New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, infamous here for her hostile coverage of the Tea Party, absorbed an interesting takeaway from the spectacle of three Ivy League college presidents who testified before Congress and refused to condemn anti-Semitic rallies on their progressive campuses: sexism! (She wrote about discrimination against women at MIT in a 2023 book.)
Zernike’s Monday piece, “Ivy League Campus Wars Aren’t About Gender ... Are They?” wasted no time boiling down the troubling appearance of anti-Semitism on “elite” college campuses to a simplistic tale of male sexism:
In the first weeks of the war between Israel and Hamas, Nancy Andrews read about American college presidents under fire and something nagged at her.
Why, she wondered, did it seem like so many of those presidents were women?
Dr. Andrews…looked up the list of federal discrimination complaints filed against colleges and universities since the start of 2022. The vast majority -- 80 percent -- were against universities led by women, even though just 30 percent of colleges and universities nationwide have female presidents. Of the seven complaints filed in the weeks after the war began, all were seeking investigations of schools led by women.
It's a neat trick to demand female presidents in institutions, and then accuse critics of those institutions of targeting females. How strange for a reporter to imply that making discrimination complaints is by itself a sexist act.
Zernike didn’t bother digging into alternative explanations, sticking to binary bean-counting:
Then four presidents were summoned by Congress, under threat of subpoena, to answer for what Republicans called the rampant antisemitism engulfing their campuses. All were women….
Perhaps because those were the places where the protests occurred?
…other women in the academy described a similar reaction to the spectacle around the hearing on Dec. 5 and the fallout since: Ms. Magill and Dr. Gay resigned, their critics made it clear they were coming for Dr. Kornbluth, and last week, prominent male donors demanded the ouster of Cornell president Martha Pollack, too.
At least no one’s questioning anyone’s gender.
Underlying all the conversations was the most maddening, familiar and ultimately unanswerable question of all: Would a man have been treated the same way?
Speaking of unequal treatment, Zernike was oddly dismissive of the main congressional questioner, female Republican Representative Elise Stefanik (NY), burying her identity in an outside link:
Mr. Rowan and Ronald Lauder, another prominent Penn donor and Magill critic, held a fund-raiser for the Republican congresswoman who ordered the college presidents to testify.
Zernike briefly noted the actual gender disparity problem on campus among undergraduates (where women outnumber men 60-40), before waving it away:
But those numbers can obscure the stubborn disparities for women in academia….
Zernike committed revisionist history to suggest former Harvard president Larry Summers had not been forced out for alleged sexist remarks about women’s aptitude for math, but instead for not pleasing black Harvard scholars:
It’s conventionally recalled that Dr. [Larry] Summers himself was forced to resign after he mused that the lack of female STEM professors could be attributed to women’s lesser “intrinsic aptitude” in math -- a lawsuit accusing Harvard of antisemitism cites this as evidence of the university’s hypocrisy. But the actual chronology suggests that it is more an example of the leeway granted men. Dr. Summers had clashed with prominent Black scholars four years earlier, and he did not resign until more than a year after his comments on women in science. The immediate prompt was a faculty revolt over revelations that suggested he had protected a friend implicated in a federal fraud investigation that Harvard had paid $26.5 million to settle.
Left-wing activist Cornel West was criticized by then-Harvard president Summers in the early part of the century for not fulfilling his academic duties (West did find the time to make a rap CD.)
Increasing the paranoia, Zernike warned women presidents to watch out for male financiers!
Board members and big donors can pose particular challenges for women, coming as they often do from the male-dominated world of finance….