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My Reply to Graham Larkin and the AAUP By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Thank you for responding (sort of) to my blog response to your original attack on me and the Academic Bill of Rights. In the blog entry, I pointed out that while you titled your piece, “What’s Not to Like About the Academic Bill of Rights?” it was really an attack on me personally and did not address a single statement or tenet of the Academic Bill of Rights itself. I added that you had gone on to invent some imaginary “demands,” which you attributed to the Academic Bill of Rights (with no quotes from the text itself) and used these as a straw man target for your attack.

Your failure to address the specifics of the Academic Bill of Rights was important because your article, which is little more than an extended defamation of me and the academic freedom movement, has been cited and reposted on the internet by academics who don’t want to confront the abuses of academic freedom that the bill is designed to address.

 

In your reply you do little to remedy the regrettable situation your distortions created. You fail to acknowledge your refusal to address the substantive articles of the Academic Bill of Rights, nor do you seem to regret any of the ad hominem argument you used to distract attention from the substantive issues in this debate. Instead you escalate the attack by taking liberties with a phrase in my blog that provides you with the pretext for reiterating your false claim, which you go on to make the substance of your letter.

 

The phrase you attack is my reference to the “imaginary demands of the academic freedom movement for ‘balance’ and equal representation.” You then devote your letter to challenging my assertion that, in fact, there are no such demands. (BTW: Why would I deny them if there were?)

 

The demands of the academic freedom movement are contained and articulated in the Academic Bill of Rights. There are no other formal demands of the academic freedom movement apart from this document. The word you single out – “balance” – does not in fact appear in the Academic Bill of Rights. For the second time you choose to ignore this, and thus the plain meaning of the text, to write: “Your insistence that the supporters of the ABOR make ‘no such demands’ for left-right ‘balance’ (a claim that I think you also made in the radio interview) is bizarre, since from the start you have successfully framed the whole issue in terms of the need for intellectual or ideological balance, equity and diversity.”

 

Well, “balance,” “diversity,” and “equity” are not the same thing, are they? Balance can only be established by strict adherence to a one-for-one standard: a liberal on this side, a conservative on that, for example. Diversity carries no such connotation. Nor does equity. Equity (like diversity) can refer to opportunity rather than result, which is its clear meaning in the Academic Bill of Rights. We want students to have access to more than one side of the political spectrum, which is pretty much the current state of affairs. We want students to be aware that controversial questions do not have only one answer, that other perspectives exist. We want them to have an opportunity to express themselves in an atmosphere where they are not punished, verbally or otherwise, for doing so. The AAUP calls these demands “a grave threat to academic freedom.” No wonder AAUP members like yourself need to make up threats to respond to. Or to make up claims that these basic rights for students already exist; they don’t. You and the AAUP defend this status quo. That is the issue between us.

 

Instead of confronting the real issue as it has been presented, you choose to go behind its back, as it were, and distort its agendas in order to discredit it. Hence, you make up an agenda that will be convenient to attack: a demand that university faculties be strictly balanced between left and right. There is no such demand.

 

In order to defend the indefensible, you have to ignore the actual words in the Academic Bill of Rights and instead refer to a single article I wrote about the campus blacklist, in which I say that I have encouraged students to push an Academic Bill of Rights that “demands balance in their reading lists.” My bad; the Academic Bill of Rights demands no such thing.

 

Here’s what the Academic Bill of Rights does say about reading lists:

 

4. Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions.

 

Do you have an objection to this? If so, we might have a discussion that is worth having.

 

As to the discrepancy between what the Academic Bill of Rights says and what I wrote in my article, my response is simple: The article is wrong. In writing articles – particularly as many as I do – it not possible to avoid an occasional careless expression or an injudicious word or phrase. If I had to write the article again, I would have said, “an Academic Bill of Rights that provides students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate.” Do you object to that?

 

There is really no excuse, on the other hand, for a writer who has both texts in front of him, not to compare them, then to exploit a minor error like this. I don’t believe I have ever used the phrase “left-right balance” to which you refer. I certainly haven’t made it a central issue of the academic freedom campaign. You insist I have, and refer to a later article, in which you say I quote the same passage. In fact, the text you cite is not an article but very obviously a direct mail solicitation and was written not by me by but by a direct mail firm I hired to raise money for my Center. I plead guilty to not paying more attending to my fund-raising mail. The obvious question remains: If “left-right balance” were the agenda of the Academic Bill of Rights, or the academic freedom campaign, why wouldn’t it be at the center of both? Why wouldn’t the demand have been explicitly written into the Academic Bill of Rights, and why would you have to reach so far in order to come up with a relevant example? Moreover, why would I be denying that balance is my chief demand if it were?

