[Paleopsych] CHE: A Chilly Climate on the Campuses (several articles)
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A Chilly Climate on the Campuses (several articles)
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.9.9
A Chilly Climate on the Campuses
Rarely has the climate on college campuses seemed such a cause for concern.
Over the summer, two broad coalitions issued major new statements reaffirming
academic freedom and autonomy. The American Council on Education and 27 other
higher-education organizations said they were responding to university
presidents, who need guidance in the face of increasing challenges to those
principles. Almost concurrently, the presidents of 16 major universities around
the world, also citing constraints on intellectual discussion, brought out
their own statement reaffirming academic rights and responsibilities. The
American Federation of Teachers weighed in too, calling for stronger opposition
to recent attempts to involve the government in university business.
Scientists warn that antiterrorism measures and public controversy over such
issues as stem-cell research and evolution are making it more difficult to
conduct and share research. Historians worry about the rapidly increasing level
of classification of government documents. Foreign students and scholars say
they face new obstacles in the wake of September 11 to studying, teaching, and
publishing in the United States.
At the same time, conservative students and scholars are calling attention to
the hostile climate they say they have long felt on campuses. The campaign by
David Horowitz, a leading conservative activist, for an "academic bill of
rights" that he says would promote intellectual diversity has garnered
nationwide attention, and variations of the measure are making their way
through several state legislatures. An organization of concerned parents,
NoIndoctrination.org, has begun to post allegations of bias against students in
the classroom on the World Wide Web.
What is notable is not that so many people are talking about a big chill, but
that so many different people -- representing very different perspectives --
are doing so. Scientists see efforts to promote the teaching of intelligent
design as a threat to their intellectual integrity; religious believers say
they and their beliefs are still unwelcome in the academic marketplace of
ideas. The president of Harvard touches off a firestorm with remarks about
women's aptitude for science -- a sign to many of his critics of the chilly
reception women find on campus, to his defenders that some topics are off
limits today. Jewish students complain of anti-Israeli bias among professors;
scholars in Middle East studies say they are being harassed by pro-Israel
groups. Affirmative action, immigration, ethnic studies, gay studies -- the
topics spark more and more public controversy. Some professors suggest they are
censoring their comments on them.
Is today's intellectual climate chillier than it once was? If so, for whom?
Why? The Chronicle asked a number of commentators for their views.
Freer for Some, More Inhibited for Others
By ROBERT M. O'NEIL
Close observers of American higher education are regularly asked to assess the
campus climate for free inquiry and expression. Their responses tend to be
disappointingly eclectic -- disappointing, that is, to those outside the
academy who seek a simple answer.
Any honest appraisal of the current condition of campus speech is mixed, an
amalgam of good news and bad news. Some sectors of American campuses seem freer
to speak than ever before, while others may be inhibited to a degree not seen
in quite some years. The resulting paradox largely accounts for the news
media's fascination with the issue.
Three groups have benefited from increased tolerance and attention. Gay,
lesbian, and bisexual students and faculty members, who until recently revealed
their sexual orientation and related views at grave risk, may not yet be free
of artificial constraints, and are surely not fully accepted at all
institutions. Yet, even at the highest levels of administration, they are more
widely accepted than in the past.
Much the same can be said of politically conservative students, whose views
were not always welcome, especially during times of political turmoil like the
Vietnam War era. Through the efforts of concerned national groups like
NoIndoctrination.org, and of advocates like David Horowitz and his allies --
who include legislators, alumni, and other policy makers -- the far-right end
of the campus political spectrum now seems better protected in speaking freely
on national policy, course offerings, fee-allocation rules, and most other
Finally, and ironically, among the beneficiaries are those who utter sexist,
racist, or homophobic remarks. Mercifully, the speech-code mania of the late
80s and early 90s has abated. Offensive slurs and the like may be no more
acceptable these days than ever, but they are less likely to be proscribed by
campus rules. Informal constraints do and should exist, including condemnation
by senior administrators, but such uncongenial people need not be punished or
There are also some prominent casualties in the current mixed climate. Some
outspoken liberals who have been Horowitz's targets have clearly felt
constrained by legislative interest in his academic bill of rights, and by
direct inquiries in several states into allegedly biased classroom dialogue.
Notably inhibited on many campuses are those who hold deeply emotional views on
either side of Middle East tensions. Whether pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian,
strident critics of American policy risk being labeled "an enemy of ____" or
"anti-____" simply for making a strong public statement about current events in
this profoundly troubled part of the world.
