There they go again. On Tuesday, the same day the Pentagon declared that major military operations were essentially over in Iraq, UCLA's Academic Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution to condemn the U.S.-led war on Saddam Hussein's regime. The resolution not only condemned U.S. involvement in Iraq, it excoriated President Bush for his "preventive war," opposed the establishment of an American protectorate in Iraq, affirmed the Academic Senate's "commitment to addressing international conflicts through the rule of law and the United Nations," and called for any post-war Iraqi republic to be answerable to the United Nations. Of the 196 UCLA faculty members who voted on the resolution, a whopping 180 voted in favor. Nine abstained. Only seven voted against the resolution.
Twenty-four million Iraqis are liberated, statues of Saddam lie desecrated all over Iraq, and all UCLA's professors can do is condemn the United States. Not only do they disgrace themselves, they disgrace their colleagues who are members of the 3,200-member UCLA Academic Senate. Those colleagues cannot drop their Academic Senate membership without also quitting their jobs. So much for academic freedom.
"I didn't think it was appropriate for them even to be taking a position on the matter," Professor Grant Nelson of the UCLA Law School said in a phone interview. He told the Senate that taking political positions was not the goal of the Senate, and was booed down by his fellow faculty members. "Our job is to deal with matters in the curriculum, matters of standards, matters of tenure, things that are core to the central mission of the university. Taking positions on wars, taking positions on abortion, taking positions on the Palestinian-Israel conflict are simply not within our purview because we can't resign from the organization short of giving up our jobs," he told me.
Nelson describes himself as one of the "four or five" Republican professors in the law school faculty of "over 50." "There's very little intellectual diversity at the universities," he said. "In terms of political views, there's virtually no diversity on campus. ... it is ironic that the university is supposed to be a place for free exchange of ideas, and we're supposed to be tolerant of ideas that we oppose, and you see I was getting booed yesterday. These are supposed to be rational people."
I also spoke with physics professor Karoly Holczer, an ardent advocate of the anti-war resolution. At the Senate session, Holczer stated: "The few academic senates in the country are the only organizations who should take a stand on human morals. It's more than our right, it's our obligation."