How I Offended the Diversitarians
Loyola University New Orleans Diversity Task force: Ted Quant (Twomey Center), Lydia Voigt (Sociology), Wing Fok (Management), Lisa Martin (Mass Communication), Alvaro Alcazar (Twomey Center), James Hobbs (University Library), Kurt Bindewald (University Ministry), Artemis Preeshl (Theater Arts and Dance), Karen Reichard (Women’s Resource Center), Anthony Decuir (Music and Fine Arts)
Open Letter to the Diversity Task Force:
On November 6, 2008, in Baltimore, MD, at Loyola College Maryland, I gave a speech called "Social Justice: A Critique." In it, I discussed the male-female wage gap and the glass ceiling.
On the basis of that newspaper column, not on the basis of my actual talk (which none of you members of the Diversity Task Force attended), your Diversity Task Force wrote this highly critical report about me.
I thought this was most unfair.
In order to attempt to address this injustice, on March 25, 2009 I gave a speech at Loyola University New Orleans on this same topic. I invited all of you members of the Diversity Task Force to attend this lecture. Only Mr. Ted Quandt, of your committee, took me up on this invitation. I don’t blame those of you who didn’t attend for your absence. There are always many important competing claims on our time, including meetings that take place at our University on any given weeknight during the school year.
But I will feel highly aggrieved if, at this late date, you still refuse to view this tape. I don’t guarantee that this talk of mine on March 25, 2009 was identical to the one I gave earlier, on November 6, 2008 in Baltimore. I don’t read my speeches; instead, I speak extemporaneously, from notes. But, I did indeed use the same exact notes, so the two presentations are very similar (as was this even earlier version, given in Auburn AL at the Mises University in August, 2006). It would have been very easy for you to have viewed this 2006 tape before writing your scandalous report. Had you but contacted me before writing it, I certainly would have referred you to this tape. However, not only did you not even bother to discuss this matter with me, but, evidently, you could not even be bothered to google my name in conjunction with this subject.
So, I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you, in the name of justice (not "social justice"; rather, plain old justice) to view the tape of the talk I gave on March 25, 2009.
On March 26, 2009, the day after my lecture, I wrote this letter to Mr. Quandt:
From: Walter Block Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 11:59 AM To: [email protected] Subject: questions
Dear Mr. Quant:
Thank you very, very much for attending my lecture last night. Not only did you attend, but you had the grace to ask questions, make important points, which, I regard as the beginnings of a dialogue between us. I would like to have lunch with you one of these days, so as to continue our dialogue.
In the meantime, please allow me to pose several questions to you. I think they require yes or no answers, but, that is up to you, of course. So, here goes. On the basis of my lecture last night
- do you regard me as a sexist?
- do you regard me as a racist?
- do you think I marginalize my black and female students? (In case you didn’t get the testimonial letters from my students that were given out last night, I take the liberty of attaching them, now.)
- had you seen my lecture before the Diversity Task Force Report on me, would you have signed it? If not,
- do you, in retrospect, now regret signing, that letter? If so
- will you publicly renounce your signature on that letter, and thus disassociate yourself from it?
I regard you as a fair man. We may disagree on issues of economics, politics, etc., but that is another matter. In my view, writing that report on the basis of hearsay, not allowing me a chance to testify before your committee, was improper. I would very much appreciate it if you renounce your support of the Diversity Task Force Report on me.
Best regards, Walter
Unhappily, Mr. Quandt has not yet seen fit, as of today, April 17, 2009, to respond to what I regard as a polite letter; a very polite letter, given the circumstances.
I am now asking the members of the Diversity Task Force, those whose names appear on this "Report," to view the tape and answer the questions I put to Mr. Quandt. If on the basis of this viewing, you no longer view me as guilty of the charges you launched at me in your "Report" then I would ask that you publicly (i.e., to the same audience to whom the "Report" was disseminated) renounce this "Report," and apologize for it. On the other hand, you now have enough "rope" with which to "hang" me if you still feel I am guilty of marginalizing my black and female students, etc. But, in this case, I feel it is your duty to dot your I’s and cross your T’s. To wit, quote the specific statements of mine you feel merit this condemnation. That is, condemn me out of my own mouth, and not on the basis of a newspaper column written about me by someone else.
I will not rest until justice is done on this matter. A basic element of justice is that people should be condemned, only, for their own actions, not for reports on them written by others. You hold a quasi-judicial role in our great university. If you are to be worthy of this honor bestowed upon you, in my opinion you are obligated to treat me, and all others under your jurisdiction, with fairness. So far, you have not lived up to this responsibility. I now offer you another chance to make good on your previous omissions and commissions. Please do take me up on this offer.
I await your response to this letter. But, I am not holding my breath. I have written to you before, on numerous occasions, and not once have you seen fit to reply to me. That does not seem to be very collegial. I assure you, that were the shoe on the other foot, I would have had the courtesy to at least respond to your calls for justice.
Yours truly, Walter Block
From: Walter Block Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 11:38 AM To: ‘[email protected]’ Subject: complaint
3/22/09 Dr. Roger White Vice Provost Loyola University New Orleans
Dear Dr. White:
Please consider this letter as a formal complaint of mine against 1. the Diversity Task Force, and 2. Provost Ed Kvet, who is responsible for not allowing my reply to this Task Force to be seen by the same audience as saw that report.
