Tales From an Academic Looney Bin

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Three or four years ago my friend Professor Paul Gottfried asked me if the cultural Marxists (CMs) had taken over Loyola College yet and ruined the scholarly atmosphere there, as they have at so many other institutions of higher education. My answer at that time was no, although there have been sightings. One or two CMs had apparently received a government grant that they were using to pay a few faculty to listen to them explain how to "infuse" their left-wing ideology into all of their classes, but no one seemed to take them very seriously. My economics department colleagues assured me that the proper approach was just to ignore these lunatics.

Shortly after that conversation with Professor Gottfried the CMs took over and began acting, well, like lunatics. I learned from the local media that the former academic vice president had rejected an applicant for a top job because the applicant "wasn’t black enough." The job was academic vice president for diversity and the interviewee was an African-American man with very impressive credentials. According to news reports, this man was told that he was well qualified, but that the College preferred an African-American with somewhat darker skin.

So here was a man who had probably been discriminated against in employment during his lifetime who had reached the peak of his professional career, and was interviewing for what was probably his dream job. And he is told he wasn’t getting the job, once again, because of his skin color. And you probably thought "lunatic" was too strong a word.

The new academic vice president introduced himself to the business school faculty in August 2007 by looking around the room of about 60 faculty members and declaring that there were too many white guys in the room. He said his top priority over the succeeding five years was to do something about that. Sensitivity training, anyone? My initial thought was: How is this different from the academic bureaucrat who may have entered a similar room sixty years ago and declared, "there are too many black guys in here, and I intend to change that"?

His exact words were a combination of white liberal guilt and political correctness. "There are too many people in this room who look like me," he said, after which he expressed his everlasting love and devotion to all that matters in academe these days: "diversity" (the mating call of the contemporary academic bureaucrat). Two faculty members asked if all this extreme devotion to "diversity" included diversity of ideas, but the question went unanswered. (To end the suspense, the answer is unequivocally "no.")

The CMs have taken over the hiring process, instructing academic departments to merely provide them with unranked lists of acceptable candidates for interviews. They will then choose which candidates are invited for campus interviews after a proper, politically-correct vetting process. We have been told to ignore whether or not a candidate’s research interests are similar to others in the department. Scientific synergy, like everything else, plays second fiddle to achieving the correct conglomeration of skin colors on campus.

Perhaps the dumbest "advice" that has come from the CMs is that when interviewing say, an Italian-American job candidate, we are not to take him or her to dinner at an Italian restaurant. That would possibly be "bigoted," we are told. In other words, don’t use Baltimore’s famous "Little Italy" section of town, with all of its great restaurants, as a selling point to an Italian who we are trying to persuade to move to Baltimore. Only an academic bureaucrat with a Ph.D. could say something so foolish.

There’s always plenty of nonsense to chuckle at in academe. For years, I have been entertained by the spectacle of a Catholic College making such wide use in the classroom of The Communist Manifesto and other works of Karl Marx, who was of course an atheist and one of religion’s biggest enemies. I myself use The Communist Manifesto in my "Capitalism and its Critics" course, but I treat it as an historical document. One of my students once told me that that was the fourth time he had been assigned to read it, and that the other three professors treated the Manifesto not as an historical document but as a roadmap for the future! Social justice at last!

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, for those of us who believe in academic freedom. Loyola College is quite open-minded about certain controversial views. An outspoken atheist was invited to speak on campus last year, and the Jesuits even held a conference on atheism. They have also given prestigious commencement day awards to famous pro-abortion politicians, including Rudy Giuliani and Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Loyola College is so open-minded about some things that it even associates itself (inadvertently, I assume) at times with publications that advertise and even advocate sexual debauchery. A colleague of mine in another department recently published a book on the history of tattoos which was given the "book of the year" award by the Baltimore City Paper, one of those left-wing "alternative" papers that are found in most larger cities. The College made a very big deal of this, issuing press releases and celebrating the award on the College Web page. This was another one of those chuckle-at-the-lunacy moments for me, for I am familiar with the Baltimore City Paper. The classifieds of this paper are filled with ads for "escort services," "Oriental massage," and local strip joints including "Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club," which is located on the notorious "block" in downtown Baltimore.

Atheists, communists, and abortion activists are all welcomed at Loyola College, but there is one category that is not: defenders of capitalism — the system that allows the parents of Loyola College students to accumulate enough wealth to pay those hefty tuition bills every year, and which provides the means of success for the College’s non-stop fund-raising drives. Defenders of capitalism may exist on campus, but it is clear that such views are not welcomed or appreciated. I learned this recently after John Allison, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of BB&T, contacted me and offered me a $350,000 grant for a program on "The Moral Foundations of Capitalism." The BB&T Foundation funds such programs at numerous universities, including at least one other Jesuit school that I know of, Wheeling Jesuit College.

The BB&T Foundation generously offered to pay for the purchase of enough copies of the famous novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for all of the students in the Sellinger School of Business and Management where I teach. I was told by the former dean that that would not be acceptable, however, because people might believe that Atlas Shrugged was "the official view of Loyola College." There’s that academic lunacy again. I responded by pointing out that, every year, a "common text" is chosen and given to every incoming freshman, and then the text is discussed during freshman orientation and throughout the year. And no one, I argued, has ever assumed that what was in those books was "the official view" of the College.

After about a month I received a different excuse for not allowing me to give away free copies of Atlas Shrugged to Loyola undergraduates: Ayn Rand was an atheist, and the powers that be apparently feared that the public would think that Loyola College was promoting atheism. This of course was just as nonsensical as the first excuse I was given. No one with an I.Q. above ten (Oops! Am I allowed to say "I.Q."?!) would believe that Loyola College was promoting atheism by allowing its students to read Atlas Shrugged any more than they would believe this upon learning that a well-known atheist was invited to speak on campus last year. And who knows what the religious (or anti-religious) views of all the hundreds of textbook authors are?

I did get the grant, after several months of haggling with the bureaucracy. At that point BB&T was very anxious to publicize the grant locally, and well they should be. I navely assumed that Loyola College would also be anxious to publicize it, since it is probably the largest single grant ever received by any business-school faculty member, and it comes from one of top-ten financial institutions in America (in terms of assets). (The genesis of the grant is that John Allison liked my book, How Capitalism Saved America, so much that he suggested to all of his senior managers that they read it. He then contacted me personally about the grant.)

As I said, I stupidly thought that all of this could be good publicity for the school of business at Loyola College. After paying a visit to the College PR department to get the ball rolling on a press release I was told by the new dean that Father Brian Linnane, the president of the College, had forbidden them from publicizing the grant. This is when I realized that the CMs had not only infiltrated Loyola College but had taken total control. They not only attempt to make it difficult for faculty to express opposing viewpoints, but have proven that they are willing to take extreme measures of orchestrating vicious smear and slander attacks on dissenters from their "orthodoxy," as they did when my good friend Professor Walter Block recently lectured on campus at my invitation.

Today’s college students are not being taught the value of academic freedom and the freedom of inquiry at Loyola College and at most other colleges and universities. They are being taught a set of politically-correct, left-wing platitudes that are given a semi-religious aura. They are also apparently being taught that it is appropriate to conduct themselves like little fascist barbarians whenever a speaker appears on campus who questions any of these platitudes. Can campus book-burnings be far behind?

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book, Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution — And What It Means for America Today, will be published on October 21.

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

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