FROM OUR ESSAYS
By David French
From the site of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
Not long ago, the university was seen as a world apart--an idyllic enclave where our studious youth learned the virtues of citizenship, cheered hard for the football team, and read the great classics of Western thought. The "ivory tower" was more an observation than the insult the term has become, an almost monastic reference to a place where thought was free and knowledge ruled.
Nostalgia, of course, is deceptive--life was rarely as good (or bad)
as we remember. However, nearly everyone will agree that our
universities have changed in the past four decades, educating millions
on vast campuses that my friend Greg Lukianoff, president of the
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has compared to "small
Continue reading "Why Universities Can't Grant Religious Liberty" »
By Harvey A. Silverglate
This is the text of a speech given March 28, 2012 at a Manhattan Institute luncheon in New York City.
I began representing students in 1969. A group of Harvard students took over University Hall in an anti-Vietnam War protest. There was a lot of violence, President Pusey called in the police, and 220 students were charged with trespass on the property of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. My law partners and I took the case, and they tried them in groups of 20 students at a time. Much to the consternation of the President and Fellows, and the district attorney of Middlesex County, the jury said not guilty to the first group. So they gave up the rest of the cases. They figured if the jury wouldn't convict the first 20, they're not going to convict the rest.
And that got me interested in this whole area. And two years later,
in 1971, I had my first student disciplinary case in front of the now
feared Harvard Administrative Board. That's the disciplinary body. And
it was a rather interesting case, and I want you to see where I'm
coming from, what I experienced at the beginning of my career. And then
I'll tell you a little bit about the last 20 years.
Continue reading "Misconduct Hearings on Campus Are Rotten and Have to Change" »
By KC Johnson
Remarks delivered at a Manhattan Institute luncheon, March 28, 2012 in New York City. Professor Johnson and attorney Harvey Silverglate, whose talk will be presented here tomorrow, spoke on "Kangaroo Courts: Yale, Duke and Student Rights."
Before the Patrick Witt case, I had some experience writing about how the New York Times handles cases of sexual assault allegations against high-profile college athletes--the Duke lacrosse case. After all that damage had been done, and after more than a hundred articles had been published in the New York Times, two Times editors, including Bill Keller, issued some half-hearted apologies for how the paper had mishandled the case, and "mishandled" is a generous word for what the Times did.
I had always worked under the assumption that when an institution
apologizes, it also takes steps to ensure that it doesn't commit the
same kinds of mistakes again. But the Times obviously has a different
standard of apology than I do. And in the Patrick Witt case, the same
sorts of mistakes were made in coverage -- a presumption of guilt when
the allegation is sexual assault, and a decision to ignore critical
procedural issue -- because they don't fit the preconceived storylines.
Continue reading "What Yale and the Times Did to Patrick Witt" »
By Herbert I. London
Dr. London, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom on February 9 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation. These were his remarks on the occasion.
It is with enormous humility and gratitude that I accept this award from the Bradley Foundation that has done so much to promote liberty inside and outside the Academy. I am particularly pleased to receive the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award since I remember with great joy our discussion of her very important essay "Dictatorships
and Double Standards," which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Commentary.
Continue reading "What Has Happened to Academic Freedom?" »
By Harvey A.
our beleaguered universities continue their seemingly inexorable march from
being institutions of higher education to resembling, more and more, political
and social re-education camps for the young, every now and then the students
demonstrate that they remain well ahead of campus administrations and faculties
when it comes to appreciating the true role of our colleges and universities: It appears that our universities' efforts at
attitudinal indoctrination have not been wholly successful.
We see the latest example at Harvard in an editorial in the
college newspaper The Harvard Crimson. Headlined "A University, Not A Think Tank: Harvard should not issue a
formal position on inequality" (The Harvard Crimson, December 14, 2011),
the undergraduate journalists take their professors to task for continuing on
the perilous journey of politicizing the institution by seeking to have the school,
in the editorial's words, "use its position to make a statement against social
Continue reading "Will Harvard Stop Trying to Impose Orthodoxies?" »
By Charlotte Allen
The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has done it again
. This is the group that effectively drove former Harvard president Lawrence Summers out of office over a 2005 remark of his about possible differences between the sexes that didn't sit well with hard-line feminists on the Harvard faculty. The FAS voted its "lack of confidence" in Summers's leadership, and he tendered his resignation in 2006. Last week the FAS maneuvered another forced departure on political grounds. It voted to eliminate two Harvard Summer School courses
taught by Subramanian Swamy, a former economics professor at Harvard who now lives in India but who has regularly traveled to Cambridge to teach in the university's summer school.
Continue reading "Harvard Faculty 1, Free Speech 0" »
By Donald Downs
It has been over a week since the University of Wisconsin at Madison was torn by the debate over affirmative action on September 13. The conflict was precipitated by the presentation of a study conducted by the Center for Equal Opportunity, which alleges reverse discrimination in UW admissions policies.
A lot has been written about what happened at the press conference announcing the event and the debate between CEO's Roger Clegg and UW law professor Larry Church later that evening. Most publicly presented views have been supportive of the students who protested at these events, and have defended the UW's admissions policies. But criticisms of how this conflict has been handled have percolated beneath the surface.
Continue reading "Protest Versus Disruption at the University of Wisconsin" »
By Charlotte Allen
The Pope Center's Duke Cheston has issued what is essentially a call for the abolition of college fraternities, adding a conservative battle cry to a war which hitherto has been largely waged by liberals: feminists, political correctness-besotted campus administrators, and, lately, the Obama administration's Education Department. In an essay for the Pope Center's website he wrote: "For the sake of students...colleges should find a way to drastically change fraternity culture--and soon--or get rid of them." Cheston argues that fraternities, widely regarded as incubuators of binge drinking and--at least in the minds of some feminists (and, apparently Cheston himself)--a campus culture of rape. Citing an incident in which a college friend had shrugged off an alleged rape committed by one of the friend's fraternity brothers, Cheston wrote: "joining a fraternity had encouraged my friend to think that rape wasn't that bad."
Cheston also links to an op-ed article I wrote in June for the Los Angeles Times in which I decried a "scorched-earth war against college fraternities" that I said threatened the freedom of speech and association, not just of members of Greek societies but of all college students. "Left out of Allen's analysis, however," Cheston wrote, "is the question of whether or not fraternities are a net positive influence on students."
Continue reading "The Feminist War on Fraternities" »
By Harvey A. Silverglate and Adam Kissel
Harvard College's Class of 2015 found something unprecedented awaiting their arrival on campus: an ideological pledge. It was framed as a request for allegiance to certain social and political principles. No such request had been made of Harvard students since the college's founding by Puritans in 1636.
First-years are being pressured to sign a "Freshman Pledge" committing them to create a campus "where the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment" -- all in the name of "upholding the values of the College" including "inclusiveness and civility."
The request - originating from the Dean of Freshmen, in consultation with the secretary of Harvard's feared disciplinary tribunal, its Administrative Board, and communicated via dormitory tutors who are the students' main liaison with the administration - asked that students commencing their four-year journey of intellectual and spiritual awakening take a position on social and political issues that are much debated in our contentious times. "Inclusiveness" and "civility" have become, for better or worse, buzz words among those who argue over the extent to which harsh rhetoric should be avoided in the name of providing students protection from the hurt feelings that often result from vigorous arguments.
Continue reading "Harvard Pressures Freshmen to Sign a Moral Pledge" »
By David French
For more than a decade, universities have forced Christian student groups to fight a rather puzzling battle. In a campus environment where it’s assumed that Democratic student groups can reserve leadership for Democrats, environmentalist groups can be run by actual environmentalists, and socialist groups can have socialist leaders, Christian groups have been fighting for the right to Christian leadership. The conflict is between the civil liberties of Christian organizations and university nondiscrimination policies, which tend to prohibit “religious” discrimination but permit groups to discriminate on the basis of ideology and politics.
The first truly public fight occurred at Tufts University, where an openly lesbian woman attempted to lead Tufts Christian Fellowship, expressing disagreement not only with the group’s religious beliefs but also a desire to use her leadership platform to openly advocate her dissenting views. Not content to form her own group or to lead other Christian groups that promised to welcome her with open arms, she determined that every group on campus had to agree with her vision of sexual morality.
Continue reading "The Road to Censorship, Paved With Good Intentions" »
By Heather Mac Donald
Reprinted from City Journal.
California's budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. "Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone," the university system's vice president for budget and capital resources warned earlier this month, in advance of this week's meeting of the university's regents. Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.
Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time "vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion." This position would augment UC San Diego's already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor's Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women's Center.
Continue reading "Less Academics, More Narcissism" »
By Charlotte Allen
Though civil liberties groups have been slow to react, there's a disturbing aspect to the Education Department's new "gainful employment" rules
pertaining to for-profit colleges: Starting in 2015, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will start turning over its data on the earnings of individual students at career colleges to the Education Department. This is so it can assess whether the students' ratio of federal student loan debt to income complies with other gainful employment regulations issued by the department. Under the new rules, one of the metrics for deciding whether students can use federal aid (grants and loans) to attend a post-secondary vocational program is whether the average debt-to-income ratio of the school's graduates is no higher than 12 percent (or 30 percent of the graduate's "discretionary income" as defined by federal rules).
The idea behind the debt-to-income rule is to assess whether the graduates of vocational programs--including programs offered by community colleges and other nonprofit institutions as well as career colleges--are actually getting the jobs for which their training at tax-subsidized expense is supposed to be preparing them. But the SSA-Education Department arrangement--the result of an unprecedented agreement between the two federal agencies--raises serious problems related to both the privacy of the students involved and the transparency of the process of determining whether a school has failed to meet the debt-to-income threshold.
Most troubling is the involvement of the Social Security Administration--and also, indirectly, the Internal Revenue Service, which supplies earnings information to the SSA based on tax returns. After all, the SSA is supposed to be in the business of calculating Social Security benefits, not monitoring compliance with laws that have nothing to do with Social Security. The IRS, in turn, is supposed to be in the business of collecting taxes, including Social Security taxes, not helping the Education Department decide whether the University of Phoenix is in compliance with new gainful employment rules. Both agencies, the IRS in particular, are bound by strict laws forbidding the sharing of data except as explicitly permitted by federal statute, such as the one that allows the SSA to use IRS-supplied tax-return information along with filings by employers to determine benefits. Taxpayers have historically relied on the nearly complete confidentiality of their tax-return information as an incentive to honesty in reporting. Controversial provisions in the 2010 "Obamacare" health law that turn the IRS into an enforcement agency for compliance with the law's individual insurance mandate have raised serious and justifiable objections. Now, thanks to an SSA-Education Department partnership that has no clear statutory authorization, both the SSA and the IRS will be complicit in an arrangement that has nothing to do with either agency's statutory mandate.
Continue reading " How the Feds Plan to Violate Student Privacy" »
By Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie
The Department of Education is currently investigating Yale University for allegedly maintaining a sexually hostile environment. No one can deny that the New Haven Ivy is in a difficult position. To wit, Yale enacted changes last month to lower the standard of proof in sexual assault cases, and last week, College Dean Mary Miller announced that a fraternity would be banned for five years, a result of an October 2010 incident in which pledges shouted sexually-graphic chants. Yale, by all appearances, is capitulating to federal pressure. It didn't have to. Here's how Yale President Richard Levin could have stood tall, on behalf of educators and liberal arts institutions everywhere, in the face of Washington's unwelcome--and ultimately destructive
Dear Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali:
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Richard Levin, President of Yale University. I've been at the helm of this great institution since 1993, making me currently the longest-tenured president in the Ivy League. As a long-time observer of higher education, and one who has praised its historical autonomy from the public sector, I feel an obligation to express my concern about recent developments from your office.
I'm writing today in response to a Title IX civil rights complaint for gender discrimination that your office has filed against my university, as well as a "Dear Colleague" letter sent by you last month to nearly every college and university,both of which concern the adjudication of sexual harassment allegations in higher education.
Continue reading "What Yale's President Should Have Said about the Frat Boys " »
By Charlotte Allen
Delta Kappa Epsilon--the "Dekes"--whose pledges' allegedly sexist chant during a hazing ritual at Yale last October so offended campus feminists that the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office is now conducting a full-blown investigation of Yale for sexual harassment under Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act.
