Education , Newsline

Columbia and Google Prove DEI Can Be Beaten But Never Appeased

Posted on Friday, April 26, 2024
by Walter Samuel


Columbia University website homepage logo visible on display screen, Illustrative Editorial

Spare a moment in your thoughts for Minouche Shafik. When Columbia University’s president insists she never wanted her campus to descend into chaos reminiscent of 1930s Germany, her entire record suggests she is telling the truth.

Baroness Shafik (yes, she holds a British title) previously worked at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Bank of England, while also serving on the board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation before becoming the Chancellor of the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2017. She then took up the leadership of Columbia in August 2023, mere months before the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Few can boast a record of more unwavering loyalty to the Western establishment, and it is difficult to imagine someone more credentialed to lead Columbia. It is also difficult to imagine how she could have failed more completely.

Today, her “reward” is to preside over a warzone. Tents, resembling the homeless encampments that litter the rest of New York City except for the words “to the scum of nations and pigs of the earth” and “paradise lies in the valley of the swords,” remain on Columbia’s quad in defiance of repeated threats to clear them. Her belated decision to use force, having the NYPD arrest more than forty students, backfired, and Columbia has been forced to transition into remote learning because it is physically impossible to protect the campus.

The university has claimed that the worst antisemitic excesses, such as Jewish parents picking up their children being met with jeers telling them to “go back to Poland” were the actions of non-students. But this merely begs the question of why Columbia is unable to keep its campus free of dangerous outsiders or take any action against faculty members who willingly aid them in bypassing security to enter campus.

Shafik’s failure is even more striking when one compares it to how Google, probably one of the most left-leaning corporations in the world, handled a similar challenge. When the same forces that drove Columbia’s students and faculty to act out their 1930s nostalgia drove employees of Google to occupy the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurien, the company responded by terminating 28 employees.

When those terminated workers took to X to express outrage at the company’s “heartless behavior,” they met a decidedly hostile reception, with most commentators praising Google’s decision. Most importantly, rather than unrest following the firings, with workers striking in solidarity with their recently fired coworkers, activism almost entirely ceased. Google apparently felt emboldened enough by the reaction to terminate an additional 20 workers.

Google managed to portray the protestors not as representative of their workforce, but as acting in opposition to it. Google management was not restoring order on behalf of Thomas Kurien, but on behalf of the tens of thousands of the protestors’ co-workers whose right to a safe and respectful work environment was endangered. It was a matter of internal discipline. The total number of firings did not exceed the number of arrests at Columbia. But the perception that those firings were carried out on behalf of the community meant they led to a collapse of the movement.

The removal of former president Liz Magill at the University of Pennsylvania has provided a similar basis of legitimacy for a crackdown on unrest there. That decision was not carried out on a whim, but as an expression of the overwhelming will of the alumni and donors, the very individuals most invested in the well-being of the institution. Even if a majority of current UPenn students might disagree, the overwhelming sentiment of the UPenn community – decades of alumni who outnumber current students several times over – was exercised.

In June of 1848, King Louis Phillippe of France, watching as his “democratic” successors gunned down protesting workers calling for revolution in the streets of Paris, remarked, “Republics are lucky. They can shoot people.” What he meant was that the ability to use force rested on the legitimacy held by those wielding it. When a King ordered the use of force, he was declaring himself an enemy of the people. When a republic resorted to deadly force to suppress unrest, it was merely defending itself against the enemies of the people.

The greatest trick DEI movements have ever pulled is to assert that their participants represent not themselves and their own egos, but the interests of the “people.” Netflix employees angry over Dave Chapelle’s jokes mocking the transgender movement, DEI tells us, are not overpaid individuals who should pay more attention to their performance reviews. They are instead ostensibly speaking for millions of LGBTQ+ individuals across the world.

In the same way, when the rich white child of a UPS executive was arrested at Columbia, she was not promoting herself at the expense of her classmates’ ability to learn, but speaking for the people of Gaza. In her mind, she is the moral actor, and any Jewish classmate who feels threatened is prioritizing their own elite “privilege” over the well-being of millions abroad, as is any classmate who merely wants to go to class.

DEI has then succeeded largely because it has rebranded sociopathy as empathy, and it has degenerated into the absurdity of extremism we are witnessing on Columbia’s campus because that success has in turn attracted the worst types of sociopaths. “It is not that power corrupts,” Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, observed, “but that power attracts the corruptible.”

The reason BLM, LGBT groups, the green movement, and now pro-Palestinian activists have behaved in this manner is not the promotion of DEI ideas. Rather, by providing its adherents with incredible power within any organization, DEI ensured the takeover of those institutions by the corruptible. DEI did not create BLM or the modern LGBT movement, it destroyed them by filling their ranks with newly empowered sociopaths.

This process renders appeasement of DEI futile. There is no way to satisfy the demands of BLM, LGBT, Green, or pro-Palestinian groups within any organization, because what they are after is not security for coworkers and classmates, but power over them. In an era where these movements have been taken over by radical extremists, conceding power to them merely exacerbates their internal conflicts by raising the stakes.

