Blogs > Cliopatria > Noted Here and There ...

Mar 12, 2005 10:43 am

Noted Here and There ...

Academic Empires: Questions that I raised about the Kelley-Hawkins revelation and Henry Louis Gates's scholarship took me to other reports on the net about it. Here is Craig Offman's"The Making of Henry Louis Gates, CEO," Salon, 16 June 1999. Offman writes about the creation of Encarta Africana, the CD Rom encyclopedia."... while the Africana debut has seen no dearth of press coverage, the story of its painful gestation has never been told," Offman says,
And it is a tale so fabulous -- including accusations of plagiarism, controversies over affirmative action, charges of academic royals oppressing scholarly serfs, Microsoft bottom-line mania, worker revolt and a Rashomon-like tangle of competing truths -- that one might even call it a creation myth for the contemporary university.
A word to the wise: unless you aim at subaltern status, avoid getting lost in it.

Antislavery Scripts: Caleb McDaniel is back from a brief hiatus at Mode for Caleb and continues his series of"Antislavery Scripts." Largely provoked by the publication of Adam Hochschild's Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Battle to Free an Empire's Slaves, McDaniel's"Scripts," Part I, Part II, and Part III struggle with understanding how to account for the emergence of a radical Anglo-American reform movement in a world in which slavery was virtually ubiquitous and how to account for the ubiquity of claims to its legacy among current political movements. It's more complicated, he suggests, than a Whiggish hagiography and teleology.

Challenging Horowitz: When my colleague, Jonathan Dresner, challenged one of David Horowitz's tales of"leftist repression of patriotic speech" in the classroom, I notified Horowitz's staff at Front Page Rag. He is free to reply on Cliopatria's comment boards, as he occasionally does on HNN's mainpage. He's can also reply at Front Page Rag or his own blog. If he doesn't reply, I'm assuming that he knows he got caught betting on a losing horse.

Churchill: After a story in the Rocky Mountain News that, in addition to all the other accusations, Ward Churchill has been accused of plagiarism by a scholar and of threatening retaliation against the accuser, his attorney seems amenable to a more modest buyout offer from the University of Colorado, if the University agrees not to release a report of negative findings from its internal review. A settlement would foreclose the possibility of additional expensive internal and external processes that could drag on for years. While the Rocky Mountain News and Governor Bill Owens have publicly opposed a settlement, he says that the decision is up to the University's Board of Regents and any settlement is likely to loose another firestorm of public criticism.
Update: The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News are reporting that discussions of a negotiated settlement of Churchill's case have stalled as a result of the allegations of plagiarism and threat of retribution. The News story includes some parallel passages. Thanks to KC Johnson for the tip.

Edwardian England in Motion: Last night, ABC's"Nightline" gave us a foretaste of what we'll see in the remarkable recovery of 800 rolls of early nitrate film, the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection. Here, black and white stills of Edwardian England take on life and motion. Between 1900 and 1913, Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon toured the north of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, filming crowds of people wherever they went. The films seemed to have been made for people to watch themselves in action and yet there is also a sense of what lies ahead for them: a monied working class at leisure at the seaside and in sports, the prevalence of advertising in daily life, the chaos of varied forms of transportation virtually demanding some regulation, etc. Vanessa Toulmin, Simon Popple, and Patrick Russell have edited a collection of essays, The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film. Sponsored by the British Film Institute and the BBC, The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon is available on DVD. How could you not want to see the first film ever made of Manchester United?

History Carnival #4: History Carnival #4 will be up on or about Tuesday 15 March at Blogenspiel. Send your nominations or self-nominations of the best posts you've seen between 1 and 15 March to another_damned_medievalist AT hotmail DOT com. Help ‘er out. It's not as if she has nothing else to do; and, if you don't, she's free to feature something you wish you'd deleted.

The Lecture: The discussion of Scott McLemee's"The Lecturer's Tale" at Inside Higher Ed continues at Harry Brighouse's"Lecturing is Dead?" at Crooked Timber; and, in turn, my colleague, Hugo Schwyzer's"The Luddite Within" gets cited at Inside Higher Ed.

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Given the unacceptable lack of political/ideological diversity on most college campuses, I should think administrators should approach it with the same missionary zeal as they have given affirmitive action/equal opportunity. Perhaps some right-wing Ward Churchills might slip by, but the overall result will be a more diverse educational and colleagial experience for all!

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Too many people on this board sem to dimiss ideas they disagree with with the epithet "stupid." Given the (sometimes) lamentable outcome, I should think there might be those who regard affirmative action itself as "stupid." I admit, administrators pressuring a department to consider more conservatives sounds awful, but anyone who's been on a search committee has had this experience with other groups.
KC Johnson's point is right on--colleges use affirmative action these days as one of a number of categories of "diversity." Given this environment, I'm afraid it's no so simple to dismiss politcal diversity as "stupid."

Whitney Sprague - 3/14/2005

Horowitz isn't quite so full of it after all, it seems:

Ralph E. Luker - 3/13/2005

Van, Please, it's Ralph. I've not had occasion to use Encarta Africana. My colleagues here, Tim Burke and Jonathan Reynolds, might be in a better position to comment about it than I am.

