Joining Frontpagemag.com today to debate the Academic Bill of Rights and the recent Pennsylvania Bill are:
Russell Jacoby, a professor of history at UCLA, is the author of The Last Intellectuals, Dialectic of Defeat and other works. His latest book is Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age;
David Horowitz, publisher of Frontpagemag.com, author of Uncivil Wars, a book about the intellectual climate on American campuses, and the author of the Academic Bill of Rights.
FP: David Horowitz and Dr. Russell Jacoby, welcome to Frontpage’s debate on Academic Freedom. Dr. Jacoby, let’s begin with you. What do you think of the Pennsylvania bill in particular and the Academic Bill of Rights in general? What would you think of your own university adopting it as a policy without the intervention of the legislature?
Jacoby: I know too little about the Pennsylvania bill to comment. About the Academic Bill of Rights in general, as I have written, the cure is far worse than any supposed disease. Who will decide what is an appropriate reading list and curriculum for college courses? A committee of experts? Or students? Or government officials? Chosen by whom? Will the holocaust deniers have some seats? The creationists? The astrologers? Who will decide and how? What is the proper diversity of readings and opinions? Will every teacher have to submit a reading list and get approval? Or will a committee receive protests and complaints and then investigate? Bureaucratically this is a disastrous idea. Intellectually it is nightmare. I would oppose UCLA adopting a university policy based on this approach.
Horowitz: Professor Jacoby should read the bill before attacking it. Reading lists and curricula will be decided by the same people who decide them now. Why hasn't he objected to the American Association of University Professors' academic freedom principles which are no different from these and which have been articulated and accepted by all academic institutions for nearly 100 years? Perhaps the answer is that he knows that these principles are now widely disregarded by academic faculties, particularly in departments and fields dominated by leftists like himself. His question about holocaust deniers is odd, since there are several holocaust deniers on university faculties today. Also anti-Semites. Has Professor Jacoby or the AAUP complained about this? Organized a protest?
There is absolutely nothing in the Academic Bill of Rights that would remotely suggest that creationists or astrologers would or should be hired under its provisions. On the other hand since university faculties are teeming with Marxist crackpots, which again neither he nor the AAUP has objected to, it's puzzling that he objects to these relatively innocuous two groups. Let me ask the professor what he thinks about the UCLA lecturer who taught recently taught the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact and was defended by the UCLA faculty senate as exercising his "academic freedom." Let me further ask Professor Jacoby if he objects to the removal of the Sproul clause from the Academic Freedom rules of his own university.*
Allow me to ask Professor Jacoby this real world question: Policy HR 64 in the Penn State Policy Manual says this: “No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.” Does Professor Jacoby agree with this academic freedom policy of the university?
If so, consider the next question: On the eve of the November election, a biology professor showed Farenheit 9/11 to his biology class. Does Professor Jacoby agree that this violates this policy? Since the university did nothing to discipline the professor in question or to advise other faculty against violating this policy, and since Penn State professors -- like professors at most universities including UCLA -- regularly violate this principle by attacking the war in Iraq, President Bush and Republicans generally in class -- what would Professor Jacoby recommend in place of the Academic Bill of Rights?
Rule APM 0-10 of the University of California’s Academic Personnel Manual, written in 1934 by its president Robert Gordon Sproul states:
The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts….Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumed the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda.
Jacoby: David, I'm afraid you have too many bees in your bonnet. It is not promising that you cannot read my first sentence. I did not attack the Pennsylvania bill. I said I knew "too little" about it to comment. Now that I have looked at it (Pennsylvania House Resolution 177), however, I see you yourself have no idea as to what it contains. You state, "Reading lists and curricula will be decided by the same people who decide them now." If this were true, then, the whole issue would vanish. Teachers will decide what to teach. In any event the Pennsylvania bill does nothing of the kind. All it does is to establish a "select committee" of its legislative members to investigate the issues of academic freedom, teaching and hiring. What it will discover, and what it will recommend, remains to be seen.
I realize you like to go on the offensive, but the issue is not whether some biology teacher has shown "Fahrenheit 9/11" in his class; the issue is not a ad-hoc list of supposed transgressions in the college classrooms of America–and here I might add the charges are ringing, but facts usually murky. For instance, what are the details of the "UCLA lecturer who taught recently the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact and was defended by the UCLA faculty senate as exercising his "academic freedom.""? I doubt that is accurate.
In any event, what does the "Academic Bill of Rights" concretely propose to put into place to monitor and correct apparent violations? You are silent about this. You state nothing that in its principles suggest that creationism must be taught in biology departments. Why not? Who will decide what is appropriate? Government bureaucrats? Parents? The local prosecutor? Or to switch, let me ask you this: would you insist that under the Academic Bill of Rights public business schools such as UCLA Anderson School must in the name of diversity give courses, if not appointments, to critics of capitalism? What about the Medical School hiring homeopaths? How do you see enforcing what you consider to be a salutary intellectual diversity?