Least definite among dimensions of the current intellectual climate is speech
related to September 11, the Iraq war, and other national-security issues.
Outspoken antiwar professors have, for example, fared better than one might
have anticipated four years ago. Plaintiffs in suits challenging the USA
Patriot Act and other measures seem to have suffered no reprisals. Yet foreign
scholars, even from relatively nonsensitive parts of the world, have found this
country less hospitable than it was before September 11, and even their ability
to collaborate on research projects with American scientists is now subject to
growing constraints. On this one point, the jury is very much still out.
Robert M. O'Neil is founding director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the
Protection of Free Expression and a professor of law at the University of
The New McCarthyism
By JONATHAN R. COLE
A rising tide of anti-intellectualism and intolerance of university research
and teaching that offends ideologues and today's ruling prince is putting
academic freedom -- one of the core values of the university -- under more
sustained and subtle attack than at any time since the dark days of McCarthyism
in the 1950s.
As professors are publicly savaged for their ideas, often by outside groups,
colleges are coming under pressure to fire them or control what they say in the
classroom. Witness the furor last year over a purported "documentary" by the
Boston-based David Project, Columbia Unbecoming, that charged professors with
anti-Israel bias, or the Orwellian efforts by the national group Students for
Academic Freedom that -- in the name of ending the alleged politicization of
the academy -- attempt to limit legitimate scholarly discourse.
As political ideology trumps scholarly consensus, the government is undermining
the peer-review system and the norms of scholarship. Conservative ideologues in
Congress, for example, are trying to place political appointees on committees
to monitor area-studies programs; the Bush Administration and its followers on
Capitol Hill and in statehouses are trying to intimidate professors whose work
on topics like global warming or the transmission of HIV calls into question
administration priorities. Such arbiters of truth are selectively bullying
professors by investigating their work or threatening to withdraw federal grant
support for projects whose content they find substantively offensive. In
resisting stem-cell research and supporting teaching intelligent design along
with evolution, they have cast doubt on scientific expertise and legitimated
the latest form of anti-intellectualism in America.
The USA Patriot Act allows the government to secretly monitor what students and
faculty members read or transmit over the Internet; and the Public Health
Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 places such
extraordinary constraints on laboratory scientists that some of our most
distinguished immunologists are abandoning important research -- for example,
on vaccines to prevent smallpox, anthrax, and West Nile virus -- that could
help deter terrorism. Foreign students and researchers from scores of nations
are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain visas to study or work in the
United States, disrupting the flow of the best talent to American universities.
The current attacks on academic freedom are not the only threats to free
discussion in the university: Too many subjects, like those related to identity
politics and challenges to reigning academic dogma, are also considered off
limits. The result is that it has become increasingly difficult within the
academy itself to have an open, civil debate about many topics. Scholars and
scientists are often exercising their right to remain silent rather than face
the potential scorn, ridicule, sanctions, and ostracism that challenging shoddy
evidence and poor reasoning on politically sensitive topics can invite.
Why does that matter? Universities remain perhaps the last sanctuary for the
relatively unbridled and unfettered search for truth and new important ideas.
Without a climate of free inquiry, creativity and discovery will suffer. Today
American research universities are the single most important source for major
new discoveries that improve the health and social and economic welfare of
people around the world. Tie a tourniquet around that free flow of intellectual
energy, and we will halt the production of knowledge that is necessary for
conquering disease and poverty and for improving the quality of everyday life.
The sad fact, however, is that few academic leaders and prominent members of
their faculties are rising to the defense of academic freedom. Where is the
Robert Hutchins of today, who protected the idea of the university against
ideological foes during the 1940s and 1950s? As Hutchins said, it is "not how
many professors would be fired for their beliefs, but how many think they might
be." It is time to recognize the seriousness of the current attacks, analyze
carefully the bases for them, scrutinize evidence on their incidence and
consequences, and organize a defense of the university against those intent on
undermining its values and quality.
Jonathan R. Cole is a university professor and former provost and dean of
faculties at Columbia University.
The Ideological Corruption of Scholarly Principles
By MARK BAUERLEIN
To listen to the professoriate and the scholarly organizations, one would think
that a purge was being readied. The sullen alarm, the feverish visions of witch
hunts, the "chill" -- it's the Red Scare all over again. The most protected
labor group in our time, tenured faculty members, regards conservative sallies
as nothing less than the harbinger of "New McCarthyism."
But however much they raise the specter of persecution, there is a difference.
People lost jobs and reputations 50 years ago. Today the attack on
left-of-center bias doesn't jeopardize anybody's job, and to be criticized by
the right is a distinction. Has anyone been materially damaged by
NoIndoctrination.org or the American Council of Trustees and Alumni?
So why are professors upset? Because something is, indeed, threatened: the
ideological grip of liberals and leftists on campuses. Under the public eye,
they can no longer propagate their viewpoints as if they possessed the only
rational and moral approach to cultural or political matters.
That is a reasonable limitation, but it strikes professors as a predatory
incursion -- which just shows how insulated professors are. They've lived too
long without challenge, and the dissenting voice comes off as evil-spirited or
stupid. So much conformity has an institutional effect: Liberal and leftist
beliefs are so abiding that they have sunk deep into academic practices and
acquired a disciplinary sheen.
That conversion of ideological belief into scholarly principle was exemplified
by Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University
Professors, in a defense of liberal bias at an American Enterprise Institute
symposium last February. In anthropology, he explained, the focus lies "on
questioning religious and cultural myth, particularly myth that celebrates
national, cultural, or racial superiorities." He continued, "Sociologists tend
to inquire on the origins of inequality as a source of alienation," while
political scientists "focus on questions of legitimacy" and historians "look at
progress frequently in terms of overcoming inequalities of the past."
Each of those tendencies, Bowen acknowledged, matches progressivist or liberal
premises, with scholars playing adversarial roles. How easily they slide into
measures of competence! What if a graduate student in history argued in a job
talk that what has been termed "progress" has, in fact, introduced new and
pernicious forms of inequality? His work wouldn't be recognized as authentic
history. Hence an ideological judgment may be expressed as a disciplinary one.
Disciplines should be based on subject matters and rules of evidence, not on
agendas such as questioning social hierarchies. Once professors began to make
certain political aims essential to the disciplinarity of humanities and
social-science disciplines, they institutionalized their politics and
impoverished their campuses. Here is where conservatives, libertarians, and
traditionalists have felt a chill for decades. When the professoriate worries
as much about bias at the root of disciplines as they do about conservative
proposals for balance in the classroom, then we can take their reactions
Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University.
We Are Part of the Problem
By MARC H. BRODSKY
Recent responses by scholarly societies, professional organizations,
publishers, and professors to what they perceive as government restrictions or
public disapproval illustrate the adage that the most effective censorship is
one that is self-imposed. That's a real danger for scientific discourse today.
Consider reactions to the threat to freedom of speech posed by regulations that
the U.S. Department of Treasury issued through its Office of Foreign Assets
Control (known as OFAC). The regulations, which have a long history, authorize
the president to impose trade embargoes against nations deemed to be enemies.
In 1988 Congress explicitly exempted "informational materials" from such
regulations, subsequently making it clear that it did not intend to stop
publishers, directly or indirectly, from importing or exporting information
protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Despite that, in
1999 the Treasury Department's office ruled that editing and other steps
normally taken by publishers with imported information from embargoed countries
were not exempt from regulation.
Alerted by the government in 2003, some publishers sought interpretation of how
much processing, like editing and peer review, they might do with manuscripts
from embargoed countries. The Treasury Department reiterated its unfounded
regulations on editing imported materials. But instead of challenging the
regulations, several publishers -- academic, professional-society, and
commercial -- censored themselves and stopped handling articles and books from
Cuba and Iran.
Even I, a firm advocate of free speech unfettered by government regulation, at
first found myself parsing OFAC statements and rulings. But upon reflection, I
said to myself and my colleagues that such an exercise was a waste of time, as
the rulings clearly contradicted well-established freedoms and supporting
legislation, as well as my mission to disseminate scientific information. We
needed to continue publishing and to challenge OFAC in court. Nevertheless,
many respectable organizations persisted in self-censorship, even after OFAC,
subsequent to our court challenge, backed down by issuing a general license
(but still insisting it had the authority to issue regulations). Even now, some
publishers, out of fear, still occasionally censor themselves.
Similarly, while some scientists have stood up to religious groups that present
"intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution, too many have not. Today
some religious conservatives, in the guise of a nonexistent scientific
controversy, advocate presenting intelligent design in school science courses
as just as valid as evolution -- which they claim is only an unproven theory.
Evolutionary theory is well-documented science. Intelligent-design advocates
have many fallacies and hypocrisies in their arguments, but nevertheless there
is an insidious result: self-censorship by some academics and schoolteachers.
