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The Word From The Ivory Tower

American academia casts its penetrating gaze upon the post-election nation (Ollyy/Shutterstock)

Here’s an insight into how batsh-t insane academia is. This, from the American Association of University Professors:

Dear Colleague,

The American Association of University Professors and the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress have never endorsed or supported a candidate for president of the United States or otherwise engaged in partisan political activity on the national level. For over one hundred years the AAUP has vigilantly defended the professional rights and the academic freedom of all those who teach in higher education, irrespective of their political or other views, popular or unpopular, leftist or rightist. It would be foolish, however, to deny that most college and university faculty members did not support the election of Donald Trump. Many no doubt fear that his election threatens some of the core institutions of our democracy and may be the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.

Certainly, Trump’s campaign has already threatened academic freedom. His remarks about minorities, immigrants, and women have on some campuses had a chilling effect on the rights of students and faculty members to speak out. At some events Trump held on university campuses, students who opposed him said they were harassed or threatened. His call for an “ideological screening test” for admission to the United States could make it difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from other countries and to engage in the international exchange of ideas so vital to academic freedom. In addition, Trump has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia, who would cripple public employee unions by overturning their established right to collect fees from the nonmembers they must serve. With more than half the faculty now barred from the protections of tenure, unionization may be the only remaining protection for academic freedom available to those instructors. Lastly, Trump’s denial of climate change and, indeed, of the validity of science itself assaults the very core of higher education’s search for knowledge.

But the problems facing higher education today and the growing assault on the professionalism and freedoms of faculty members over the past several decades can hardly be attributed to the results of a single election. Many of these problems stem from ill-conceived policies developed and implemented on a bipartisan basis. As a candidate, Donald Trump did not propound clear and detailed policy proposals for higher education. We therefore urge him and his supporters in the Congress to listen to the voices of all faculty members and other educational leaders and endorse policies aimed at restoring our great higher education system as a common good for all Americans, while protecting the academic freedom and shared governance that made our colleges and universities the envy of the world.

We in the AAUP and AAUP-CBC pledge to redouble our efforts to

•      Oppose the privatization of our public higher education system and fight for higher education as a common good, accessible and affordable to all.

•      Oppose discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin and fight for an equitable and welcoming educational environment in which all can freely and safely learn, discuss, differ, debate, and grow.

•      Oppose attacks on unions and the economic security of college and university faculty and staff and fight for expanding and strengthening the rights of all faculty members–tenure-track, contingent, and graduate employees–to organize and bargain collectively.

•      Oppose violations of academic freedom and of the broader rights to free expression in the academic community and fight for strengthened protections for and renewed commitment to the principles of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities

We recognize that faculty members are divided by discipline, by institutional type, by employment status, as well as by race, religion, gender, and politics. But now is the time for us to unite, organize, and fight, not only for ourselves but for the common good, not only by ourselves but with allies both inside and outside of academia.

The future is still in our hands. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost from resignation or despair. Join the AAUP.

Rudy Fichtenbaum, AAUP president
Howard Bunsis, AAUP-CBC chair
Henry Reichman, chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

An actual university professor friend, a scholar of national distinction and a conservative who was not a Trump supporter, sent that to me, and added, furiously:

After all these bastards have done to try to silence conservative voices by their diversity policies, speech codes, and safe spaces, they have the nerve to write this s–t. Of course, the clueless, tone-deaf, left, will follow like zombies, and call it “independent critical thinking.” These people are truly insane.

This idiot thinks that coercing people to join a union and/or having the state confiscate fees (when they don’t want to join) is academic FREEDOM. Got that.

I was no Trump supporter, as you know, but these people will drive me into his arms soon enough.

It really is breathtaking. This is the same class that drove the Christakises out of Yale, severely damaged the University of Missouri by kowtowing the the left-wing mob, that has thrown Christian ministries off campus (e.g., Vanderbilt) for not conforming to their standards, and that allows p.c. mobs to run roughshod over free speech — now they find that Donald Trump is the greatest threat to academic freedom since McCarthy?!

I’d wager that the membership of the AAUP is a greater threat to true academic freedom than Donald J. Trump could ever be. And they, in their self-righteousness, their arrogance, and their self-imposed blindness, can’t even begin to understand this.

They should read the post-election thoughts of the liberal Swarthmore professor Timothy Burke, especially this part:

The kind of understanding that is possible if we’re far from home, in Bali or Botswana, or deep in the past, in the Civil War or the Punic War, closes sharply the closer we are to where we live.

Not just academics, but well-meaning liberals of many kinds in many jobs. People who could make you a wonderfully authentic taco or show you how to kill your own urban artisanal chicken, people who volunteer in the soup kitchen or minister to the sick, people who could explain the finest details of Game of Thrones or do a great play-by-play of the last drive in a football game. We are or have been a lot of kinds of people with a lot of complicated social histories, but we’re also increasingly made over into the same kinds of people, with an increasingly predictable relationship to the economy, living in an increasingly small (if densely populated) number of places, holding to an increasingly constrained range of conventional sentiments. We are locked into who we are, and yet understand so little of what that is relative to others, despite our liberal arts educations and our unworldly worldliness. We have a long list of things we believe in and fight for and yet it’s not a list we can explain well in any deep sense, much of the time. We decry “neoliberalism” (often not knowing quite what we mean by that) and yet perform many of its operations as if they are the sun rising in the east. We explain things to each other as an affirmation of our mutual virtue and signal our virtue in the face of wickedness, in coded language and shorthand. We didactically explain our politics with the lonely desperate intensity of a missionary any time we think we’re in a crowd of heathens. We lecture about allyship without having an even minimally fleshed out conception of the social structure of possible alliances that we might be making. As our social worlds have become smaller and more specific, our lived sense of our own sociality has been fading into abstraction and vagueness, into us-and-them.

Which has become, perhaps, self-fulfilling prophecy: we may have been dialectically producing the generalized social antagonism we have so long invoked. 2016 may be the last stop on a journey that began in 1968, when any number of legitimately righteous crusades to change the world for the better, to make good on the promise of American freedom, began almost from their beginnings to curdle ever-so-slightly (and then faster and deeper for a few) into messianism. When the laws changed, that didn’t save everyone. The American promise went unfulfilled, injustice still sat on its throne. So policy–because it wasn’t enough to think that in the fullness of time, a change in the laws might produce a change in the society. When policy didn’t do it, civil society, culture, consciousness, speech. And each of those moves mobilized a countering constituency, often people who might have let the last move slide but who felt intruded upon by the next one. They learned the same routes for social change: law, policy, civil society, culture, consciousness, speech. But the more messianic the sentiment among those who felt born to change the world for the better, the less able they were to comprehend where they might have trespassed, where they were accidentally recruiting their own opposition. If I tell that story about something else–say, American military and diplomatic action in the world during the Cold War and after–progressives are well able to understand the basic sociopolitical engine involved. When you even tentatively tell that story here, about us, it’s hard even to get to a point where you might have an actual disagreement about the specific facts involved in that account. We absolve ourselves both of actually having social power and of aspiring to have it.

The AAUP is like the College of Cardinals in 1517, receiving news of an obstreperous rebellion in Wittenberg, and reacting with perfect disinterest in attempting to understand the nature of events, and their own complicity in them.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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