Academia’s Judgment to Rush

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When a University of Rochester professor actually attempted to put the controversy between talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke into perspective, he was publicly smacked down by his university president. “[W]hile Ms. Fluke [the law student] herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover [sic],” economist Steven Landsburg wrote on his blog, The Big Questions. “It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it.”

“I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion,” Joel Seligman, president of the university, stated. “To openly ridicule, mock, or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do.”

“We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.” Perhaps English is not President Seligman’s first language.

Now, had Landsburg been on the other side, where most of his peers reside, he would probably not have provoked such administrative ire. Moreover, he probably would not have to confine his opinions to his personal blog. “As a women’s studies professor, I deal every day with how words such as ‘slut’ — and a lack of access to contraception — affect the young women I mentor,” Bonnie J. Morris wrote in The Washington Post. “That we’re returning to this sort of mentality, akin to stoning the female non-virgins among us, with the attendant double-standard for sexually active young men, is as frightening a parallel to Taliban-style intimidation of women as anything I’ve seen in a while.”

Morris teaches at both George Washington University and Georgetown. Logic is not one of her courses.

Neither, apparently, is history. “Twenty years ago, when Anita Hill had her reputation impugned before an entirely male committee, quite a few women were sufficiently enraged to run for Congress,” she wrote. Arguably, she may have the second half of that equation right but her recollection of the base part of the formulation has the situation entirely backward.

It was Hill who attacked the character of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, aided by the majority of “males” on that committee, at the least on the majority, Democratic, side of the table. Republicans on the committee largely confined themselves to questioning the accuracy of Hill’s testimony.

Hill’s testimony was so questionable that such an analysis filled the hearing transcript and led Justice Thomas to famously brand his confirmation hearing “a high-tech lynching.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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