien - August 10, 2009 at 02:11 pm

Carlin Romano's article is interesting as a book review, but I too am struggling with his comparisons to modern day Iran. His questions "When does business as usual stop? When does the immoral behavior of an individual or regime go so far over the line that it overrides etiquette? When does the warning to speak out against abuse of others, and not just abuse of one's own tribe, become second nature?" seem oddly incongruous. I know of no mutual scholar exchange between the U.S. and Iran (certainly no Fulbrights) nor have I seen university presidents greet Iranian diplomats warmly and the reciprocal in Iran. I am also fairly certain that most geo-socio-political analyses on Iran written by U.S. scholars are not apologies for- and supportive of any Iranian doctrine, so where is the parallel we should be aware of? The fact that Germany and Italy are ancestral homes of many Americans, and that many of these during the 1930s were only once or twice removed from original immigration, may provide better insight as to why there was little outpourings of outrage at the time. Oh, and why does it seem that now every Chronicle article, regardless of subject matter, has now become a vehicle for trolls looking for yet another venue for their endless negative bile?

9. meshabob - August 11, 2009 at 08:41 am

I was amused to see Romano's reference to Bollinger standing up to Ahmadinejad. In fact Columbia University awarded the ghoulish murdering Shah of Iran an honorary degree: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2007/09/25/columbia-university-and-evil-dictators/

10. rblunter - August 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

This is a fascinating article--and scary. I remember how in love the American intellectuals were in love Mussolini, and he is featured on the cover of a The book "Ominous Parallels," by philosopher Dr. Leonard Peikoff, details the many intellectual parallels between the America of today and Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it. Robert

11. rblunter - August 11, 2009 at 11:22 am

This is a fascinating article--and scary. I remember how in love the American intellectuals were in love Mussolini, and he is featured on the cover of a 1939 "Life" magazine. The book "Ominous Parallels," by philosopher Dr. Leonard Peikoff, details the many intellectual parallels between the America of today and Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it. Robert

12. beardman - August 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm

@rblunter: I'm sure, coming from Ayn Rand, that among the Naziesque qualities of contemporary America are nefarious, freedom-hating activities like sharing.

13. beardman - August 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Re: the author's phrase, "Nazi Germany then and Islamic Iran now": I don't deny there are parallels between Nazi Germany and the Iranian state. But I hope you realize that choosing "Islamic", simpliciter, to mark the analogy is an insult to the majority of Muslims. You may not have meant it that way, but that's how it reads.

14. ccwriter - August 11, 2009 at 01:42 pm

If American universities were abetting the Iranian regime, we might have cause to worry. That would be the parallel to be drawn from the examples of the '30s. But the article seems to be making an analogy between abetting the Nazis and basically ignoring the Iranian government. That doesn't work. Apart from being a fallacious argument, it begs the question that university presidents taking an activist stance against Iran would in fact accomplish something. Is there a scrap of evidence to support this hypothesis? Since when does anyone in the world say, "Holy cow! If the university presidents oppose it . . ." Maybe -- never? It was intriguing to learn about the '30s. But the conclusion is naive to say the least.

15. shalomfreedman - August 11, 2009 at 11:18 pm

This is another rich and informative review by Carlin Romano. Stephen H. Norwood's expose of the shameful behavior of a number of University Presidents, most notably James Bryant Conant reveals how foolish and immoral those in the highest and most respectable of places can be. Apparently being an Educator is no guarantee of being truly educated. The Iran comparison makes sense in one significant way. Iran's leader Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel. At the same time Iran is defying the enlightened world and purusing the attainment of a nuclear weapon which would enable it to achieve this. Of all the myriad crimes of the Nazis the attempt on their part to kill every Jew on earth, and the murder of over one- third of the Jewish people is the one which stands out. Ahmadinejad were he to realize his goal would have too to perform a crime on this monstrous scale, in a sense continuing the work of the Nazis. Perhaps it is this understanding which leads Carlin Romano to call out for a stronger moral protest against Iran upon the part of America's leading university presidents and educators.

16. pferd - August 12, 2009 at 10:17 am

excellent article. the "ISLAMIC IRAN" MUST BE STOPPED and the comparison is right on target. if people don't like the "islamic" iran and feel it offends all muslims, so be it. if it was not for the "islamic" part, Iran would not be Israel hating country it is and let's call it what it is - a german nazi look alike. let's wipe them out and move on with life instead of letting them bother us like an annoying gnat.

17. fizmath - August 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Romano's graphic depiction of alleged torture in Iran sounds almost as bad as what happened at Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib. Maybe we should stop torture here at home before worrying about it in Iran. The comparisons to 3rd Reich Germany are straight from the neocon playbook. The same people who gave us the War on Iraq are desperate to find an excuse to attack Iran.

