October 20, 2008
Very quick on Ayers and academic freedom
Am swamped today. Not even time for complete sentences! But wanted to note two things, as a follow-up to my post last week about academic freedom and Bill Ayers.
First--a piece in this morning's Daily Pennsylvanian, proving my point about how the mischaracterization of public criticism of academic figures as a violation of academic freedom tends to be accompanied by melodramatic and misguided cries of "McCarthyism:"
For Graduate School of Education professor Kathy Schultz, the allegations being leveled against University of Illinois at Chicago education professor Bill Ayers are "charges of McCarthysim."
That's what caused her to join the more than 3,200 people--including eight others affiliated with Penn--in signing a recent national petition in support of Ayers.
The article goes on in this vein, and, following the example of those it quotes, shows a great deal of sympathy for Ayers and for the petition supporting him. Along the way, it fails to cast a critical eye on the problematic logic that underpins it. Sigh. Think harder, kids--and don't just accept everything your teachers tell you!
Second thing: The University of Nebraska has disinvited Bill Ayers from delivering the keynote address at a November conference on campus. The official reason centers on security concerns--but that's a transparent and unconvincing attempt to render unexceptionable a highly troubling decision that smacks of political brinksmanship. The decision was made shortly after the governor, various legislators, and donors demanded that Ayers not be allowed to speak on campus.
Unlike the media criticism of Ayers, this decision does pose a problem for academic freedom--not that of Ayers, as he does not have an automatic right to express himself at Nebraska, but that of the entire campus community, which very much has the right to hear speakers of all sorts, to debate their ideas, and to decide for themselves what they think of what those speakers have to say. Bad call, Nebraska.
It's arguable that Ayers ought never to have been invited. But he was--back in March--and the worse decision now is to call his appearance off. It's the easiest thing in the world for colleges and universities to invoke "security concerns" to suppress controversial speakers--but they have a deep obligation not to go down that road.
UPDATE: More on John K. Wilson's blog. We disagree a lot of the time, but this one really is a no-brainer.
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"...the entire campus community, which very much has the right to hear speakers of all sorts, to debate their ideas, and to decide for themselves what they think of what those speakers have to say."
Unless, of course, their ideas don't agree with our radical, left-wing, hate- America agenda. Wouldn't want any academics to hear, debate and decide for themselves about "those" kinds of ideas.
Read through this:
I find I just don't give a shit about Bill Ayers's academic freedom, and the signers of the petition include most of the usual comrades.
This guy belongs in prison or with a needle in his arm, not in academia. He's not a controversial speaker; he's a murderer who advocates further murder in the pursuit of his empty ideology.