The Outstater

May 3, 2024

Eric Holcomb to the IU Ramparts

“Universities spent years saying that activism is not just welcome but encouraged on their campuses. Students took them at their word.” — Tyler Austin Harper in the this month’s Atlantic

WAS THERE A BETTER WAY to handle the pro-Palestinian protests at Indiana University? Yes, but not for the reason you might think.

Carrying images of beheaded babies and slaughtered families, the Palestinian “cause” was historically dubious from the start and now is the most untenable in the history of mankind. Worse, it is pushed forward by narcissistic, pampered and ill-informed products of our own education system. 

Perhaps that’s the point, e.g., that they can take even a 7th-century argument and force us to take them seriously.

Whatever, Gov. Eric Holcomb moved in the direction that many Hoosiers viscerally preferred, that is, to boot the campus ingrates and their masked Soros buddies clear to Gaza if possible. But again, was there a better idea?

By marshaling State Police to Dunn Meadow, Holcomb obscured the question of why he or his IU trustees hadn’t seen any of this coming. They had accepted the counsel of the university’s silly wing, the one that imagines IU becoming a little Brussels on Clear Creek, one of the nation’s top school for international enrollment and, alas, for international thinking.

It never occurred that some of these globe-trotting students (4,000 and counting) were not here to soak up the ambiance at the Memorial Union. Rather, the repopulation of the Bloomington campus included a thousand non-assimilating students pledged to the Chinese Communist Party as well as unknown Arab nationals sympathetic to, or at least justifying of, Palestinian terrorism. All of these, to the bursar’s delight, paid the full $58,00 a year in direct and indirect costs, lived in university housing and ate university food.

Nor did the Holcomb team prepare for protests that, unlike the social gatherings of my anti-draft era, would more resemble the storming of the Winter Palace at Petrograd (the tents can remain up until you murder the Czar and his children, but not one minute longer).

The police action left the impression of the problem being solved, the trustees and the IU administration free to carry on as before. Certainly, there may be a new IU president, the old one being paid off as you would a losing basketball coach. Nothing else, however, will change. The 800 faculty members who signed a letter complaining that the university was not sufficiently left-leaning will return grumbling to their classrooms to co-opt sophomores for decades to come.

A better idea is aired by Chris Rufo of the Manhattan Institute. He recommends that Red State governors leave their campuses to stew in their own juices: “Make the Left own its pro-Hamas faction, or, alternatively, force the Left to deal with it — by punishing wrongdoers and restoring order, at whatever political cost this may exact (on them). Let university presidents discover the consequences of their actions (or inactions) – and gently increase pressure from the outside.”

Look, there’s nothing sacred about Harvard, Yale or Columbia and certainly not Indiana University. They created this problem and they can solve it — or lose students, funding and prestige to those that will.

Something like that happened at one of my alma maters some years ago. Students protesting a rumored instance of racial bias set up an encampment on the university quad. The governor stayed out of it and let the school administration and the media muck around with the issues for a few months. The next year’s admission numbers were down more than 15 percent while a competing state school experienced an unexpected influx. Miiracle of miracles, it has been a relatively quiet place to get an education ever since.

This week, FAFSA-weary Indiana parents are at the kitchen table trying to decide in which of our state schools to entrust the future of their children, few of whom are Palestinians and fewer still are terrorist sympathizers with purple hair and strong feelings about Mideast ethno-geopolitics. They may be resigned that IU is their only practical choice — or, considering recent events, not. 

Eric Holcomb, as usual, won’t be a factor. — tcl


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