Friday, April 7, 2006, 4:00 p.m.
First National Academic Freedom Conference
Chair: Stephen Balch
Participants: Ian Maitland, Alan Levy, Don Downs, Stephan Thermstrom
Don Downs; University of Wisconsin; Professor of Political Science
Alan Levy; Slippery Rock College; Professor of History
Ian Maitland; University of Minnesota; Professor of Business, Government & Society
Daniel Pipes; Campus Watch;
Stephen Thermstrom; Harvard University; Professor of History
STEPHEN BALCH: We shall commence our concluding panel. We have reached–we have reached that poignant moment, so common in academic conferences, when the number of people on the panel begins to outnumber the number of people in the audience. So we [indiscernible] our way, as academics do that – and everybody on this panel is an academic – that we will proceed nonetheless.
Some of you–I’m Steve Balch, by the way, President of the National Association of Scholars. And I want to thank David and the Center for inviting me here and inviting me to do the moderating of this panel. Some of you may remember from the panel just before last that I was standing at the end of a too long line, as it turned out, waiting to ask a question, cut short, as it finally was, by Father Time. And that question would have actually begun [inaudible] I’d say with an anecdote. It would have been directed at Mr. Hartle because well, I’ve met Mr. Hartle on several occasions.
My first meeting with him occurred about eight or nine years ago at a conference in Kansas City on diversity. It was an American Council on Education-sponsored conference that brought diversity officers together from all over the country. It’s a special conference they have every two years. They bring hundreds of hundreds and hundreds of diversity folk from around the country to ponder the challenges of making our campuses more diverse.
And he thought it was a good idea to have me there. And he thought–I told him a little bit–what I would say and what in fact I did say to this audience – and I think I delivered in sort of modest and moderate tones – was that whatever the virtues of diversity there was also a very great virtue in higher education, in liberal education, in talking about those things that were more universal. For example, like the common cultural, political, and intellectual foundations of American life and Western civilization and things like that.
And in general, I can’t say that my presentation was terribly well received. There were some nice polite questions. I mean, there were people who did want to engage me in discourse. But there were many, many more hostile questions, numerous anecdotes in and of themselves, I suppose. And there was one question that I really will never forget. And that was the fellow who got up and said, “Who invited you here?” A diversity conference. I was the one diverse member of the diversity conference, and yet this fellow was troubled by the fact that someone had invited me.
Well, it was Terry Hartle who had invited me. And I’m sure, in fact, I mentioned it to him on the way out since I hadn’t taken the opportunity to ask him about it publicly. And he sort of put his arm around me and said, you know, that was really a terrible moment. I felt just so embarrassed. I know he did. I know he did. He really felt embarrassed. And you would think he might have learned something from that–from that great gathering of diverse types, some of whom–many of whom were offended by my diverse presence there.
It’s not that–I thought there was another interesting feature. I’m just sort of taking advantage of my moderator’s role here to go on a bit as I might have had I been a mere [indiscernible]. There was an interesting feature of his answer. He was responding at one point, if you recall, to the question raised about social work programs and social work course. And how they have a very clear political agenda.
I gave testimony at those Pennsylvania hearings that you’ve heard about. And what I basically did was go through website after website of the university programming and other types of university documents, for example, job notices. And just count–recount to the committee all the times in which they said something like, for example, a school of education in the Penn State system was advertising for a director of a big program and a professor. Same position. The person would wear two hats. And one of the qualifications that was listed in the advertisement was a willingness to advocate for social justice.
The social work programs all around the state always say–they usually say social and economic justice. And then, when you look further they spell out what that means. And among other things, it means, for example, standing up for or fighting against the oppressions of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That sort of–those–the premises that one should do all those things. It’s kind of just built in to the foundations of the program. Not something that’s debated, but something that is presumed to be part of mission. Education programs–many of them say the same thing. The cultural studies program at Pitt says on its website talking about cultural studies in general, the field is left-inflected and seeks progressive social change, or something pretty much to that effect.
You can see summer reading programs. They have these joint reading programs that all freshmen are supposed to undertake. I looked at one at Temple and every last reading for the last four years, which is as long as the subject–as long as the summer reading program had been in existence, every one had a diversity theme. And three out of the four readings were pretty rabidly anti-American–traditional American values and institutions. Those were the books that were chosen.
Well, they were presented with all this evidence. I’m sure that Mr. Hartle is familiar with the evidence. And what do they do? In general, they just ignore it. What Mr. Hartle said though was particularly interesting, because what he said was, well, you know, that’s what the faculty does. That’s a faculty decision after all. I mean, you should argue–don’t argue with me about that. Argue with the faculty. Yes, and he’s absolutely right. That’s what the faculty does.
And no one on the faculty, apparently, gets up to complain or complain with enough force when decisions like that to put politics right in the very grain of a program are made. No one in the administration, apparently, gets up and says this is wrong. We’re supposed to have an open marketplace of ideas. We’re supposed to debate questions rather than settle them in advance, just as Terry Hartle was saying. As far as the faculty is concerned, as far as the administration is concerned, all these politicized programs seem to be just their cup of tea, or at least nothing that they’re going to do anything about.
Well, if that’s your position, I can’t see how you can object when folks outside, like legislatures, start taking an interest. Because after all, if you’re not willing to do anything about manifest abuses, if the people on the inside are in fact the perpetrators of such abuses, and there are none there who are to call them to account, what do you expect to happen? What do you expect to happen? Isn’t that in the last analysis the ultimate reason that legislatures are taking an interest?
It seems to me that there is such an obvious paradox, such an obvious conundrum, such an obvious unwillingness to trace the clear logic of a problem to its end. If faculties begin to respond, if administrations begin to respond, then legislatures will ride off into the sunset and leave them alone. They have the solution to the problem in their own hands if they’re willing to take it up. But as Terry Hartle says, they’re not. That’s what, in fact, they do.
If you look at our universities today, [indiscernible], a great figure in American higher education at mid-century, once said that American universities are a multiversity. Not a university, but a multiversity, having so many different parts, each with its own culture. And if you’re a multiversity that kind of suggests in turn that within the university one may find many different personalities. Now, if that were within an individual rather than within a big institution, we would regard it as a psychological disorder. And in a sense it is a kind of psychological disorder or it leads to one within our universities.
How so? Well, I mean, if you look at these personalities, very often each of the particular personalities manifests a different kind of problem, particularly if you’re talking about those difficulties that are at the very root of the intellectual life of our university, which have been discussed here today. You have, for example, in one great walk of university life, the sciences and the applied sciences, the problem of catatonia. That is to say, they never address themselves to the [rock] that’s going on just next door.
Those are the parts of the university that we can be most proud of. Those are the parts of the university that are doing things right. Those are the parts of the university that really have rigorous standards. Those are the parts of the university that believe there is such a thing as truth and pursue it. Those are the parts of the university in which there are checks and balances built into the very structure, so that when abuses occur they don’t go uncorrected. Those are the parts of the university that are in good shape.
But what do they do when they see the festering sores right next store? They do nothing. They turn their back on it and just go about their own business. They are silent. They are catatonic. That is their personality pathology.
What about other parts of the university? Well, you look at boards of trustees. They have an overarching responsibility to make things proceed correctly. What sort of personality problem do they have? Well, they’re [hepaphretic]. And that’s not a term much used in psychology anymore. But way back when, it indicated people who were constantly unreasonably happy, giddy, laughing.
What are our boards nowadays? They’re nothing but cheerleaders and fund raisers. They’re people who should know better. They’re people who are very successful. I’m repeating what others have said. But all they can do is say nice things about their institution and help circle the wagons on those occasions when things go badly. They seem to be incapable in most cases of being jolted out of their very happy frame of mind.
And what about administrations? Where are they? Your senior administrators. They do very tough jobs. They work very hard. But nonetheless, they have a problem, too. Senior university–you ask one of them, for example, do you have diversity in your institution? They’ll always say, yes we do. After all, we have deconstructionists, we have critical race theorists, we have [Laconians], we have query theorists, we have all sorts of diversity. And what they suffer from is what was once called–what was it called? Munchausen’s Syndrome. The inability to kind of separate truth from tall tales. The desire to kind of exaggerate.
So we have a university with all kinds of problems. But it’s biggest problem is the bipolar problem. And that’s the problem that you encounter in the humanities and the social sciences. And that problem, essentially, is this. People say tenure protects academic freedom. But I think what tenure has mainly done is create a kind of work environment in which there has been a selective recruitment of very, by and large, timid people. People who go into academic life because they want to lay low and avoid the pitfalls and uncertainties of people out in the real world. They may be very good scholars. That appeals to them, too. But they are people who like safety. In the old days, they might have gotten jobs in the post office.
