A Tale of Two Universities

Harvard and the University of Florida take divergent paths in dealing with lawbreaking students

L: Harvard dean Rakesh Khurana (Christopher Michel/Wikimedia) R: UFL dean Chris Summerlin (

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Take the cases of Cambridge, Mass., and Gainesville, Fla., where university leaders this week charted two different courses in their handling of disciplinary cases stemming from students’ engagement in vicious anti-Israel protests this spring.

At the University of Florida, where former GOP senator Ben Sasse assumed the presidency last year, dean of students Chris Summerlin rejected the recommendations of a faculty panel and opted instead to impose harsher sentences on several students arrested in April, one of whom was captured on video spitting on a police officer.

Those students are suspended for three or four years, depending on the severity of their infractions. They are banned from campus during that time and will be required to reapply for admission.

At Harvard, meanwhile, the school’s administrative board reversed its decision to suspend five students for participating in an unlawful encampment. Now, the Harvard Crimson reports, "the most severe probation charge will last for just one semester, a remarkable change from the initial punishments which required one student to withdraw from the College for three semesters."

It doesn’t take a genius to see the writing on the wall and, indeed, the Crimson notes, "Harvard may have further emboldened pro-Palestine student groups ahead of the return to campus in September."

Indeed, the school’s anti-Israel radicals declared victory in a series of Instagram posts: "Harvard has caved in, showing that student intifada will always prevail," they wrote. "This reversal speaks to the power of our movement, both on campus and worldwide."

We disagree. This reversal speaks to the fecklessness of administrators at elite universities, the rampant anti-Semitism and radical politics that dominate their ranks, and the case for serious students, parents, and faculty to flee these campuses. And of the student movement itself, its chief accomplishment is likely to be the further destruction of the institutions who abide its lawbreaking. Their prestige evaporates by the hour.