The Battle of Academia
Re “Neocons Lay Siege to the Ivory Towers,” Commentary, May 4: Professor Saree Makdisi’s perspective on the “Academic Bill of Rights” does not take into account the power a teacher has over young students. If that teacher has a particular bias or view and does not accept that there happens to be another view just as valid, and he does not allow the freedom of his students to hear or express that view, he is abusing his power in order to deny the academic freedoms of his students.
The occurrence at Columbia University, in which a professor disallowed the sharing of multiple Middle East viewpoints and actually verbally abused students attempting to express a point of view different than the professor’s, is the perfect example of why the “Academic Bill of Rights” is needed.
There is no justification for a professor denying his students access to fairly hearing both sides of that issue. Allowing college students to hear both sides of an issue should not be threatening to Makdisi. After all, isn’t that what freedom of expression is all about?
There are not too many good things coming from the left coast these days, but the California Senate in SB 5 is considering something good and reasonable. The so-called Student Bill of Rights, adapted from David Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights,” is designed to diversify, not stultify, academic thinking in public universities. Many on the left are horrified even to think it possible.
Makdisi, in typical liberal fashion, helps defeat his own position by pointing out features of the Student Bill of Rights.
Makdisi claims that I am “among the active proponents of the ‘Academic Bill of Rights’ legislation at the state level.” I have never expressed any opinion on the legislation.
I have actively supported the International Studies in Higher Education Act (reintroduced in the new Congress as HR 509). Makdisi states that the bill would make federally funded academic programs in area studies “better reflect the national needs related to homeland security.” In fact, the bill speaks more broadly of improving programs to “better reflect the national needs related to the homeland security, international education and international affairs.”
All Americans recognize the need for improvement of our performance in security, education (including foreign languages) and diplomacy. The proposed legislation would encourage just that.
As a professor of English, Makdisi should be a model of precision and a bulwark against selective quotation.
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Let me see if I understand correctly the complaints of the neoconservatives now. They began in the 1970s complaining about American universities, and created their alternative academia with a series of think tanks designed to give them the research results that confirmed their convictions. That is the opposite of academic freedom.
They continued hammering on political correctness in the 1990s and now seem to want to pass laws to impose their own sort of political correctness. That is called hypocrisy.
When they continue to hammer their message of being the oppressed minority in universities and other institutions even when they are in power, that is called demagoguery.
All of this is a progression that leads to a place we have seen before. It is called fascism.
Viserba di Rimini, Italy
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get the day's top news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.