On the other hand, you have people going into academic life, the other side of the bipolar experience, who are there because they want to have a platform for zealotry. And, of course, they recognize tenure as you saw in that respect as well. And so you have the zealous and you have the timid. You have people like Ward Churchill, who want to change the world in strange ways and are willing to go out and do what they–whatever they need to do in order to make those changes, use their power as they see fit. And you have a lot of other people who should know better even if they don’t–even if they do ideologically sympathize, but who lie low, who say nothing.
And if there’s one grave malady from which the central heartland of the university suffers, it’s that. It’s the inability of the timid to confront the zealous.
Well, we have on the panel today a group of unusual stand-up guys, people who have made no bones about what they believe in and who have confronted zealotry and confronted the forces of suppression and kind of political restriction whenever they have encountered it. Some of them are people that you know well. Others are heroes recently come to the fore. Let me briefly introduce them and then I will call upon them in alphabetical order.
We have Don Downs, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, the author of a great book called Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, but a man who has fought for that as well. And together with another–with a small group of brave colleagues and others, actually repealed the oppressive speech code at the University of Wisconsin through a purely internal effort, a great example to everybody else.
We have Alan Levy, a man who came forward, testified against his own institution, Professor of History at Slippery Rock College in Pennsylvania. Did a magnificent job. In fact, his testimony was so gripping that at one point, and I’m sure he’ll tell you about it, one of the Democratic legislators responded by saying, well, if that’s true, Professor Levy, we have to shut your institution down. He’ll let you know in a little while exactly what it was that elicited that.
We have Ian Maitland, a man of great vision, a Professor of Government–Business, Government, and Society in the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. A [indiscernible]. I say that unmetaphorically. He ran for Congress some years ago and spent five or six days perched on top of a billboard. He was running in a–he’s a Republican running in a Democratic district. And he felt he had to attract attention some way. But during that time, he had a grand view of the landscape of Central Minnesota and he understands the academic landscape very well, too.
We have a man who needs no introduction, I’m sure, Daniel Pipes. Daniel Pipes, who runs the–it’s called the Center for–let me–what is it called–Campus Watch–okay–which tracks down the incredibly biased and fanatical doings of the folks in Middle East studies.
And we have Steve Thermstrom, a distinguished American historian, [Winthrop] Professor of History at Harvard University. And he has not only watched for sometime the swirl of recent events at Harvard, but he is one of the great dissenting voices standing up for academic values on that campus.
So I have taken up too much time. Let me first turn the floor over to Donald Downs.
DON DOWNS: Thank you very much, Steve. And thank you for having me here in Washington. It’s always interesting to come to Washington, D.C. and talk about the First Amendment because usually all anyone cares about here is the Fifth Amendment. So that’s gratifying.
As you’ve heard, I’m from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Tomorrow we’re playing for the national championship in hockey. I call that Canadian ice skating. And just last week, we won another national championship. You may have heard about it – Playboy’s designation as the Top Party School in the country. And our third claim to fame, as you’ve heard already today, described as the place where the liberals or the left gets Madison, and then the conservatives get IBM.
So I’ll leave it to your choice as to which is the better tradeoff in that regard. So you probably figure that since I represent Madison, it represents–Madison stands for the first circle of hell for conservatives. And after all, we pioneered the speech codes, which is the main focus of my talk. But back in the early–late 1980s, early 1990s, when Donna Shalala and the person that went after her, David Ward, who is now the head of the American Council of Education, and all the baggage that went along with speech codes came to Madison.
And I have a confession. I was a faculty Senate member back in 1988, and I voted for both codes. I thought there could be a principle balance between–and I think normatively speaking, I still feel that way–between strong free speech and civility and I trusted administrations to enforce that distinction in a principled way.
Well, to make a long story short, I lost that faith. And in 1992, I started changing my thinking. And since that time–and I’ll be talking a little bit later about some of the things we’ve done at Madison, despite David French talking about a couple of cases coming out of there. I think one of them has already been resolved and the other one I think we might have a disagreement on. We have come a long way. I’ll give you an example. About a month ago, the Badger Herald, one of four student papers at Madison -we have a tremendous diversity of student papers – published one of the more offensive of those infamous cartoons of Muhammad.
And the Chancellor at Madison instantly called the Badger Herald. He said, you have nothing to worry about from me. I’m not going to come out and say I agree with what you did, but I’ll support you. And the next day, an editorial appeared, an op ed appeared in the local papers and in the student papers, in which John Wiley, the new Chancellor who has been there about three or four years now, said, I don’t agree necessarily with what the Herald did, but they had a right to do it. And the proper place to work any problems you have with this out is the marketplace of ideas.
And that’s exactly what happened. They had a big forum. The Editor-in-Chief of the Badger Herald, who is one of my students – they all have been for several years – stood his ground and very articulately and very carefully defended his right to do it and gave arguments as to why that was a good thing. Well, why did the Chancellor do this? Probably a lot of reasons. But one was he actually believed that this was the best way to resolve it. He’s a very liberal guy, but he also believes ROTC should be on campus, partly for reasons of diversity. I’ve seen him stand down the anti-war students on campus who wanted ROTC off. And I’ve seen him defend free speech before.
And also, Wiley knew that if he didn’t do something like that, that there would be–my group and others on campus would be at him, saying you’re not doing your job as the Chancellor protecting the school. So I think it was a combination of environment, plus his own belief in this area.
So Madison, of all places, has become largely-speaking very free speech friendly. Now, I want to talk a little bit later about why that’s the case and recommend what we did there as perhaps at least the ideal way or the best way to go about dealing with the campuses’ problems when it comes to speech.
Well, what are the problems? I’m not going to go through that. I don’t have all that much time. And we’ve talked about them a lot today. So let me mention four major areas that I see problems. I think first of all there’s the speech code issue, which we’ve talked about. And it’s indisputably true that speech codes have been, as [Alan Cores] said, unequally applied. I know of hardly any cases where people on the left have become the victims of speech codes, except in very strange kinds of situations.
The second issue is a lack of checks and balances. And this sort of speaks to the broader issue of intellectual diversity on campus, which I indeed believe is a problem, and I’ve spoken out about it many times. There just isn’t any–at many campuses when these policies have been enforced they way they’ve been enforced, there hasn’t been the kind of resistance structurally or institutionally.
Administrations are sort of like corporations. For the national government, we’ve got checks and balances. Right? And the whole idea behind checks and balances is to preserve freedom. At universities we don’t have checks and balances. Everybody is on the same page. And if you don’t sort of accept some of the basic tenets of the administration, you’re not going to have a job.
A third problem, and this is sort of related to the checks and balances issues – and this has been pointed out by other speakers – is a lack of opposition on campus to enforcement of these policies and of the policies themselves for whatever reasons – fear of sticking out, a sense of conformity, a lack of intellectual diversity. So you–someone once wrote that a fish doesn’t know that it’s in water because water is everywhere. And if everyone is sort of behind these policies, it’s hard for a lot of people to really ascertain that there’s a problem. In some ways, that’s a problem with knowledge and information.
And so, the bottom line, the result, as has been talked about by many speakers, is a pall of orthodoxy, which has too often prevailed in many situations across the country. And that’s a term I borrow from the United States Supreme Court. Several examples. I’ll just give you a couple of examples. You’ve–I’m sure you’ve read the Water Buffalo case at Penn, where a student was railroaded through the students’ usual process for calling some African American students who were loud one night water buffalos, a term that had no racial meaning whatsoever. And even the President of Penn conceded that if this guy ends up getting convicted it will be a travesty of justice. But nothing was done to stop it until Alan Cores got involved in the case.
And in Wisconsin, a case that sort of turned my mind on all this stuff occurred in the art department. A guy named Richard Long. Now, Richard Long is a conservative Catholic and a very articulate, brilliant guy, and also rather irritating. Sometimes those go together. And Richard had been badgered for several weeks by some students because of his conservative views stemming from a dispute in the art department over standards. And at one point, Richard finally got fed up with it. And he told the two students, he said, just why don’t we bury the hatchet. You go your way. I’ll go my way. And we’ll just ignore each other.
And the students persisted to badger him even further. Richard had a friend who was visiting him and he was embarrassed by this. So Richard turned to the two students and said, sieg heil comrades. Now, Richard, he was very careful. He didn’t just say sieg heil. He didn’t just say comrades. He was sort of ideologically diverse or even-handed. And then he walked away.
Now, I assume everyone in this room has said something like that to someone. My children used to say that to me like every three or four days. And the students filed a complaint under the faculty speech code at Madison. And so far, it’s sort of like a Saturday Night Live skit, isn’t it? Or maybe National Lampoon or something like that. The students walked up Baskin Hill and they went into the administrator’s office and they filed a claim.
