Lessons From Other Campus Protests

The year was 1966 and Ronald Reagan was running for governor of California. A major part of his platform was to “clean up the mess at Berkeley” and other college campuses throughout the state that were experiencing protests and strikes over issues that included the military draft, civil rights and “women’s issues.” While not on a scale of the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, anti-America and Jewish hatred we are witnessing now on several college campuses, Reagan’s response could instruct current college presidents and admissions officers to quell the unrest.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has preserved Reagan’s remarks and later actions as governor. In a campaign speech, Reagan said many leftist campus movements had transcended legitimate protest, with the actions of “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates” having more to do “with rioting, with anarchy” than “academic freedom.” He faulted university administrators and faculty, who “press their particular value judgments” on students, for “a leadership gap and a morality and decency gap” on campus, and suggested a code of conduct be imposed on faculty to “force them to serve as examples of good behavior and decency.”

Morality, good behavior and decency appear to be electives, not requirements, on too many of today’s university campuses whose “students” (and apparently not all are students) are now running the institutions of what might be called lower learning.

Six months after becoming governor in 1967, Reagan wrote a letter to Glenn Dumke, chancellor of San Francisco State College, who opposed the unrest occurring on many California campuses. In it, Reagan condemned “these people and this trash” who used “the excuse of academic freedom and freedom of expression” to justify continuation of the protests. “We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of language in front of our families.” He called on Dumke to “lay down some rules of conduct and promised “you’d have (all the) backing I could give you.”

We need to hear more of this type of talk to counter the anarchists and hatred of Jews and Israel and support of terrorist organizations on today’s college campuses. Even more than talk, action is needed.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Ira Stoll says the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Foundation headed by George Soros have been contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to leftist organizations that funnel money to groups that are behind these campus upheavals.

At a minimum the IRS should take a look at their tax-exempt status to see if they have violated regulations pertaining to what is allowable for nonprofits. The government should also look at whether any of those shouting antisemitic and anti-American slogans are here on student visas. If they are those visas should be revoked and the students deported. Others who are found guilty of giving aid and comfort to terrorists should be expelled.

Some wealthy donors to Columbia University and other schools have pledged to withdraw financial support if order and decorum are not restored.

All of this feeds the view that America is coming apart. Where are the leaders like Ronald Reagan who label this behavior for what it is and then do something about it?

Reagan ended his letter to Dumke with a question that should answer itself: “Hasn’t the time come to take on those neurotics in our faculty group and lay down some rules of conduct for the students comparable to what we’d expect in our own families?”

If that time had come in 1967, surely it is long past due in 2024.

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