Regarding David Horowitz and the academy
Jennifer Jacobson has an informative story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on David Horowitz’s promotion of his academic bill of rights — “a set of principles that he says will make universities more intellectually diverse and tolerant of conservativesJ,” according to Jacobson. Horowitz’s crusade — which consists of speeches and a lot of testifying ...
Jennifer Jacobson has an informative story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on David Horowitz's promotion of his academic bill of rights -- "a set of principles that he says will make universities more intellectually diverse and tolerant of conservativesJ," according to Jacobson. Horowitz's crusade -- which consists of speeches and a lot of testifying and lobbying of state legislatures -- has prompted vigorous opposition. I had two take-aways from the essay:
Jennifer Jacobson has an informative story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on David Horowitz’s promotion of his academic bill of rights — “a set of principles that he says will make universities more intellectually diverse and tolerant of conservativesJ,” according to Jacobson. Horowitz’s crusade — which consists of speeches and a lot of testifying and lobbying of state legislatures — has prompted vigorous opposition. I had two take-aways from the essay:
1) The bill of rights is not causing the opposition; Horowitz and his tactics are the cause. From Jacobson’s piece:
The document itself strikes a decidedly nonpartisan tone. The problem many people have with it is the partisanship of the man who wrote it. Republicans, not Democrats, have sponsored Mr. Horowitz’s bill. Conservative students, not liberal ones, have testified in support of it. And right-wing foundations, not left-leaning ones, contribute to his center, and in turn, his campaign…. Todd Gitlin, now a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia, also has a problem with the bill as legislation. The actual text of it is fine, he says. “If it came across my desk as a petition, I’d probably sign it.” But “the attempt to rope legislatures into enforcing rules of fairness and decorum on university campuses is misguided and perverse.”
Gitlin’s remark is triggered by Horowitz’s campaign to have state legislatures take action on his proposal. What’s odd about Horowitz’s approach is this section of Horowitz’s proposed bill of rights:
Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself. This means that no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process, or through any other administrative means by the academic institution. Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through their control of the university budget.
2) I’m not sure Horowitz understands how the academy works. From the article:
Mr. Horowitz has always wanted to be a scholar himself. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia, he attended the University of California at Berkeley. He says he got bored with his graduate program and left with a master’s degree in English. “Everything had been mined,” he explains. There was “nothing to research that was interesting anymore.” Instead he wrote a book on American foreign policy in the cold war, a book on Marxist theory, and one on Shakespeare…. [Horowitz] simply believes he has been blacklisted by academe. Although he says he was a “leading figure in the New Left,” professors do not assign his books, nor do they refer to his work in the hundreds of courses taught on the 1960s, he says. They don’t invite him to speak in those courses, either…. If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the [New York] Times or a department chairman at Harvard University.
Could someone who’s a friend of Horowitz please take him aside and point out that not even Harvard awards department chairmanships to people who drop out of Ph.D. programs when they conclude that there was, “nothing to research that was interesting anymore.”
Horowitz tells Jacobson later in the article that someone should have made a movie of his life. In other words, he comes across as a vainglorious know-it-all, absolutely convinced that he’s right about everything. Oh, wait…. Horowitz does understand how the academy works. UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link — and damn Glenn Reynolds for making me read this Inside Higher Ed post by Scott Jaschik a month before I hand in my tenure file!! The funniest bit from Jaschik’s essay:
[University of Illinois professor Cary] Nelson said that he knew of one professor (not at Illinois) who suffered a breakdown after he was denied tenure, and responded in part by stripping naked and climbing into a college building by hauling himself up a wall, holding onto ivy, and climbing in. The professor was eventually able to reverse the decision and to win tenure.
And the paragraph that was the most chilling:
Nelson of Illinois said that the system is sufficiently ?crazy? that one can?t help but lose faith in it. ?Let?s say you?ve published your first book and articles and they are great and then some goon on the committee says you haven?t done enough conference papers. The whole thing can come undone. Or you?ve got six letters and they are all positive except for one small criticism in one letter. Someone on the committee will say, ?Ah. Someone had the guts to tell the truth.? And suddenly you are in jeopardy because of one person?s whim.?
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Twitter: @dandrezner
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