Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tyranny on America's Private College Campus

Hamilton College to Prof. Paquette: Shut Up

A faculty member has landed in hot water for an article he published on the NAS website. In April, Hamilton College history professor Robert Paquette published “Dictatorships and Double Standards” on the National Association of Scholars website. A few weeks after the article appeared, Hamilton’s Dean of the Faculty Joseph Urgo wrote Paquette a letter reprimanding him, demanding that the article be removed from the NAS website, and denying Paquette the right to serve on faculty search committees.

This is the first instance we know of in which an academic official has sought to censor the NAS website—so naturally we are taking a keen interest in the proceedings. We have of course not removed Paquette’s article. (As a small act of defiance, we intend to link it frequently.) Paquette has also promised us a “Dictatorships and Double Standards, Part 2.”

We aren’t the only ones taking notice of Hamilton College’s heavy-handed response. Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein wrote about the letter in a Chronicle of Higher Education blog post (afternoon update: "An Episode at Hamilton, Part 2") and has promised more to come. Bauerlein cites Urgo’s ultimatum to Paquette whom he prohibited from serving on faculty search committees “until and unless your colleagues can convince the Dean’s office that you will adhere to College policies regarding faculty recruitment.”

Scott Jaschik took up the story in an article on Inside Higher Ed, “When Faculty Aren’t Supposed to Talk.” Jaschik asks, “But what is a breach [of confidence] and can a breach be punished?” He quotes Paquette saying that “information in my NAS piece was either obvious or a matter of public record long before I wrote the piece.”

Malleus Maleficarum

What’s all this about? Paquette’s article pretty much speaks for itself, but the short form is this: Paquette discusses the tyranny of intellectual majorities on campus who use “slash and burn” techniques to eliminate the representation of disfavored views. His case in point is the treatment of Christopher Hill, a junior faculty member in the history department at Hamilton who was sidelined at the very first stage of the search when a tenure track position opened up. Hill is a self-described libertarian and Paquette cited evidence that diversity preferences and suspicions about Hill’s political views played a role in that adverse decision.

Read the whole NAS article by Peter Wood.  

Below are the final two paragraphs from Robert Paquette's NAS article.
Dictatorships and Double Standards

Instead of trying to see the world better or more truly as it is by renouncing ideology, campus radicals claim that everyone has it, only theirs is superior to yours because it is enlisted in the service of the downtrodden. Ideologues, like ideologies, insulate themselves from testing. Try vigorously interrogating members of the diversity cartel in a departmental meeting as to why the standards by which they are judging a Professor Hill or some other poor chap appear not to have been applied in their own case or in previous cases involving ideological soul-mates. Pointing out the inconsistencies yielded by the slipperiness of situational ethics might just get you frog-marched to the dean’s office to face demands for “personnel action.” Your conveniently sensitive colleagues, after all, having worked endlessly on committees and at faculty meetings to install the apparatus of intimidation, can now charge you with having created with a sharp retort or pointed criticism “a hostile environment.” Self-censorship, let it be stressed, stretches on many college campuses from faculty, to staff, to students. The best and brightest conservative students in thinking about viable career options don’t forget what they saw on campus or what they endured in classrooms as undergraduates.

Colleges, even elite private liberal arts colleges, exist by a social contract invested by public faith. If the crises of our time worsen, the populist upsurge represented by the Tea Partiers may swell. Well might they begin to fix a penetrating gaze on the state of this country’s institutions of higher education. I, for one, would welcome sanitizing light.

Robert L. Paquette is Publius Virgilius Rogers professor of American history at Hamilton College and co-founder of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.

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