And the administrator said, well, what did they do–or what did you do? And they told him. And rather than–my term for this is that it doesn’t really pass the laugh test. The administrator took it seriously–took it seriously and they started a thorough investigation of various forms of isms within the Art Department at Wisconsin. And this wasn’t known for quite a while. Eventually, Richard was vindicated because he had to be. I mean, come on. But only after his reputation had been dragged through the mud and rumors had flown all over the campus about him. And his career advancement was effectively ruined.
That was the first case. And there were a few others I won’t get into because of time constraints. And we all know cases–the one case at Brooklyn College was Casey Johnson, which really did have a kind of closed community tyranny of not just the majority, it seemed like a tyranny of everyone except Casey Johnson. These cases go on and on.
The question that arises is what do we do about it? And here’s where I have some disagreements with the Student Bill of Rights that I will express. The first way to deal with it is to go external to the institution, especially if it’s like Brooklyn College. What else are you going to do? We’ve heard that several times today. And this is a classic strategy for liberty. Span the scope of a conflict. Broaden the constituency. Get more people involved so the local tyranny is going to be alleviated. The Civil Rights Movement did that. It made it a national movement, which helped counterbalance the tyranny in the South. The Abolition Movement did the same thing.
And I think the more that we do make this a national issue, that’s better, that’s good. It should be something that we discuss and take very seriously. Madison–James Madison also recommended a strategy in [Fed Rules] 10. Expanding the scope of the national–of the constituency of citizenship to the nation was a way of promoting justice.
The next question though in terms of that is what kind of expansion of the scope is recommended? And here, I agree with some of the other speakers starting with Lamar Hunt. I am very wary of turning this over to politicians. And I say that in all due respect to politicians. And, as David pointed out, taxpayers pay huge sums of money to universities that are often very questionable in their practices. But do we really want to politicize the issue that way?
I’ll just be blunt. I don’t trust politicians to have too big a say about what goes on in academia, be they from the left or from the right. [Hannah Arrent] in a neglected essay, which I talk about in the beginning my book, Truth and Politics, makes a claim and I think there’s truth in it. This would actually be a point that many people have raised in contradiction to Ward Churchill – that truth and politics at some point are fundamentally at odds. Politicians have agendas. Maybe they have their own truths. As Machiavelli taught, there’s political truth and there’s other kinds of truths. Whereas, the pursuit of truth itself is often politically highly inconvenient.
And you look at the history of academic freedom in this country, it came about when we were able to establish sufficient – I’m not saying total, I’m not saying absolute. But sufficient independence from political pressure. And I feel that way even more so when I see some of the right–the right-wing or what have you, conservatives, adopting some of these strategic ideas and logic of the left. I pointed that out earlier when I made that–asked that question about our conservative students are running to the nanny state to be supported and they feel offended in the classroom.
So I think there is a distinction fundamentally between truth and politics. And we need to be sufficiently independent. Now granted, what I’ve heard today, I haven’t heard anyone say that politicians should take over universities. And I’m very happy to hear that. But it’s something that I want to be very, very careful about.
Second of all, I’m sorry, I don’t like the idea of secret tape recorders in my classroom. There’s a whole series of–not a whole series, but there are some court decisions–there’s one in California. White v. Davis, back in the early 70s, where students were coming in and undercover agents were coming in and taking notes in classes. And the California Supreme Court said this is a violation of academic freedom. It doesn’t matter to me whether that’s coming from the left or from the right. Come into my class, if you have a tape recorder, you should ask permission. Because a classroom can’t do its business correctly unless there is sufficient trust.
So maybe the problem here is that we have some bad apples and the only remedy is to do these kinds of things. But isn’t there a spillover effect? How about those of us who are conscientious, but nonetheless, same controversial things -students are going to bring in tape recorders to our classes? Are they going to start recording us? You have a problem of accuracy outside of a tape recorder and you have the problem of trust. So I’m somewhat skeptical of those ways to proceed.
At Wisconsin–I have two more minutes. If I finish in two minutes, it will be a record. At Wisconsin, we were able to achieve meaningful change in terms of the status of liberty on campus through a political movement that was based on the mobilization of a critical core of faculty members with student allies in student newspapers and in student politics, both from the left and from the right. I make a major distinction between the illiberal left and the liberal left. The liberal left is not the problem. It’s the illiberal left I think that’s the major problem.
And we established an independent faculty group called the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights. We’re funded with outside funding. And we’ve taken several individual cases over the years and protected individuals who’ve been persecuted in their classrooms and on campus. And we’ve spearheaded several major victories on this free speech civil liberty front. We abolished the faculty speech code in 1999. There is a system of anonymous complaint boxes that were set up in 2000, 2001. Thirty-five anonymous complaint boxes all around campus in strategic locations. They happen to be right across from bathrooms. Yes, I guess they figured there would be more traffic there. And inside the bathrooms they had all these forms you could fill out and forms recommending–encouraging anonymous complaints.
Anonymous complaints are always part of law enforcement or whatever. But to go out of your way to encourage it is [indiscernible] in nature. Those boxes were set up in the summer of 2000. We came back in the fall of 2000, and within two weeks we had almost campus-wide faculty mobilization directed against them. And had they not been taken down, there would have been a faculty revolt. And within a month, those boxes were all taken down.
There have been several cases involving student newspapers when they’ve gotten in trouble in the past and we’ve supported them. And they’ve always ended up prevailing.
The best thing about doing it internally, outside of the fact that it’s a lot of fun and a challenge–I heard people talking earlier–the conservative student saying what it’s like to sort of stand up there and express your beliefs and take on the opposition. That’s an ennobling kind of thing. The experience itself is great. And it requires you, if you’re going to change legislatively, rather than coercively or through a court, you have to persuade people that certain policies are wrong. And that’s sort of doing it the old-fashioned way.
But when you persuade people, two important things result. First of all, you develop an infrastructure yourself, a mobilization infrastructure that has to be necessary in order to carry that out, and then, it’s in place when another crisis comes up a couple of years later or even a month later. So you develop an institutional and political capacity.
The second thing that it does is that it actually changes people’s minds. A famous legal philosopher, HLA Hart, makes a distinction between being obligated and being obliged. To be obliged is a gunman puts a gun to your head and says, give me your money. And you’re obliged to give him your money. You’re not obligated. If someone says to me–says to you, please give me some money and you think about it and you give them, you have felt obligated to do so. That has more of a moral dimension to it and you’ve done it of your own freewill and consent.
Reforming universities from within can lead to that kind of change. And it has happened to a significant extent at Madison as witnessed last month with those cartoons that I talked about. I vastly prefer that way of going.
Now, what do you do in a case like Brooklyn College when there’s really no hope? Well, going outside to get publicity. Developing allies outside. That’s important. We did that at Madison. We enlisted all sorts of national press, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, as part of our political strategy. But we didn’t use the coercive power of the state. And I think that’s–in my concluding remark, that would be the preferable way to go.
ALAN LEVY: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Alan Levy. I’m a Professor at Slippery Rock University. As Mr. Balch said, I did give testimony on March 22, just a couple of weeks ago, at the hearings that were held at Millersville University as part of the State of Pennsylvania’s Assembly Inquiry into the way that the state system of Pennsylvania is operating. And I’m not going to go into the details. I will cite a couple of examples to amplify some points as I look back over the matter and what’s happened since.
But I just wanted to mention, for anybody who wants to see the text of what I said in Millersville, for some reason it seemed to cause some controversy. To tell the truth, I guess, will do that. Anyway–but I–the website, HistoryNewsNetwork, HNN, has the entire text on the web. And I just made a whole bunch of copies of their URL. And so it will be here and if you want to tear off from that sheet, I’ll just leave it here and you can look it up on the web yourself.
Anyway, that said, indeed, after I was finished, one of the state representatives, [Frankel], did ask me–he said, well, maybe we should shut the University down. I didn’t say to him, but I just sat there and looked at him and I was trying to imply to him – I don’t know whether I was successful – Mr. Assemblyman, I’m not blinking. If you want to do that, go ahead. It’s sort of like in Plato’s Republic it says over and over again, the greatest justice is engendered in a world in which each person does his or her own job, meaning don’t do the job of somebody else.
I’m the professor. I’m telling you what’s going on. You’re the legislator. If you want to react by shutting it down, go ahead, because you’re the one then who has to face the possibility of reelection. And if that works, that’s fine, because that’s how the marketplace of voting operates, as well as the marketplace of ideas. I think he was somehow asking me to blink or somehow expecting a professor sitting before the committee to say, oh, my gosh, if that’s your idea, please, I withdraw everything I said. It just–that wasn’t the point. I was there to tell what happened and gave some examples. And he apparently didn’t like it and thought he could intimidate me. At least that was my interpretation.