Rather than explain to their students that evolution is one of science's most
valuable and well-established bases for scientific progress, they withdraw from
the fray, fearing pressure from religious groups -- and even the White House --
that seek a role for religious alternatives in the science classroom.
I fear that such chilling pressure is winning in a struggle over scientific
discourse today. What this means is that academics must reflect on their basic
mission. They need to avoid letting pressures from government and others lead
them to self-imposed steps that would undermine the dissemination of correct
and valued science.
Marc H. Brodsky is executive director and CEO of the American Institute of
Physics and chair of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the
Association of American Publishers.
Rights for Some People, Not Others
By CHON A. NORIEGA
For those of us who study minority issues, today's intellectual climate is --
as it has always been -- contentious. But it's becoming chilly in new, and
Within an hour of releasing a policy brief on noncitizens and voting in
California, our Chicano-studies center here in Los Angeles received a deluge of
fax and e-mail messages and telephone calls. Most expressed unbridled hatred
and disgust for the report, its author, and our center, vowing to fight our
alleged campaign "to turn the United States into Mexico." And oh yes, they
promised to ask the state to cut off our funds. Both talk radio and
anti-immigration groups continued the effort for several months before turning
to other incidents.
What had we done? The report -- written by Joaquin Avila, an expert on minority
voting rights who had twice argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court
and been awarded one of the MacArthur Fellows Program's "genius grants" -- drew
upon recent census data that showed an increasing number of California cities
with large noncitizen adult populations. Avila acknowledged the limited
prospects for political integration in the state, but nonetheless recommended
further debate and research on noncitizen participation in local government.
That included neighborhood councils, but also voting for local office,
something that already occurs in Chicago, New York City, and Maryland.
While some of those who protested were open to reasoned debate, most contented
themselves with comments like, "Mexicans need to learn birth control." Perhaps
more troubling, everyone (including the news media) conflated noncitizens with
"illegals," conveniently ignoring the status of legal resident. In the process,
they quickly slid into assuming that only U.S. citizens were entitled to civic
participation or protection of the law. What was most surprising was that those
who contacted us -- even those who made explicit threats -- signed their names
and, in some cases, provided their phone numbers and addresses. No one wanted
"balance" on this issue; they simply wanted us to go away and were confident
they spoke for all Americans and taxpayers (assuming the two were the same).
If there is a chill taking place on the campuses, it stems from those kind of
presumptions: Some people have rights -- including freedom of expression -- and
others do not. One of the consequences of this turn is that the public
university is now seen as the advocate, if not the author, of the research its
faculty members produce, rather than as a site for presenting, examining, and
challenging ideas. The CNN host Lou Dobbs exemplified that attitude when he
criticized our report: "And it has the imprimatur of UCLA, one of the nation's
most respected universities, calling for voting rights for illegal aliens?"
Of course, protests against immigrant and minority rights are nothing new.
Several colleagues have spoken to me matter-of-factly about the filing-cabinet
drawers where they keep angry letters they have received over the decades. One
still receives hate mail for a study noting that more than half of all births
in California are now to Latinos, as if he were personally responsible!
What is new is that recent critics are more emboldened: An organized sector of
the electorate, with significant access to the mass media, prefers to silence
public efforts to study the profound demographic changes and social disparities
in our society. If those efforts succeed, our society will fly backward into
the future, like Walter Benjamin's angel of history, our gaze fixated on a past
that will seem like "one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon
wreckage." Oddly enough, that effort to restrict knowledge and rights is touted
as a vision of progress.
Chon A. Noriega is a professor of film, television, and digital media and
director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California
at Los Angeles, and editor of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies.
The Chill Is Nothing New
By GREG LUKIANOFF
There is a chill on campus, but that's nothing new. For decades, campus speech
has been chilled by speech codes and other attempts to prevent expression that
might offend. Some would like to imagine that the excesses of "political
correctness" are ancient history, but repression in the name of tolerance
hasn't gone anywhere. Oppressive speech codes are not only still around -- they
have actually multiplied, even after numerous court decisions declared them
Within the past year, college students have been punished for such things as
expressing a religious objection to homosexuality and arguing that corporal
punishment may be acceptable. Students in Illinois were told they could not
hold a protest mocking affirmative action. Christian students in Florida were
banned from showing The Passion of the Christ. A student in New Hampshire was
expelled from the dorms after posting a flier that joked that female students
could lose weight by taking the stairs. Those are just a few examples. The
riskiest speech on campus is still religious or conservative expression or
satire of the university's values.
