OPINIONSrnDecline and Fallrnby Herbert Londonrn’The true university these days is a collection of books.”rn—^Thomas CarlylernThe Price of Excellence:rnUniversities in Conflict Duringrnthe Cold War Erarnby Jacob Neusner andrnNoam MM. NeusnerrnNew York: Continuum;rn252 pp., $24.95rnWhen Woodrow Wilson left hisrnposition as president of PrincetonrnUniversity to run for governor of NewrnJersey, a reporter asked him why hernwould voluntarily give up his prestigiousrnposition for a life of public service. Wilsonrnhesitated for a moment, and thenrnsaid, “To get out of politics.” Whilernmany who hear this story laugh, thernpunch line has a certain poignancy.rnBoth meanings of politics in the academyrn—the petty, mean-spirited varietyrnand a dedication to public activity—arernexplicated with extraordinary judgmentrnby Jacob and Noam Neusner in The Pricernof Excellence: Universities in ConflictrnDuring the Cold War Era.rnThe son (Noam) offers the story ofrnthe evolving university from the end ofrnWorld War II to the present, and the fatherrn(Jacob) weaves his personal story ofrnaccomplishment and disappointmentrninto the fabric of the whole. What onerngets from this book is a university sagarnthat includes insulation and exclusiveness,rnpublic awareness and largess, democratizationrnand eventually the vitiationrnof standards. It is hardly surprisingrnin reading this work to find that as universitiesrnhave altered their undertakingrnfrom teaching and research to redressingrnthe wrongs of the past and serving as arnHerbert London is ]ohn M. Olin Professorrnof Humanities at New York Universityrnand author, with Ed Rubenstein, of Fromrnthe Empire State to the Vampire State:rnNew York in a Downward Transition.rncatalyst for social change, public appreciationrnfor the academy and its mission hasrndeclined. While a significant portion ofrnthe public could readily identify the purposernof higher education and its manifestrnresults in the not very distant past,rnpublic attitudes today vary from mildlyrnrespectful to confused, with the typicalrnresponse being, “Why is so much spent,rnfor so little purpose?”rnAlas, scholarship itself is the victim ofrnpoliticization. Most scholady positionsrnare filtered through a cauldron of race,rnsex, class, and Third World ideology.rnWhen ideas arc not considered withinrnthis orthodoxy, they are moved into a relativisticrncosmology in which one opinionrnis as good as another. Is it any wonderrnthat legislatures considering the fundingrnfor public colleges and universities oftenrnconclude that the value of learning suchrnas it is may not be self-evident?rnFrom the metaphorical ivory tower—rninstitutions insulated from politics—thernuniversity has moved into the eye of thernWashington hurricane. Once the campusrnbecame a battlefield for the ColdrnWar, political intrusion became inevitable.rnScience and technology werernmobilized for warfare, and Washingtonrnseduced professors with bounty worthyrnof Croesus. As the authors note: “Politicsrn. . . governs learning; universities form anrninstrument in achieving the nationalrnwill; and the shape and goal of scholarshiprnfor professors and of education forrnstudents . . . hnd their dehnition in thatrnsame consensus that dictates public policyrnfor all else.”rnGovernment blandishments were toornappealing to deny. Instead of pursuingrnpure knowledge and abstract questions,rnthe university allowed itself incrementallyrnto become a center for practical knowledgernand problem-solving. There werernfew limits on resources of any kind. ThernNeusners describe this period in thern1950’s as the “golden age.” Yet the moneyrncame with strings, and the politics, seriousrnacademies now lament, found itsrnway into an academy that had heretoforernresisted such incursions.rnJacob Neusner has had an academicrncareer that spans the Cold War to thernpresent. He found his metier at I larvardrnas an undergraduate and at Columbia asrna graduate student through his intenserninterest in all things Jewish. For Neusner,rnthere was no achievement higher thanrnlearning. His passion for scholarshiprnshines through every sentence in thisrnbook. His love of Jewishncss is not simplyrnethnic rejoicing, although he takesrngreat pride in his background. His affectionrnfor Jewish history, law, fiction, language,rnand theology is rather a reflectionrnof his immersion in scholarship, an affection,rnas he notes, which sometimes createdrntension with his colleagues at thernJewish Theological Seminary and later atrnBrown University.rn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn