A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, May 02, 2005

Oh THAT Ivory Tower: A roundup

I'll stop beating on the MSM for a minute so I can beat on political correctness in academia-- a malady which just might be the death nell for open discussion in the one place where open discussion is supposed to be of paramount importance. Of particular interest is this case, at Southern Illinois University, where a history professor is under fire from both his dean and his colleagues for an optional handout that contains a link to site that some consider to be reactionary and anti-semitic. Follow all of that? On the plus side, it seems that the majority of the student body is supporting Professor Bean. Sadly, a number of his colleagues are not.

This is also cause for concern, as I think the comments of the President of Hope College, James Bultman, are of much greater concern than those of Larry Summers. Still, the College does need to raise money, so the question becomes, as it so often does, where do you draw the line in the sand on what is, and isn't, acceptable. Many, myself included, have argued that Ward Churchill's comments were not only inflammatory but also unscholarly, and therefore not worthy of defense. De La Torre's comments aren't as inflammatory, but they are still controversial-- particularly at a conservative, christian college-- so did he step over that line? And should there be a line at all? Tenure was developed to ensure that faculty could and would explore the limits of acceptable research and discourse, and while it may be one of those institutions, like labor unions, which has largely served it's purpsoe and should be retired, still we need to ensure that voices aren't silenced merely because what they say is unpopular with a particular powerful constituency.

For added interest, check out this situation. It does seem to me that Finn was being pretty petty about the whole thing, and the non-renewal of Bracey's contract seems a bit suspect. Still, in hard budget times, it is the part-time staff that get the axe first-- a side effect of tenure. Since it is nearly impossible to fire tenured faculty, if cuts need to be made, it's the untenured folks that get whacked. I'll keep you posted to see if there is any more on this one.

But I've saved the best for last. The last two cases involve the Israel/Palestine conflict and Middle-Eastern studies, so of course they are chocful of controversy. First, lets look at Princeton's potential hire of Rashid Khalidi, a pro-Palestinian professor who nonetheless seems to have excellent credentials (though the fact that Juan Cole supports him would be a big strike against for me-- I find Mr. Cole to be tedious and galling at the same time). Given the current climate in the Middle East, with the recent Iraqi elections, more elections in Afghanistan and the success of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, Khalidi's perspectives on the Iraq war, from last year, seem to be completely off the mark. So, maybe he should be hired as a history professor rather than an endowed chair of a prestigious political science/cultural studies center?

Finally, we have Great Britain, where teachers are actually boycotting Israeli universities because a group of Palestinian academics asked them to do so. So, it appears that academia will support Ward Churchill's right to express his opinion that the U.S. had it comin', but don't even think about offending the Palestinians. Poor things are delicate flowers, you know.

Just an interesting grab bag of things going on in the Ivory Tower. I think I'll go back to beating up on the MSM tomorrow. Plus, some more thoughts on the importance of records.


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