Phi Beta Cons

What the U. Penn Trustees Must Say to President Gutmann

Carol calls “truly sickening” the spectacle of U. Penn’s influential president, Amy Gutmann, posing next to a student, Saad Saadi, dressed as a suicide bomber at her annual Halloween costume bash.

At Campus Watch, Winfield Myers, who broke this story, illuminates the deeper implications of this appalling incident:

What’s missing…from the larger academic community of which [Gutmann] is a part, are moral parameters within which every member of the community must act, short of the prohibition of criminal acts, which this of course is not. This applies particularly to statements or actions concerning terrorism, the war on Islamism, and the representations of those actions.

Had Mr. Saadi, or anyone else, shown up dressed in as Hitler, Pol Pot, David Duke wearing his Klan garb, Bull Conner, Sirhan Sirhan, John Wilkes Booth, a slave trader with a whip, a rapist, or any such person, he would have been identified immediately as representing someone, and perhaps some force, that is evil. Neither Ms. Gutmann nor anyone else would have objected to having him barred from her home and party; indeed, to have failed to act in such a way would have invited opprobrium.
But in the modern university, especially in anything relating to Middle East studies, the guardrails are down. After years of scholarship that consistently fails to investigate thoroughly, much less condemn, terrorism or jihadism, or which misrepresents both these historical actors and the consequences of their actions, can we be surprised at President Gutmann’s lack of shock [at Saadi’s garb]? With moral equivalency between bombers and the bombed, especially regarding suicide bombers, a mainstay of modern scholarship and pedagogy in Middle East studies, why wouldn’t a young man presenting himself as a killer of innocents be laughed at rather than set straight by his intellectual and moral superiors–i.e., women like Amy Gutmann?
Apologias for terrorism and extremist politics breeds an atmosphere in which the intolerable becomes the everyday.

It is time for trustees stop hiding behind their placid masks–stop avoiding an argument–and take a stand on travesties such as this one. The U. Penn Board should direct Gutmann to apologize unequivocally for posing alongside a student decked out with large plastic sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest and a toy gun. She should make it clear that she abhors the moral equivalency of so many campus denizens, who too often have represented the bombers and their victims as moral equals.
The board should also order a review of Middle Eastern and other studies, which are largly to blame for the deeply entrenched intellectual perversity that informs the academic environment and enables this kind of mockery to occur. From the days when Lenny Bernstein courted Black Panthers to the years that Arafat sported a Colt .45 with impunity, there has been altogether too great a readiness among our intellectuals to excuse violence–if it is against the bourgeoisie or, today, Jews, Israelis, and Americans.
Trustees nationwide–starting at U. Penn–must stand against this violence-excusing zeitgeist on our campuses. If they do not, we should all tremble at where this perversity will lead. 

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More