Tag Archives: right

Duke Goes After a Critic in the Lacrosse Case

Six years ago, Duke University suffered a high-profile humiliation from which it is still struggling to recover. Students on Duke’s lacrosse team were accused of a brutal sexual assault on a local stripper who had been hired to perform at a party.

The charges were false. But in the interval between the initial headlines and the students’ eventual vindication, credulous faculty and others in the university community applied a presumption of guilt, denouncing the students as rapists.

A university steeped in traditions of free speech and the pursuit of truth was exposed as blinded by its own dogma, unwilling to acknowledge inconvenient facts that undercut the credibility of the students’ accuser, and indifferent to the students’ civil liberties.

Given this sordid history, one would expect Duke to be taking steps to demonstrate its renewed commitment to due process and first amendment principles. On the contrary, the university, which has been sued by the former lacrosse team players and their parents, recently served a subpoena on Robert “KC” Johnson, an outspoken critic of Duke’s handling of the (non-)rape scandal and co-author of the leading book on the subject.

Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, is co-author (with journalist and legal scholar Stuart Taylor) of “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.” (Disclosure: Taylor is a friend of mine). Duke’s subpoena demands Johnson’s disclosure of confidential information he received from sources for the book, including the former Duke students and their lawyers.

Duke’s subpoena, which is being contested in federal district court in Maine, is an offense to journalistic independence and academic freedom. Historians and journalists can’t perform their truth-telling function if their sources have reason to fear that their role, and the information they agree to provide, will later be exposed and scrutinized in court.

This is obviously true if the sources’ identity or information are confidential. This is also true in the fairly common situation in which a source, although named in a book as a source for one statement or fact, provides additional information to the authors, on a confidential basis, for still other statements or facts that are published unattributed. The process of conducting original research for a journalistic or historical work is crippled if lawyers are free to depose authors about these matters.

The legal privilege protecting the work of historians and journalists is not absolute, to be sure. The university’s claim to the subpoenaed information would be more convincing if Duke had exhausted all alternative sources and the information were truly essential to its ability to defend itself in litigation. But Duke hasn’t come close to meeting these standards.

Duke’s leaders should think hard about how much the school is willing to lose. If they insist on enforcing their subpoena, what will they say the next time a Duke professor receives an intrusive court order to turn over confidential research or communications?

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Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in California. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Coalitions Board of Directors.

Want to Hear Obama? Just Say You Support Him

Many people are miffed at the way the University of
Wisconsin is handling President Obama’s visit to our campus today. Concerns are
not with the visit per se–most of us think the event is something very
compelling, a bit of history entering through our gates. The location of the
speech in the heart of the campus is one problem–it requires the cancellation
of some classes. A far bigger one  is
that to get tickets to the event, students are required by the University to go to the Obama campaign website, provide
contact information, and then click on a button that says ‘I’m In!’.

A faculty colleague,
Ken Mayer, sent around an email of protest. He wrote: “Having a president visit as an
educational public event is one thing. Forcing students to declare their
support for a presidential candidate in order to attend the event on campus is
quite another. Should we be in the business of helping a campaign farm
thousands of email addresses?”

Mayer’s point is very well taken. The University is
making itself a partner in a campaign operation that will take extensive
student information and use it for campaign purposes. I cannot imagine this
procedure being employed for a typical public speech on this campus.

In addition, this procedure raises questions of
“compelled association.” Under the First Amendment, no one can be compelled to
associate with or support ideas or causes with which that person disagrees or
does not care to associate. A long line of cases support this principle: the
right not to speak or associate is the flip side of the right to speak or
associate.

It is very likely
that principled students–those on both sides of the political spectrum as well
as many students who have taken my First Amendment class–will refuse to so
associate. Interestingly, many pro-Obama faculty members I have spoken with have
expressed deep concerns about the procedure for obtaining a ticket. Mayer and I
have expressed our problems with the handling of this event to campus
authorities, but at least I have not heard back as of this writing.

Is this an example of a partisan university bending over
to accommodate the progressive hero? I do not know. I think the more likely
explanation is that decisions were hurried, and that it simply may not have
occurred to anyone that the registration procedures in this case posed serious
problems for the principles of an open university. By delegating this plan to
the campaign itself, we have forsaken our commitment to an open university at
the same time that we are striving to affirm those principles by holding this
extraordinary event. This is not something of which we should be proud.