Since that time, I’ve gotten a whole bunch of emails from people, all generally flattering. A number of people saying, I appreciate what you said. I wish I’d said it myself. And in many cases it was students who said, I appreciate what you said, and it resonates very deeply within me because I’ve experienced much of the same thing. And each time I got an email from somebody like that, I wrote them back and said, please, please, here’s an address to write someone like Gibson Armstrong at the State Capitol. Please write him. Tell him what’s going on as well. I’m not going to expose your identity, but I’ll use these in redacted form in ways that I respond, for example, to the student newspaper and show them what the response has been to my talk.
So all of this has been growing. The frustration, of course, as I’ll talk about in a minute, is trying to get a lot of people really to be active. And a lot of students I can appreciate they are timid, they don’t want to expose themselves to the possibility if they think it can be the power of a professor to write a bad recommendation. One of the things I talked about in the talk, indeed, was the fact that when there was the possibility of a strike at the state system in the year 2004, a number of education professors did tell their students that if they crossed picket lines, they, the education professors, are going to see to it that those students who crossed picket lines were never going to get jobs at elementary or secondary schools where they were applying because they would be blackballed, if they as education professors had any influence. That happened.
And so, these kinds of intimidations are real. When faculty tell me, on the other hand, that they agreed with what I said, and if they have–if they don’t have tenure I can appreciate their timidity. But if they have tenure and they’re not willing to speak up, then I get a little bit impatient because this thing can change if the critical mass of faculty will get their act together and do something.
But what I’ve gotten beyond the complimentary emails and passing comments from colleagues and students is a whole lot of reactions to the effect of how dare you, or you didn’t use proper discretion, or there are ways–better ways to deal with this than the way you did it. These are all matters of point of view. It’s like why isn’t your personality like mine? I would’ve done it differently. Well, you do it–you act in accordance with your personality, I’ll act in accordance with mine was the reaction I gave to a lot of people.
But what I noted over and over again, and said this to people when they told me I didn’t act with proper discretion or I should’ve acted more within the confines of the campus, et cetera, et cetera. What I noted to them verbally and note to you as well is that nobody ever took to task any of the specifics that I raised, stories that I raised in my talk. Nobody said that’s wrong and here’s why. That’s wrong, here’s why. Here’s some facts that you didn’t consider. I never got anything like that.
It was all at the how dare you level or at the ad homonym level. One person even asked me, do you think because you are largely a vegetarian, maybe you, like a lot of vegetarians, you have a more high blown sense of yourself? I don’t know whether vegetarianism leads to a greater ego or not. I probably had a big enough ego to begin with. But that’s not the reason. And again, are the facts that I am saying right regardless of issues of ego? But they’re going to any lengths to try to come up with some explanation as to why I was somehow out of line in doing what I did.
I also noted the fact that on the Monday after I testified on a Wednesday, the Monday after I passed the President of my campus on the sidewalk, he didn’t speak to me, but he was attempting to give me this extreme glare of anger. And I said, good afternoon, Mr. Smith, and continued to walk. His name is Smith. I’m not being generic about it. He didn’t say anything. He did say, according to several colleagues who told me, he did say at the lunchroom to a number of faculty that he was very upset with me, especially because he received a very lengthy phone call from the state system Chancellor who was very upset. And in both cases, it was a matter that seemed more to the effect of why does this have to come across my desk, as opposed to maybe there are some problems here we ought to deal with.
It’s a matter of–and as one person said, it’s exposing dirty laundry. And I said, well, no, it’s not dirty laundry. You can wash dirty laundry. This is not dirty laundry. It’s dirt. And what do you do with dirt? You throw it away.
And in this context, some of this material that’s been talked about here today–and before I go into that, let me just tell you a couple of brief stories also. But some–one student since then who had been very involved in the women’s studies program was involved in a class where they’re supposed to bring a professor and with that professor perform some kind of creative play. And this student went to her class – she’d had me in a couple of classes – and went to this women’s studies class and said, well, I’m going to bring Professor Levy to mine. And the professor in charge of the class said, no, not Professor Levy. And she said, well, you said you could bring a professor. [She] said, but not him.
And at that point–Jessica was her name. Jessica said, in that case, I’m definitely bringing Professor Levy. And I said, you got it. I’m going. It hasn’t happened yet. But if any of you are interested, email me and I’ll let you know what’s happening.
Two minutes. Okay.
No other specific stories. But one issue that I will bring up that’s slightly more negative. I’ve heard discussion about how we need to have processes. There is a process that we have in place. And an example, when I wrote negatively about The Vagina Monologues once on my campus. And a person who co-signed a letter in the state–in the Slippery Rock campus newspaper found that the night of the Monologues’ performance, a student came to his home after the performance was over, dumped a load of trash on his lawn and hurled a stone through the rear window of one of his cars. And in response to that, also, the feminists, in their campus newsletter, wrote some critical comments about me and my colleague.
And I asked them, since it was a campus-funded newsletter, may I please have response time? And they said, no. And I went to the Provost, now the President, and he said nothing and waited six months and he finally told me, go back to them – meaning he was playing me like a ping-pong ball. He never explicitly told the feminist newsletter to give equal time, even though it’s state funded.
And so, I filed a grievance, which we have through our union. But the grievance procedure is handled in such a way, and this is the point I would raise, if you have grievance procedures, make sure they are well created and well executed. Because the grievant in the Pennsylvania system is not allowed to speak for him or herself. It’s all handled behind the scenes by union and management bureaucrats. And the same people in the union that run the bureaucracy of the union are among the leaders of the women’s studies program who staged The Vagina Monologues. Guess what happened to my grievance? And I never got a chance to speak on behalf of it.
So if you construct a grievance process, make sure you do it in a way that gives open possibilities to the grievant.
More generally, then, I would say–I would argue that what’s needed beyond the construction of good processes is somewhat what we’re doing here. That there are three things that seem to anger people at places like Slippery Rock. And I think there are thousands of schools like it. Not first cut institutions, but second and third tier schools, where John and Mary Q. Public generally send their children to school, which is what makes the experience at a place like Slippery Rock significant.
They tend to control the power from within. I don’t personally see it as much as a right-wing or a left-wing conspiracy. What I see it as a conspiracy of mediocrities that control the bureaucratic posts within the administration and the union, and who use politically correct language as a way to act out their needs for petty power to pretend to be intellectually active, but not really to engage in much in the way of real academic work in teaching or scholarship. And that’s what tends to dominate.
What–the way to deal with these people, then, are really on three levels similar to which we are doing here. One is publicity. One is through state legislatures. And the other that’s also going on on my campus, not by me, but by others, concerns the law – using lawsuits, if you have to do it. You have to have particular cases.
Why are these ways important? Because that’s what the bureaucracy of the administration, and if it’s a union-based institutions, the bureaucracy of the union, can’t control. They like to be in control, so much so that I think they are choking the educational process badly. Education is succeeding at places like Slippery Rock, not because of the administration and the union, not regardless of the administration and the union, but in spite of them. And we’ve got to turn that around.
IAN MAITLAND: I wanted to address the thesis that you heard advanced earlier today that our academic freedoms are safe in the hands of the traditional university governance system. And I want to begin with a quotation from the AAUP’s response to David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights. The AAUP says the Academic Bill of Rights undermines the very academic freedom that it claims to support. It threatens to impose administrative and legislative oversight on the professional judgment of faculty. Please keep that in mind.
The AAUP is officially opposed to political encroachment on professors’, and I hope, students’ though it doesn’t say so, academic freedoms. It opposes indoctrination. It also comes out against the politicization of the Academy. And it says that professional competence should be the sole criterion for–in university decision-making. I think it systematically misstates David–the Bill of Rights–the Academic Bill of Rights, but that’s neither here nor there.
These statements are familiar to you and they undoubtedly would be made by many other lobbies for the academic establishment and professoriate. And from some of the flacks, their flacks that we heard from at lunch, they certainly talk the talk. And on paper, I didn’t find much to disagree with in the AAUP’s response.
I want to talk about some events at the University of Minnesota. But I want to take some aim at the AAUP really as a proxy for the academic establishment, both in–or on campus and off campus. And maybe, if I have the time, I’ll say something about the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights. That’s the organization that brought the lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld with respect to Pentagon recruiters, which the Supreme Court rejected just in the past few months.
