It’s college application season and you are considering where to apply. One piece of advice I have for you is don’t apply to Northwestern.
I loved being a student at Northwestern. I relished the learning eco-system and I was energized by the intellectual rigor and openness of the faculty and the students. After earning two degrees from Northwestern, I became an alumni interviewer, a member of various committees and a donor. Like any university, NU had its issues but overall, I felt so lucky and grateful for having the privilege of attending that donating was a pleasure.
Now, I would advise you to stay away from Northwestern. It’s faculty no longer teach facts but ideology. In many departments in the humanities and social sciences, you are only safe as a student if you toe the line and regurgitate what you are told to think by professors. Nuance is abhorred. Northwestern as an institution models hypocrisy and desecrates its own stated values. A binary world of oppressor and oppressed or of imperialist and colonized are all that professors at Northwestern think students can handle. You will leave having learned a false history of the world and sadly not having learned how to think for yourself. If a good portion of the Northwestern faculty is successful, you will feel falsely supremely self-righteous and will have acquired the ability to justify rape and sadism if it fits the ideology of these professors. What’s more, these professors will tell you that calls for the extermination of millions of Jews are not antisemitic.
About a year ago there was a debate on Northwestern’s campus about the slogan “From the river to the sea.” A Jewish student made the point that it is a term used by its proponents — Hamas, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and others — and meant the extermination of the Jews from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The university in a statement said that this was not really what was meant and then misrepresented the ADL’s position so blatantly that the ADL amended its website to make it harder to manipulate its words. This was reminiscent of Holocaust denier and Northwestern faculty member, Professor Arthur Butz, who has written that Hitler didn’t really mean that he wanted to kill all the Jews, he was just a politician using hyperbole. October 7th and subsequent Hamas statements now make it clear that extermination was exactly the intent of the words. We now have Northwestern faculty on both the far left and far right united in denying basic historical facts, when it comes to Jews.
Northwestern claims to be devoted to academic truth, impartial to dollars, and punctilious when it comes to accepting money. As I researched my book, I found that Qatar had donated over $500 million to Northwestern, a number that has since grown to over $600 million. Qatar should define the opposite of everything Northwestern stands for. Qatar is a major supporter of Hamas, a designated terrorist organization by the US and EU. It also uses its Al Jazeera and Al Arabi networks to propagate the views of the Qatar royal family including anti-American propaganda. Qatar legally prohibits and punishes LGBTQ behavior and expression. Yet Northwestern proudly touts its institutional partnership with Al Jazeera. Can one imagine Northwestern taking humongous sums of money from a far right, anti-American, homophobic organization, and providing training to its main propaganda arm? Yet, amazingly, most Northwestern humanities and social science departments take the Qatari line on geo-politics and ignore anything that would otherwise cause them to shun Qatar. Northwestern is not just complicit; it is a sell-out.
Northwestern professors teach or tweet false histories. Though one of the great imperial peoples of world history, conquering much of the Levant, North African and the Middle East from their indigenous homeland in Arabia, Northwestern faculty are keen on teaching about the anti-colonial struggles of the Arab World and the indigenous Palestinians. Regarding the plight of actual indigenous peoples in the region — like the Kurds, Yezidis, Amazigh, Copts, and Maronites who have been subject to Arabization — war, genocide, and expulsion is rarely mentioned. For all of the rallies and student organization decrying the genocide of Palestine, faculty have nothing to say about these other peoples. Even philosophy is being rewritten to suit current pro-Hamas academic sentiments, as the discredited philosophical notion of moral luck is making a comeback.
So please look carefully at the colleges at which you apply. This is not just about the Jews and Israel, it is about an academic environment in which neither truth nor thinking matters. We are living in an era in which universities have saddled students with incredible lifetime debt loads. Students leave universities with no greater thinking skills than when they arrived, but they leave with a big bunch of prejudices and grudges. Our society is being hobbled by conspiracy theories and binary thinking, because that is what is being indoctrinated in many colleges.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching Northwestern but other “top tier” universities seem just as irredeemable. I don’t envy you. But you do have choices, I would start with the over 100 institutions that have signed onto the letter “Standing with Israel against Hamas.”
Good luck ( and keep off Tik Tok).
Scott A. Shay is the author of Conspiracy U: A Case Study (Wicked Son, 2021) which focuses on Northwestern and In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism (Post Hill Press, 2017). Shay won a 2023 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association for a Jewish Link article he wrote on Morningstar Analytics. He has two degrees from Northwestern University.