July 24, 2006


(1. The Glenn Greenwald sock-puppet kerfuffle. Short summary here, oodles more at Ace, and Dan Riehl. Best take on the whole phenomenon — and at an appropriate level of seriousness — here. Sock-puppetry is, I think, a venial sin. But a revealing one. And it makes me wonder if I was unfair to Greenwald’s readers when I complained about the lame emails I get whenever he publishes my address. Maybe those emails are all really from Greenwald. . . .

(2 The “180s.” I agree with Hugh Hewitt that Bush ought to reach out to war supporters who now disdain him. (Perhaps he should let them talk to Tom Ricks.) But I think that a lot of the flipflopping is from people who feel that they have to attack Bush and the war now in order to protect their standing in the journalistic or foreign-policy establishments, so I don’t know how well it will work.

(3 Wisconsin and 9/11 denialist Kevin Barrett. What should Wisconsin do? They’ve got two problems here. No, make that three.

Problem one is that they hired a looney as an adjunct. That’s not shocking — adjunct positions pay badly and are often hard to fill. (At my law school we spend a lot more time than most places evaluating and screening adjuncts; I’ve often wondered if this extra effort was worth it, but must now conclude that it probably is.)

Problem two is that they’ve converted this into a question of academic freedom, when it’s not. At least, an adjunct who promised to teach white supremacy, or Christian supremacy, in a course on Islam would be very unlikely to retain his position. Wisconsin may claim otherwise, but I don’t believe them, and I doubt many others do. (Here’s an example of why).

Problem three is that the Wisconsin administration has responded in a very tin-eared fashion and made the problem much bigger than it has to be.

To address these, they could fire Barrett, but I think that’s a mistake and wouldn’t get to the root of the problem. They need to look at the process for hiring adjuncts, and to protect students in Barrett’s case they should assign the guy a supervisor or member of the department to co-teach the course for quality control. For justice, it should be the department head or committee chair who hired him, they should be present for every class, and it should be an addition to their regular course load. . . .

More importantly, they need to realize that people pay good money to send students to Wisconsin because it’s “branded” as a place that provides quality education from quality professors. When you respond to criticism by basically disclaiming any responsibility for what’s taught in classrooms, you also destroy the brand. Why send students to Wisconsin if that’s the case? Where’s the quality control? What does it mean to be an elite institution if you let any bozo teach whatever he/she wants in any course?

Without some reason to think that Wisconsin is better than other schools why go there?

I hope that administrators at universities around the country are paying close attention. I doubt it, though.

* With the exception of a link or two, in some cases.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse responds to my Wisconsin observations.

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