Thomas J. DiLorenzo in his recent defense of Walter Block regarding the "apology" given by Loyola College of Maryland has laid out the reality of modern higher education, but while much of his interpretation of the actions of the Duke faculty during the Duke Lacrosse Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping and Non-Sexual Assault Case is accurate, there is more, much more to the story. To understand what happened requires that one understand the realities of college campus life, the censorship and outright thuggishness that now reigns at many places.
Tom writes about the radical takeover of the modern academy:
This (Political Correctness) has all been in place for at least twenty years now in academe, so that “the officially oppressed — designated race and gender groups — know that they weren’t subject to the standards and rules set for other students.” Thus, some students at Loyola College and elsewhere are taught that rather than engaging campus speakers in civilized conversation and debate, if the speakers challenge any of their cherished PC platitudes the thing to do is to wage a smear and slander campaign against the speaker. “College officials point to the hurt feelings of women and minorities as evidence that a violation must have occurred,” writes John Leo. “[H]urt feelings are trump cards in the contemporary campus culture.” It is a culture, in other words, that teaches college students to behave like infants.
He then makes the comparison to the Duke case:
This is a perfect explanation of the behavior of the Duke University faculty (most of it) and administration several years ago when three lacrosse players were accused of rape by a mentally unstable prostitute. The whole world knows now that the three young men were completely exonerated and the North Carolina prosecutor in the case went to prison himself and was disbarred. But as soon as the accusation against the Duke lacrosse players was made the faculty and administration of Duke University immediately issued letters of condemnation of the three young men before there was any public discussion at all of their side of the story, or the presentation of any kind of evidence, DNA or otherwise. The mere accusation by a mascot of the academic Left was sufficient.
His explanation is partly true, but really does not go deep enough into the real insidious nature of what happened at Duke. First, the infamous "We’re Listening" advertisement in the April 6, 2006, Duke Chronicle was signed by about 10 percent of the Duke liberal arts faculty, with the departments concentrated into the "identity studies" groups such as "Women’s Studies," and "African-American Studies." (Like the "Economics Department" sponsorship of the "apology" for Block’s comments, not all members of the Duke English Department actually supported or signed the letter, and some clearly were against what their colleagues were doing.)
Second, the infamous advertisement did not just help to embolden disgraced prosecutor Michael B. Nifong (who actually did not go to prison, but only served a day in jail for criminal contempt), but it also sent a message of intimidation to the rest of Duke’s faculty, that that message was aimed at the majority of faculty members who clearly did not agree with Nifong or the rape charges. The fact that a relatively small group of faculty members — most (but not all) of them being third-rate "scholars" at best — successfully could intimidate others at one of the most prestigious universities in the world is an important but under-told part of this very sorry story.
As noted before, the signees were concentrated in the "identity studies" groups, which are a relatively new phenomenon in higher education. Furthermore, they are not "academic" in the sense of disciplines like chemistry or economics being "academic." Women’s studies "scholars," for example, are not interested in researching real issues that affect women. Instead, they exist for one purpose: to proclaim that women are oppressed and that their "salvation" is grabbing political control over others.
In fact, all of the "identity studies" operate in the same way, which is not surprising, given the Marxist underpinnings of these faux disciplines. Professors in those areas almost always are the first to run to the barricades whenever an "incident" (contrived or otherwise) occurs. The purpose of their actions is to publicize their "grievances" and then to demand that they be given more authority to set rules of what people can say (and believe) at that particular college or university.
They are successful in large part because of their ruthlessness, and in that way, they follow the Bolshevik model which gave us the Russian Revolution and the bloodshed that came afterward. Bolsheviks were only a tiny minority, but they knew when to storm the Winter Palace and how to agitate and get their way. (For that matter, that is how the Neo-Conservatives are able to gain power in U.S. presidential administrations, despite the fact that their actual numbers are quite small. They are masters, however, at agitation and attack, and most people don’t have the heart or will to stand up against their brutality.)
Take the difference between a typical "identity studies" faculty member and a counterpart in economics. Both are expected to "produce" in order to gain tenure. However, "production" for the person wanting tenure in the Duke Economics department is publishing (more than once) in the highest-level academic journals, and that means that it is not uncommon to see junior professors in their offices on Saturdays and Sundays, doing research and working on papers.
