Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial
boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable
and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States.
A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School,
Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing
editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found
[go to Liebau index]
The Sad Message of the Ward Churchill Affair...
Platt Liebau] 2/7/05
Churchill has become a poster child for the incredible dysfunction
of America’s universities. Churchill is the
University of Colorado professor who, in the wake of the 9/11
attacks, described the victims as "little Eichmanns." Their
deaths, he argued were a "penalty befitting their participation
in . . . the 'mighty engine of profit' to which the military
dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved."
These comments went
largely unnoticed until Churchill was scheduled to speak at
Hamilton College – he frequently lectures in
exchange for a six-figure fee. (It’s an easy way to obtain
the wherewithal to denigrate the hard working businesspeople
and restaurant workers in the Twin Towers). The outrage that
resulted from Churchill’s remarks forced Hamilton College,
quite rightly, to cancel his speech. And now it has emerged that
Churchill – who, for years, has traded on his supposed
status as a Native American – isn’t actually a member
of any tribe at all. He is a fraud.
If any other professional
had brought disrepute on his organization even comparable to
the disgrace Churchill has visited on UC-Boulder,
he’s be out of a job already. But the university has only
taken the first step in initiating a six-month process that might
(or might not) result in Churchill’s dismissal.
Proponents of tenure
have long argued that it protects academic freedom. That argument
has proved to be as fraudulent as Ward
Churchill’s Native American heritage.
Tenure does little
or nothing to protect academic inquiry from the right. Even
Lawrence Summers, the President of Harvard, feared
for his job in the wake of eliciting feminist outrage by hypothesizing
the existence of inherent differences between the sexes. Those
remarks weren’t “radical chic,” like Churchill’s;
instead, they challenged one of feminism’s central tenets – that
there are no differences between men and women. And for that,
there can be no tolerance in the left-wing academic world.
In fact, tenure’s existence serves only to lock a new
generation of conservatives out of academia by permitting the
radicals who dominate the academy to maintain their jobs long
past the time when they are either productive or relevant. Harvard’s
Summers ran into trouble once before – when he had the
temerity to suggest to Cornell West (a star of the African-American
Studies department) that he might be well-advised to stop making
rap records and start producing a little more scholarship. In
a huff, West decamped for Princeton.
It’s not surprising that West found Princeton to be a
refuge. After all, it’s the home of Professor Peter Singer – a
proponent of animal rights who nonetheless believes that parents
should have the right to euthanize their own handicapped children
up to 28 days of age. But Singer can have confidence that he’ll
never be held accountable; he can spew amoral garbage far beyond
the pale of academic discourse – and then, if challenged,
can scurry to the safety of his tenured position in the ivory
The tenure system
like this serves neither the students, the parents paying tuition,
the universities who pay salaries – or
our society in general. The only people who benefit are the academics
themselves – who may, perhaps, sense that they couldn’t
enjoy the same protection, perks and privileges in a more robustly
competitive system. It is a system that is perfectly congruent
with the left-wing, even anti-capitalist views of the overwhelming
majority of today’s university professors.
This is America, and
academics have the right to say whatever they please. But at
some point, conservative or liberal, they
should be responsible – like every other professional and
politician is – to the people who pay their salaries. Good – or
even provocative and important – ideas will lack neither
marketability nor defenders (look at the “shadow university” world
of the think tanks established by the conservatives); at the
same time, evil and destructive ones can claim no right to subsidy
without accountability. And in a true marketplace of ideas, there
should always be at least some ideological balance.
Ward Churchill has
told his students that if he’s fired,
he’ll sue: "They really don't want to do that unless
they want me owning this university." Under the law right
now, maybe he would. And that’s part of the problem.
Discussing the possibility
of Churchill being discharged, the President of the University
of Colorado said, “I hope we
don’t do anything for which future generations will have
to apologize.” Unbelievably, he’s concerned that
firing Ward Churchill might be the wrong decision.
If anyone doubted
that moral relativism, ethical blindness and intellectual laziness
dominates America’s major universities,
the furor surrounding the Ward Churchill affair should eliminate
any uncertainty. tOR
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served
as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Her web log can be found at CarolLiebau.blogspot.com