How many of the parents paying the full tuition of $51,000/year at Wesleyan University know that part of that sum indirectly goes for educating prisoners who are double murderers? In the best of all Woebegone worlds, where money is infinite and there is no need to prioritize, an argument could be made for educating sociopaths who will never use this luxury to repay society with their service. An argument might be made that an educated prison body may be less volatile and therefore, if nothing else, college for prisoners is a worthwhile investment in penal management. In the real world of Woeishere, only a fraction of students competing for placement in elite colleges attain this opportunity and for increasingly more of them, the tuition represents a punishing family sacrifice. Is it ethical for Wesleyan to bring its professors and curriculum inside the walls of a high security prison in Connecticut and to underwrite education for society’s worst offenders at the expense of opportunities for law-abiding, hard-working students and their parents? If professors were not devoting time to teaching prisoners, they could direct their attention to more students or perhaps to courses for veterans who put their lives on the line for all of us, or disadvantaged senior citizens who contributed their lifetime taxes and skills to the state of Connecticut.
There is something about fascists and criminals that gives soi -disant intellectuals an irresistible frisson. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Stephen Norwood details the egregious behavior of our leading academicians in welcoming high ranking Nazis onto their campuses in the thirties. Harvard’s commencement speaker in 1934, a year after the Nuremberg Laws began banning Jews from professional and public life, was a top Nazi named Ernst Hanfstaungl who advocated the mass arrest of Jews. Columbia’s recent invitation to Iran’s Ahmadinejad had its precedent in the school’s welcome to the German ambassador to the U.S. for a lecture circuit well after the Nazis had instituted book burning and mass discrimination against Jews and non-Aryans. In the sixties, campuses of several Ivy League schools sported weapon-toting students whose complaints translated into occupying buildings and threatening faculty and administration who capitulated as shamefully as they had embraced Herr Hitler. Today’s campuses routinely cave in to thugs who disrupt speakers from the right or anyone who is pro-Israel. The dissolution of academic freedom can be seen most shockingly in Yale University’s refusal to include the Danish cartoons about Mohammed in a scholarly book just published on that topic by Yale’s own press.
For too long, universities have existed on a rarefied plane where tenure guarantees the perpetuation of a monolithic leftism and where trustees and alumni abandon their mandate to oversee administrative decisions. Did the trustees at Wesleyan offer any moral objection to sending its faculty to teach a man serving a 130 year sentence? And when these convicts earn the same degree from the same school that educates the best and brightest of our students - what comment will that be on the shenanigans surrounding selective admission to this prestigious university? When you share an alma mater with a double murderer, does your diploma take on that hellish scent of sulphur? Lastlly, what message is being sent by schools which cater to fascists, drug dealers, kidnapers and murderers but refuse to let America’s military (ROTC) onto their campuses?
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