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DelVal Jewish Parents Weigh Protests When Deciding College Choices

Which area colleges and universities are less likely to be disrupted by anti-Israel protesters? Some Delaware Valley Jewish parents are considering the possibility of protests when deciding which college would be best for their kids.

Jim Yannopoulos, PsyD, a certified educational planner with Right College for Me in Bryn Mawr, said parents and students concerned about protests should avoid the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College.

“Jewish students at Haverford and Penn have experienced particularly harsh antisemitism, and there has been disruptive conduct at all three colleges,” said Yannopoulos. “What do these colleges have in common? A critical mass of spoiled, entitled children who have apparently never heard the word ‘no’ from their parents or anyone else and have never suffered consequences for their ignorance and immature actions,” he said. “Even on these campuses, the majority of students are reasonable and just want to get on with their studies and lives. But this vocal minority makes that nearly impossible.”

Yannopoulos added, “While there is some activity on almost every campus, other colleges in the Philadelphia area have basically been able to continue business as usual and feel relatively safe.”

Brett Harris, a Lower Merion father, said his oldest child is a sophomore, but they’ve already discussed this topic.

“We have talked about it, and I think ‘elite’ schools are going to be off the list and we will mostly be looking at southern schools outside of a few in-state schools,” said Harris.

Jamie Cohen Walker, a Chalfont mother, said her daughter Devyn, 17, who is about to graduate from Central Bucks South High School, will be going to a college in Florida.

“I feel safer sending her to a state where I know the governor is very adamant about not letting these pro-Palestinian encampments start,” said Walker. “While there were other reasons, like warmer weather, but her safety became the main concern. Because of all the craziness that governors in these Democratic states are letting happen, I did not want my daughter subjected to it.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) was not going to stand for it,” said Walker. “I feel like DeSantis is a really good leader when it comes to education, and Florida is leading the way. They got rid of CRT [critical race theory], which, in my opinion, leads to antisemitism. CRT teaches that Israel and Jewish people are the oppressors and that there’s an oppressed and an oppressor.”

Ron DeSantis did something [about the encampments] while our governor waited and waited,” said Walker. “And let Jewish kids be harassed. I don’t want my kids to be exposed to that.”

Rav Shai Cherry, the rabbi at Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, said, “My Rina, 19, was just accepted by UC Santa Cruz. She got into there, Temple, and Brandeis. She chose the one where there were no protests [UC Santa Cruz]. She’s in Israel, by the way, on a kibbutz for five months.”

“I went over some pros and cons with her,” said Cherry. “I don’t want to cede an inch to antizionists or antisemites. Turns out UCSC has an excellent physics program, and that’s what she’ll study. She’ll be an activist who can knowledgeably respond to antizionist tropes.”

Eyal Yakoby, a Penn senior who has testified before Congress on antisemitism on campus and is suing the university, said, “I am disappointed in the school and hope that they can find their moral compass. There is no gray lines. Violence and harassment have no business being at a university.”

Yannopoulos said, “Nationally, the worst campuses have been Columbia, Harvard, Oberlin, Colgate, Georgetown, and Stanford. These are terrible places for real human beings capable of thinking independently. Columbia was horrible even before Oct. 7.  For a number of other reasons not related to the climate and culture, I do not recommend Columbia to any student.

“The best elite, intellectual academic institution for students who value reasonable exchanges and discussion with true free speech is the University of Chicago,” Yannopoulos said. “Even there, there have been encampments and disruptions, but they have been dealt with in a way that emphasizes every student’s right to obtain the educational opportunities they and their parents paid for.”

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McCormick: We Need Leaders With the Courage to Condemn Antisemitism

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick is calling out incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D) over his past support for the Iran deal and his silence on new cash the Biden administration is allowing to go to the Islamist republic.

During a podcast interview with DVJournal, McCormick reiterated his support for Israel and its military response to the Hamas terrorist attack launched from Gaza.

“The attack on Israel was evil in its purest form, absolute barbarism,” said McCormick, who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during the Gulf War.

“And it’s been a test, really,” he said. “And that test, well, many have failed the test with moral ambiguity. You see that with college presidents (and) with some members of Congress. I think even Sen. Casey has been very weak on this compared to, ironically, Sen. (John) Fetterman, who has taken a much stronger stance.”

“So it’s really important that we stand tall with both the moral clarity of what happened and our support for Israel. And so we must support Israel. We support it with the intelligence, with military capability it needs, but also with moral clarity.

“In one form or another, there needs to be a path to support for Israel. And that support can’t be held up for any reason,” said McCormick.

He also assailed the ongoing protests and antisemitic incidents on college campuses around the country, including in the Delaware Valley.

“I think what’s happened on our college campuses since the horrific attack on Israel, the barbarism, (is) an eye-opener,” said McCormick. “I mean, it has been an absolute eye-opener. Because it’s been explicit antisemitism. But more than that, it’s been a reflection of the fact that American institutions of higher education, the Ivy Leagues in particular, but generally speaking, have lost their way.”