 

You go on to other examples, which are equally spurious, including a second quotation from the same direct mail solicitation to the effect that the Academic Bill of Rights will require colleges to “promote balance” in regard to the allocation of funds for speakers. But this is what the Academic Bill of Rights actually says on this issue:

 

  1. Selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers programs and other student activities will observe the principles of academic freedom and promote intellectual pluralism.

Do you object to this? You should probably read the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court decision regarding student fee funds, which requires that these funds at state universities be used strictly for purposes that are viewpoint neutral – in other words that they be strictly balanced. If you have a quarrel with the First Amendment, you should say so, but you should also acknowledge that the Academic Bill of Rights is more liberal (or loose) in this regard than the Constitution.

 

You also cite a New York Times report that we reprinted on FrontPage that our movement was inspired by “political imbalance on faculties,” as though this proved anything. Am I to be held responsible for every word that the New York Times prints? Am I to censor every passage or phrase in a Times article that I disagree with? Let me say categorically, that neither I nor the movement behind the Academic Bill of Rights was inspired by “political imbalance on faculties,” as the Times – no political friend of ours – puts it. Moreover, the Academic Bill of Rights specifically forbids redressing any such imbalance by hiring new faculty on a political basis or firing old.

 

In all probability what you are referring to are the studies we conducted of Democratic and Republican Party registrations among university professors. We did this not to establish a principle for balancing faculties or even because we believed that these categories provided a useful intellectual standard – and we made this clear in our introduction to the studies we published. We were forced to conduct these studies because of the brazen denial of left-wing academics like you that there is any problem of ideological screening taking place on academic hiring committees. You continue to deny this, yet you are part of a faculty (Stanford) where junior professors with self-acknowledged left-wing views already outnumber junior professors with self-acknowledged conservative views by a ratio of 30-1. This study was conducted by Professor Daniel Klein of Santa Clara University. If you or the AAUP had the slightest concern about intellectual diversity or academic freedom, you would be concerned about this, but you are not.

 

Your expertise is art history, so I will forgive you for not understanding the meaning of words, and in particular the fact that “equality,” “equity,” “even-handedness,” and “fair-mindedness” – even ripped out of context – are not identical or the same as “balance,” as you so facilely imply. There is a reason that that word “balance” does not appear in the Academic Bill of Rights and that is because to insist on strict ideological or political balance would destroy the academic enterprise, and our intention is exactly the reverse: to restore it.

 

We oppose “balance” sensu strictu. We do wish, on the other hand, to promote “fairness” and “diversity.” Balance implies quotas, and we are against quotas. But fairness implies, well, fairness, and we like that. We want to restore respect for the educational process. We don’t want students to be subjected to political harangues in completely inappropriate contexts whose purpose is to isolate them, make them feel like second class citizens in their own universities, and put them on notice that their professors can, should they so desire, punish them for their political beliefs. The system that you and the AAUP are defending is an intolerable one, and you would be the first to make a protest if these abuses were being inflicted on liberal students by conservative professors. (Or maybe not.) We have taken up the cause of liberal students abused by conservative professors, but you have yet to offer us any help.

 

Here is a preposterous sentence from your text, which reveals the magnitude of your bad faith: “No amount of retroactive spin can reverse the fact that the Academic Bill of Rights’ supporters have campaigned relentlessly to legislate ideological ‘balance’ in American universities.” This is utterly false and easily refuted. The legislation that has been proposed and approved by supporters of the Academic Bill of Rights is posted at  http//:www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/reports/NationalandStateLegislation.htm. There are several bills in several states listed. You will not find a word or phrase in any of them that can be interpreted as legislating ideological balance. Your “fact” is a falsehood.

 

The rest of your letter is merely an exercise in sophistry and denial. Therefore, I will deal with it only briefly. You don’t like political labels – when they are applied to you. In your original attack on me on the AAUP website (where you seemed especially resentful that I have been successful and received economic support for my efforts), you dismiss me as a “reactionary.” This from someone who wants me to “respect peoples’ right to resist (other people’s) labels.” Well, sorry, this street runs both ways. I prefer to think of you as the reactionary – someone who will defend an entrenched class of privileged academics with lifetime tenure from intellectual challenge by those they have politically excluded; who turns a deaf ear to the abuses and injustices committed by faculties that stifle students’ speech, grade them politically and make them feel unwelcome because of their dissenting views. I prefer to regard myself as the progressive in this argument – and in all the others that you and I might have.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Horowitz


David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.


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