18. oldassocprof - August 12, 2009 at 04:54 pm

Regretable. And regretable too is the slavishness toward a variety of leftist things of a totalitarian nature over the years in academe: Stalin, Maoism, one-sided pro-Palestinianism, limitations on free discourse due to political correctness, and so on.

19. _perplexed_ - August 12, 2009 at 05:16 pm

So fizmath, Iran is beyond criticism because the US is not? Are all other countries equally off the hook? Please tell us: Who can and cannot be criticized?

20. pchoffer - August 13, 2009 at 09:10 am

Folks: given that so many of the same universities either had quotas limiting Jewish student enrollment, had no or only a few Jews on their faculties, and otherwise discriminated against Jews in academe, why would Norwood--or any of us--be surprised that they did not find Nazi persecution of the Jews grounds for moral reprobation? All best, Peter

21. pessinton - August 13, 2009 at 10:34 am

A: Everyone can be criticized--indeed, every country must be criticized, especially when they make a habit of INVADING AND OCCUPYING other countries. Glass houses, stones etc. A: Definition of fascism incomplete w/out dictatorship/authoritarianism. Read Stern's "Failure of Illiberalism" if you're serious about studying the historical origins of fascism. A: Iran's population now over 65 million -- more than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We still haven't subdued the latter 2 countries and you want to take on Teheran? Good luck with that.

22. ongaro - August 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

The article forgets one thing: universities took their lead from many others in politics, and many admired Hitler and Mussolini for their fight against communism. Here is a quote: "I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of fascism. Externally, your movement has rendered service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or a working class leader has been that of being undermined by someone more extreme than he. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism." Would you be surprised to know this was written in 1927 by Winston Churchill? 1927 means *after* the Matteotti affair, after the time when people began to be put in jail, beaten, murdered by the fascists in Italy. The good thing is that in spite of this Churchill fought nazi-fascism vigorously when the time came, but let's not start assuming that acquiescence to fascist ideas (and even admiration of them) was not widespread. In the same way that US government have in the post-war period supported very repressive regimes (e.g. Pinochet, Stroessner, etc.) in the name of anti-communism. As for Iran: in spite of everything, Iran is one of the few countries in the area that has contested elections. You would have never seen those demonstrations in Saudi Arabia or Syria, for example, because there would not have been an opposition there. I don't like the current government, but I see signs of hope in the reaction to the election and in the fact that people participate in the political process, and are willing to take risks for it. I think in the long term Iranians, a people with a highly educated middle class, a tradition of culture, etc., will be OK. We should find ways to help them and I feel military action will only play in the hands of the fundamentalists. I have no problem with intelligent military actions: sometimes you might have no choice. I ask only that we don't embark on stupid, bull-in-the-china-shop adventures.

23. princeton67 - August 13, 2009 at 03:32 pm

Let's see: the picture is from 1934 - 75 years ago. Isn't it wonderful that three-quarters of a century can make Mr. Romano hindsight so brilliant. As every other article in the CHE shows, college presidents have enough problems right at home with falling enrollment, endowment, donations. Why should they "respond to the savagery in Iraq"? And what makes Iraq uniquely worthy of already beleaguered presidents' attention? Mugabe, the Burma junta, Chavez, Palestine, the Uighers, Somalia: who needs "hints from another era"? Plenty right here and now. Of course, a college president would have to resign to address all the world's problems.

24. fizmath - August 13, 2009 at 03:34 pm

to _perplexed_: Iran can be critiqued in numerous ways. This author goes overboard with the fascist label and comparisons to Nazi Germany. I am responding to the deliberate propaganda campaign to build up support for a war against Iran. It is being orchestrated by the same think tanks that gave us the War on Iraq. One step is to isolate a nation and demonize its leaders. This happens in every American war and can't be coincidental. It is always about democracy, freedom, liberation, fighting them there so we don't have to here. Recognize the pattern and see the lies. Why punish the Iranian people when the alleged crimes of their leaders are no different than the crimes done right here at home?

25. dnewton137 - August 13, 2009 at 05:32 pm

A fascinating debate about the public responsibilities of university leaders in times of global stress. But let us contract our perspectives to here and now. Our university presidents are all now coping with unprecedented financial and social challenges to their institutions. Do we really expect them to mount their podiums to denounce publicly, for example, those right-wing leaders who label all Democrats as Nazis? C'mon now. Get real!

26. unclemonkey - August 14, 2009 at 05:27 am

College presidents or McDonald's cashiers--who's going to listen to Americans lecturing about Iran? As the folks behind the Shah and Israel, and the occupiers of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're not going to get any listeners in the Muslim world. Our missile plans and support for the Georgian regime make all Russia's neighbors mistrust us. We lecture Africa so much nobody there will listen to us, and Latin America remembers the Bay of Pigs, Allende and the Contras too well. To the Chinese we're a spendthrift customer turning into an untrustworthy debtor. College presidents can do a lot more good by speaking out on what the American government gets up to.

