September 18, 2007

LARRY SUMMERS / ERWIN CHEMERINSKY UPDATE: The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters writes:

A victory for academic freedom? Seemingly so, but it would appear that among UC faculty members the principle should be applied only to those on the political left, judging by what was happening simultaneously a few hundred miles to the north at another University of California campus.

Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, had been invited by UC Regent Richard Blum (husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein) to address a private Board of Regents dinner at UC Davis. When faculty members objected, Summers was disinvited.

Summers, former secretary of the treasury, resigned from Harvard last year after a lengthy clash with its faculty over his remarks about the suitability of women for careers in engineering and other technical fields. Summers said his remarks were misinterpreted and apologized, but was forced out of the presidency anyway.

“I was appalled and stunned that someone like Summers would even be invited to speak to the regents,” Professor Maureen Stanton, an organizer of the protest, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The hypocrisy is self-evident. Liberal UC faculty members believe in academic freedom for liberals, but someone deemed to be politically incorrect should be barred from even speaking to a private dinner.

And in both cases, those running the university ran for cover.

Those sentiments echoed at the San Diego Union Tribune.

UPDATE: Reader William Sjostrom emails:

You might remember, in the California messes over Chemerinsky and Summers, that Summers is a liberal, and a defense of Summers hardly means a defense of academic freedom. Look at Brad DeLong, defending fellow liberals Chemerinsky and Summers, invoking John Stuart Mill.

Now look at DeLong on John Yoo. After quoting at length Michiko Kakutani’s hostile review of Yoo’s War By Other Means, DeLong’s attachment to academic freedom for folks not so liberal declines, and he writes: “f I were Chancellor Birgeneau, I would be scrutinizing Berkeley Law School’s tenure-vetting process very, very carefully right now. We have evidence that it doesn’t work too well.”

You see why some of us think the left’s attachment to academic freedom is maybe a bit opportunistic.

Indeed.

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