Horowitz: I was referring to my Academic Bill of Rights, which is what you attacked, not the Pennsylvania Bill which I knew you hadn't seen (it was I who had Jamie Glazov send it to you). The Academic Bill of Rights was drawn up by me to be adopted by universities not to be run through legislatures. There is nothing in the Academic Bill of Rights per se that could lead any reasonable person to level the kind of charges you and others have made. That was the point I was trying to make when I said you should read it first. No matter, we'll take it from here.
The point I have made over and over but which you and the battalions of its opponents have yet to address is this: If you are concerned about the legislative aspects of the bill -- that legislation would intrude politicians into the academy -- why don't you form a faculty committee to get the university -- in your case the University of California -- to adopt the bill and put the grievance machinery in place, and we can all go home? Answer this one please. If you have no objection to the Academic Bill of Rights (the one I wrote) -- and which was vetted and approved by Stanley Fish, Michael Berube and Todd Gitlin -- why would you object to UCLA putting in place and enforcing it any way you find appropriate? So long as it has the desired effect, which is to end the political abuse of students and of the classroom, all the supporters of the bill including myself will be satisfied. The only reason we have gone to the legislature is, as I said in the first round of this discussion, because university administrations are refusing to enforce their own academic freedom regulations (and the AAUP could care less).
I even gave you an example. Penn State Policy HR 64 forbids the specific abuse of biology classrooms that took place on the eve of the last presidential election. Nothing was done about it. That is the reason why a legislative step has been taken -- and why it has to be taken. The alternative is to let the abuses continue. I will discuss the legislative step we are taking in Pennsylvania in a moment. But if you want your position to have any credibility you must answer this question. Why won't you work with us to get university administrations to enact these reforms? If faculty like yourself and university administrations are going to insist that there is no problem and refuse to discuss what to do about it, then legislation is inevitable, and you will bear the responsibility for whatever that entails.
Now to the legislation. The Pennsylvania bill is extremely modest. It forms a committee to inquire about the state of academic freedom. Here's an example of what it might consider (the example is not made up). An introductory environmental studies courses requires only two texts. One is Al Gore's Earth in the Balance (regarded even by journals like The New Republic as radical) and the other is Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, a book that is not only radical but scientifically discredited. Why is there no book representing another academically respectable environmental view? An obvious text to fill this slot would be Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist. Would you object to this? Do you think that presenting one side of a controversial issue is in accord with the existing precepts of academic freedom?
Allow me to interject some answers to your questions: If the Business School is offering a course on capitalism, of course the syllabus should include critics of capitalism. If a Medical School is set up to train students in interventionary medicine, why would they hire homeopaths? If UCLA wants to call itself the University of Marxism, why would it be required to hire conservatives. On the other hand if it pretends -- as UCLA does -- to offer a liberal education and to honor the precepts of academic freedom then why would its history department not have a single conservative on faculty of 70 more historians? This is not rocket science, is it?
The fact is that there is a very reasonable and relatively simple solution to the problem we are confronting if your side to this debate would consider calming down and adopting a reasonable attitude, instead of attempting to stonewall and deny the obvious and defend an indefensible position. If Penn State's president would agree to sit down with the sponsors of the Academic Freedom Bill, as administrators did in Colorado, and agree to address these problems in a serious manner, the legislation would be dropped (as it was in Colorado). What is your argument against this?
You ask why creationism would not be required. Because the Academic Bill of Rights I wrote specifically refers to the "spectrum of significant scholarly opinions." Creationism is not a science and therefore doesn't belong in a biology curriculum. Simple?
You doubt that a UCLA lecturer taught the Protocols of the Elders Of Zion as fact and that a senior member of the faculty senate defended this as “academic freedom.” I actually have spoken to the mother of the student in question. However, this case was written up in an article by Professor Martin Trow of UC Berkeley in the Summer 2004 issue of Academic Questions. My own account, which is derived from both sources, is contained in this FrontPage article. You might take a look at the course in your own department given by Vinay Lal whose catalogue description is quoted in my piece and let me know if you don't agree that this violates the academic freedom guidelines of the AAUP.
Just to make this as clear as possible: If university faculty and administrations will step forward and show that they are willing to deal with what is a widespread problem of classroom abuse, we will withdraw the legislative remedy, because it will not be needed. This means that none of your objections have any gravity, since the problems they refer to are self-created. Or, to put it another way, all your objections can be satisfied if the university community will do the right thing. Not my right thing mind you, but the right thing as defined over the course of nearly 100 years by the AAUP and embraced by all academic institutions (but no longer honored in practice).
Your problem right now is self-created (and by you I mean the professor class as a whole). You think you can blow me off by denying that the problem exists or by conjuring bogeymen who are out to persecute you. What your position amounts to is a cover-up of academic corruption, no different than the cover-up of corporate corruption by companies like Enron. We know what the end result of such attempts normally are. They create a much bigger backlash than necessary and more draconian legislation than is healthy. If you looked carefully at the text of the Academic Bill of Rights that I wrote, you will see what pains I have taken to protect the independence of the university and the academic values you think you are defending. If you and your academic friends were not so eager to demonize me, you would find that I am a reasonable fellow and ready to arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution to these matters.
