Previous
Next

Bias and thought policing on all sides

July 13, 2007, 6:03 am

You might come away from yesterday’s postings (here and here) thinking that real bias in academia only occurs from Left to Right. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, the impulse to censor and police the thoughts of professors and students is equal-opportunity.

Consider this appalling case at Ashland University reported at The FIRE in which John Lewis, a historian specializing in Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, was hired as a professor at Ashland and promptly received a $100,000 grant from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship for teaching and writing on objectivism. After gladly accepting the money, affirming its support for Lewis’ research, and giving him six hours’ release time per semester in which to do it, the university then denied Lewis tenure because, as stated in the tenure denial letter:

…concern was expressed at all levels of the process about writings, submitted by you as part of your scholarly activities in support of your application, that advocate for Objectivist views that are hostile to the University’s mission.

The FIRE article speculates that the denial of tenure was based to some degree in Ashland’s institutional move toward evangelical Christianity. Whether or not that is the case, Ashland is a private university, and so it may restrict the activities or inclinations of its professors as it wishes. But it cannot advocate academic freedom for its professors on the one hand, guaranteeing them the right to research as their interests dictate, and then approve or deny tenure based on the supposed content of that research. If you are are a university and are going to restrict academic freedom, in other words, you must provide “truth in advertising”.

After appealing the tenure decision, Lewis was granted promotion and tenure — as long as he agreed to resign his position.

This kind of thought policing — and downright dishonesty — is serious business no matter the context in which it appears, and everybody ought to think that it’s a “very serious issue” when it occurs.

Technorati Tags: ,

This entry was posted in Academic freedom, Education, Free speech, Higher ed, Tenure. Bookmark the permalink.