They were marched blindfolded through the Old Campus--"No means yes, and yes means anal!" One of the other allegations in the 30-page complaint that triggered
the investigation filed by 16 Yale alumni (12 of them women): a "Preseason Scouting Report" e-mail that some Yalies had circulated rating 53 incoming freshman women according to how many beers it would take to have sex with them. The complaint charged that Yale, by failing to respond sufficiently to such outrages, and by failing to respond sufficiently to a 2007 petition by 150 students in Yale's medical school accusing professors and fellow students of groping, intimidating, verbally abusing them, and raping them failed to "eliminate a hostile sexual environment." Should Yale be found in violation of Title IX, which forbids sex discrimination by educational institutions, it stands to lose some $500 million annually in federal funds.
The whole idea of Yale, these days one of the most politically correct institutions of higher learning in America, maintaining a "hostile sexual environment" seems in itself ludicrous. Indeed, although as of Monday Yale administrators said they had not read the alumni complaint, Yale Dean Mary Miller promptly issued a statement and said, "Yale has a deep commitment to gender equity." Yet there are two very serious and disturbing issues that the Education Department raises. The first is a free-speech issue. Whether or not the Deke pledges' chant was funny or, boorish and in poor taste it is not surprising that Yale, whose 1975 Woodward Report codifies broad guarantees of freedom of expression on campus, chose not to discipline the fraternity or any of its members merely for saying things that offended other students. Should the Education Department deem Yale's failure to punish the pledge chants or the "Preseason Scouting" e-mails a violation of civil rights laws, it will effectively impose a draconian federal speech code upon not only Yale, but all college campuses. Students will have to watch what they say and fear what they write lest some protected group seek severe disciplinary reprisals.
Continue reading "The Coming War on Fraternities" »
By Cathy Young
Earlier this month, shortly after the announcement of a sexual harassment investigation targeting Yale University, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights issued a "Dear Colleague Letter" to colleges on the handling of sexual violence cases. On the same day, April 4, Vice President Joe Biden kicked off a nationwide "awareness campaign" on schools' obligations toward victims in a speech at the University of New Hampshire. But will this campaign truly help victims of sexual assault - or is it likely to trample on the civil rights of students accused of such offenses, and promote more panic and paranoia on campuses?
Some of the recommendations in the OCR letter are innocuous enough, such as providing a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sexual violence and an equal opportunity for both sides in such cases to present witnesses. Others, however, are more troubling; indeed, former Education Department attorney Hans Bader concludes
that the document "undermines due process and accuracy" in the quest for more convictions. While these are convictions under campus disciplinary proceedings, not in criminal court, they are still likely to have grave consequences: not only expulsion from school, but the stigma of having committed a felonious act even if it is not prosecuted under criminal law.
Perhaps the most problematic of the OCR's recommendations is that sexual assault complaints should be adjudicated under the standard of "preponderance of the evidence," rather than the "clear and convincing evidence" standard currently used by many universities. (In response, Stanford and Yale are already amending
their procedural rules.) As Bader puts it, "'Preponderance of the evidence' means that if a school thinks there is as little as a 51 percent chance
that the accused is guilty, the accused must still be disciplined." In his view, this requirement is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of federal law: In Title IX sex discrimination cases, the "preponderance of the evidence" standard is meant to apply to an institution accused of violating the plaintiff's rights, not to another individual accused of an offense.
Continue reading "Sexual Assault on Campus--Is It Exaggerated?" »
By Peter Wood
I head an organization, the National Association of Scholars (NAS), that is often accused by its critics on the academic left of nostalgia for days when higher education was an exclusive club for the privileged. The accusation is false. NAS focuses on the enduring principles of the university: rational inquiry, liberal learning, and academic freedom. True, there have been points in the past when these principles have been better observed than they are today, but our interest is in the future of the university, not its past.
Thus I was eager to learn more when I heard that a group of professors had come forward to promote an ambitious "Campaign for the Future of Higher Education." Alas, my excitement proved premature. It turns out that the Campaign is mostly reactionary. It was put together by an alliance of groups, mostly unions, fearful of current trends and desperate to halt developments that may well lead away from a recent epoch in which higher education was indeed "an exclusive club for the privileged." The "Campaign for Higher Education" might be better titled, "The Way We Were."
In January the California Faculty Association (CFA), a faculty union, convened a meeting of seventy faculty members, representing several other unions and other organizations, including the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported under the headline, "Faculty Groups Gather to Craft a United Stand on Higher-Education Policy," that the attendees agreed to take back to their memberships a document drafted by the CFA that "outlines a set of principles it believes should undergird higher-education policy over the next decade." AAUP president Cary Nelson indicated that the principles would be presented publicly in April in a series of teach-ins.
Continue reading "The Campus Left's Nostalgia Party - RSVP " »
By Cathy Young
The academic gender wars are back in the news, with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights announcing an investigation into a Title IX complaint against Yale University. Sixteen current and former Yale students claim that the university discriminates against women by allowing a sexually hostile environment to flourish. Is there really a problem with the sexual climate at Yale? And if so, is it much more of a two-way street than the complainants allege?
An evaluation of the charges is complicated by the fact that the specifics have not been publicly released. Some details, however, can be gleaned from the complainants' statements as well as a Huffington Post article by Yale research fellow Claire Gordon, a former director of the Yale Women's Center who declined to co-sign the complaint but summarized the draft.
Gordon paints a shocking picture of virulent misogyny: fraternity pledges shouting chants that celebrate rape and necrophilia; pledges from another frat chanting "Dick, dick, dick" outside the Women's Center -- so intimidating a female staffer that she had to go in through the back door -- and having themselves photographed with a sign that reads "We love Yale sluts"; an email circulated among athletes and fraternity members rating 53 female freshmen on how many beers a man would need to drink to have sex with them. All this outrageous behavior, Gordon and the complainants assert, is treated as little more than boys-will-be-boys hijinks.
Continue reading "The Yale Sex Harassment Controversy" »
By Charlotte Allen
If you care about free speech on college campuses, there could hardly be a more sympathetic figure than Jonathan Lopez. A student at Los Angeles City College (LACC) in 2008, when California voters rejected Proposition 8 , he was one of the first victims of the rage of gay-rights advocates and their academic allies: a week after the vote, Lopez tried to fulfill an assignment by giving a classroom speech on his Christian faith and his Biblically-based opposition to gay marriage. His professor, John Matteson, a supporter of gay marriage and Proposition 8, allegedly called him a "fascist bastard," refused to give him a grade on the talk and later allegedly promised to get him expelled.
Lopez is a key player in one
of two federal cases currently on petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of campus "hate speech" codes that can punish students for expressing views that are protected by the First Amendment but don't jibe with the progressive ethos of many college administrators and faculty. The other
free-speech case involves an anti-abortion group at the University of Maryland-Baltimore that was in effect silenced in 2007 when forced to move a graphic display on abortion to a remote part of campus. University officials had ruled that the display might offend some students. If the Supreme Court decides to review the two cases, the result could be a death blow to speech codes at public institutions of higher learning. Though speech codes have not fared well in the courts, they have been a much-criticized but common fixture of campus life since the 1980s.
There is a problem, however, that could derail both lawsuits: Did Lopez and the University of Maryland group, Rock for Life (now Students for Life), suffer actual injury and thus have standing to sue to have the speech codes declared unconstitutional? A 1992 Supreme Court decision, Lujan vs. Defenders of Wildlife, denied standing to environmentalist groups that wanted to mount a court challenge to some Interior Department regulations they deemed insufficiently rigorous, ruling that challengers to a law or policy have to show some concrete injury caused by the law that is "actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical," as legal commentators have put it. Plaintiffs in First Amendment cases can establish standing via a looser standard, simply by alleging that the regulation in question is so overly broad that it has a "chilling effect" on their own or others' efforts to express themselves freely. But some federal appeals courts have ruled that even those plaintiffs must claim a concrete injury, such as actual or threatened enforcement of the regulation against them. Among those courts are the Fourth Circuit (in the Rock for Life case) and the Ninth Circuit (in the Lopez case), both of which ruled that since no one had tried to enforce a speech code directly, the lawsuits had to be dismissed for lack of standing. Other federal appeals courts appear to hold to the contrary--and that division of opinion alone may persuade the Supreme Court to review the two rulings.
Continue reading "Two Campus Free-Speech Cases Aimed at the Supreme Court" »
By Hans Bader
There's no federal law against bullying or homophobia. So the Department of Education recently decided to invent one. On October 26, it sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to the nation's school districts arguing that many forms of homophobia and bullying violate federal laws against sexual harassment and discrimination. But those laws only ban discrimination based on sex or race - not sexual orientation, or bullying in general. The letter from the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights twisted those laws, interpreting them so broadly as to cover not only bullying, but also a vast range of constitutionally protected speech, as well as conduct that the Supreme Court has held does not constitute harassment. In so doing, it menaced academic freedom and student privacy rights, and thumbed its nose at the federal courts.
The letter successfully left the false impression that federal law already bans bullying and anti-gay harassment. For example, a sympathetic news story reported that "the Department of Education issued guidance to all school officials in October 2010, reminding them that federal law requires schools to take action against bullying--including . . . sexual harassment of LGBT students." The letter was part of a high-profile Obama Administration campaign against bullying, that recently culminated in "a high-visibility conference on bullying prevention March 10, with the president and first lady" and the introduction by Administration allies of "several LGBT-inclusive bills designed to address bullying of students."
But in reality, there is no federal ban on bullying, and no federal statute prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination. Bills banning anti-gay discrimination, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, have yet to pass Congress. Existing sexual harassment laws generally do not cover harassment aimed at gays based on their sexual orientation, as opposed to their gender - even if such harassment is sexual in nature. As the Supreme Court emphasized in its 1998 Oncale decision, "workplace harassment" is not illegal sexual harassment "merely because the words used have sexual content"; instead, victims "must always prove that the conduct at issue was not merely tinged with offensive sexual connotations, but actually constituted discrimination 'because of'" a victim's "sex," such that "members of one sex are" treated worse than "the other sex." Thus, federal courts have usually dismissed sexual harassment lawsuits brought by gay employees over bullying and foul language, in cases like Higgins v. New Balance (1999).
Harassment is legally defined even more narrowly in schools than workplaces. In the workplace, harassment need only be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile environment in order to be illegal. A single, severe physical act can occasionally be enough for a lawsuit.
Continue reading "Washington Invents an Anti-Bullying Law" »
By Harvey A. Silverglate
In Savannah, Georgia, an ambitious experiment in higher education is under way. Ralston College aims to offer a back-to-basics liberal arts experience , stripped of the amenities and assumptions of the modern university. Though just now getting off the ground--it has yet to accept student applications--its stated mission is clear. Students will experience rigorous coursework year-round and focus on "reading books, thinking about them, and talking about them," according to the college's brochure.
Perhaps more noteworthy is what Ralston College intends not to have: armies of administrators micromanaging student life, cloistered academic departments unwelcoming to interdisciplinary studies, and coddled students whose sentiments and comforts, as supposed "customers," are paramount.
It is too early to tell how this experiment will play out. But its mere existence is rather remarkable. In a country with some 4,400 degree-granting institutions of higher education, a market niche is apparently opening for the classic pursuit of the liberal arts.
Continue reading "What Characterizes the Modern Totalitarian, Corporatized University?" »
By Mark Bauerlein
As reported here, the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs at Penn State has revised the school's academic freedom policy and submitted a new version to the president for approval. The proposed changes include, the Introduction says, "Converting the list of restrictions on academic freedom into affirmative principles." To that end, the Committee has deleted the final two sentences of the old policy:
No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.
Apparently, the Committee regards the "privilege" noted here as a feature of academic freedom; likewise for license to introduce "provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects."
Continue reading "Thoughts on Penn State" »
By Harvey Silverglate
The first remarkable aspect of the case intriguingly captioned John Doe, Father of Minor Daughter H.S. v. Silsbee Independent School District, are the facts: Administrators at a public high school in Texas threw a female student off of the cheerleading squad because she refused to cheer for one particular member of the basketball team---a fellow student who, she claimed, had sexually assaulted her at a party. Cheer when the rest cheered, she was told, or else be kicked off the cheerleading squad for the rest of the year. She refused, and was dismissed from the squad, court records show.
But reading closely the legal briefs and court opinions produces a second, equally remarkable fact: Neither the lawyer for the dismissed cheerleader, nor the three judges of the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (sitting in New Orleans), bothered to cite, much less follow, arguably the most famous and fundamental Supreme Court opinion ever written interpreting the scope of the First Amendment in protecting public school students: West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. It is an opinion that Professor Alan Charles Kors and I discussed in considerable detail in our 1998 book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses. I'll return to this momentous opinion below.
