The Speech Codes That Have Brought Back the Guillotine

November 10, 2014

This morning Harvey Silverglate, the renowned attorney and co-founder of  FIRE, ( The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) published a disturbing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled  Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts.  In it he relates an incident at Smith College in Massachusetts  in which dyed-in-the-wool liberal Wendy Kaminer was hosed down and  hung out to dry  for her defense of freedom of speech.  Kaminer was speaking on a panel, chaired by the college’s president Kathleen McCartney titled Challenging the Ideological Echo Chamber: Free Speech, Civil Discourse and the Liberal Arts, ” designed to address the growing  intolerance for diverse opinions on campus. When Kaminer forcefully propounded the idea that speech codes have eviscerated the entire notion of free speech and used  as an example how the word ” nigger” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, had become abbreviated in modern editions of the 130 -year-old text, she was attacked as a racist and later excoriated as having violated one of the campuses most sacred speech codes.

President McCartney felt obliged a few weeks later to issue an apology to all who had been offended.

As Silverglate makes clear, this was not an isolated incident but is the kind of denunciatory rhetoric which is appearing all over the country in our universities to prevent discussion about unpopular topics. Climate Change “Deniers”, Intelligent design advocates, military spokesmen, anyone critical of Islam and others are routinely torched by the same flame throwers.  It is as if the Klu Klux Klan has invaded the University and in the process of ensuring that no one offends anybody else, is making absolutely sure that nobody actually speaks to anybody else.

What Kaminer and other liberals like her are finding is that the very podium of free speech upon which they have been standing for generations, hurling their thunderbolts at the establishment, is now being burned from under them.  Speech codes, designed to address sensitivities of minorities are now being used to silence just about anyone.

Silverglate wisely surmises in his final paragraph:

Hypersensitivity to the trauma allegedly inflicted by listening to controversial ideas approaches a strange form of derangement—a disorder whose lethal spread in academia grows by the day. What should be the object of derision, a focus for satire, is instead the subject of serious faux academic discussion and precautionary warnings. For this disorder there is no effective quarantine. A whole generation of students soon will have imbibed the warped notions of justice and entitlement now handed down as dogma in the universities.”

The tragedy for the new guardians of minority sensitivities is that one day the revolution they have set in motion will consume them as well –  regardless of their ideological purity.  For suddenly they will find that the very words and terms they have always used to advance their causes are somehow susceptible to charges of hatred, racism or offense to an even smaller minority of complainers and litigants  – who will shut them down just as effectively as they are shutting down their own adversaries today.

It has all happened before of course.  Who can forget how the French, increasingly radicalized following the storming of the Bastille in 1789, set upon each other and destroyed the very principles and ideals upon which their revolution had been founded?  Perhaps the Guillotine may no longer stand in Paris’ Place de la Concorde.  But who can deny that  its modern day equivalent reigns, as a symbol of intellectual terror and intimidation, in almost all our modern universities today?

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The Politically Correct University

December 1, 2010

AFA’s next Literary Cafe 

 

 

The Politically Correct University

by Richard Redding, Robert Maranto and Frederick M. Hess
(author appearance by Richard Redding)

Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Location: Home of Clark and Wendy Gross
2135 Manning Ave. in Westwood  90025
( north of Olympic, south of Santa
Monica Blvd.)
Parking: Street

Admission: $15.00

Political correctness is one of the primary enemies of freedom of thought in higher education today. It undermines our ability to acquire, transmit, and process knowledge as well as building ideological obstacles to the acquisition of truth.  This book, a compendium of articles offered by a range of academics and commentators, is not just another rant; the data presented is powerful, reinforcing well-crafted, hard-to-ignore and logical arguments. It is the sort of work that those who adhere to idea of the university as a mere tool for shaping our students’ views and opinions, will try to trivialize. But the failure to appreciate that without a balanced perspective on the nature of society and the world in which we live, is an augur of a coming disaster that might place the American republic itself in jeopardy.

View all Literary Cafe events at http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/newsletter/AFA-literary-cafe.htm

For more information on the American Freedom Alliance and details of programs visit http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org


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Jewish Students Finally Obtain Civil Rights

November 13, 2010

Up until two weeks ago, Jewish students across the nation were not protected against racially charged attacks on campus.

