Earlier this week, Yale president Richard Levin sent out an e-mail to the Yale community, expressing his outrage at this AP report, regarding police surveillance of Muslim student organizations. In a passionate defense of due process, Levin affirmed, “in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully
expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”
Levin also praised the efforts of the Yale Muslim Students Association, which he noted “has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry. Now, in the wake of these disturbing news reports, I want to assure the members of the Yale Muslim Students Association that they can count on the full support of Yale University.
Apart from the open-ended and unequivocal nature of the last line (what would happen if it came out a member of the Yale Muslim Students Association had engaged in inappropriate activity?), Levin’s e-mail seemed perfectly appropriate, under the circumstances. Legitimate questions have been raised about the NYPD program to which he referred, and it’s certainly one of the jobs of a college or university president to call on law enforcement agencies to accord students the same due process rights and protections as those available to all citizens.
That said: how is it possible to reconcile the version of Richard Levin, civil libertarian, as expressed in this week’s e-mail with the Richard Levin who late last month penned a university-wide email hailing Deputy Provost Stephanie
Spangler’s “comprehensive, semi-annual report of complaints of sexual misconduct and related remedial actions”? The Spangler Report, as I noted previously, discussed the Orwellian sexual assault/misconduct procedure that Yale has
established, and promised to do more to restrict the rights of the accused in the future.
That version of President Levin exhibited no concern with due process, and ignored the presumption of innocence. That version of President Levin celebrated an “informal” investigatory procedure that the accuser controls. That version
of President Levin had no problem with Yale administrators setting up a system to “monitor” a Yale professor, without the professor ever being informed of the existence of charges against him. That version of President Levin sounded more like a spokesperson for a police department that regularly flouts procedures than the ACLU-like figure who penned this week’s e-mail.
Critics of higher-ed political correctness often point to the hypocrisy and double standards that dominate today’s campuses: disfavored groups are governed by one set of rules and regulations, while the powers that be treat favored groups entirely differently. President Levin’s dueling e-mails couldn’t have better demonstrated the pernicious pattern
KC Johnson is a Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and author of the blog Durham-in-Wonderland. He is co-author, with Stuart Taylor Jr., of “Until Proven Innocent.“