Friday, November 26, 2004

Close chute 

K.C. Johnson has an excellent post today with two examples of campus speech that will sound depressingly familiar to my local readers. He cites the case of Oneida Meranto (Chronicle subscribers only), a Native American professor of Latin American studies who apparently has been victimized by students who are angered by her open liberalism in the classroom. She says she has received hateful emails and death threats. This is being blamed in part (in the Chronicle article) on the promulgation of the Academic Bill of Rights in Colorado where Prof. Meranto teaches. But Prof. Johnson notes that when people make statements that "if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem", you might be creating some animosity.
Whites have failed to prove to us that they are not part of the privileged class. They have failed to prove that they have gained so much from subjugation and domination of nonwhites. They have failed to prove to us that they don't have racist, sexist tendencies that just might be part of the very essence of their white skin. They have failed to prove to us that they too have not benefited from affirmative action legislation. They have failed to demonstrate to us that the reason for their poor grades is the flood of nonwhite professors. They have failed to take responsibility for their actions in this country where being white has its privilege.

No assumption of innocence there. You hear stories like this around SCSU from many students, most too scared to go on record. I'm glad Prof. Meranto is taping her lectures now. Perhaps, in the spirit of glasnost', she could release transcripts?

Prof. Johnson's second example is a new variation of the old "there are no conservatives in academia because they aren't smart enough" canard.

SUNY-Albany philosophy professor Ron McClamrock likewise assures his readers that "I've been around a lot of academic hiring, and I have never once seen hiring done based on the politics of the applicants." So why do left-wing professors outnumber conservatives in the academy? "We outnumber them because academic institutions select for smart people who think their views through; and if you're smart, open-minded, and look into it carefully, you're just more likely to end up with views in the left half of contemporary America. Which is just to say: Lefties are overrepresented in academia because on average, we're just f-ing smarter."

Which is likely, of course, to lead interviewers to use political stance as a marker in hiring.