Recently, The New York
Times ran an article on a scholars pedophilia essay and the
stir it has caused. (The professor is not, it may be gathered, entirely against
intergenerational intimacy.) The chancellor of his university issued
a statement in support of the right to hold unpopular views, and
academics of several stripes have naturally chimed in with proclamations of
the necessity of academic freedom. Considered with other similar cases of unpopular
views, this incident helps us to see that contemporary claims for academic
freedom simply reek with blatant hypocrisy.
A Political Science
Professor Writes About Pedophilia
I could have had a Milk-Up-The-Nose Moment.
You know what I mean: a kid drinking a glass of milk at the lunch table in
school is startled, or is overcome by sudden amusement and cant contain
his laughter or his drink, some of which finds its way up and out his
Most of us learn, I guess, how to avoid such irritating reactions as we grow
up. Had I been drinking anything, though, I would have had one of those dear
Moments at the keyboard the other day while reading Scholars Pedophilia
Essay Stirs Outrage and Revenge, an article
in the New York Times, Apr. 30. Dr. Harris Mirkin, chairman of the political
science department (yes, thats right: poli sci) at the University of Missouri-Kansas
City, is now garnering attention for a publication several years old:
In the article, an 18-page essay with 38 footnotes published
in the Journal of Homosexuality [Volume 37, Number 2, 1999], Dr. Mirkin argued
that the notion of the innocent child was a social construct, that all intergenerational
sex should not be lumped into one ugly pile and that the panic over pedophilia
fit a pattern of public response to female sexuality and homosexuality, both
of which were once considered deviant. Though
Americans consider intergenerational sex to be evil, it has been permissible
or obligatory in many cultures and periods of history, he wrote.
(Some times, some places, certain activities are permissible or obligatory.
So what? Slavery, ritual female genital mutilation, human sacrifice, and exposing
unwanted infants to the elements until they die: these have all been permissible
or obligatory, some where, some time. Actually, the first two are still
practiced, I understand, in some Muslim countries. But that would be the subject
for another column.)
The professors article recently brought more into public light
because of, apparently, the current Catholic scandals has caused an uproar
around the world. Both chambers of the Missouri state legislature have even
voted to cut the universitys funding by $100,000 in response, saying
taxpayers did not want to finance such perversity.
But Dr. Mirkins notion that our ideas about intergenerational sex
ought to be more... nuanced... was not the cause of my Almost Milk-Up-The-Nose
Moment. No. If you havent seen coming the small-step-by-small-step
approach to legitimizing pedophilia, you havent been paying attention.
No. Here is the sentence that caused my startled amusement:
The chancellor here, Martha W. Gilliland, issued a strong
statement supporting the right to hold unpopular views, as did
the president of the four-campus University of Missouri system.
I said to myself, What kind of stupid does this woman think we are?
Generally speaking, academia is the last place in America that welcomes unpopular
Darned Near Every
Academic in Missouri Speaks Out
I wanted to see the whole of Gillilands strong statement.
I found it in this
issue of the UMKC Faculty Senate Report (covering meetings of Mar. 19,
Apr. 2, and Apr. 4, 2002):
Our professors have a right to conduct research, publish
their findings and exercise free speech, just as they have an obligation to
teaching and to serving the best interests of the community. Institutions
of higher education have no less an obligation to defend those rights, even
if we do not agree with the views being expressed. The integrity of our educational
system and our democracy depend on it.
While I personally find statements attributed to Dr. Mirkin
by the press to be offensive and highly insensitive to the magnitude of this
critical issue, the conduct of legal and ethical academic research should
not be subject to censorship by a university administration. Peer review and
the court of public opinion determine the validity and acceptance of academic
The University of Missouri-Kansas City supports the fundamental
principles of a free and open society. Among these principles are the right
to independent thought, the right to criticize, and the right to hold unpopular
The report also presents the text of the resolution adoped by the Faculty
We, the Faculty Senate of the University of Missouri-Kansas
City, deplore the attempt of the Missouri House of Representatives to reduce
funding to the University because of articles authored by Professor Harris
Mirkin. Open and free exchange of ideas, even controversial ones, is a fundamental
tenet of all universities. Affirming this principle, the University of Missouri
Board of Curators has stated in its Collected Rules and Regulations (310.010):
Institutions of higher education are established and maintained for
the common good, which depends upon the free search for truth and its free
expression. Academic freedom is essential for these purposes and applies to
both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement
of truth. The same themes are reflected in UMKCs core values which
encourage free, honest and candid communication and foster
academic and intellectual freedom. We strongly support Professor Mirkins
right as a scholar to express his views and find reprehensible the attempt
by the Missouri House of Representatives to stifle academic freedom.