Left-Right Agreement on Affirmative Action?

Perhaps anticipating a defeat for affirmative
action in the Fisher v. University of Texas case about to be argued
before the Supreme Court, Columbia University political philosophy professor
and former
Dean of the College
Michele Moody-Adams has just suggested
moving away from a fixation on affirmative action and “Toward
Real Equality in Higher Education
.” Whatever happens in Fisher,
she argues, “we must recognize that controversies about race-conscious
admissions have unhelpfully narrowed the debate about equality of educational
opportunity and diverted attention from the extraordinary inequalities that
continue to exist.”

As “an African-American alumna of a selective
college” and high-level administrator at Cornell and Columbia, Prof. and former
Dean MM-A acknowledges that “diversity” (her quotes) is “unquestionably
valuable,” but unlike nearly all diversiphiles she recognizes that “it can lead
institutions to view minority students as mere means to an end: essential
embodiments of “diverse perspectives” whose greatest value to the
institution lies in their capacity to help fulfill institutional goals.” (Can?
How could it not, since the official rationale for admitting some minorities who would not have been admitted
but for their race or ethnicity is so that non-minority students could be
exposed to them?)
 

Since most colleges are not selective, her
criticism continues, “the percentage of minorities at selective institutions
has little to do with the educational opportunities available” to anyone. Nor
is she persuaded by the “trickle-down effect” defense of affirmative action, a
prediction that minority students would devote their careers to expanding
opportunity in their communities. “Not surprisingly,” she writes, “minority
students have turned out to be like students in general: By and large, college
students do not feel obligated to define their personal goals in the context of
broader social goods.” (Not surprisingly? If it is not surprising that
minority students are just “like students in general,” what is the point of
lowering admissions standards for them so they can provide “diversity” to
others?)

Prof. and former Dean MM-A is clearly no
conservative. She has no use for “familiar criticisms that affirmative action
undermines a system that is otherwise based wholly on merit,” and she rejects
the view that selective institutions do or even should “reward only those
applicants with the right combination of talent, hard work, and ambition — who
really ‘deserve’ a place in those institutions.” In suggesting that the pursuit
of “diversity” should be subordinated to efforts that  promote “real equality of educational
opportunity,” she echoes a long line of leftist criticism of affirmative action
(see a good example here)
as little more than a tattered bandage, or worse, on the open wound of American
racism.

Interestingly, many conservatives agree that
affirmative action is and has been a generation-long diversion from
confronting  the real problems afflicting
blacks in American society. In the long last chapter of his recent book, Wounds That Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial
Dilemma
(watch this space for a forthcoming
review), Russell Nieli argues that affirmative action was born as a response to
the urban riots of the 1960s but the plight of those who had provided the
initial impetus was lost “in the ensuing decades in the never ending
controversy over racial preferences.” What Nieli calls “the sorry plight of the
black underclass” disappeared from the national radar screen. “The ‘affirmative
action response,’  focused mainly on the
black middle class,” he concludes, “has diverted our gaze from the place it
really belongs and done much to undermine interracial sympathy and goodwill.”
 

Who said left and right never agree?

A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

Weissberg essay.jpegAs one who has spent
nearly four decades in the academy, let me confirm what outsiders often
suspect: the left has almost a complete headlock on the publication of serious
(peer reviewed) research in journals and scholarly books. It is not that
heretical ideas are forever buried. They can be expressed in popular magazines,
op-eds and, think tank publications and especially, on blogs. Nevertheless, and
this is critical, these off-campus writings do not count for tenure or
promotion. A successful academic career at a top school requires publishing in
disciplinary outlets and with scant exception these outlets filter out those
who reject the PC orthodoxies.

Continue reading A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

Back in 2010, University of Illinois, Chicago, Professor and former
Weatherman radical Bill Ayers gave a presentation on Public Pedagogy at the
American Education Research Association annual meeting. Ayers, then a member of
AERA’s governing board, made the claim that he, Bill Ayers, was really not a
terrorist. Ten of the first 11 sentences in the talk abstract were in the first
person singular, before Bill Ayers switched gears to say that really, any
violence Bill Ayers might have encouraged merely came in response to the evils
of the U.S. government.   

