Who's Undermining Freedom of Speech on Campus Now

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Mr. Beito is an associate professor of history at the University of Alabama and the founding member of HNN blog, Liberty and Power. Mr. Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Mr. Luker, an Atlanta historian, was co-editor of the first two volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King. Johnson and Luker are members of the HNN blog, Cliopatria.

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Freedom of speech is crucial both to a healthy democracy and the life of the mind. The 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits Congress from any act that would abridge it and the charters of most of our colleges and universities recognize that freedom of thought and speech are essential to a healthy academic community. Yet, freedom of speech has been a contested value since the birth of the Republic, most commonly in periods of war, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 through the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.

It isn't surprising, then, that freedom of speech is now under siege. What is new in our academic communities is that it is threatened both from within and from outside them. The internal threat to free speech in academia is posed by "speech codes." They take many forms and vary from one college to the next university. After the 1960s, when American colleges and universities ceased to operate in loco parentis, campus speech codes emerged on one campus after another as a means of securing a "safe space" for some students who were offended by certain kinds of speech. On one campus or another, speech that is discomforting, embarrassing, flirtatious, gender specific, inappropriate, inconsiderate, harassing, intimidating, offensive, ridiculing or threatens a loss of "self-esteem" is banned by speech codes. Too often, they target student critics of academic bureaucracy.

Taken literally, speech codes would ban healthy jeering at a visiting sports team. Wouldn't want to intimidate those Aggies! More importantly, teachers have to be able to urge students to consider perspectives that they had not previously considered, without fear of being accused of being "offensive." Ultimately, speech codes are problematic because they vest final authority in the subjectivity of the offended. Whether it is "intentional or unintentional," for example, Brown University bans all "verbal behavior" that may cause "feelings of impotence, anger, or disenfranchisement." The nation's Founders, who did not mind offending British authorities, would have been ill-educated by such constrictions on free speech.

The problem with speech codes is that speech that should be self-governed by good manners and humility is prescripted by inflexible legal codification. Fortunately, however, Philadelphia's Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has fought and won a series of legal battles that have curtailed the prevalence of speech codes in public higher education. In private colleges and universities, where 1st Amendment rights do not necessarily prevail, the struggle continues on an institution by institution basis.

Just when there is good news to report about the unconstitutionality of speech codes on public campuses, however, new threats to free speech arise from outside the academic community. They come from the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles. The Center and its legal arm, the Individual Rights Foundation, are led by David Horowitz. A militant activist on the left in the 1960s, Horowitz abandoned it 25 years ago to become a militant activist on the right. Most recently, he has campaigned for enactment of an "Academic Bill of Rights."

Like campus speech codes, Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights appears well intentioned. Insisting that academic communities must be more responsive to outside criticism, it adopts a form of the American Association of University Professors' 1915 "General Report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure." It holds that political and religious beliefs should not influence the hiring and tenuring of faculty or the evaluation of students, that curricular and extra-curricular activities should expose students to the variety of perspectives about academic matters and public issues, and that institutions must not tolerate obstructions to free debate nor, themselves, become vehicles of partisan advocacy. Who could oppose such commitments? They are already features of the professorate's assumed values.

Yet, the American Association of University Professors and the American Civil Liberties Union criticize Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" as an effort to "proscribe and prescribe activities in classrooms and on college campuses." One has only to look at the legislative progress of Horowitz's political campaign to understand why. His Academic Bill of Rights has been introduced in Congress by Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), but it's had greater promotion in the state legislatures of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington.

Instead of being the even-handed vehicle it claims to be, everywhere it is a function of right-wing attacks on academic communities. In Florida, for example, Representative Dennis Baxley says that the bill he introduced will give students legal standing to sue professors who do not teach "intelligent design" as an acceptable alternate to the theory of evolution. His critics respond that it could give students who are holocaust deniers or who oppose birth control and modern medicine legal standing to sue their professors.
Beyond the governing authority of Florida's public colleges and universities and in the name of free thought and free speech, it would encode in state law restrictions against those values.

The Founders, who recalled their own exercise of free speech and free thought, when they challenged British governing authority, wrote guarantees protecting them from constricting government action. In academic communities, we need an alliance across ideological divides to support free speech by abolishing "speech codes" and to fight the "Academic Bill of Rights" in state legislatures and the Congress because it is a Trojan Horse that intends the opposite of what it claims on its face.

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    John H. Lederer - 4/17/2005


    John H. Lederer - 4/16/2005

    Touching briefly on a couple of the points you raise.

    1. The difference between a Stanford and the Hoover Institute is that Stanford is a "university" and purports to offer by the use of the term a fairly complete compendium of studies. I don't have any trouble with a university that is willing, as say a religous might , to restrict what they teach, so long as they inform.

    There would be obvious problems with the citizenry were a public university to relabel themselves as "teaching principally a left wing (or right wing) view of the world."

    2. Most surveys seem to suggest, that though business and engineering schools are not as much to the left as humanities, they are staffed with faculty well to the left of the general populace. It is interesting that the reaction I infer from your comment, that they are conservative, seems in my personal experience to be a common one among those in the humanities. Perhaps it is the frame of reference?

    I do agree that just because a faculty is left of center does not mean that the resulting instruction need be biased to a left of center viewpoint. I do think that would be the tendency unless carefully guarded against.

    3. I would view biased instruction as well as the "put down" of students or faculty of differing views as something that African Americans suffer from as deeply as others. Indeed in my experience, a right of center African American seems to attract a special degree of vitriol.

    4. Of course the university community interacts with the "mainstream" in many ways. I think I am missing your point.

    Maarja Krusten - 4/16/2005

    Derek Catsam above mentioned the fact that Mr. Lederer claims “that colleges and universities do not represent the mainstream without telling us what the mainstream is.”

    Can I get you all to consider campus issues from another angle? There is a market aspect to education, in that parents and students must choose where to spend their often hard earned money. They have their own views of what constitutes the mainstream. Although I understand why professors might dismiss some of their views as uniformed (don’t we all feel we know the environment in which we work better than outsiders, and don't we all sometimes roll our eyes and think others are clueless), they, too, see themselves as having the freedom to speak up on the issues.

    What are parents doing with those impulses to speak up? I'm not a parent but I have many friends whose children still are in or have just completed college. Many of the articles that I have read in the last decade indicate that, like it or not (more headaches for instructors and administrators), parents are inclined to be more and more involved in their children’s educational lives, not just at the K-12 levels, but also at the college level.

    Consider what Steve Roy Goodman wrote in his opinion piece in the Washington Post last week (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39174-2005Apr9.html)

    “I counsel families of all political stripes -- liberal, conservative and in-between -- and varied income levels, but they all agree on one thing: the overly politicized atmosphere on campuses is distracting colleges from providing a solid education to our young people.
    Yes, I do get some students who expressly wish to apply to either a liberal or a conservative college. But the vast majority are simply eager to find a school that will help them advance in their intellectual and professional lives.” He adds that students and parents often are “flabbergasted” by some of the arcane courses “as well as educational values that appear only tangentially related to the reality of their lives.”

    “To many consumers of higher education, colleges have lost their way and have strayed outside the mainstream. And the backlash is upon us. State governments, strapped for cash, see higher education as one place to cut costs; the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation to rein in tuition in 2003; and there is now an advocacy group in Washington, College Parents of America, that lobbies for the increased involvement of parents in university communities.

