Free Speech And Diversity

We are back from vacation and catching up on a variety of things.  One is David French’s excellent article at NRO recognizing that free speech empowers marginalized groups rather than the opposite.  Do read it all but here is the paragraph that is crux of it:

The true tension in the First Amendment isn’t between freedom and diversity or freedom and inclusion. History teaches us that the tension is between freedom and power. Free speech, by its very nature, leads to questioning, debate, and — eventually — accountability.

David is exactly right.  What we see at almost all universities is that the power is on the left and they want to keep it.  David explains and we agree that the best way to keep power is to limit speech.  The right agrees on the usefulness of such a strategy.


Appropriate Comments And Not

Some time ago The Donald stirred the pot by commenting on the kneelers in the NFL.  He said:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

The Donald is right.  People would love it.  We are not big fans of these comments in the manner of The Donald’s immediate predecessor but we recognize the nature of politics.  We would like presidents to be more presidential but the events of the last 25 years have argued against it.

Meanwhile, in India, Vidhi Doshi in the WaPo reports:

The release of a highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India’s governing party offered a bounty of $1.5 million for the heads of the movie’s star and director amid outcry that the film distorted Hindu legend.

Others have threatened to break the legs of the actor who plays the Muslim villain.  Two things:  First, and obviously, the comments of The Donald and the Indian politician are entirely different.  It does’t matter if the latter’s speech constitutes fighting words or not.  This is not a legal issue.  It is an issue of appropriate behavior.  The Donald is OK and the other is not.

The other point is how the WaPo categorized this outbreak of incivility.  Was it intolerance, racism, or something else?  Here is what they said:

The violent reaction to the film’s release further suggests a groundswell of conservatism in Modi’s India.

It appears that conservatism is consistent with calling for cutting off heads and breaking legs.  We are not sure how Vidhi came to that conclusion.  We would be interested to hear Vidhi’s description of conservatism.

Tenure And Academic Freedom

Robert Steinbuch and Joshua Silverstein have a call to arms at the Martin Center to protect academic freedom in Arkansas.  We are unconvinced by their arguments.  It is entirely possible that we should be worried about what is going on in the the Natural Sate [really] but we are not convinced.

Bob and Josh start out with:

That threat, however, is of a type [tenure rules] that normally doesn’t receive public attention. The press typically writes about speech codes and political interference with research on controversial subjects, but as serious as those threats are, they are nothing compared to that posed by central administrators.

We are not convinced.  The ability of central administration to influence decisions on faculty and curriculum varies from school to school but it is almost always limited.  Shortly thereafter they say:

The purpose of academic freedom is to protect freedom of speech, thought, and expression in the university setting so that learning and knowledge can flourish. Tenure is the primary mechanism by which academic freedom is ensured. It prohibits the termination of faculty for any reason that could plausibly be used to stifle academic speech and inquiry. These protections recognize the critical role of professors as truth-finders and truth-tellers.

Well, particularly with respect to the bold part, no.  The tenure decision is largely made by faculty with variations from school to school.  Negative tenure decisions have been made by faculty to stifle academic speech and inquiry.  Such decisions are largely made by the faculty.  Once a faculty member has been tenured they can only be removed for cause.  Incompetence is not a cause.  It is a challenge to write rules that help weed out incompetence without jeopardizing academic freedom but one we need to consider.

Another way to think about it is the last sentence in the second quote.  Are professors regarded as truth-finders and truth-tellers?  Largely no.  Later they say:

Unfortunately, in recent decades some university administrators have engaged in an all-out assault on academic freedom by seeking to (1) replace outspoken full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts, and (2) gut the rules governing academic freedom and tenure.

There are more part-timers [but that might be due to for-profit schools] but we are unconvinced that the full-time faculty is outspoken and the part-timers are not.  It could be that the administration can do something about part-timers and this is why we see more examples of them.

They cite some reasonable issues about the proposed rules.  They also suggest some silly stuff like it will hurt recruiting.  We have been involved in recruiting faculty for decades.  We thought of tenure process as a selling point for our school but nobody was ever convinced by our arguments.  Location, fit, and money are a the driving forces in faculty decisions.  Tenured deadwood is a big problem with fit in recruiting because the deadwood won’t change courses to accommodate new faculty and can’t help them with research.

Tenure as currently constituted is not getting us to faculty who are truth-tellers and truth-finders.  As conservatives we need to be reluctant to change established systems.  But in this case the system is highly ineffective in reaching goals.  Many folks have reminded us that “it” can always get worse and measured change makes sense.  Although Bob and Josh approvingly reference an overwrought article in Slate, Wisconsin is not a bad model.


Conservative Faculty

At least some students at Georgetown University want more conservative faculty.  Mark Judge at Acculturated (also published on NRO) reports on an editorial in the official student newspaper, the Hoya:

Instead, they make a straightforward case that the dearth of conservative professors at Georgetown is leaving students unprepared for the genuine diversity—that is, the diversity of thought—that is part of the real world. Georgetown’s homogeneity, they argue, is leading to an atrophying of their skills for debate and reasoned argument. In other words, without conservatives, they have no one to test their ideas against.

They also review the evidence that that there are fewer conservative faculty members.  The Hoya, Mark, and NRO are all correct to say this but they miss the big structural problems that make diversifying faculty so hard.  The structural problems might be organized as graduating, teaching, and publishing.

Most faculty positions require a terminal degree, usually a Ph.D., and that is what we mean by graduating.  To get a terminal degree you write a thesis and that is largely controlled by your senior professor.  Graduating provides a bigger challenge if you are a conservative because few of those senior professors are.

Faculty members need to teach.  The problem is that the curriculum is controlled by folks who are not conservatives.  Thus we have Peace Studies

Sidebar: Here is the search for Peace Studies:
It is one example of how new leftist programs are crowding out traditional, and often, more conservative programs.  End Sidebar.

and many otherprograms that designed by and staffed by the Left.  We talked to a military historian (we don’t know if he was a conservative but we suspect it) who said he had to leave because there was nothing for him to teach.  One data point is limited evidence but all of the programs suggest the problem more strongly.

Publishing is one of the things faculty need to do to get promoted.  Specifically, they need to publish at a level appropriate for their school.  Major programs require “A hits” while comprehensives like our school are less impressed by prestige but require that you be active in reasonable journals.  It is our judgment that leftist oriented journals have flourished to provide more outlets for them.  We were happy to see them (leftists) succeed because it was good for the department and the college.  There have been a couple of instances where folks have got a joke article published in those journals.  So there is concern about the intellectual quality of such journals but more troubling is the report by Andy Ngo in Quillette about an article, The Case For Colonialism, by associate professor Bruce Gilley in Third World Quarterly (TWQ).  It seems to us that the author was pointing out the obvious when:

[Bruce] argues that nations who embraced and built on their Western colonial legacy, for example, Singapore, have fared better than those who followed anti-colonial nationalist ideologies.

Instead, Bruce created a firestorm.  There were 17,000 signatures from two petitions and 15 resignations from the TWQ editorial board.  Seriously! You must read the whole thing.  Andy leads with the most astonishing part:

An academic journal [TWQ]l that published a controversial article making a case for Western colonialism has withdrawn the piece after its editor received “serious and credible threats” of violence.

Bruce is lucky to be an associate professor as associate usually indicates tenure, but he might remain one for a long time as publications will be hard to come by.

Bruce’s situation is exactly why conservatives are not drawn to academia and exactly why it is difficult for them to survive.  The Hoya is right about the need for diversity but it will take more than student editorials to bring more conservatives into the faculty ranks.