Van L. Hayhow - 3/13/2005

Prof. Luker:
I read the above article which you linked to. I am curious have you ever read or used the resulting product and, if so, what did you think of it? Thanks.

Robert KC Johnson - 3/13/2005

Apart from anomalies (universities in Utah, etc.), I'm unaware of any public or non-religious private colleges that could be deemed under the control of the "right wing" or anything approximating the right wing.

I'm also unaware of what you mean by "the right-wing's speech codes." Dozens of college and universities adopted such codes in the 1990s; almost all were championed by left-leaning administrators.

On the affirmative action point, in light of the Univ. of Michigan decisions, colleges and universities no longer are rationalizing affirmative action programs on the grounds that they rectify past instances of discrimination. Rather, Michigan and those who filed amicus briefs argued that these programs produced "diversity," which had a positive educational good.

More to the point, as I've said before, the best (and non-coercive) way to achieve intellectual diversity is for administrators to scruitinize new line requests to ensure that departments are balanced in their pedagogical offerings--something far too rarely the case.

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/13/2005

That's nice to think, but it doesn't deal with the glaring problems I tried to point out above.

This whole "equal opportunity is just like our desire to give Hannity a chance at a tenure track position" is stupid. I'm sorry to put it in those terms, but there is a huge difference between affirmative action, which hopes to reconcile inherent discrimination that has been built into our system through our history (and this means that, some day, affirmative action will no longer be fair or necessary) and the idea that we need to give people who already hold power more opportunity within academia (conservatives). I'm sorry, but the last time I checked conservatives weren't a group of people being deliberately separated from the rest of society through economic means.

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/13/2005

"Taking over" does not mean that academia is becoming a Right-wing place, but that it is coming under the control of the Right-wing. Specifically the right-wing's speech codes, where students can now sue their school for percieved liberal bias or where we can punish profs for what they say at public speaking events. I am around these students everyday, and I can tell you that the average American undergraduate, is a lazy sack of crap that not only won't do the neccesary amount of work on their own to get a decent education, but further refuse to believe that their profs are actually smarter than them. I don't think a teacher should have to worry about being called to task because they used the Bush administration as an example of Plato's belief that there are noble lies any leadership needs to convince the population of.

I'm not doubting that there are problems in academia where some profs are unfair to students whose views they disagree with, because I was one of them. I do doubt that many of these students have actually written decent papers to begin with. If FIRE, Hannity, and other organizations are going to publish such grievances against those teachers in a public forum, then they need to post the students paper. I've read students papers where they didn't actually do the assignment, only acting as pundits. That goes for both of the popular ideological stances.

Furthermore, I still think your call for ideological diversity has a lot of holes in it. How are you going to manage such a thing, let alone prescribe? What is a philosophy department going to look like if it has ideological balance? I should point out that most U.S. philosophy departments are "middle of the road" types. Are you going to force them to hire more European-style philosophers? How do private schools fall into this (and I'm thinking of places like Harvard just as much as I am thinking of evangelicals)? I could have missed it, but I don't see a positive plan.

Robert KC Johnson - 3/12/2005

If the "right-wing is taking over academia," they're not doing a very good job of it, based on all the recent polls we've seen regarding professors' voting registration, political donations, etc.

The fact that some right-wing forces outside the academy have visions of the proper role of the professoriate that I find as indefensible as that offered by, say, Columbia's MEALAC Department doesn't strike me a good reason to avoid criticism of the MEALAC professors, or of those who have continued to defend the Colorado system that hired, tenured, and promoted Ward Churchill. As things stand now, these forces are shaping academic decisions; Horowitz and Hannity are not. It seems to me that unless people inside the academy are willing to try to remedy the academy's problems regarding intellectual diversity and the need to safeguard academic freedom from the ideological majority among the professoriate it shouldn't surprise any of us when people from outside the academy--many with agendas we don't like--start devoting attention to the issue.

Jason Nelson - 3/12/2005

Mr. Smith,

With the current lopsided condition of the university system how can you assert that Horowitz wants to destroy the left? His method of "destroying the left", is simply to provide an equal opportunity for those on the right to influence students the way those on the left are currently doing everyday. By asserting that Horowitz wants to "destroy the left", it seems to me you are admiting that if equal intellectual representation DID exist, the left would have no chance, because they are relying on indoctrination and the continuation of the healthy gatekeeping system that is preventing those on the right from being part of the public university system in any signifigant proportion. It seems to me you are admiting that if the left's ideas were challenged by those on the right, reasonable and intelligent students might decide to agree more with the right than the left.

Fortunately for the left, currently, there is no danger of equal representation of ideas or ideologies on the American campus, and the hubub over Horowitz is simply an attempt by the comfortable acedemic left to defend their virtual monopoly.

I believe in a degree of acedemic freedom, but I do not belive that freedom is absolute, as all freedoms that citizens enjoy are not absolute. However, I also believe in diversity of all kinds, gender, racial, and intellectual. I am sick of the left espousing diversity yet running off many educators of the right because many of the establishment want to continue the comfortable monopoly of the left that currenty exists.