Jacoby: I have a solution to widespread carnage on American highways. Cut the speed limit to 25 mph. Obviously this would be undesirable and unwelcome. The point? A remedy has to stand in reasonable relationship to that which is seeks to correct or redress. Yours does not. It calls for committees or prosecutors to monitor the lectures and assignments of teachers; this is a sure-fire way to kill free inquiry and whatever abuses come with it. And what are the abuses?
This is a regular story: you and your supporters yell about some egregious violation of academic protocol and behavior. Presumably you advance your best and strongest cases to demonstrate the corruption of the academic enterprise. But as soon as I or anyone begins to scratch away and figure out what is really there, it turns out to be very little. Hence you have mentioned twice the teaching of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a valid Jewish document by a UCLA lecturer who was then defended by the Academic Senate. What is the truth of the matter? Not much. First it is apparently UC Berkeley, at least according to your own account, which you refer me to. Second, the teacher was not a regular staff, but a graduate student, who was teaching a class in Arabic, and said something about the veracity of the Protocols. One student claims he did state it was true; several other students deny it. The Martin Trow account cites an unnamed “senior officer of the Senate” as saying the remark of the teacher was protected by academic freedom. Not much here.
The detailed report in Campus Watch (itself taken from the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California August 15, 2003) comes to no particular conclusion; it is a web of charges and counter-charges. To this cloudy brew, you David add you've spoken to “the mother of the student in question” as if this will clarify anything! And this is the sort of “abuse” that cries out for a solution? It would be one thing if a regular teacher were using and presenting the "Protocols" as a original text written by Jews: that might be worth calling 911.
But all we have here is a remark about it by a graduate student teacher in a language class. One would imagine he will be more careful or more knowledgeable next time, if there is a next time. In any event, presumably, if a mechanism existed to upbraid such a teacher or air such an incident, what would happen? The student would formally draw up an accusation about a remark; the teacher would draw up a defense. There would be hearing. The student's mother would be called. This would turn the university into a nightmare of investigations.
Second example: an introductory environmental studies course requires only two books–by Al Gore and Rachel Carsons. Obviously a violation, according to you, David. Wow. Where to begin–or where to end? Do you propose that every reading list will be submitted for approval or every one that elicits an objection? And then a group of scholars or administrators will suggest additions or subtractions–or command such inasmuch as presumably they will have the ability to enforce decrees? Even on the simplest level this is undesirable and unworkable. For starters, nowadays teachers increasingly use all kinds of web-based materials, which can change week to week. How would you know what else is being used in a course?
And how would you know what is being said in a course about a reading? Maybe the books are being slammed or, at least, criticized. It is possible to use and criticize a text. Imagine a course on fascism that assigns "Mein Kampf." Would you or a committee that monitors intellectual fairness find that unbalanced? This is not exactly far-fetched. You know one of the old "political correctness" incidents–when conservatives fought political correctness, before they became its devotee–goes back to when some African American students protested that they had to read accounts of slavery by plantation owners in a course. I suppose you would agree or would insist on parity. For every page of a plantation owner, one on John Brown or by Malcolm X. You are opening the door so that every aggrieved student can protest every book he or she finds unpalatable. Any reading list can be challenged. Even if you state that technically we can also consider web-pages of classes and remarks of teachers–why not tape all lectures?–look where this is leading. Universal surveillance. What would happen, say, if one David Horowitz teaches a course on "The Trajectory of the American Left" and approval committee or a student doesn't like the reading list? It seems too tilted towards accounts of insane leftists. The committee commands you to balance your assignments with accounts of insane rightists. Add Timothy McVeigh. Or a student objects to something Mr. Horowitz said in class as unbalanced and untrue, and demands redress. Is this what you want?
Horowitz: It is not much of a dialogue when one party at the table, namely you, refuses to address the actual position of the other party, repeats over and over the argument he made at the start of the discussion, and continues to throw up straw men to knock down: “A remedy has to stand in reasonable relationship to that which is seeks to correct or redress. Yours does not. It calls for committees or prosecutors to monitor the lectures and assignments of teachers; this is a sure-fire way to kill free inquiry and whatever abuses come with it.” Out of what hat did you pull this rabbit? My remedy does not call for committees let alone prosecutors. The Academic Bill of Rights as I wrote it does not even call for legislation. The legislation, as I have explained, is a response to the stonewalling of academics like yourself. There is only legislative resolution – it is not even a bill with statutory powers – sets up a committee to look into the problem. The committee has no powers to do anything about any problem it finds. Yet you leap to the most extreme conclusion – that prosecutors are in the wings ready to pounce on defenseless professors. Isn’t this just a way to close down discussion before it begins?
I am troubled by the fact that you haven’t answered a single question I’ve asked you. You haven’t shown the slightest interest in understanding the points I’ve made and addressing them. And now you want to argue that not only is the (straw man) remedy I am alleged to propose awful, but actually it is a remedy for a problem that doesn’t exist. If there is no problem regarding academic freedom, why does every institution of higher learning in America pay lip service to academic freedom, without exception?