For close to seven years, the Office of Civil Rights, mandated to enforce the Title VI provisions of the1964  Civil Rights Act, failed to provide any guidelines for the protection of Jewish students from racially charged assaults.  Title VI  prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in any programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.  This of course included state universities .

But for years the OCR has failed to include antisemitic attacks on Jewish students because it could not, or rather would not, concede that Jewish students fell within the embrace of  the term ” race” and would not expand the meaning of “race, color or national origin”  to include religion. Nor was it prepared to apply its criteria to anti Zionist speeches and actions, even when such activities clearly crossed the line into outright attacks on Jews.

The reasons for this are a mixture of timidity, confusion and obfuscation on the part of the OCR.  Claiming it could not come to a satisfactory definition of who is a Jew, they sat on their hands and did nothing, while attacks and intimidation by Muslim students against Jewish spiraled into a virtual pandemic on a number of college campuses.

But on October 26,  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a letter that in effect applies Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses:

” While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion,14 groups that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith. These principles apply not just to Jewish students, but also to students from any discrete religious group that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g., Muslims or Sikhs). Thus, harassment against students who are members of any religious group triggers a school’s Title VI responsibilities when the harassment is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, rather than solely on its members’ religious practices.”

Under the Department of Education new guidelines, the Civil Rights Act can now be invoked if anti-Jewish behavior is considered to be based on shared ethnic characteristics.

The government’s failure to address the outrages at certain California campuses had created a significant anomaly in the law, one in which Jews were treated differently from virtually any other group. African-Americans, Arabs, Hispanics, women, older students, and even Boy Scouts who charge their schools with discrimination formerly could have their cases investigated by the federal government.

Yet that was not the case for Jewish students.  The incidents at U.C. Irvine in Southern California alone over the past seven years speak for themselves.   Jewish students have been physically and verbally assaulted, causing some to fear wearing anything identifying them as Jews or pro-Israel; speakers have compared Jews to Nazis and to Satan operating in the shadows; posters have depicted the Star of David dripping with blood and equating it with the swastika; a Holocaust memorial was destroyed; and swastikas have defaced campus property.  The atmosphere of hate culminated with an attack on February 8 of this year when Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Oren, addressing a public gathering on campus, was repeatedly interrupted by jeering Muslim students who launched an unseemly cocktail of antisemitic and anti-Zionist slurs,  refused to allow him to deliver his remarks.  Eventually eleven Muslim students were arrested by campus police for disturbing the peace.

Yet the U.C. Irvine Administration, which had for years labeled the antisemitic slurs as  free speech had done little to address the problem.  The Michael Oren incident however seemed to induce movement.  In August the Muslim Student Union was banned for the entire succeeding academic year.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Within a month, the administration, bowing to pressure from a variety of camps groups, agreed to commute the expulsion to one semester. Within a few weeks a new organization Alkalima: Muslim students at UCI had sprung up sporting essentially the same identity as the banned Muslim Student Union.  Already this new organization is bringing to campus the same antisemitic/ anti-Zionist programming of its predecessor.

This action should be followed  immediately by other by swift rebukes and condemnations at other troubled campuses including U.C. Berkeley, U.C.  Santa Cruz and U.C. Santa Barbara. It is hoped that it will inspire more determined responses to the rise of anti-Semitism on other North American campuses such as Concordia and York in Canada and Columbia in New York.

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Diversity’s Failing Grades

March 29, 2010

When I first came to the United States 26 years ago to undertake some post-graduate work, I lived with a group of Jewish students in a large dormitory near UCLA.    After about a year, I became acquainted with a startling fact about my fellow lodgers – their level of academic achievement was well below what I had experienced among my fellow students in Australia.  Many could not spell simple words; their grammar was atrocious; their conversation was filled with non- sequiturs and was riven with an over-dependence on the word “like.”

I was part of the U.C. system then and have been associated with UCLA in one way or another, ever since.

During that time, I have seen not only seen academic standards fall, but the rise of a campus culture which places cultural sensitivity training above all other priorities, including academic distinction.

I wasn’t aware of  it when I arrived in 1984, but only six years had then passed since the landmark law suit Regents of the University of California vs Bakke,  which had gone all the way to the U.S.  Supreme Court. The case involved one Allan Bakke, who had applied to U.C. Davis Medical School but was denied, despite an impressive academic record.

