Critics (often but not always conservatives) have long complained that political correctness has cast a a pall of conformity over college campuses, compromising and even violating academic freedom. A new case from Dartmouth has now put meat on the bones of that criticism.
The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga had resigned his position as Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi and accepted an offer to become dean of Dartmouth’s Tucker Foundation when protest erupted over his past comments about homosexuality. Bowing to pressure to genuflect at the altar of “diversity,” Dartmouth’s new president, Philip Hanlon, rescinded the offer, explaining in an August 14 statement that “[t]he foundation and Dartmouth’s commitment to inclusion are too important to be mired in discord over this appointment.”
Ironically (some would say), the Dartmouth NAACP was a leading advocate of Rev. Tengatenga’s exclusion, leading him to comment to the Boston Globe that “that history now has it on record that truth and justice lost and bigotry won and that the Dartmouth NAACP led in the defamation of an honorable black man.”
Days after his appointment, Inside Higher Ed reports, Rev. Tengatenga released a statement explaining “unequivocally and categorically” that (like another black former opponent of gay marriage) his views have “evolved,” that he now supports marriage equality, and that he considers “all people equal regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Rev. Tengatenga’s banishment from Dartmouth because of his past political views is reminiscent of the ideological screening prevalent on campuses during McCarthyism, described by former University of California president and authority on academic McCarthyism, David Gardner, as the “nadir in the history of American academic freedom.”
As one historian of academic McCarthyism explains, “the academic community was as deeply involved in this process as any other segment of American society….the nation’s educational leaders differed little from the movie moguls who imposed the Hollywood blacklist or the state and federal bureaucrats who fired people on the word of anonymous informers.”
A few years ago Ann Fagan Ginger, a lefty lawyer whose husband, Ray Ginger, was fired from Harvard in 1954 for refusing to discuss his past politics, demanded a formal apology, stating that Harvard “should have a truth and reconciliation session where someone who did something bad would go up to someone else and say, ‘I personally am sorry,'” something she had witnessed in South Africa.
In at least some respects, however, today’s politically correct conformity is even worse than that the political screening imposed on campuses from outside forces during the McCarthy period, since it is something the academy is imposing on itself.
Perhaps at some point in the future President Hanlon will be asked to appear before a truth and reconciliation commission to apologize for his decision, in the name of “inclusion,” to protect the sensitive souls of the Dartmouth community from the true diversity that would have been provided by a black African bishop who, the Episcopal News Service reports, is “a long-standing member and current chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion’s main policy-making body” representing 85 million Anglicans.