I pointed out in my first response that you have misconstrued what the academic freedom campaign was about. Perhaps you can’t hear what I’m saying and I have to address you like John Irving’s hero Owen Meany in CAPITAL LETTERS so that you can hear me. It is a campaign to get universities to enforce EXISTING precepts of academic freedom that have been DEVISED BY THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS ITSELF. The ONLY reason for legislation is that university administrators and professors like you refuse to 1) Enforce the policies that THEY THEMSELVES CLAIM TO EMBRACE and 2) DENY THAT A PROBLEM EXISTS.
Thus, the reason I brought up the UC lecturer was not to argue that this is the best case of academic abuse I can think of or the most typical one or the most irrefutable one. I see looking back at what I wrote that I didn’t make this explicit, but the case was one of two that prompted the University of California to revise its academic freedom policy (in part to avoid embarrassment over cases like this). The following clause written by Robert Gordon Sproul and in place for 70 years was dropped by the University. It drew a distinction between indoctrination and education and said that classrooms were not to be used for political propaganda:
“The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts….Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumed the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda.”
I asked you whether you agreed with the clause or rather whether you object to its removal. This is one of the questions you have evaded. Would you like to see the Sproul clause restored? Would you like to see it enforced? The reason I ask these questions, as I have explained, is that if you and the AAUP are willing to join me in a campaign to restore the Sproul policy and enforce it in the University of California system, then we will WITHDRAW the legislation which you object to SINCE IT WILL NO LONGER BE NECESSARY. I apologize for the Owen Meany caps (here and above) but you don’t seem to have heard me so far, so I feel I need to shout. No discussion of academic freedom is meaningful that does not begin with a recognition of the problem, which is 1) that there are abuses of the principle in the university today and 2) administrators and faculty senates are unwilling to do anything about them. Ergo, legislatures – as the final courts of appeal -- must.
Here is a course description from your own department at UCLA which is the kind of abuse you seem to deny exists: political propaganda disguised as an academic course. The course in question is the “Fiat Lux Seminar: Honors Collegium 98” taught by History Professor Vinay Lal. The seminar incorporates “History 19,” and “Public Policy 1284.” The Fiat Lux Seminar is subtitled “Re-Reading Democracy in America: Politics Before and After 9/11.” According to the catalogue description, there are “two requirements” for students to complete the course -- a paper on one of the two class texts and an in-class presentation. Here is how the presentation is described by Professor Lal in the UCLA catalogue:
“Requirements: … Each student will also do a succinct class presentation of no more than ten minutes accompanied by a handout (1 pg.). In this presentation, the student will draw upon some aspect of American political, cultural, or social life which has a bearing on the subject matter of the course. For example, a presentation might focus on what the election to California’s governorship of a movie star who has been charged by a dozen women with sexual molestation, drives perhaps the most environmentally unfriendly vehicle in the world, and appeared not to have a single idea about governance says about American “democracy.” Other presentations can focus on corporate ownership of the media, the rise of Fox News, the MTA and grocery chain strikes in Los Angeles, the trade union movements, the presence of African-Americans and Latinos in the US army, the film “Bowling in (sic) Columbine”, the assault on civil liberties, the indefinite detention of hundreds of Muslims without any accountability to notions of justice, or thousands of such phenomena.”
The two texts assigned for the Fiat Lux Seminar are DeTocqueville’s Democracy in America and Vietnam and Other American Fantasies by H. the US remains on course in exercising its ruthless dominance over the rest of the world.”favorable to Stalin). Professor Lal explains the importance of Franklin’s text in this way: “Though many commentators have unthinkingly rehearsed the cliche that after 9/11 all is changed, our other principal text comes from one of the most respected scholars of American history [Franklin is in fact a Professor of English Literature}, whose relatively recent inquiry into the meaning of the Vietnam war in American life suggests that nothing has changed, insofar as [Emphasis added.]
There’s no ambiguity in the way Professor Lal views this text as you pretend there is in the two texts assigned to the environmental course at Penn State I referred to, namely Al Gore’s unbalanced Earth in the Balance and Rachel Carson’s widely discredited screed against DDT. I must confess that in my haste I did not refresh my memory of the course and mis-described it as an introductory course. I guess I thought not even an ideologue would assign a silly book like Gore’s and a discredited one like Carson’s to advanced students as the only required texts. But having looked it up now, I see that it evidently is in fact a course for advanced students in “environmental policy.” Here is the course description:
“Course: STS 497A/597A Environment & Public Policy: An awakening to and analysis of issues of environmental sensitivity, as they effect public policy. The interplay of service and societal policy are critical, and the approach is both relative to U.S. and global issues. Focus is on the competing interests of the stakeholders. Particular attention is paid to “sustainable development” and societal and environmental frontiers.
“Has been taught by: Jon Plaut, who served as Chair of the NAFTA Environmental Commission appointed by President Clinton, and is a senior advisor to the United Nations Environmental Program.”
Is there really a possibility as you suggest that the professor teaching a course which emphasizes “sustainable development” -- a buzz phrase of the environmental left -- has assigned Gore and Carson to attack them? How many professors do you think there are at Penn State or at UCLA who would take an unfavorable view of Gore and Carson anyway? How many in your department? So far as I can tell there is not a single conservative among the 70 plus professors in the history department at UCLA? Does this scarcity of conservative intellects and ideas disturb your academic conscience? Is it in keeping with the commitment to intellectual pluralism to which UCLA as an institution and you as a “progressive” give lip service?
