Duke and the Death of Academe, Part II: Faculty Members as Mafiosi

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For the past few months, I have concentrated on the legal aspects of the Duke Lacrosse Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping, and Non-Sexual Assault Case, but I hardly have forgotten the predations of members of Duke University’s faculty. Thanks goodness, K.C. Johnson has not forgotten the faux scholars at Duke and has had a field day blowing holes in their various self-serving arguments.

I have been happy to let K.C. lob shell after shell into the various faculty offices, making people like Paula McClain, William Chafe, and Karla Holloway to become some of the more notorious Ph.D.s in this country since Ted Kaczynski took the skills learned during his doctoral studies at Cal and became the infamous Unabomber. Granted, the rogues on the Duke faculty never killed anyone, although they were part of a very nasty lynch mob that tried to railroad three young men into prison on false rape charges. Furthermore, the University of California-Berkeley did not sustain damage from the Unabomber’s later actions in the way that Duke University has been harmed because of the way that some Duke faculty members (and the administration) dealt with the original charges.

Yet, as the criminal case seems to be in a sort of hiatus, notwithstanding the photo op that the state’s Attorney General Roy Cooper and the two "special prosecutors" had at the lacrosse house at 610 Buchanan Avenue recently, it is time to take yet another look at what is happening at Duke. After all, I am a college professor, and while what occurs at Duke has no direct effect upon my employment, I am quite interested in what is going to be in store for my colleagues and me in the next decade. If what is occurring at Duke portends the things to come, perhaps I need to start thinking about my next career.

At one level, I am not particularly concerned with what is happening with the Duke faculty. I don’t work there, will never work there, and never would be hired there if there were an opening. I have no personal ties to Duke, save having run against some Duke runners when I was on the Tennessee track and cross-country teams more than three decades ago.

Yet, as I watch the activities at Duke, I realize that what occurs at the elite universities soon will influence what happens at lower-level institutions like my own. Thus, the Duke meltdown is relevant not only to Duke University, but to academe as well.

The best analogy I can give to what has happened there is to picture a takeover by a form of the Mafia. Now, I wish to give no insult to the capos who gave us a mechanism for providing those goods and services that the government says we should not have. These faculty members are more like the local thugs who come by one’s shop and offer to "sell" protection. Or, they may come to you and threaten to burn down your house unless you subscribe to their garbage service. Basically, they operate like this: Give us what we want, or your shop might meet with some problems.

(Economist and law professor Fred McChesney of Northwestern University School of Law has likened the actions of politicians to those of the mafia. Politicians basically sell "protection," and the "payments" come in form of campaign contributions. I think McChesney does a good job and I have used his material for my classes. However, I think that his idea also can be expanded to certain college faculty members, as I shall lay out in the rest of this article.)

As outlined above, "protection rackets" operate in the following manner: someone of a group of people offer "protection" or other "services" that people would not choose in a free market. To refuse those services, however, is to be subjected to harassment and worse.

Likewise, we see a number of the Duke activists falling into an academic category for which there really is no demand. Many of the "identity studies" did not evolve in the give-and-take of academic discourse over time in the way that the studies of chemistry, physics, history, or literature developed. Instead, many of the departments housing these "studies" groups were formed after colleges received out-and-out threats.

For example, the current African American Studies at Columbia University had its roots in protest after heavily-armed black students occupied the president’s office during the late 1960s. They literally made threats against the lives of the people there, but there were no charges filed and the university caved into all demands. Other programs have been started after contrived "incidents" of racism or sexism on campuses. (See my "Reichstag Fires" articles on this subject.)

Furthermore, pressure from the federal government and accreditation agencies has led to the creation of "identity studies" departments in order to meet de facto racial quotas for black and female faculty members. The vast majority of doctorates in other areas of studies, including the sciences and even the social sciences are taken by people other than American blacks. (A large percentage of "black" faculty members in the sciences consists of African immigrants. While this practice helps to satisfy some of the "numbers" people, it still does not deal directly with the demands from black groups that there be more African Americans on college faculties.)

Elite universities like Duke and Harvard have large reserves and a tuition structure that permits them to hire large numbers of black faculty for the "identity studies" departments. Furthermore, the rules that these faculty members must follow are much different than those of faculty members in other disciplines. First, the tenure requirements are less stringent, and they can publish in their own "post-modern" journals in which one does not need to make sense in order to be published.

Second, they are well-paid, many pulling down six-figure salaries, and are treated with kid gloves by administrators. Even with that being the situation, many in the "identity studies" faculty constantly insist that they are victims of oppression by other faculty, administration, and students. For example, when former Harvard President Lawrence Summers made comments about women in science that angered feminist faculty members at Harvard, the outcry was so great that Harvard embarked on a $50 million project to bring in more female scientists to the university. (The woman in charge of that pot of money then became the president to succeed Summers after the faculty drove him from that position.)

Given that situation, one should not be surprised that many of these faculty members, in effect, demand a form of "protection money" from the administration and other faculty members. Should anyone actually stand up to the "identity studies" faculty, they are targeted for harassment and may find retaliation in the form of being denied tenure, promotion, and raises, despite their actual academic output.

We saw all of this at hand in the lacrosse case. I have received emails from Duke faculty members who clearly were against what other Duke faculty were doing, yet did not speak out publicly. The few who did quickly were shouted down. For example, right after 17 members of the Duke economics department signed a statement saying they welcomed their students and believed that Duke should be willing to support the students who help make their jobs possible, those signees began to receive hostile emails from faculty members from the "identity studies." (I have this information firsthand.)

The basic message is this: Support us, or we will "kneecap" you, academically speaking. Yet, even with their power and influence, the "identity studies" people are not happy. That is because they have few majors, students actually wanting to major in things that are useful to them. Also, many of their courses are not required in the general curriculum, which means that students who do not wish to be harangued or insulted in the classroom can avoid the unpleasant experience. These faculty members may be masters of their academic empires, but the boundaries stretch only to the edge of their offices; they want the entire campus.

Of course, academic freedom to the "identity studies" faculty means that all students should be forced to take their classes, should they want a degree from Duke or wherever they attend. Thus, they contrive incidents or hit the barricades as they did when Crystal Mangum made her false charges against the lacrosse players.

For example, shortly after Mangum made her charges, the "identity studies" faculty, fresh from their infamous "Thank You" advertisement in the April 6, 2006, Duke Chronicle, then demanded the formation of a "Campus Cultural Initiative" in which they would be in charge of the various committees. Not surprisingly, the committees demanded that students at Duke attend mandatory sessions on race, gender, homosexuality, and the like. To put it another way, they want to turn Duke University into a form of one of Mao’s "re-education camps."

While it is difficult now to know exactly how Duke’s administration will respond, one can bet that these "initiatives" were given with a fist inside the velvet glove of academe. Should Duke ignore these committee recommendations, one then might expect a discrimination lawsuit or something similar that will be aimed at trying to "prove" to the outside world — or at least investigators from the federal government — that Duke is one step away from being a Ku Klux Klan Klavern.

This is the unfortunate world of elite higher education today. Faculty members who wish to avoid such indignities still may do so. They can teach their classes, do their research, write their papers, do their modicum of service, and go home to their families, and do all without once crossing the "identity studies" faculty.

However, that set of circumstances in unacceptable to those who believe that a university should not be a place of learning, but rather a repository for propaganda. In the way that universities in Marxist countries became thoroughly politicized in all curricula, that is the fate that “identity studies” advocates want for American colleges and universities.

Fortunately, those unpleasant things (at least to "identity studies" people) called "facts" have thoroughly undermined the prosecution’s case against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans. However, one can be sure that if the "identity studies" faculty ever receive everything that they now are demanding, "facts" will not matter, anymore. If and when that day comes, the academy officially will be dead.

March 19, 2007

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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