The War on Higher Education and the Return of McCarthyism

The current historical moment is marked by an attempt to disable language and dissent of any substantive meaning, remove actions from the grammar of moral witnessing, and disassociate power from institutional justice. The far right views higher education as a laboratory of left-wing ideologies whose ultimate purpose is to destroy family, community, and national unity. Indeed, universities and colleges are under attack from the right as citadels of leftist ideology. This process of depoliticization is intensified by a frontal attack on dissent, free speech, academic freedom, and institutions that support and nurture these crucial democratic rights and practices. Increasingly, higher education, in particular, under the influence of right-wing billionaires, authoritarian politicians, and cravenly boards of trustees, is attacked for its critical functions, reduced to morally dead zones of the imagination and a mind-numbing conformity.

Dissaured as a public good whose purpose should be to educate young people to be informed and critical citizens, higher education is under pressure by far-right members of the GOP to renounce its responsibility to teach students to question, challenge, and think against the grain. This regressive form of education is on display in Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis has transformed New College, a once progressive college, into a citadel for anti-woke ideology and pedagogy-cleansed of classes where faculty and students can think critically, test their opinions, and realize themselves as engaged citizens.

Higher education is increasingly being attacked by the far right for its liberal claim of equality and a common good. As an institution that aligns with a notion of "citizenship," equated with human dignity [and] equality on multiple fronts, it has garnered the wrath of fascists for whom hostility to universal citizenship is a central element of its mobilizing passions. This hatred of equality reinforced by the selective definition of who counts as an American now feeds both the attack on higher education and an increasingly vicious racist politics. Under such circumstances, those who react to the suffering of others are subject to the dehumanizing and morally cannibalistic, verbal orgies of hatred, and increasingly, state violence.

This war on higher education and the return of McCarthyism is part of a broader effort to suppress fundamental freedoms of expression. While the issue of campus antisemitism warrants discussion and debate, it is not within the purview of congresswomen, Elise Stefanik. The real objective of the war being waged on elite universities poses a far greater threat than generalized and undebated charges of antisemitism. In this historical moment, struggling for freedom, equality, and justice comes with great risks. These arrests serve as another indication of the collaboration between certain Ivy League colleges and the far-right in the assault on student voices.