Professors are never more revealing than when they are trying to deny that higher education and those who deliver it have any bias whatsoever. Dr. John Doolittle of American University offered several such insights in a debate with me at the AU campus earlier this month.
Dr. Doolittle pointed out that when he studied at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s, “I knew for a fact that three professors voted for Richard Nixon.” He did not say what happened to the political balance on the university faculty when that Republican trio retired. Moreover, UWI has hundreds of professors on its payroll now and was hardly a Mom and Pop operation then.
Both the professor and members of the audience seemed to take the slim attendance at events such as our debate on academic freedom as a sign that there is scant evidence of a problem. “I took an informal poll of my students over the past 48 hours and found that they do not rate this as a problem,” Dr. Doolittle said during our debate.
Such a reaction may be superficial at best. “I have had students come up to me for years to tell me that they have been the victims of academic abuse but they are afraid to tell their stories because they fear reprisals,” State University of New York trustee Candace deRussy said at the Students for Academic Freedom conference three days after the AU debate. “They will lose letters of recommendation.”
“When students do file grievances involving political bias, the cases are often shuffled among various administrative offices, and consideration of them is prolonged – so that students may well finish their studies on campuses before their cases are resolved.” Dr. deRussy spoke from the floor at the SAF conference before taking part in one of the panels.
Back to the AU debate; Dr. Doolittle invoked the name of one of his heroes—Edward R. Murrow—so I brought up the name of one of the CBS icon’s targets—United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wisconsin. I pointed out that unlike most of the people who have written books about Senator McCarthy’s 1950’s investigations of Soviet penetration of the U. S. government, I have actually read the hearings that the late lawmaker presided over.
The guilt of Annie Lee Moss, who Murrow alleged was a McCarthy victim, was confirmed by the rolls of the Washington, D. C. communist party, I said. Dr. Doolittle did admit that “some of the people McCarthy investigated were communists” but said; “I saw the tape of Senator McCarthy and Annie Lee Moss. He was a bad man.”
For good measure, I noted that it was not Senator McCarthy who wanted to publicly name names but that his Democratic detractors who then controlled the upper legislative chamber insisted that he do so. Also, we now know through declassified executive session Senate committee hearings that Sen. McCarthy and his staff went to some lengths to clear those wrongfully accused of communist loyalties.
But don’t expect to read about it in history textbooks anytime soon.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.