They have learned nothing! As I write this, Columbia University and others continue in chaos, depriving serious students of what they have paid for. Many have forgotten, if they ever knew, that President Dwight Eisenhower (aka “Ike”) also served as president of Columbia University from 1948 to 1953 after serving as supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and before serving as our commander in chief from 1953 to 1961.

Eisenhower is most often viewed as a good and successful president. He kept the United States out of new wars and negotiated a truce to end the Korean War, which was underway when he was elected in 1952. His policies were designed to contain the communist menace. Under Eisenhower’s moderate conservative government, the 1950s were largely peaceful and prosperous, with the exception of one minor recession in 1958.

Unlike President Biden, Eisenhower was competent, had unquestioned integrity, and was not one to tell tall tales. Unlike former President Donald Trump, Eisenhower was modest and focused on the job and not on himself. Many view 1950s America as a golden age, with political leadership under Eisenhower as something they were proud of.

Eisenhower was friendly but no-nonsense and firmly believed in following the law and equality for all. In 1957, he signed the Civil Rights Act into law. When the governor of Arkansas defied the law, Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce court orders mandating the integration of schools in Little Rock. Given Eisenhower’s long record of leadership in both war and peace, there can be little doubt about what actions he would have taken if Columbia students had tried to shut down the campus when he was in charge.

Years after the Eisenhower era, I was a student at Columbia when the student radicals shut down the campus in demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War and other grievances. The demonstrations began in March 1968 and ended with students taking over a number of buildings. The protests were concluded in the early hours of April 30, 1968, when the New York Police Department stormed the occupied buildings and used tear gas. Classes were canceled, and the remainder of the semester was abridged. It took Columbia a couple of decades to recover. It now ranks third in admissions acceptance rate, behind Harvard and Princeton, and ninth in endowment among major universities.

It is painfully clear that the current president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik, widely regarded as a DEI hire, is in over her head. She should have known from the history of Columbia’s 1968 riots, as well as those at other universities, the importance of immediate action to terminate illegal activities and occupations. The destructive incompetence shown by the leaders at Columbia, Harvard, and several other Ivy League universities is so great that the universities are unlikely to achieve their former reputations and glory again.

The Biden administration, Justice Department and FBI have been noticeably AWOL in uncovering and exposing the funding behind the demonstrations at Columbia and elsewhere. The tents and other materials for the protests are expensive; they didn’t come from the tooth fairy. The FBI and the Justice Department have the tools to follow the money as to who or what organizations or governments are providing the funds to the protesters and for what purposes. In the electronic era, much of this information can be known in a matter of days, given the reporting requirements by financial institutions — and the news media and the public should be informed.

Back in 1968, I remember being astounded by the quantity and professionalism of the printed materials being distributed by the protest groups. This was long before the days of “instant print.” Books with color illustrations on the virtues of Marxist economics were being handed out at no charge. Decades later, in the 1990s, I worked in Moscow as an economic adviser to senior Russian government officials in the Yeltsin administration. At that time, the KGB had made many of its files public and responded to inquiries.

One of the officials explained to me that in the Cold War years, the Soviets had printed millions of pieces of propaganda, much of which they had stored (for years) in major American cities like New York and waited until the right set of circumstances occurred to distribute it — e.g., the riots at Columbia. At the time of the riots, it would have been very useful to know, rather than having to wait decades, as to what countries were providing the funding.

The FBI should already know many of the sources of funding for the current demonstrations, and this should be made public immediately. Given his history, I expect that if Ike were president of the United States now, the American people would know the answer.

In the past, employers would pay a premium for the graduates of the Ivy League, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and other top schools, with the assumption that they were better educated and more open to new ideas. That exaggeration is now being exposed. The market will work — less famous schools (including non-American ones) will see and exploit the opportunity to create world-class educational programs and thus attract the best students. May the legacy schools rest in peace.

• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.


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