How can it be that everyone (including three appeals court judges on a level just one step below the Supreme Court) appears to have missed the one high court opinion that would quickly and neatly resolve the case in the exiled cheerleader's favor? The answer, it seems to me, lies in the fact that, when it comes to litigation concerning the civil liberties of public school students, nearly everyone reflexively thinks in terms of the politically correct concepts---and shibboleths---of the day. Because our thinking about issues of free speech and independent thought in the academic world are so off-kilter, it becomes more difficult to see tyranny over public school students as precisely what it is---tyranny---rather than simply as par-for-the-course administrative control over the lives, words, and even thoughts and attitudes of students.
Continue reading ""You will cheer and smile! And you will like it!"" »
By KC Johnson
Hard cases make bad law. Nowhere is that legal maxim clearer than the case of former Augusta State counseling student Jennifer Keeton, who was removed from the counseling program because of her rather extreme anti-gay views. A lower-court judge upheld the university's actions. FIRE and NAS have filed a powerful amicus brief, penned by Eugene Volokh, spelling out the potentially damaging---extremely damaging---effects if this decision is upheld. At the same time, however, the evidence presented in the case strongly suggests that Keeton doesn't belong as a counselor.
The university's response to Keeton reflects the same sort of behavior seen in many education departments in the dispositions controversy---i.e., Orwellian re-education efforts to punish students whose views on controversial contemporary political or social issues conflict with those of the academic majority.
Keeton, a student in ASU's Counseling Education M.A. program, repeatedly expressed anti-gay views, both in and out of class. (These views were quite extreme; they included Keeton's support for "conversion therapy," and, according to the lower-court decision in the case, her admission that she would find it difficult to counsel gay or lesbian clients.) In response, as the FIRE/NAS brief notes, the Counseling department designed a "remediation" program for Keeton, which required her "attending three workshops, reading ten peer-reviewed articles, attending an unspecified number of activities such as the Gay Pride Parade(!), and writing a two-page paper each month." Perhaps most chilling, she also had to meet with her advisor each month to discuss the effect of these activities on her "beliefs."
Continue reading "A Hard Case---Are FIRE and NAS Wrong about Jennifer Keeton?" »
By Charlotte Allen
When the Supreme Court ruled in June that public universities could deny official recognition to a Christian student group that barred openly gay people as members because homosexual acts are considered sinful by many Christian churches, some commentators hoped that the 5-4 ruling would be construed as a narrow one that permitted but did not require campuses to enforce their anti-bias policies in ways that interfered with religious belief. (Writing for the high court majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the state-supported Hastings College of Law's policy of requiring student groups to take all comers in order to qualify for official status was a neutral one that did not interfere with religious freedom.)
Think again, optimistic commentators. Already this summer two federal lower-court judges have used the high court's decision in Christian Legal Society of the University of California vs. Martinez to uphold the right of two different tax-supported universities to expel Christian graduate students from counseling programs because those students could not in good conscience agree with the fashionable prevailing ideology---endorsed by the American Counseling Association---that homosexual activity is morally neutral and that gay people should be counseled in "affirming" ways that essentially endorse their lifestyles.
It turns out that the word "permit" is the operative one. University and college administrators have interpreted the Martinez decision as giving them carte blanche to restrict religious expression on campus as long as administrators could characterize the restrictions as "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns," in the words of Ginsburg. After the Martinez decision came down, David French, a senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents both graduate students, said that the Supreme Court's June ruling set in motion "a disturbing trend" of "excessive deference to university administrators" that would allow them to enforce politically correct speech codes simply by making them into curricular requirements that they could argue were neutral on their face.
Continue reading "More Wreckage from Ginsburg's 'Neutral' Ruling" »
By Daphne Patai
About fifty undergraduates from around the country gathered outside of Philadelphia, on the campus of Bryn Mawr College, between July 15 and 17th, to discuss the struggle for free speech on American campuses. The event was the third annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) conference organized by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Teaching as I do at the University of Massachusetts flagship campus in Amherst, affectionately known by some as the People's Republic of Amherst, I considered it a rare treat to encounter in one place so many impassioned and curious young people eager to defend their First Amendment rights against the encroachment of overzealous college administrators and others. Horror stories were recounted (about which more anon), but laughter, outrage, smart comebacks, and strategizing were in ample supply.
Since FIRE's founding in 1999 by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, co-authors of the 1998 book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses, the non-partisan non-profit organization has battled speech codes and other assaults on First Amendment rights on campuses from coast to coast. More interested in suasion than in litigation (which, when necessary, is done by FIRE's many lawyer friends and allies), FIRE is by now a well-established outfit with headquarters in Philadelphia, a satellite office in Manhattan, and a total staff of 17. It has been remarkably successful in bringing sunlight and good sense to blinkered administrators, as can readily be attested by a glance at its website, which archives the organization's activities, including its blog, The Torch, its constantly growing list of schools whose speech codes and policies FIRE has rigorously analyzed and classified, and offers free downloads of its five short "Guides to Student Rights on Campus" -- each book focusing on one crucial area: free speech, religious freedom, due process, student fees, and first-year orientation/thought reform efforts on campus
Continue reading "How to Fight for Free Speech on Our 'Sensitive' Campuses" »
By Anthony Paletta
In the epilogue of a new compendium volume, Mark Bousquet notes that, "In July 2007, the American Sociological Association reported that one-third of its members felt their academic freedoms were threatened, a significantly higher figure than the one-fifth ratio recorded during the McCarthy years." Sounds dire, doesn't it? Well not if you've spent the prior 500 pages learning just how fantastical the contributors' conceptions of academic freedom are.
The book is Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex, edited by Anthony J. Nocella, II, Steven Best, and Peter McLaren. It's a bad sign when the appearance of Bill Ayers, Ward Churchill, and Howard Zinn as contributors on a book cover leaves one still unprepared for how unfathomable its premises are. Academic Repression purports to demonstrate how corporatization and right-wing assaults have marginalized academic freedom and genuine liberal thinking at our universities. Really?
It's not at all unusual to see hand-wringing from the left over the state of academic freedom; it is unusual to see an essay collection that "asks whether the concept of academic freedom still exists at all in the American University system"(itals mine).
Continue reading "Seeing Academic Repression Everywhere" »
By Robert Maranto
With various co-authors, University of British Columbia Sociologist Neil Gross has made a cottage industry of downplaying charges that academia is politically correct. Seemingly, the left's domination of social science and humanities departments is of no more concern than the fact, cited by Thomas Sowell, that in the 1990s, Cambodians ran 90 percent of California's donut shops.
Gross's studies appeal because they serve the psychological needs of professors. It is comforting to think that we smart folks just happen to surround ourselves with people who think just like we do. Gross assures us that there is nothing unseemly here. Collegiate single-mindedness is of course totally different from the groupthink that characterized the George W. Bush White House, to take a not quite random example.
In fairness, Gross and his colleagues have made some sound points over the years. For example, most academics do not think of themselves as political extremists but as centrists. Of course this is no surprise. People compare themselves to their peers, so liberal professors are indeed in the center or even the right compared to their colleagues on the far left. Some surveys indicate that a quarter of sociologists are self-proclaimed Marxists, meaning that there are quite literally more socialists in Harvard faculty lounges than in the Kremlin. It is not difficult to seem moderate or even conservative in such company.
Gross and others are correct to say that not all of the pronounced leftist tilt in the academy reflects discrimination. As Matthew Woessner and April Kelly Woessner point out in a chapter in my co-edited The Politically Correct University, conservatives value family life more than liberals; thus academically talented liberals are more willing to delay childbearing for the decade it takes to earn a doctorate, and more apt to leave their families and hometowns to attend PhD programs thousands of miles distant. Liberals may talk more about relationships, but conservatives seem less willing to jettison them for academic self-expression.
Yet to say that not all of the conservative under-representation reflects discrimination is very different from saying that none of it does. The Woessners also find that conservative undergraduates receive less mentoring from faculty. This too may explain why fewer conservatives apply to PhD programs, even though conservative and liberal undergraduates have identical GPAs. Similarly, a recent and much hyped Gross co-authored paper argues that conservatives eschew academic careers because of "typing," the stereotype that professors are liberal. As Steve Balch points out, much of this reasoning is circular. How exactly is the stereotype that professors are supposed to be liberal any different from stereotypes that women are not supposed to study science or that African Americans are not supposed to be chief executives? Wouldn't we find it offensive if a CEO explained an all white management team by saying that "African Americans don't type themselves as executives?"
Academia is a merit system based on publication, but one that works better for some than others. In The Politically Correct University Stan Rothman and Bob Lichter present evidence that professors holding socially conservative views must publish more to get the same jobs, with ideology having about one-third of the statistical power of one's publication record. Among professors who have published a book, 73% of Democrats but only 56% of Republicans hold high prestige academic posts. Both statistics and "lived experience" suggest that I am not the only conservative or libertarian professor denied a job or two. And it is no surprise that as the academic job market grew tight in the 1970s, ever more discriminating faculties became more ideologically homogeneous, hiring clones rather than peers.
Continue reading "The Politically Correct University and How to Fix It" »
By Donald Downs
A student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew an unusual and alarming advertising request for its online edition. The request to the Badger Herald came a few weeks ago from an agent for Bradley R. Smith, a notorious denier of the Holocaust and founder of the loopy fringe group, Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Unlike ads in the Herald's paper edition, online ads linger for a month, providing more opportunity for mischief.
Like some other controversies involving the Herald in recent years, this episode began, essentially, as an accident. The process involved in the placing of ads did not fully vet Smith's advertisement, which announced his mission and provided an Internet link to his group and other materials. The ad remained on line unnoticed for five days before persons at Hillel, the Jewish center, noticed it and urged the Herald to withdraw it
Many Jewish students had already felt aggrieved by the Herald because of another incident a few weeks before Smith's ad appeared. Anonymous sources had published threatening anti-Semitic remarks in the "Comments" sections that accompanied the paper's stories of incidents relating to a party at a Jewish fraternity. Alarmed, the Herald expunged these comments, but only after the damage was done.
Made aware of Smith's ad, the Herald's board had to decide what to do. The board of nine students votes independently, but the students consider advice given by faculty members who do not have voting power. Advisors (I am one) provide advice in a manner that is designed to preserve the independence of the board. At a meeting the board voted to do two things: keep the ad up, and produce an editorial, written by editor in chief Jason Smathers, making clear that Holocaust denial is a pernicious fraud that lies outside the bounds of rational debate. I supported these decisions as an advisor. The editorial was a sign that the board knew Smith's ad was different from the usual controversial ads.
Continue reading "Hate and Free Speech at Wisconsin" »
By Harvey A. Silverglate
In some quarters I'm viewed as a lawyer with a professional identity problem: I've spent half of my time representing students and professors struggling with administrators over issues like free speech, academic freedom, due process and fair disciplinary procedures. The other half I've spent representing individuals (and on occasion organizations and companies) in the criminal justice system.
These two seemingly disparate halves of my professional life are, in fact, quite closely related: The respective cultures of the college campus and of the federal government have each thrived on the notion that language is meant not to express one's true thoughts, intentions and expectations, but, instead, to cover them up. As a result, the tyrannies that I began to encounter in the mid-1980s in both academia and the federal criminal courts shared this major characteristic: It was impossible to know when one was transgressing the rules, because the rules were suddenly being expressed in language that no one could understand.
In his 1946 linguistic critique, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that one must "let meaning choose the word, not the other way around." By largely ignoring this truism, administrators and legislators who craft imprecise regulations have given their particular enforcement arms---campus disciplinary staff and federal government prosecutors---enormous and grotesquely unfair power.
Continue reading " How Corrupted Language Moved from Campus to the Real World" »
By Donald Downs
Cary Nelson, current president of the American Association of University Professors, has a new book dealing with academic freedom and its relationship to broader structural problems in higher education. No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom is interesting and important, but also frustrating. It provides remedies to the problems confronting academic freedom at the same time that it reflects some of the problems it purports to remedy. Nelson is compelled to criticize the nation's faculty members for their lackadaisical support of academic freedom at the same time that he feels obliged to vehemently defend higher education from critics who attack higher education for this very reason. Balancing these positions makes sense if one carefully distinguishes valid and invalid attacks, and Nelson often succeeds in doing so. But too often his defenses of higher education come across as special pleading for the professoriate as a class, thereby weakening his claims.
Once upon a time the AAUP was the nation's leading supporter of academic freedom. In recent decades, however, its prestige has slipped. A couple of years ago the Chronicle of Higher Education featured articles on this reversal of fortune, citing such matters as the AAUP's bureaucratic inertia, the association's perceived complacency about the chilling effects of political correctness, and broader trends in higher education that have made faculty members less knowledgeable and appreciative of the organization's efforts. Leaner and meaner, FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, founded in 2000 in Philadelphia) has replaced the AAUP as the nation's most vibrant fighter for academic freedom. FIRE is conscientiously non-ideological, but its eagerness to take on the policies of political correctness that suppress freedom has made it a favorite of the right in addition to the civil libertarian left.
Nelson's ascendancy to the presidency of the AAUP represents the organization's effort to regain its past glory. He is a prolifically published, self-proclaimed "radical" (for academic freedom and other causes), a claim that makes him a left-wing answer to FIRE in terms of commitment. Among Nelson's impressive list of publications we find Manifesto of a Tenured Radical and Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the Poetry of the American Left. Nelson's left-wing legacy is important to his arguments because his approach to academic freedom is steeped in a broader leftist framework.
Continue reading "What Is The AAUP Up To?" »
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
Earlier this month a Maine parole commission accomplished what pleas from citizens and the governor of Massachusetts could not, in preventing the speech of a convicted terrorist at the University of Massachusetts. Widespread protest greeted an invitation by professors to Raymond Luc Levasseur, the leader of United Freedom Front, a violent anti-government group linked to some 20 bombings and the slaying of a New Jersey State trooper. What these protests could not stop, Levasseur's parole commission did. What was the University administration's catch-all defense of the event? Academic Freedom. The professors who invited Levasseur were entitled to host whomever they wanted in the name of "academic freedom and free speech."
We've seen this show before, of course. When a speech at the University of Nebraska by Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers was canceled last year, professors rose up crying that it was a violation of academic freedom. Of course, it's not only when visitors come that professors become interested in academic freedom. Ward "little Eichmanns" Churchill and Nicholas "a thousand Mogadishus" De Genova were also only exercising their academic freedom when they made their outrageous pronouncements. Arthur Butz, author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, has been teaching at Northwestern University for more than 30 years, regularly exercising his academic freedom, for instance by congratulating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his Holocaust denying views.
Despite what seems like some pretty wide latitude for faculty, the American Association of University Professors is up in arms about recent attacks on academic freedom. They announced last week that they are launching a campaign to fight back. "The right of faculty members at public colleges and universities to speak freely without fear of retribution is endangered as never before," the AAUP said in a newsletter called "Speak Up, Speak Out: Protect the Faculty Voice on Campus." The newsletter urged faculty and administrators to adopt policies that would protect faculty who speak up (and out) on academic matters, university governance, teaching, research, and, of course, issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with higher education at all. Cary Nelson, the AAUP president, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, breathlessly, "One is only willing to play Russian roulette with a certain number of the chambers filled."
Continue reading "What Speech Is Protected?" »
By KC Johnson
AAUP president Cary Nelson recently e-mailed his membership about an important new venture for the academic union. Proclaiming "this is not your grandparents' AAUP," Nelson celebrated the work of the "Department of Organizing and Services," which had discovered "a faculty band from Ohio performing original songs about the ironies of current academic life."
Perhaps Nelson should spend less time thinking about new songs and focus more on the central task of "your grandparents' AAUP"---upholding the principle of academic freedom. In two recent, high-profile controversies, the self-described "tenured radical" has seemed intent on transforming the AAUP from an organization devoted to promoting academic freedom into a battering ram to perpetuate the groupthink that dominates so many quarters of the contemporary academy.
The first episode occurred in July, after NYU extended a visiting professorship in human rights law to Thio Li-ann, a professor at the National University of Singapore. The appointment generated understandable controversy after revelations that Li-ann, while a member of the Singapore parliament (a body not known for its commitment to human rights in any event), had wanted to continue criminalizing gay sex acts, on the grounds that "diversity is not license for perversity." Li-ann eventually decided not to come to NYU, using as an excuse the poor enrollment of her courses.
As the controversy brewed, Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik drew from Nelson a highly unusual conception of academic freedom:
Nelson also said that in a tenure decision, he would judge a candidate---however offensive his or her views on unrelated subjects---only on a question of whether the person's scholarship and teaching in his or her discipline met appropriate standards. But in a hiring decision (whether for a visiting or permanent position), he said, it is appropriate to consider other factors, and . . . professors can appropriately ask prior to appointments, [Nelson] said, whether hiring someone whose views on certain subjects are "poisonous" could limit "the department's ability to do its business."
Continue reading "Not Your Grandparents' AAUP" »
By Robert L. Paquette
A few weeks ago, the Delta Phi fraternity at Hamilton College distributed on campus fliers welcoming students to attend "the 53rd annual Mexican Night" party. The invitation, which was intended to be symbolic of spring-break excursions to Cancun and other vacation spots south of the border, contained the image of a Trojan Horse in the shape of a Mexican pinata towering over an armed guard in front of a stout U. S. border fence. The words "Proper Documentation Required," a spoof of the usual language for proper identification at parties that serve alcohol, ran to the left of the image. In a flash, student activists and their faculty allies had mobilized in ginned-up outrage to protest this latest alleged example of institutionalized racism and to demand action by the administration and trustees on a laundry list of particulars that includes a speech code (masked as a "social honor code"), mandatory diversity courses, and the establishment of a multi-million dollar cultural education center to provide "safe spaces" for aggrieved student groups. Administrators competed with each other to see how artistically they could grovel to protesting students. Acting President Joseph Urgo and the college's "diversity ombudsman" called the fraternity to account and pressured its leaders to cancel the party. In an all-campus email, Urgo claimed to have extracted from the contrite fraternity leadership an expansive confession that the image not only "hurt and offended many members of the Hamilton community," but that it "trivializes a contemporary political crisis and reduces the complex history and culture of Mexico to a simple stereotype."
Urgo and other administrators then joined protesting faculty and protesting students in holding a candlelight vigil. Speeches, poetry, and spiritual songs of the Kumbaya variety expressed feelings of solidarity with the disrespected, vulnerable, and marginalized on campus and around the world. Fraternity leaders rained apologies from all directions to no avail. The dean of students, standing in like a kind of sacrificial lamb, bleated enough mea culpas to elicit God's forgiveness of a rash of mortal sins. Unforgiving students, however, led by a group called the Social Justice Initiative, followed by commandeering another faculty meeting. Looking anything but vulnerable and threatened, they seized the microphone and threateningly wagged the finger of blame at college officials for their "lack of response" and "lack of action" to the fraternity's benightedness. Dozens of sympathetic faculty, including leaders of the Diversity and Social Justice Project, signed on to a proposed resolution that would signal to posterity "Our profound appreciation and affection... for our international students and students of color who may have felt marginalized by recent events on campus." The faculty eventually passed overwhelmingly a resolution that supported the creation of a cultural education center on campus, that urged---Hamilton College's recently imposed open curriculum notwithstanding---mandatory "educational and programmatic initiatives" to intensify diversity training, and that directed administrators to expand the powers of existing harassment and grievance boards to "raise critical awareness of different forms of harassment." Stay tuned, for the full extent of the concessions by the guilt-stricken have yet to be determined.
Continue reading "War Over A Trojan Horse" »
Denis Rancourt, a professor of physics at Ottawa University, an anarchist and a backer of Critical Pedagogy, may be the most dramatic example of a politicized teacher yet seen in North America. He believes that college instruction is an instrument of oppression and that his proper job is to combat this oppression by ignoring what he is supposed to be teaching---physics and the environment---and instead promoting radical political action in his class. Over the weekend, Stanley Fish posted a blog on Rancourt at the New York Times website that attracted a good deal of attention. So we asked several professors to write brief reactions to Rancourt and Fish.
- John Leo
In Save the World on Your Own Time, his 2008 polemic about higher education, Stanley Fish harshly criticized professors who use the classroom to advance political agendas. Professors, he insisted, have a contractual duty to pursue academic purposes in their teaching, to transmit knowledge and refine students' intellectual abilities. Academic freedom was well-defined and narrow: it protected a professor's right to discharge his academic duties without political interference. For professors to use academic freedom as a cover to inculcate in students moral and political doctrines was, in Fish's eyes, a gross abuse.
Or it was in the summer of 2008, when his book came out. Unfortunately, in his exploration of the case of University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt, Fish indicates that in the winter 2009 the meaning of academic freedom in his judgment is not a matter of right, duty, and the proper understanding of academic life and the university's mission, but rather reflects a clash between narrower and broader views of academic freedom.
To be sure, Fish's relativizing conclusion is in tension with his unflattering portrayal of Professor Rancourt. On the one hand, he concedes that Professor Rancourt's granting an "A+" to each of his students, his refusal to teach courses he has been assigned by his department and for which students sign up, and in the courses he chooses to teach his urging students to engage in political activism represent instances of how "some academics contrive to turn serial irresponsibility into a form of heroism under the banner of academic freedom." On the other hand, Fish treats Rancourt's conception of academic freedom---"the ideal under which professors and students are autonomous and design their own development and interactions"---which Rancourt invokes to justify enlisting students in the quest to transform society and save the world, as a legitimate, if broader, conception of academic freedom that can only be defeated by "an essentially political decision."
Underlying Rancourt's pedagogy, Fish notes, is the "belief that higher education as we know it is simply a delivery system for a regime of oppressors and exploiters." But this moral judgment does not change the parameters of academic freedom. And it is no more a defense against Rancourt's being fired by the university for failing to do the job for which he was hired than it would be for an executive at Exxon Mobil to hold that because oil is polluting the planet, he is entitled to collect his salary while feeding false information to his superiors and encouraging his subordinates to subvert the company from within.
Nor is Rancourt's appeal to Socrates a convincing support for his freedom, against university requirements, to refuse to give students grades. What Rancourt overlooks and Fish fails to point out is that Socrates was not a university professor, did not take money to teach, and taught the obligation to respect, not to subvert, custom and law.
Although there are alternative conceptions of freedom, there is only one conception of academic freedom that is well-grounded in the principles of liberal education and the historic mission of the university. It is the conception forcefully defended by Stanley Fish in Save the World on Your Own Time. Regrettably, by suggesting that Denis Rancourt's rank politicization of the classroom reflects an alternative conception of academic freedom, as opposed to a perversion of academic freedom, Fish lends dignity to a fraudulent claim.
Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His writings are posted at www.PeterBerkowitz.com.
Cases about academic freedom are bellwethers for larger social and cultural unrest. They always have been, all the way back to the First World War with the founding of the AAUP. When Arthur O. Lovejoy was dismissed from his position at Stanford University for simply defending a colleague's right to criticize the university, he joined with others in making the case that universities have a special responsibility to allow as full and open debate about all things as possible. Of course, Lovejoy and his colleagues would never have confused lack of collegiality or failure to teach one's subject as defensible in terms of academic
The problem with Stanley Fish's assessment is that it has very little to do with the everyday indignities that beset colleges and universities as the result of colleagues who do not do their jobs and thus make everything more difficult. Instead, Fish is taken in by the exotic cases to make otherwise ordinary points. The ordinary points are quite clear: the oversight of faculty at most colleges and universities takes for granted a great deal of good will on both the part of faculty and administrators (most of whom have been faculty). When that good will is tested, it is usually about decisions made by administrators, not about anarchist physics professors. It is impressive in its own way that so much time was given to a person who clearly understood that being paid for his insubordination was likely to be challenged at some point. I suppose Fish's point is that there will always be some case where somebody tries to defy gravity.
But the real lesson is how much our institutions of higher learning depend on a basic trust given in particular to those of us fortunate enough to have what others see as "job security." We owe the public an explanation of what we do and why we do it. Most of us cede this responsibility to our presidents and deans, but in the end, it is the faculty who have the power and responsibility to determine this. We should not become a conspiracy against the laity, especially in times like these.
Jonathan Imber is Professor in Ethics and Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College
It's hard to see why Stanley Fish is hot and bothered by the Rancourt case at the University of Ottawa. After all, it's merely an extreme example of a routine event - a professor's political grandstanding and exhibitionism of his impeccable leftist credentials. What's unusual is only that Rancourt did suffer the consequences of his professional irresponsibililty. The real story here, however, is that so many professors, especially in the humanities and social sciences, routinely and with far less drama than Rancourt contrive to treat their classrooms as staging grounds for their political commitments. In many cases they announce this without embarrassment - look at the mission statements and job ads for various identity programs, in which activism (of a certain type only, of course) is routinely promoted as an academic goal. This is so much the norm these days that only truly egregious cases, such as Rancourt's, or Ward Churchill's, evoke strong reactions and censure. It's very rare for a professor to be charged with incompetence. There's almost no such thing in higher education these days, least of all over manifesting political biases.
To the contrary, the real threat to education these days is far more likely to come from the shutting down of free speech by means of university policies aimed at inhibiting "harassment" (sexual or racial primarily), which has many professors watching their every word. Look at Brandeis University, which last year found Professor Donald Hindley guilty of "racial harassment" and placed a monitor in his classroom! His offense? To discuss the word "wetback" as a racial slur in his Latin American Politics course! FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, keeps track of the sorry state of free speech on America's campuses, and has had to go to bat for many of the accused (see its website at www.thefire.org). Where political correctness rather than genuine education has become a norm in American universities, why be surprised that professors feel free to indulge their biases? Most of them, of course, are a bit less blatant about their agenda than Rancourt obviously was.
As for the guaranteed grades of A+ -- that too is noteworthy only because it takes to an extreme a pervasive problem in education: grade inflation. The only surprise is that a university administration actually acted in the Rancourt case. Competence seems rarely to be questioned and all kinds of partisan distortions of education are promoted and even celebrated. So we should thank Rancourt for having taken standard professorial actions to an extreme and thus calling attention to a persistent reality that is rarely addressed.
Daphne Patai is Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Stan Fish does here what he does so well: he takes one odd case and builds a general theory on its peculiar facts. I wish he would be more of a sociologist. Look at the thousands of tenured professors (a declining number by the way). See how often they are under attack for being too liberal, too anti-Israel, even too conservative. Realize that although most people in society do not have their kind of protection---it serves a free society well to have several thousands who are so privileged, just as it is served by having some judges who have tenure.
True, some abuse their tenure (typically not by outlier behavior but by doing little work). Such abuses are largely handled through informal social pressures which Fish confuses with coercion. And when things get really bad, some of the abusers have their tenure revoked. Given that the world around us is collapsing and we are at war, maybe Professor Fish can use his privileged position to worry about even greater threats to our freedoms, well-being, indeed sanity.
Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at The George Washington University
Stanley Fish's ruminations on academic freedom are always stimulating, but in this case his example is a no-brainer. A physics professor whose classroom posture aims to undo the institution and invalidate his own grades doesn't pose difficult questions about duty and freedom. No arguments about oppression and exploitation can turn his dereliction into an academic outlook. The very distance between his expertise, physics, and his subversive role-playing makes the case too easy.
What about fields, though, that close the distance, for instance, the composition instructor who believes that student writing will improve only when students question authority, including the authority of teachers and schools to evaluate them? What about education schools that explicitly profess to convert students into "change agents"?
In other words, academic freedom gets fuzzy when adversarial, radical, revolution, and other ideological goals are admitted as legitimate aspects of disciplines themselves. In these cases, we look not to the conduct of wayward instructors hijacking classrooms--a rare enough happening. No, we look to entire fields and subfields and departments that have made political agendas a normal functioning of research, hiring, peer review, graduate training, and undergraduate instruction. And that condition, unfortunately, isn't as rare as it ought to be.
Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory University
Continue reading "Stanley Fish And The Storm In Ottawa: Seven Professors Say What They Think" »
By William Creeley & Harvey Silverglate
Reaction to Brandeis University's plan to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its esteemed collection was swift---and scathing. Within the Brandeis community, President Jehuda Reinharz's proposed fire sale provoked howls of betrayal from students, faculty, alumni, and donors. In the art world and news media, the move was met with blistering condemnation. Even the Massachusetts attorney general's office launched an investigation.
The press reported that Michael Rush, the Rose's director, expressed "shame and deep regret" at the university's plan. (Adding insult to injury, Rush was notified of Reinharz's plan just an hour before the press release was issued.) In Rush's assessment, by shuttering the Rose, Brandeis would place its "intellectual capital and very credibility as an institution of higher learning on the auction block." That the museum director was not involved in such a momentous decision is perhaps as revealing and important as the decision itself.
A strict adherent to the corporate model of university governance, Reinharz responded to the furor with an empty apology, expertly crafted by a public relations firm to sound palatable while leaving the decision largely intact. But the backlash against Reinharz's announcement stems not only from its wrong-headedness, but also from the arrogance and lack of process with which the decision was made.
Continue reading "Brandeis: Still Abusing A Professor" »
Roger Kimball, editor of Encounter Books and co-editor of The New Criterion, delivered these remarks at a Manhattan Institute luncheon in New York City on November 19th. The occasion marked publication of the second revised edition of his influential 1990 book Tenured Radicals.
Joining so many old friends from the extended Manhattan Institute family inspires a feeling of what the philosopher Yogi Berra called "deja vu all over again." I know I have been here before, talking about something suspiciously similar to what I am going to be talking to you about today. I am counting on you to agree with me that novelty is a much over-rated commodity and to take consolation, as I do, in the observation of the Sage of Ecclesiastes that "there is nothing new under the sun."
When the first the edition of Tenured Radicals appeared lo, these many years ago, around the time movable type was coming into vogue, the American university, when it came to the humanities and social sciences, anyway, was essentially a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.
Well, that was then. In the meantime, some very talented people have weighed in on the problem. They have written articles and books about the university; they've organized conferences, symposia, and think-tank initiatives; they even managed to place scores of good people in various colleges and universities as a counterweight to the various intellectual and moral depredations I chronicle in Tenured Radicals. Today, two editions and nearly two decades later, we can look at the American university and what do we discover? That it is, essentially, a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.
Continue reading "Still Tenured, Still Radical" »
By Mark Bauerlein
Of the many problems besetting higher education today, perhaps the most intractable is the incentives problem. On hundreds of campuses across the United States, thousands of college professors are being dragged away from their root educational mission. They serve as stewards of knowledge and trainers of citizens to come, but a binding demand makes them act otherwise. And the perverse thing about it is that the pressure comes from within.
Imagine yourself a newly-hired English professor at a university with a research dimension, however minor. You went into the field because you loved to read and a few books hit you hard enough to set a career path. As undergraduate days wound down, you aimed to share the inspiration, to expound and debate and teach the meaning of Dickens and Faulkner, and graduate school was the next step.
But graduate training shifted the focus. Instead of studying with an eye toward undergraduates in class, you came to recognize another audience: professors at conferences, on hiring committees, and in editorial offices. They, not freshmen, would decide your future, offer you a job, publish your work, and grant you tenure. Turning a wayward 19-year-old into a determined thinker might make you feel worthy, but it wouldn't show up on a resume or establish professional contacts. You needed to network and circulate, apply for grants and submit papers to journals, attend symposia. Every minute in office hours with students, you quickly realized, took away from securing a letter of recommendation from a name scholar or writing the final page of a conference talk.
Continue reading "Change Can Happen One Professor At A Time" »
By K.C. Johnson
Apart from Barack Obama's call for students who perform national service to receive a college tuition credit, issues related to higher education received scant attention in the 2008 campaign. Yet for those interested in meaningful reform on the nation's college campuses, the election provides some intriguing possibilities---provided that Republicans move beyond the perspectives offered in the campaign and return to the higher education agenda articulated by conservatives and libertarians over the past 15 years.
On issues relevant to higher education policy, Obama was clearly the most centrist of the three major contenders for this year's Democratic nomination. John Edwards, who hitched himself to the far left of the party, surely would have been a paragon of political correctness. And before her reinvention as a tribune of the white working class, Hillary Clinton employed an often crude, gender-based identity politics.
A January New York Times op-ed typified how the Clinton campaign and its supporters reflected the excesses of 1970s feminism. Gloria Steinem (erroneously) rejoiced that "women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age."
Continue reading "Obama And The Campus Left" »
By Roger Kimball
The following is an excerpt from Roger Kimball's introduction to the third edition of his classic book on the humanities, Tenured Radicals.
One of the great ironies that attends the triumph of political correctness is that in department after department of academic life, what began as a demand for emancipation recoiled, turned rancid, and developed into new forms of tyranny and control. As Alan Charles Kors noted in a recent essay,
under the heirs of the academic Sixties, we moved on campus after campus from their Free Speech Movement to their politically correct speech codes; from their abolition of mandatory chapel to their imposition of Orwellian mandatory sensitivity and multicultural training; from their freedom to smoke pot unmolested to their war today against the kegs and spirits---literal and metaphorical---of today's students; from their acquisition of young adult status to their infantilization of "kids" who lack their insight; from their self-proclaimed dreams of racial and sexual integration to their ever more balkanized campuses organized on principles of group characteristics and group responsibility; from their right to define themselves as individuals---a foundational right---to their official, imposed, and politically orthodox notions of identity. American college students became the victims of a generational swindle of truly epic proportions.
What, as Lenin memorably asked, is to be done?
Continue reading "What Can Be Done About Campus Decline?" »
By Harvey Silverglate
People ask me when I got my first inkling that something was seriously wrong with the culture of our campuses of higher education. It was in the mid-1980s, and it had nothing to do -- yet -- with the post-modern corruption of the liberal arts, which was then beyond my professional interests and experiences. It had to do with free speech and due process.
I became a lawyer, after all, not an academic when I got my LL.B. in 1967. As a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer from the start of my legal career, I represented students in trouble with their colleges and universities. It was very soon after my graduation that I had my first big academic case - my law partners and I represented the undergraduates who had taken over University Hall and were unceremoniously dragged out by the baton-wielding municipal and state police. The students were all cited, in the Middlesex County (Massachusetts) Superior Criminal Court, with trespass on the property of The President and Fellows of Harvard College. (Even though they paid tuition for the privilege of being on Harvard property, they had refused an explicit order, delivered over a bullhorn, to vacate that particular administrative building where they had, much like squatters, taken up residence.)
Over a hundred students were charged. The mob was randomly broken up into three groups and scheduled for consecutive jury trials. When the jury acquitted all of the defendants put on trial in the first case (the jurors were apparently unpersuaded that all of the students were in fact building occupiers rather than observers in the wrong place at the wrong time), the district attorney (and Harvard) relented and allowed the others to avoid trial, and a criminal record, via a benign plea agreement.
Continue reading "Can We Change The Campus Culture?" »
By Thomas Lipscomb
As the twelve-year tenure of popular President Timothy Sullivan drew to a close in the Spring of 2005, the search for his successor was well underway. Under the direction of the Rector of the College's governing Board of Visitors, Susan Magill, a political appointee whose day job was chief of staff for Virginia Senator John Warner, there were three finalists for the Presidency. Two of them were deans currently serving at the College, in education and law, and the dean of the law school at the University of North Carolina.
That was a tip off that something was drastically wrong with the search conducted by second- tier search firm Isaacson, Miller. If a management consultant is often derided as someone "who borrows your watch and then charges you to tell you what time it is," a search firm that can come up with only one finalist for a position as President at a college like William and Mary who isn't already on campus can't be doing much of a job. And the idea of a dean in one of the most mediocre fields at any liberal arts college, education, being considered as head of a "public ivy" was bizarre. Magill was urged to cancel the search and hire another firm. She refused.
On of the search firm's complicating factors was that Magill and her Board had insisted that the three finalists be exposed in a public beauty contest to the College students and faculty who would have a voice in the selection. The best candidates quite often prefer to keep their considerations of other professional options private so they can keep their options open. That obviously was no problem for two deans already at the College or the expansive Nichol, who was perfectly comfortable running for Congress and the Senate and treating the faculty and students of the College to a South Texas cornpone charm offensive.
Nichol was selected to serve beginning in July 2005. His position was difficult. Sullivan, his predecessor, had been an alum of William and Mary, married to an alumna, a Vietnam veteran, a Harvard law graduate, a high official under Virginia's Governor Robb, a dean at the William and Mary's Marshall-Wythe Law School, and both popular and effective as a fund raiser and for his ability to get appropriations from the Virginia legislature. Fortunately Sullivan supported Nichol's candidacy. He had been Nichol's boss when Nichol had been head of a Bill of Rights Center at the W&M law school.
Continue reading "Trainwreck At William And Mary" »
By Jan Niklas Wolfe
The overwhelming majority of American catholic colleges won't be honoring public figures that flout church teaching at this year's commencement exercises, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, the conservative Catholic watchdog group. Of the hundreds of men and women who will be awarded honorary degrees by the nation's 225 Catholic universities this month, the Society labels only 6 as dissenters on key moral issues (abortion, as always, seems to be the biggie), down from 24 in 2006 and 13 in 2007, according to the Boston Globe.
As the Globe's Michael Paulson points out, pro-choice catholic politicians are the most obvious snubs. Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, all regulars on the commencement speaker circuit, will not be addressing a catholic college's graduating class this year.
Many catholic schools, particularly the smaller, more conservative institutions, seem to have genuinely taken to heart the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops advice from 2004 that "the Catholic community and the institutions which are a part of our family of faith should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."
For schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College, which have large, politically diverse student bodies and faculties, as well as the prestige to lure big names if they want to, the move away from politicians as speakers may also be borne at least in part from a desire to avoid partisan rancor that detracts from the communal nature of commencement. Boston College, in particular, has drawn ire from all directions over its choice in partisan honorees in the past. Extending invitations to socially liberal honorees like Warren B. Rudman (1992) and Janet Reno (1997) has been panned by more conservative voices within the church, while attempts to honor Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice (2006) and Michael Mukasey (Law School, 2008) have angered pacifist Jesuits on campus and the more left-leaning lay faculty. It's not surprising that this year the school opted for the very non-controversial historian David McCullough.
Continue reading "Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?" »
[Indoctrinate U, a documentary by Evan Coyne Maloney on the state of intellectual freedom at American universities, premiered at the Kennedy Center in September 2007 and has screened in multiple locations since. Peter Berkowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called Indoctrinate U a "riveting documentary about the war on free speech and individual rights waged by university faculty and administrators..." John K. Wilson, founder of The Institute for College Freedom, doesn't think the film's quite fair. He provided us a critique of Indoctrinate U and invited us to solicit Maloney's response. You can read Wilson's original review, and Maloney's response here. Below is their second round of comments. Indoctrinate U is screening at select campuses and theaters in the near future; check the film's website for more information (and read our original review here.)]
By John K. Wilson
Maloney objects to my claim that liberty on campus is far better protected today than it's ever been. To disprove this, he writes that FIRE "receives hundreds upon hundreds of reports each year in which those rights have been trampled." But that doesn't prove anything. For example, the ACLU didn't exist until after World War I. The fact that the ACLU publicized violations of civil liberties after 1918 does not show that civil liberties were better protected during World War I, it only shows that we lacked organizations to publicize these violations. For example, virtually all of the speech codes FIRE objects to (and usually with good reason) today were typically far worse in the past, when administrators usually had arbitrary power to punish students without due process, without rules, and without appeal.
As for Ward Churchill, Maloney says that he defended his free speech. He did, but none of that is mentioned in the movie, nor is the fact that Churchill was banned from speaking at some campuses (which is separate from the controversy over his firing). That's a key point considering how Maloney tries to show in the movie that only conservative views are silenced in academia.
Citing the fact that Ignatiev hasn't been censored is a rather odd analysis by Maloney, considering that he ignores the counterexample of Churchill. Maloney, after all, doesn't put on film all of the conservatives who haven't been censored, nor any of the liberals who have. At some point, if you only discuss liberals who haven't been censored and conservatives who have been censored, and ignore the counterevidence, you're twisting the data.
On the Clemens case, Maloney claims that "professors were required to inject into their courses political topics." Clemens called it an "ideological loyalty oath." The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that faculty on campus said it wasn't a requirement to inject political topics in class; it was a requirement that faculty proposing a new class had to answer a dumb question on the form about the role of race, class, and gender in the proposed class. After Clemens objected, he was allowed to leave the question blank and had his course approved. He never had his job threatened in any way, so I dismissed this as rather unimportant compared to the far worse penalties suffered by liberals and conservatives in many colleges. (Contrast that with a case this year where a pacifist Quaker professor was fired under a real loyalty oath.)
Continue reading "Indoctrinate U. Was It Fair? Round II" »
[Indoctrinate U, a documentary by Evan Coyne Maloney on the state of intellectual freedom at American universities, premiered at the Kennedy Center in September 2007 and has screened in multiple locations since. Peter Berkowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called Indoctrinate U a "riveting documentary about the war on free speech and individual rights waged by university faculty and administrators..." John K. Wilson, founder of The Institute for College Freedom, doesn't think the film's quite fair. He provided us a critique of Indoctrinate U and invited us to solicit Maloney's response. Here is Wilson's review, followed by Maloney's thoughts. Indoctrinate U is screening at select campuses and theaters in the near future; check the film's website for more information (and read our original review here.)]
By John K. Wilson
Evan Coyne Maloney's new movie, Indoctrinate U, is probably the best documentary ever made about higher education. That fact makes the numerous biases, distortions, and omissions of his work all the more disappointing. But these errors aren't all Maloney's fault; instead, his documentary reflects the mistakes of right-wing critics who often promote false stories or provide one-sided analysis.
What makes Maloney's movie so good is the application of Michael Moore's techniques to the realm of free speech and colleges. Certainly, nobody has ever made such an entertaining documentary about higher education, as Maloney makes effective use of his sarcastic voiceover, fast pacing, and putting himself in front of the camera as he demands answers, in person, from wary administrators who, over and over again, refuse to speak with him.
Maloney even echoes Moore's autobiographical tilt about Flint, Michigan in Roger and Me with his own story about being the son of activists who protested for campus liberty as part of the Free Speech Movement. Maloney concludes: "Somewhere along the way, the Campus Free Speech Movement got killed by university regulations." Actually, the Free Speech Movement got started because of university repression, and the fight continues to this day, although many of the battles have been won. Maloney claims, "Academia today isn't a marketplace at all. It's a monopoly. But it wasn't always like this." All of Maloney's nostalgia to the contrary (and it's amusing to see conservatives embrace the campus liberatory movements of the 1960s), liberty on campus is far better protected today than it's ever been.
Maloney is also guilty of some of Michael Moore's flaws, such as using selective editing to mock those he disagrees with. He takes Noel Ignatiev's theories about whiteness and reduces him to a series of two-second edited clips mangled together, trying to make him look foolish. It only makes Maloney look bad, since he seems unwilling to engage intellectually with a theory he doesn't like and even appears to suggest that thinkers like Ignatiev should be banished from academia since Maloney is annoyed that such ideas are considered "completely legit."
Continue reading "Indoctrinate U. Was It Fair? An Exchange" »
By Stephen Balch
Trustees face a quandary in trying to figure out their role in academic governance. As a matter of law, institutional responsibility is squarely in their hands. On the other hand, while few challenge their oversight in matters managerial and financial, they are routinely warned that when it comes to intellectual content, the heart of university life, they should keep their distance.
Trustees should generally avoid getting involved in judgments about intellectual specifics such as individual personnel decisions, the content of courses, and the structure of particular programs, etc. Usually they will be out of their depth here. But they should be actively engaged in matters pertaining to overall intellectual climate, especially the degree to which such core principles of rational discourse as objectivity, disengagement, meritocracy, civility, and pluralism are honored and institutionalized. Here trustee fair-mindedness, ideological coolness, and intellectual distance, can help keep the ideological passions of academics from running discourse off reason's rails.
Like judges, trustees should see themselves as having a responsibility to ensure that the rules of sound intellectual discourse are recognized, that the academic cultures of the institutions they supervise are "lawful" in a manner that preserves the free and effective exercise of reason. This, of course, is a matter of faculty responsibility too, but since the nature of these rules, in many essentials, simply follow the operating principles of a liberal social order, citizens of that order should be able to understand them well enough to backstop compliance. Trustees need not be scholarly experts to participate meaningfully in the university's intellectual governance. They need only be intelligent and watchful products of a free society.
What types of rules are we speaking of and why should members of a liberal society be able to recognize and help enforce them?
Continue reading "What Trustees Must Do" »
By Donald Downs
In my last essay for Minding the Campus, I discussed how faculty indifference may have contributed indirectly to the establishment of the University of Delaware's now notorious residence hall re-education program. If so, we should consider this a crime of omission rather than a crime of commission. This perspective on the problem either differs from or supplements the claims of many critics of higher education, who blame ideological agendas among faculty as the major cause of campus politicization.
A panel discussion/debate in October between Stephen Balch and Harry Lewis at the Pope Center in North Carolina highlighted this disagreement. The panel dealt with the problems besetting liberal education, focusing on education's aimlessness and failure to instill knowledge and respect for free institutions. Balch and Lewis agreed on several things, but offered two different slants on the ills of higher education. Comparing the views of Balch and Lewis can help us to clarify and refine the problem of politics in higher education today.
Balch, the distinguished president of the National Association of Scholars who recently was awarded the National Humanities Medal in the Oval Office, blamed the ills of liberal education on politicized faculty. According to Jay Schalin's report of the panel, Balch argued that higher education is failing "because it has adopted a left-wing ideology that is at odds with our traditions. The university system, with its population of impressionable young people, is naturally attractive to people with 'an inclination toward visionary and utopian thinking,' and these utopians feel that the purpose of education is to 'move people toward their visions."
Continue reading "The Unbalanced University" »
By Donald Downs
A lot has been written about the details of the residential life program at the University of Delaware, and the ways in which it has bullied students and residential assistants to accept regnant orthodoxy. The nation's collective hat should go off to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for exposing this program, and for compelling the university to back down - at least temporarily. The episode brings to mind last spring's heated debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education over whether FIRE was too extreme in its attacks on higher education, and whether FIRE had outlived its usefulness. One case is not statistical proof, but the fact remains that without FIRE, this remarkably repressive program would still be in effect.
I want to address a broader issue in the Delaware case that has not attracted enough attention thus far: the role of non-faculty members in promoting the politicization of higher education. Kathleen Kerr, a mastermind of the Delaware program, is director of residential life for the University of Delaware. Interestingly, as John Leo has recently pointed out, she is also the chairperson of the American College Personnel Association's Commission for Housing and Residential Life - a group with connections to universities across the country.
Continue reading "Where Was The Faculty?" »
By Erin O'Connor
Last summer, AAUP president Cary Nelson announced that the AAUP would be issuing a back to school statement on academic freedom in the classroom. Now that statement has gone public - and it makes for very interesting and informative reading.
Written by a subcommittee of the AAUP's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, "Freedom in the Classroom" acknowledges that professors have been accused in recent years of indoctrinating rather than educating, of failing to provide balanced perspectives on controversial issues, of creating a hostile learning environment for conservative or religious students, and of injecting irrelevant political asides into class discussion. And as such the statement is ostensibly meant to address the very real issues surrounding faculty classroom conduct that have arisen of late. As anyone who follows higher ed news knows, concerns about whether professors are abusing their pedagogical prerogatives have been repeatedly voiced; and, as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and other groups have repeatedly noted, those concerns should be addressed in a manner that is simultaneously respectful of students' rights to learn and professors' academic freedom to teach as they see fit. The AAUP is right to take up the issue of classroom speech, and it is right to seek to parse exactly where faculty academic freedom begins and ends.
The trouble, though, is that the AAUP's statement does not take seriously the questions and complaints to which it purports to respond. A small but telling indicator of the larger problem: When interviewed about the statement by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nelson said that it is ultimately designed to encourage professors to say to outside critics, "Don't mess with me." In other words - by Nelson's own admission- it's less a rigorously reasoned policy statement than it is a confrontational ultimatum disguised as a policy statement. This maneuver was not at all lost on The Chronicle's Robin Wilson, who wrote that while the statement "is billed as a tool to help professors decide what they can and cannot safely say in the classroom - particularly when it comes to hot-button cultural and political issues," it comes across "more like a defense of the professoriate in the face of heavy criticism" coming from outside the academy.
Continue reading "AAUP To Critics: What, Us Biased?" »
By Anthony Paletta
Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, Ave Maria University, and the town of Ave Maria, Florida (in that order) obviously isn't attracting media acclaim in his effort to establish a conjoined orthodox Catholic University and Catholic town on a former tomato farm in Southwest Florida. No, he comes off as something as something of an Inquisitor, putting a farm of happily secular Florida tomatoes to the sword to make room for a bishopric of right-wing Catholics. The caviling about Monaghan, for the most part, is easily explained; Monaghan has explicitly proclaimed his intention of creating an orthodox Catholic University, and his critics despise the thought.
Monaghan's truly revolutionary step here isn't imagining a university - it's that he hasn't simply handed his dream over to the standard mush of college administration, but has remained deeply involved with the project - so far as to literally uproot the college over several states. The college's move from the Midwest to Southwest Florida is a rather dramatic example of a founder's influence, but American higher education seems to have altogether forgotten the experience of a living founder in this day of universal rule by amorphous faculty-trustee-administrator confederation (aka "our costs will always go up but no one knows who's responsible"). Faculties are accustomed to Presidents who can be curbed when overly outspoken (Laurence Summers) and administrations are accustomed to routinely ignoring the wishes of donors and trustees (the Bass donation at Yale, the Robertson donation at Princeton). Monaghan is a very different quantity in this mix, an individual who hasn't been content to see his wishes run aground in the morass of standard academic decision-making. He's continued to exert a very active role in his University - a step that professors would see in almost any case as a clear intrusion into their purlieus.
Continue reading "Administrative Orthodoxy At Ave Maria" »
By Anthony Paletta
It's difficult to be anything but pleased by the failure of Norman Finkelstein's DePaul tenure bid. He's a figure of repulsive opinions, given to frequent invective and doubtful scholarship. Yet all should look more carefully at DePaul University's explanation of the step before celebrating. The logical foregrounding for their tenure decision would have been problems with his published scholarship; instead, DePaul justified their decision chiefly with talk of "respect for colleagues." There's little doubt that Finkelstein is a jerk, but DePaul's grounding of its refusal in that fact - instead of holes in his academic work - leaves it open to justified criticism. "Collegiality" is a potentially insidious concept - just ask Walter Kehowski, a professor at Glendale Community College, who was just released from a forced administrative leave for the crime of emailing George Washington's Thanksgiving address to fellow professors. The crime? Creating a "hostile environment." Finkelstein's faults are clearly of a higher order than this, but all should be wary of arguments premised upon a professor's sociability, instead of his scholarship.
Continue reading "DePaul Flubs Up On Finkelstein" »
Posted by Herbert I. London
A phenomenon is taking hold in universities on both sides of the Atlantic. For lack of a better label, I call it the Absolute Truth brigade, i.e. intellectuals so sure of their views that they will not entertain contrary thought.
Friedrich Hayek used the following quote from David Hume on the front page of The Road to Serfdom: "It is seldom that any kind of liberty is lost all at once." He did so to indicate the threat to freedom in our era. But despite the passage of seven decades since the publication of Hayek's masterpiece, the words are not heeded.
Continue reading "Scholars Who Are Beyond Open-Mindedness" »
Posted by John Leo
Two of our best writers here at Minding the Campus, KC Johnson and Harvey Silverglate, spoke quite brilliantly at a Manhattan Institute luncheon last Wednesday on "Kangaroo Courts: Yale, Duke and Student Rights." It is, in our opinion, the best possible short course for understanding the star-chamber proceedings that students face these days at campuses great and small. Duke, we should say, mostly got a pass. Outrages at Harvard and Yale were center-stage.
Continue reading "'Feelings' as the Measure of Student Misconduct" »
Posted by KC Johnson
Did the shuttering last year of a Yale institute created to study anti-Semitism have anything to do with campus politics? The university denied it. But the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was eliminated amid attacks from Palestinian representatives and anti-Israel faculty.
Continue reading "Checking In on Yale's New Anti-Semitism Program" »
Posted by John Leo
We noticed an article the other day on The Atlantic web site, arguing that the Republican Party is turning against higher education. The evidence cited for this apparently alarming development was scant: Rick Santorum referred to colleges as "indoctrination mills," and Mitt Romney told high-school seniors to shop around for low college tuition and not to count on government help.
Continue reading "The GOP "Turn" Against Colleges and Universities" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The Kennedy School's "One-State" conference provided only the latest reminder of the hostile on-campus attitude toward Israel. (Imagine the likelihood of any major campus hosting an allegedly academic conference ruminating about the destruction as a state of Iran, or Egypt, or Mexico.) In light of the conference and its controversy, it's worth reviewing an excellent Tablet symposium, asking pro-Israel figures--mostly students, but also the David Project's David Bernstein--along with a student representative of J Street about how to respond to the campus climate.
The symposium can be read in full here; I recommend it strongly. Two themes emerged the most strongly.
Continue reading "Addressing Anti-Israel Attitudes on Campus" »
Posted by John S. Rosenberg
Inside Higher Ed reports this morning -- surprise! -- that "®oughly two-thirds of public and private college presidents say they plan to vote for President Obama in November." Only two-thirds? Actually, that is a surprise.
I wonder how many of them are in states that have had to cut or reduce spending on higher education because of a lack of economic growth caused, at least in part (in my view, in large part) by President Obama's economic policies. Liberals, of course, have a hard time comprehending why rubes and other conservatives would ever vote against what liberals are sure is in their interest. "For the life of me," a typical one (unsurprisingly, a journalist) wrote in typical frustration on Democratic Underground several years ago, "I don't understand what causes a person to vote against their own best interests." Journalist, meet university president.
Continue reading "Professor Sanctioned for Siding with Rush" »
Posted by John Leo
Vartan Gregorian once said the way to become a successful college president is simple: stand up, give a speech on "diversity," then sit down.
Richard Levin, president of Yale, is the longest-lasting president of an Ivy League university, and following Gregorian's sage advice is surely one reason why. Whenever a serious incident occurs at Yale, Levin's first instinct is to put out a resonant but off-key statement stoutly defending a point not really at issue.
Continue reading "How to Be President of Yale Forever (At Least)" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The Los Angeles Times penned a misleading, strangely-argued editorial, criticizing DA Tony Rackauckas for prosecuting the "Irvine 11."
The basic outline of the affair is now well-known: members of the Cal-Irvine Muslim Students Organization conspired to disrupt a campus speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Eugene Volokh spells out the relevant statute under which the students were convicted: "'Every person who, without authority of law, willfully disturbs or breaks up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character ... is guilty of a misdemeanor.' In re Kay (1970) held that, to be convicted under the statute, the prosecution must show 'that the defendant  substantially impaired the conduct of the meeting by intentionally committing acts  in violation of implicit customs or usages or of explicit rules for governance of the meeting, of which he knew, or as a reasonable man should have known,' and  'the defendant's activity itself -- and not the content of the activity's expression -- substantially impairs the effective conduct of a meeting.'"
Continue reading "The L.A. Times Downplays the Irvine 11 Trial" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The AAUP has now completed the final version of what NAS' Peter Wood aptly termed a "firewall," designed to protect academics from outside criticism, especially from conservatives and supporters of Israel. The organization's new standards now face their first test--but from a most unexpected source.
In the left-leaning New Republic, Alex Klein has a blog post criticizing Yale's Grand Strategy class, co-taught by Professors Charles Hill and John Lewis Gaddis. (The class was designed and for many years co-taught by Gaddis and Paul Kennedy, a specialist in international history who has written or edited 19 books.) I first heard (very good things) about the course several years ago, and co-taught a one-semester version of it at Brooklyn. It was a hard class to teach, in part because of its breadth: in our offering, a colleague and I started with strategic thought in ancient China and Greece and ended with contemporary matters.
Continue reading "Will the AAUP Sanction the New Republic?" »
Posted by KC Johnson
The American Association of University Professors has now issued its final report on "Ensuring Academic Freedom in Politically Controversial Academic Personnel groups.") The basic principle is as unobjectionable as it is admirable: professors should not be hired, fired, or disciplined on the basis of their political beliefs. Yet the AAUP's report is basically unchanged from the organization's draft document, which I described at the time as "worse than nothing: it would have been far better for the organization simply to have issued a statement affirming that its job is upholding the views of a majority of its members, and that those professors whose views conflict with the academic majority can enjoy academic freedom rights only at the pleasure of the majority of their colleagues."
The document's final version retains nearly all of the weaknesses of the earlier draft. In the AAUP's academy, virtually no check exists on the tyranny of the faculty majority. Outside criticism is inherently suspect. Students, trustees, and even "bloggers"--including, it would seem, academic bloggers who criticize the will of the majority--are portrayed alongside "talk-show hosts" as threats to the principle of academic freedom. (The report's attack on students, who possess some academic freedom rights at nearly all non-religious universities, is particularly outrageous; anti-academic freedom students are described as those who "report and publicize offending classroom statements" made by faculty members, allegedly at the behest of "self-appointed watchdog groups.")
Continue reading "Campus Freedom, AAUP-Style" »
Posted by Cole Maritz
Robert Klein Engler, an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, told a small joke in his "City and Citizenship" class in 2010:
"There was a sociological study done in Arizona, and they discovered that 60 percent of the people in Arizona approved of the immigration law and 40 percent said, 'no habla ingles.'"
His class was discussing Arizona anti-illegal immigration act SB 1070. Engler said the joke was just a way of stimulating discussion. "I wanted to get the students involved in a discussion on it so I told them I had heard this joke and wondered what they thought about it," he said. But someone's feelings were hurt.
Roosevelt University, which declined to comment on the matter, claims that Engler was fired for failing to cooperate in a harassment investigation. Mr. Engler offered to cooperate in the investigation, but only if the school put the details of the allegation in writing. When he brought a lawyer with him to the hearing, school administrators abruptly canceled the meeting. The University fired him not long after.
According to Roosevelt University's student newspaper, the Torch, a student--Cristina Solis--who filed a written complaint against Mr. Engler over the joke is apparently pleased with Roosevelt University's decision to terminate her former professor:
"If that [Mr. Engler's firing] is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it's for the best. It's just something you don't say in a classroom, not coming from a professor, and especially not at a school like Roosevelt University, which is based on social justice."
That a school "based on social justice" (Roosevelt University's website confirms Ms. Solis's assertion) denied Mr. Engler a chance to fairly defend himself reeks of hypocrisy. If Roosevelt University is committed to the basic tenets of social justice--defined on their website as "a belief that fairness, honesty, integrity and impartiality should resonate throughout every institution within a civil society"--they should begin by explaining their actions to Mr. Engler.
Posted by John Leo
Stuart Taylor's brilliant rant in this week's National Journal ("Academia's Pervasive PC Rot") says "the cancerous spread of ideologically eccentric, intellectually shoddy, phony-diversity-obsessed fanaticism among university faculties and administrators is far, far worse and more inexorable than most alumni, parents, and trustees suspect."
There's an obvious explanation of why so many university watchers don't seem to know what's going on: the news media are extremely reluctant to report on what the increasingly coercive diversity lobby is doing to the campuses.
The brainwashing and indoctrination at the University of Delaware (and anyone who has read the voluminous documents in the case knows that use of these words is surely fair) has been pervasively reported on conservative blogs and right-wing radio. But the left has been silent and the mainstream media have almost universally avoided telling alumni, parents and trustees what is going on. Only a few news outlets covered the story. The Wilmington News Journal ran a piece headlined "Some Made Uneasy by UD Diversity Training", thus reducing indoctrination to discomfort. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a similarly soft report that used the headline word "unsettled" instead of "uneasy." The story's lead: "When University of Delaware freshmen showed up at their dorms this semester, their orientation included an exercise aimed at bridging cultural
Continue reading "Where Are The News Media?" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Sharad Karkhanis, professor emeritus at Kingsborough Community College, is a vitriolic critic of the faculty union at the City University of New York. He's accused Susan O'Malley, another professor at Kingsborough, of seeking to "recruit terrorists" to teach at CUNY. O'Malley has responded with a two million dollar libel suit, reports the New York Post:
In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Susan O'Malley charges that professor emeritus Sharad Karkhanis defamed her by accusing her of having an "obsession with finding jobs for terrorists" in recent issues of a newsletter he's been e-mailing to CUNY faculty members for 15 years.
Citing O'Malley's efforts to land jobs for convicted activist lawyer Lynne Stewart's co-defendant Mohammed Yousry and former Weather Underground member Susan Rosenberg, Karkhanis wrote:
"Has Queen O'Malley ever made a 'Job Wanted' announcement like this for a nonconvicted, nonviolent, peace-loving American educator for a job in CUNY? . . . Why does she prefer convicted terrorists bent on harming our people and our nation over peace-loving Americans?"
Karkhanis considers his writing to be satire. It's not particularly civil language; but then again, as KC Johnson has pointed out, two of O'Malley's prospective hires were terrorists, or quite near to being ones - Susan Rosenberg "was a member of a terrorist organization" and Mohammed Yousry "was accused and convicted of aiding a convicted terrorist." Not all, predictably, agree on the substance of the comments: John K. Wilson, for one, has called them "idiotic" but he does dub the idea of a two million dollar libel suit in response as "frivolous and absurd." Fortunately, others agree; a new blog, "Free Speech At CUNY" has ably taken up Karkhanis' case.
"Free Speech At CUNY" offers some delightful background on Karkhanis' assailant. O'Malley, former university faculty senate chair, former faculty representative on the CUNY board of trustees, and an all-around perennial in CUNY union posts, was the arranger of a 2004 CUNY conference on "Defining and Defending Academic Freedom"; the site provides the text of numerous faculty union statements on "dissent" and "academic freedom" in which O'Malley, as part of the union leadership, seems to have had a hand. The current case is useful in clarifying what she actually meant; freedom for her, libel suits for her opponent.
Posted by John Leo
William and Mary's new and anonymous bias reporting system is so wrong-headed that it's hard to know where to begin protesting it. Some anonymous reports are legitimate, as Eugene Volokh argues at the Volokh Conspiracy, but calling for a college's entire student body to watch out for bias, and then turn in their fellow students or professors, is not a good idea. This is particularly so in an era when campuses are busy fostering victimology and minority-group identities based on the allegedly permanent hostililty of majority groups. Under these circumstances, it makes much more sense to avoid placing full-time bias awareness front and center in the minds of students. Hearsay and marginal or ambiguous incidents are bound to be reported, probably with sensitivities, suspicions and resentments increased. Legitimate protests will increasingly be reported as intolerable provocations. And the anonymity is bound to rankle. A web site opposing the new bias reporting opens with the comment "Let's disband William and Mary's new schoolyard tattletale system before the lawsuits commence and William and Mary again becomes the subject of national jokes." Surely there is a better way to encourage civility and respect than setting up a formal program for snitches.
Posted by John Leo
Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for "treatment" of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making "made in North Korea" jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled.
Residential assistants charged with imposing the "treatments" have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists - at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a "racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality."
Continue reading "Indoctrination At Delaware" »
Posted by Anthony Paletta
The University of St. Thomas has now, predictably, re-invited Desmond Tutu to speak, after revoking his invitation over earlier concerns about his thoughts on Israel.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
Rev. Dennis J. Dease, president of the university, sent a letter to students and members of the faculty and staff on Wednesday, saying he had changed his mind about the archbishop's appearance and would now like to formally invite him to visit the university, in St. Paul.
In the contemporary academy, no speaking invitation is ever secure, nor, it seems, is one ever really canceled. Yet another proof of the gossamer public stances of university administrations.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
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Posted by Anthony Paletta
You can read a passel of editorials on Ahmadinejad above, and if you're enterprising, you can easily find another, oh, thirty of so op-eds on the topic of his appearance. None of these, except for one, address any substantive findings from Ahmadinejad's speech, because there weren't any.
That one exception, The Columbia Spectator now urges that "students, professors and administrators must think critically about what we have learned from him - particularly his provocative thoughts on the plight of the Palestinians, Iran's nuclear program, and how Western imperialism has helped shape the Middle East." Provocative thoughts? Is there a single person who wasn't aware of his precise views on these topics?
Bollinger's bromides against Ahmadinejad made clear that there was no real exchange or debate, or honesty expected, from the start, and that was exactly the case. Did we learn anything from him that we didn't know already - aside from the fact that Iran doesn't have homosexuals like this country? Bollinger's new rhetoric of boundless free speech clouded another important scale; that of academic worth. Columbia provided a spectacle to the public, and a jolt to op-ed pages, but it's still not clear what academic benefit it provided its students.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
President Bollinger is displaying a new-found talent for confounding expectations. After barring Ahmadinejad from Columbia last year, he suddenly invited him back on Wednesday, to widespread criticism, for offering a platform to a despot. Then, Bollinger further surprised with a caustic introduction and a roundup of pointed questions about Iranian nuclear ambitions, persecution of women and homosexuals, Holocaust denial, the jailing of scholars, aid to insurgents in Iraq, and the execution of minors. At this point, Bollinger did not simply wait to hear Ahmadinejad, but summed up a blistering (that seems to be everyone's word for it) statement:
Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
Bollinger, continues his shock-the-world week in displaying a heretofore unknown capacity for indictment. Suffice it to say that Ahmadinejad was not much of a sparring partner. Bollinger is now basking in a well-deserved tide of compliments for his comments. His worthy broadsides haven't swept aside any of the larger questions concerning Ahmadinejad's apperance, though. The event took a form that was far from everyone's expectations - to Bollinger's considerable credit. Ahmadinejad was not accorded the place of respect that many feared he would enjoy, but instead roundly condemned. That's good.
There's still something very odd about Bollinger's attitude towards the event, though. If he viewed it as a conditional occasion to barb Ahmadinejad, then good for him - but he seemed to think that hosting the Iranian President was now a duty.
This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech, of Columbia University and of academic institutions.
This is not the Bollinger of last year, who canceled Ahmadinejad's speaking appearance - and was well within his rights in doing that. But now Columbia must host him? There's no doubt that universities tend to be far more censorious and inattentive to free speech than they should, but Bollinger's free speech epiphany doesn't shed a single bit of light on the topic of campus free speech. What exactly is "required?" To receive Ahmadinejad now? To receive world leaders? To receive vulpine Iranians? Bollinger displayed admirable clarity in condemning Ahmadinejad today, but that shouldn't cloud the fact that otherwise he has continued on his usual path, as the most confusing "first amendment scholar" of our day.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
The New York Times City Room is blogging on Ahmadinejad's Columbia speech. Read this passage from President Bollinger and see if it makes any sense:
"To those who believe that this event should never have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as resaonable." He said, "It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment." He added, "This is the right thing to do and indeed, it is required by the existing norms of free speech, of Columbia University" and of academic institutions.
He added that he regretted if people were hurt by the speech, and he called the "intellectual and emotional courage" to "confront the mind of evil."
"We cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds," he said.
Was Bollinger calling Ahmadinejad the mind of evil?
I don't think Bollinger will clarify.
Posted by John Leo
Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional scholar and law professor at Duke for 21 years, has just been hired and then fired as the first dean of the University of California, Irvine, Law School, which opens in 2009. Irvine's chancellor, Michael Drake, explained the firing by saying "he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky's political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives," according to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, a blog on legal academia.
If the blog report is accurate, the treatment of Chemerinsky is a test case for conservatives who support free speech and argue vehemently against political tests for faculty and administration appointments. Do these principles apply only to conservatives, or do they protect liberals as well?
Chemerinsky is indeed very liberal and very outspoken. He particularly irritated many religious conservatives by lumping Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists as threats to democratic principles. So argue with him, but don't try to get him fired.
For one thing, the chancellor had plenty of time to think about the impact of hiring Chermerinsky, and to reject him if he chose. But it's disgraceful to hire the man, fire him immediately and then explain that you are doing so to cave into political pressure. The chancellor, the school and Chemerinsky all suffer from this sort of amateurish behavior. And if the chancellor does not reverse course and accept Chemerinsky, he puts the next choice for dean in an untenable position - he will inevitably be seen as a safe nominee, so harmless that no political pressure group will try to oust him. The reputation of the law school would decline two years before opening.
"I've been a liberal law professor for 28 years," Chemerinsky said. I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I'd address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints. He said he has begun to assemble a board of advisors that would have included conservatives such as Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown, and Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court.
Writing anonymously on the Wall Street Journal site, different Duke law students offered both praise and criticism for Chemerinsky. A pro-Chemerinsky opinion said: "To respond to allegations of anti-conservative bias - these cannot be further from the truth. Equal air time was always given to both sides during class, and with regard to his Con Law final, I wrote a final exam that could only be described as 'Scalia-esque' and received a 4.0."
Do the right thing, chancellor, and re-hire Chemerinsky.
Posted by John Leo
The Supreme Court's Morse v. Frederick decision was questionable on several grounds. In upholding a high school's right to regulate student speech "reasonably regarded as encouraging illegal drug use," the justices took the student banner "Bong Hits for Jesus" much too seriously. Was it an argument for student access to drugs or a jokey stunt that never should have gotten to the court? Besides the student was displaying the banner off campus, across the street from his school during a school-sponsored welcome for an Olympic procession.
Then there is the issue of general damage to free speech rights. Several free-speech advocates, including David French, then president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and now director of the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, warned that censorship-minded universities would cite the Frederick decision as justification for campus speech codes. That has now happened. Temple University points to Morse v. Frederick as backing for its egregious speech code that prohibits "generalized sexist remarks and behavior." The goal is to erode the wall between high school youngsters and adults at college, who traditionally enjoy greater free speech rights.
Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund filed the case against Temple, now before the court of appeals for the third circuit. FIRE's amicus brief has been joined by an array of allies, including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Christian Legal Society, collegefreedom.org, Feminists for Free Expression, Students for Academic Freedom and the Student Press Law Center. It's an unusually broad coalition for a college free-speech case.
Posted by Anthony Paletta
Jay Bergman has a fine new piece up at the NAS Forum, puncturing the sanctimony that surrounds the ever-expanding sphere of "academic freedom" in the minds of many professors (see "Ward Churchill, sober research scholar, victim")
In response to the increasing contention that "academic freedom protects professorial speech in any circumstance Bergman cites the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles, and its statement that "teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."
At Central Connecticut State University where I am a professor, this distinction is sometimes ignored. Last fall, a professor sent the students in one of her courses more than 100 e-mails containing articles advocating the professor's opinions on matters entirely extraneous to the course -- for example, that Israel committed war crimes while fighting Hamas in Gaza last summer, and that comparisons between the Bush administration and Nazi Germany are reasonable. She also invited students to join her in attending seminars, such as Workshops on Peace, that were designed to advance the professor's political agenda.
What is even worse, during one class, as a way of demonstrating how the American colonists stole Indian land, the same professor took a student's backpack without permission and in front of all the students emptied its contents onto the floor, naming each item one by one. It is hard to imagine a more egregious violation of a student's privacy, or a more flagrant abuse of the power professors have over students by virtue of their grading them and writing recommendations for them for jobs after they graduate.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. In my 17 years at CCSU, about half of my students have told me, on their own initiative or in response to my asking them, that one or more of their professors not only interjected their political opinions in class on a regular basis, but did so in an effort to convert their students to their point of view.
Posted by John Leo
Stop the presses. The president of a well-known college has actually come out for diversity of ideas, rather than just the narrow form of diversity prized on campus (skin color, gender, sexual orientation). In a baccalaureate address at Middlebury College's graduation, President Ronald D. Liebowitz talked about the "value of discomfort" in listening to and grappling with new ideas. Liebowitz said, "If the wariness about discomfort is stronger than the desire to hear different viewpoints because engaging difference is uncomfortable, then the quest for diversity is hollow, no matter what the demographic statistics on a campus reflect." If the pursuit of diversity is to be intellectually defensible, he said, Middlebury can't just exchange one orthodoxy for another.
At colleges, "discomfort" is a familiar buzzword justifying censorship or punishment for offending the sensibilities of students designated as "underrepresented." That's why coming out in favor of discomfort is a near-heresy in the campus monoculture.
Some students objected to Bill Clinton as this year's commencement speaker, while a larger and more irritated group objected to Middlebury's endowed professorship in American history and culture honoring William Rehnquist. Liebowitz noted that some members of minority groups on campus felt "invisible and disrespected" by the decision to honor Rehnquist and considered it an offense against diversity. Indignant objections to conservative supreme court judges are an old story on campus, including attempts to boycott Antonin Scalia at Amherst and Clarence Thomas at the University of North Carolina Law School.
Some objectors to the Rehnquist professorship claimed that the goal of a liberal education should be to advance social change, and since Rehnquist failed this test, he should not be honored. "I do not share in that narrow definition of a liberal education," Liebowitz said. "Rather, liberal education must be first and foremost about ensuring a broad range of views and opinion in the classrooms and across campus..." Good idea. Will it apply to the hiring of professors as well?
Posted by Anthony Paletta
The Boston Globe reports:
A judicial panel at Tufts University on Thursday ruled that a conservative campus journal "harassed" blacks by publishing a Christmas carol parody called "O Come All Ye Black Folk" that many found racist.
The Primary Source, which published the carol, removed the lyrics from their site months ago, and replaced them with a rather sincere apology. The note makes clear that the carol was intended as an affirmative action parody. Does that make sense? Not to this panel. They issued a requirement that an editor sign all pieces, and "recommended that Tufts' student government 'consider the behavior' of the magazine when allocating money."
Bruce Reitman, the dean of students, found this financial threat, well.. rather elegant.
I'm proud of the committee," he said. "I was pleased to see them balance both values of freedom of speech and freedom from harassment, without letting one dominate the other.
Aren't we glad there's someone like Bruce Reitman fighting against the domination of free speech? Thank heavens.
Indoctrination U. The Left's War Against Academic Freedom
Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus
The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn
The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses
Sifting And Winnowing: The Uses And Abuses Of Academic Freedom
Free Inquiry? Not on Campus
Educating the University
Retaking the University
Thought Reform 101
Spotlight on Speech Codes 2006: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses