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God Forbid that a University President Should Condemn Bigoted, Dangerous, Oppressive Political Leaders

-- especially when that coincides with the Bush Administration's views. Here's statement from 70 Columbia professors:

We speak for a growing number of faculty members at Columbia University who believe that President Bollinger has failed to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom. Academic freedom lies at the heart of what we do as faculty members: teach, generate new knowledge, and sustain the critical capacities of the society at large. It encompasses, among other values, the autonomy of the University in the face of outside threats and pressures, a determining role for faculty in the governance of the University and especially in the shaping of its research and teaching programs, the insulation of tenure and promotion decisions from outside interests, and the creation of an environment that enables the fullest and freest exchange of ideas. The events of the past few years have created a crisis of confidence in the central administration's willingness to defend these principles.

We note, in particular, the following issues:

1) In the face of considerable efforts by outside groups over the past few years to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught on campus, the administration has failed to make unequivocally clear that such interventions will not be tolerated. When outside groups attempted to sway tenure decisions, the President of Barnard issued a forthright statement rejecting such efforts; the President of Columbia has failed to do so.

2) Decisions on key issues like the "globalization" of the university, the establishment of satellite campuses in other countries, the enlarged size of the undergraduate student body, the reduction in the size of the graduate student body, the hosting of controversial speakers, the relative diminution of the humanities, and other issues at the heart of the university's mandate, are made with no apparent consultation with faculty. We learn about these decisions only when they are announced after the fact.

3) The president's address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad's visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president's introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration's war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.

4) In the name of the University, the president has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable.

We believe that the time has come for the faculty to reassert its commitment to academic freedom and University autonomy, and for the President to make it clear that the administration will no longer compromise these principles or tolerate interference with them.

Signed:

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Qais Al-Awqati, Paul Anderer, Mark Anderson, Gil Anidjar, Zainab Bahrani, Akeel Bilgrami, Richard Billows, Elizabeth Blackmar, Partha Chatterjee, Lewis Cole, Jonathan Cole, Elaine Combs-Schilling, Susan Crane, Jonathan Crary, Julie Crawford, Hamid Dabashi, Patricia Dailey, Tom DiPrete, Brent Edwards, Eric Foner, Aaron Fox, Katherine Franke, Victoria de Grazia, Page Fortuna, Steven Gregory, William Harris, Andreas Huyssen, Rashid Khalidi, Alice Kessler-Harris, Marilyn Ivy, Brian Larkin, Lydia Liu, Sylvère Lotringer, Mahmood Mamdani, Peter Marcuse, Reinhold Martin, Mark Mazower, Mary McLeod, Brinkley Messick, Rosalind Morris, Keith Moxey, Frances Negron-Muntaner, Mae Ngai, Bob O'Meally, Neni Panourgia, John Pemberton, Richard Peña, Julie Peters, Pablo Piccato, Sheldon Pollock, Elizabeth Povinelli, Wayne Proudfoot, Bruce Robbins, David Rosner, George Saliba, James Schamus, David Scott, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Mark Strand, Paul Strohm, Michael Taussig, Kendall Thomas, Nadia Urbinati, Marc van de Mieroop, Karen van Dyck, Dorothea von Mücke, Gauri Viswanathan, Gwendolyn Wright

My question: Say that a Columbia department sponsored a forum, to which it invited a virulently homophobic, ethnically bigoted political leader — who was also big on using the power of government to suppress dissent — on the quite plausible theory that he's an important leader and it's valuable for Columbia students to learn about such people. Imagine someone like David Duke, perhaps, only ideologically worse and more powerful. And say a University official forcefully but substantively criticized this leader's speech at this forum, while of course allowing the leader to talk.

Do you think these Columbia faculty would or should condemn the University official's behavior? Oh, wait, that's exactly what happened here, except the person wasn't named David Duke.

Or would the faculty only condemn the University official's speech if the speech had the political effect of lending some support to a separate political cause (the war in Iraq, not criticism of Iran's human rights record and foreign policy), which is "a position anathema to many in the University community"? Would they have instead praised the official's speech if it advanced some separate political clause that was beloved by many in the University community? If so, then what does their criticism have to do with "academic freedom," as opposed to politics?

UPDATE: I should give the devil his due; as a commenter suggested, I got carried away in my original title and labeled Ahmadinejad a "dictator" — that was inaccurate, since he is not a solo ruler, though his government does repress domestic dissenters. My apologies for the error; I believe my correction doesn't materially change my analysis.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. 61 Columbia Professors Dissent
  2. God Forbid that a University President Should Condemn Bigoted, Dangerous, Oppressive Political Leaders
Floridan:
I think that President Bollinger comments in introducing Ahmadinejad were not productive. Better that he had introduced him in a non-commental manner and saved the critique for a post-speech moment.

Bollinger was grandstanding and playing to the university's donors. His introduction provided no substance to the event.
11.16.2007 3:50pm
Cato:

One can only be homophobic if there is a possibility that they might actually meet a gay. Because there are none in Iran, the speaker was not homophobic. Similarly, one can only be a rascist if they come from a society that seeks to be color-blind, at least with regard to the rights of its citizens. When a society is overtly rascist, no one in it is: they are merely good citizens. Only Americans, the English, Australians, and especially Israelis can truly be rascist.
11.16.2007 3:51pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Floridan, way to dodge the issue raised.

And why would it be better post-speech? Would the criticism not be that he stabbed Ahmadinejad in the back, attacking him without giving him a chance to respond?

When protesters sought to forcibly prevent the leader of the Minute Men project from speaking, did these faculty stand up for his right to speak? For the importance of hearing THOSE views as well? Of course not. It's amazing what passes for a good education these days. They are breath-takingly blind to their own hypocrisy.
11.16.2007 3:56pm
stevesturm:
The president's introductory remarks... allied the University with the Bush administration's war in Iraq
So, condemning someone who calls for elimination of Israel has what to do with the war in Iraq?
11.16.2007 4:00pm
John (mail):
Eugene, Eugene....

Criticizing the asymmetry in what is allowable in academia is so... passe.

No, the lefto-idiots are not going to go away through argument and reason. So what will work?

That would be a good post.
11.16.2007 4:00pm
sbron:
I am fanatically in favor of freedom of speech. But I am still bothered about the invitation to Ahmadinejad from Columbia. The problem is that he has threatened to destroy an ally of the United States, namely Israel. Thus he is also an enemy of the U.S. and perhaps he should have not been even admitted into the country for this reason.

Assume that a foreign leader had threatened to destroy Mexico or Canada (also allies of the U.S. which we would certainly defend if attacked.)Would Columbia have still invited him or her? Would a leader who repeatedly demanded that Mexico/Canada be moved or wiped off the map be defended by the Columbia faculty?
11.16.2007 4:02pm
Russ (mail):
One would think that out of all the things done, they would have applauded this. Iran is homophobic, racist(try being a non-Persian over there), theocratic, and oppresses women. If there was ANY society on Earth for liberals to condemn, it was this one.

Oh, I forgot - Iran's President opposes President Bush, so that makes him okay.
11.16.2007 4:02pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I suppose it would be more accurate to say there are no openly gay persons living in Iran...

I just wonder if they would have invited an oppressive, bigoted, dangerous pro-American dictator.
11.16.2007 4:03pm
TerrencePhilip:
Because only someone who supports the war in Iraq could possibly criticize Iran's president.
11.16.2007 4:05pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
After Bush leaves office, would it be appropriate for President Bollinger to introduce him by castigating him for lying about the basis for invading Iraq, depleting the Social Security Trust Fund to the tune of a trillion dollars on this quixotic campaign, wearing out our ground forces by forcing them to serve three tours of duty, ruining the careers and impoverishing many of our Guards and Reservists, and providing only inadequate medical care for the casualties who sacrificed so much for our country? Or perhaps delivering a litany of criticism is not the most appropriate way to introduce a guest speaker.
11.16.2007 4:06pm
CJColucci:
Tony Tutins:
How dare you introduce questions of class and good manners?
11.16.2007 4:11pm
buzz (mail):
Tony said "After Bush leaves office, would it be appropriate for President Bollinger to introduce him....."

No. Multiple reasons. One of which is inaccuracy.
11.16.2007 4:13pm
Brian K (mail):
This reminds of the series of posts on Chemerinsky. if it is acceptable to not hire a candidate because they'll use the school's name and reputation and their position to advance a controversial ideology, then why is it not acceptable to complain when an already hired person does that? If Bollinger's comments gave the appearance of the school supporting something that many/most of the faculty do not support, then why can't the faculty speak out about it?

I agree with floridan's comments. bollinger's before speech comments handed ahmedinejad a PR victory that he shouldn't have had.

-------
Cato,

since when did it become acceptable to make stuff up and attribute it your opponents? does that mean i can do it too?
11.16.2007 4:13pm
Floridan:
I was not trying to dodge the issue, PatHMV. It is just my opinion that Bollinger's comments were akin to providing the audience with the "Cliff's Notes" version of what to think about Ahmadinejad.

I say let him have talk and then base your critique on what Ahmadinejad said and how that squared with reality and the larger isssues.

There's no reason it would have to be a "stabbed in the back" moment.

As for the Minute Men -- would you approve of President Bollinger attacking them and their cause from the podium before they speak? I wouldn't.
11.16.2007 4:14pm
Jim Levy (mail):
By comparing President Bush to Ahmadinejad only defines oneself as a stupid pitiable little prick.
11.16.2007 4:15pm
anym_avey (mail):
After Bush leaves office, would it be appropriate for President Bollinger to introduce him by castigating him for lying about the basis for invading Iraq, depleting the Social Security Trust Fund to the tune of a trillion dollars on this quixotic campaign, wearing out our ground forces by forcing them to serve three tours of duty, ruining the careers and impoverishing many of our Guards and Reservists, and providing only inadequate medical care for the casualties who sacrificed so much for our country? Or perhaps delivering a litany of criticism is not the most appropriate way to introduce a guest speaker.

"3) The president's address on the occasion of President Bush's visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president's introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Democrats' standard canards on the war in Iraq, a set of positions anathema to many in the University community.

"4) In the name of the University, the president has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the United States in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable."

That would be a reasonable response, although I doubt they could get through all that without a lot of immature giggling, and the signature line would probable contain Fake H. Name in several places.
11.16.2007 4:17pm
Mark Field (mail):
I'm not sure I understand the standards university presidents are supposed to follow. I hardly think they can be expected to introduce every single speaker invited to their campus. But suppose they can; I doubt it makes sense to expect them to provide political commentary critical (or laudatory) of every such speaker. If they can't attend all such events, then I'd like to know exactly which ones deserve criticism. I'm not sure if this standard would apply to David Duke, Jerry Falwell, Dick Cheney, Noam Chomsky, Louis Farrakhan, or anyone else. I pretty strongly suspect that one's view of the correct role here is highly correlated with one's view of the speaker.

Perhaps that suggests that university presidents shouldn't be telling us what we are supposed to think about the speakers.
11.16.2007 4:18pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
What would the reaction be if Slobodan Milosevic had been asked to speak in 1995?
11.16.2007 4:23pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

By comparing President Bush to Ahmadinejad only defines oneself as a stupid pitiable little prick.

I left out the rise of the Euro on Bush's watch from $0.85 to over $1.40. W. is the worst U.S. President since Carter.
11.16.2007 4:33pm
Leiter:
They are criticizing this President for expressing his opinion in a way that doesn't line up with the opinions of the university community. And they are doing it under the banner of Academic Freedom.

When they can exercise dissonance to that degree, there is no level of condemnation that will change their minds. I hate to be cliche, but this is about democrats v republicans. It really is that petty and simple. IF you aren't an enemy of the GOP in every endeavor, you are not fit to run a university. And this is the most powerful guy on campus. The indoctrination and hostility that a student member of the federalist society or a college republican might get is far more pervasive and harmful. Sure, they are tolerated, but that's exactly how it's expressed: the faculty is tolerating the wrongness of the college republicans, etc... so long as they don't have another tired AA bake sale. And thus, the liberals who graduate today have rarely had their theories tested or debated and the republicans have had to hone their ideology in the face of firey disagreement. This is how neoconservatism has been born as a moderate yet powerful ideology. In 20 years, it will be even more clear than it is today that conservatives have had to fight harder for their views than liberals. John Mccain and Fred Thomspon v. Obama And Edwards x 10. And that's bad for our country. We would be better served by not coddling the insecurities of democrat educators.
11.16.2007 4:36pm
anym_avey (mail):
So it was Bush that forced the dollar to finally correct? Goody on him, then! He's evidently quite a guy.
11.16.2007 4:37pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
My hunch is that while are focusing on issues #3 and issues #4 from the faculty list, which are political in nature, the faculty were more upset about issues #1 and #2.

#1 is about whether Columbia's administration should come to the defense of faculty if their teachings are criticized by those outside the university. Evidentially Bollinger has declined to do so.

#2 is about adding undergraduates (requiring faculty to do more teaching) and reducing graduate students (who assist the faculty in their teaching).

It seems to me that Bollinger is making life considerably more difficulty for the average Columbia professor. No wonder they are upset. I imagine they just through the two political issues in their to try and get more support from the outside media. If all they had were issues #1 and #2, they would be written of as lazy over-privileged complainers.

In truth, we would have to compare the undergraduate courseload of a Columbia professor to the industry norm to get an idea about whether or not they have valid complaints, so I refrain from judging them. But don't be fooled -- this faculty protest isn't about politics, it is about work conditions.
11.16.2007 4:39pm
anonthu:
yes, the EURO was so weak in the late 1970s
11.16.2007 4:40pm
Leiter:
You can see the intellectual softness by claims such as that above by Tony stating that Bush is at fault for the dollar's decline and not the insane spending policies of congress. And it's not even clear that this dollar slide is a terrible thing.

Isn't it obvious that oil leads to inflation? Had Bush not coddles the Saudis and destroyed Saddam, the dollar would be in even worse shape, but such a state might be great, since the actual value of the national debt is actually going down.

Fact is, we have had a problem with the middle east for 30 years, and no one wanted to do anything about it, including Bush, until things came to a head. That's why we have such a problem now. And the dollar's slide was inevitable so long as the oil supply is too low.
11.16.2007 4:41pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

What would the reaction be if Slobodan Milosevic had been asked to speak in 1995?