    Even loyal alumni are pushing back -- in part, I believe, because of recent professor-led campus political battles. The national percentage of alumni donating to their alma maters has declined for three years in a row and is now below 13 percent.”

    From what Ralph Luker says, HNN’s forums are mild in comparison to some other blogs that look at academic issues. Still, perceptions (even by the uninformed) matter as much as reality. Stop and think, what impression would people outside the academy (parents, students considering where to go to college) have of academics from reading the postings here?
    Would HNN be a good place for nonacademics to learn about freedom of speech issues on campus? I don’t know. Although its message boards apparently are milder in tone than other sites, HNN has some insular aspects and peculiarities.

    Obviously, I’m looking at things through the prism of my own experiences. I once worked with a former dean of a history department who left academe to come work for the federal government. He told me that in his view, what people discussed in the classroom about government and public policy was ineffective in teaching about the realities of governance. He said there were some enormous comprehension gaps. Perhaps those gaps work both ways. Aren't they worth considering, even if you pooh pooh the perspectives as uninformed?

    A side note, somewhat off topic, but pertinent generally to HNN’s weaknesses and the difficulty of framing public debates about complex issues here and in the news media. In my own case, I write primarily on HNN about the National Archives and its vulnerabilities. Have I been effective in presenting the case on HNN? An outsider perusing these boards whould say, no, few people engaged you on your articles and postings. So, consider how that perception comes about and how you might avoid creating unwanted perceptions in discussing issues you care about.

    I think the right left split over Allen Weinstein’s scholarly work effectively highjacked reasoned public debate over his nomination as U.S. Archivist between April 2004 and April 2005. A lot depends on people’s willingngess to engage. It can be awfully tempting to stick to closed circles and to avoid debate with outsiders.

    Here on HNN, there was a flurry of postings about Weinstein when it looked as if the main issue was his scholarship. Once it became clear there were other apparent issues surrounding his nomination that had nothing to do with academia, people on HNN largely ignored questions about the National Archives. Did that play into the hands of people who wanted to force out of office John Carlin, the then incumbent U.S. Archivist? Possibly.

    Think back on the comments that Roger Sandilands, Paul Gottfried, Ralph Luker, and Michael Etchison posted here last year about Weinstein. Then consider what happened last week.

    On April 9, 2005, the Washington Post published a letter to the editor from Richard Claypoole, chief of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives during George W. Bush’s first term in office. Claypoole wrote,

    “Given the fact that Mr. Weinstein is a noted historian, someone likely to be embraced by historians, I can't believe that opposition to him is based on anything more than a philosophical disagreement the left has with the conclusions he reached and evidence he produced in his two Cold War masterpieces, "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case" and "The Haunted Wood."

    It was as if the public debate had not advanced at all in a year. So, be forewarned, it is easy to be outmaneuvered. In public policy debates, you’ve got to consider how others view the issues, no matter what you think of their views and motives.

    How will the debate over academic freedom go? I'll stay tuned on HNN. Will important points also get lost, as the loudest voices frame the issues?

    But what about HNN as a forum for this and other issues? Judging by _metamessages_ (not by _stated_ intent), are HNN’s bloggers and posters encouraging or discouraging people from engaging in debates here, even on issues such as freedom of speech? Some do well, others less so, but you all are creating fascinating permanent records on the Interent, a history of its own kind!! And maybe some parents and students are reading through this history even now.

    Don Adams - 4/15/2005

    Your dedication to "reasoned discourse" is admirable. I think it goes without saying that condescending generalizations and personal insults are among the more sophisticated elements of reasoned discourse, so you you can only imagine the thrill I get from such expressions as "the bizarrely simplistic conceptual world of the right." Good form! More reasoned words have never been spoken! (Particularly not by someone who takes such care with terms such as "conservative" and "right wing"). Better yet is your dismissal of me as the intellectual equivalent of an insurance salesman -- how reasoned of you to simultaneously insult me AND an entire class of working people!

    Needless to say, I have benefited both intellectually and spritually from our exchange. Thank you for your dignified bearing and meaningful insight.

    William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/15/2005

    You utterly missed the points made in both my posts, or rather developed in them. For example, I know of no one out there (except you) who by now hasn't recognized the "corporate" character of university administration, the bureaucratization of the learned professions as a result of massive expansion and academic over-production, etc. What I'm in part suggesting is that the "self-selection" process is actually part of the system. That process in fact reinforces the the thing--it's a misnomer in fact to call it self-selecting. There are multiple reasons why a bright young right winger might prefer to become an investment banker, attorney, physician, MBA instead of a historian. The problem is the bizarrely simplistic coneptual universe of the US right. It's very good for staying on message. I would've happily hired you as part of my sales team. Been nervous about equities, but sure would've loaded you up with life insurance leads. It--the conceptual toolbox of the right--is not very good for reasoned discourse because its design (which actually emerged from early 20th century academic settings) is intended to sell not engage in disputation. It is "technically" very effective, no doubting that. It can be eclectic, nay opportunistic, in its rhetorical sources because it has no underlying goal except power. So when deployed with massive resources, it is also very destructive. I don't think the costs have been high enough yet for the US to start having buyer's remorse. And when are you guys gonna wake up to the possible looming "tipping point" into political violence that's looming? Ultimately, and within I suspect a couple of years, you're going to see a genuine crisis as the GOP has to confront the indirect legitimation of violence by some of its leading lights. I can anticipate already some of the rhetoric--you've heard it (though he was mistaken about facts) from DeLay....a judge's family murdered because of distress over liberal judges? The same arguments were used to exonerate right wing thugs in 1920s Germany. It's this alliance of ur-reaction (what Tom Friedman today wrote is a pre-industrial ideological base) with a much larger, more integrated structure that should give you all some pause. I know people who witnessed that earlier one in Europe or who participated in it. It's given me a measure. It can happen there, pal. In far more effectively monolithic ways than then. Let crude hit $105, and see what outlets the anxiety takes.

    John H. Lederer - 4/15/2005


    Don Adams - 4/15/2005

    While there is some merit in your observation that words like "liberal" and "conservative" are hard to define in precise terms, it is mostly a technical sort of merit. Even allowing for the different ways in which they have been used over time, and the different ways they are used by different groups within our own time, both terms are usefully understood by most people in a discussion such as this. Within the confines of a limited forum, I will live with whatever ambiguity they carry with them.

    As for your claim that the values I say prevail on most campuses "are simply not there," your supporting arguments do little to offset the overwhelming evidence provided by one survey after another in which professors themselves self-identify as liberals (never mind the even larger body of anecdotal evidence). Yes, business and government each interact with universities, but that hardly constitutes evidence of a "corporatized" academic culture. If the "matrix" to which you refer operated as you suggest, then all the elements within it would ultimately reflect a common culture. They do not. They retain separate identities, which is why, as has been noted elsewhere on this website, it is credible to suggest that self-selection is at least part of the reason for the liberal lean of academia, and the conservative lean of business. That is to say, the for-profit world of business is likely to draw a very different type of personality than the not-for-profit world of research and publication. There is of course overlap between these various cultures, and reciprocal influence, but not homogenaiety.

    William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/15/2005

    Thanks for the compliment, Mr. Adams, but we have to be careful about terminology here: Just what we mean when we use phrases like "liberal viewpoint" is a problematic. My post was meant to communicate, however hastily and informally, that the university has always expressed the values of the society--and, by the way, I have to add it has sometimes lagged behind not because it has been "shielded" (sorry, but I think that's on the face of it ridiculous) but because of its institutional "conservatism."

    Unfortunately, our use of terms like "liberal" and "conservative" has been shaped by highly opportunistic rhetorical (and usually perjorative) media strategies. I happen not to think for a minute that "a tipping point has been reached" but rather that within the university itself "liberal" values have been undermined precisely as they have been undermined by first a culture of consumption, marketing pressures that have turned students from learners into consumers, and intellectual fads that have called into question liberalism itself.

    Consumption is not inherently "liberal' (I've argued in scholarly print that it is most certainly not, but that's another matter). Walk onto any third-tier state university campus and the most striking thing is the tumescence of "student centers," lavish with junk instead of books, food courts, meeting halls, all that jazz. Look where the money is or goes: Souped-up B-schools and...what? Gazillion-buck football stadiums for half-assed teams? With underfunded departments, enrollemnts too high, asphalt covering everything to accomodate the cars of a demographically expanded student body that often cannot find the courses to complete degrees? Faculty salaries in the humanities and social sciences stuck. Chintzy budgets so TA's and adjuncts do the teaching? Gimme a break. That's no entrenched "liberal" juggernaut, or dinosaur out of touch.

    Along with the student-as-consumer--so some little idiot can whine he's not having his prejudices respected by his profs--is the notion that a degree is a vocational ticket. Take a look at the grade inflation that has accompanied quasi-proprietary schools--one outrageous example is Lindenwood "University" in St. Charles, Missouri. Faculty performance is evaluated by how happy their students are. You challenge students, my friend, you try to make'em think. You don't give'em Wal-Mart happy faces.

    But to return to my pont: Universities have also been ahead of the curve. They are "corporatized," and the values you find so dominant are simply not there. It's like calling Bill Clinton a "liberal."

    Which is to repeat, the university has been "ahead of the curve," but precisely because of its institutional conservatism from the perspective of a century of development. Missing from all the right-wing whining has been any real analysis of the structure of the modern university, of that "matrix," as Zunz calls it, of business, government, research, which actually shapes the environment in which what the right's cartoon version of faculty flourishes.

    Whether memories on the right are short, I dunno. But pressures on dissident faculty have always been in place. The difference now is an attempt at control, not pressure and a give-and-take that didn't always come out with either side "winning" because both knew what the stakes were. Now the lunatics are loose, thanks to the "conservative movement."

    I think they might succeed, because for the present moment the humanities and social sciences are devalued--something they partly brought on themselves, is partly a consequence of the industrialization of knowledge, but not for the reasons you suggest. I would suggest that if the move is successful, it'll have a devastating effect on the value of that institutional matrix of Zunz's. It will not stop with history, or sociology, or English...It already has a chilling effect on science teaching in the public schools. Worse still, there are very few, and thin at that, alternative environments for the kind of community of inquirers and creativity that by public policy as well as no small measure of default became centered in universities.

    You could have a regime in place, like say, the first 6 or 7 decades of the 20th century, that always generated tension, not always blissfully content but not destructive, not scorched-earth--I happen to think that has had a bracing effect on public discourse. What I meant in my first posting is that what is now different is that right-wing pod people now are marching to take over, and that intellectual fads--drawing on inspirational sources that a century ago informed such things as advertising, of all things--have undercut the rationale for defense against totalitarians. The damage will appear, just as the social and economic damage being wreaked right now elsewhere will turn up, and the costs will be simply too much to amortize.

    Let me add another point: When I write "totalitarian," I'm not gesturing at the 20th century fascist or communist states, which were thrown up in poorly integrated, modernizing societies (vide Mann on this)like Italy, Germany, what became the Soviet Union, and so on. I'm talking about a whole new breed of cat that still incorporates Voelkish reaction (in the US with respect to sentimentalism about "a" past and especially the South).

    It has its "liberal" component. There are interesting similarities to right-wing rhetoric about neglect and victimization and the rhetoric of "post-colonialists." For another example, in the "public history" arena, where the supposedly anti-elite reconstruction of the history museum--Who are we to tell the public what the past was like?--was accompanied by appeals to diversity of the sort you don't approve of. But then, become like those you do. This movement meant the "elimination" of "discredited points of view," an ironically elitist move, and I'm quoting the head of a nationally known institution here, one whom I was asked to informally evaluate before he was hired a quarter century ago, and he seemed perfectly "liberal" to me. Yet, to my surprise, he listened to corporate donors and among those POV were those generated by issues of race, gener, and class. There's a convergence of authoritarian or totalitarian, rather, vectors, we need to acknowledge it and its sources.

    Unfortunately, the depth and breadth of public discourse have been so reduced--I mean, with a plethora of outlets it's gotten shallower and more Orwellian generally--the critical language we need to understand all this is in short supply even in the university (that "ahead of the curve" idea again).

    Derek Charles Catsam - 4/14/2005

    It would seem that there might be an enormous difference between racial and other forms of diversity and one's politics. I will put it as bluntly as possible: Any conservative who believes their claims of being discriminated against even remotely compares with, say, African Americans, ought to have the snot kicked out of him. I have i hard time taking seriously anyone who cannot see why we would value addressing demonstrable wrongs against minority groups and not much take seriously the claims of those whose politcal ideology currently is not exactly marginalized.
    And of course the discussion always stops at the doorstep of the humanities. What of business schoolks/ What of conservative evangelical colleges? If Stanford has to redress ideological imbalance, does the Hoover Institute also? I'm still unclear what folks like lederer (who claim that colleges and universities do not represent the mainstream without telling us what the mainstream is and without taking into account that the overwhelming majority oif colleges deal with the mainstream in almost every way. I welcome him to come visit my campus if he is so out of touch that he makes such silly and unsubstantiated assertions) desire.


    Ralph E. Luker - 4/14/2005

    Mr. Adams, I take it that you mean to say in your paragraph #2, sentence #3 "The authors of this article ..." rather than "The authors of this bill ...." What you don't make clear is that David Horowitz testified on behalf of the legislation to which you refer and apparently believes that it is a perfectly legitimate form of his "Academic Bill of Rights." If that doesn't have Trojan Horse stamped all over it, I don't know what does.

    Don Adams - 4/14/2005

    For those who are interested, the Florida bill referred to in this article can be read in its entirety at
    www.flsenate.gov. Just type in 837 in the Bill# search field and you can pull it up as either a web page or a .pdf file.

    Thoughtful readers will note that while it is clearly related to the ABR, it is not at all the same. In essence the ABR serves as the preamble to the bill; the part of the legislation with teeth comes in the form of a series of newly minted "rights" which are not in the ABR. Thus, while the authors of this bill mistakenly suggest the ABR itself is cause for concern, they are right to point out that legislation such as this is serious business.

    Also, the legislator who introduced this bill recently took part in a debate with a professor who opposes the bill. It can be read or heard online at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/06/1421208.

    His defense of his bill is unimpressive, to say no more, but he does offer some insight into his thinking.

    Don Adams - 4/14/2005

    This is an interesting set of thoughts. Your comment, "So what's going on here is a debate not about "diversity" or "free speech," but rather a more fundamental one: Who is going to control a network of institutions which involves not just the classroom, but considerable clout in business and finance, applied research, and government at every level," is exactly right. For most of the last 40+ years, a predominantly liberal view has held sway over much of American intellectual life. Not just in education, as you note, but in politics and elsehwere as well. In recent years, however, conservative intellectual currents which began as far back as the Barry Goldwater campaign have begun to challenge the left across all -- well, many --- sectors of cultural life. Politically the tipping point seems to have been reached, but higher education, shielded in part from change by the tenure system, has held out against the tide. If it does not find a way to balance itself organically, it will continue to be vulnerable to attacks from ideologues like David Horowitz.

    William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 4/14/2005

    There's one way to clarify all this, well, maybe--put the Horowitz assault on the professoriate in much broader context. It first of all has echoes of the 1950s reverberating in it; there have been attacks on "pink" or "liberal" college and university faculty in the past.

    Secondly, and what's a bit different today, in many respects the intellectual--and ethical--ground for any defense has pretty much been cut from beneath those in the social sciences (the real targets) by "deconstructionist" or "linguistic turn" ideas; ironically, the very idea of "diversity" today (which like McCarthyite attacks today has rather more respectable progentitors) is based on a rejection of liberalism. Reigning ideas in the academy, at least in the humanities, still are derived not so much from the Left, but rather the Counter Enlightenment.

    There is nothing to like, either, in the assertion that faculty have a right outside a classroom, but should hang it up outside, like their six-guns in a bad western movie, when they assume an "official" capacity. Any right winger with a shred of literacy should read up on the history of the 19th and early 20th century German professoriate, a genuine segment of officialdom--and not get starry-eyed about the academic ascendancy of German universities in that era; it came with a very heavy cost.

    With all due respect to Ralph and Dave, I find their defense a bit on the weak side. There is nothing in scholarly or intellectual life in general that somehow mandates either a pallid diversity or the at bottom bureaucratic structure of a hypothetical academic discipline equipped with its own jargon and procedures of advancement.

    The fact--unfortunate for right wingers--is that for most of its history, US academia has actually reflected the broader values of the society. Sometimes this can be misunderstood: For example, the "corporatization" of university life has, I've argued before, supplied the context for speech codes, which serve administrations as tools to maintain a kind of culture geared to education as a form of consumption.

    Some of the more ridiculous things on campuses mirror absurdities in the larger society--who knows, maybe Ward Churchill's evil twin is a right wing talk radio host in a small market somewhere? I know anthropologists claiming influence by the Edinburgh school of sociologists who, arguing that one old narrative about the world is as good as another, claim that science is a matter of hegemonic discourse, and who if consistent ought happily to embrace an Intelligent Designer in his--whoops!--her school's biology department.

    There's your diversity: Left out of all this is another self-selection artifact, which is to say in addition to alternative career choices, the well-financed mobilization of the right which began in the Nixon years has created a network of institutions in which right wing scholars have had far more influence than they ever could've dreamed of had they remained and become tenured obscure profs.

    So what's going on here is a debate not about "diversity" or "free speech," but rather a more fundamental one: Who is going to control a network of institutions which involves not just the classroom, but considerable clout in business and finance, applied research, and government at every level.

    These issues of control weren't very important, I suppose, before the vast expansion of higher education which was sort of an "inflationary universe" phenom: the Big Bang after World War Two and then the post-Sputnik inflation. The groundwork for that complex of interests converging on campuses was, though, as Oliver Zunz has concisely described it in Why the American Century? in place much earlier.

    The giveaway today is the obvious focus on the social sciences and humanities. On the whole, both state and private universities are very conservative places. Administrative salaries nowadays don't encourage biting the hand that shovels money at them. I haven't heard anyone--yet--scream about business schools as hotbeds of Leftism, nor cries of indignation at deconstructionist engineering (though I think Lysenko has been rehabilitated as a fundamentalist Christian; biology, watch out).

    The right, though, seems to not have gotten the news that even within the corporatized university structure, those awful things they don't like play a role in sustaining the status quo. You can trace the administrative rationales for speech codes and "diversity" from the development of meritocratic admissions policies after the Second World War.

    Thus the Neanderthal state legislators and dittoheaded sophomores who don't like POVs they don't share represent that odd element of old timey reaction cultivated since the 1970s. They are not like the local Rotarian haranguing other small businessmen about the fellow travellers at East Jesus State. They represent--on their side--the abandonment of liberal values loosely shared by educated elites since the Progressive Era and the attempt to create an "official" education, an abandonment that now suffuses the culture.

    All the alternative free speech documents in the world can't stop that. It's a fundamentally totalitarian mindset, part of a well-articulated, 35-year-old movement. It needs to be called that, and we need to restore at least some sense of the legitimacy of Enlightenment Reason and be ready to fight for it, tooth and nail, inside and outside the university.

    Maarja Krusten - 4/14/2005

    Interesting posting, Mr. McArthur-Self! I cannot comment on the freedom of speech issue, for reasons I'd rather not get into. (However, I can reach back to my undergraduate days during the Vietnam War and mention that I certainly was in the minority in being a member of Young Americans for Freedom, a tiny conservative group on the GWU campus in DC during 1969-1973!) But I found interesting your comment on collegiality at the high school at which you work. I, too, have been lucky to find much collegiality in the workplace outside academia.

    Although trained academically as an historian, I've worked outside academia my entire working life (thus far, I have put in 32 years in Federal service). For part of my career, I worked at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA was filled with highly educated people of various political persuasions--my friends and colleagues included Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and Libertarians. Yet I found the same collegiality, decency in interaction and ease of discourse as you seem to find in your workplace. That is not to say there were no problems at NARA, but they were due to other factors.

    I rarely see collegiality or ease of discourse on HNN. After a year of reading postings here, I still can't get used to some of the oneupmanship and outright cruelty, which is in marked contrast to the type of friendly debate I am used to. I'm not sure why the message boards here are so different in tone from what I've found in the workplace over the decades and what you seem to have been fortunate to find in your workplace. I read few blogs or boards so I am not an expert on their dynamics. (I do think a study of HNN postings would make a great project for a social scientist or communications expert some day, LOL.)

    Since my work experience in Federal service seems so different from that of most posters, I leave it to the rest of you to speculate on why some of HNN's postings have the vibes they do.

    Since you speculate on the difference between teaching in high school and teaching at the college level, I thought I would refer you to some comments posted recently on a blog, New Kid on the Hallway. Ralph Luker pointed readers to a blog entry there recently. In the comments, a writer named Profgrrrrl noted on April 10, 2005:

    "One of the things I didn't expect to happen in the transition was the sense of isolation that comes with being faculty. As a student, there were many others in the same boat. I'm in a department now that last tenured someone 15+ years ago ... and the 4 of us who are currently T-T are not bonded in any way. I wouldn't say that we're in competition (although that was true at my last job) but we also aren't supportive of each other, not like grad students tend to be in my experience. So weird to go from 1 of 10 or so incoming PhD students, joining a flood of 50+ others in the department to being the only person in my year, with most of my colleagues having experienced what I'm going through long long ago and under a totally different system."
    http://newkidonthehallway.typepad.com/new_kid_on_the_hallway/2005/04/from_student_to.html#comments )

    I don't know to what extent that reflects the academic work experiences that others have had. I rarely take the time to read academic blogs, especially since they provide little help and few insights on professional issues I face day to day.

    But, all in all, I am very glad I chose the career path I did, outside academia! I've worked with some wonderful people and seen some great personal and professional qualities displayed by Federal colleagues trained in history.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/14/2005

    Mr. Lederer, I am suggesting that many young conservatives look at the graduate school ordeal and the problemmatic job market and elect to do something else in life -- not that they are relegated to lower ranked institutions than they are qualified for. My colleague at Cliopatria, KC Johnson, has been a particularly important voice in decrying the declining numbers of hires in areas like constitutional, diplomatic, military, and political history -- areas that might be more likely to attract young conservative academics.