Continue reading A Survival Guide for the Right in Leftist Academia

The Hunt for Conservative and Liberal Genes

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Based on “new findings involving behavioral genetics,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education,
a growing clump of contemporary social scientists agrees with Gilbert
and Sullivan that both liberals and conservatives (but especially
conservatives) are the product of nature, although they seem to find
nature’s production of conservatives more tragic than comic.

Swimming upstream against the strong current of conventional campus
wisdom holding that just about everything controversial –race, sexual
preference, IQ, gender identity and even gender itself — is “socially
constructed,” these behavioral geneticists believe that political
differences are not caused primarily by conflicting ideologies or moral
visions but instead are deeply rooted in the psyche and even the genes.
As one of these scholars put it, “The differences between political left
and right are now being recognized as ‘very deep and psychological,
such that they connect with very basic personality tendencies that don’t
really have anything in particular to do with politics.'” One estimate
“showed that as much as 40 percent of a person’s political orientation
can be explained by genes.”

Continue reading The Hunt for Conservative and Liberal Genes

The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

indoctrination.jpgIt is no secret that what passes for an education at most of the nation’s colleges and universities is suspiciously akin to indoctrination. An asterisk: With the exception of a few areas–specifically, climate and the environment, certain fields within biology and medicine, history of science and the interaction between science and public policy–the rot that infects the rest of academia has been averted in science and engineering schools. A student who seeks a higher education in the unsullied areas of science and engineering can obtain truly the finest technical education that can be found on our planet at innumerable universities throughout the United States.

But when surveying the remaining disciplines in academia, as well as
the administrative structures that direct the nation’s academic
enterprise, one can say that today’s students are subject there to an
unsubtle, mind-numbing, conformist indoctrination. Numerous polls
conducted in humanities and social sciences departments–at elite, state and minor universities–reveal a stunning skew between liberals
and conservatives at least as distorted as 90%-10%. The inherent bias
spills over into classroom presentations, selection of curricula, and
grading. Moreover, it has been thus for at least two generations.

Continue reading The Coming Decline of the Academic Left

How Administrations Undermine Their Faculties

the fall of the faculty.jpgIt’s no secret that America’s colleges and universities have become bastions of political rectitude. This is often attributed to the left-liberal political orientation of the faculty. Typically, however, the administration, not the faculty, is the driving force behind efforts to promote campus diversity, to build multicultural programming and to regulate campus speech.  The president of the University of Rochester, for example, recently announced a 31-point “diversity plan” saying that diversity was a “fundamental value” of his university.

What accounts for the solicitude shown by university administrators for this progressive political agenda?  The chief reason is that a pitched battle for control of the university is under way, and by championing left-liberal causes administrators hope to bolster their own power

Ford and the Double Standard

The controversy over the Koch Foundation program at Florida State in which the Foundation has some input on hiring is so overdone that one is tempted to ignore it.  (Here’s a sample editorial from the Orlando Sentinel which quotes one anonymous observer as terming the program “shocking.”

At the same time, the double-standard is hard to take.  The money that left-leaning foundations have donated to universities in order to foster left-leaning initiatives dwarfs the money that Koch, Bradley, and other right-leaning foundations have donated, massively so, and their aims have been frankly ideological, though presented in putatively objective terms.

Consider the Ford Foundation and its support of “diversity” in higher education.  In 2003, Ford gave Rutgers University’s Institute for Women’s Leadership $346,000 “to examine faculty’s role in initiating and supporting programs to advance diversity in higher education policy and practice.”  It gave University of New Mexico $400,000 for “a consortium of minority serving Southwest universities to build knowledge and develop programs on diversity and institutional excellence.”  The National Council on Research on Women received $250,000 for “research on women’s leadership in higher education and its role in increasing racial and gender diversity.”  The Association of American Colleges and Universities got $113,000 for a “Diversity Digest” newsletter that would “identify and communicate new strategies for addressing campus diversity issues,” plus $225,000 to “explore how colleges and universities can connect diversity and academic excellence.”  San Francisco State’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism got $400,000 to “conduct programs to promote diversity in the news media and undertake a strategic planning process.”

Continue reading Ford and the Double Standard

A Double Shock to Liberal Professors

haidt200.jpgSocial psychology has long been a haven for left-wing scholars. Jonathan Haidt, one of  the best known and most respected young social psychologists, has heaved two bombshells at his field–one indicting it for effectively excluding conservatives (he is a liberal) and the other for what he sees as a jaundiced and cult-like opposition to religion (he is an atheist).