We know what happened when Princeton asked Fidel Castro to speak in 1959, perhaps a closer comparison. The moderator simply laid down some ground rules and Castro began to speak:
11.16.2007 4:41pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Floridan... No, I wouldn't particularly have a problem with Bollinger expressing his opinion before the Minute Men had a chance to speak... at least that way, maybe the police and campus officials would have made sure that the Minute Man HAD a chance to speak.

I am encouraged that you would not accuse Bollinger of stabbing Ahmadinejad in the back by criticizing him after the speech, instead of before. I am not in the slightest bit convinced, however, that the faculty who signed this arrogant letter would be so forebearing.

How is that Bollinger gets criticized for highlighting a litany of lies and violent human rights abuses, while the faculty is unwilling to even begin to condemn a man who says there are no gay people in Iran, and if there were, they should be stoned, along with all the slutty women, after the Jewish state is wiped off the map?
11.16.2007 4:45pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
If Bollinger's comments gave the appearance of the school supporting something that many/most of the faculty do not support, then why can't the faculty speak out about it?

I have no problem with the act of faculty expressing their views.
It's the substance of their views that in the aggregate I find appalling.
11.16.2007 4:46pm
rarango (mail):
Does anyone honestly care what 70 faculty members at Columbia are exercised about? Academia has more clowns than Ringling Brothers.
11.16.2007 4:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ralph. Brian tried the "can't" crap. That's what libs do when criticized. You'd think they'd either know better--probably not--or figure out everybody's on to it so there's no longer any point.
11.16.2007 4:54pm
monboddo (mail):
What really surprises me about this that Gayatri Spivak has at least co-authored a comprehensible statement.
11.16.2007 4:54pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Tony Tutins: "I left out the rise of the Euro on Bush's watch from $0.85 to over $1.40. W. is the worst U.S. President since Carter."

What should the Euro be valued at, and why?
11.16.2007 4:54pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

You can see the intellectual softness by claims such as that above by Tony stating that Bush is at fault for the dollar's decline and not the insane spending policies of congress. And it's not even clear that this dollar slide is a terrible thing.

In exchange for goods -- now including almost everything I buy -- we ship millions of dollars to China that they in turn lend to the U.S. government to finance the ever-increasing deficit largely caused by the war.

If the dollar slides further, oil will be priced in Euros, thus making the price look much more stable, and China will unhook the yuan from the dollar, making all our imports more expensive. I rather doubt that the U.S. will reindustrialize, meaning that the price of all our clothes and tchotchkes will go up.
11.16.2007 4:58pm
Not a Yank (mail):
As a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Management I have told the school not to expect a contribution until such time as they have purged the school of idiots such at these professor.
11.16.2007 4:58pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
Guys - skip the partisan sniping. There are plenty of other blogs where that kind of thing is appreciated. This isn't one of them. No one cares who wins this type of fight on a comment thread, and it can dissuade us from wading through the comments far enough to read actually insightful comments relevant to the original posting.
11.16.2007 4:59pm
Brian K (mail):
Brian tried the "can't" crap. That's what libs do when criticized. You'd think they'd either know better--probably not--or figure out everybody's on to it so there's no longer any point.

Oh I'm sorry. I thought that, given the rhetoric on this site, it would be okay to criticize conservative positions and/or defend liberal ones. I guess what is good for the goose really is not good for the gander.

Or you just angry because I essentially called you a fool the other day?
11.16.2007 5:00pm
davod (mail):
About two weeks before Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia the Iranians released one of the Americans they had jailed.

This person was connected to Columbia.

Bolingers comments could well have been a reaction to being blackmailed into letting the big A give a speech in return for the release of the prisoner.
11.16.2007 5:04pm
Conservative Activist Judge:
I will send a big fat check to the first university who's President has the stones to fire every single professor who signs a letter such as this.
11.16.2007 5:05pm
Conservative Activist Judge:
whose you idiot.
11.16.2007 5:08pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

What would the reaction be if Slobodan Milosevic had been asked to speak in 1995?

We know what happened when Princeton asked Fidel Castro to speak in 1959, perhaps a closer comparison. The moderator simply laid down some ground rules and Castro began to speak:


Yeh, but the idea is to pick someone the academic left doesnt necessarilly revere. The problem its hard to pick a virulently anti-American dictator the left disassociates itself from.
11.16.2007 5:08pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

What should the Euro be valued at, and why?

I don't know. What I ask myself is, should I continue to hold dollars, whose value has declined by over a third since Bush took office? At what point do you guys dump your underperforming assets?
11.16.2007 5:17pm
lonetown (mail):
My question is, why is anyone surprised or disappointed.

If you couldn't see that coming, your blind. The Columbia Faculty would be surprising if they said something void of their politics.
11.16.2007 5:18pm
Kevin!:
Does anyone know what happened at UCLA Law on the 8th? Apparently the SBA felt the need to issue a statement about it... whatever it was.
11.16.2007 5:30pm
questioner (mail):
Pablo Piccato? That's a new one.
11.16.2007 5:37pm
Alec:
There is a difference between inviting a speaker in the first place and introducing him with insults and accusations to reassure outsiders that you have no intention of "validating" his views by providing him with a platform. President Ahmadinejad was insulted the instant Bollinger took the stage. This is not free inquiry; it is a public indictment. If you truly fear the persuasiveness of President Ahmadinejad, why provide the platform at all? And if you think him unpersuasive, dangerous and silly, why not allow the questions from panel members or the audience to help distill the truth? What purpose is served by the accusations and inflammatory rhetoric, apart from a self-congratulatory pat on the back?
For example, I find Professor Yoo's views on torture and the executive branch appalling and intellectually dishonest to the extreme. If our dean had introduced him and made the comments I just made during the introduction, I would find it just as unbecoming as what Bollinger did. Ditto for Mr. Gonzales' visit. I did not attend because I truly believe he is an unprincipled, perjurious swine and possibly a war criminal. Nevertheless if he had been insulted in the dean's introductory speech I would have protested.

This conservative canard of the Bollinger incident and the greater anti-PC narrative is ironic, given the dismissive view conservatives seemingly have of "victimhood" politics. Never before have I seen right wingers rush so valiantly to the cause of homosexuals (apart, of course, from Ann Coulter's perplexing accusation that liberals wanted to wiretap Mark Foley for being gay).

Here are some choice words of Mr. Bollinger:
"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."
"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

Those are uncalled for. And as for the criticism of the regime's policies and the president's denials of the Holocaust, is that not an appropriate subject for a debate or for a forum of speakers to address these issues? If it is plausible for universities to believe that their students can learn from these kinds of people, and I agree that it is, the environment should not be an uncontested one, but neither should it be an accusatory parade of horribles provided by President Bollinger.

Finally, consider this:

"I'm sorry that President Ahmadinejad's schedule makes it necessary for him to leave before he's been able to answer many of the questions that we have or even answer some of the ones that we posed to him. But I think we can all be pleased that his appearance here demonstrates Columbia's deep commitment to free expression and debate. I want to thank you all for coming to participate"

His appearance demonstrated no such thing. A forum on the Iranian situation that coincided with his visit to New York would have demonstrated that commitment. His appearance demonstrated the Ivy Leaugers' lurid fascination with their own prestige, and nothing more.
11.16.2007 5:39pm
bla bla (mail):
"Decisions on key issues like the "globalization" of the university, the establishment of satellite campuses in other countries, the enlarged size of the undergraduate student body, the reduction in the size of the graduate student body, the hosting of controversial speakers, the relative diminution of the humanities, and other issues at the heart of the university's mandate, are made with no apparent consultation with faculty. We learn about these decisions only when they are announced after the fact."

Get over it. You are employees, not philosopher-kings. Your ability to recite obscure passages of Proust does not make you competent to make major decisions for a large institution.
11.16.2007 6:20pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
God, this is worse than the hunger strikers.
11.16.2007 6:27pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Nat a Yank wrote:
As a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Management I have told the school not to expect a contribution until such time as they have purged the school of idiots such at these professor.
Columbia doesn't have a "Graduate School of Management", it has a Graduate School of Business. Hopefully someone who doesn't know this and who thinks universities should "purge" professors based on their political views didn't really go to Columbia at all.
11.16.2007 6:32pm
Bozoer Rebbe (mail) (www):

In truth, we would have to compare the undergraduate courseload of a Columbia professor to the industry norm to get an idea about whether or not they have valid complaints, so I refrain from judging them.


Actually, it would be more illuminating to compare the workload of a Columbia professor to, let's say, someone who actually works at least 40 hours a week. Outside of the hard sciences, where actual research is done, I'd be surprised if the average Columbia professor spends more than 20 hours a week working. Of course, most professors think that time that they spend writing books and journal articles should be considered work, but how many other employers besides universities would let an employee write on the company's time? Heck, even journalists can't get away with that.
11.16.2007 6:37pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

"Decisions ... are made with no apparent consultation with faculty. We learn about the[m] ... only ... after the fact."

Get over it. ... You are ... [not] competent to make major decisions for a large institution.


Do you not see the difference between being consulted by the decision maker and being able to make the major decisions themselves? The faculty is apparently being subjected to what we called the mushroom treatment: being kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

Does your boss impose policy changes on you without soliciting any input from you? In my experience, the person doing the work has better ideas about how to improve things than the guy who is far removed from the front lines.

Moreover, university presidents come and go. Their chief function is raising funds, not setting policies from the top down. Professors have more of a stake in policies that affect their working conditions than do anyone in the administration.
11.16.2007 6:38pm
one of many:
Taken as a whole, the 4 points present the view that University president is a creation of the faculty, entrusted with the reponsibility to serve the intersts of the faculty. Except for a token nod, to the "community" in the 3rd point, the complaint is that faculty desires are not the sole motivating force of President Bollinger. I can understand how betrayed they feel, they pay $37K/year, give $350M/year as ex-faculty, give up millions in tax payments and so on for the privilge of being on the faculty of Columbia. How dare President Bollinger act as if the desires of anyone besides the faculty were worth anything?
11.16.2007 6:41pm
Alec:
Bozoer:


Of course, most professors think that time that they spend writing books and journal articles should be considered work, but how many other employers besides universities would let an employee write on the company's time? Heck, even journalists can't get away with that.


Uh, but for the fact that the universities benefit (in rankings, reputation, donations, etc.) from having well-published academics.
And last I checked there are lots of journalists running around writing stories that are eventually published in their own collections. Or they receive paid leave to work on a book, contents of which will be published in the magazine or paper before it is circulated.
And law professors, at least, do a considerable amount of work beyond teaching and grading papers. This includes their own research activities, supervising students for law review or independent study, community participation (i.e., assisting the Federalist Society, ACLU etc. with events), helping with clinics, writing amicus briefs, etc. All of which greatly benefits the law school.
11.16.2007 6:47pm
frankcross (mail):
Well, I think numbers 3 and 4 are appalling. Not least because of the absurd conflation of opposing Iran with supporting Bush in Iraq. So I must stand alongside some posters in this thread who are remarkably closed minded and ignorant. I wonder what the Conspirators think about their support.
11.16.2007 6:55pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
one of many: a true leader knows the importance of obtaining the buy-in of his subordinates. An excellent leader can make his subordinates feel like they came up with his decisions by themselves. Sounds like all that Bollinger has is positional authority, which won't cut much ice with notoriously independent faculty members. Herding cats and pushing ropes would be child's play by comparison.
11.16.2007 6:58pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Folks: Please, let's try to be polite to each other -- among other things, it makes it more likely that people will keep reading your comments.
11.16.2007 7:21pm
Russ (mail):
Tony,

You exemplify exactly why I give most liberals these days no credit - the gross comparison of President Bush with people like Ahamdinijed and Hitler. He's apparently not just someone to disagree with and try to defeat politically - he's an evil man who must be destroyed!

I don't care for Hillary Clinton, for a variety of reasons, but I've never compared her to Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, and I deride the conservatives who do so when they do.

When BDS leads to defending a man like Ahmadinijed b/c he opposes Bush, you have truly jumped the shark.
11.16.2007 7:34pm
MAH (mail):
It is galling to me that faculty of a leading intellectual institution would list alignment with the policies of a US President as one of their critiques.
A true intellectual would have objected to poor foreign policy comments by Bollinger on their own merit, not because it "allied the University with the Bush administration's war in Iraq."
11.16.2007 7:35pm
anym_avey (mail):
We know what happened when Princeton asked Fidel Castro to speak in 1959, perhaps a closer comparison. The moderator simply laid down some ground rules and Castro began to speak

Of course, in 1959 Castro was just another Latin American revolutionary who might turn out to be somebody-or-another's friend once the dust cleared, and at the time he was not yet claiming Communism(tm) as his mantle. He's certainly no Ahmadinejad in 1997, who is quite famous for his firebrand rhetoric against US interests and allies, and his nominal headship over a state that engages in numerous repressive practices.

Whatever the merits or lack thereof in Bollinger's response to Ahmadinejad's visit, the cited example does not appear to have any real degree of relevance.
11.16.2007 7:44pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
MAH wrote:
It is galling to me that faculty of a leading intellectual institution would list alignment with the policies of a US President as one of their critiques.
The professors aren't complaining because Bollinger personally might agree with some of Bush's policies, but because what he said made it sound as if Columbia is alligned with the Bush administration. I'm not sure I agree that he did this, but if he did their complaint would be valid. Universities as institutions should not take sides in such matters, whether the sitting administration is on the same side or not.

Also, I note that only a very small fraction of Columbia's faculty signed this statement. VCers who presume they speak for the entire faculty are making quite a leap.
11.16.2007 7:46pm
Swede:
When does a university's past reputation catch up with the here and now?
11.16.2007 7:49pm
MAH (mail):
Edward A. Hoffman:
You are correct sir, I should have said "members of the faculty." I was not presuming the views of the entire faculty, just poor typing on my part.
However, I do not believe that their complaint would be valid even if it did cause the appearance that Columbia was aligned with the views of the Bush administration.
The point of my post was exactly that such an alignment should not be disconcerting to the faculty. Instead, they should be concerned they it aligned the university with poor foreign policy. Of course these particular faculty members would probably argue that those two are synonymous but in reality the way it is presented marks a subtle but significant distinction. Suppose Bollinger espoused support for universal health-care. Would these faculty members ever complain that Bollinger had caused Columbia to be aligned with the policies of the Clinton campaign? Surely not, instead those who object to socialized health-care would object to it on those grounds: that socialized health-care is inefficient etc.
To say that it aligns the university with the "Bush administration" is an ad-hominem attack, albeit a veiled one. They are appealing to a dislike of a man, not policies.
Perhaps it is true that universities as an institution should not take sides in political issues such as the Iraq war. However, the university is one of the places where the best thought on such issues should be occurring and as a result it seems to me that universities will occasionally be compelled to take sides on such issues. Indeed, as one who has worked with the governmental-affairs office of a large university, these positions are taken daily by almost every college and university. Granted, it is not usually on such contentious issues and in such a public forum. (It involves policies that will result in support of whatever the institution is researching. At my particular institution it was sawgrass as a bio-fuel.)
It strains credulity (in my opinion) to believe that the professors were really and truly objecting to the institution appearing to take a position but were instead objecting to the voicing of policies with which they personally disagreed.
11.16.2007 8:25pm
LM (mail):
Does anyone know what percentage of the Columbia faculty the 70 signers represent?
11.16.2007 8:40pm
Geesh:

I agree with floridan's comments. bollinger's before speech comments handed ahmedinejad a PR victory that he shouldn't have had.