Due Process And Academics

Daniel Henninger discusses how the Trump administration through Betsy DeVos have stopped the attempt of the previous administration to end due process for people accused of rape at universities.  He asks the crucial question:

One has to ask: How in 2011 did this rule roll out of the Obama Education Department and become the law of the land in academia without so much as a peep of outrage from them or the American press?  [Emphasis added]

We often ask about them, academics, without much success.  Why did we as academics give the rights of free people away?  It is easy to see why we have no political clout when we fail to do what we are trained to do.  We are trained to think and reason about events.  Yet when this outrage happened generally we were elsewhere.  Daniel only slightly overstates the case when he says that there wasn’t a peep of outrage.

Update/Sidebar: Justin Dyer, from the much maleigned University of Missouri, makes a spirited defense of Scott Yenor at Boise State.  It is about the right to approach cultural issues academically rather than rape but it is a rare example of two academics being serious despite the pressure applied to them by administrators and others.  As Justin concludes: “The intellectual winds blowing in Idaho are ominous.”  End Update/Sidebar.

Thus, we, academics, are taken for granted by the left and properly not respected by the right.  We deserve our fate in the state legislatures.

Never Sorry On The Left

Jim Geraghty in The Morning Jolt provides a summary showing how free speech exists for the Left.  He reports:

A lot of right-of-center sports fans don’t particularly like Jamele Hill, the co-host of the 6 p.m. Sportscenter on ESPN, who tweeted Monday that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
Late last night, she issued the statement: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.”

Think about how everyone spent eight years criticizing any mild comment about The Donald’s immediate predecessor.  Mentioning his middle name was verboten.  Now we have The Donald being accused of not just a being racist but a white supremacist surrounded by other white supremacists.  We would like to know who Jamele thinks they are.  Perhaps it is Betsy DeVos who is helping to reinstate due process at colleges for folks accused of rape and provide educational opportunities for inner city children.

Then there is Jamele’s statement.  It sure isn’t an apology.  We’re unsure as to why she thinks they painted ESPN in an unfair light.  She should show her love for ESPN because they didn’t fire her.  We don’t want Jamele fired but we didn’t want Curt Schilling fired either.  After that ESPN said:

ESPN is an inclusive company,” ESPN said in a statement. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

ESPN can fire folks as they see fit.  We don’t want to boycott them but their programming is less interesting lately so we watch less of it and rarely visit their website.  We would like them and the press to have some consistency in these situations but that isn’t going to happen.  Jamele deserves the same as Curt under ESPN’s criteria.  We don’t have a solution but it is easy to see why they are in financial trouble and perhaps the market will provide that solution.  Insulting half your audience is never a good idea for a mass marketer.  Doing it at a time when it is easy to cut the cord seems like bad business.  It will take the market awhile but ESPN and Disney will get a response for their behavior.  We do love markets.

Profile In Courage

Aaron Hedlund has an article on conservative tax reform at NRO.  Two interrelated facts make the article notable.  First, Aaron is an assistant professor.  Typically, assistant professor denotes somebody without tenure.  At most schools, but not ours, tenure and promotion to associate professor are linked.  The second fact is that he is at the University of Missouri- Columbia.  Yes, that University of Missouri campus.

Aaron shows real courage to come out and say:

Finally, Republicans must take the social-justice fight to the Democrats. Liberals love discussions of “tax fairness” because it gives them a platform to divide Americans and to engage in class warfare. Democrats believe that collective society has a moral claim to every American’s income, and they would empower politicians to determine how much money somebody should be allowed to earn.

Do read the whole thing.  It is a good overview of what needs to be done.  The problem is that tax reform, like other political problems, will come down to difficult choices.  Are you willing to only reduce corporate rates and leave individuals alone? There will be choices and we need to recognize what is a debate and what is an actual choice.  We won’t get everything but we should argue like Aaron suggests.

His courage shows that universities are not quite the monolithic bastions of left that many think.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that he has risked his career by coming out.  It is good for universities in general and particularly his university to show everyone the diversity that exists.