My point–my question is this. The AAUP is in favor of academic freedom, but in all of the battles over academic freedom in the past decades, I have not seen the AAUP. I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve seen many of you in the trenches, but I don’t remember seeing them. Let me say that the University of Minnesota campus is a very liberal place, as you would expect. It–an interesting indicator is a study by the Center for Responsive Politics just before the 2004 Presidential Election that found that faculty had contributed–I think this was counting only donations above $300–$63,500-odd to John Kerry, and I think it was some $3,000 to George Bush.
But the liberalism doesn’t quite–I think the fever has subsided somewhat and it’s more of a sort of sullen form of liberalism now. Now, my own campus was one of the first I believe to start a women’s studies department, and also an African American studies department. And [Naomi Shemond], who later became the Chair of the Women’s Studies Department, otherwise in the Philosophy Department, was quoted before an NAS Conference on campus – the National Association of Scholars – as saying about a friend of mine, [Catherine Kirsten], now a columnist at The Star Tribune and a self-described conservative feminist, that she would never be hired by the Women’s Studies Department at the University, even if she had the requisite credentials because she didn’t share the view, which was axiomatic in the department, that women are an oppressed class.
Where was the University administration? Where was the AAUP, who–which maintains that it opposes the politicizing of the curriculum in hiring when this happened? Of course, they were nowhere to be seen. This is representative. I don’t want them–I don’t say they should necessarily intervene in all of the specific cases. But they were absent here and they were absent at other times.
Another example is the confiscation of some satirical materials about Hillary Clinton from a stand operated by the campus Republicans, college Republicans at an orientation affair. Did the administration respond? No, it didn’t, until there was a human cry. And ultimately, it took David and the Individual Rights Foundation, I think, their intervention to get a settlement, which led to, among other things, the University Cabinet, the President’s Cabinet, and the President himself undergoing some five hours I think of First Amendment sensitivity training. Wonderful, isn’t it?
The University of Minnesota also instituted a sort of informing system, which it called, if I recall, the Classroom Climate Monitoring, which has encouraged students to inform on one another if they overheard remarks that were politically correct, appeared to be racist, sexist, or homophobic. That has since withered on the vine, thank goodness.
Just the other day, the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, doubtless with the support of an amicus brief from the AAUP, though I can’t verify that, argued that law schools should be permitted to exclude Pentagon recruiters from campus. These law schools and professors complained and in their complaint cited their commitment to the core value of judging people solely by their merits. What imposters. Where were they when the universities weakly agreed to racialize their hiring and admissions policies over decades?
By the way, only one law professor at the University of Minnesota voted against the University of Minnesota Law School’s affiliation with FAIR. The Supreme Court, I believe, unanimously rejected FAIR’s arguments, and I think that’s a measure of how isolated law schools have become from the rest of us, considering the–thank you–the distance between the Supreme Court and the public. And then, there’s still greater distance between the Supreme Court itself and the law school.
Justice Frankfurter said that there were four pillars of academic freedom. Let me give you two of them. One is faculty control of hiring. And the second is faculty control of admissions. FAIR argued that the Solomon Amendment represented an unprecedented tying of massive amounts of federal grants to the renunciation of a dissenting stance by academic institutions. I couldn’t have said it better, except that there was nothing unprecedented about it. It happens every day. Just ask Grove City College and Hillsdale College.
Law professors still–law professors supported and still support tying massive amounts of federal aid to compliance with federal government policies of racial and other preference. You may remember that Grove City did not discriminate, it just didn’t want to agree to submit–to become entangled with the federal government. And it tried its very best to stay away from detailed federal regulation of its hiring procedures.
AAUP, remember, I quoted at the beginning, opposes the academic bill of rights because it threatens to impose political oversights over the judgment of faculty members. So where was the AAUP, where were faculty members and administrators when the federal government asserted the right to supervise universities’ hiring and admissions processes?
Let me just try to skip to the end. There are, of course, many other examples. But basically, in all of these cases, the AAUP was AW–was AWOL. If it wasn’t AWOL, it was probably a cheerleader for these policies. Plainly, in my view, academic freedom is too important to be left to professors, but that leaves us with a dilemma because that’s been our traditional answer. Is the Academic Bill of Rights the answer? I admit some ambivalence. I initially thought that this was a legislative solution, but I realize – and David’s made clear – it’s not meant to be a legislative solution, at least an imposed one. And I think it can be–provide a useful leverage.
But ultimately, I think the faculty have to clean house. And ultimately, the problems are much more deeply structural. Ward Connelly recently visited our campus. And he nicely said he–several–many years ago, he’d found that he was sentenced to a–I think it was a nine or 12-year term on the University of California Board of Regents. And I think it was on his first day that he was listening to some mindless blabber about diversity when he realized that he was being lied to. And that initiated his campaign to eliminate racial preferences at the University of California at Berkeley.
I think he and David have proved one of the most important propositions that we should take note of. And that is that these people are allergic to the sunlight. And that will–that is the way I think, ultimately, if we don’t get satisfaction on campus, we have to extend the circle, bring in others, who will truly be shocked by what’s going on. A heartfelt thanks to David for doing just that.
DANIEL PIPES: Well, I bring greetings to you from Grove City College. I was there this morning. I gave a talk last night. And they’re flourishing. They are doing very nicely. I specifically asked, what is it that you are doing that you could not do, or what are you not doing that you would have to do? And basically, it’s not much. It’s pretty much the principle that it is–they have–in fact, I was told the key issue was women’s sports. Title IX, I believe it is. And they have–they’ve found that they have 10 women’s programs in sports and nine men’s programs. So it’s not that they didn’t want to have women’s programs, just they didn’t want to be told to have women’s programs.
I’m not on the schedule, but it’s a glitch in communication. Email is not always perfect. I didn’t get the notice about practicalities, and so I didn’t answer it. And therefore, my name was dropped. But I was supposed to be here all along. And, as far as I knew, I was always going to be here. Just nobody knew that I was actually going to be here. So here I am.
I am Daniel Pipes and I’m not at a university. But I come from an academic background. My father is a professor. I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a very intellectual place. I have a Ph.D. in the medieval history of Islam and I taught at three institutions. But more basically, I intended to spend my life at academic institutions. I never imagined I wouldn’t be. And I think it’s fair to say, though I really am not the one to say it, that I was excluded because of my views. And I went out into the world and did other things. I served in the Departments of State and Defense. I have now headed two think tanks, and the second of which I founded in 1994. I write weekly columns. I have an active website. I work with politicians, and so forth.
But over the years since I left the university, I’ve been increasingly frustrated about developments in my field. Indeed, it is safe to say that my field of Middle East studies has been transformed. And the easy way of summarizing that is to mention the name of Edward Said, whose 1978 book on Orientalism had this profound effect on both the Middle East studies and far beyond it.
But perhaps the best way to put it is by saying that I entered the field in 1969. And I was given a classic Orientalist training. I studied epigraphy. I studied–in my very first class I used a 19th Century historical studies translated from German. Very hard going. Very traditional. The things I learned were in the context–were in the tradition of the great Orientalist inquiry going back several centuries. And it never occurred to me as I was in school until 1978 that there was any other way. I read these books, I did this research, and it was in a tradition.
And then, now, some 30 years later, since the 1978 publication of my grad–my finishing my Ph.D. and Orientalism coming out, the field has fundamentally transformed in the sense that the books I read and cherish still are gone, disappeared. And the subjects of the inquiry have changed and more than that, the understanding. And perhaps the best way of illustrating that is by giving you the understanding of the word jihad.
There was never any question as I was studying Islam and Islamic history that jihad could be translated in simple terms as Holy War, but more accurately, as the effort to increase the realm ruled by Muslims at the expense of non-Muslims. It’s an aggressive military and other effort to expand the–it’s not to convert people, but to expand the rule of territory. There’s never any doubt. And there is no other way of understanding this word. There are libraries full of books whether [indiscernible] about this–primary sources or secondary sources about this concept. And there was never any doubt.
And now, if you look at what historians of Islam, specialists on Islamic religion, and others are saying about jihad, you won’t recognize it. It is about internal self-improvement. It is about becoming a better colleague. It is about working on behalf of feminism and against apartheid. This very fundamental and rather straightforward term has been transmogrified into something entirely different. And one could say that about many aspects of the field. It’s a very different inquiry than what it was when I was a student.
And there are other obvious symptoms as well. The radicalization, which I would define ultimately as anti-American and anti those who are sympathetic to the United States or allies of the United States. Intolerance in the sense that there is a church–and Steve put it very well. I can’t quite quote it, but the university is more like a church. You have to be a believer. And Middle East studies is very much in that context. The poor quality of the work–it’s very interesting to see, to look retrospectively at the expectations of the leading Middle East specialists and how they analyze things and what they expected and how wrong they get it time and time again, and the imposition of view on students.