"Production" for "identity studies" faculty is much lower on the academic scale. For example, Duke "identity studies" professors gain academic credit for publishing in Social Text, a "postmodern" journal which became infamous more than a decade ago when Alan Sokal, an author of a paper published by this low-rated journal announced that the paper itself was a hoax.
Furthermore, not only do "identity studies" faculty receive academic credit for inferior work, but also they are permitted academic leeway that would not be tolerated in other departments. For example, Wahneema Lubiano, who authored the "We’re Listening" advertisement and organized the signing, has had a "forthcoming" book listed on her rsum for more than a decade. One can be assured that no one on Duke’s economics faculty would be permitted to do that.
When many of the "identity studies" faculty arrived at Duke — complete with six-figure salaries — their entry was treated as the Visit from the Gods by Duke’s PR department. So, in return for Duke giving them easy jobs, easy tenure, high salaries, and few real responsibilities, the "identity studies" faculty accuse the university of "systematic racism, sexism, and homophobia" and other such things. Not surprisingly, the Duke administration, whenever such accusations are uttered, bow and scrape before these faculty members and reward them with promotions and higher pay.
Other faculty members at Duke who actually produce see what is happening and realize how the deck is stacked. Anyone targeted by these faculty lightweights can be expected to undergo a series of false accusations and other things that can make one miserable in a university setting. For example, when a chemistry professor at Duke protested the infamous ad by the 88 signees, the group immediately declared him to be using the "language of lynching." (He called for the 88 to be tarred and feathered.) He immediately backed off.
After 17 members of the Duke Economics faculty issued a statement of their own in January, 2007, making clear that they would welcome the accused students into their classrooms, many of them received threats and other unpleasant comments from the "identity studies" faculty. Because hard leftists at Duke have been successful in filling administrative positions, it is likely that some economics faculty in the future will have trouble with promotions or something else, as there will be payback.
The defining moment in this whole sorry affair came in the year following the false charges. A white Duke freshman coed accused a man of raping her in the bathroom of a black fraternity house. (He was released on $50,000 bond, and recently was arrested and charged with another rape. The accused lacrosse players had bond set at $400,000.)
There were no protests at Duke, and administrator Larry Moneta, who was one of the most vocal accusers of the lacrosse players, dismissed the latest rape as being the fault of the women making the accusation, saying that it was:
"part of the reality of collegiate life and of experimentation and some of the consequences of students not necessarily always being in the right place at the right time. This happens around the country. Duke is no different in that respect."
There were no campus protests at Duke, and not one of the radical faculty members spoke out against what had happened, despite the fact that there actually was evidence that pointed to rape, unlike what happened in the lacrosse case. As K.C. Johnson writes:
Certainly, then, we should have expected a cacophony of protest from the Group (of 88) targeted at (Jermaine) Burch (the accused rapist) — given that his alleged victim was a student at the University from which the Group members draw their salaries. And yet the Group’s sound was silence.
Burch’s second arrest? Again, not a peep. I’ll be checking the pages of the Chronicle for another Wahneema Lubiano-organized ad, but I’m not betting on it. Could the Group members have become latter-day civil libertarians?
The answer to Johnson’s rhetorical question is obvious: these kinds of radical faculty members do not want outcomes decided upon the facts of a case or even historical standards of justice. Instead, they want all outcomes decided solely on their “political merits.”
Since Walter Block was giving his audience at Loyola College facts instead of political rhetoric, some at Loyola could not be silent. He was attacking the very core of their political orthodoxy, just as the lacrosse case defined the political orthodoxy at Duke.
The shame is that such faculty still are in a minority at most universities, but given their radical politics and the violence with which they operate, they have been able to intimidate others. Now, someone like Tom DiLorenzo does not back down in front of people he considers to be frauds, and neither does K.C. Johnson, who won a bloody tenure fight of his own a few years back.
Unfortunately, most decent professors are not skilled in academic street fighting and prefer to be quiet and stay in their offices. One can understand their reluctance to fight back, even when the barbarians not only are at the gate, but in the halls of academe itself. They did not sign up to be street fighters, just teachers and researchers. However, in the modern academic world, being an effective and decent professor no longer is enough.
December 9, 2008
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. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services.