This is an excerpt from Roger Kimball’s Wall St. Journal review of “Seeking the North Star,” a collection of essays by the late John R. Silber, academic reformer and president of Boston University.
Silber was often labeled “conservative.” In fact, and as he always insisted, he was a liberal of the old school. He believed in advancement according to merit, not quotas; colorblind justice; the disinterested pursuit of truth; and open debate, not ideological conformity. This commitment to what we might call classical liberalism—the liberalism of an Edmund Burke or John Stuart Mill —forms an important leitmotif of “Seeking the North Star.” It also explains why Silber was from the beginning on a collision course with the faux-liberalism, the illiberal liberalism, of contemporary academic culture. “No institution,” he writes sadly, “has contributed so extensively to the deracination and diminishment of our humanity as university faculties.”
(David Godine, 320 pages, $29.95)