But suppose your preposterous comparison of this environmental course to a course on fascism that assigned Mein Kampf were actually reasonable. Why would that pose a problem? Why would you leap to the conclusion that people attempting to implement an academic freedom program would be so stupid as not to understand that Mein Kampf was assigned as a subject and not a guide? The problem you imagine is only a problem if you have a demonic view of the people who would be attempting to implement an academic freedom policy in the first place. You seem to think that the proponents of academic freedom are Torquemadas and morons, and don’t mean what they say. (This is probably the result of thinking that conservatives are Torquemadas and morons. Perhaps that’s because you have so little contact with conservatives as peers at UCLA.) If you were to address these issues with a minimum of generosity (compassion?) towards your political opponents, you might realize that people concerned about academic freedom could actually be, well, concerned about academic freedom. For such people it would be a simple and obvious procedure to ask how the texts in question are taught and how they came to be the only texts taught. And go from there.
But in these circumstances (i.e., in which there would be a collaborative effort in behalf of academic freedom) this problem would probably be solved before anyone ever had to look at texts or at very many texts. If faculty like yourself would take the problem of academic abuses seriously and then would take seriously the academic freedom precepts that you claim to embrace, ninety percent of the abuses would disappear. A firm university policy with faculty and administrators who meant business would bring most people into line with this standard as it does with other standards that are enforced. There would then be no need for legislation.
(BTW: Do you agree that Professor Lal’s course is inappropriately announced? That the announcement itself raises questions about academic standards, integrity, and the like? Is there an appropriate procedure already set up at UCLA to address this problem? Would this be a concern of yours? Would you like to propose how you would set it up?)
Let me conclude this response to by reiterating the questions I have already asked and that you have evaded so far, and that are the center of this dispute: 1) Do you embrace the academic freedom precepts of the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education and UC’s Sproul clause (that has now been dropped)? 2) Do you agree that there may be cases at universities where these precepts are not being enforced? 3) Would you support a strong statement by university officials endorsing the principle of intellectual diversity and setting up a grievance machinery for students who feel harassed by faculty for their political views and are subjected to courses that constitute indoctrination rather than education? If your answer is yes to these three questions, then we can join forces to persuade UCLA and other university administrations to take these steps. Then there will be no need for legislation and your objections will become moot. If you do not agree and will not join us, then how can we regard your own commitment to academic freedom as serious or as something more than just “we professors can do whatever we want?” And what choice, then, do you leave those of us who are indeed concerned about the integrity of our schools except to go to the legislatures as a court of last resort?
Jacoby: I am troubled too, David. You are so convinced of the righteousness of your cause and its logic that anyone who disagrees is stonewalling. But perhaps your logic is not so impeccable. You want to draw a direct and unbreakable line between some prevailing formulations of academic principles–AAUP, ACE, etc–and your own ideas as enshrined in the Academic Bill of Rights. Anyone who does not follow you is obviously in bad faith. For you “B” (Academic Bill of Rights) follows with no “ifs or buts” from “A” (traditional guarantees of academic freedom.) I don't think so.
But OK you asked me some questions which I presumably did not answer, (and I will ask you some, which you did not answer: 1) Yes, I basically accept the various formulations on academic freedom, although I fail to understand the import you give to what you call the Sproul clause. 2) No, I don’t agree there are many universities where these precepts are not enforced. Some? Certainly. 3) No, I don’t support a “strong statement” by universities endorsing “the principle of intellectual diversity and setting up a grievance machinery for students who feel harassed by faculty for their political views...”
Re: 2) Yes, there are violations of academic freedom. The issue is, how many and what sort? Most of the cases you cite here and elsewhere prove to be extremely problematic. The famous case of the student who failed because she did not explain on an exam why George Bush was a war criminal, which you frequently foregrounded elsewhere, has shown to be–and this is very typical–not at all clear-cut. The student did not fail. The exam question was different. The professor, it turns out, was a registered Republican, etc. etc. Here you have cited three cases.
a) The UC Berkeley graduate student teacher who might have said–and might not have–that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a valid Jewish text. You have not pursued this because there does not appear to be much to pursue; it is tissue of charges and counter charges.
b) The course description and the assigned readings of a one credit seminar on American politics at UCLA. OK. I agree the course description is heavy handed and one-sided, but that does not mean the course is. You don’t like one of the books used (by H.Bruce Franklin’s). Presumably you accept deTocqueville, but already we have a problem. Does every book have to be “balanced” in itself? I myself have no truck with Franklin (and have criticized him), but I don’t know what your point is. True he wrote an inexcusable introduction to a collection of Stalin’s writings–but that was over 30 years ago. I believe one David Horowitz doesn’t own up to some of his own early works. In any event to judge a course by its description, including its assigned readings, is like judging a book by its title. What is critical in both cases is the content. How is the class conducted? Are the students brow-beaten? It is very possible for a teacher to have an emphatic political position, but can be completely open to dissent and challenges. Indeed, this often makes for a better class than if a teacher is timid, and trying to be completely balanced at every point.
c) Ditto about the texts assigned in the environmental policy course at Penn State: You have a course description, a brief syllabus, and the books assigned–by Al Gore and Rachel Carson–and you are outraged. A clear violation. Your sense of righteousness is estimable. How do you know what goes in this course? You insist on judging a course only by a reading list–and you have more opinions than there are mosquitoes in Maine. You state twice that Carson’s book is widely “discredited.” First of all, this is not completely true. (See Reed Karaim, “Not So Fast with the DDT: Rachel Carson's Warnings Still Apply” American Scholar, Summer 2005). And even if it were true, the book surely has historical importance, which would merit its use. How can you deny that?