    John H. Lederer - 4/14/2005

    "Mr. Lederer, As you know, you cannot reason from effect to cause. I've said elsewhere in the discussion that there's a whole lot of evidence that many bright conservatives look at the graduate student ordeal, the grim job market for all candidates, and make a reasonable decision to go a different direction."

    Are you assuming that conservatives elect to teach at lower ranked institutions than they are qualified for?

    I don't want to oversell the study -- there are obvious questions about it.

    I personally suspect that a factor is that of area of study. I have the impression, for instance, that classical and military history, fields that I supect might be most attractive to conservatives, have been dimished in relative size to other areas at upper ranked unibversities over the last several decades.

    Don McArthur-Self - 4/14/2005

    I myself have been fortunate to have not run into extreme bias in my undergraduate and graduate studies (which largely concluded in 1992, so the atmosphere may have changed). However, the vast majority of my professors were - and are - indeed quite left-leaning, and I have seen how those preferences influence the tone of the classroom. Moreover, friends and colleagues have offered testimony of much more judgmental classrooms and instructors.

    It is fairly easy to see why, in an environment where to be conservative is to have one's ideas regularly held to ridicule, a student would opt to pursue further studies or employment in some other field.

    I have, on this site and elsewhere, attributed the problem to simple professionalism and decency. A teacher at any level should welcome diverse points of view and encourage respectful debate among his or her students, and should, rather than preaching a particular interpretation, encourage students to look at varying interpretations of events and draw their own conclusions from evidence.

    Professors who fail to do that are doing a gross disservice to their students and their profession.

    I work with 14 other highly-educated men and women in a very good public-high-school Social Science department. Two of us could be described as "conservative." None of us insists students reflect our viewpoints. All of us treat each other and our students with respect. We - liberals and conservatives alike - enjoy each other's company and can set aside political/philsophical disagreements in the interests of professional harmony and personal amity. And when we disagree - however sharply and passionately - we typically do so without resorting to personal denigration.

    Why is it that such a collegial model seems so sorely lacking in higher education? Most frustrated conservative students and their allies seem merely to want to be treated with dignity and to have their ideas discussed with some respect.

    Perhaps Mr. Horowitz and a few of his allies have ulterior motives. If so, they would represent a very small sub-group of complainants.

    The whole problem would go away, I think, if professors would be less strident, didactic, and exclusionary, and would respectfully welcome and and protect more open discussion in their classrooms and among their colleagues.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/13/2005

    Mr. Lederer, As you know, you cannot reason from effect to cause. I've said elsewhere in the discussion that there's a whole lot of evidence that many bright conservatives look at the graduate student ordeal, the grim job market for all candidates, and make a reasonable decision to go a different direction.

    John H. Lederer - 4/13/2005

    Cathy Young's take on the study and issue:


    Ralph E. Luker - 4/13/2005

    Mr. Adams, If the part of the article that is an attack on "speech codes" on campus were "needless", as you claim, how do you explain the existence of the "speech codes" in the first place? If the "Academic Bill of Rights" has not yet been enacted into law anywhere, how can I give you examples of how it had trodden on free speech rights? This discussion has been largely fruitless, as you suggest, but it is because you have dramatically confused what currently exists in campus law and what might yet be imposed upon that.

    Don Adams - 4/13/2005

    I have made 6 posts in this thread, the first 5 of which explicitly express opposition to both David Horowitz and limits on free inquiry. If you can explain how the same opposition expressed in my 6th post "repudiates" the earlier posts, then you are clever indeed.

    Actually, I believe I can do it for you. You have, from your very first post in this exchange, associated my criticism of your essay with support for Horowitz. It is a nice bit of Bush-think: either you are with us, or you are with the bad guys. It's too bad, because we are basically on the same side. I challenge your tactics, but not your objectives, so the fact that our exchange has largely become a series of barbs unrelated to the original issue is, to say no more, silly.

    You obviously reject my criticism, which is of course your privilege, so I will not bother to refine it or re-state it. What I will say is that however objectionable you find Horowitz or the ABR, you should be careful not to play into his hands. The issue of academic freedom is surely not high on the general public's list of concerns, but to the extent that it considers such things at all, I would suggest it is receptive to Horowitz's arguments. There IS an imbalance in academia, and an increasingly conservative electorate is not likely to take well to those it sees as defending the status quo. Whether or not you are actually doing so almost doesn't matter; it would be easy for a polemicist such as Horowitz to characterize you that way.

    John H. Lederer - 4/13/2005

    In regard to whether there is discrimination against conservatives in hiring or advancment on campus, there are many anecodtes but little data. Here is one preliminary study:


    I take such studies with much salt as attempts to control for factors when many factors are unknown are by their nature shaky.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/13/2005

    Mr. Lederer, There is considerable evidence that conservatives may do a lot of self-selecting out of the ordeal of graduate school followed by a very difficult job-market (one I assure you that is not guaranteed for any candidate, no matter how great a teacher or how fine a scholar she or he is likely to be and even if she or he has sterling liberal/Left biases). There is very little, if any, evidence that conservatives who do choose the graduate school path are then faced by discriminatory hiring practices. In fact, _none_ that I'm aware of. It may happen in rare cases -- cases so rare that they can't account for the imbalances you decry. I say that as someone who is, in some incarnations, a conservative and as someone who was drummed out of a difficult job market.

    John H. Lederer - 4/13/2005

    Isn't the societal importance of free speech dependent on having diversity of intellectual thought?

    We rely on freedom of speech to ensure that all viewpoints are heard. If universities largely exclude from their faculty those from one side of the political spectrum and then assert freedom of speech for the remainder isn't the assertion a bit vapid?

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/13/2005

    Mr. Adams, Instead of switching ground with every comment, re-read what you wrote to remind yourself of what you had said. No point in anyone responding to you if you repudiate yourself each time. Now that you've established your own contempt for Horowitz, I assume that you will repudiate that position in your next response to me. You'll simply have to forgive me if I failed to immediately recognize your authority in matters academic and historical.

    Don Adams - 4/13/2005

    I have not asked for evidence of the likely bad results of laws proscribing free speech. I have stipulated such results. What I have asked for is evidence of the threat posed by the ABR itself. There are none, of course, because by itself it is neither law, nor gives grounds for lawsuits. It is a statement of principles which has been around in various forms for decades, and with which even the authors of the article do not disagree. The fact that certain legislators are attempting to use it as the basis for bad laws is a related, but distinct matter. By needlessly conflating the two issues, the authors of this piece place themselves in opposition to both. This gives ideologues like Horowitz exactly the ammunition they need to portray those who oppose their legislation as radicals defending an increasingly unpopular status quo.

    Don Adams - 4/13/2005

    1) "Instead of responding to my questions, you accuse me of speculating about your motives."

    You have not asked me a single question prior to this post, and I did not accuse you of anything. I directly quoted your own characterization of my comments.

    2) "I've made my position on that (hiring conservatives) very clear elsewhere."

    You'll pardon me if I haven't read and catalogued all you have written on this topic.

    3) "Why do you refuse to discuss the merits of what Beito, Johnson, and I have said in this piece?"

