Sandra Korn is a Harvard University undergraduate student and a writer for The Harvard Crimson. In a recent edition of the school’s paper, she argues for abandoning the traditional value of “academic freedom” in favor of what she calls, “academic justice.”
Korn may still be but a student, but both the lines along which she thinks as well as the ease with which she articulates her thoughts reveals to all with eyes to see the character of the academic environment in which she’s been reared: those who she wishes to deprive of academic freedom are just those academics who refuse to endorse the leftist ideology of Korn and her professors.
Korn singles out as instances of teacher-scholars who should have been stripped of their academic freedom just and only those figures who are noted for their penchant for smashing the sacred cows of the left.
Richard J. Herrnstein is one such example. Herrnstein is probably most distinguished for having co-authored along with Charles Murray the now famous, The Bell Curve. However, the thesis that IQ differences vary with race and that, to at least some extent, these differences are genetic, is one that he defended two decades earlier, back in 1971. Because of this position of his, militant student activists disrupted Herrnstein’s classes and demanded that, along with sociologist Christopher Jencks (another thought criminal), he be fired.
Quoting Herrnstein, Korn relays that while claiming to have not been “bothered…personally” by the attacks against him, Herrnstein admitted that he was deeply troubled by the fact it was now “hazardous for a professor to teach certain kinds of views” at Harvard. Korn replies that this was precisely the point of “the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] activists—they wanted to make the ‘certain kinds of views’ they deemed racist and classist unwelcome on Harvard’s campus.”
Harvey Mansfield is another person upon whom Korn sets her sights. She charges Mansfield with “publishing…sexist commentary under the authority of a Harvard faculty position” and avows that she “would happily organize with other feminists on campus to stop him” from continuing to do so.
Korn admits that while it could very well be the case that student activists are guilty of infringing upon the academic freedom of the Herrnsteins and Mansfields of the world, this “obsession with the doctrine of ‘academic freedom’ often seems to bump against something [that] I think [is] much more important: ‘academic justice.’”
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.