On the contrary; his mere appearance at Columbia gave him a PR victory that he should not have had. The comments simply allowed him to flout the victory of his appearance a bit more than he would have otherwise.
11.16.2007 9:08pm
Drake (mail) (www):
"Do you think these Columbia faculty would or should condemn the University official's behavior?"

Would they? My guess is that at least some wouldn't. Mirabile dictu, in some cases, principle is but a safe haven for political opportunism. (Good thing for principle, though, that such is not a strike against.)

Should they? Sure. Now's as good a time as any to ask: Just what exactly is wrong with the principle that a university president ought not to chastise invitees? Are we really so insecure as to think that the truth needs the good university president's help before the likes of Hitler gives a speech?
11.16.2007 9:14pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
LM:

Columbia has 3,392 full-time faculty. That number does not include active emeriti so the 70 signatories are 2.06% of the total. I gather that some more professors have signed, but the percentage is still quite low.
11.16.2007 9:18pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Thereis an editing error in my prior post, which may make it a bit confusing. It should have said:

Columbia has 3,392 full-time faculty. The 70 signatories are 2.06% of the total. That number does not include active emeriti. I gather that some more professors have signed, but the percentage is still quite low.
11.16.2007 9:21pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

What really surprises me about this that Gayatri Spivak has at least co-authored a comprehensible statement.


All we really know is that she signed it. She may well have had no role in the actual composition. Not everyone of this political persuasion is a post-modernist - some of them can write.
11.16.2007 9:34pm
PersonFromPorlock:

1) In the face of considerable efforts by outside groups over the past few years to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught on campus....


"Ewww... plebes!"
11.16.2007 9:38pm
Hoosier:
Academic freedom means the freedom of faculty to choose to research the questions that interest them without fear of punishment or dismissal.

"Academic freedom" means the freedom of faculty to accuse en masse anyone in the university community who says something they don't like of violating academic freedom.
11.16.2007 10:46pm
LM (mail):
Edward A. Hoffman,

Thanks. That's a useful piece of perspective. Assuming any significant percentage of the faculty had a chance to sign on to the letter, the refusal by most says a lot more than the views of these fringe few.
11.16.2007 10:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM.
If I understand your implication, this doesn't prove the universities are full of nutcases?
11.16.2007 11:21pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I'd love to see how Columbia reacts to a Sarkozy visit.

Would probably call him a Bush toadie and demand the invitation be revoked.
11.16.2007 11:43pm
Hoosier:
Signed by Eric Foner. Of course.

He is steadily becoming something of a left-wing David Horowitz: Any criticism of a leftist professor at Columbia now casts the shadow of the mailed fist of fascism. His "Reconstruction" is one of the great books on American history by a scholar of his generation. Too bad.

On the other hand, Robert Jervis did NOT sign. Thus confirming my sense of him as one of the least conformist Ivy League political scientists currently active: No end of the spectrum--and not even his own discipline--can count on unreflective support from him.

So I am not ready to write off Hamilton's alma mater quite yet. Still, my children will NOT be enrolling there. (But that's really just because if the price.)
11.17.2007 12:23am
Michael B (mail):
Some of the signatories are predictable as mud, but James Schamus is a signatory? Surely not the same James Schamus who is a Hollywood producer, eg Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
11.17.2007 1:29am
neurodoc:
Brian K:...If Bollinger's comments gave the appearance of the school supporting something that many/most of the faculty do not support, then why can't the faculty speak out about it?
They can speak out about it, and they have spoken out about it. Now, others are commenting on what it is that Columbia faculty like the execrable Hamid Dabashi do and do not support.
11.17.2007 3:42am
neurodoc:
Signed by Eric Foner. Of course.
Hoosier, you fail to give Foner the "credit" he deserves for his commentaries on 9/11.
11.17.2007 3:56am
Hoosier:
neurodoc--I'm still trying to pretend he didn't call that idiotic conference. But I *have* intervened in our department's undergrad committee, and killed the proposal to adopt Foner's new textbook for our US History survey I and II courses.

I suppose that means that I have curtailed his academic freedom. Oopsie!
11.17.2007 10:15am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Surely not the same James Schamus who is a Hollywood producer, eg Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?"

The very same. They do have a film school.
11.17.2007 10:51am
Barry P. (mail):
Regardless of DinnerJacket's faults or merits, it is factually inaccurate to label him as a dictator. While I understand why the Faux News idiocracy might want to propogate this lie, I don't understand why EV would.
11.17.2007 11:44am
New Pseudonym (mail):

to finance the ever-increasing deficit largely caused by the war.


Defense Spending (in the middle of a war, no less) is a lower percentage of the federal budget than it was in Clinton's first year in office. To claim it is the cause of the "ever-increasing deficit." is inaccurate. (My personal belief is that the deficit is primarily caused by the annual expense incurred in building things in West Virginia named after Robert Byrd).

I enjoyed the faculty reference to the Bush administration's war in Iraq (lucky they forgot to term it the "Bush regime"). I had visions of undersecretaries partolling the rod from Baghdad to Mosul. They should realize that whether they approve of it or not, the United States is fighting a war in Iraq.
11.17.2007 1:47pm
New Pseudonym (mail):
patrolling the road.
11.17.2007 1:49pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"When outside groups attempted to sway tenure decisions, the President of Barnard issued a forthright statement rejecting such efforts; the President of Columbia has failed to do so."

Why should he? Columbia faculty are constantly trying to sway the decisions of other institutions, what's wrong with someone trying to influence Columbia's decisions? How many calls for the resignation of public officials have come from Columbia faculty? I wonder if they think those of us outside academia share the high opinions they have of themselves.
11.17.2007 2:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
Alec: : Never before have I seen right wingers rush so valiantly to the cause of homosexuals (apart, of course, from Ann Coulter's perplexing accusation that liberals wanted to wiretap Mark Foley for being gay). "

Bingo. Thanks for point out the hypocracy.

Actually, many conservatives have quite a lot in common with Ahmadinejad. How many conservatives have stated that they believe women should 'submit gracefully to their husbands?" as the Baptists do? How different is that from Iran? How many anti-gay website have I read where they say that there are only about 1% gays in our society, implying that we are almost non-existent, and therefore unworthy of rights or recognition? Well, quite a few.

So perhaps the reason so many conservatives hate Ahmadinejad is because they see his face in the mirror.

