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January 31, 2005

Ward of the State U - III

Regarding the excrable Ward Churchill, whose exploits in academic rigor and inquiry have been discussed here, and here, more people are weighing in, some in postings I didn't have time to read before writing here.

David Harsanyi brings an appropriate sense of moral outrage to the question:

The problem is, as with all tenured professors, Churchill doesn't have to answer for his actions.

That brings us to a delicate matter: How do we balance the need to protect diversity and academic freedom with the need to protect impressionable students from hate-filled ideologues?

I'm not sure that students are so delicate they need to be protected from the likes of Ward Churchill. I do wonder, though, why the university is so eager to protect Churchill.

So does Paul Campos. He posits a hypothetical response from an academia with backbone:

"To compare the victims of the 9/11 massacre to one of the chief architects of the Holocaust is both intellectually bankrupt and morally depraved. To do so in a published essay, and to repeat this opinion to the media, after being asked whether he wishes to reconsider it, calls into question the author's fitness to continue as a member of this university's faculty.

"Members of our faculty should keep in mind that a grant of tenure is not a guarantee of perpetual employment. Tenure protects against dismissal without cause; but professional incompetence and moral depravity are both sufficient grounds for firing tenured faculty.

And Roger Kimball brings up the Case of David Irving, which also came up in my discussion with Ms. Kent:

But the truth is that freedom of speech, like all human freedoms, thrives only when it is limited. The law recognizes this by limiting free speech--shouting "Fire!" is a crowded theater is one proverbial instance.


I think Shils was right. Colleges and universities are institutions dedicated to the pursuit and transmission of the truth. Because the truth is often hard to establish and only imperfectly grasped, encouraging real intellectual diversity on important issues is a salutary part of the business of liberal education. But that does not mean that anyone can say anything he likes and have it accepted as a legitimate point of view. The case of Ward Churchill dramatizes the issue. It is, I believe, analogous to the case of the Holocaust deniers.

In this last case, you really should Read The Whole Thing.

In any event, the university's Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting for the sort of action that academics do best: be appalled.

UPDATE: Ironically, just as the Ward Churchill controversy was afoot, FrontPage Mag published "The Susan Rosenberg Debate," on Hamilton's previous struggle with morality, by Jonathan Rick, a senior at Hamilton.

Posted by joshuasharf at January 31, 2005 08:46 AM | TrackBack

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