20 Feb 2014

Academic Freedom Under Question at Elite Universities

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Sandra Y.L. Korn, no liberal she, (who is already contributing to the Nation, as an undergraduate at Harvard) editorialized recently in the Harvard Crimson against academic freedom.

[T]he liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.

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Meanwhile at Swarthmore:

Robert George ‘77 and Cornel West’s [appearance] on Monday, hosted by the Institute for the Liberal Arts, culminated a campus-wide discussion on the meaning of discourse at Swarthmore. The Princeton professors, known for their friendship despite of their strongly opposing viewpoints, intended to build community and discuss questions like “What does it mean to communicate across differences regarding what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong?’”

The event was expected by many to be controversial, with rumors of student-led protest in the form of a boycott of the event or a rally after the collection, but no such protest occurred during the collection. Prior to the event, many students voiced concerns with the College’s choice of speaker in George, who is known for his strong opposition to abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage. Some queer students attended the event wearing shirts that read “Beneath Human Dignity,” a reference to a George quote in National Review magazine about the New York gay marriage decision in June 2011. Students also created a zine which opposed tolerance of George’s viewpoints, stating that by doing so, we would be “condoning homophobia.”

After the talk, many students expressed dissatisfaction with the event, saying it did not accomplish any meaningful community-building or address substantive issues.

“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society. We should not be conceding to the dominant culture by saying that the so-called “progressive left” is marginalizing the conservative,” Erin Ching ‘16 said.

Really old people like myself can remember the radical left’s adroit use of the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the early 1960s. Allowing outside agitators representing the extreme left to recruit, propagandize, and proselytize on campus was, way back then, a vital issue of “free speech.”

Now, fifty years and a Gramscian long march later, the radical left effectively controls all our elite universities and the discussion of whether there is any real value in free speech, academic freedom, or diversity of opinion is now on the table.

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3 Feedbacks on "Academic Freedom Under Question at Elite Universities"

Paul

What a collection of grotty little totalitarians.



GoneWithTheWind

“When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.”

This won’t insure more justice but it will cause more “oppression”. That is anything you don’t want the university to deal with would be labeled as promoting or justifying opression. Joesph Goebbels would be so proud of this young liberal.



Mark 30339

“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”

Splendid logic. Sounds a little like insisting that we have to submit to the orthodoxy before its contents can be revealed to us.

Robert George is, by the way, brilliant, sensible, compassionate and quite compelling — so the keepers of orthodoxy have to smear, marginalize, and if possible, silence him like he was some kind of Weather Underground terrorist. (But I forget, under the logic in vogue today, a history as such a terrorist is no vice — it’s a virtue.).



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