September 19, 2007

LARRY SUMMERS AND ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, IN THE L.A. TIMES:

The saga of controversial liberal law professor Erwin Chemerinsky’s on-again, off-again deanship at the new UC Irvine law school was highly unusual in two ways. First, the pressure to enforce political orthodoxy at Chemerinsky’s expense came from the right, not the left, and second, academic freedom and 1st Amendment values won a resounding victory when Chemerinsky was ultimately rehired. A more typical example of how academic freedom remains in jeopardy across the country is the UC Board of Regents’ treatment of Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University. . . .

The hostility to Summers reflects the growing influence of professors who see their primary mission not as advancing human knowledge but as promoting a “progressive” political agenda.

Entire academic departments are often overtly ideological and politicized, even at schools not normally thought of as hotbeds of activism. Loyola Marymount’s women’s studies department, for example, proclaims as its mission “to call attention to the androcentric nature of society, propose alternatives and strategies that honor women’s human rights, and promote a vision of society where gender hierarchy, as well as other forms of social injustice, are eliminated.” In universities across the United States, conservative scholars are about as welcome, and as rare, in women’s studies programs as Nazis in B’nai B’rith.

Students also suffer from academic intolerance. . . . The Chemerinsky episode, disturbing though it was, should not distract us from the primary challenge facing academic freedom in American universities: the rise of an academic far-left establishment that seeks to use universities as a base for political activism, and is perfectly willing to violate accepted standards of academic freedom to achieve that goal.

Read the whole thing.

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