27. hughes1998 - August 16, 2009 at 04:59 am

While I'm sympathetic to Romano's clarion call, I also have to wonder what planet he's been living on. Because universities have devolved into bastions of anything-goes political speech and political advocacy--hostage to the political prejudices of left-leaning political ideologues--many university and college presidents are reluctant to talk about human rights for fear of upsetting their boards, faculty members and students. Indeed, too many college presidents, administrations, faculty members and their students have been apologists for the world's most criminal regimes and non-state actors, from Stalin's Soviet Union to the Shining Path. Simon Leys has written the definitive account of the madness that swept through European and American universities when faculties and students supported Mao's Cultural Revolution. Today, in universities across the U.S., professors and their students--with the approval of presidents, chancellors and deans--give moral support to Hamas and Hezbollah. Anti-Semitism, contained in anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, is increasingly considered honorable throughout academia, and manifestations of it in biased scholarship demonizing Israel are shielded by codes of academic freedom. Increasingly in recent years, rallies and speakers on campuses have promoted hatred of Jews and Israel. Unsurprisingly, and in the name of free speech, the likes of Norman Finkelstein, Richard Falk and David Irving have been speaking at Stanford, Brandeis, Harvard, Bryn Mawr, Northwestern and many other institutions, invited by various departments, groups and individuals. Even as Iran lied to the international community about its nuclear activities and invited the most virulent Holocaust deniers in the world to its notorious Holocaust denier hate-fest in Tehran, colleges fell over themselves to have Javad Zarif, Iran's then-ambassador to the United Nations speak at their campuses. Some anti-Semitic events on campuses are sponsored by groups that actually receive operating funds from the federal government under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. While some universities have openly taken a stand against anti-Semitism on campus, in 2002 only 300 college and university presidents signed a statement denouncing anti-Semitism. More recently, only a few hundred American university presidents denounced a British academic union's proposed boycott of Israeli colleges and faculty members. Romano is right: Bollinger did take "heavy criticism" for engaging Ahmadinejad. Actually, more than 100 Columbia faculty signed a document criticizing Bollinger for his harsh introductory comments, which the professoriate deemed an appeasement of conservative critics. As has been commented upon elsewhere, at about the same time Ahmadinejad visited Columbia the University of California at Davis canceled a speaking appearance by former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, citing his remarks about the underrepresentation of women in the sciences. As long as ideology trumps truth at universities and colleges, few of their presidents are likely to "repeatedly, loudly, and defiantly speak up."

28. raymond_j_ritchie - August 17, 2009 at 06:52 am

The 1930s was a long time ago and the psychopathic nature of both fascism and communism was not understood at the time, particularly in nice cosy countries like Britain and isolationist USA. There was a lot of wishful thinking at the time about alternatives to decadent liberal democracy. Look at all those idiots in Cambridge who joined Stalin's NKVD (KGB )and those who went off to fight on Franco's side in Spain. Many, many Americans and British went off to Italy and Germany in the 1930s and saw absolutely nothing wrong simply because international travel was an expensive luxury at the time and as elites they stayed in nice areas and nice hotels and saw charming folk festivals. Leftist intellectuals who spoke no russian were similarly fooled by Stalin: nice hotels and resorts full of "workers" on holidays, shopfront intelligencia such as the NKVD informant Maxim Gorky, uplifting kulture, escorted tours to Potemkin villages full of happy peasants, visists to canals and dams built by thousands of political prisoners worked to death etc.
And we should not fool ourselves that we westerners are less vulnerable today to wishful thinking about some current regimes and their intentions.

29. dank48 - August 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Judging by most of the comments on this article, the principal value of a good education is that it enables one skilfully and persuasively to rationalize moral cowardice. The other sort apparently needs no rationalization.

30. laoshi - September 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Fascism is excactly what is being created in the United States by the dominant political party. It's a shame Carlin Romano doesn't rally against the toilet-licking at home first. Iran can take care of itself.

31. quidditas - November 09, 2009 at 06:22 pm

"Oh, and why does it seem that now every Chronicle article, regardless of subject matter, has now become a vehicle for trolls looking for yet another venue for their endless negative bile?"

I don't see trolling in the comments--many of these comments are very astute. Therefore I assume you mean CHRE's chosen article writers are themselves said trolls.

I agree with this completely and I find it appalling. I have consequently--unsucessfully!-- sought to remove CHE e-mails from my daily in box.

I have, however, coaxed my spam detector into accepting it as such. This will do.

32. quidditas - November 09, 2009 at 06:33 pm

...Okay, then. Now I'm hitting a few.

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