In any case, I too am a big fan of free speech, and as a liberal, I'm embarrased by the reaction of these professors, Bollinger and the whole mess. If were a faculty member or student at Columbia, I would have used the incident as an exercise in free speech, encourage people to really educate themselves on what is going on in Iran -- the good as well as the bad -- and actually, you know, make it part of the education process.

I would have no problem inviting him to speak. As it was, it turns out that he mad an ass of himself, and showed his true colors.

As for whether it gives him 'respectability' at home from such a pretigious place, the university can rectify that by establishing a tradition of inviting controversial speakers, such as David Duke, James Dobson, and Noam Chomsky. When you are in a league of those as 'guest speakers' you would be hesitant to claim prestige. And what's more -- students and facutly may learn that the world is composed of people who are more unlike themselves than they would like to admit.
11.17.2007 3:28pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"So perhaps the reason so many conservatives hate Ahmadinejad is because they see his face in the mirror."

Perhaps they are also willing to publicly oppose those who would kill the gays. Are the liberals?
11.17.2007 4:41pm
MnZ:

The president's introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration's war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.

(Emphasis added)


I am utterly floored by the blatant stupidity by this statement. Are these not college professors? Is this not Columbia? Is Columbia not in the Ivy League?
11.17.2007 4:48pm
MnZ:

Actually, many conservatives have quite a lot in common with Ahmadinejad. How many conservatives have stated that they believe women should 'submit gracefully to their husbands?" as the Baptists do? How different is that from Iran? How many anti-gay website have I read where they say that there are only about 1% gays in our society, implying that we are almost non-existent, and therefore unworthy of rights or recognition? Well, quite a few.

So perhaps the reason so many conservatives hate Ahmadinejad is because they see his face in the mirror.


If Conservative Christians and Muslims are natural allies, why doesn't the Left see this as a unique opportunity to educate and change minds of Conservative Christians on gay rights rather than attack them? I consider myself to be a Liberal (in the traditional sense), and I am very concerned about an alliance between Conservative Christians and Conservative Muslims. The two groups share common ground on many issues such as drugs, sexuality, and anti-intellectualism. For example, there are Muslims that support the teaching of Intelligent Design.
11.17.2007 5:07pm
Federal Dog:
"Academic freedom lies at the heart of what we do as faculty members: teach, generate new knowledge, and sustain the critical capacities of the society at large."


How bloody stupid must these people be to fancy they could possibly perform such a function? As if these precious little doilies wouldn't wither in a heartbeat in serious intellectual exchange.
11.17.2007 7:58pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Bingo. Thanks for point out the hypocracy.
The word is hypocrisy. Now that you know how to spell it, you can look it up and figure out that it doesn't apply here.
11.17.2007 8:11pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Randy, apaft from a pretty effective national clinic system that is controlling guinea worm (most unusual in a Muslim country), I am not aware of much 'good' going on in Iran.

Got any quick pointers?
11.17.2007 9:50pm
Hoosier:
Randy R.--I've agreed with you in the past on many things. But your post above is nonsense. This sort of thing--from the Columbia faculty--is what keeps me from registering as a Democrat: I'm an academic, and I simply cannot ally myself with the party of my peers.

Please don't make it worse by repeating this sort of foolishness on a non-foolish blog. There are plenty of other websites that will welcome the "Conservative Christians=Hezbollah Funnies." This is what I'm trying to escape when I come here.
11.17.2007 10:14pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier.

Some folks think, with a bit of justice, that repetition will make it so.
Randy's one of them.
He knows better as to the facts, but he also knows of cases where repetition has actually worked.
11.17.2007 10:59pm
Swede:
"So perhaps the reason so many conservatives hate Ahmadinejad is because they see his face in the mirror"

Well, speaking only for myself, the reason I hate Ahmabigknucklehead is because he reminds me of so many of the Jew-hating liberals that seem to flourish at our "elite" campuses.

Scary how the real comparison is the exact opposite of what you say, Randy.

The "reality based community" strikes again.
11.18.2007 12:49am
Beem:
Given the above posturing, I sort of wonder why its no biggie for Saudi Arabia to execute homosexuals - certainly doesn't seem to put a dent on any fancy White House dinners with Dubya.

Must be an oversight, I bet. Yep, that's it.
11.18.2007 1:38am
Beem:
Given the above posturing, I sort of wonder why its no biggie for Saudi Arabia to execute homosexuals - certainly doesn't seem to put a dent on any fancy White House dinners with Dubya.

Must be an oversight, I bet. Yep, that's it.

"Bomb, bomb, bomb...bomb, bomb Iran"
11.18.2007 1:39am
Harry Eagar (mail):
An excellent idea.

If all we are worried about is an Iranian nuke -- and that's what I'm worried about -- then one cruise missile in one power plant will do the trick.

The key piece is the rotor. They are easily damaged and very hard to replace; impossible to repair.

All you have to do it knock out one and announce on the radio that we have enough cruise missiles to knock out all the rest.

That will give the Iranians the choice of shutting down their uranium program voluntarily or having us shut it down for them -- the centrifuges need huge amounts of electricity.

It would be the cheapest war in history.
11.18.2007 2:24am
Randy R. (mail):
"There are plenty of other websites that will welcome the "Conservative Christians=Hezbollah Funnies." And various other condemnations....

Well, let's see. We have a conservative base that supports George Bush in creating a unitary executive who has mostly eliminated habeas corpus, allow domestic spying upon its own citizens, conduct secret trials of anyone it deems an 'enemy' without any judicial review, makes it very difficult for foreigners to receive visas to visit the US, supports torture, wants to create a country that is run by God's laws, supports capital punishment, and wants gays to be invisible and lacking in the same rights as everyone else.

Now, of course this doesn't describe ALL conservatives, but it certainly describes the Bush White House and its' supporters. In fact, daily on this blog we see people arguing in favor of many of these very positions as 'necessary' to preserve our American way of life.

The fact that these positions coincide with those of Iran's leadership is striking to me, if not to the very conservatives who support them, isn't my problem. It's theirs. But I guess if Bush does it, it's okay, but if a Muslin leader does it, it's not okay.

At least I try to be consistent -- My view is that it's NOT okay for either of them or any head of state to do or support any of these things.

and, in case you didn't see it the first time, I think these university professors are idiots too and they make poor examples of liberals or whatever it is they believe.
11.18.2007 3:00am
Randy R. (mail):
David: "The word is hypocrisy. Now that you know how to spell it, you can look it up and figure out that it doesn't apply here."

Thanks! I'll remember your support for gay rights next time we have a blog on gays in the military, ENDA and same-sex marriage.
11.18.2007 3:02am
LM (mail):
Richard Aubrey:

If I understand your implication, this doesn't prove the universities are full of nutcases?

Exactly. Full of nutcases they may well be, but not so as can be inferred from a letter signed by the nuttiest 2%. Look at it this way: whatever disputes we might have over Christian conservative policies on homosexuality, we should all be able to agree it would be unfair to tar Christian conservatives generally with the views of the Phelpsians. Right?
11.18.2007 6:20am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM

Right about Christians and Phelpsters. But most Christians I know condemn those clowns.
See the difference?
11.18.2007 8:39am
occidental tourist (mail):
Day late and a euro short. sorry I missed your panel at this week's meeting. As I recall, it was up against the property rights session chaired by a friend pitting Kozincky against Reinhard (sp? with respect to both).