As a result of this growing frustration of mine, in September of 2002, I founded something called Campus Watch. And it was intellectually premised on a book written by Martin Kramer called Ivory Towers on Sand, subtitled The Failure of Middle East Studies in America. And it was also somewhat premised on the agitation that was affecting the campuses.
Now, Middle East studies are not worse than other areas of the university. I think Latin American studies are probably worse than Middle East studies. But Middle East studies is both my field and has the prominence. The Middle East is at the center of American public debate today. Iraq, Iran, Israeli conflicts, Saudi Arabia, but even more importantly, Islam. Because countries and conflicts are traditional topics that say congressional staff has a pretty good understanding of, or foreign service officers have a pretty good understanding of.
But Islam is something quite different. And ever since Islam came on the scene with Ayatollah Khomeini, again, in 1978, there has been a certain mystery about it and it’s much more complex than trying to understand, say, what’s going on in Iraq. And so academics have been turned to in this regard. And the understanding, say, of a term like jihad has more importance than, say, the academic analysis of the Ambazari Conflict, which is not terribly important.
Campus Watch activities have been posting information on Middle East studies, what others are writing, doing our own research on this topic, going to campuses, organizing students in six campuses, going and giving talks – I’ve done a lot of that – training students, having them as interns and in other capacities.
Well, we began in September 2002 as a very thin website and nothing else. We spent something like $800 on publicity. And all we had was what others had written. We had not written anything ourselves. But the response we got was quite extraordinary. Unthinkingly and [untactically], our friends in Middle East studies at the university were outraged and infuriated and engaged in name-calling. And they took this really minor website and turned it into a major presence. And they gave it a national, and even international, platform.
We had major articles, for example, on us in the most important papers. We were on the front page–since we are in Washington, we were on the front page of The Washington Post. We were on TV, national TV. Four articles in major [indiscernible] media on us. Now, mind you, almost all critical, almost all getting it wrong what we were about . But nonetheless, as P.T. Barnum said, they spelled our name correctly. So we got a real presence.
Our goals are two-fold. They are many-fold. But to give you the two most important. In the short-term, to let the specialists on the Middle East, by which I mean historians and political scientists and economists and literary specialists and anthropologists, you name it, everyone who has a specialty in Middle East studies, to let them know that if they do things, say things that are outrageous, that we–there’s a chance, maybe even a good chance, that this will become known. And we use clever tactics. If you go to our website, which is basically what this project is, is a website, campus-watch.org, you’ll see most prominently Quote of the Month. And we find the most absurd things that one of our constituents has said this month. And there’s some real wing-dingers there.
We–so we hope to convey that there’s a need to be more cautious. But long-term, our goal is a balance in hiring, to see–not to have anyone fired, but to have people hired who are now not being hired. And this we hope to do by bringing the attention of the outside world to our field, in particular, but more broadly, to the problems of the university.
Now we have suddenly got the attention of the academics. And to give you two interesting quotes, John Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, said that what we’re doing is an intrusion, which I find interesting. Because it’s comparable to saying that the work of the theater critic is intrusion, or a political analyst is intruding on the politicians, or Consumer Reports is intruding on the manufacturers. We’re not intruding; we’re assessing. And I think that’s a rather important distinction.
Others, such as a professor at Duke by the name of [Marion Cook], has said that not only are we offending Middle East studies, we’re offending the underpinnings of the entire university system. But I don’t think so, as you might expect. And I do think that in addition to the two ideas we’ve had offered here, the legislative idea that David Horowitz is proposing, and the internal process that Don Downs has proposed, what we are doing is in a sense what Professor Maitland has suggested, is be external.
We are not legislative. We are not internal, but we are external. And we are bringing attention. We are pointing out the timidity that Steve Balch mentioned earlier. We are hoping that the stakeholders in university, the parents, the alumni, the state legislators, the DOE here in Washington, and others will wake up to the problems. And we hope that these efforts will redeem a vital and glorious institution and bring it back to being a more healthy institution. We hope to be a small part of this effort.
Our assumption is that as people get to know the travesties in this field they will be appalled and will take some steps. And we have the advantage that Middle East studies is so prominent at this time. It is an optimistic assumption. We are optimists. We see this as a period of tribulation and a period that eventually, not soon, but eventually we will go through and be done with.
STEPHAN THERMSTROM: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. It’s been a quite enjoyable meeting, particularly because when I come to discussions of this topic, I invariably feel rather depressed. I do think things in higher education are bad and generally getting worse. But this morning’s student panel, in particular, I found filled with infuriating testimony about what’s going on, but very heartening that quite a number of students at a wide variety of places are striking back, are getting mobilized to try to do something about this.
Now, in a couple of minutes, I’m going to talk a bit about Harvard and the demise of Larry Summers. Now, I do want to make plain that I do not take up that topic out of the common delusion of Harvard faculty members that Harvard is at the very center of the universe and everyone, of course, must be oh so interested in what’s going on there. When I was–before I had a chance to think about what I would talk about, Steve Balch contacted me and suggested that some comments on this might be of interest.
But first, I did want to take up an issue raised in an earlier panel – Candace de Russy taking the lead, arguing one position, and Terry Hartle and Mr. Scheuerman rejecting her views. The question of whether there’s anything new in recent years or whether, in fact, universities and colleges have always been the source of some political controversy. And they were in the age of McCarthy, they were in the New Deal, and so on.
I would very strongly side with Candace. I think it is totally preposterous to deny that the university of today is a radically different place from the one I first entered or began my graduate training in just 50 years ago this year. Anecdotal evidence, but after all, I not only have had these experiences, I did attend professional meetings, I’ve been active in the profession, so I think it is more than a quixotic or purely personal experience.
When I came to the Harvard History Department in the late 1950s as a beginning graduate student, it is true that the department was not politically balanced in the sense that there were probably as many Republicans as Democrats, which is a point that some of these earlier speakers pointed to. But it’s true, but irrelevant. Of my teachers, I would say only Arthur Schlezinger, Jr. ever betrayed any distinct partisan feeling, and it was fairly minor. But all of his quips were about the evils of Republicans, but that was very minor.
But for the most part, although I learned later that [Oscar Hanlin], [Bernard Baylin], [Louis Hartz], Perry Miller were all Democrats for a time, the important point is I had no idea what their politics were while I was their student. Their politics did not enter into the process of instruction. It was just as irrelevant as was their religion or other personal tastes and preferences. They were great scholars and I aspired to follow their example and become a great scholar.
And I would say that attending the American Historical Association and the meetings of the Organization of American Historians, which was then actually called the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, likewise. Those were not political encounters. Those were professional meetings and you listened to papers in those aspects of your discipline that particularly interested you. There was spirited controversy, but they were conspicuously lacking in politics or ideology.
Well, we certainly live in a different world today. Certainly, any–if you ever look in at a meeting of the American Historical Association or the Organization of American Historians, you find nothing but trendy leftist politics. And I would say at Harvard itself we–I would say we have fewer great scholars than we once did. And we certainly have a great many more faculty members who feel completely free to indulge themselves by making blatantly political comments and quips in the classroom. And I think that is deplorable.
Now that, in my view, does not reflect or at least is not entirely the result of the fact that Jane Fonda got tenure as it were. That is, it’s a much broader phenomenon than the hard left–the growth of the hard left taking over an institution, though there is a real element of truth in that. But it is also part of broader intellectual currents, post-modernism, the denial that objectivity is attainable or even worthy of pursuit. You know the old feminist slogan, the personal is the political, I think has become this kind of license. You get closer to your students by wearing your politics on your sleeve on the assumption most of your students share those views and you can intimidate the rest into silence.
And it’s very difficult to know what to do about this. I mean, there are two separable issues. The first is nicely captured in the banner behind me – the notion that politics should be kept out of the classroom. The second quite different notion related to that is that we need a better ideological balance on the faculties of our colleges and universities, which would seem to tacitly suggest you can’t keep politics out of the classroom really, but at least you can make sure there are a fair number of Republicans who counter the Democratic and far leftist Democratic ideologs on the campus.
And in terms of the desire of finding a more ideologically balanced faculty, I have to confess great pessimism. There are fields in which it’s possible. And anticipating what I will say about Harvard, the Harvard Law School under a Dean appointed by Larry Summers, Elena Kagan, has made a number of appointments of brilliant, quite conservative scholars. And I am told by members of the faculty the whole place has been transformed. The Federalist Society membership among the students is the largest in the country. Of course, it is one of the larger law schools, but still. And the atmosphere is radically different.