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/12/2005

Did I not make it clear that not only have I not followed the Churchill case and therefore have no knowledge on his "perfessional failings" or those of CU, and thus am not going to play the little game? If not, I hope that rhetorical question did.

I'm less worried about some marginalized prof weasling his way into a cushy job than I am about certain guilty liberals assiting the Right-wing in taking over academia.

John H. Lederer - 3/12/2005

Let us suppose that this is the case:

(1) Ward Chruchill is a contemptible figure who by any reasonable standard of academic integrity and ethics should never have been given a job, let alone a tenured professorship at a university. This is true regardless of his political beliefs, professed (falsely) ethnicity, and posturings.

(2) Because of his political beliefs, professed ethnicity, and posturings, the faculty at Colorado gave him a job, tenure, and chairmanship of a department. Beyond the hiring decision they closed their eyes to his professional failings and serious integrity issues.

Whose job is to correct the situation?

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/12/2005

KC Johnson,

It's not that I disagree with you, though I'm not sure of the facts, my problem is that if we open the door the Right will take complete control. David Horowitz is not concerned about making sure Academic Freedom is protected or that the ideological spectrum is balanced, he wants to destroy the Left. These people want Hannity and Limbaugh to be tenured professors, if not the actual H and L, people exactly like them. Even that FIRE movie was more concerned with trying to figure out why Universities no longer supported the American Government war machine than restoring proper balance.

There are also all sorts of philosophical questions that just aren't being dealt with, but that's for another time.

Robert KC Johnson - 3/12/2005

I echo Ralph's comments. It is true that, in the contemporary academy, violations of academic freedom seem to come more by forces that could be characterized as the "left," probably because it's very unusual for campus ideological majorities to experience violations of their academic freedom. But, as the SUU case reveals, this is not always the case, since on some campuses (all Utah universities seem to be an example of this pattern) it's quite clear that the "right" hold most of the levers of power.

If, in fact, the intent of the Utah legislature was to punish UVSC for inviting speakers the legislative majority didn't like, it is most unfortunate. But this reinforces one reason why I'm so concerned about the twin issues of academic freedom and intellectual diversity on campus. If the academy takes the position that it's OK for professors to bring overtly political messages into their classroom, and that it's OK for hiring procedures to be skewed in such a way that seems to reinforce one side of the ideological spectrum, it's highly unrealistic to expect that politicians from the opposing point of view are simply going to sit back and continue funding higher education at the proper levels.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/12/2005

Professor Johnson can speak for himself, but a) if you haven't followed the Ward Churchill story, it may be because he is both regarded as a figure on the left and b) because he is a remarkably flawed academic person. On the other hand, KC has posted at Cliopatria in terms supportive of a liberal to left faculty member under siege in Utah. See his "Academic Freedom Southern Utah Style" and "Academic Freedom Update: Columbia and Southern Utah." Undoubtedly, you'll find some violations of principles we value somewhere that we've failed to comment on. There are so many and we have only limited time and energy. The point isn't to cite all and only those violations committed by the Right or all and only those violations committed by the Left. The point is to cite major violations committed by whoever commits them.

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/12/2005

Robert KC Johnson more so, but feel free to respond. I've just noticed a tendency here to say things like, "Of course I'd say something if the opposite (ie Right-wing bias) were happening, but it's silly to think that could ever happen." I, personally, don't see that and this present situation is just one instance out of many and I'd like to see him respond.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/12/2005

Anthony, Are your questions directed to me or to KC Johnson?

Anthony Paul Smith - 3/12/2005

I don't care about Churchill so do not take this post as some bizzaro defense of whatever he did (I didn't really follow).

But, since you are so dead set on "Academic Freedom" and getting rid of speech codes and the like I was curious what you thought about this:
"Legislators wield one potent weapon: money. In January, Utah state senators quietly red-lined funding for a $37 million digital-learning center at Utah Valley State College.

The senators were worried about “the drift of the campus,” says UVSC president Bill Sederburg, who fielded complaints from them about an Oct. 20 campus speech by Michael Moore, a student production of The Vagina Monologues and a course on queer theory in literature. “The legislators are saying ‘We don’t want the college to go too far and lose touch with the community.’ But we have an obligation to protect academic freedom."

Is this really what you want to happen? If a campus starts showing the Vagina Monologues and inviting people who hold political views contrary to the State Legislator?

Do you really want people who think this, "'If the system were fair,” says Larry Mumper, sponsor of the Ohio bill, “Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would be tenured professors somewhere.'"? You have to realize, as I do, that these people have no place deciding what goes on within the University! A few rules about your response, you have to actually respond and not avoid it by pointing out some inconsistency somewhere in my position. While I don't doubt that such an inconsistency exists, that doesn't really answer the question.

Robert KC Johnson - 3/12/2005

The Denver Post is now reporting (,1413,36%257E53%257E2758694,00.html) that negotiations have broken down because of the allegations of plagiarism/threatening comments to Prof. Cohen. Just when you think this case couldn't get any more bizarre ...