The U.C. Davis Medical School claimed that its affirmative action/ diversity policies prevented it from increasing the number of white males who could be admitted.   However after he was denied a second time, Bakke filed suit for mandatory injunctive relief, demanding that the school allow his admission and to render its restrictive policies unconstitutional.  The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with Bakke eventually gaining the right to attend U.C. Davis but with no conclusive majority opinion on the constitutionality of its affirmative action policies.

Yet Justice Lewis F. Powell’s lone opinion in the case was consequential.   It concluded that though race could not be the basis for excluding a candidate, race could certainly be one of many factor in admission’s considerations.   That opinion was seized upon by affirmative action enthusiasts and became part of the U.C. admissions policies thereafter.

Ten years ago, after having read The Tyranny of Diversity, a book on the state of universities in an age of affirmative action, I launched my own inquiry into how universities, committed to integration of minorities through affirmative action policies and a commitment to diversity, were coping with the changes to their student populations.

The results of that inquiry were sobering:  a rapid fall in academic standards; an increase in reports of date rape and sexual assault and the decrease of civil discourse on campus.

The system had become a zero-sum game that opened the door for jobs, promotions, or education to minorities while shutting the door on whites. Not only that, but in a country that prized the values of self-reliance and meritocratic achievement,  it had imported into our educational system ideals which were foreign  to it, providing opportunity that had not been earned and eroding rather than encouraging respect, tolerance and openness.

Recognizing that affirmative action policies had, appallingly, become a means of engineering reverse discrimination, California voters in 1996 therefore soundly approved Proposition 209, which  amended the California State Constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity for the purposes of admissions or public employment.

But that was not the end of affirmative action.  Not by a long shot.  Chameleon-like, it merely morphed into “diversity” as a new expression of its determination to integrate multiple cultures, lifestyles, sexual preferences and points of view into the wider campus community.

I was reminded of all this last Thursday when the U.C. Regents decided, in a public meeting, to apologize to the black community of U.C. San Diego for an off campus party that had mocked Black History Month. The Regents promised  to help create campus environments in which minority students would feel more comfortable.

In fact, U.C . President, Mark Yudof, declared that he would seek changes in admissions policies as well as the creation of scholarships for underrepresented minorities “in order to improve diversity.”

Hmmm…. so, here we are  again – 50 years after John F. Kennedy introduced the term ‘affirmative action’ into our vocabulary, 32 years after Powell’ s opinion in Bakke and 14 years after Proposition 209  –  and we find that not only is there an outright denial of diversity’s failure, but a general agreement among our academic leaders that our universities are not quite diverse enough.

For Yudof was not only referring to the offense to black students.  His remarks were made against a backdrop of racial slurs and near rioting which interrupted a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, at a speech at U.C. Irvine on February 12th.   The outrageous behavior of Muslim students there, in which 11 were arrested for disorderly conduct, drew public attention to the fact that Muslim students on campuses throughout the West often do not feel bound by the same rules as non-Muslims, particularly when it comes to the expression of their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yudof, of course, would not admit it, but the riots at places like U.C. Irvine and  U.C Berkeley, are as much a result of the diversity policies in the U.C.  system as they are the capstone of  a half century of attempted integration policies, which focus on freedom of expression and the promotion of cultural identity at the expense of  educational advancement.

For administrations are increasingly loathe to clamp down on hate speech on campus for fear of tripping the wires of cultural sensitivity.  So professors and students alike can compare Israelis to Nazis, the War in Gaza to the Holocaust or call for the murder of an ambassador – and university administrations can barely bring themselves to blink an eyelid.

Meanwhile, affirmative action lives on in its diversity disguise, as pernicious an ideology as ever.  In the same forum where Yudof debased himself by begging forgiveness from the black community for not making the U.C. system diverse enough, U.C. Regent Eddie Island added:

“It is our own standards and slavish adherence to grade point averages and SAT scores that have put us in this dilemma.  We value those things higher than we value other human qualities that are just as important and that can make a contribution within the UC environment.”

How ironic, for the truth, of course, is quite the opposite.  It is affirmative action and diversity which have put us in this dilemma  – and the problems that they encourage, are only growing.

“We stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11,” declared Victor Sanchez, president of the University of California Student Association in his opening remarks to the regents during the meeting.  This was a  sly reference to the Chicago 7 – essentially making the case that screaming racial epithets and encouraging incitement to murder constitute protected speech, as long as it is are attached to  a cause to which the U.C. students are popularly aligned.

Did any of the U.C. Regents rebut this hateful notion?  None.  For to do so would to be contravene diversity’s golden rule:  all opinions and viewpoints  are equally valid, no matter how viciously expressed.

And how is the new found meritocratic emphasis of our universities faring in all of  this?  Well just ask Jocelyn Devault of Newbury Park, whose 18-year-old senior, despite possessing a 4.1 GPA, all Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate course work and high SAT scores, could not manage to get into even one of the U.C.s  she applied to for the Fall of 2010.

Why would any thoughtful parent wish to send their child to a tertiary institution where hate speech is given such protective cover, where academic achievement is devalued and where the leaders are weak, supine sychophants who bend in the direction of  whatever multicultural wind  is blowing their way?

Perhaps we should all be asking these hard questions as the U.C. Regents get to work on strengthening their diversity agenda.


Anne Coulter’s Uncivilized Discussion

March 25, 2010

By Anne Coulter’s own admission, its been a pretty rough week.   Over the past few days she has been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches she hasn’t yet given and denounced on the floor of a Legislature.   Posters advertising her speech have been officially banned, while campus billboards denouncing  her are pervasive.

Where is she?   In the capital of a liberal democracy having been invited to deliver a speech that no one will now hear.

On March 22, Coulter was scheduled to speak on behalf of the International Free Press Association at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, the second appearance in a national tour.  But with 2,000 protesters gathered outside the University’s Marion Hall bearing stones and other projectiles, and with the very real risk of violence, the appearance had to be cancelled.

Unknown to most, however, it was not Coulter herself who decided to cancel the speech, but the Ottawa police, who could not or would not guarantee her safety.

Before she arrived, François Houle, the University’s Academic Vice-President Academic and Provost wrote her a cautionary letter suggesting that she ought to weigh her words with “respect and civility in mind”

He wrote:

” There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and I urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion.”

This is part of the same Canadian campus scene, of course, where Catholics have been accused of being killers and pedophiles, evangelicals of being hate-mongers and homophobes, Zionists of being genocidal butchers and conservatives of being deranged and imbecilic.

How is that for “ restraint, civility and respect?”

The University of Ottawa now joins that pantheon of great Canadian universities, such as York University (Daniel Pipes) and Concordia (Benjamin Netanyahu) where violence has been threatened and used to quash an alternative point of view.

Coulter might pay Pipes’ experience particular note. Recalling the January, 2003 incident where his talk “Barriers to Peace in the Middle East” was cancelled and then reinstated at the last minute, the Middle East expert stated:

” But surely the most memorable aspect of this talk was the briefing by James Hogan, a detective in the Hate Crime Unit of the Toronto Police Service, to make sure I was aware that Canada’s Criminal Code makes a variety of public statements actionable, including advocating genocide (up to five years in prison) and promoting hatred of a specific group (up to two years).”

Things have not changed all that much at York in the intervening eight years. Last month, a series was to be presented by the actively pro- Israel group Christians United For Israel ( CUFI).   However, as David Frum reports,  campus police made the following demands of the group:

” It insisted on heavy security, including both campus and Toronto police — all of those costs to be paid by the program organizers. The organizers would also have to provide an advance list of all program attendees and advance summaries of all the speeches. No advertising for the program would be permitted — not on the York campus, not on any of the other campuses participating by remote video.”

Interestingly, an anti- Israel apartheid week in the same month had no such barriers placed upon it.  It did not have to pay for its own security. It was free to advertise and its speakers were not pre-screened.

In September, 2002 , a speech by then Israeli Finance Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in Montreal was similarly cancelled when students broke through barriers and attempted to storm the auditorium.   Riot police had to escort attendees from the building.  One of the student recalled:

” The scene as we exited was disgusting. Benches were overturned, papers and garbage streaked across the hallways, and broken windows. We were shoved outside directly into a huge pro-Palestinian riot, where some of our people were apparently attacked… On their side, they threw bottles at people’s heads, screamed hatred, and tried to break the barriers down to hurt us. They started tossing pennies and coins at us — one of the oldest ways to taunt Jews by saying we’re all “money-grubbing.” While we sang Hatikvah arm in arm, they spat at us.”

The sheer terror of the scene is captured evocatively in the documentary Confrontation@Concordia.

I’ m no great fan of Ann Coulter’s.  I find much of her work tasteless.  But tastelessness does not amount to hate speech, no matter what the University of Ottawa’s administration nor York University’s campus police believe.  The apparent willingness to allow those who employ violence and intimidation to speak without restraint, while those who refuse to do so have their speech reviewed, monitored, crimped and even cancelled, is  craven surrender to anti-democratic notions and a potential death blow to free speech.

Do our western university administrations understand this?  Have they no courage at all to employ their authority on campus to decisively impose zero tolerance proscriptions on hate mongering against conservatives and its attendant violence?

I am not sure.  Certainly Canada is in the throes of a serious reversal of basic democratic rights, convincing itself  that it is all in the interests of keeping the peace.  That attitude will haunt the nation as a generation comes to realize that it can achieve with violence far more than what it can gain through dialogue and openness to alternative points of view.

One has to wonder whether Provost Houle and others of his ilk appreciate that this is exactly the kind of  “civilized discussion” our future universities can anticipate and could be their most fateful legacy.


THE UNBALANCED UNIVERSITY

May 4, 2009

It is not so long ago that I thought everyone shared exactly the same grasp of the concept of academic freedom. Stated plainly it is defined as affording teachers in schools and universities the liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference, by either school administrations or public officials. The concept had its origins in Germany in the 1850s and became institutionalized in the United States when the American Association of University Professors laid down its principles in 1913 and later clarified them in 1940. The AAUP Declaration of Principles not only protected teachers, but also protected students who were to be free of ideological coercion from their instructors

Since then, it has become a fundamental building block of the modern democratic state – so essential to the maintenance of an open and free society that it is spoken of in the same breathless, sacrosanct tones as freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

But what happens when professors on our university campuses use the shield of academic freedom to promote antisemitism, racial prejudice, Holocaust denial and support for America’s enemies? Are they deserving of the same protections afforded others with controversial views? 

That question was brought poignantly to my attention this week when the communications of a University of Santa Barbara professor’s anti-Israel slurs became very public. 

The facts are these: On January 19, 2009, UC Santa Barbara professor, Bill Robinson, a tenured sociology professor, e-mailed his Globalization class students an inflammatory anti-Israel written article by Judith Stone along with 42 photos of Nazi atrocities which were mirrored  by 42 photographs of Israel’s purported atrocities in its war in Gaza earlier this year.  His introductory comments equated Israel’s military operations in Gaza with Nazi atrocities, asserted that Israel was committing genocide and that the state was founded on the negation of another people.   When one surprised student emailed asking whether this was an assigned reading, Professor Robinson admitted it had nothing to do with the course, but “was just for your interest, as I should have clarified.”

Two students promptly dropped the class. They later filed grievances, claiming that Professor Robinson had violated the Faculty Code of Conduct  in that:
1. There should be no significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course
(II A, 1, b); 
2. That faculty members should not use their positions of power to coerce judgment or conscience of a student ((II, A, 4);
3. That faculty should not use University resources for personal, commercial, political, or religious purposes (II, C, 3)). 

The UCSB Faculty Code of Conduct is perfectly in line, in these matters, with the traditional  protections afforded by academic freedom. The Code in fact follows many of the faculty directives of other universities around the country.

But Robinson was outraged at what he considered to be a Zionist conspiracy to silence him and strip him of his supposed academic rights. Within days of the filing of the complaint, a new campus organization, the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom  at UCSB sprang into life, with dozens of UC Santa Barbara professors signing on and hundreds of students declaring their support for the beleaguered professor. Robinson, writing in his own defense, focused on what he regarded as the violation of procedural issues and then went on to claim that  “I find this complaint to be a potent, ominous, politicized violation of academic freedom. My right, in accordance with the (UCSB Faculty) Code to ‘present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction’, is being violated. ”  His supporters, among them noted professors at UCSB, claimed that Robinson is the victim of a witch hunt. 

At issue, of course, is the question of whether professors can say anything they want, whenever they want and, while providing their students with materials which subscribe to highly controversial points of view, fail to offer countervailing opinions or materials.  It should be no surprise that professors such as Robinson, and his counterparts in anti -Israel and anti-American invective such as Norman Finkelstein and Ward Churchill, regularly use academic freedom to mask the propagation of their radical points of view.  Nor should it surprise anyone that the radicalization of the campus has not been enough for such men. The desire to offend and to even speak flagrant untruths seems to be now claimed as protected aspects of teaching that comes under the rubric of academic freedom

On the right, the complete collapse of academic freedom, wherein conservatives can barely express an opinion nor be taken seriously as competent in their fields, is a fixed belief.   Last week, at about the same time I was learning about Robinson’s case, a Californian female professor seeking employment out of state informed me that at the interview with the university in question, she had been intensely grilled about her suspected conservative views and affiliations. She instinctively knew that any admission that she harbored such views or affiliations, would have doomed her candidacy.

That academic freedom – or its abuse-  is being claimed by both right and the left to defend various points of view was made clear to me last year when I was putting the finishing touches on AFA’s own academic freedom conference How Free Is the University? 

In the course of our research we discovered that several other academic freedom conferences had been organized within months of our own.  The University of Chicago held a one day conference on October 12, 2007 titled In Defense of Academic Freedom  which featured the redoubtable leftist  beneficiaries of academic freedom Noam Chomsky, John Mearsheimer and Tony Judt themselves.

In early February, 2008, academics at De Paul University, reacting angrily to the tenure denials of Norman Finkelstein and Mehrene Larudee ( who were denied their full professorships, it seems, on the basis of the shoddiness of their research rather than the controversy of their views) ran its own conference titled the De Paul Academic Freedom Conference   which featured a number of practitioners of “balanced” political instruction such as Bill Ayres, Asad AbuKhlalil and Juan Cole.

A few weeks later it was New York University’s turn to join the chorus, decrying the collapse of academic freedom when it ran its own conference First National Teach-In on Freedoms at Risk in America.

 This time around, the gathering of the persecuted included the aforementioned Norman Finkelstein ( last seen on al Jazeera Television espousing support for a terrorist organization and denouncing Israel) and Lynne Stewart, convicted in 2005 of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support for terrorists.

So on the one hand you have conservatives denouncing the absence of academic freedom for their positions, while on the other, you have exactly the same hue and cry is being whelped by radical leftists who feel similarly abandoned in the cold.

Newspaper editors often argue that if you are offending both sides equally then you know you are doing a good job.

Who is right then?

The harsh, brutal answer is that the words ” academic freedom” themselves no longer have much meaning  for anyone other than historians.  That is because academic freedom did not develop as a means of promoting any particular point of view but was a vehicle to assist academics in their quest for truth. On this path, academics should be balancing a wide variety of materials and arguments, the better to test the credibility of any given proposition or theory.   In such a pursuit of knowledge and truth ‘balance’ is an absolutely critical ingredient -a requirement which really forms the bedrock of the academic freedom philosophy. 

But with such a highly charged atmosphere on campus these days it is almost impossible to obtain that kind of objectivity from anyone – administrators included.  Even in the sciences, where one would believe that the data speaks for itself, politics has intruded, barring any discussion of such sensitive subjects as the theory of intelligent design, the growing evidence against man-made climate change or the discovery of e in the universe of proof for the uniqueness of our planet.

Yet the tug of war between the two sides has essentially split the baby in two, rendering the entire concept of academic freedom, rather than a universally accepted philosophy, now more of one of personal preference to be decided on an individual  basis. The concept of academic freedom probably then needs an overhaul ,to be replaced by an entirely new philosophical construct – one that is primarily based on the demands for balance and the objective pursuit of truth. How such a philosophy can be discussed or constructed, let alone agreed to in the oxygen starved atmosphere of the modern university campus, remains to be seen.

But while we are waiting for the academy to be rehabilitated, one thing remains clear: any academic – liberal or conservative, radical leftist or fundamentalist right winger, who espouses any personal point of view without at least considering an opposing position, cannot be trusted. His or her written work should not be taken seriously; their teachings should be regarded as suspect and their scholarly failings rightfully exposed.

Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky should take note. And so should Professor William Robinson at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


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