And I might say as a footnote, since there has been a good deal of speculation that Elena Kagan might be Larry Summers’ replacement after a year in which Derek Bok is sitting in as a temporary president. I don’t know whether there’s any truth to that. What would worry me a little is that I’m not sure this new balancing of the Harvard Law School faculty ideologically has anything to do with Kagan–with what Kagan really believes, or if it is simply that Larry Summers told her that’s what she’d better do, that it’s necessary for the health of the Law School.
Well, let me now turn to the Summers affair. I do think that his demise is certainly a calamity for my institution, without any question. I’m not at all sure that it has dire broader implications for American higher education, particularly because there are no other–it’s sometimes suggested, well, no other college president will henceforth take public stands that clash with political correctness. Well, there are no other college presidents of any major institutions who are doing that now. I think it’s a fluke that Larry Summers was appointed and proceeded to do those things. And I certainly shutter at the prospect of who his successor will be, but I don’t think that’s terribly significant. But nonetheless, it is an important tale.
It is certainly true that this represents a victory of the left on the Harvard faculty – the far left of the Harvard faculty. It was a well organized, carefully orchestrated campaign. This didn’t just happen. These people were waiting for a good issue around which to mobilize and his remarks about women in science provided the tinder–the tinder, or the match. They already had the tinder stacked up and ready to go.
However, I think it’s also important, and some of the writing about this has downplayed the significant of this. The accidents of the personality of Larry Summers played a very important role. And it’s quite possible that someone who didn’t have the same personality defects could have weathered this storm. This guy’s got to be in the top tenth of 1% on any scale measuring abrasiveness, arrogance, overbearingness, if there is such a word.
And a number of my colleagues, who are quite moderate, basically apolitical people, eventually were delighted to get rid of Larry Summers because they thought he was such a [expletive] and he treated them with such contempt. When he would meet with the chairmen of the departments of the various–about 40 departments in the faculty of Arts and Sciences, apparently almost to a person those chairs came away feeling infuriated at how they had been treated.
And I think it’s this peculiarity of his personality that also explains what many of us found so puzzling and depressing – that when he finally backed down on the issue of women in science, he did it in such a craven way. He groveled so ridiculously. I mean, he didn’t modify his position slightly and say, I’ve been misunderstood and so on, but basically stick to his–stuck to his guns. He didn’t just move away a little; he prostrated himself. And I think that does have to do with the fact that he is somebody who has always found it difficult to admit that he’s wrong. And when he was finally persuaded, apparently all of the insiders, his inner circle, all said you’ve got to back away from this. You’re going to lose your job if you’re not careful. He went all the way towards prostrating himself and that greatly distressed me.
The final point I want to make here – the hour is getting late – is one of the most depressing aspects of this affair to me. I hadn’t been to a Harvard faculty meeting before this thing blew up. And one of the things that most astonished me was the discussion of what kind of place is this, what is Harvard for, how do we conduct ourselves. Now today, I’ve heard the phrase “marketplace of ideas” probably a dozen times. It’s the first one that would spring to my mind.
But what was astonishing, that faculty members from quite a range of disciplines, namely women, to be sure, spoke of the university in totally different terms. This is a community. This is a polis, said some of the more classically educated. A professor of music said, some defenders of Larry Summers say that what–his remarks were provocative and that it’s good to have provocative things at a university. But if you think about the word “provocative,” people who are provoked can become angry. Provocation can even lead to war. And we don’t want that. We want a warm loving community. And he had violated the bonds of community, as Socrates did, after all, and should drink the hemlock for it.
So it really was the case that their conception of the free marketplace of ideas, but a church of some kind. And, of course, if you don’t follow the doctrine of your church, you can be expelled. And that’s what happened to Larry Summers.
So that’s a crude way of summing it up, but that represents a kind of feminization, or at least feministization of Harvard that I find the most depressing thing about this whole affair.
STEPHEN BALCH: Well, I see the people coming in to pile the chairs on the table, so if there are any questions, we can entertain them. Oh–some comments on the–.
UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST: [Inaudible.] The point you just raised about the two approaches – getting politics out of the classroom versus balancing the classroom – I think is a very interesting one. And I’d be interested in other comments. I mean, I realize in retrospect that I implicitly am saying it’s impossible. What we need to do is balance it. We can’t go back to my house in days as a graduate student, so let’s fight the fight and change it. But do others believe that one can do this? I mean what–I think it’s a critical–what are we trying to achieve, balance or a depoliticization?
STEPHEN BALCH: Is that a question the other members of the panel would like to briefly review before we throw it out to the audience? Don?
DON DOWNS: Well, obviously, that’s an incredibly interesting question. And (a) probably a skeptical argument is it’s difficult to get the politics out. It also depends on what we mean by politics. I don’t–I know this is somewhat controversial and it’s kind of a delicate balance, I suppose. But I don’t think we should be simply neutral arbiters, neutral conveyers of information or truth. We’re called professors. Professing means more than simply conveying information.
Now, it can–you can–the way you structure debate, the way you encourage viewpoints, et cetera. That’s sort of a sophisticated kind of traffic cop in class and that can work. But sometimes students want to know where you stand. And I will do that. I take stands in the classroom. Not political stands. I am totally apolitical in terms of partisan politics. If I make a joke about Clinton, I’ll be sure to make a joke about Bush. That’s–conscientiously.
But I’m political maybe in another kind of way, in that I do take certain kind of normative stands. We do the death penalty. I let them know why I believe in it, partly because most of them don’t. Most of them believe it in a moral sense, not necessarily in a procedural sense. And they like that. Then it’s a question of how you do that. And if you do it in a way which is designed–if you’re open to them coming back at you, you can take a stand in class. And I think that actually can energize the class and increase the intellectual experience. But you’ve got to be careful with how you do it.
ALAN LEVY: Can I give a quick response? Speaking from the standpoint of a second, third, fourth tier institution and many others like it, again, where the typical American family sends their children. The issue–I wish we could play with these issues. The issue there is quality. Just to amplify with one story in my English Department that has a lot of its–a lot of troubles. One good faculty member there, a Ph.D. from Yale, nevertheless, he’s good. But he was advocating on behalf of a particular candidate as opposed to another. And one member of the search committee said about the opposing candidate who she liked, “Look, she may be incompetent, but she’s not a threat.” That was said.
This is–and the politics of what we’re dealing with in the–on the campus is very much tied to that – to fit in. So that’s the bigger issue that’s at work. I wish we were dealing with yours.
QUESTION: I think I might be honored to have the last question of the conference. My name is [Robert Morrow]. I’m from New York Young Republicans. I think the conference should be called Profiles in Courage because that’s the impression I got the most, whether it be from academics or from elected representatives or from authors or from high school students. I really admire your courage and tenacity of all of you gentlemen, especially in your field.
I lived in London for five years. And my question is centered to Mr. Pipes. There really is–and David points this out in his book, Unholy Alliance. There is a real combination between the far left and Islamic fascism. It’s not the first time in history that’s happened, but I think we’re witnessing it right now. And there–there’s a very good columnist named Melanie Phillips who writes for The Daily Mail. And she points out the effort now of divestment from Israel. And also, a lot of effort of a group called the International Solidarity Movement which is recruiting students to go act as basically human shields in places like West Bank and Gaza.
I think that’s very strong in Britain right now. And I’ve been out of the country a while. Is there any such effort in the United States? And if so, how powerful is it?
DANIEL PIPES: I think the situation in the U.K. is far worse than it is in the United States. In fact, my general impression would be that however bad it is in this country, it’s probably no better anyplace else. Anyone would differ with that? Is there another country where the Academy is in better shape than here? I don’t think so.
Specifically, on the issue that David wrote the book on about the leftist Islamist Unholy Alliance is of great importance. Let me note that–what happened just a couple of weeks ago. The incident with Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who converted to Christianity and was on his way to be executed until pressure was put on the government to deem him insane and he got to leave the country. Everybody aware of the incident?
What’s so interesting about that incident is that nobody, but nobody, but nobody who is not a Muslim would agree with that process–agree that someone leaving Islam should be executed. There is no leftist–maybe somewhere, some kook–but no significant–no leftist body would ever endorse that. In other words, the left is divided from the Islamists on that. The Islamists are all alone. And therefore, they had to backtrack. And it’s been very interesting to watch the last couple of weeks.
The academic, for example, a man by the name of [Sharif Basuni], a professor of law at DePaul University in Chicago, had a piece in the Chicago Tribune denying that this is Islam at all. And organizations in this city and others all backtracked away from this because there was no leftist support whatsoever. However, that’s unusual. If you take the cartoon controversy, you’ll see leftists were by and large cool to the Muslim position, but there were some who endorsed it.