Another longstanding source of the campus chill is as old as college itself:
the desire of administrators to avoid public criticism. Instances from the past
few years are, again, easy to find. Several institutions, including Harvard
Business School, have reprimanded student journalists for being critical of the
administration. A University of Oklahoma faculty member was marginalized and
relegated to a basement office, apparently for creating an "uncollegial
environment" that happened to include blowing the whistle on university
impropriety. At Shaw University, a professor was summarily fired for
criticizing the administration.
The growing bureaucratization of colleges also contributes to the chill. To
avoid liability, campus policies banish speech to tiny "free-speech zones" and
regulate pamphleteering, romantic relationships, and countless other aspects of
academic life. Unfortunately, recent legal decisions in Massachusetts,
California, and Illinois have confused what were once clearly distinct student
rights and administrative duties, threatening to make matters worse.
What is relatively new, however, is the public backlash against the academy.
That has been provoked by comments like those of a University of New Mexico
scholar who quipped on September 11, 2001, that "anyone who can bomb the
Pentagon has my vote"; of a Saint Xavier University faculty member who
condemned an Air Force cadet as a "disgrace"; and of a professor at Columbia
University who called for "a million Mogadishus" in Iraq. And who hasn't heard
of Ward Churchill, of the University of Colorado, who likened the victims of
September 11 to Adolph Eichmann?
The University of Colorado was absolutely correct, however, when it concluded
that speech like Churchill's is fully protected. As student-rights advocates
have argued for decades, free speech means nothing if it does not include the
provocative, unpopular, or even offensive.
Unlike other threats to campus candor, those cases have truly caught the
academy's attention -- perhaps because faculty members now see their
free-speech rights in question. While decrying increased public scrutiny,
higher education has been hesitant to accept that it might share the blame for
the erosion in public confidence. Those inside the academy may see their
institutions as paragons of enlightenment, but the outside world increasingly
views them as bloated corporations with frightening power over their children's
future. Now that the cost of top colleges has skyrocketed to more than $40,000
a year -- close to what the median American household makes annually -- the
very least students should be able to expect is that their basic rights be
There are certainly new and potentially serious threats to free speech
presented by the Patriot Act, intellectual-property law, and dangerously vague
legislative proposals. But colleges could do much to restore their credibility
and prevent greater "outside interference" by confronting the free-speech
problems that have plagued them for years. The academy would do well to
remember: The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.
Greg Lukianoff is the director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation
for Individual Rights in Education.
The Uncertain Consequences of Political Pressure
By MICHAEL BÉRUBÉ
Is it becoming more difficult to speak openly on campus or to share
information? I think so, and I fear that untenured and adjunct faculty members
are the most vulnerable.
In the past two years, we've seen a national campaign on the part of
conservative activists to get state legislatures directly involved in academic
oversight. That campaign is being conducted under the banner of "intellectual
diversity," and one of its goals is to investigate instances of liberal "bias"
in classrooms. Conservatives, who have become increasingly outraged at the fact
that most college faculty members tend to be liberal, have promoted a couple of
recent studies purporting to show that liberals actively discriminate against
conservative scholars in hiring and promotion, just as we allegedly
discriminate against conservative students in the classroom. How conservatives
intend to combat the liberal tilt of some fields -- especially in the arts and
humanities -- remains unclear, since they do not seem to be encouraging
promising young conservatives to undertake graduate study in such fields.
Of course, conservatives have been complaining about liberal campuses at least
since the publication of William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale, in 1951. But
since September 11, 2001, liberalism has been on the defensive throughout the
country, and some right-wing pundits have gone so far as to speak of liberals
as traitors and enemies. Indeed, it seems to me that many of the "movement
conservatives" who make up the Republican base are animated less by opposition
to specific liberal beliefs -- like support for stem-cell research or
affirmative action -- than by a more general opposition to pockets of political
independence. Independent journalists, independent judges, independent
filmmakers, independent professors -- all are anathema. So the ravings of a
Ward Churchill, who compared the victims of September 11 to Nazis, are seen as
emblematic of the professoriate as a whole (whereas I consider them simply the
ravings of Ward Churchill).