    Which merits have I refused to discuss? The 7/9 of your article devoted to a needless explanation of the importance of free speech? (Were you aware that you were writing to an audience of historians and students of history?) The part devoted to denouncing a statement of principles with which you earlier agreed? The part devoted to a lawmaker's attempts to pass a law which would be summarily dismissed as unconstitutional? It seems to me that I have discussed every part of your article. I am sorry that my criticism has not sat well with you, but I stand by it. If Horowitz and his crowd become more than semi-amusing nuisances, it will be because mainstream academics give them the ammunition to do so. I see your article as just such a gift.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    Mr. Adams, You've missed the point entirely. You ask me to cite instances of abuse by law not yet enacted. Since the law is not yet enacted, I am not able to cite instances of its abuse. That seems simple and self-evident enough, doesn't it? Instead of responding to my questions, you accuse me of speculating about your motives. Frankly, I don't care what your motives are. I don't see anything to be gained by enacting laws that give students who have grievances about whether their biology professor is teaching them Intelligent Design, standing in law. You appear to want me to make an argument for hiring more conservatives. I've made my position about that very clear elsewhere. I'm in favor of having conservatives on college and university faculties. But why do you insist that that is the issue and why do you refuse to discuss the merits of what Beito, Johnson, and I have said in this piece?

    Jonathan Dresner - 4/12/2005

    The only way to provide "evidence" is to try it, and given the likely bad results, we in the professoriate are unwilling to take the risk. Informed consent, and all that...

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    Thank you, Mr. Heisler. I take that as a personal compliment.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    Whatever your judgment about contemporary American higher education, what Beito, Johnson, and I have said was not intended to address that complex of problems. It merely re-asserts the necessity of free speech in academic communities and points to internal and external threats to it. I do hope that when you criticize academic communities as unrepresentative of the mainstream that you will recall that they were never intended to be representative of the mainstream and demands that they become so remind me of Senator Hruska's defense of a nominee to the Supreme Court: mediocrity deserves to be represented there! I hope that when you berate inflating costs of higher education that you will wed that with attacks on the much higher rate of inflation by which we compensate executives in private corporations in the United States -- without regard to increased productivity, sales, management skills, etc.

    Charles Edward Heisler - 4/12/2005

    Ralph, having tort minded attorneys running around campus would be almost as bad as having Ward Churchill running around campus! Nope, I want no laws--I just want all the Politically Correct crowd to recognize that once again they have been busted. After all these years babbling about the wonders of "diversity" (want to have some fun, ask your students, as I have, to explain how 'diversity' as practiced, is a good thing.)I think these guys are pretty one way by not letting conservatives in.
    By and large these liberal Liberal Arts types are more intellectually inbred than a bunch of deep hollow hillbillies!

    John H. Lederer - 4/12/2005

    Not at all. It is a good step -- and yes I recognize the contradiction with Horowitz's code.

    In my opinion universities are headed for a train wreck.

    Regardless of how it came to be, they no longer are representative of the mainstream. Their price increases have exceeded inflation for twenty years -- cumulatively a vast increase. They have become more and more dependent on government support to maintain ever higher tutition. Meanwhile the quality of what they provide has declined. They have tolerated spokesmen ( a minority, but a very loud minority) whose views are loathesome to the public. They display obvious hypocrisy, and are increasingly seen as unfair.

    They are rapidly losing public support.

    Were they a government, we would vote the rascals out. They are not, and as a result pressure, absent reform, will continue to build. Its eventual outlet is probably going to be unhealthy for the country and higher education.

    Moreover, the probability of internal reform seems remote, in part because universities' have used their hiring system to exclude contrary views, and in part because, in a form of feudalism, status determines rights within the university.

    This is a bad situation. It needs good resolution.

    Don Adams - 4/12/2005

    I hardly know what to say. I have observed that you failed to provide evidence of the threat posed by the ABR, and your response is to charge me with an ideological agenda, with being against good education, and with seeking politcal control of thought. Speculating about my motives -- incorrectly, as it turns out -- does not seem like an example of the "civility" and "self-restraint" you suggest should govern academic pursuits.

    I'm sorry to report that your powers of discernment have let you down. I am opposed to any political or ideological control of academic inquiry, whether of the de facto sort currently imposed by the left or the de jure sort currently under consideration in Florida. Indeed, that is why I took the time to respond to your article in the first place. I share your basic concerns, but I believe you presented a weak argument. Most of your essay is devoted to posturing, and when you finally get around to giving us clear reasons for being concerned, you undermine your own position by criticizing a statement of principles with which you have already agreed. Moreover, as I noted in a response to Mr. Beito, you fail to even ackowledge the very real issue of which Horowitz has made so much hay -- the profound imbalance in the ideological composition of American universities. If you are in favor of true free speech, it is not enough to object to laws proposed by the right. You must also seek to combat the near hegemony of the left on campus. To fight only Horowitz is to align yourself with a status quo which is rightly seen as an equally serious impediment to open inquiry.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    I take it that you don't believe that the call for ending "speech codes" in the first half of the article you criticize is not, in your mind, " one of the practical ways in which universities can respond to their problem". Am I correct about that?

    Don Adams - 4/12/2005

    It's a fair point you make, that more rules are unlikely to create more freedom. The fact remains, however, that your basic assertion -- that the ABR poses an inherent threat to academic freedom -- remains unsubstantiated. The real problem outlined in your article is not the ABR, or even David Horowitz. Neither has the power to make law, or to influence public opinion to any great extent. (Horowitz recently spoke at Indiana University, and managed to fill only 350 of the 5000 seats in the auditorium). The truly threatening development is the consideration of laws such as the one you describe in Florida in which students can sue professors on academic grounds. Inveighing against such legislation makes sense; doing so against a statement of principles with which few disagree does not. Moreover, arguing against the ABR without even acknowledging the ideological imbalance which almost everyone agrees exists in academia makes it seem as though you are defending the imbalance. If, as you suggest in your post, you share my concern about this imbalance, then simply denouncing David Horowitz and the ABR is not enough. Real solutions which will create greater intellectual diversity must be developed, and real progress must be made. If the best those of us who oppose political control over thought can do is decry the ABR, the Horowitz and his fellow ideologues will have their way.

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    Mr. Adams, If you agree with the first part of the article, that is, that speech codes are a mistaken encoding of values which are best observed as a matter of civility and self restraint, then surely the second part of the article follows, as well. You demand examples of how the "Academic Bill of Rights" cripples free speech on campuses. It doesn't -- yet, because it hasn't yet been enacted as law. The article does cite examples of how it is intended to cripple effective teaching. The Florida legislation _is_ Horowitz's "ABR". If that's the direction in which you think American higher education ought to go, your ideology is driving an agenda in ways that have nothing to do with good education and everything to do with political control.

    David Timothy Beito - 4/12/2005

    I agree with you. The problems you identify are real. I am concerned, however, that the response of proposing more rules will only worsen the situation by adding another layer to the campus bureucracy. I would be much more sympathetic to Horowitz if he emphasized striking down restrictions rather than adding new ones. In my view, FIRE takes the best appraoch

    Don Adams - 4/12/2005

    I take your point, but your article, and others like it, decries the ABR as a threat to academic freedom in and of itself. I see no evidence that this is the case. I of course agree that legislation which gives students the right to sue professors on academic grounds is extremely dangerous, but that is a separate matter. Since even you and your co-authors describe the ABR's principles as "features of the professorate's assumed values," it seems to me that any attack on it is contradictory at best, damaging to your own cause at worst. That is to say, if you argue against a basically reasonable statement of principles, you leave yourself open to charges of unreasonablness and thereby weaken your credibility when arguing against more extreme practices.

