OpinionSchools & Higher Education

The death of Light and Truth on the American campus

Universities and their students once cared about “light and truth”; they don’t anymore.

Yale University Law School in New Haven, Conn. Credit: Juan Paulo Gutierrez/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Yale University Law School in New Haven, Conn. Credit: Juan Paulo Gutierrez/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
Rachel Fremmer. Credit: Courtesy.
Rachel Fremmer
Rachel Fremmer is a Yale University alumna.

The students currently protesting against Israel on college campuses across the United States have no interest in learning, let alone challenging their own assumptions. They are making a mockery of education itself and their professors are complicit.

During Passover, I visited my family in New Haven, Conn. I decided to walk over to Yale, my alma mater, to check out the anti-Israel protest there. Surprisingly, I was able to walk right into the middle of the protest circle even though I was shouting “Am Yisrael Chai!” I held up a photo of a hostage, asking students to look at it. Some of them literally covered their eyes.

There is no better illustration of the attitude of these protesters. They refuse to see the truth, acknowledge facts and engage with those facts. This makes dialogue impossible. You cannot debate an issue if one side won’t acknowledge that facts exist.

This is not the Yale I attended.

The protesters who covered their eyes are ideological relatives of the people who tear down or deface posters of Israeli hostages. They simply don’t want to be confronted with the uncomfortable and tragic fact that 134 individuals are still held captive.

I do not deny the tragic fact that Gazan civilians have been killed. We can debate the numbers, whether those civilians are innocent, and whether their deaths were necessary or justified. But I don’t deny that these deaths happened.

At Yale, I asked the protesters why so many were hiding their faces. Of course, they did not answer. As I have at every single protest, rally and other gathering I’ve attended since that Black Shabbat of Oct. 7—and there have been many—I was unmasked. I wore no head covering and no dark sunglasses. The majority of the protesters did not have the courage to do the same.

A black protester told me I was not allowed in this “space” because I was “white.” Putting aside the obvious racism of this claim, given that none of these protesters were actually legally allowed in the “space,” I had just as much right (or lack thereof) to be there as he did.

I pointed that out and was told that saying such a thing was evidence of my “privilege” and that I had enslaved his ancestors. This was slanderous since my family came to America long after slavery was abolished.

I asked about the white protesters present. He said they were allowed to be there because they were on the right side. So was he objecting to my views or my “whiteness”—or both? Who knows? Logic is as much a casualty of this movement as facts.

Again, this is not the Yale I attended.

These students are responsible for their actions, but given their role models and so-called teachers, their actions are not surprising. I spoke to a group of middle-aged Yale professors who asked admiringly what I thought of the “peaceful” encampment. They were surprised when I pointed at—and objected to—a nearby poster glorifying Walid Daqqa, a terrorist who murdered and castrated an Israeli, as a martyr.

When I said I lived near Columbia University, where the scene was like a riot, a professor challenged me: “Like a riot or a riot?”

“Well, they’re yelling at Jews to go back to Poland,” I responded.

Her eyes widened.

Back at home near Columbia, the scene is similar. In front of my local public library, a small group of ’60s-era radicals passed out Palestinian and Marxist propaganda. One man carrying a sign that said “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism” wore a T-shirt that said “Ask Me About Zionism.” So I did. I asked him and his comrades whether they believed the Kurds deserved their own state. They refused to answer, knowing that their answer would only prove that they subjected Jews to a double standard.

The Yale I attended welcomed all students of all backgrounds with all kinds of views. We discussed, we debated, we argued passionately and then we went to class together, ate together and partied together.

The Yale I attended abhorred intellectual dishonesty and logical inconsistency. The Yale I attended believed in facts.

May Yale and the other universities and colleges across the country return to being bastions of intellectual freedom, honesty and debate.

Yale is the only non-Jewish institution I know of that has its motto—“Light and Truth”—in Latin (Lux et Veritas) and Hebrew (slightly mistranslated as Urim v’Thummim).

May we return to the era of Lux et Veritas.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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