And then, if you go to more central issues, like issues of discrimination and civil liberties and the like, you see leftists totally on the Islamist side and they have a very high standard. So that alliance, which is in large part driven by the universities, though not exclusively, is very important to giving the Islamist a standing. Take away the leftist support, and you have a situation like the apostasy question where they just have to fold because they can’t sustain it.
If the leftists are there, then the Islamist position is confident and goes forward and pushes. And the U.K. is–the title of Melanie Phillips’ book is Londonistan, and that’s a term of art that we use for this U.K. [vimitude], if anyone knows that terms – capitulation of the British to Islamic [scriptures].
QUESTION: [Would you take] a follow-up? Not to pick on the U.K. too much, but in the United States, of course, you have the spokesman for the Taliban now a bright-eyed student at Yale, I believe, which I don’t know if it would be a bad comparison, but it’s like having a Nazi come to Harvard in the late 1940s. You don’t get more misogynistic or racist or religious extremist than the Taliban under–in Afghanistan.
How does the left [indiscernible]? How do they [inaudible]–?
DANIEL PIPES: –Because the details–of course, you’re right. The details of the program are less important than a shared antagonism against the United States, be it the capitalist United States or the infidel United States, however you see it. But the shared antagonism outweighs that. The mention of that student brings a smile to my face because another student at Yale was quoted in the New York Sun as saying, bring Daniel Pipes to campus and it’s World War III. Bring the Taliban and nobody notices.
QUESTION: Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentations. I don’t know about drinking the hemlock, but at the University of Colorado I see a lot of drinking from the Kool-Aid. Speaking of taking politics out of the classroom and looking at this from a public policy perspective, if I could get your input on the idea of the core curriculum. At the University of Colorado, for example, how much the core curriculum contributes to this idea of politics in the classroom. The University of Colorado, Boulder, for example, there are over 400 classes that comprise the core curriculum. And how much we’ve seen with the expansion of the core curriculum in just addressing that issue alone might lead to this idea of removing politics from the classroom?
STEPHEN THERMSTROM: Well, I’ll say a word on that. I strongly favor core requirements of some kind. I don’t see that they have anything to do with politicization in that it’s even if you had a core requirement in Western Civilization or Democratic Traditions or whatever, it all depends on who teaches them. And any subject can be taught from an anti-American, anti-capitalist point of view. So I don’t think it would solve the problem unless you hired–you can imagine situations where the departments don’t want–their existing faculty don’t want to teach courses of that sort, and so you hire some new people who would be sympathetic to Western Civilization.
QUESTION: And I guess a follow-up would be to that–the way I look at that, take ethnic studies, for example. Part of the core curriculum, and speaking of the marketplace of ideas, is that the only way ethnic studies is allowed to survive at the University of Colorado is because they have worked themselves into the core curriculum. And it’s like a guaranteed annuity every single year for the ethnic studies department because they are guaranteed a certain number of students who must filter through their program, and therefore, contributes to the revenue that they are able to generate.
Otherwise, if you force a department like ethnic studies and women’s studies to exist on their own, would students take those classes? So whether or not 400 classes is contributing to this idea of a cafeteria-style core curriculum that doesn’t allow students by the time they graduate as undergraduates to have any set of knowledge to effectively say that their diploma is worth anything from the University of Colorado when they finish as it relates to the core curriculum. So–.
STEPHEN BALCH: Two more. Judy, and then [Sol]. First, Judy.
QUESTION: Now–I’ve listened to so many interesting ideas. A couple of points. I have a–I tend to agree with Don Downs about politics in everyone’s everyday life and not just in the university. I would say I take the politics of the lover of wisdom, Socrates. [John Stuart Mills] – that I will agree to. And that would satisfy I think David Horowitz’s concerns and my concerns as well.
I have also a simple proposal, which won’t be accepted. I would require any college graduate to pass a proficiency exam in Latin and Greek. And that includes get into the point of reading people like Cicero and Aristotle in the original.
I have a particular question because I’m just puzzled by it. It’s related–for Daniel Pipes. I only read bits and pieces of Edward Said’s Orientalism, and I really should. But what I’ve heard of it, it sounds to me like a bunch of malarkey by a man who’s an ignoramus. What did he know about oriental studies? What languages did he know? What did he know about the history of Islam? What scripts was he able to read? Could he read old Turkish, for example, which used to be written in the Persian script. So that’s just a question that I have. And I am quite prejudiced against Edward Said, as you can hear.
DANIEL PIPES: Well, I won’t dispute your characterization of the book. I would add to it that it’s turgid and of–derives some theory. And, for example, it has been noted many times because the German example didn’t fit his thesis – Germany not having an empire – he just excluded Germany, and for that matter, others in Europe who didn’t have empires, from his schema as he only looked at British and French. He did know Arabic, to his credit.
No. It is a–you hit the nail on the head. I’d just make one other point in terms of this debate that you raised about the pro and con of bringing politics out or not. The Madison project under [Robbie George] is certainly implicitly also saying that you can’t beat it so–you can’t pull it back, so you’ve got to balance it.
DON DOWNS: If I could add quickly, we’re in the process of setting up a center at Madison, Wisconsin called the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy. And it’s similar in some ways to the center at Princeton. I mean, we don’t have the same resources yet. But it’s more focused on the question of liberal democracy, probably a little less of a political conservative edge to it. But [indiscernible] diversity on campus. And we used in our statement of–our mission statement a comment about Socrates – the question, how should one live. And then, we wrote in the context of this center, the question then is how should one live in freedom. So it’s really a center that’s devoted in talking about freedom. And politics is certainly a part of that.
And we quote from the ACE’s statement on intellectual diversity as part of our mission statement. It’s another example of fighting the fight from within, but also drawing on sources from the outside as well. But not running to any kind of coercive presence.
IAN MAITLAND: Can I quickly say that if politics were excluded from the classroom, I–that would cramp my style very considerably. I believe they–I believe you should be straightforward with your students about where you stand. Though I have to say that many of them, even halfway through the semester, seem to be confused about my opinions or even say, well, of course, you’re a liberal.
But what I think is unpardonable is insisting that the students parrot opinions back at you, that you coerce them or bludgeon them or bully them in any way. And I think that’s–but the idea of affirmative action for conservatives leaves me cold. I think it’s as bad as affirmative action is for anyone.
STEPHEN BALCH: Last question.
QUESTION: [Inaudible-no microphone.] Is that a reasonable–what would be the reaction of some of your colleagues who are so afraid of this outside [inaudible]?
STEPHEN BALCH: Why don’t you go first.
DON DOWNS: I don’t have any problem with posting syllabi. I think a lot–most of my colleagues probably do post their syllabi. I don’t probably out of laziness. But I have no objection to it in principle.
DON DOWNS: I think it might. Certainly, it could make a difference because if you distort the reading material, then that’s going to be evident right there in the syllabus. It’s not going to tell students about how you teach the course, but it’s a nice start. I don’t have any objection to that at all. Students–as was pointed out earlier today, I forget who it was. You know, they have all these websites now. There’s a national teacher evaluation thing. My daughter told me about it two weeks ago. And she looked me up on it. I haven’t looked at it.
But you get that feedback and [indiscernible]. And there’s two or three student groups that have their own websites that evaluate courses. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but in Madison they talk about this stuff all the time. It’s really well known how we–how good we are, how bad we are, what we teach, are we [indiscernible] are we not. A lot of student information. And I think the more of that, absolutely the better. I have no objection to it.
ALAN LEVY: Again, difference–different kind of university. Yes, I personally agree with that. There’s nothing wrong with posting everything and particularly at a public university. It should be public information. When you mentioned–I chuckled, not at you, but when you said articles. And one of the issues that I brought up and that I took some flack for saying it at the state hearing was the fact that I found out that a number of professors have faked articles in books. And so, that the idea of having to put them out on–for inspection was something–is something that I would favor completely because people with the proper political credentials have done this and yet gotten tenured and promoted.
So, yes, the more open air, the better.
STEPHEN BALCH: Well, thank you very much.
SARA DOGAN: Hi. I just wanted to thank everyone for coming again to the conference and to especially thank all of our speakers who gave such wonderful and interesting and fascinating perspectives on the Academic Freedom Movement. I hope for the students in the audience that when you go back to your campuses you’ll take some of these ideas with you. And for all of those who work in other fields, in the legislatures and other organizations that work on these issues, that we can continue to dialogue and work to make the Academic Freedom Movement even better.
We have a reception that is just upstairs in the Atrium Ballroom where we had it yesterday. So there’s food and drink up there. Please come and let’s have a great end to the day. Thank you.
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