Andrei Serban is a world-renowned theater and opera director and was until recently a professor at Columbia University. After 27 years at the school, he resigned his position because he felt the political correctness at Columbia had reached a point of absurdity. Serban, who was born in Romania and fled communism for the United States, told a Romanian TV show that he felt he was “living under communism again” at Columbia. A video of Serban’s appearance on the show with English subtitles appeared on YouTube earlier this week in which he describes the reasons he resigned.
“What’s happening in the Trump era, the right is radicalized and the left is very radicalized,” Serban said. He continued, “Universities in America are usually left. Columbia is some sort of socialist left on its way to full blown communism, a new strain of communism.”
Challenged by the host who said he was exaggerating, Serban said, “It’s about political correctness…that is now like a chronic disease, like a jaundice affecting America.” He then told a story about what happened when the department needed to hire a replacement for a professor who had left the school:
“We were summoned, all of us, the professors of the acting school of which I was the school director, and they told us we need to form a hiring commission because we needed a new professor because one of us retired…and the dean of the art school told us that we are too many white professors, too many heterosexual men and it would be best to hire a new educator, a woman preferably a minority, and if she is gay it would be just fine, and if it’s a man it would be preferable someone who is Latino or black. And of course she said, it can’t be someone like you Andrei because you are a man who’s been married, a heterosexual man who has children…
“And then I asked…what if the best candidate happens to be by far the most qualified to be a professor to teach these students who are spending a tremendous amount of money on tuition, what is going to happen if the best candidate for the job is white, who is married and has a family? And I was told ‘No, you cannot select this candidate.'”
Serban added, “I was talking as a principle, after which it turned out that someone who was very, very qualified wasn’t hired, and they hired somebody else who was a gay, black person.” Summing up the experience, Serban said, “I felt like I was living under communism again.”
Serban told a second story about holding college admissions interviews: “In this audition there is a transsexual, a guy who turned himself, who wanted to be a she and I ask him ‘What did you prepare for this audition?’ And he says ‘I prepared Juliet’s monologue.’ Juliet’s monologue…the monologue, it’s Juliet who is a 14-year-old girl, she is purity incarnate which is absolutely impossible for me to believe that this guy who thinks he’s a female now that he could be Juliet. He could have tried other scenes from other plays. And I told him ‘Don’t you have anything else but Juliet?’ He says ‘No, but why are you asking? Are you irritated by me?’
“Immediately I could tell he was trying to…I said ‘I’m not irritated but I don’t know how you could make me believe that you are Juliet.'”
Once the audition was over, the other members of the staff in the room criticized Serban for suggesting the trans person couldn’t be Juliet. But Serban said he couldn’t believe it and had to be true to himself so he resigned.
It’s worth noting, and Serban obviously knows this, that Shakespeare’s women characters, including Juliet, were originally played by men in drag. It wasn’t until several decades after Shakespeare’s death that the first woman appeared on stage in one of his plays. Of course, that was more than 350 years ago. Still, I’m surprised Serban didn’t mention it.
As for the other story Serban told, it’s not legal to give someone an advantage or disadvantage in hiring because of their race or gender. If it happened as he described, that would seem to be very problematic for Columbia.
The College Fix, which reported the story Wednesday, notes that Serban is still listed on the school’s website. I don’t speak Romanian so I can’t verify the transcription here, however this Romanian news site offered a nearly identical transcription of the TV appearance which you can read via Google translate. Here’s the clip: