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If it's too liberal for you, don't go there. . .

Reader comment on item: Profs Who Hate America

Submitted by Osrhoene (France), Nov 13, 2002 at 10:15

"The time has come for adult supervision of the faculty and administrators at many American campuses. Especially as we are at war, the goal must be for universities to resume their civic responsibilities."

...Who are these "adults" who should "supervise" university faculty? State legislators? Even apart from the problem of whether this would be constitutional when the university in question is private, surely no one would seriously want a bunch of disssembling, corrupt politicians in the statehouse, most of whom would have no particular qualifications to do so, making specific recommendations regarding faculty searches or tenure reviews. Is it a good idea to have, say, Christian fundamentalist state senators who oppose the teaching of evolution in public schools deciding who gets hired by university biology departments? Or for ardently pro-Israel politicians, their campaign funds swelled by generous donations from AIPAC, influencing tenure decisions in departments of Islamic studies?

Alumni and parents of current students aren't, on average, going to be either educated enough in the specific subjects or sufficiently aware of current campus life to be able to provide useful input into the process. As for "non-university specialists," (unemployed Ph.D.s? members of think tanks?), it's unclear why they'd be more politically neutral and committed to "balance" than their colleagues in academia.

Even more Orwellian is the call to "establish standards for media statements by faculty." Now these professors have to ask someone's permission to exercise their constitutional right to free speech? Do left-wing university faculty have more of an influence on public opinion than, say, Rush Limbaugh? When's the last time you turned on the car radio while driving home from work and heard Noam Chomsky ranting about U.S. oil interests in Iraq? Indeed, if Chomsky et al. weren't being denounced by conservative pundits ... on a near-daily basis, they probably wouldn't get much national exposure at all.

Mr. Pipes has, without meaning to, reinforced the arguments for the institution of tenure. Tenure came about as a means of protecting university faculty from losing their jobs if they took politically unpopular positions in their research. By protecting freedom of speech, tenure also contributes to freedom of thought, and thus to the quality of research and teaching at universities. That in turn benefits the students, both directly and because it encourages them to become independent, critical thinkers. In a democracy, that's the kind of citizen we want., and thus I would argue that the tradition of tenure and academic freedom also serves the primary civic responsibility of our institutions of higher education. Someone who has been trained to shut up and march along with the crowd whenever a politician waves a flag is not a good citizen.

...Our universities are not leftist indoctrination centers. Conservative students are not oppressed or persecuted. The occasional insensitive and even anti-American remark by some radical professor in a panel discussion is a by-product of academic freedom, and does not constitute a threat to national security. There may be proportionally more liberals on faculties, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, than there are in the general population. But that's because the people who wind up getting such jobs tend to be those who consistently produce original, innovative scholarship. Someone who is generally uncritical of the status quo is less likely to do that.

The real issue here is that the Right, not satisfied with its general success over the last two decades in expelling authentic progressive and liberal viewpoints from politics and the mass media, now wants to expel them from campus as well. It can't just come out and say this, though, so it pushes a myth in which American colleges and universities have come under the totalitarian control of radicals, and calls for the liberation of the poor, suffering conservatives locked away in these leftist intellectual gulags....

But the rest of us shouldn't believe this myth.


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