On Ward Churchill and Academic Leftmania

[First published February 25, 2005] I have read Ward Churchill’s “’Some People Push Back’ On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” (link given below). It’s a propaganda piece, and could have been written by Bin Laden with hardly a change in wording.

Churchill has become a popular figure on campus and is often invited to give speeches and talks, and indeed, has even been invited by faculty to speak at the University of Hawaii, from which I retired years ago. In light of this, I want to say a few words about the leftist university climate in which an ignorant fraud, and expressed enemy of the United States like Churchill, can thrive. I’ll focus this on two hallowed academic principles. But first, a word about the leftism of the university.

The university is institutionally diverse, with schools and departments of law, medicine, business, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and so forth. Generally, the faculty in business, engineering, natural sciences, mathematics, agriculture, and related, are least on the left, although as I understand the latest polls or surveys, Democrats still dominate in them. However, it is the humanities, social sciences, and law, and such programs as ethnic studies, woman studies, peace studies, and such, that are most dominated by the left. So, when a survey claims that 85 percent of the faculty vote Democrat, and that covers all the way from engineering and the hard sciences to the humanities, then the figure for the humanities and social sciences alone has to be much higher. Indeed, judging from my experience, a conservative or Republican in these fields is extremely rare, say, one out of thirty, or forty faculty. There are more communists (they call themselves Marxists), than either libertarians or conservatives together, and It appears to me that those on the left outnumber the average liberal and moderate Democrat.

Now, as to the two hallowed principles. One is diversity. There is none in political orientation. The left has captured the university and fight to maintain their control. They refuse to hire or give tenure to those perceived conservative or nonsupportive of their ideology. It is done cleverly, you see, by pointing to problems in a candidate’s research or lectures. For example, if a candidates supported Bush’s foreign policy, they would find his research inadequate, insensitive to Iraq deaths, hawkish, nationalistic, and so forth.

This also extends to sending out invitations to speakers. Almost always, these speakers are liberal or left; hardly ever conservative or libertarian, unless certain conservative student groups fight like hell to bring one. And even then, hostile leftist students may so threaten disruption, that the university administration may use this as an excuse to cancel the engagement they didn’t want anyway.

The second hallowed principle, which you hear often in defense of Churchill, is academic freedom. After almost forty years of being in a university as a student and teaching, I have seen the campus go from the existence of a wide range of extensive academic freedom to a narrow band in the social sciences and humanities. I’m retired now, but if I were teaching, I know many things I believe related to my field that I could not say on campus or while teaching. What we have now is a leftist enforced control of speech such that every academic has academic freedom as long as they stick close to the liberal-leftist line.

To put this bluntly, academic freedom is now a charade, a leftiwocky, most often expressed by liberal and leftist faculty and ideological innocents to protect these faculty from outside criticism.

How do they enforce this? If a faculty member does not have tenure, he had better hue the liberal and leftist line if he wants it. If he has tenure, then at least through their control of the department chairmanship and major committees, they can make a conservative or libertarian professor suffer a thousand cuts: worst parking spaces, worst offices, no assistants, no promotions (if possible), no salary increases (if not automatic) or merit increases, heaviest teaching load, assigned largest and most elementary courses, many committee assignments (but never a chairmanship), no travel allowance, no research support, a campaign among leftist students to get others to avoid their classes, and plain old social isolation. It has to be an unusually dedicated faculty member to stick this out. And this is just at the department level. What a dean can do is far worse, such as using leftist student complaints to set up a Star Chamber investigation.

To be clear, I am not saying that liberal of leftist academics are more incompetent, more biased, less intelligent, less productive, or poorer teachers than conservatives or libertarians. I am not saying they all are bad people or academics in some sense. A lot of the good work in my area on international relations, foreign policy, and the democratic peace has come from these academics. I will say this, however. In general, they are less open minded, less tolerant of opposing ideas, less willing to engage them, and more self-righteous.

Something has to be done about the lack of diversity and freedom of speech on campus and, I’m afraid, we simply can’t wait until the passage of several generations of faculty moves universities more towards the center. What should this be? Well, that will take another blog or so.


Link of Note

”’Some People Push Back’ On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” (nd By Ward Churchill)

 On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well. . . . it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins.
Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America’s sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who’ve died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter.

Comment by Colleague Two
Colleague Two is a professor of international law.

The problem with Churchill is not merely that he’s a left-wing screwball, but that his whole life has been one big lie. He got a job as a professor pretending to be a “Native American” and that’s been proven false. He portrayed himself as a Vietnam war hero and turns out he was a Public Affairs specialist who changed reels on a movie projector.

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