Here he is on the treatment of conservatives:

I submit to you that the under-representation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering. … We should take our own rhetoric about the benefits of diversity seriously and apply it to ourselves. … Just imagine if we had a true diversity of perspectives in social psychology.  Imagine if conservative students felt free enough to challenge our dominant ideas, and bold enough to pull us out of our deepest ideological ruts. That is my vision for our bright  post-partisan future.

Continue reading A Double Shock to Liberal Professors

The Big, Bad, “Right Wing”

Each fall, the NEA comes out with Thought & Action, the union’s higher education journal. (The 2010 edition is not yet online.) The publication functions as a clearinghouse for defenders of the academic status quo; safe from their position of dominance within the academy, they rail against their imagined oppressors. This year’s edition includes defenses of such trendy matters as “learning communities” and Arizona’s ethnic studies curriculum, along with an entry on “liberation bibliography.”
In this light comes a piece from an AAUP stalwart, Yeshiva University professor Ellen Schrecker, who purports to uncover the “roots of the rightwing attack on higher education.” Her thesis? The malicious and deceptive activities of the “right wing”—not the activities of the academic majority—have convinced most Americans to view the academic majority as “radical, elitist, and somehow alien to most ordinary citizens.” This argument serves two complementary purposes: it fits into Schrecker’s predisposition to see the “right” as latter-day McCarthyites; and it absolves Schrecker and like-minded colleagues of any responsibility in creating a contemporary academy characterized more by ideological groupthink than by a commitment to free inquiry.
Schrecker’s essay begins by pointing out, accurately, that a backlash developed against the excesses of the late 1960s—perhaps most notably, the decision of Cornell’s administration to cave in and create a black studies program in 1969—and that politicians (most but not all Republican) exploited this backlash. But, Schrecker also notes, some professors—whom she intemperately refers to as “hysterical,” “Cassandras,” and characterized by “more than a whiff of elitism”—also worried about the academy substituting its traditional pursuit of the truth in favor of embracing a commitment to pursue “social justice.” (Schrecker also complains that these “conservative” professors tended to oppose faculty unionization.)
Yet somehow, the arguments of these faculty members continued to resonate. Could the intellectual quality of the “conservative” critique explain its staying power? Of course not, in Schrecker’s world. Instead, the professors who yearned for the “golden age when intellectually serious (white male) undergraduates eschewed politics and lounged appreciatively at the feet of their professors to soak up the truths purveyed by Plato, Shakespeare, and the other Greats” only remained relevant because these professors prostituted themselves to “a highly self-conscious and well-financed campaign to destroy the influence of the academic left.”

Continue reading The Big, Bad, “Right Wing”

Why So Few Conservative And Libertarian Professors?

Two researchers offer a new twist on an old question—why do college professors overwhelmingly lean to the left? Bias against conservatives is not the main reason, nor are the allegedly higher IQs of liberals, say Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia and Ethan Fosse of Harvard. Instead they suggest a theory of “path dependence” –few conservatives are attracted to work in scholarly fields dominated by the left, just as few males want to be nurses in a traditionally female field. People tend to giggle when a man wants to become a nurse, they say, and conservatives tend to feel similar embarrassment in entering leftist academe.
This giggle theory underrates what leftist domination does to faculties. In the recent book The Politically Correct University: Problems, Scope and Reforms, Charlotta Stern and I discuss groupthink mechanisms. The majoritarian procedure of each department means that once a majority leans left, the department will tend toward leftist uniformity. The pyramidal structure of each discipline means that publication, awards, grants, recommendations will follow the pyramid’s apex, and if the apex goes left it tends to sweep leftists/neuters into job posts throughout the pyramid.
If leftists have a lock on many fields, it means that non-left applicants will tend to be screened out. Awareness of that feeds back to the non-left student’s thoughts about the future. Self-selection is a function of the screening.

Continue reading Why So Few Conservative And Libertarian Professors?

