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Friday, February 17, 2006

Three Penn profs 'dangerous' for U.S., book says

Author says some faculty prove liberal bias on college campuses; the accused say claims untrue
By Inna Lifshin
February 17, 2006
Three Penn professors are out to ruin America, according to a new book by a conservative political commentator.
Pundit David Horowitz's latest book accuses three Penn professors of being among the most radical figures in higher education.
The book -- entitled The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America -- describes what Horowitz considers to be a growing national trend of left-wing professors attempting to indoctrinate students with their own political agendas.
Of the Penn faculty, Law professor Regina Austin, History professor Mary Frances Berry and Religious Studies professor Michael Eric Dyson made Horowitz's list.
Penn professors named in the book are trying not to take their inclusion very seriously, however.
Austin -- whom Horowitz accuses of rejecting "any pretense of scholarly objectivity" in the classroom and of "calling on African-Americans to engage in law-breaking" -- only found out she was on the list when a colleague told her.
"I have better things to do than worry about this," she said. "You can't let your enemies set your agenda."
She called Horowitz's description of her work a "mischaracterization," adding that reducing her 30-year teaching career to a few paragraphs is insulting.
Austin studies economic discrimination and legal issues for minorities.
Of her colleagues also described in the book, Austin said that their inclusion "suggests how little merit there is to the list. ... Yes, they are very dangerous, because they are very powerful thinkers."
Berry -- who studies American legal history and African-American history but is on leave this year -- similarly scorned Horowitz' accusations against her.
In an e-mail interview, Berry denied lacking sufficient scholarly publications to be a professor and carrying Mao Zedong's Little Red Book in her purse -- two of Horowitz's claims.
Dyson could not be reached for comment, but Religious Studies Department Chairwoman Ann Matter said that she believed race was a factor in the compilation of Horowitz's list.
That "three professors of color who are outspoken critics of society" are included in the book is "not a coincidence," she said.
Horowitz accuses Dyson of considering the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "morally justified." He also takes issue with Dyson lecturing on rapper Tupac Shakur in a class on religious thinkers.
According to Horowitz, Tupac is "not someone to be taken seriously."
Matter disagreed. "A lot of people do take [Tupac] seriously. He is someone who has had an impact on society, and professor Dyson's class acknowledges that."
She added that Horowitz's descriptions of Dyson are "pretty outrageous in their lack of support."
Horowitz, for his part, maintains that he "did as thorough research as [he] could" for the book and that his accusations are based on professors' own articles and Web sites.
"The left is calling the book a McCarthy list, which is completely ridiculous," he said.
Horowitz intended the book to supplement his campaign against what he sees as the biased politicization of higher education, which he believes discriminates against conservative professors.
He is the author of an Academic Bill of Rights, meant to ensure a student's right to a classroom free of political bias, which he promotes at campuses nationwide.
Horowitz said that the book "is about the intellectual corruption of universities," adding that he's "hoping to wake up the academic community."
Other professors included in the book, published by Regnery Publishing, come from a wide variety of colleges. Horowitz's own alma mater, Columbia University, leads the pack with nine professors on the list.
Author replies:

Today's issue of the student paper of the University of Pennsylvania discussed my new book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America and the three Penn professors in my book. The article can be read here. My response is below:
Daily PennsylvanianUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PennsylvaniaDear Editor, Your reporter asked me why three Penn professors were in my book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. I told her that Regina Austin teaches that black people don't have to obey the law because they are black, that Michael Eric Dyson teaches that Tupac Shakur is a "Great Religious Thinker," which is in my view practicing consumer fraud on Penn students, and that Mary Frances Berry has an endowed chair with no scholarly credentials that would qualify her for the position. The response of Ann Matter, the chair of the Religious Studies Department, to these observations is to insinuate that I am a racist for making them. The statement is sufficiently anti-intellectual to qualify her for inclusion in my book. Sincerely,David Horowitz


steve said...

Your claim that " Mary Frances Berry has an endowed chair with no scholarly credentials that would qualify her for the position" simply does not hold up under scrutiny. While I certainly don't agree with everything Ms. Berry has ever said and done, her credentials are really beyond reproach. She holds a PhD in history and a JD from University of Michigan. She is the author or co-author of 6 books on civil rights, African American history, law and society as well as countless articles. She has a distinguished record of public service that includes a stint as Assistant Secretary of Education and more than two decades as a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. She also served as provost of University of Maryland and Chancellor of the University of Colorado. In short, she is more than qualified for an endowed chair.

At very least, you'd have to grant that she is infinitely better qualified for her chair than the man you backed for the head of the U Cal journalism school, the loathsome Michael Savage, was for that position. Savage's main academic "achievement" was that he had authored a series of poorly researched books on homeopathic medicine before moving on to author several equally suspect (and inadequately documented) rightwing rants. He'd never once in his life worked as a reporter, correspondent or editor for any serious news organization. Moreover, he had actually been fired from several broadcast jobs for his notorious outbursts of racist and/or homophobic vitriol. Yet you backed him for the most important post in journalism education in the state California. Why? How can you possibly justify calling Berry "unfit" while embracing a hack like Savage?

2:42 PM  

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