Also, the response from University of Missouri president Manuel
Thank you for sharing the resolution. It certainly is consistent
with what the Chancellor and I are trying to convey. I have tried to make
the distinction between personal views about the issues and the right and
responsibility of faculty to conduct their research unfettered by political
or unpopular considerations. Unfortunately, that distinction is not often
made by legislators and many of the citizens of the state. It is difficult
for many to understand that everything is always open to both discussion and
research. Please thank your colleagues for their expressions of support for
this basic tenet of academic freedom.
And if I have not already driven you too precariously close to having
your head bounce off the desk in front of you in mind-numbed stupor by quoting
these items a resolution adopted by the University of Missouri-Kansas
City chapter of the American Association of University Professors:
The official handbook of the American Association of University
Professors, Policy Documents and Reports (1995 edition) states:
Freedom of thought and expression is essential to any institution of
higher learning. Universities and colleges exist not only to transmit knowledge.
Equally, they interpret, explore and expand that knowledge by testing the
old and proposing the new... Views will be expressed that may seem to many
wrong, distasteful, or offensive. Such is the nature of freedom to sift and
winnow ideas (p. 37). A University professor also possesses the right
to freedom of speech as provided under the First Amendment.
We, the members of the AAUP Chapter of the University of
Missouri-Kansas City, protest in the strongest possible terms public statements
by certain members of the Missouri House of Representatives which attempt
to censor and intimidate Professor Harris Mirkin, and the punitive vote by
the House based on these statements severely reducing funding to the University.
Such actions constitute a reprehensible attack on the principles of academic
freedom, freedom of speech, and the integrity and probity of university faculty.
They affect not only Professor Mirkin but all his colleagues at UMKC and all
faculty in the University of Missouri system, at other Missouri schools, and
throughout the U. S.
We urge that all those whose responsibility it is to protect
academic freedom and freedom of speech, including Chancellor Gilliland, the
Curators of the UM system, President Pacheco, and elected officials in and
from the state of Missouri, join us by issuing strong public statements in
defense of these principles.
Assuming you have stayed awake through all that, if you can read those without
busting a gut laughing, you must have more fortitude than I do.
The Real State of
Academic Freedom in the USA
Sure, I can never read phrases like Faculty Senate without smiling
at the smugness of wannabe-politician academics trying to make their machinations
come across as high-minded patrician demigodhood. And anybody who has earned
a degree could hardly take seriously the idea of the integrity and probity
of university faculty. Especially one that considers the reduction of
$100,000 from a $78-million appropriation as severely reducing funding.
A reduction of roughly 0.13 percent. (The universitys total annual budget
is $215 million, of which $100,000 is only 0.05 percent.) Severely
These are picayune annoyances compared to the real problem with these statements,
resolutions, responses, messages, declarations, and announcements: they have
no discernible connection to the reality of discourse in American higher education
today, where take your pick conservative, Republican, traditional,
Western, Judeo-Christian, and/or moral viewpoints are screened out and tamped
down, or decried and avenged. (I do not mean to identify those viewpoints with
one another: rather, I set them over against liberal, Democrat, progressive,
non-Western, non-religious, and immoral.)
Evidence for such an assertion is easy to find so long as you do not
confine your searching to mainstream venues such as The New York Times or CBS:
just today, for instance, two opinion pieces have been published, testifying
to the overwhelmingly lop-sided bias towards liberal, Democratic views and individuals
and organizations in academia; and, a fairly new weblog is dedicated, in part,
to chronicling incidents of bias against conservative, Republican views and
individuals and organizations.
Christina Hoff Sommers
Sommers gained notoriety (and infamy among feminists) with the publication
in 1994 of her book on the radicalization of feminism, Who Stole Feminism?
How Women Have Betrayed Women. In an article
in the Christian Science Monitor, May 6, she conveys her own personal experience
at one university, then relates that to the larger situation:
In a recent talk at Haverford College, I questioned the standard
womens studies teaching that the United States is a patriarchal society
that oppresses women. For many in the audience, this was their first encounter
with a dissident scholar.... After my talk, the young woman who invited me
told me there was little intellectual diversity at Haverford and that she
had hoped I would spark debate. In fact, many in the audience were quietly
delighted by the exchanges. But two angry students accused her of providing
a forum for hate speech.
As the 2000 election made plain, the United States is pretty
evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. Yet conservative scholars
have effectively been marginalized, silenced, and rendered invisible on most
campuses. This problem began in the late 80s and has become much worse
in recent years. Most students can now go through four years of college without
encountering a scholar of pronounced conservative views....
