American Enlightenment (Vol. 1, Issue 13)
The position American colleges have taken on the invitations extended to them to participate in the Heidelberg ceremonies is a sad commentary indeed on the humanity and enlightenment of American university heads. It is depressing and disheartening to compare the stand taken by institutions in Great Britain with the deplorable callousness exhibited at Harvard, Cornell, Vassar, and Columbia, all of which have signified their intention to send delegates to the celebration.
In England, the Royal Society, embodiment of dignified scholarliness and decorum, did not hesitate to refuse, with an admirable non-mincing of words. Oxford University and Birmingham University were no less pointed in their rejection. So decided were the rebuffs that a frantic attempt to maintain the German: self-respect necessitated a rather lame withdrawal of the invitation. The retraction fooled no one. It was an admission of a humiliating repulse.
Quite different is the American side of the picture. With the astonishing naivete the Harvard message of acceptance piously prates of the “ancient ties by which the universities of the world are united and which are independent of the political conditions existing in any country at any particular time.”
Even more astonishing is the Columbia secretary’s explanation that acceptance was merely a matter of routine and that the invitation was not considered on its merits. As an example of logical treatment of a serious matter, Columbia’s action is certainly nothing to be, proud of.
The demonstrations of apathy to the issues involved are difficult to understand. Can the authorities of the accepting institutions really be blind to the implications of the Heidelberg: celebration this summer?
They would seem to be oblivious of the fact that participating in the ceremonies is to be stigmatized as tacitly approving Nazi oppression.
They would seem to be oblivious of the fact that of the old University of Heidelberg nothing remains but a hollow mockery of what was once a world center of learning.
They must have forgotten what academic freedom means in a country where universities are but centers for the dissemination and inculcation of bloody Nazi ideology.
American colleges pride themselves on their liberalism. They were especially loud in their own praises when they invited distinguished German exiles to teach in their portals. Now the participating colleges have reversed themselves completely. By accepting Hitler’s invitation they publicly insult the very same men whom, a short time ago, they delighted to honor.
Academic slates in this country are none too clean on the score of liberalism, as any number of dismissed pacifist instructors will prove.
Let these schools hesitate ere they disgrace themselves further. They will not miss much. Lord knows there is little enough to celebrate at Heidelberg this summer.