Originally published by Salon on May 21, 2001.
The physical assault on Ann Coulter at Cornell proves that fascism is alive and well on U.S. campuses.
Last month, students attempted to physically attack Ann Coulter — forcing police to intervene to protect her — during an appearance at Cornell University. The world took little note of the incident, but it speaks volumes about the state of higher education and of an academic culture that is anything but. On April 30, the bestselling conservative author, lawyer and well-known TV commentator returned to her alma mater to speak about the Confederate flag controversy. She came as the guest of the Cornell College Republicans and the Cornell Review, a conservative student paper she had helped to found 17 years earlier. A little over six years ago, I spoke under the same auspices. As a result, I am familiar with the context in which the episode occurred.
Cornell is one of the most segregated institutions in the United States. Many of its black students choose to live in all-black dorms — a privilege officially denied to most other ethnicities and races at the school. A good many of those black students attend classes at the Africana Studies Center at the north end of campus, where they never have to mix with the general student population. At Africana, they are taught by a faculty infused with the humors of political correctness, anti-white racism and a pseudo-Marxist contempt for American institutions and principles. Here they learn that “only whites can be racist” (because only whites have power) and that slavery in Africa was not really bad (because it wasn’t “capitalist” and the slaveholders were black).
The politicization of black studies (and all social disciplines) at Cornell began in 1969 with the most disgraceful occurrence in the history of American higher education. In that year, black radicals armed with shotguns took over the Cornell administration building. From this high ground, they issued a set of demands as a ransom for not carrying their mayhem further. In a denouement that more than any other event may be said to have given birth to the contemporary politicized university, the Cornell administration capitulated to the terrorists’ demands. Among these was the surrender of the future education of black students at Cornell to a faculty that met the terrorists’ own standards of political correctness.
Since then, the triumph of the political left at Cornell has been challenged only by the pinpricks administered by the Cornell Review and the sporadic appearances of conservative speakers such as Coulter. Unlike for leftists who are invited to speak at Cornell, Coulter’s appearance had to be underwritten by outside sources — in this case (as in most) by the Young America’s Foundation in Washington, since the student funds available for such programs at Cornell (as elsewhere) are firmly in the grip of the political left.
Faculty and student conservatives at Cornell — as at other elite campuses — are routinely subject to harassment, persecution and an insecurity of place and employment completely unknown to any other minorities, including gays and blacks. Out of more than 1,000 members of the Cornell faculty, for example, there are only three openly conservative professors available to sponsor organizations like the College Republicans and the Cornell Review. (Such sponsorship is a requirement for receiving student funds.) When I spoke at Cornell one of the three faculty conservatives, a botany professor, was under siege by both the administration and the student left — barred from his own classes and waiting to see if he would be fired — for expressing a politically incorrect opinion on the issue of homosexuality.