of this site probably know about my ordeal at my university, which
has been covered quite extensively on this site and by the major
mainstream press. Now that major combat operations have ended
(to employ a phrase used by Bush in reference to Iraq…two years
ago), I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened, why, and whether
and to what extent I responded properly.
so here are my thoughts on this incident that took my career as
a professor of economics in a direction I would never had anticipated.
Now that the case is more-or-less settled, I no longer feel bound
by legal considerations to keep silent on important details. This
article is the first to disclose the full details of the case.
Vegas prides itself for its tolerance and so does UNLV, its university. At
the university, however, tolerance is selective. You may assert
that white heterosexual males are responsible for all of mankind’s
misery, that Castro’s Cuba is a great success story, that capitalism
means exploitation, or that most university professors are liberals
because conservatives are too stupid to teach. If anyone should
complain about this, such complaint will be dismissed outright.
rightly so. After all, the university is committed to academic freedom.
Its faculty has the “freedom and an obligation … (to) discuss
and pursue the faculty member’s subject with candor and integrity,
even when the subject requires consideration of topics which may
be politically, socially or scientifically controversial. …
(a) faculty member…shall not be subjected to censorship or
discipline by the University … on grounds that the faculty member
has expressed opinions or views which are controversial, unpopular
or contrary to the attitudes of the University…or the community.”
of this applies to professors who dissent from socialist, statist,
or culturally left-wing view, however, as I would find out.
March of 2004, during a 75-minute lecture in my Money and Banking
class on time preference, interest, and capital, I presented numerous
examples designed to illustrate the concept of time preference (or
in the terminology of the sociologist Edward Banfield of “present-
and future-orientation”). As one brief example, I referred to homosexuals
as a group which, because they typically do not have children, tend
to have a higher degree of time preference and are more present-oriented.
I also noted – as have many other scholars – that J.M
Keynes, whose economic theories were the subject of some upcoming
lectures, had been a homosexual and that this might be useful to
know when considering his short-run economic policy recommendation
and his famous dictum “in the long run we are all dead.”
my lecture no question was raised. (You
can hear the same lecture, given some time later, on the Mises
Media server.) However, two days later an informal complaint was
filed by a student with the university’s affirmative action
“commissar.” The student claimed that he as a homosexual had
been made to “feel bad” by my lecture. Based on this “evidence”
the commissar, who, as I would find out only weeks later, was a
former clergyman turned “certified” gay activist, called me at home
to inform me that he would shut down my class if I continued making
agreed to meet the commissar in my office thinking that this would
bring matters to a quick end. The student would be informed about
the nature of a university and academic freedom, including his right
to ask and challenge his professor. Instead, the commissar lectured
me on what and how I was to teach my classes. I explained to him
the difference between a professor and a bureaucrat and that he
was overstepping his bounds, but to no avail. However, because the
student had falsely claimed that my remarks had been about “all”
homosexuals, I agreed to explain the difference between “all” and
“average” statements during my next class.
my next lecture I explained that when I say that Italians eat more
Spaghetti than Germans for instance this does not mean that every
Italian eats more Spaghetti than every German. It means that on
the average Italians eat more Spaghetti than Germans.
this the student filed a “formal” complaint. I had not taken his
feelings seriously. He felt “hurt again;” and as he had learned
from the commissar, feeling bad twice constituted a “hostile learning
environment” (an offense that is not defined in the university by-laws).
From then on the commissar made the student’s case his own.
Every pretence of acting as a neutral mediator was abandoned, and
he became a prosecutor.
April I was ordered to appear before an administrative committee
assembled by the commissar and to prove my statement. This was in
clear violation of university rules: not only is there no provision
for any “truth squad,” but as bureaucrats the committee members
were entirely unqualified for such a task.
I naïvely provided the requested evidence. My request to have the
meeting taped was denied. During the hearing, which was conducted
in a style reminiscent of the interrogations of politically suspect
academics in communist countries or Nazi Germany, essentially only
the commissar spoke.
repeated request to hear witnesses was denied. One student, recommended
by the complainant, was later secretly interviewed, but because
her testimony contradicted what the commissar wanted to hear, it
was suppressed. Furthermore, in his indictment, which I would not
see until November, the commissar referred to a previous unrelated
student complaint, but he suppressed the information that this complaint
had been dismissed as without merit and actually resulted in an
embarrassment for the university administration.
provided evidence was brushed aside, because some of it had also
allegedly appeared on anti-gay sites which I had never visited.
Indeed, whatever I or anyone else said was irrelevant because the
commissar had already found “proof” of my hostility in my writing.
my book Democracy,
The God That Failed I not only defend the right to discrimination
as implied in the right to private property, but I also emphasize
the necessity of discrimination in maintaining a free society and
explain its importance as a civilizing factor. In particular, the
book also contains a few sentences about the importance, under
clearly stated circumstances, of discriminating against communists,
democrats, and habitual advocates of alternative, non-family centered
lifestyles, including homosexuals.
instance, on p. 218, I wrote “in a covenant concluded among proprietors
and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private
property, … no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary
to the very purpose of the covenant … such as democracy and communism.”
“Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family
and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting
lifestyles incompatible with this goal. … (violators) will
have to be physically removed from society.”
its proper context these statements are hardly more offensive than
saying that the Catholic Church should excommunicate those violating
its fundamental precepts or that a nudist colony should expel those
insisting on wearing bathing suits. However, if you take the statements
out of context and omit the condition: in a covenant…
then they appear to advocate a rights violation..
praise of discrimination was part of a frontal attack against what
is sometimes called left-libertarianism – against the politics that
equates liberty with libertinism, multiculturalism, and so-called
civil rights as opposed to existence and enforcement of private-property
rights. In retaliation, to discredit me as a “fascist,” a “racist,”
a “bigot,” etc., the left-libertarian smear-bund has routinely distorted
my views by quoting the above passages out of context.
commissar discovered these “quotes” – and voila! I was found guilty
as charged. (Characteristically, upon challenge the commissar proved
unable – also during a second hearing six months later – to cite on
which page the alleged quotes appeared.)
indictment, recommending a letter of reprimand and forfeiture of
a week’s pay, was forwarded to my dean, who neither accepted
nor rejected it but sent it to the provost. After waiting for more
than 5 months, the provost acted likewise.
November, he instructed the university code officer, who had been
a member of the first inquisition committee, to send me the indictment,
form another committee and order me to show up for a second trial.
The committee was composed of the dean of natural sciences, the
associate dean of the hotel college, a biology professor and the
president of the student government. The code officer served as
secretary and the commissar as prosecutor. I was accompanied by
a lawyer, in response to which the university also sent a lawyer.
No committee member had any knowledge of economics.
lawyer’s request to have the meeting taped or have a court
reporter present was denied. After the student explained about his
hurt feelings, my lawyer asked where in the code a “hostile learning
environment” was defined. Neither the code officer nor the university
lawyer could answer the question because no such definition exists.
read the above quoted passages regarding academic freedom and argued
that my contractually granted rights had been infringed upon. I
had spoken about my subject and beyond that I was not obliged to
“prove” anything. In fact, my statement was hardly “controversial”
but utterly reasonable in light of my adduced evidence. I again
requested students be interviewed concerning my alleged “hostility,”
but again the request was ignored. I offered several student letters
written on my behalf, but they were not admitted as evidence.
committee members asked few if any questions; only the dean contributed
some precious gems of political correctness. The most time was taken
up by the commissar. In the meantime he had gathered information
about me and my prominence and come to the conclusion that if he
could silence me he could silence anyone. He set out on a tirade
against me that in the judgment of my lawyer would have gotten him
thrown out of any regular courtroom. After ranting for almost half
an hour even the university lawyer had enough and told him to “Shut
up,” and when he continued, the lawyer admonished the committee
chair to cut him off.
months later, at the end of January 2005 the code officer called
my lawyer to inform him that the “peer” committee had affirmed the
first committee’s “hostile environment” finding and would
recommend to the provost a letter of reprimand and forfeiture of
my next merit increase. There might be a little room for negotiation,
but if I didn’t accept the offer even more serious punishment
up to termination might be in the offing. My lawyer’s request
to see the report was denied.
rejected the offer and having until then been placed under a gag
order, finally started a counteroffensive. I was put in contact
with the ACLU Nevada, and though our political views are poles apart,
the ACLU to its eternal credit was principled enough to take on
my “rightist” professor’s case. In addition, a prominent local
attorney volunteered his services, and within a few days the Mises
Institute’s public relations machinery began its work on my
the ACLU sent a “letter of demand,” requesting an immediate end
to the charade or the university would be taken to court, then local
news stories about the case appeared, and protest letters and angry
calls began to pour in to the university.
a first result, on February 9th the provost sent me a
“non-disciplinary letter of instruction” – a far cry from a reprimand
and monetary punishment. But if this letter had been sent to calm
the waters, the opposite occurred. The “instructions” stood in patent
contradiction to the bylaws on academic freedom, as even a dimwit
could recognize. Whatever academic reputation the provost might
have had before, the letter made him look like an invidious fool.
local affair escalated into a national and even international one,
and a wave of protests turned into a flood. The university had a
public relations disaster on its hands. Only ten days later – almost
exactly one year after the affair had started – the university president,
at the order of the chancellor of the entire university system,
officially withdrew all charges against me.
This was a moment of great personal triumph, yet some things remain
undone: the university has not apologized to me, no form of restitution
has been offered for a lost year of my work, and no one has been
held accountable at UNLV. To accomplish this, a trial would be necessary.
While my lawyers agree that I would prevail in court, another year
or two of my life would be lost. This cost is too high. The outpouring
of world-wide support on my behalf and the many uplifting and heartwarming
letters are my satisfaction.
have long regarded the political correctness movement as a threat
to all independent thought, and I am deeply concerned about the
level of self-censorship in academia. To counteract this tendency,
I have left no political taboo untouched in my teaching. I believed
that America was still free enough for this to be possible, and
I assumed that my relative prominence offered me some extra protection.
I became a victim of the thought police, I was genuinely surprised,
and now I am afraid that my case has had a chilling effect on less
established academics. Still, it is my hope that my fight and ultimate
victory, even if they can not make a timid man brave, do encourage
those with a fighting spirit to take up the cudgels.
I made one mistake, it was that I was too cooperative and waited
too long to go on the offensive.
Hoppe [send him mail],
whom Lew Rockwell calls “an international treasure,” is distinguished
fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and professor of economics
at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The God That Failed
is his eighth book. Visit his website.