What would you say about a course–either a history or psychology course–that uses Freud? Many scholars judge him “widely discredited”–just what you say of Carson. Then what? Freud cannot be read? Or a teacher could only use Freud if balanced by some anti-Freudians or more modern psychologists? A bio-psychologist? A behavioralist? Please answer this.
re 3) This gets me to your principle of “intellectual diversity” and a grievance machinery. I do not see it as possible or desirable to enforce a principle of “intellectual diversity”–pure political correctness cant as far as I’m concerned–on any particular course. You state that my objections could only arise if I envision that the people proposing these reforms as new inquisitors, and not as cheery friends of academic freedom. I don’t envision it. I see it. You give every indication of being a petty tyrant or proposing the establishment of petty tyrants. Every one of your examples of one-sidedness is problematic. Elsewhere you have objected to a sociology anthology textbook as too leftist for a course. If teachers cannot decide what books to use, where would this end? Moreover, as I stated and you have not addressed, courses are much more than assigned texts; they not only use increasingly amounts of web-based material, but their content is the lectures and discussions. How would you evaluate the content of a course apart from its assigned readings? Please tell me that. Your example of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was spurred not by its use in a classroom, but what was said about it in a discussion.
You state it would a “simple and obvious procedure to ask how the texts” are taught or adopted. Please spell this out. Would all syllabuses be submitted to a committee for approval of diversity? Or just certain ones? Or none? Or would a new Dean of Intellectual Diversity sample syllabuses? Or would an investigation get triggered if some students objected? Students can object to anything. Some African American students, as I mentioned, objected to reading plantation narratives and sparked a nasty fight. Some Christians students sued because they were assigned a book about Islam. And then what? A friendly hearing? The committee or dean would send out a notice: The Committed on Intellectual Diversity would like you to report at to explain why you are using a widely discredited book of Rachel Carson? Or the discredited Sigmund Freud? Or the discredited “The Free World Colossus” by one David Horowitz? As I said from the beginning, the remedy is worse than any abuse.
Horowitz: Well I don’t think this is a matter of my logic or my confidence in my logic or my characterization of anyone who disagrees with me as stonewalling. It’s a matter first of the facts about the Academic Bill of Rights, what it is and why it has been proposed. I don’t see a lot of textual analysis of the Bill in your previous arguments, i.e., reference to what the Bill actually says. That was my complaint. But no matter. I’m glad you’ve decided to answer the questions.
I'm glad you support the principles of academic freedom, but why then wouldn't you support a strong statement from university officials embracing them together with the grievance machinery to back them up? Evidently, you don't think there's much of a problem and you seem to presume, though you don't say so, that whatever problems exist don't require any more attention than they're already getting, which is so far as I can tell almost nothing.
You give the impression of thinking that I misstate or overstate everything in regard to these matters. Given the dishonesty of the campaign against the Academic Bill of Rights, I'm not surprised at your attitude. Thus you have an impression of the Colorado exam that is taken from my opponents rather than from a careful weighing of the facts. I have written at length about the distortion of the Colorado exam, and posted a copy of what the professor who administered the exam (his name is Dunkely) claims it was. I say "claims" because Professor Dunkley destroyed all the original copies of the exam in violation of university rules. The exam he has produced and whose text his available at the end of this document differs from the exam the student remembers. This unresolvable dispute has allowed my opponents to spin the issues to my disadvantage. Evidently you did not see my response to these critics. This is not surprising since all of them simply ignored it, along with the new evidence it provided. This is too bad, because the behavior of the University of Northern California authorities and the professor in question have shown the need for the Bill of Rights.
In respect to the exam, the University is engaged in a cover-up and will not reveal the facts e.g., as to whether the student failed the exam. The university will only say that she passed the course, which we have never contested. She went through a painful appeal to get her failing grade raised. The university will not comment on this appeal or whether she originally was failed on the exam or whether her grade was raised. It will only say that after the appeal she did not fail the course. Professor Dunkley on the other hand is provably unreliable. We have shown that the exam he supplied as evidence was proably concocted after the fact (It quotes President Bush saying something he would not have until after the time the exam was given.) Since Dunkley destroyed all the copies of the original exam, no one is in a position to verify whether the student's memory of the question she was asked is correct or not.
On the other hand, the exam question he claims is different from the one the student remembered is, in fact, in substance identical. All that is different is that in the exam copy Dunkley has provided the “question” instructs students to argue that the US government was criminal in invading Iraq rather than that the U.S. President (as we originally reported) was criminal. But since the President is the government's chief executive obviously he would be legally criminal too. The press that misreported this case simply ignored this fact and instead reported the difference in wording as though this were a difference in conception as well. It is not. Finally, there is not a shred of evidence to establish that Dunkley is a Republican (we tried), and moreover I never claimed he wasn’t. Moreover -- and this is the important point -- it doesn’t make any difference to the issue of whether this is a legitimate exam question or not.
