A writer in The Forward isolates a major motive behind Joseph Epstein’s notorious WSJ essay : Keeping certain categories of people out of the senior common room.

But when UD considers Epstein’s own number one intellectual exemplar, the room looks a bit dull-witted. The critic Hilton Kramer, for instance, “argued that Mikhail Gorbachev was a far bigger threat to the free world than Joseph Stalin had ever been,” notes Jeet Heer.


stood in steadfast opposition to the idea that gays should be open and equal citizens in a democratic polity. He did this moreover not by making any rational arguments against gay equality but by constantly and snidely assuming that the very practice of gay sex was naturally repugnant to all right-thinking people.

Queers and women seemed to rub him the wrong way.

About one of America’s most prominent female intellectuals Kramer wrote, “In the end, Mary McCarthy’s politics were like her sex life—promiscuous and unprincipled, more a question of opportunity than of commitment or belief.” When writing about sexually active heterosexual male intellectuals (notably McCarthy’s ex-husband Edmund Wilson) Kramer somehow avoided the word promiscuous. Like a school yard bully, Kramer knew that slut-shaming is reserved for girls.

When you add to the common room the whole guy gang Epstein hung out with in those heady intellectual days, the place looks positively scummy. Kramer was a trustee at Adelphi University, an institution being run into the ground by Kramer’s buddy, the scandalous Peter Diamandopoulos. It took years of litigation for Adelphi to get rid of Diamandopoulos, who basically spent every moment of his presidency taking as much money as he could out of the school.

While president of Adelphi, Diamandopoulous arranged an honorary degree for Joseph Epstein. Given the vileness of this university-dismantler, it is in fact a dishonorary degree, and Epstein should have repudiated it.

A few scenes starring these stewards of the university:

[Diamandopoulos] entertaining his old friend on the board, John Silber, over dinner and drinks ended up costing Adelphi $546. Dr. Silber was president and is now chancellor of Boston University.

The next day, food and drinks with another trustee, Hilton Kramer, and a second guest cost the university $707. Mr. Kramer is The New York Observer’s art critic and a media critic for The New York Post.

The meal charges were actually modest; it was the bar tab that drove up the grand total. The bill was $454 for the 1982 Brion wine and Martell 100 cognac that Dr. Silber and Dr. Diamandopoulos drank. And the 1983 Chaval and Martell that he and Mr. Kramer sipped cost $552.

Promiscuous and unprincipled at the expense of the students for whom he was supposed to be acting as a trustee, Kramer seems a strange moral or intellectual exemplar for anyone – except, I guess, for Epstein.

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