On The Right In The Land Of The Tenured Left

What acid rain is to our irreplaceable forests, lakes and streams, leftist dogma is to American higher education. In every corner of the land, it has turned once-flourishing departments of English and history into barren wastelands where only the academic equivalent of cockroaches can thrive. Its corrosive poison – infantile anti-Americanism, hatred of capitalism, scorn for ideological pluralism – spreads far beyond the narrow confines of its source, polluting popular culture, public education, the very laws under which we live. Absorbed in sufficiently high doses, it is morally and intellectually fatal.
While the mind-boggling damage done to higher education by multicultural activists, diversity-mongers, and all-around leftist jerks is a subject very much on the minds of conservatives, liberals seem truly not to care. More precisely, they actually regard it as progress. Shakespeare elbowed aside by Maya Angelou? Hey, education’s got to change with the times, just like the Constitution. Mandatory sensitivity training for incoming freshmen to instill appreciation of transgendered persons? What kind of monster has a problem with sensitivity? Conservative students getting charged with hate speech for daring to take on affirmative action or women’s studies zealots? Exactly – that kind of monster. Even the occasional report in the mainstream press of epidemic ideological conformity on the nation’s campuses fails to elicit a reaction. So what if, as the Washington Post reports, 80 percent of faculty in America’s English literature, philosophy, and political science departments describe themselves as liberal and a mere 5 percent as conservative – with ratios of eighteen to one at Brown, twenty-six to one at Cornell, and sixteen to one at UCLA – or that a study after the 2004 election showed that the Harvard faculty gave John Kerry thirty-one dollars for every dollar donated to George Bush, with the ratios rising to forty-three to one at MIT and three hundred to one at Princeton? (And you think when someone gets around to a comprehensive analysis of the 2008 campaign donations, that will be any less lopsided?) For liberals, the only important question remains what it’s always been: How can I get my kid into one of those places?

Continue reading On The Right In The Land Of The Tenured Left

An Academic(?) Conference to Combat the Right

Last Friday, a 6-hour conference at the City University of New York (CUNY) graduate center examined “rightist efforts, from fiscally or socially conservative movements to hate groups.” It apparently raised no eyebrows, though if the meeting had set out to examine “leftist efforts, from fiscally and socially liberal movements to the Unabomber and animal rights terrorists,” people might have wondered if it was a legitimate academic meeting or a highly partisan event posing as just another academic seminar.

No need to wonder. The title of the conference reveals the all-out partisanship: “The Right in These Times: Understanding and Combating Contemporary Shifts to the Right.” So does the cast of characters. They include David Harvey, a Marxist geographer at CUNY; Columbia University assistant professor of anthropology Nicholas DeGenova (notorious for wanting to see “a million Mogadishus,” i.e., the slaughter of tens of millions of U.S. troops); Attorney Eunice C. Lee, a fellow at the ACLU working on immigrant issues; and Ellen Gertzog, listed as “affiliate security,” whatever that might be, at Planned Parenthood. Apparently no one on the right, or even the center, was on the program.

Also attending was Lawrence Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements at Berkeley, the subject of a long and glowing news article six weeks ago in the New York Times. The article stressed that the center was a purely academic one, quoting one professor as saying, “we really like to think of ourselves as scholars in the academy,” working on evaluating these groups without any agendas. “We’re not a political organization.” Yet here was the Lawrence, the executive director, lending a hand to a meeting that clearly had a political agenda.

Another troubling factor is that three of the five sponsors of the conference were departments of CUNY, a public institution that presumably shouldn’t be pursuing partisan “combat” on or off its own premises. The CUNY sponsors, joined by Planned Parenthood and People for the American way, were the CUNY graduate center Ph.D program in anthropology, the CUNY Center for the Humanities and the CUNY Center for Place, Culture and Politics.