    I would also remind you that the academic orthodoxy which clearly prevails on campuses all over America is no small matter. Students may or may not be being "brainwashed," as some like to claim, but there is no doubt that the academy has an overwhelmingly liberal bias. Even beyond the classroom, this has profound implications for research, hiring, promotion, and all other aspects of scholarship. Since, as has been noted elsewhere on this website, the very point of academic tenure was to promote diversity of thought, there is reason to be concerned about the uniformity of thought which has developed instead. Horowitz and his even more extreme associates may be promoting truly dangerous policies, but either the ABR, or something else like it, must be found to combat the ongoing loss of academic diversity.

    David Timothy Beito - 4/12/2005

    The problem is not so much the ABR (though there are problems with that too) but rather Horowitz's effort to turn it into a rightwing speech code that would regulate speech in the classroom. Here is what Horowitz said:

    The leading opponent of my bill is the American Association of University Professors, the oldest and largest organization of faculty members. The AAUP contends that the bill would restrict professors' free speech rights. It wouldn't. Professors can still express their political opinions, but outside the classroom. In the classroom, they must distinguish between their official responsibilities as teachers and their private rights as citizens."

    David Timothy Beito - 4/12/2005

    I don't "crave and idolize-DIVERSITY," whether ideological or biological. I do, crave and idolize MERIT, however. Unfortunately, the diversityites (ideological and biological) have turned their backs on that honorable idea.

    John H. Lederer - 4/12/2005

    "Is President Summers still in office? Probably even more firmly than before.

    Yes. Of course so are some of the teachers who were in China under Mao. They merely had to endure public humiliation, confess error, apologize, conform their thoughts to the dictated norms, and spend a few years in the paddy fields. Harvard, being a gentlemanly sort of place, doesn't require any time in the paddy fields.

    "Is the program at Columbia still under review?"

    Yes. I suspect that the program will remain under review pretty much indefinitely as that blocks actually doing much substantive.

    It is very difficult to see how academia will ever reform from internal forces. Like a country club that permits current members to blackball applicants it chooses members more and more like existing members. Problems no matter how obvious are met with responses of "what problem?" or "the university must resists outside forces intruding on its self governance".

    Instead of decrying the evils of state intrusion (which I suspect most support when it is a matter of the courts protecting faculty's academic freedom from attacks), suggest practical ways in which the universities can respond to their problem.

    Don Adams - 4/12/2005

    I find it remarkable that the authors of this article are unable to provide a single direct example of the threat posed by Horowitz' ABR. They have given us a review of the merits of free speech, and they have even attempted to link their concerns to the conduct of America's founders, but their claim that the ABR is "a function of right-wing attacks on academic communities" is wholly unsubstantiated. Indeed, they are 700 words into a 900 word article before they even attempt to offer a concrete instance of the threat it poses, and when they do, the best they can offer is breezy description of Florida legislation which may or may not be related to the ABR, but which is in any case a separate and distinct matter.

    Horowitz may be unpleasant, and he may be associated with other people and other efforts worthy of concern, but the either the ABR is a problem or it is not. If it is, the authors of this article have failed to provide any evidence. If, as appears to be the case, the real problem is that it is championed by people who support other policies which pose a genuine threat to academic freedom, then we should spend our time combatting those efforts.

    Maarja Krusten - 4/12/2005

    By coincidence, an "educational consultant" who works with families with college bound teenagers published in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section an article, "Hey, Profs, Come Back to Earth." See Steven Roy Goodman's opinion piece at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39174-2005Apr9.html (registration required).

    Goodman mentions the Columbia and Ward Churchill controversies in passing. He asserts that "With faculty and administrations leading the way, political correctness and posturing -- from both the left and right -- is reaching dizzying heights in the land of the ivory tower. And rising right along with it is the frustration of middle-class parents, who are growing increasingly resentful of paying sky-high tuition for colleges they see offering their kids a menu of questionable courses and politically absurd campus climates that detract from the quality of a university education."

    Goodwin believes that ". . . where it was once students who did the acting out, as they spread their intellectual and philosophical wings, now the professors and administrators are more likely to be playing politics -- and more and more Americans with college-age kids are getting fed up with it. In 18 years of in-the-trenches experience counseling kids on their college choices, I've never seen the unhappiness as widespread as it is today. If colleges don't tone down the politics, and figure out how to control ballooning costs, they run the risk of turning off enough American consumers that many campuses could marginalize themselves right out of existence.Colleges are having an ever-harder time making what they do comprehensible to the families footing the bills."

    He claims that parents of varying political persuasions have complained to him about this. Goodwin notes that "Our top universities were once widely respected -- not resented -- by the middle class."

    Click on the link above to read his piece, to which I refer you without comment on my own part. I'm not an expert on academia and I have no college bound children. Other current issues affect me more directly but I still follow these matters from the sidelines.

    The author is described as "Steve Goodman is a Washington-based educational consultant who advises college-bound students and their families in the United States and abroad."

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2005

    Mr. Heisler, Am I to understand that you believe that hiring quotas for conservatives must be embedded in law in order for such people to be hired? Am I to understand that you believe that it is important to give students standing to sue biology professors who fail to teach Intelligent Design as a scientific alternative to evolution? Is your enthusiasm for encoding the way you want things to be into law likely to change the way science actually does work? And would you give a conservative candidate for a teaching position preference over one who clearly has superior qualifications?

    Charles Edward Heisler - 4/12/2005

    Can't we simply see Horowitz's call for conservative voices in the classroom as another positive manifestation of the concept we all crave and idolize---DIVERSITY???
    Come ye praisers of all things diverse, we need your support on this one!

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2005

    Columbia and Harvard are not quasi-public. Is President Summers still in office? Probably even more firmly than before. Is the program at Columbia still under review? And the intense public scrutiny is likely to have a more benign effect than Horowitz's enthusiastic endorsement of state regulation of private institutions. His enthusiasm for expanded state regulation ought to be a clue unto you. He's no ally.

    John H. Lederer - 4/11/2005

    "Mr. Lederer, You have a touching confidence in the benign effects of increased state regulation of private institutions."

    Not at all. I dislike state regulation and believe it often misguided.

    However, the quasi-public institutions seem unable to reform themselves.

    Have you a suggestion as to how "informal committments" could be enforced?

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2005

    Mr. Lederer, You have a touching confidence in the benign effects of increased state regulation of private institutions.

    John H. Lederer - 4/11/2005

    I do not think that there would be any pressure for an "informal committment" to be written into law--were not the informal committment so dishonored.

    It seems difficult to argue that the interests of all are best served by leaving the problem to academia, if, for example, Columbia University's "investigation" of intimidation is representative, or the Harvard faculty's vote that they lack confidence in a President that can not reliably feign faith in academia's false shibboleths is indicative.

    David Timothy Beito - 4/11/2005

    That's "rightwing version of speech codes."

    David Timothy Beito - 4/11/2005

    The Academic Bill of Rights, at least interepreted by Horowitz, is not "unobjectionable and neutral." If Horowitz is to be believed it could lead to a leftwing version of speech codes. I don't want speech codes, left or right.