In my own state, David Horowitz has succeeded in getting the Pennsylvania House
of Representatives to approve, along party lines, HR 177, a bill that creates a
select subcommittee to determine, among other things, whether "students are
graded based on academic merit, without regard for ideological views, and that
academic freedom and the right to explore and express independent thought is
available to and practiced freely by faculty and students." The subcommittee
will hold hearings and conduct investigations until June 30 of next year (and
possibly until November 30). An amendment to the bill provides that faculty
members be given at least 48 hours' notice of any allegation against them
before a hearing, and that they be allowed to testify.
It's clear from the political rhetoric, however, that although the bill
emphasizes providing students with an academic environment conducive to
learning, the people who wrote and passed it don't seem too worried about
whether African-American or gay students enjoy such an academic environment for
learning. No, they're thinking about conservative students bringing allegations
against liberal professors, and they've kindly offered those liberal professors
48 hours' notice and the chance to face their accusers.
The truly curious thing about the bill is that it may not wind up pitting
libertarian students and fans of the free-market economist Friedrich von Hayek
against leftist professors who allegedly want the state to run our lives, and
it may not target professors working on race, gender, or sexuality. Instead,
according to reports I've seen, the constituency that seems most pleased by HR
177 is the local religious right, some of whom see it as their best chance to
get intelligent design taught in biology classes. They draw strength from
Horowitz-inspired initiatives like the one in Pennsylvania, just as they are
inspired by President Bush's recent endorsement of intelligent design, and they
view it as a way to combat the Darwinist "bias" of the natural sciences.
So it's not clear, just yet, how this attempt at legislative "oversight" will
play itself out.
Michael Bérubé is a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University at
The Pernicious Concept of 'Balance'
By ELLEN WILLIS
Demands for more political "balance" on the campuses are one of the scarier
developments in today's intellectual climate. David Horowitz's campaign for a
misnamed academic bill of rights and the related legislative initiatives it has
inspired aim not to enhance academic freedom but to discredit the university as
an independent institution.
"Balance" is a pernicious concept, implying as it does both that all ideas are
equally valid and that they can be unproblematically defined in academe as
liberal or conservative -- especially by outside observers who have only
passing knowledge of what is being said or taught. Some conservatives have
expressed outrage that the views of professors are at odds with the views of
students, as if ideas were entitled to be represented in proportion to their
popularity and students were entitled to professors who share their political
or social values. One of the more important functions of college -- that it
exposes young people to ideas and arguments they have not encountered at home
-- is redefined as a problem.
To a radical right that feels entitled to dominate not only government but all
social institutions, the academy is a particular irritant: It not only allows
liberals and leftists to express their views, but provides them with the
opportunity to make a living, get tenure, publish books, and influence
students. Indeed, the academy is inherently a liberal institution, in the sense
that it is grounded in the credo of the Enlightenment: the free pursuit and
dissemination of knowledge for its own sake.
But the right's charge that the professoriate is dominated by liberals requires
some, pardon the expression, deconstruction. For the right, "liberal" has
become an epithet -- roughly equivalent to the "Godless Communist" of an
earlier era -- that applies to anyone who is not a conservative Republican or a
Christian fundamentalist. Most people who are attracted to academic life fit
that definition for fairly obvious reasons: We prefer reading, writing, and
research to business; care more about job security than the chance to get rich;
and are comfortable with (secular) Enlightenment values. The balance-mongers
make much of polls purporting to reveal that most professors vote Democratic,
but that says less about the liberalism of professors than about the fact that
what used to be the right-wing lunatic fringe is now the Republican mainstream.
As a practical matter -- no matter how much proponents of balance protest that
they are merely trying to raise awareness of this issue -- redressing the
"underrepresentation" of the far right in academe requires coercion: the
intimidation of offending liberal professors by students or infiltrators who
monitor their classes, and pressure on legislative officials, donors, and
trustees to influence faculty hiring decisions and the curriculum.
That said, it is equally important to acknowledge serious internal obstacles to
intellectual freedom and diversity on the contemporary campus. The real
political debates in academe have mainly to do not with voting behavior but
with the social implications of scholarly and pedagogical methods and
disciplinary paradigms. And those debates are too often settled, or stifled, by
the ubiquitous tendency of academic departments to exclude or marginalize
scholars whose approach diverges from prevailing orthodoxy. While conservatives
talk as if that practice is confined to the academic left, in fact the
disciplinary police are often profoundly conservative. Economists' exclusion of
dissenters from free-market libertarian orthodoxy; psychologists' ostracism of
psychoanalysts; philosophers' marginalizing of those who emphasize social and
political rather than linguistic problems -- all contribute to a pervasive
positivism that silences critical thinking about the present socioeconomic
system. Nor is the phenomenon absent from the hard sciences: It may be harder
for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a biologist working on
something other than the genome to get a job or a grant these days.
