Saturday, February 05, 2005
No Free Pass for Academia
Eugene Volokh wrote, responding to the idea that Ward Churchill should be fired for his remarks regarding the victims of 9/11, “University professors are supposed to do a good job by saying what they think is right, even when that’s offensive or alienating to people. Such an ability to express highly controversial views, even views that many people find deeply offensive, is critical for the effective functioning of universities as institutions. If university professors know that expressing controversial views about the war effort, about racial differences, about sex or sexual orientation, and so on will get them fired, then effective scholarship and public debate about these issues would be very much stifled. A “ don’t offend the customers” or “if its controversial, don’t say it” approach may be perfectly sensible for many kinds of business or even government agencies. But it would be awful for universities.”
I have pondered the essence of what Eugene Volokh and Stephen Bainbridge have placed before us; the idea that members of the academia should be exempted from any personal responsibility for what they say, and it comes up short. I can understand and even agree that the introduction of varied thoughts, ideas that run in conflict with those that are currently acceptable, need to be protected so that fresh ideas may have a chance to flourish in the world of free thought; however, can anyone believe that individuals, regardless of their affiliations or job description, be exempted from being responsible for what they say or do. In this regard mankind, more specifically, “those citizens who reside within the area of influence and power” are the “customers” and academia must be held accountable just as much, maybe more than someone selling a product at the local market.
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”, from the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Section 121:39. While this particular verse was written down to remind priesthood holders of the responsibilities associated with that sacred office; it also is a general observation on all mankind. I fail to see “wings” that elevate any member of the academia above the rest of us; possibly a few “horns” every here and there; but definitely no wings.
We have seen the eroding effect on our culture from years of abuse, some of it as a direct result from seditious activity within the academic community; much of that erosion would seem to follow the agenda found within the writings of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
It might be a good time for us to ponder the idea that we all must be held accountable for our actions, to include those things that exit the mouth and land on the ear. Most universities accept support from governmental agencies, in the form of grants and/or tax advantages. It would seem only proper that a reciprocal responsibility be established to honor the gift giver. Standing at the lectern to provide a challenging or rousing set of ideas cannot be compared to treasonous contempt for national or religious values. This has nothing to do with First Amendment rights guaranteed to us; although that has been thrown out as a band aide to hide the sore; no, this has to do with basic accountability. I am one of the customers of the educational system and I want a refund or at the very least; fire that jerk Churchill so that he can’t poison anyone else with his words.
Posted by T. F. Stern at 9:21 AM