Continue reading An Academic(?) Conference to Combat the Right

Coping With The Diversity University

Fellow co-believers frequently ask me how I, a “notorious” conservative professor, have survived decades surrounded by loony lefties. My answer—it is not nearly as bad as it appears—usually causes surprise. Appearances are deceiving, I say, and even in the social sciences and the humanities, the left’s stronghold, the batty left’s domination is incomplete—the tip of the contaminated iceberg image is wrong. Unfortunately, the conversation usually stops here; perhaps the upbeat news is not quite believed. It is also a complicated topic, far too involved for lunch-time table talk among university outsiders. But, the seeming contradiction between outward professors-gone-wild appearances and a happier reality is important and deserves a fuller explanation. This is not to say that all goes well within the academy—the oft-discovered abuses are real enough—but it would be a strategic mistake to equate a few loud mouth, often subversive and attention-getting radicals with widespread idiocy. Those wanting to re-capture the academy need to be precise in their surgery.
The primacy of politics among vocal loopy left professors versus and rest of the faculty is fundamental. We are talking about the folk who favor “War in Not the Answer” bumper stickers, plaster office walls with Bush-is-worse-than-Hitler propaganda and consider goofy political buttons and vulgar tee shirts treasured fashion accessories. They are proud of their race/sex/class obsessed lectures and reading assignments. While most professors loath administrative tasks but dutifully shoulder them, radical academics relish this sort of stuff. In a nutshell, they live for in-your-face politics; it vitalizes them and provides meaning to otherwise dreary existences. Attitude towards research is the great divide—serious researchers just lack the time or inclination to save the gay whales. By contrast, among those who find research burdensome, joining the faculty Senate to condemn racism or the Iraqi war is a coveted responsibility. Here they can scheme with ideological fellow-travelers and fill endless hours “helping humanity” while neglecting more scholarly duties.
University rules help fuel this radical clatter. Particularly at research-oriented institutions where a full teaching load is two courses per semester (about six hours or less of actual classroom time), and the same courses are regularly repeated, the activist-minded professor might enjoy 50 hours per week (plus ample vacation time) to agitate. To be sure, his or her non-radical colleague who has likewise abandoned research enjoys comparable leisure, but lack of ideological urgency typically means more time for family, hobbies or just lolling about. As is true for certain evangelical religions, save-the-world radicalism must be expressed energetically; liberals might send checks off to the ACLU or Common Cause but this is weak tea for those frantically rescuing humanity. The urge to propagate the faith is irrepressible.

Continue reading Coping With The Diversity University

NAS And FIRE Draw Fire

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Association of Scholars (NAS), two groups conspicuously devoted to protecting traditional freedom on campus, have both come under attack as right-wing organizations.

The criticism of FIRE came in a distorted entry on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. The Wikipedia entry, which has since been corrected, argued that FIRE is “keen to wage a culture war on the leftists they see at every turn.” It is true that FIRE defends more conservatives than liberals, but that is because students and professors on the right are far more likely to get in trouble on our left-dominated campuses.

In a sharp defense of FIRE, president Greg Lukianoff pointed out that the organization extensively and aggressively defended Ward Churchill, Sami Al Arian, Nicholas DeGenova (“I pray for a million Mogadishus”), Richard Berthold (“Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote”) and Donald Hindley, a liberal professor at Brandeis under fire for months for using the term “wetback” in class. Hindley, who has been penalized without getting a hearing, has been assigned monitors to audit his class. The founders of FIRE are Alan Charles Kors, a conservative professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvey Silverglate, a prominent liberal lawyer and a board member of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. Lukianoff, who once worked for the ACLU of Northern California and the EnvironMentors Project in Washington, D.C., is a Democrat.

The NAS probably has more political conservatives than liberals, but it is non-partisan and takes no stances on issues not directly related to the campuses. Years ago, People for the American Way placed the NAS on its weblist of right-wing organizations, citing donations from some conservative foundations. This week the executive director of the NAS, Peter Wood, issued a response, saying that the organization is in fact opposed to intellectual and institutional developments that pose a danger to academic freedom, including politicization of the academy, curtailment of free speech on behalf of sensitivity, and race and gender preferences in admissions and campus hiring – but it is open to people of different views and is not part of the political right.

Wood wrote: “For the crime of standing against the tide of political correctness, the NAS was convicted as ‘conservative.’ It was a false label bestowed in an effort to marginalize critics who spoke not the language of William F. Buckley, but the language of Bacon, Locke and Montesquieu and who took their bearing not from Barry Goldwater, but from figures such as Jefferson, de Tocqueville and Weber. As political correctness moved from an expansion movement to a settled fact, the term ‘conservative’ expanded to include anything whatever outside the charmed circle of identity politics.” The attack on the NAS is another attempt to discredit dissent from campus orthodoxy.

Soft Bias Against The Right

In recent years, conservative critics of academia have had few better friends than Ward Churchill, the Group of 88, MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins (who fled Larry Summers talk about variations in intelligence between genders), and a few other hot-headed leftists on campus who made headlines. They proved the point about ideological bias every time they opened their mouths or printed their opinions. They were the slam dunk cases, and their high standing proved an embarrassment to their colleagues.

