[extropy-chat] FWD (PvT) some witch hunts are okay, I guess

Terry W. Colvin fortean1 at mindspring.com
Mon May 2 18:14:18 UTC 2005


A left-wing witch-hunt on campus
By Cathy Young  |  May 2, 2005

THE NOTION of left-wing political bias in the universities is widely 
pooh-poohed on the left as so much right-wing propaganda -- a 
smokescreen for an attempt to push a conservative agenda on college 
campuses. Sure, conservative professors may be a rare breed; but 
that, we are told, is only because the academy is all about 
intellectual openness, tolerance of disagreement, robust and 
untrammeled debate, and all those other intrinsically liberal values 
that conservatives presumably just don't get.

For a rather dramatic test of this proposition, one need look no 
further than Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which is 
currently in the grip of a witch-hunt that would do the late Joe 
McCarthy proud -- except that it's directed by a leftist mob.

The victim of this left-wing McCarthyism, history professor Jonathan 
Bean, identifies himself as a libertarian but is widely regarded as a 
conservative on the campus; he serves as an adviser to the Republican 
and Libertarian student groups at the university. (There are 
reportedly no Republicans among more than 30 faculty members in his 
department.) A prize-winning author, he was recently named the 
College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year.

On April 11, six of Bean's colleagues published a letter in the 
college paper, the Daily Egyptian, denouncing him for handing out 
''racist propaganda" in his American history course. The offending 
document, which Bean had distributed as optional reading for a class 
that dealt with the civil rights movement and racial tensions in that 
era, was an article from the conservative publication 
FrontPageMagazine.com about ''the Zebra Killings" -- a series of 
racially motivated murders of whites in the San Francisco Bay area in 
1972-74 by several black extremists linked to the Nation of Islam. 
The article, by one James Lubinskas, argued that black-on-white hate 
crimes deserve more recognition.

Bean's critics charged that the article contained ''falsehood and 
innuendo" and that, in printing it out for the handout, Bean 
deliberately abridged it in a way that disguised its racist context 
-- specifically, a link to a racist and anti-Semitic website.

In fact, Bean did omit a paragraph containing a link to the European 
American Issues Foundation, which has held vigils commemorating the 
Zebra victims and which is indeed racist and anti-Semitic (its 
website features a petition for congressional hearings on excessive 
Jewish influence in American public life). He has told the student 
newspaper that he was simply trying to fit the article on one 
two-sided page.

By the time the letter from the outraged professors appeared, Bean 
had already canceled the assignment in response to criticism and sent 
an apology to his colleagues and graduate students. His letter of 
apology ran in the Daily Egyptian on April 12. On the same day, 
College of Liberal Arts Dean Shirley Clay Scott canceled his 
discussion sections for the week and informed his teaching assistants 
that they did not have to continue with their duties. Two of the 
three teaching assistants resigned, leaving the course in a shambles.

One may argue that Bean showed poor judgment in selecting the article 
for a reading given the offensive link it contained. But imagine 
reversing the politics of this case. Suppose a left-wing professor 
had assigned a reading which turned out to contain a link to the 
website of the Communist Party USA, or to a group that supported 
Palestinian terrorism in Israel. Imagine the outcry if the 
administration penalized this professor for such guilt by association.

Anita Levy, associate secretary in the Department of Academic Freedom 
and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors, says 
that making one's own decisions about the course curriculum as long 
as the material is relevant to the course is ''a part of academic 
freedom" and that it's clearly inappropriate to penalize a professor 
for such decisions -- especially without any due process. (While 
FrontPageMag.com has criticized the AAUP for remaining silent on the 
case, Levy says that the organization had not heard about it before 
and has not been contacted by Bean, whom I have been unable to reach 
for comment.)

A number of SIUC professors who do not share Bean's politics have 
rallied to his defense. Jane Adams, an anthropologist who was a civil 
rights activist in the 1960s, told the Daily Egyptian that the 
persecution of Bean ''puts an axe at the root of academic freedom and 
the freedom of inquiry." She added, ''For anybody who is a 
conservative, this has got to be a chilling case." Indeed, if this 
case is any indication, conservatives on many campuses are not just a 
rare breed but an endangered species.
Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. Her column 
appears regularly in the Globe.

"Only a zit on the wart on the heinie of progress." Copyright 1992, Frank Rice

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) < fortean1 at mindspring.com >
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