    While at times Horowitz sounds like a true blue believer in academic freedom, recently he has made worrisome statements that he wants to quash certain forms of speech by professors. Here is the quotation that concerns me:

    "The leading opponent of my bill is the American Association of University Professors, the oldest and largest organization of faculty members. The AAUP contends that the bill would restrict professors' free speech rights. It wouldn't. Professors can still express their political opinions, but outside the classroom. In the classroom, they must distinguish between their official responsibilities as teachers and their private rights as citizens."

    Gonzalo Rodriguez - 4/11/2005

    I am a PhD student right now. While the vast majority of the older generation of professors, who entered the academy in the 60s and 70s, pertain to the ossified and suspicious groupthink that many criticize, I remain optimistic. Democracies, by their nature, encourage questioning and criticism; as a result, the next generation of scholars (at least in my limited experience) are far more open-minded and willing to question convention than their professors.

    The older generation rode to pre-eminence on a wave of new methods (social history) that questioned previous standards and revolutionized the way we see history. It was, I feel, a positive development. But the world has changed, and the professors have not. (Why should they? They have tenure.) It will be up to the next generation to bring the universities back in touch with the real world. If we don't, I'm afraid the postmodern academy will simply continue to "deconstruct" itself into utter irrelevance.

    PS This doesn't mean the younger generation is more "conservative." They are more open-minded, able to look beyond the rigid intellectual structures that inhibit free inquiry nowadays. We can, perhaps, call them post-postmodern. I'm sure that in 30 years they, too, will be the guardians of an old, defunct intellectual order, and our students will supplant us. Is this how Progress works?

    Gonzalo Rodriguez - 4/11/2005

    Mr. Kislock the Third,

    Did you even read the article? I know it must feel good inside to caricature everyone who disagrees with you and call them stupid, but I don't think this is exactly the proper forum for that kind of stuff.

    Plus, the Bible strictly orders us against unsubstantiated generalizations and non-sequitors. And "bill o'really" (sic) also mentioned that it was all part of the Devil's plan against civilization. So let's just get back to the issue at hand. (Or am I violating your rights by challenging you?)

    Gonzalo Rodriguez - 4/11/2005

    "The AAUP has taken an strong stand against the so-called Academic Bill of Rights."

    It sure has. I find this somewhat silly, since the ABR steals much of its language from the AAUP charter. Is the AAUP against its own founding principles? Or is something else going on here?

    Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2005

    Mr. Lederer, What is strange about believing that informal commitments written into legal code become something other than what they were? You continue to imply support for Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights". I continue to suspect that it may be because you never met litigation that you didn't like.

    mark safranski - 4/11/2005

    "And I would urge all of us historians who want to do something more than just sign a petition to join the AAUP if you are not already a member and become active in the group. It's the only organization out that that represents ALL faculty members qua faculty."

    Perhaps if the AAUP had taken an equally strong stand to protect the free expression rights of students and cultivate tolerance of dissenting viewpoints the academic bill of rights would be a non-issue.

    Stephen Francis Kislock III - 4/11/2005

    I take it you Watch and believe Fox News and bill o'really and his peebody award?

    It is The Constitution and The Bill of Rights! Not some bible thumpting, god is on my side fox news watcher!

    John H. Lederer - 4/11/2005

    Is the reasoning that you construct something like this:

    1.The Academic Bill of Rights is an unobjectionable and neutral restatement of the professorate's good values.

    2. It would mostly be used by right wingers against (presumably liberal) academic communities.

    Therefore, it is a bad thing that should be opposed.

    David Timothy Beito - 4/11/2005

    I hate to disagree with you but the AAUP has a very spotty record on academic freedom. It has failed completely to challenge speech codes (probably the leading threat to academic freedom today). T

    I'm afraid another membership organization is needed which will challenge threats to academic freedom across-the-board. At present, the only group (unfortunately non-membership) which does this is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (www.thefire.org).

    Ellen Schrecker - 4/11/2005

    It is useful at a time like the present to recall that there already is an organization out there dedicated to the preservation of academic freedom -- The American Association of University Professors. The AAUP has taken an strong stand against the so-called Academic Bill of Rights. It can be accessed on the AAUP's website, www.aaup.org. And I would urge all of us historians who want to do something more than just sign a petition to join the AAUP if you are not already a member and become active in the group. It's the only organization out that that represents ALL faculty members qua faculty. It needs you and you need it.

    dick thompson - 4/11/2005

    Amazing how this president has gone out of his way not to demonize the Muslims or the jews or any other religion but the Academy charges him with denying freedom of religion.

    Amazing that even with all the so-called evils of the Patriot Act that people can protest to the point of advocating the military privates kill their NCO's and officers and no one stops them.

    Amazing that the press can say anything it wants and no one will stop them but if someone criticizes the press then suddenly it is no longer free. The press during the last campaign consistently lied to the people and was so biased that even some members of the press noticed it and commented on it but no one forced them not to report what they wanted.

    Amazing that the press can say anything it wants even to the point of giving awards to photographers who hand propaganda to the enemy and reporters can write anything they want. Not one forces the press to report what is actually going on that is complimentary to the administration yet supposedly the press is not free.

    Amazing that they can peacefully assemble all over the place protesting the war and no one tries to stop them. The only time anyone tries to stop the assembling is when it is no longer peaceful.

    The petition the government for redress of grievances is a stumper. Lord knows what he has in mind on that one.

    As to the war on terrorism, since the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ukraine, Kyrghizstan and others are now more free and fighting the terrorists and peermitting elections and Indonesia is now working to stop the terrorism there and we have gone 3 and a half years with no terrorism, this seems to me to be an attempt to force the government to toe the LLL line or else. Seems to me that pot calling the kettle black fits this scenario.

    When the LLL and the Academy start to realize that there are whole lot of people who disagree with LLL point of view and wish to speak their minds, then the LLL and the Academy suddenly start to find a lot of freedoms that need to be abridged and suddenly equate disagreement with their point of view to be taking away the rights of the LLL and the Academy. Look at all the complaints about the Dixie Chicks not being able to speak out when they already did. The complaint was when people decided to stop buying their product. That supposedly kept them from exercising freedom of speech. The funny thing was that it was the exercise of the rights of the listeners not to be lectured to by entertainers that the LLL and the Academy wanted to abridge. Guess the shoe didn't fit them so well after all.

    David Timothy Beito - 4/11/2005

    Actually, a left/right online petition is now in the works. As to a more formal organization, I'm all for the idea. Do you have any any suggestions.

    Jerry Carroll - 4/11/2005

    This appears to be a necessary corective to the overwhelming liberal bias of the professoriate and its desire to compress opinion into a straight jacket, one of whose characteristics is political correctness. How many decades of academic abuse have gone by before this countervailing remedy became necessary? You can also look now for parents to shop for diversity of thought as they are looking for colleges. The genie is out of the bottle.

    Stephen Francis Kislock III - 4/11/2005

    Freedom of Religion, as long as you are one of Them!
    Freedom of Speech, as long as You do Not Speak Evil that is Tell the Truth!
    Freedom of the Press, as long as the Press Toes the Neo-Conservative Line!
    Peaceful Assemble, as long as You do Not Protest Against the Government/Administration!
    Petition the Government for redress of Grievances, Forget it, this Government/Administration does not Make any Mistakes.
    The war on Terrorism/US Citizens, will Claim many Innocent Americans, But You are just Collateral Damage, for the Greater Glory of the Empire!

    Gary Ostrower - 4/11/2005

    The authors of this piece call for an alliance of left and right to defend free speech. Exactly right. But do they expect others to organize that alliance? I'd like to see them begin the process of translating words into deeds, of turning their talk into action.