Beyond those outspoken circles, though, the evidence appears to grow thin. For the truth is that the majority of academics are not fiery, intolerant people railing against Bush in class or berating a conservative sophomore in office hours. They fall on the left side of the spectrum and wouldn’t dream of voting for a Republican, yes, but they pretty much stick to their jobs of teaching a field and pursuing more or less apolitical topics. Churchill et al discredited the profession with their partisan heat, but mainstream professors restore credibility precisely by their dutiful, everyday manner.

It is all the more regrettable and exasperating, then, that when they make fundamental choices in their work these moderate professors harbor some of the same biases, although in softer form and more judiciously expressed, and they produce equally discriminatory effects.

Continue reading Soft Bias Against The Right

Professors Of Groupthink

At a conference on November 14, the American Enterprise Institute released two important new studies by Daniel Klein of George Mason University and Charlotta Stern of Stockholm University. Their research, part of a forthcoming book titled Reforming the Politically Correct University, verifies even further that liberals and progressives outnumber conservatives and libertarians on campuses, overwhelmingly so in certain disciplines.

The authors also find that socially conservative professors must publish more than their liberal colleagues to obtain the same positions (a conclusion bolstered by earlier statistical evidence accumulated by Stanley Rothman of Smith College and S. Robert Lichter of George Mason University). Exploring relatively undocumented but equally compelling demonstration of bias, Klein and Stern show too that conservative students are steered away from pursuing Ph.D.s because of fewer research offers from their professors.

Continue reading Professors Of Groupthink

Ave Maria And Credible Right-Wing Threats To Academic Freedom

The Naples News reports that Stephen Safranek, Edward Lyons and Phil Pucillo, all Ave Maria professors, have filled suit against Ave Maria University, contending that they were discharged in violation of their contracts.

The lawsuit was not an unexpected development given the recent controversy at the school. The move to Florida and its handling by the school’s administration has been at the center of faculty complaints. Last year, members of the faculty held a vote of “no confidence” in Dobranski and asked the board to remove him, but it refused. The American Bar Association, which is the primary accreditation body for law schools, is investigating the school’s ability to attract and retain competent faculty members. The ABA also must give its approval for the school to move to Florida. An ABA spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit and reiterated its inquiry process is “confidential.”

Safranek, a tenured professor, was suspended with a recommendation for termination and barred from campus at the end of July. Lyons and Pucillo were denied tenure and placed on administrative leave of absence in August.

To add to this, last month the Law School Alumni association board made a vote of no confidence in Bernard Dobranski and called for Monaghan’s resignation.

The lawsuit is not surprising. Ave Maria seems ever more clearly an interesting effort gone badly wrong.

The State of the Faculty – A Liberal View

The study of professors’ views by Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons confirms much of what we already knew: there are more liberals than conservatives working in academia, and the ratio increases in the humanities and social sciences, as well as at more elite universities. However, the survey does show an important fact, that a substantial number of professors are moderates and independents, and no simple stereotype of college faculty exists. Certainly, conservatives like David Horowitz are dead wrong when they claim, “Our faculties are 90 percent to 95 percent people of the left.”

One common conservative refrain is that “tenured radicals” have taken over universities and hired only leftists. As Gross and Simmons point out, there hasn’t been a radical left-wing shift among faculty. In reality, the liberal tendencies of university faculty have a long history; William F. Buckley contended that the Yale political science faculty in 1948 supported Truman over Dewey by 23-0. Robert Bork was called by a Yale journalist in 1964 who could find only one other Goldwater supporter on a faculty of 1,000 professors. An analysis in Public Opinion Quarterly of the 1989 and 1997 Carnegie surveys of faculty even concluded that “the replacement of older, more liberal cohorts by younger, less liberal ones has helped to produce a less liberal faculty.”

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Harvard Long Gone

[This also appeared in National Review Online]

There was a time when Harvard stood for the Union. Almost 600 of its sons fought for the North in the Civil War, nearly one-quarter of whom gave their lives. Only the names of those Union dead are inscribed in the transept of Memorial Hall; the smaller number of Harvard affiliates who died for the cause of secession were not similarly honored.

But times have changed. In the current issue of the Harvard alumni magazine there is a profile of education professor, Howard Gardner, in which he declares: “The right wing isn’t just taking over the country, it’s shanghaiing all our values. If there’s a Republican administration after the next election, I would join in efforts for some sort of secession. It’s not the same country anymore.”