He added, “The lack of moral clarity on the difference between right and wrong, the difference between merit and not merit. The difference between America and the exceptional contribution it’s made to the world, the uniqueness of America, with all its faults, which is still undeniably the greatest country in the history of the world in terms of bringing people out of poverty.

“The lack of clarity on that, the hijacking of all that’s great about our country, I mean we saw it all. It’s not just the antisemitism. Of course, the antisemitism is horrific and indefensible. But it’s part of a broader thing where all the basic assumptions about what made our country and our society the greatest in the world are under siege,” said McCormick.

“And so I hope that this terrible turn of events, we can have some good happen,” said McCormick. “Which is, you see a lot of people, people in the finance community, people in general, a lot of Jewish Americans pulling back and saying, ‘Oh my Lord, I want no affiliation with what I’m seeing. Those are not my people.’ And I think this is showing a huge division within the Democratic party…

“What person who is a clear-thinking person could look at those people protesting and chanting ‘Death to Israel’ and say, ‘Those are the people that are in my party.’ So, this is hopefully an inflection point of a recalibration of our institutions of higher education. I’d like to see some people get fired, to be honest with you.”

Asked if that includes University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who has been criticized as slow to act as antisemitic incidents on campus mounted, McCormick replied, “Of course. Anybody who showed in this moment of crisis that they couldn’t step up and be clear about good and bad, evil versus not evil, I think is not qualified to lead.”

U Penn Ranks Near Bottom in Campus Free Speech Survey

The University of Pennsylvania is America’s oldest university. It was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740.

But Franklin, an outspoken writer, printer, and one of the men who fomented the American Revolution, might have been disappointed to learn Penn is in the bottom five universities in the country for free speech. In fact, it came in second to last, ahead of its fellow Ivy League competitor Columbia.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), in partnership with College Pulse, released its third annual College Free Speech Rankings on Wednesday. Ranking the speech climates of 203 of America’s largest and most prestigious campuses, FIRE gave the University of Chicago top marks for the best campus climate for free speech.

“That so many students are self-silencing and silencing each other is an indictment of campus culture,” said FIRE Senior Research Fellow Sean Stevens. “How can students develop their distinct voices and ideas in college if they’re too afraid to engage with each other?”

A spokesman for Penn did not respond to a request for comment.

It was the largest survey on students’ free expression, with 45,000 students included, according to FIRE. It found many students are afraid to speak out on their campuses while others want to cancel the voices of those who do not share their points of view.

The top colleges for free speech behind the University of Chicago were Kansas State, Purdue, Mississippi State University, and Oklahoma State University. With Columbia and Penn at the bottom of the survey were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgetown University, and Skidmore College.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate, holds degrees from Penn’s medical school and its business school, Wharton.

“Students and speakers at colleges and universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, deserve to have a platform to speak freely and have open and honest conversations. As Pennsylvania’s next senator, Dr. Oz will push back on cancel culture by protecting the First Amendment and defend individuals’ freedom to say what they see,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director for the Oz campaign.

A graduate of the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine said he was surprised by the results of the survey. He also asked DVJournal not to use his name for fear of repercussions.

Several other Penn alumni contacted by DVJ declined to comment.

Stevens told DVJournal that cancel culture and social media play a role in creating an anti-free-speech environment on campus. But students also fear what professors might think of them or that they might receive lower grades if their views do not jibe with a professor’s. Some 40 percent of students are uncomfortable disagreeing with a professor—in public or a written assignment, the survey found.

The FIRE survey began in 2020 with 55 colleges and universities. This year it surveyed 203 campuses in 49 states, with only North Dakota not included.

Stevens said the group hopes to continue each year and increase the data available to researchers.

Students were asked how comfortable they felt talking about their opinions, he said. And even some students at the more liberal end of the spectrum, who comprised the majority of those surveyed, were fearful.

While the goal is to let prospective students and parents take this indicator into account when selecting a college, FIRE also hopes to make university administrators more aware of this issue, Stevens said.

Some administrators contacted FIRE after previous reports to see what they could do to improve their scores, he said.

While the rankings rely heavily on student responses, each school’s speech code rating also factored into the scoring. Most schools without any policies that imperil free speech rose in the rankings, while those with restrictive speech codes fell, according to FIRE.

This year, FIRE also took into account which schools sanctioned faculty for their speech or disinvited guest speakers based on viewpoint since 2019, giving the institutions that did lower marks.

Self-censorship is pervasive across top-ranked and bottom-ranked schools alike; 63 percent of respondents worried about damaging their reputation because someone misunderstood something they said or did. Disturbingly, an equal percentage said that students shouting down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus was acceptable to some degree.

Other findings from the report include: Conservative students are most likely to feel they cannot express their opinions freely, with 42 percent reporting that they “often” feel uncomfortable speaking freely, compared to 13 percent of liberal students. Some 40 percent of students are uncomfortable disagreeing with a professor — in public or in a written assignment. And the three most difficult topics to discuss on campus are abortion, racial inequality, and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

FIRE is a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia that is dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought.

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