As to the Jew-hating instructor at UC Berkeley (not UCLA as I originally described it– there is actually a third case on that campus which I confused with the Berkeley case; sorry about that): It is only because there was no formal inquiry and no adequate grievance machinery, that you can draw the conclusion you do – that the Berkeley incident involves just a series of inconclusive charges. This is the very problem I am trying to fix. To establish the probability that this case happened and is not untypical, would you like me to name a dozen Jew-hating professors of Middle Eastern Studies at UC and Columbia, and DePaul and other universities who made similar remarks and emerged unscathed? Would I have to make this argument to you if the bigot in question was anti-black or anti-female instead of anti-Jew?
Larry Summers just invested $50 million in diversity programs at Harvard, creating the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development, and appointing three diversity deans to serve commissars overseeing oversee various Harvard colleges on the presumption that there is gender discrimination in the hiring and promotion of faculty. Is there a shred of hard evidence (of the kind that you have been demanding of me) that this is the case? No. The $50 million is justified -- to the satisfaction of the academic community -- by a scientifically accurate but politically incorrect remark Summers made to some hyper-sensitive feminist professors, and by a statistical "under-representation" of women in faculty positions generally and tenured positions in particular.
Interestingly, I have been involved, as you are well aware, in pointing out the far greater disparity in the statistical representation of conservatives on faculties like Harvard. And the same people who are indignant about the perceived but unproved discrimination against women are in extravagant denial about the existence of discrimination against conservatives, which is much easier to establish. And, of course, not a dime has been offered to address this problem.
So first I would like you to apply the same strict standard of proof to the gender diversity claimants at Harvard as you to do me. Second I would like you to consider that it is not my place to make a conclusive case of political discrimination or abuse in every instance I cite. Or in any instance. How could I establish such a charge conclusively without a formal inquiry and access to all sides? And how can I do that if there is no grievance machinery to take the testimony of all sides? On the other hand, it is my task to make a substantial enough prima facie case that such problems exist -- enough to justify the extremely mild remedy I have proposed: Establish procedures to enforce the principles of academic freedom which every university already embraces in the abstract.
As to your remarks on the Vinay Lal seminar, I am speechless. I show you a course description which is one long incitement to students to hate and despise a popular Republican governor and to embrace a menu of leftwing causes – all under the “scholarly” cover of examining the “contradictions of democracy” after 9/11, and you refer to it merely as heavy-handed and one-sided? (Do you mean “heavy-handed” in that it is too blatant in betraying its prejudice which you think is otherwise all right for an academic course?)
In my comments I referred to the only contemporary text assigned by Lal – an anti-Vietnam war screed by Bruce Franklin, which was written in 2000. I did this to underscore Professor Lal’s relentless political agenda. I didn’t even quote Franklin. I quoted Professor Lal whose course description instructs students that Franklin’s book demonstrates “the US remains on course in exercising its ruthless dominance over the rest of the world.” In other words this course is not an inquiry into the state of democracy in America post 9/11. Its conclusion is already in the course description. Professor Lal's seminar is by its own self-description an instruction to students who take it that America is a country “exercising its ruthless dominance over the rest of the world."
In short, this is not an academic inquiry but a political indoctrination. It is thus a violation of the academic freedom code that UCLA pretends to uphold. Your response to this information is to seize on my offhand reference to Franklin’s outpouring on behalf Stalin and to suggest that since that book (which is not a course text, and which I only mentioned in passing) was written 30 years ago, it’s possible that Franklin has changed his mind about politics since then. This is sophistry Russell, not argument, and really unworthy of you.
And yet this is in fact your argument. How can you, with a straight face, even suggest that Professsor Lal is anything but an ideologue who has proposed a course in his ideology? The fact that he has a political viewpoint is all right with me. What is not all right is that he is obviously using an academic course to impose his partisan political views on students who are presumably there to get an education.
You can defend this outrage because at the same time you willfully refuse to face the implication of your defense: At your own school in your own department there is a course being given which on its face violates the fundamental precepts of the AAUP’s academic freedom doctrine, the very doctrine you have already claimed to support. In other words, you want to give lip service to academic freedom but you don’t want to lift a finger to defend the principle at your own school and in your own department. In this – shall we call it an inconsistency? -- you have made my case for me, viz., that a legislated academic bill of rights is necessary.
I did not mean to suggest that the Enivronmental Course I referred to is a conclusive case of indoctrination masquerading as scholarship. It is prima facie case that the course should be looked at. But of course without an institutional will to do so – without an Academic Bill of Rights -- there is no way that is going to happen. Again I would ask you: If a course on slavery required only readings by pro-slavery writers like Ulrich Phillips and John Calhoun, and referred in its description to the “laziness” of slaves (an analog to the phrase “sustainable development”) would you be giving me these far-fetched reasons to avoid looking at the course? You and I know you wouldn’t. What is going on here is that you are defending the indefensible because the possible infractions are being committed by your academic colleagues. This is not a principled position.
