My friend, John Fund, a distinguished journalist and political commentator, has brought to my attention a fine study done by the Washington Monthly, showing that virulent anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests have occurred disproportionately at elite colleges where most students come from relatively rich families.

You heard a lot about pro-Palestinian demonstrations, building occupation, and tent encampments at schools like Columbia or Northwestern, but little or no mention of protests at schools where those attending are primarily from working-class families with a high proportion of first-generation students or at historically black colleges and universities.

The Washington Monthly examined this exhaustively and confirmed that the less selective public universities had far less protest activity than the elite and richly endowed private schools. This is in marked contrast to the widespread Vietnam War era protests, which were prominent at state schools, most tragically, at Kent State University, where four people died.

As one who has studied, taught, or guest lectured at schools of all stripes—I estimate on between 300 and 400 American campuses—I sense the zeitgeist of America’s collegiate villages varies enormously, consistent with the Washington Monthly study.

Many members of the campus community at the most elite schools think they are what Glenn Loury, in his spectacular new memoir Late Admissions: Confessions of a Black Conservative, calls masters of the universe—among the chosen persons classified as the best, brightest, smartest. They think they are today’s philosopher kings, destined to lead the nation in the future just as their professors and alumni did and do today.

The crisis in higher education today is that the academy’s perceptions have likely never been more divergent from those of American society as a whole.

The noble wunderkind idealists inhabiting the Harvards and Columbias of the world believe they have almost a divine right to behave as they wish, ignoring not only the rule of law but also accepted boundaries of protest in the democratic polity in which they live. Worse, they lately have displayed a despicable hatred or contempt towards a group of people based on their religion and traditions, also known as racism—evaluating people on group characteristics instead of their own worth as individuals.

But, the excessive disconnect between the real world and college is beginning to have seriously negative consequences.

Universities are utterly dependent on public support. This dependence is somewhat less pronounced for richly endowed schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Northwestern, Duke, and Stanford. However, even these institutions face significant challenges, particularly with the potential imposition of larger endowment taxes. The indication that rich alums will be withholding millions, maybe billions, in support hurts the elite schools, as does a decline in applications, making them less selective, less elitist, and less the home of the chosen ones and instead the home of what that great American philosopher Leona Helmsley once memorably called, “the little people.”

I suspect we are in the early, not late, stages of the impact of the abrupt decline in public support for universities. Waning student interest and the very real birth dearth already provide a bleak future for enrollments and governmental subsidies. When progressive icons like the New York Times and the Washington Post start critically editorializing about some of the practices of the self-appointed collegiate establishment, you know higher education is in trouble.

Both market forces—subdued as they are given massive public and private subsidies—and even governmental actions should bring corrective actions that may lead to improvements: lesser control of campus activities by leftist faculty, administrative, and student leaders. Colleges may be saved by crackdowns initiated by alumni and governing boards of private elite institutions as well as politicians and trustees of state universities.

Already, encouraging signs are appearing. MIT says faculty will no longer be asked to sign loyalty oaths to the woke supremacy commitments to support “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Decidedly, non-elitist Yeshiva University reports booming enrollments as abled—and often rich—Jewish students flee what they see as anti-Semitic hotbeds—Harvard and Columbia.

Spineless, unprincipled, and often academically dubious presidents of schools selected in a self-congratulatory affirmation of racial and ethnic inclusiveness are being defrocked from positions of dominance. And, as the public increasingly says no to campus wokeness, once religious and academically traditional schools are flourishing.

Maybe sanity will prevail, and higher education will come through wiser, rededicated to principles of free expression, civil debate, and respect for the rule of both formal and collegiate forms of the rule of law.