So Columbia University, as mentioned here earlier, is said to have appointed a fire-eating Red as Provost. The Red in question, John Coatsworth, has written some quite good stuff -- particularly about the coup in Guatemala -- but his Redness is far from obvious to this casual reader, trolling the interwebs. However an acquaintance of mine, a longtime toiler in the Columbia vineyard, who is himself Redder than Betelguese, and should know, admonishes:
It is very important for Columbia to include Marxists on its faculty. Students apply to Columbia because they want to study Marx.This is very good news, of course, but it came as quite a surprise.
I know a lot of Columbia faculty & students -- you can't help it here, it's a company town -- and I must say that in my experience, compared to other first- and second-tier credential retailers, Columbia has about the most conventional, cautious, don't-rock-the-boat cadre and customers of all. One gets the very strong impression that after 1968 management swore a mighty oath: Never Again! And took steps to implement it.
In the 80s they seemed to be recruiting a lot of jocks, but that led to a rash of date rapes and other unfortunate incidents -- alcohol poisoning, vomitus all over the McKim Mead & White beauxarteries, that sort of thing. Now the students mostly seem to be very focussed, serious, disciplined pre-professional types -- aspiring lawyers and MBAs.
The waitstaff -- erm, professioriate -- mostly seem to be perfectly nice liberal Upper West Side people(*), deeply disgusted with the Teabaggers and other bien-pensant betes noires, but that's about as far as it generally goes.
Ed Said was of course a horse of a different color, and I hear good things about Joseph Massad, though I haven't met him. And of course my correspondent is right that all the elite schools like to keep a few such people around; it helps keep up that factitious facade of free inquiry.
(*) Unlike my own alma mater, the University of Chicago. There were people there who were so reactionary they drank Commie blood out of Commie skulls. Before the cocktail hour. But then there were some real Reds too -- I remember Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin in particular with great respect.