Campus talks by politically incorrect speakers
happen rarely; visits are resisted and almost never internally funded. When
Camille Paglia, Andrew Sullivan, David Horowitz, or Linda Chavez do appear
at a college, they are routinely heckled and sometimes threatened. The academy
is now so inhospitable to free expression that conservatives buy advertisements
in student newspapers. But most school newspapers wont print them. And
papers that do are sometimes vandalized and the editors threatened.
Horowitz, the son of thorough-going Communists, was himself a radical leader
of the New Left in the 1960s. Since then, he has been transformed into a crusading
conservative. He gained notoriety especially last year by his attempt (often
thwarted) to publish his Ten
reasons why reparations for slavery are a bad idea for black people and
racist too as an advertisement in college-campus newspapers.
In an article,
May 6, at his own FrontPage Magazine, Horowitz tells the circumstances of his
appearance at Vanderbilt University, then relates them to academia at large:
I spoke at 23 universities this spring and appeared at Vanderbilt
on April 8. The invitation had come from a conservative student group called
Wake Up America, which was formed three years earlier for the purpose of bringing
speakers to campus. Despite its dedicated agenda, however, Wake Up America
has only managed to put on four events in the three years of its existence.
This is not because of a scarcity of conservative speakers ready to speak
on college campuses. It is because Vanderbilt refuses to provide funds to
Wake Up America to underwrite its aspirations. Vanderbilts attitude
towards Wake Up America is in fact anything but supportive. Vanderbilt officials
have treated the group like an alien presence from the moment of its conception....
At Vanderbilt, the university annually provides roughly $130,000
for left-wing agitations, including the visits of left-wing speakers. This
is balanced by $0 for conservative groups and speakers. Ironically, the faculties
of these schools are strong proponents of campaign finance reform in the political
world they dont control.
In the academic world, the situation at Vanderbilt is completely
normal, with the exception of a handful of small conservative and religious
schools like Hillsdale and Bob Jones University. At the University of Wisconsin,
the Multicultural Students Association attacked the reparations ad I placed
in the Badger-Herald last spring by attacking the paper as a racist
propaganda machine an absolutely unfounded smear and attempting
to shut the paper down. The MSA was rewarded for its bad behavior the following
fall with a grant of $1 million to fund its radical activities. On the same
campus, the Students for Objectivism receive a mere $500 in student program
funds. At Duke University, in the wake of my reparations ad and the demonstrations
that attended it, president Nan Keohane announced a grant of $100,000 in additional
funds for student groups. When I spoke at Duke, which was a day after my visit
to Vanderbilt, $50,000 of Keohanes grant had been disbursed $500
to the Duke Conservative Union and $49,500 to left-wing groups.
weblog was started a few months ago to publicize anti-conservative actions in
American academia. The following complaints are noted just today:
- the Indiana University website does not list the communitys conservative
newspaper/weblog among its sources of IU News, and the editor
of the Hoosier Review asks
for an e-mail campaign to the webmaster;
- one poster claims
that liberals threw away dozens, if not hundreds, of copies of the publication
of his conservative club (College Republicans?); and,
- the editor at Brandeis University of a conservative publication relates
the following: So I woke up this morning to see the signs posted to
my door, including a sign marking my dorm as the office for Concord
Bridge Magazine, torn down and replaced with the epithet Republicans
What Planet is UMKC
Considering these testimonies from the front line, so to speak, the ringing
proclamations from academics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City ring
hollow, if not hypocritical. Rather, they dont ring at all with any resonance
to the real world of academia in contemporary America.
I do not mean to pick on UMKC: maybe it isnt a hothouse of liberal doctrinal
tyranny; maybe its a haven of intellectual diversity something
quite different from the kind of diversity that requires persons
of different skin color, social backgrounds, and sexual orientation but precludes
differing points of view, especially if they are anything but liberal.
I am sure, however, that various reports, and resolutions, and by-laws, and
constitutions, of various faculty and student organizations at colleges and
universities all across the country are replete with glowing praise of academic
freedom and the advancement of truth, and with assertions
that everything is always open to both discussion and research.
All of which have little, or nothing, to do with what is really happening in
political, social, religious, and moral discourse at their illustrious institutions
except to keep the truth from getting through, perhaps even to themselves.
When this deplorable situation finally improves when one can read a
news report about widespread intellectual debate at colleges concerning important
matters like, say, race relations and sexual behavior and marriage & family
that too will be a Milk-Up-The-Nose Moment. But one
quite worth having.