On the other questions of political economy advanced here:

If the dollar slides further, oil will be priced in Euros, thus making the price look much more stable, and China will unhook the yuan from the dollar, making all our imports more expensive. I rather doubt that the U.S. will reindustrialize, meaning that the price of all our clothes and tchotchkes will go up.


Tony,

I think you are wrong to doubt in economic man.

First, the Chinese will think long and hard about their gravy train before floating the yuan - a move that is long overdue.

Second there seems no evidence but cynicism for your assertion that the US will not reindustrialize. While there has been a serious shift in the balance of economic sectors contributing to GDP the US has never deindustrialized in the first place. (despite the best efforts of anti-industrial elites who belive more in the growth of GDR -- gross domestic regulation).

Nobody bought hybrid cars for the first several years they were available (except Pat Michaels) but the second gas hit $3 they started flying off the shelves -- still a minor percentage of vehicle sales but defying the stereotype that Americans wouldn't pay extra to drive in cars that are less suitable to our cowboy style (sorry no pictures of me wearing 10 gallons of headgear to the federalist society meeting).

The only thing that would dampen American manufacturing in the face of the multiple currency challenges you posit is deliberate constraints on resource extraction and industrial effort based on the hackneyed precepts that the cuyahoga river will be burning next week if we don't prevent our manufacturing capacity from being revitalized.
11.18.2007 10:18am
Milhouse (www):
Exactly. Full of nutcases they may well be, but not so as can be inferred from a letter signed by the nuttiest 2%. Look at it this way: whatever disputes we might have over Christian conservative policies on homosexuality, we should all be able to agree it would be unfair to tar Christian conservatives generally with the views of the Phelpsians. Right?
The Phelpses are not 2% of Christian conservatives. They're not even 0.2%. Phelps has no support at all outside his own family.
11.18.2007 12:51pm
frankcross (mail):
True, but if you took the most extreme 2% of Christian conservatives, I would wager they would look pretty nutty.

What troubles me is that this position is held by an Ivy League faculty of obviously very intelligent folks. I think it displays the tremendous power of emotion and ideology. While one would think that intelligence and training might overcome this effect, I fear that it may only give people undue self-confidence in their opinions.

I personally think George Bush has been an unusually bad President of the United States. While historic distance is necessary, it wouldn't surprise me to see him eventually among the all-time worst. But even from my perspective, I see an irrational "Bush hatred" in academia, that is troubling. Because it is so grounded in "hatred" and not reason, even though there are certainly reasoned arguments to be made.
11.18.2007 1:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I dunno about the "2%". See, they speak of speaking "for" others. The signatories are speaking for themselves and those for whom they speak would not be signatories.
Presuming those for whom they claim to speak actually exist, the number would be far greater than 2%.
11.18.2007 2:01pm
Hoosier:
frankcross: "While one would think that intelligence and training might overcome this effect, I fear that it may only give people undue self-confidence in their opinions. "

You're guess comports with my experience. This is where the lack of real diversity among faculty is felt: It's not surprising that people surrounded by co-workers who agree with them, and who read the work of colleagues at other universities who agree with them, will develop a rather optimistic epistemology. The fact that they, as a caste, view themselves as an intellectual elite reinforces the conviction that they have The Truth.

"I personally think George Bush has been an unusually bad President of the United States."

I agree with you on this as well. But as I've said before on these boards, the missing piece is the intelligence on teorror plots. If it should emerge fifty years from now that the Bush Administration had frustrated serious attempts to launch more 9/11-like attacks--or even ONE such attack--then I hope his presidency will be viewed more positively.

Until then, he's down there with Harding and Carter, but well above Pierce and Buchanan.
11.18.2007 6:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Tony Tutins: "I don't know. What I ask myself is, should I continue to hold dollars, whose value has declined by over a third since Bush took office? At what point do you guys dump your underperforming assets?"

Well, in one sentence you tell us the dollar has fallen against the Euro. In the next you tell us Bush is the worst prsident since Carter. Are the two sentences conected? Now, you again mention Bush.

So, if you are criticizing Bush, what should the Euro be evaluated at? What is the role of the president in currency exchange rates?
11.18.2007 6:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Randy R: "We have a conservative base that supports George Bush in creating a unitary executive who has mostly eliminated habeas corpus..."

Can some of the attorneys here comment on whether habeas corpus has been eliminated in the US? Are such filings routinely rejected now? What's your daily experience.
11.18.2007 6:48pm
LM (mail):
I never said it was a perfect analogy. The Phelpsians are much nuttier than the signatory profs and they're a much smaller percentage of Christian conservatives than two percent. They also express their homophobia with grotesque abuses of grieving military families, so it's no surprise they're as reviled and criticized by the right as by the left.

As for the profs' assertion that they speak for others on the Columbia faculty, I'd take that with a big grain of salt. Keep in mind that despite all polling to the contrary, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson continue to claim they speak for African-Americans. For that matter, the Phelpsians, Pat Robertson and Osama Bin Laden all claim to speak for God, claims which notwithstanding a certain obnoxious compatibility (e.g., on God's opinion of homosexuals), are obviously mutually exclusive at best. In other words, when claims of representation originate with self-appointed spokespersons, you have to ask those allegedly being represented to find out if there's any actual "speaking for" going on.

The point of my analogy was I think pretty obvious. The nuts of every persuasion tend to be loud, persistent and public, making them perfect miscasts as representative of the larger, moderate constituencies within any group. The moderates, being a lot less nutty, are just too busy living actual lives to get much involved in the argument. In the meanwhile, those with the apparentlyly endless time and energy that often seems to accompanies extreme ideology are left to dominate the debate. This leads to anomalies like purging anyone who takes certain offending positions (sometimes actually held by a large majority of the population) into the opposing ideological camp, while simultaneously identifying that camp only by the views of its most provocative fringe (e.g., lefties who call Hillary a neocon, but identify all conservatives with the views of Ann Coulter; righties who call Chuck Hagel a liberal RINO, but consider Michael Moore the spokesman for liberal ideology).

I suspect such has always been the case, though it seems to have conspired with recent political history and technology (i.e., the internet) to bring our discourse to an especially ugly place. I mainly blame the right for that, and I believe the core of irrational haters is larger on the right than on the left, but those are other arguments for other threads. For these purposes, there's plenty of blame to go around. I have ample experience being labeled a neocon troll on progressive blogs for disavowing what I consider blind hatred, and as long as twenty years ago a law school classmate called me a krypto-fascist for refusing to accompany my objection to Ronald Reagan's policies with an indictment of his motives.

The bottom line is that there are indeed a small percentage of left-wing Americans who hate America, and there are a small percentage of right-wing Americans who, well, hate America. It all depends on how you define America. But however you define it, these aren't the views of most liberals or most conservatives. Moreover, I think it damages our national resolve when ideological reductionists from all sides peddle notions to the contrary that, in the aggregate, demonize us all. At least on a site like this one, with its commitment to civility and its smart readership, we should require more than assumptions to associate the views in a letter with anyone who didn't sign it.
11.18.2007 7:54pm
Hoosier:
Randy R.: "wants gays to be invisible".

Cool idea for a sitcom!. You should TOTALLY pitch a pilot, once the writers' strike is over.

"makes it very difficult for foreigners to receive visas to visit the US"

Quite horrifying, no doubt. And clearly an abuse of power, no? But not quite in INGSOC territory, are we?

"but if a Muslin leader does it, it's not okay"

Especially in warm weather, when some sort of light cotton would be more appropriate.
11.18.2007 11:08pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM. Would you think it a good idea if the non-signatories for whom the nutcases were not speaking said so?
I realize it hasn't happened often.
The Gang of 88 at Duke included departments not actually on board as signatories. Few, if any, professors have said publicly, "not me". One prof, who began as reasonable, changed her tone. Otherwise, she said, her voice wouldn't count for much around here.
Perhaps there should be a category for those who disagree but who are buffaloed into silence.
Where would they stand?
11.18.2007 11:35pm
LM (mail):
Richard: Since I disagree largely with the substance of the letter and object entirely to its spirit, yes, I think it would be a great idea if the non-signatories for whom the nutcases didn't speak said so. I certainly would. But then I don't claim to be as well-adjusted as most moderates, so I'd also understand if they have different priorities. My windmill scars offer surprisingly little comfort on cold nights.
11.19.2007 1:31am
LM (mail):
As for those who feel bullied, what can you do but hope to set an encouraging example if you get the chance? I'm not about to judge anyone harshly for striking a different balance than I would between defending their principles and putting food in their kids' mouths, since I don't have kids.
11.19.2007 5:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
LM. Your last point includes almost every vocation except tenured education.
Consider that the nutcases don't fear. Now, is that because tenure is so solid?
Or is it because they know the situation beyond considerations of tenure is such that they have nothing to fear?
IOW, if nutcases know they have nothing to fear, there's more than nutcases involved here. There's an organization of non-obvious nutcase sympathizers. Known as administrations, which, nutcase or not, enable, facilitate and protect nutcases. And not upspeaking non-nutcases, which is why the latter have to fear.
From which it would follow that the problem is more serious than individual nutcases numbering in the low single digits as a proportion of the faculty.
11.19.2007 8:06am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
The professors aren't complaining because Bollinger personally might agree with some of Bush's policies, but because what he said made it sound as if Columbia is alligned with the Bush administration....

Also, I note that only a very small fraction of Columbia's faculty signed this statement. VCers who presume they speak for the entire faculty are making quite a leap."

Sounds like they're doing exactly what they accuse the administration of.
Oh well, hypocrisy and projection are what one expects from the left.

And the signatories may only be 2%, but until I hear audible disagreement from the other faculty, I have no choice but to assume their silence is assent. Is that assent due to agreement or intimidation? Don't know, don't care.
11.19.2007 8:44am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ralph Phelan
LM.

An old colleague of mine from forty years ago, Theda Skocpol, a Harvard prof, led a number of her female colleagues to the fainting couch from which they weakly proclaimed their injuries. They extracted $50 mill from Larry Summers, plus his job.

There is no possibility that a conservative cabal could have the same effect. None.

While the formal Table of Organization does not, I presume, put "careful" after a known nutcase progressive's name, and "pay no attention" after a conservative's name, the result is as if that were the case.

Otherwise, the two percenters couldn't have the influence they do.

Hence my assertion that the problem is considerably more involved than a few dozen mouth-running know-nothings.
11.19.2007 9:52am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Richard

As an outside observer treating the system as a black box, my observation is that the university frequently emits left-oriented absurdities, and almost never emits contradictory statements. Therefore the institution as a whole has a systemic problem.

As a taxpayer with zero affilitation with Columbia, figuring out the details of the problem so they can be fixed is not my concern.

Refraining from continuing to fund the insanity is.
11.19.2007 10:54am
LM (mail):

LM. Your last point includes almost every vocation except tenured education.

I was referring to the three out of four Columbia faculty who don't have tenure. The rest would obviously have a harder time arguing intimidation.

Consider that the nutcases don't fear. Now, is that because tenure is so solid?

Yes. It's also because they're nutcases, who can't be relied on to fear when they ought to. Be that as it may, I assume most or all of the signatories do in fact have tenure, so you needn't look any further for the source of their apparent sense of invulnerability.
11.19.2007 11:49am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If tenure granted invulnerability, there ought to be a few fearless conservatives around.

From one report or another, an unpopular prof can be made very unhappy without having his employment threatened.

Whatever the mechanism for making the unpopular (in this case conservatives who say, NION), unhappy, it isn't apparently usable against progressives. Perhaps the conservatives have scruples.

Well, I guess the point isn't that the campus is infested with nutcases. Just as arguing that the MSM has a liberal bias isn't really useful. You just have to figure out another way to accomplish your goals and let the nutcases do their own thing, which diminishes as the public is less and less interested in doing the nutcases' thing. For a lesson, see the MSM.
11.19.2007 12:03pm
WHOI Jacket:
Maybe someone should throw a hunger strike. Apparently, that's all it takes to change Columbia policy.

When I was in student government, the benefits of this miraculous ploy were not clear, but sky's the limit now.
11.19.2007 12:24pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
WHOI Jacket:
Just wait until they remember the old "hold your breath until your face turns blue" trick!
11.19.2007 1:19pm
Hoosier:
Richard: "If tenure granted invulnerability, there ought to be a few fearless conservatives around."

Especially at Columbia. A dean could punish a recalcitrant full-professor by, e.g., denying course-reductions for administrative dutires, for research leaves, and so on. But the faculty at Columbia re well-published, and could move on to other schools.

It's at less-prestigious research universities where leverage can be exerted. I don't know that my dean would pull something like that. But I know his political leanings, and so I keep my head down.
11.19.2007 2:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier.
It would be interesting to see somebody (else) test the waters there, no?
To discover whether the political leanings and underhandedness go together.
11.19.2007 3:21pm
LM (mail):
Richard: I don't doubt that the typical collegiate administration leans left. Nor do I dispute the obvious predominance of at least leftish if not leftist college faculties. But I don't make the leap you do from that sympathetic demography to routine collusion and favoritism. If administrators sometimes give leftist extremists more than they deserve (and they do), I don't think it's because they're sympathetic to their demands. They just want to shut these people up, put an end to the turmoil and get back to work. It's a simple, if ill-advised cost/benefit analysis, and without signs of a more sinister purpose, I have to go with Occam's razor. I'm just not aware that the Harvard trustees had any more affection for the "get Summers" mob than CBS did for Powerline and Little Green Footballs. Summers and Rather were jettisoned for the same business reasons, not for their bosses' ideology, and certainly not for their own malfeasance.

The sad truth is that extremists often win because, despite protestations to the contrary, pretty much everyone makes Faustian bargains with terrorists. Anyone crazy enough to be convincingly indifferent to retribution wins more than they deserve. Ask anyone who's ever faced the choice of settling a frivolous lawsuit or going broke defeating it. As for why that manifests on campus as a predominantly left-wing phenomenon, I agree with you that there's more than tenure involved, but less than a qualitative difference in character between left and right. It's just human nature that bullies prefer superior numbers. Which makes college campuses inviting territory for bullies on the left. My (conservative) friends in the military tell me the opposite applies there. We're blessed with a constitution that limits the worst excesses of such majoritarianism, but you can't legislate human nature, so for the foreseeable future, conservatives are going to feel less welcomed on campus than in the military, and vice versa for liberals.
11.19.2007 8:52pm
Hoosier:
Richard--I like the suggestion. And the "(else)" part, too. I'd like to have the courage of my convictions. But I also have three little "Hostages to Fate," as Marcus Aurelius would say.
11.20.2007 8:01am