All these pressures for conformity come at a time when the mainstream public
conversation has diminishing space for serious social criticism. Trade
publishers by and large refuse to publish it; leading review media tend to
ignore it; fewer and fewer periodicals feature it. There is increasing disdain
for the essay, the traditional vehicle for much social critique. The need to
make a living has pushed more writers into the academy (whether they are really
suited for it or not). Now good academic jobs are drying up as universities
hire fewer tenure-track faculty members. That, too, is chilling.
Ellen Willis is a professor of journalism and director of the Cultural
Reporting and Criticism program at New York
The Death of John Stuart Mill
By STANLEY KURTZ
For conservatives it's been tough to speak openly on campus for decades.
Knowing the politics of my field (anthropology), and mindful of Stanley Fish's
1990 call to bar some members of the National Association of Scholars from
curriculum and tenure committees at Duke University, for years I avoided
joining the association. When I finally threw caution to the wind (still
carefully directing mailings to my home, not college), I discovered that my
clever association chapter in Boston used envelopes with no external
identification. That reminded me of how, during the McCarthy era, my father had
to get his subscription to the leftist I.F. Stone's Weekly delivered to an
Consider postcolonial studies, one of the most influential paradigms in today's
academy. Begun by the late Edward Said, ostensibly as a theory-inflected
political analysis of colonialism, postcolonial studies in effect has
introduced a new form of blacklist. Said attacked numerous prominent scholars
and intellectuals as anti-Muslim bigots in league with "the Zionist lobby."
Chastising them with imposing the colonial stereotypes of "Orientalism," he
found them guilty of daring to note connections between some strains of
contemporary Islam and terrorism. His followers have used the label to tar
their opponents, thus enabling a takeover of substantial parts of the academy,
particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Nowadays, in Middle East
studies, postcolonialists are everywhere, while the generation of successors to
scholars whom Said attacked, like Bernard Lewis, has been lost.
Further, entire subfields are defined by their politics. In anthropology, it is
typical to see job listings calling for a specialist in "critical-race theory,"
"medical justice," "critical-medical anthropology," "gender and social
justice," "postcolonial studies," or just plain "critical theory." All those
are open code for someone on the left.
Leftist professors treat mere calls for balance as suppression of speech,
usually saying they are defending liberal principles. Yet many of those same
professors junked John Stuart Mill's classic defense of the marketplace of
ideas -- the need for multiple and clashing intellectual perspectives -- long
ago. Like Said, they follow Michel Foucault in dismissing the call for
intellectual balance as a ruse of power. Such scholars rationalize their
near-total dominance of the academy by picturing it as the last beleaguered
redoubt of an embattled left. After all, Republicans control the White House,
Congress, and soon perhaps the courts, they reason. So why can't we control the
With only narrow Republican majorities in our political system, each party is
compelled to debate and compromise with the other. How is that a justification
for an academy where you can sooner find a military recruiter on campus than
real debate? The erstwhile campus marketplace of ideas has been bought out by a
monopoly. Mill is dead, and the professors killed him.
And now that students and the public have complained -- now that the problem
has been named by continuing complaints in the blogosphere, empirical studies
of faculty bias, and student protests at Columbia and other universities -- the
academy cries foul. Those who for years have trashed liberalism appeal to it --
as if their hiring practices and intellectual manners embodied a sort of
Millian paradise. Too late. Liberalism now lies with their critics.
Stanley Kurtz is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a contributing editor
at the National Review Online.
Religious, Philosophical, and Socioeconomic Diversity
By CAROL M. SWAIN
I have found myself an outsider in a place that values conformity. What makes
me an outsider are my roots in the lower class, my strong Christian faith, and
The chill I feel on campus is that of an accomplished woman who, more often
than not, finds herself devalued. Navigating a campus is difficult if your
path, like mine, is nontraditional. When I first entered college as a
high-school dropout with a GED, I encountered professors who warned me that I
would not perform as well as other students. I defied their expectations.
Now, as a professor who has five degrees and several prizes under my belt, I
find myself an outsider for new reasons. As a born-again Christian since 1999,
I have encountered overt and subtle forms of intimidation. Often this takes the
form of openly disparaging remarks made by colleagues about the intelligence of
There is hostility directed against anyone who refuses to conform to the
prevailing ethos of his or her institution and to the secularized liberal
elites who decide who and what has value. I have watched helplessly as bright,
conservative students are victimized again and again by faculty members who use
the power of grading to push them toward conformity. Those students who fight
back usually end up with reduced grade-point averages and fewer opportunities
to matriculate at elite professional institutions.
I believe institutions of higher learning can, and should, do better. Many
operate in ways that reveal no real desire for diversity or inclusion beyond
the visible differences of gender and race. They have little interest in
diversifying their faculties in terms of political philosophy or religious
beliefs. Instead, the elite institutions, with which I am most familiar, have
seemingly decided that they are in sole possession of the intellectual
knowledge, values, and insights needed to train future leaders -- and that such
knowledge is secular and material. Never mind that the great universities of
our nation, from Harvard on down, were in most cases founded by God-fearing men
and women with different perspectives from today's.
Institutional leaders should urge faculty and staff members to reject
ideological conformism, and they should honor forms of diversity now neglected,
including religious, philosophical, and socioeconomic diversity. If
universities are to be true to their educational missions, they must cease and
desist from their tendencies to exclude. Alas, the recent high-profile focus by
activists such as David Horowitz on this longstanding issue is long overdue.
Carol M. Swain is a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt
University and founding director of the Veritas Institute for Racial Justice
Academic Freedom or Government Intrusion
By AMY GUTMANN
In preparing students for lifelong learning and democratic citizenship, today's
great universities are more open than ever to intellectual diversity. Students
learn to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries when they examine issues
like AIDS and global terrorism from the multiple perspectives and with the
methodologies that faculty members bring to the classroom.
Why, then, the perception of a chill among people who complain that certain
views are not allowed full expression on our campuses? Perhaps it derives from
the fact that universities are considering some of the most controversial
issues of our time, like the ethics of stem-cell research and the future of the
Middle East. Moreover, we are living at a time when the right and left are
quick to seize upon flash points -- a single course, a controversial article,
an isolated incident -- to take the full measure of a faculty member or a
More broadly speaking, it is easy to forget that American colleges and
universities derive their greatness not by echoing the conventional views of
society, carrying the partisan banner of governments, or giving aid and comfort
to purveyors of prejudices. Rather, they do so by protecting the freedom of
professors and students to read widely and explore topics in all their
complexity, to think critically and debate issues where there are grounds for
reasonable disagreement, and to imagine and express new ideas and new worlds
without fear of reprisal or retribution. Many of the most powerful critiques of
society, along with compelling solutions to the world's seemingly intractable
problems, have issued from university scholars and students.
Is there, then, a problem? If so, how should we rectify it? Not by outside
regulation, as some critics urge. Guided by established procedures of
self-governance, universities must be steadfast in their commitment to the
principles of academic freedom -- which is not a license to suppress student
dissent or engage in partisan proselytizing in the classroom. Upholding
academic freedom does require universities to furnish a safe haven for free
inquiry and discussion. And it recommends that we provide a respectful hearing
to all debatable opinions and to external criticisms of the academy, rather
than dismiss those who question us as "barbarians at the gates," against whom
we must close ranks.
We must also make a better effort to describe the nature of faculty-student
interactions. We should begin by explaining that we teach young people both to
think critically and to support their arguments with reasons, regardless of
which way the political winds are blowing on the campus or off. Students in any
class may not feel comfortable being challenged by a viewpoint with which they
strongly disagree. But neither should they ever feel inhibited or afraid to
disagree with their professors.
For two decades, I taught a course on ethics and public policy that dealt with
the controversial topics of our time, such as terrorism, abortion, affirmative
action, and bioethics. My students knew that agreeing with me on a given issue
would have no bearing on how I treated or graded them. Those who brought solid
evidence and original thinking to bear on their arguments, and who responded
effectively to the strongest counterarguments, earned the highest grades.
For their part, instead of making their case through reasoned arguments in
academic forums, some critics of higher education are promoting legislation to
regulate professors. In doing so, they are violating the spirit of academic
freedom and threatening to poison the collegial atmosphere of robust and
respectful debate that has enabled American universities to contribute so much
to our democracy. By demonstrating our steadfast commitment to protecting the
freedom of faculty members and students to engage in vigorous discourse across
the political spectrum without government interference, we can prevent the
threat of a chill from becoming a devastating frost.
Amy Gutmann is president of the University of Pennsylvania.
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