Right-Wing Politicians: The Biggest Threat to Higher Education

Ian Mitroff
3 min readMay 14, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

As is typical, Paul Krugman masterfully calls out the Dire Threats to Higher Education that both the Left and the Right pose to Higher Education[i] [from December 2023].

On the Left, small numbers of students primarily at three Elite Universities have not only made harsh statements about Israel, but even worse, they’ve made those that are clearly Anti-Semitic. And dreadfully, it’s been made worse by the “mealy-mouth” responses of the Presidents at the elite institutions that are at the center of the controversy, Harvard, M.I.T., and the University of Pennsylvania. In short, the Presidents failed to condemn the statements in question immediately and straightforwardly by claiming it’s a complex matter involving Free Speech, which of course it is. Nonetheless, they still could have castigated the statements by saying they had no place in their institutions.

Despite this, it’s far worse on the Right. Thus, the State University System of Florida, which has some 430,000 students, is under continuous assault by the State’s Republican Government. To wit, the American Association of University Professors reported on the takeover of key Administrative positions by partisan Political appointees.

Given Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s “war on woke,” anything that smacks of being Politically Liberal or Progressive is forbidden to be taught. Consequently, a Florida Professor was explicitly told not to teach that “the Civil War was a conflict over slavery”. For one, Ulysses S. Grant would differ strongly. No wonder why some of the State’s best teachers are leaving the System.

While both the Extreme Left and Right are at fault, Krugman makes no bones in saying that the Right bears more culpability:

“The extreme left may be morally no better than the extreme right. But in America the extreme left has almost no political power, while the extreme right controls one house of Congress and a number of states.

“So, yes let’s hold college presidents’ feet to the fire…But let’s also focus on the biggest threat to our system of higher education, which is coming not from left-wing student activists but instead from right-wing politicians.”

In the spirit of the great Abraham Lincoln, how can a country so divided exist?

[i] Paul Krugman, “The Biggest Threat to America’s Universities,” The New York Times, Friday, December 15, 2023, PA23.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

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