Accusing opponents of being moderates is a good way of displacing rivals. Hence, pro-Palestinian campus activists who insisted on repudiating “From the River to the Sea” were pushed out as Zionists, followed by those who objected to conspiracy theories about the October 7 attacks. Now those who express any concern about Holocaust denial also find themselves under attack as closet Zionists.

Rather than strengthening “moderates” within these movements, every concession college presidents and CEOs made to these groups undermined the moderates and empowered the radicals. When rather than punishment, the powers-that-be rewarded the radicals with further concessions, moderate concerns were proven groundless.

Ironically, the same dynamics which cause extremists to gain influence via the establishment’s appeasement of DEI activists also see them undermined directly by force. The ability of an administration, any administration, to use and sustain force against them proves they are not the ones who wield the real power. As most left-wing groups have driven out those with a genuine investment in whatever issue they are supposed to be focused on in favor of those who see activism as a means of achieving power, the abandonment of the cause by the latter can trigger a rapid collapse.

By charging protestors with disruption and treating them as a minority preventing the vast majority of students from enjoying the educational experience they paid for, or obstructing Google employees from carrying out their jobs, leaders at Columbia and Google were able to frame the protestors as “enemies” of the people. Brown, Princeton, and Penn were acting to defend the rights of their students—not just their Jewish students, but all their students—to go to study and enjoy their education, when they wielded power against the radical activists. Google’s management was not targeting 50 employees, but acting on behalf of 50,000. This was key to their success.

Shafik’s failure at Columbia can be ascribed to her defeat in this framing battle. The issue is not that anyone believes Columbia’s president supports the protests. Rather, it is that they believe she, and not Columbia, is cracking down. The perception is that Columbia’s president banned Students for Justice in Palestine, and that Columbia’s president called the police on protesters—not the community at large.

This perception has had a direct impact on the effectiveness of Columbia’s response. The recourse to the NYPD has been perceived not as an effort to protect the mass of students, but as an attack on them by the president. Even the NYPD seems to have hedged its bets, not wanting to side too openly with a woman who may well be out of a job.

The suspensions of the arrested students have been undermined by a refusal of faculty to abide by them, with many pledging to continue grading the assignments for these students. If they did not do so, the perception would be they would be siding with a “temporary” president against the “students,” which would spell social and career suicide.

There is a lesson here. Power works when it is exercised not on behalf of bureaucrats seeking to preserve their own offices, but in defense of institutions themselves. Just as importantly, an institution’s willingness to defend itself proves that it is worth defending. There is an underserved market for universities, corporations, and even advocacy organizations that are willing to treat themselves as institutions worth defending. The institutions that embrace this approach have a bright future.

Winston Churchill observed, “Nations that went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished.” The same is true of institutions. If there is one thing we have learned, fighting DEI is sometimes unsuccessful, but appeasing it has a 100 percent record of failure. It merely fuels further extremism. The contrasting fates of Columbia and Google demonstrate that lesson.

Walter Samuel is the pseudonym of a prolific international affairs writer and academic. He has worked in Washington as well as in London and Asia, and holds a Doctorate in International History.

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1 month ago

…”difficult to imagine how she could have failed more completely“. Really??? Look at her credentials: “previously worked at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Bank of England, while also serving on the board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation“. These are the Crown Jewels of the NWO/Globalist Society. She’s a Globalist/Marxist/Progressive. Their ideology is, ultimately, a fail.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 month ago

I heard the Columbia students referring to the Israeli-Hamas conflict as their generations “Vietnam”… E’nuff said! Because unless I missed something, no one has been drafted nor has 58,000 of them been killed “in action”. And is anyone actually LIVING in all those “coincidentally” matching tents? Or do they scamper back to their dirm beds after the day’s events? Yep… just like Vietnam!

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
1 month ago

DEI is a euphemism for Perversity, Enslavement and Incompetance.
No thanks.

1 month ago

It may not be a popular idea but, all students and yes faculty should be expunged from the campus permanently. As much as I hate to say the protesters have a right to free speech, however, when the line from peaceful protest to infringing the rights of others is crossed there needs to be punishment. That’s the problem today, no consequence for negative behavior.

1 month ago

DEI is clearly a contrived means for its young patrons to feel valued without meritorious effort. Democrats should note that “pats on the back” are best given only in response to something real and useful.

1 month ago

Seems like it would be simple. Spray the protestors with that purple bank robbery exploding pack die. Spray their tents with skunk spray. Then arrest the smelly purple people as they walk around during the day. Expel the students, prosecute all, and deport any who are not US citizens. I know, it’s an over simplification.
The reality is, if they really wanted them gone, it would happen in a day.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

Baroness Shafik “worked”at the World Bank and Gates Foundation and now can’t handle the tough situation she finds herself in That should not come as a surprise or a shock There were many before her who caved to the demands of the mob rather then face it down That would take courage and resolve to do the job right No one does that anymore for fear of being called this that or the other Until mob is rained in nothing will change

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