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Ivy League schools founded to promote virtue, godliness have 'drifted radically' and 'forgotten their roots'

Harvard, Penn and other Ivy League schools were founded to promote morality, but have rejected principles as evident by the inability of leaders to condemn genocide, say some scholars.

Ivy League administrators of two colleges rejected their schools’ foundational values of faith, morality and virtue last week when they failed to condemn threats of genocide on campus, several education and religious leaders told Fox News Digital this week.

"They’ve drifted radically from their founding principles," said former U.S. Department of Education Secretary William Bennett about some of America's most prestigious universities.

"They’ve forgotten their roots and their moorings," he said.


Such failures have elicited outrage toward Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, while leaders of elite colleges face charges that they have lost the ability to tell right from wrong, once so central to their missions.

Both Harvard and Penn, along with other Ivy League schools, were established to glorify God, instill piety and encourage America’s brightest young scholars to channel their intellect for the greater good — according to the schools' own foundational statements.

Harvard was created by act of the Massachusetts legislature in 1636 to educate clergy.

It was then charged with "the education of the English and Indian youth of this country in knowledge and godliness," according to its 1650 charter.

Yet according to many observers, the president of Harvard University, Dr. Claudine Gay, appeared morally adrift when she tepidly told Congress last week that "context" was needed to determine whether calls for genocide against Jews violated the school's code of conduct.

Since then, Harvard's top leaders have come out in her defense after intense backlash across the nation over her comments on antisemitism, as well as accusations of plagiarism against her.

"As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University. Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing," Harvard Corporation wrote in a statement posted on Tuesday morning.

However, some scholars say that Gay's inability on Capitol Hill last week to condemn genocide points to a culture within Harvard that has grown detached from its foundational values after drifting away from them for decades.

"They have not only abandoned their mission, they have inverted that mission," said Dr. Matthew Petrusek, director of the Word on Fire Institute in Rochester, Minnesota. 

"They no longer have faith in God," he told Fox News Digital. 


"They have made their political ideology their god. You can substitute ‘progressive politics’ for ‘godliness’ in the Harvard mission statement and everything else about Harvard’s mission stays the same."

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who questioned Gay during a heated exchange on Capitol Hill last week, lashed out at Harvard leadership on Tuesday for what she called its "complete moral failure."

Rabbi Pinchas Taylor of Plantation, Florida, agreed with that sentiment.

"Like the [Ancient] Greeks, [universities] are devoted to reason, but devoid of morality — and thus have become cesspools of antisemitism and hedonism," he told Fox News Digital last week. 

Yet Dr. Irvin Leon Scott, a senior lecturer at Harvard and a practicing Christian, rejected the characterization that the university, or academia in general, is hostile to morality or religion. 

"I have strong faith and I've always had strong faith," Scott told Fox News Digital.

"I've never felt like I couldn't display that faith. There are plenty of people here at Harvard grounded in their faith, as there are at other schools and school districts."

Still, outrage over a lack of moral clarity forced University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill to resign on Dec. 9, after she offered Congress a lukewarm response similar to that given by Gay when she was asked to condemn genocide. 

"It was the biggest softball question that one could ever be asked, and they failed to answer it in an intelligible way," Petrusek said to Fox News Digital.

"It's not that they're not capable of moral reasoning. It's just that their morality has been hijacked by a progressive vision of the world. It is not just the loss of moral reasoning — it’s a perversion of moral reasoning."

Magill's inability to articulate or deliver a response about the immorality of genocide appeared to defy the foundational mission of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania — much as Gay did Harvard's mission.

Penn was established to promote "virtue and piety" and "principles of rectitude and morality," all of which are essential to the "proper education of youth," states the school’s Constitution of 1749, crafted by Benjamin Franklin

Princeton University in New Jersey, just 50 miles northeast of Penn, offers a public homage to the source of its prestige. 

"Dei sub numine viget" — "It thrives inspired by God" — says a plaque affixed near the main entrance of Nassau Hall, Princeton's oldest building. 


New York City's distinguished Ivy League outpost, Columbia University, also boasts a bold testament to God chiseled in stone above the entrance of its Greek Revival main library in Manhattan. 

"Perpetuated as Columbia College by the People of the State of New York when they became free and independent," the inscription states in perhaps the most visible location on campus. 

It then adds, "Maintained and cherished from generation to generation for the advancement of the public good and the glory of Almighty God."

Yet colleges around the nation, not just Ivy League schools, continue to lurch further left and further away from foundational values, many say.

"To be fair, this is a problem for all of America, not just for academia," said Bennett. 

"The country has changed as well." 

The loss of faith within academia appears to have coincided with a loss of faith in academia. 

A Gallup poll in July reported that only 17% of Americans have a "great deal" of faith in higher education — down from 28% in 2015. 

The same poll found that 22% have "very little" faith in higher education, up from only 9% in 2015. 

Students and educators at Harvard "are very bright people. Many are extremely bright," said Benneitt, an alumnus of the Massachusetts school, the nation's oldest university. 

"But being bright doesn't mean you have common sense," he told Fox News Digital. "Mental acuity doesn't mean moral acuity." 

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