Bernstein in LA Times: Universities as Base for Political Activism

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Professor David Bernstein warns that defending the values of scholarship and open debate against authoritarian political correctness is the key to preserving true academic freedom in our universities.

Citing controversy over the deanship at the new UC Irvine law school as an example of a rare victory for academic freedom and 1st Amendment values, Bernstein examines the ways in which university faculty have come to see their primary mission as promoting a political agenda, as opposed to advancing human knowledge.

What about Larry? Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2007. By David E. Bernstein.

"Entire academic departments are often overtly ideological and politicized, even at schools not normally thought of as hotbeds of activism. Loyola Marymount's women's studies department, for example, proclaims as its mission 'to call attention to the androcentric nature of society, propose alternatives and strategies that honor women's human rights, and promote a vision of society where gender hierarchy, as well as other forms of social injustice, are eliminated.' In universities across the United States, conservative scholars are about as welcome, and as rare, in women's studies programs as Nazis in B'nai B'rith.

"Students also suffer from academic intolerance. Undergraduates frequently report to researchers that they feel intimidated into endorsing the political positions advanced by their professors. Many U.S. universities, though banned by the courts from enacting overt 'speech codes,' nevertheless enforce severe restrictions on freedom of expression under the guise of 'anti-harassment' policies. UC Santa Cruz, for example, bans any speech or writing that 'maligns another individual or group of individuals on the basis of age, creed, ethnicity, race, gender, gender identity, physical ability, political views, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or other differences.'

"Primarily because of such policies, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit that promotes civil liberties in higher education, has ranked 16 of the 19 California state colleges it measured 'red' -- the lowest rank -- for freedom of expression.

"Students who criticize the wisdom, utility or morality of the massive racial preferences prevalent in university admissions are especially likely to face hostility from the powers that be. University administrators at many campuses, including UC Irvine, have shut down satirical 'affirmative action bake sales,' at which customers are charged differing amounts based on their race or sex. Only the fear of lawsuits keeps such censorship somewhat in check.

"The Chemerinsky episode, disturbing though it was, should not distract us from the primary challenge facing academic freedom in American universities: the rise of an academic far-left establishment that seeks to use universities as a base for political activism, and is perfectly willing to violate accepted standards of academic freedom to achieve that goal. Anyone concerned with the future of American higher education has the duty to defend the values of scholarship and open debate against authoritarian political correctness. Unfortunately, by disinviting Summers, the UC regents failed miserably."

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