Mona Charen

This story has a very troubling start, but a pretty satisfying conclusion -- if it really is the conclusion.

Among the contemptible episodes of student/faculty heckler's vetoes at commencement ceremonies this year (Condoleezza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christine Lagarde and others have been disinvited from leading universities following ignorant and aggressively intolerant protests), one of the most disturbing concerned the treatment of Robert Birgeneau by Haverford College.

Birgeneau is the recently retired chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. You don't get to be chancellor of Berkeley if you've got the political opinions of, say, Mitch McConnell, and Birgeneau is indeed a liberal in good standing. But revolutions tend to devour their own, and Birgeneau has become the Jean-Paul Marat of liberal academia.

In 2011, Berkeley, along with dozens of cities and campuses around the world, was hit by an "Occupy" encampment. The administration warned the protesters that tents would not be permitted for hygiene, safety, space and other reasons. The protesters disregarded repeated requests to disband and linked arms when police attempted to remove the tents. The police responded with batons.

After Haverford extended an invitation to Birgeneau to address the graduates, a small cadre of zealots wrote to Birgeneau to demand a more abject apology than the one he had already extended. Quoting a lawsuit by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (yes, that's the actual name), the students asked that he publicly chastise the police, "state that you played an instrumental role in the police actions of November 9" (Birgeneau was in Shanghai), support reparations for those arrested, apologize to those beaten by police, and write an "open letter" to the students of Haverford explaining "what you've learned" and "how your actions have or have not been in line with the values of peace, non-violence, and political participation."

Apparently some at Haverford haven't learned that it's offensive for a bunch of adolescents whose skin has only recently cleared to stand in judgment of a 72-year-old man who has taught physics for decades at leading universities, done research at Bell Laboratories, and managed difficult matters (including handling law-breaking protesters) as the chief administrator of an institution. Birgeneau stood fast against those who sought to boycott Israeli scholars. He seems to be an honorable man. The kids, alumni and professors who signed the manifesto, by contrast, are little pustules of arrogance, puffed up by nothing beyond their own groundless self-regard.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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