All Quiet on the University Presidents’ Front

Nov 1, 2023 | Voices, Humanitarianism

For those in the academic circle, the silence from university presidents on certain contentious topics is palpable. But why this silence, especially when it comes to touchy subjects like anti-Israel sentiments or pro-Hamas protests?


While many might point fingers at the First Amendment, there is an underlying reason many of us may be missing: the fear of provoking an irrational person into having an explosive response.

If there’s one thing that I have learned through my work, it’s the innate human tendency to steer clear of irrationality. Simply put, rational individuals are often fearful of provoking those who do not subscribe to reason.

Why? Because irrationality is unpredictable. It doesn’t follow the natural order of things, and when it manifests, it can spiral into wanton destruction and violence.

We’ve all seen it or experienced it, whether on a global scale or within the microcosm of our families. Think about it – how many times have you seen your family members tip-toeing around that one relative who’s known for their erratic, over the top behavior? The reason isn’t always because of a genuine concern for their well-being, but more so due to the fear of what their unchecked irrationality might unleash.

So, translating this to the university setting, it’s not difficult to see why presidents might hesitate to address or condemn certain behaviors or expressions. Their silence, in many ways, is a survival mechanism, a way to prevent campuses from detonating into chaos.

But here’s the pressing question: What can we do about it?


View the whole article at Dr. Mark Goulston’s Newsletter.