Friday, April 11, 2008

Door cleaning 

Captain Ed wonders whether the office door at Lake Superior State is a story of viewpoint discrimination.

Now, these may not be the most edifying political cartoons ever printed, and not to everyone�s taste. However, they don�t have to be, either; they reflect Crandall�s taste and positions, which is why he posted them on his door. Lake Superior says the issue is that Crandall�s speech involves �religious minorities� � Islam � but that�s also a political topic of rather significant import. Does free speech end at religion?

If the issue was hostility, then Lake Superior needs more door cleaning than just at Crandall�s office. They have not asked other professors to remove cartoons from their doors � but the other cartoons have something else in common. Among those cited by Crandall and FIRE are anti-war and anti-�Big Oil� cartoons. One of the latter depicts the Bush administration as a lackey of the oil and gas industry.

In truth, the Crandall case does involve religion � the Religion of Liberal Thought. Academia apparently cannot abide any dissent from their received Wisdom, and so must strong-arm people with whom they disagree to prevent disagreement.
I have a different take on this than Ed, though I think we're largely in agreement. Universities are loath to offend anyone except the majority culture. Most signs are assailed by censors based on some charge of 'harassment' and that only those who are "not privileged" can be harassed. In Kors and Silverglate's The Shadow University, the administration of Penn explicitly uses the harassment criterion in attacking a guy who got woken up by noisy passersby outside his dorm window and told those "water buffaloes" to shut up. Bad luck for him, the noisemakers were members of a minority group. Rare is the day an administrator says that a controversial display or demonstration that makes a minority uncomfortable "promotes a health debate on campus."

LSSU is going to use its own harassment provisions to hang Professor Crandall, which allows them to slip by the First Amendment. Those provisions help the university maintain their view of a world defined by race. It's what allows doors that offend only the majority to remain in view, while those that might give offense to a minority are assaulted.