Populism has of course its good and its bad side. It can be simply a movement to improve the condition of the majority of citizens; it can also be a substitute for real democracy, a way of using authoritarianism and bigotry for nefarious ends while clothed in sheep's clothing. One is reminded of a statement by a German in the late nineteenth century, whose name I have forgotten, that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. Populism can be the democracy of fools.
President Eisgruber is of course right on target with his defense of the role of the University and its faculty in providing the material for intelligent decision making. But I would like to remind you that in Germany in the late 19th century and in the period up to the Nazi takeover in 1933 the most illiberal and authoritarian positions were found in the most unlikely of places we might think: the universities, the faculties, and the student body. Much more than business interests, lower-class agitation in the face of economic dislocation, even the outmoded and old-fashioned elites among the military and the old Junker class, the intellectual communities, with some notable exceptions but not too many of them, were foremost in supporting ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, geopolitical expansionism, and plain German aggressiveness. It was the elites of Germany, not the people, who brought Hitler to power, and among the elites perhaps the worst group was the sycophantic professors in the universities, universities which were generally considered among the best in the world.