Each year the University of Michigan holds an "academic freedom" lecture. If I had five minutes to address such an assembly, I might say something like the following.
For a real scholar, guided by a disinterested pursuit of information and knowledge rather than by ideological, political or social goals, academic freedom makes sense. No one should be fired for disagreeing with the department chairperson's pet little theories. The mossbacks with their obsolete perspectives must not be allowed to thwart the young challenger with his or her brilliant new paradigms.
But academic freedom is still a limited concept. If there were a social contract involved, it might be something like this:
We, society, will give you a salary, an office, various facilities, budgets, etc., and you will pursue some arguably worthwhile investigations. We, society, realize that we are usually not able to judge the value of scholarly work. We believe, in most cases, it is appropriate for scholarly work to be judged by other scholars according to established academic traditions. Of course, there is no absolute rule that will ensure that all potentially valuable new perspectives or paradigms will be given due consideration. There is no absolute rule that will prevent some people granted the perquisites of academic life from turning out to be frauds. So we do not expect your judgments to be one-hundred percent perfect. We do not feel that it is our place to hinder or constrain you. Such efforts on our part would lessen your ability to advance human knowledge and thus contribute to social progress.
We expect some kind of loyalty from you in return -- not to our particular partisan affections, but to our basic existence as a people and to our future as a people.
Although most on the inside would deny it, it is obvious to many of us on the outside that faculty and staff of large sectors of our system of colleges and universities have profoundly violated that contract. In other words, many of you who are gathered here to celebrate academic freedom have violated that contract. The institutions in which you flourish have betrayed the people that created them.
We can see this in your obsession with so-called "diversity." We can see this in your predominantly leftist political orientations. We can see this most profoundly in your promotion of the idea that white people will be a minority in the U.S.A. by the year 2050. Faculty, administrators, deans never ask, "Would this be a good thing or not." Instead, we are expected to presume that white minority status in the year 2050 is inevitable, and that the job of higher education is to provide ethnic studies courses and inter-group dialog experiences so that white students will be prepared to live in such a world.
You have successfully concluded a "long march through the institutions." Now you are using your places in academia as bases for participating in some grand project for the complete transformation of society. You are using the protections we established for scholars as defensive ramparts around your political activities. A white American of ordinary tendencies has no reason at all to respect you.
Like the so-called minority advocates whose voices are becoming increasingly strident and increasingly tedious, you have presumed far too long on the general good will, the generally progressive impulses of average Americans. And, just as it has taken average Americans more than a few years to understand how thoroughly they have been lied to and betrayed by the Bush administration, it will take them a while to understand that their institutions of higher education are, in many ways, also their enemy.
The society you are trying to destroy, the people you are trying to destroy, have absolutely no philosophical, moral, practical or tactical reason to support you. You act as if "academic freedom" were given to you by God Almighty. You act as if you are aristocrats, having rights and privileges beyond those of common citizens.
Not too many years from now, you will find yourselves out of work. You will have every single freedom that I have right now, and no more.
And, I assure you, in the year 2050, white people will still be a majority in the United States of America. We will be a majority that is proud, confident, decent, fair, intelligent and secure.
Addendum, January 14, 2006:
For an account of some stunningly bigotted personalities at the University of Pittsburgh, read the FrontpageMag.com article: The Pitt of Academic Bias by Art Eckstein.
Addendum, September 18, 2007:
Check out this.
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