1. The Diversity Task Force (here is their report)
If any one private individual or informal group of such people had said that I do not "instill… in every one of our students a desire to pursue excellence and to be women and men in solidarity with others" and that I exclude and "marginalize women and African Americans," that I am "dangerous, fueling those with prejudices to confirm their biased views," and that I do not "recognize the reality of racism and sexism in our society, whose impact has had long-lasting consequences in the lives of African Americans and women," I would regard such criticisms as well within the bounds of civil discourse and free speech. I would have no trouble whatsoever with such people saying such things, although, of course, I would disagree vehemently with their opinions. I would certainly not accuse such people of creating a hostile environment for me. However, it was decidedly not one private individual or informal group of such people who made these remarks. Rather, it was a duly constituted committee of Loyola University New Orleans; to wit, the Diversity Task Force. It is my claim that this is a quasi-judicial committee; one, presumably, empowered to ferret out violations of the principles to which members of the community of Loyola University New Orleans are supposed to adhere. I have been found guilty by this quasi-judicial committee. More. They held no hearings, at least none at which I was invited to testify, on the basis of which they determined upon a verdict of guilty. This seems most unfair.
As a result of that report, and its wide circulation, to the entire Loyola community, my reputation has been besmirched. Who knows how many students there are who will avoid my classes; who knows how many faculty members who will advise students to this end. Who knows how many members of the faculty there are who will turn their backs to me when I approach; who will not sit at the same table with me at our faculty lounge, or student dining room. One member of our academic community is already, publicly, on record as refusing to dine with a job candidate because I was also included in this dinner gathering. (WB, 4/16/09: I no longer regard this last statement as true; it was told to me by a person I no longer regard as a reliable source; I am leaving in this statement, though, so as to not change the record.)
Worse, a duly constituted member of that Diversity Task Force committee, one Professor Wing Fok, told me that I am guilty until proven innocent. That is, until I prove myself innocent. This turns on its head centuries of the jurisprudence of America and other civilized countries.
What, specifically, about the actions of the Diversity Task Force, violates my rights as indicated in our faculty handbook? There are several instances:
Page 1—18 reads as follows: "u2018Hostile work or learning environment,’ where the harassment creates an offensive and unpleasant working or learning environment." I have been accused, in effect, of being a sexist. This, in my view, constitutes sexual harassment. Due to the widely disseminated report of the Diversity Task Force, "an offensive and unpleasant working or learning environment" (in the words of the handbook) has been created for me.
Page 8—1 of the handbook mentions the following: "Each faculty member has the right of free inquiry and exchange of ideas in teaching and scholarly pursuits. Each faculty member has the right to present subject matter in the manner he or she deems most suitable, as well as the right to present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction." I feel that my right of free inquiry has been abridged by this unjust, undocumented and unfair finding of the Diversity Task Force that I am both a racist and a sexist.
Page 8—3 mentions "C. Academic Freedom." I feel that my academic freedom has been impinged upon, but having a judicial committee pronounce a verdict of "guilty" upon me, without holding a trial, without adducing any evidence whatsoever that I am guilty of racism or sexism.
In my view, members of our academic community are bound not only by our handbook. We are, after all, inter alia, a Jesuit university. Thus, we are obligated to act in accord, also, with Jesuit prescriptions.
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius are the spiritual foundation of Jesuit life. Paragraph 22 of the Exercises is a beautiful passage that says the following: “That both the giver and the maker of the Spiritual Exercises may be of greater help and benefit to each other, it should be presupposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it. Further, if one cannot interpret it favorably, one should ask how the other means it. If that meaning is wrong, one should correct the person with love; and if this is not enough, one should search out every appropriate means through which, by understanding the statement in a good way, it may be saved.”
Have the members of the Diversity Task Force acted in accordance with this Ignatian prescription? To ask this question is to answer it: they have not. They never approached me to discern if the newspaper column on the basis of which they wrote their report was accurate. Taking the position that the burden of proof lay with me to demonstrate my innocence (a manifest injustice), they did not have the decency to invite me to their meeting to demonstrate this. In this and every other way possible, they acted in a manner incompatible with the Jesuit principles which supposedly underlie our behavior at Loyola University.
2. I was not allowed to reply
The Diversity Task Force report was circulated to the entire academic community (LoyMail Daily Campus E-Mail Digest; Information Technology.) When I tried to reply, I was told by Michael Klein, the person in charge of vetting this website that, since the Diversity Task Force was a duly constituted committee of Loyola New Orleans, they had a right to utilize this venue; since I was "only" an individual, I had no such right. I appealed this decision all the way up to Provost Ed Kvet. He, too, supported the decision to not allow me access to this website. I feel this is most unfair. True, I was able to circulate my response to people, but not to all those who had seen the Task Force Report. What, then, is the response likely to be of those who viewed the Task Force Report, but were unable to see my response. For many — it is only human nature — the response is likely to be "Where there is smoke, there must be fire. Here is a report, highly critical of Prof. Block, written by a duly constituted committee of Loyola University New Orleans. Block has not responded to it. There must be some truth to it, otherwise the Task Force would not have written its report, and, Block would have at least tried to refute it."