Last week it was announced that 17 members of the Academic Senate at the University of California-Santa Barbara have launched a crusade to ban the ROTC from campus. The crusade is being led by Charles Brazerman, chair of the Education Department, and Thomas Scheff, a retired sociology professor whose primary achievement is a book he wrote called Being Mentally Ill.
The effort is not only wrong, but hypocritical.
The first reason offered up, based on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, was a combination of free-speech and gay-rights. When I read this, I immediately wondered what real live homosexuals would think of our campus losing its men-in-uniform. In hopes that Walt Whitman’s legacy of military worship still stood for something in the gay community, I interviewed some of its members. Reactions were mixed. Though I must say that those who opposed the presence of Cadets did not really strike me as man-loving men. They seemed more like feminist women.
But then it turned out that gay-rights and free-speech were only pretenses for the crusade. All it took was a few paragraphs for Brazerman and Scheff to reveal the kicker in their hand, which is their own anti-military agenda. Scheff, like a typical Noam Chomsky string-doll, couldn’t go five lines without saying: “The war system in which we are all so deeply involved has become too destructive to tolerate any longer.”
The real problem here isn’t a couple of old boobs searching for a reason to perk up again. Nor is it the obviously ludicrous attempt to indict our ROTC of free-speech violations on campus based on an irrelevant federal policy. The zit-twister in this affair is that there actually are some serious free-speech problems on this campus, major ones, which are affecting the quality of our education in a nasty way. And not only has the Academic Senate done nothing to fix those problems—people like Brazerman and Scheff are guilty of perpetuating them.
I spoke to Brandon Brod, the former Conduct Educator/Hate Incidents Response Coordinator, who quit in the summer after three years. “As a gay man,” he said, “I resent being used. If Brazerman and Scheff really cared about free speech, they would have been more responsive to the many complaints I heard about their own, and other professors, lack of understanding of the concept while I was at UCSB. SB has a very serious problem with grade discrimination against non-leftist students, and it was very difficult to get anyone to really care.”
Indeed, ideological discrimination is rampant and extensively documented. It’s practiced in the form of biased grading, doctrinaire curricula, and one-sided presentation of ideas in the classroom. As the president of Students for Academic Freedom on campus, I’ve collected 15 specific student complaints in just a few months. You can see them on Studentsforacademicfreedom.org. You can view other complaints on Noindoctraction.org. Victims include faculty and staff, as well as students, with dissenting views.
At the onset of the Iraq War, Brazerman sent a memo to his entire department. It had a checklist of antiwar “options” they could sign-up for. A worker in the department, according to Brod, complained to the administration that if “her” pro-war view was found out, she felt she would be discriminated against—so politicized and Gestapo-like was the environment Brazerman created.
One junior professor here, who wished to remain anonymous out of ambition for tenure, told me that he knows three fellow junior professors who completely hide their true views. “One of them,” he said, “systematically distorts his own views. If that isn’t evidence of how systemic, of how serious the problem is, then I don’t know what is.”
Perhaps the fact that when I spoke to several other professors (some of them tenured) who refused to be referenced even anonymously, we had to speak in soft whispers—as if we were in a roomful of sleeping babies who might scream hysterically at the hint of a foreign sound.
Those babies will never wake up, and now they are using their own biases to try once again to deprive students of an educational opportunity; this time in the noble field of military affairs.
Open discussion of contested subjects and a good education—unlike sexuality and combat—are absolutely relevant to each other. That’s why what really needs review is a system that would hire and elevate such people as Charles Brazerman and Thomas Scheff.
Alec Mouhibian is president of the UCSB chapter of Students for Academic Freedom.