Finally, allow me to address your assault on the idea of intellectual diversity as “political correctness.” Before beginning, let me say on a personal note that I am one of the least politically correct or censorious individuals you are likely to encounter. My advocacy website at Students for Academic Freedom for example is incontestably -- and even infinitely --`freer, intellectually, than your history department at UCLA or – to take a more comparable case -- the website of the American Association of University Professors (try finding out what I think, for example, at this url).On the other hand, there is a large representation of critics of the Academic Bill of Rights, and of me personally posted or linked on my site, including many that personally insulting to me and that distort the facts. A very large number of news reports -- lots of them hostile to the Academic Bill of Rights -- are also posted here.
Even though it is advocacy site and not a publicly funded educational institution that pretends to embrace the principles of academic freedom, it adheres to the principle of intellectual diversity. An inquisitive person going to my site can figure out their position on the Academic Bill of Rights with a full range of viewpoints to draw from (This is also true of DiscoverTheNetwork where I have posted the complaints and arguments of some of its harshest critics). These facts of course don’t prevent me from being caricatured by people like you as a "petty tyrant," rigidly enforcing politically correct doctrines. Indeed, neither these facts nor the liberal provenance of the Academic Bill of Rights have prevented the web from being saturated with leftwing comparisons of me to McCarthy, Stalin and Chairman Mao.
Despite your statements, I have not proposed a draconian remedy for these problems of the university. I am not asking for a 25-mile-an-hour speed limit, as you suggest. I am asking for a 55 mph speed limit that is observed. My battle cry is: Observe the precepts of academic freedom that all universities already endorse!
I have not called for the imposition of a rigid formula of intellectual diversity on helpless universities and professors. Of course to someone who thinks that an Environmental Policy Course that teaches a partisan doctrine like “sustainable development” as though it were a scientific given and not an ideological imprimatur and that assigns two extremely one-sided texts (and possibly only those two) is actually a disinterested academic inquiry, it may seem that a call for respect for intellectual pluralism is actually a threat. And to be candid, it is a threat to ideologues (both left and right). But it should not be a threat to honest scholars.
Your request that I spell out how I would encourage a spirit of academic inquiry in the classroom open to different answers to controversial issues shows that you have not understood the long answer I have already given you. I have no intention of specifying how this should be done, because I have consciously wanted to leave it up to university administrations and faculties to apply the principle. In the end, I respect the independence of the university more than my opponents respect the integrity of the university. It is only the refusal of universities to live up to their own principles that has caused me to turn to legislatures for redress.
You could acknowledge the respect I have shown for the independence of the university in the way I have designed my campaign. But of course to concede this little fact would be to undermine the entire case that has been made against it-- that the campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights is my rightwing plot to put the lid on leftists in the academy. And of course your real agenda, and that of the opponents of this bill generally, is not to defend academic freedom, but to redefine it to mean that professors can do whatever they want in the classroom, including using their professorial lecterns to indoctrinate students in narrow political agendas.
But without specifying the precise methods by which complex issues about curricula should be decided, I will answer your question. I don't think a committee should rule on whether a particular book by Rachel Carson or, for example, Howard Zinn is trash even though I personally am persuaded they are. The hiring of a professor is a credential of his or her expertise. If you think they have poor intellectual judgment you shouldn't have hired them in the first place. I guess a tenure review committee ought to be assessing the quality of the professor's teaching, but I think when it comes to ideological differences most people's judgment has a tendency to become unsound. I think the Sokal experiment with Social Text proved that definitively several years ago. On the other hand, there are courses like Professor Lal's that ought to set off alarm bells, not because they are too left, but because they are too agenda-driven. An academic course should be academic: it should be an inquiry, not an exercise in doctrinal correctness. This is what John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy, a radical and a liberal thought in 1915 when they wrote the first General Report on Tenure and the Principles of Academic Freedom. Would you disagree?
I think a course on Environmental Policy, therefore should include texts representing more than one side of controversial issues -- not only environmental radicals like Al Gore and Rachel Carson but also critics of environmental radicals, as for example Bjorn Lomborg (author of The Skeptical Environmentalist). And the same would be true if Lomborg were the only assigned text. Then I would suggest to the professor that he or she include a text or two with views like Gore's. On the other hand -- to answer another question of yours -- if the professor in this course is already assigning texts from the Internet that are critical of Gore and Carson, I’m satisfied. (Notice, I didn't say there had to be a one-to-one balance.) Is this rocket science? Would it be so difficult for a departmental committee to make these suggestions?
The sad thing is I have already indicated many times that this is my position to no avail. My critics keep attacking a straw bogeyman. I even told you earlier in this dialogue that I am of the view that a course on capitalism in the Business School should include the texts of critics of capitalism. Why did you ignore this answer and what it implies about my intentions? I think you did because you entered this discussion with an insurmountable prejudice against the Academic Bill of Rights, not to mention the man who has proposed it. And you have an insurmountable conviction that the university needs no reform in this matter. And you are leaving the discussion the same way. And that, my friend, is the real problem.