Keep in mind that these were not comments that spilled from Professor Gardner’s lips in an unguarded moment that were then exposed by “gotchya” journalism. They were in the University’s own publication that is used for promotional purposes. The profiles of faculty in alumni magazines are meant to portray the faculty and the University in a flattering light to generate support from alumni. Clearly, Gardner and at least some University officials believe that threatening secession conveys a positive picture of the institution.

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Letters To The Times

A colleague forwarded the following to me, found in The New York Times

Re “Young Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds” (front page, June 27):

As a professor who for years has spoken on the virtues of liberalism, I find it extremely pleasing to know that young Americans are once again beginning to lean on the left.
It gives me great hope that this new generation will go on to restore what has been taken away from us in the last seven years of the ultraconservative Bush administration and its collaborators in Congress.

While your conservative readers will accuse me of being yet another liberal professor indoctrinating students, it is more important to have voters who support universal health coverage for all, believe that gay marriage and abortion should be legal and that global warming is a serious problem, and finally, willing to vote for a presidential candidate who smoked marijuana, who is a woman or African-American.

In short, these voters will turn our nation into a kinder and gentler place and that is so much better than the current divisive, religion-suffocating, anti-science and war-filled living conditions.

Michael Hadjiargyrou
Stony Brook, N.Y., June 27, 2007

Well, if it makes the students kinder and gentler…

John Ellis on the Academy

I’d advise all to speed to John Ellis’ essay, available above, (or here) from the marvelous Academic Questions. These items are generally unavailable without a subscription, but we’ve arranged to provide you some occasional glimpses. The piece is a bit long, but worth every page. Defenders of the modern academy often assert that reform-minded critiques are overblown; that not every professor has a copy of Fanon in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other. True, but this sidesteps the real critique – radicals might be a pole, and most professors are surely nearer a “center”, but in this playground, everyone’s sitting on their side of the seesaw. A political science department of a fiery post-colonialist and twelve mild-mannered social democrats is not “balanced.” Ellis speaks acutely to the “balance” point:

With respect to the two major strains of political thought, Mill said, “it is in a great measure the opposition of the other that keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity.” This remark gives us the meaning of the rise of radicalism within the campus left: where there are no right-of-center voices to keep the left intellectually on its toes, the once thoughtful analysis of the campus liberal left will degenerate into the incoherence of the radical left. The academic’s focus on careful analysis of and abstraction from all relevant evidence gradually gives way to the zealot’s selective use of partial evidence to bolster trains of thought fathered by political wishes and even fantasies, not by fact. Here Mill puts his finger on the mechanism that is at work as the one-party climate degrades the intellectual quality of the academy until, in his words, it breaches the limits of reason and sanity. This is where all of those campus horror stories come from; they are not atypical and isolated – they are the symptoms of a sickness that is systemic. Thus nonsensical conspiracy theories about 9/11 as the work of the U.S. government itself are what we must expect when the campus descends into a political monoculture.

Do read the whole piece.

Radical Discourse at Columbia

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which a left-wing ideology has captivated university life. I sometimes get the impression that the ghost of Antonio Gramsci is parading among academic faculties spreading his soteriology to “useful dupes.”

I recently participated in a discussion on Iran at Columbia University sponsored by the college Democrats, Republicans, Hillel and various political action committees on campus. Although it was not a formal debate, one member of the panel, a self described expert on Islam, injected a rather contentious spirit into the discussion by noting:

– Ahmadinejad is a legitimate political leader like others in the world
– There isn’t any difference between the Enlightenment world-view in the West and Islam
– Iran is not a threat to Western interests
– We should do nothing about its nuclear weapons program
– The U.S. is suffering from a form of national hysteria over Iran
– Suicide bombers could be compared to soldiers in World War I who were cannon fodder
– Ahmadinejad never said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map
– What difference does it make if Iran possesses a few nuclear weapons?
– There isn’t any movement within Iran to oust Ahmadinejad as its national leader

It was hard for me to believe that a serious scholar circa 2007 would be making claims of this variety. It was equally difficult for me to think that the majority of those assembled would embrace these fatuities. But I was wrong. As David Horowitz once pointed out, it is hard to caricature university life.

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