John Leo

to this column’s annual Sheldon award? Well, it’s back. As all Sheldon fans know, the
prize goes to the university president who does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus. The Sheldon is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. It is named for Sheldon Hackney, former president of the University of Pennsylvania and a modern legend in looking the other way. After minority students in 1993 stole the entire press run of a campus newspaper, Hackney refused to discipline the thieves. But the guard who pursued them was reprimanded, a nice touch.

Emulating Hackney is like setting out to be the new Babe Ruth, but many try. A strong contender this year is William Cibes Jr., chancellor of the Connecticut State University system. One professor, fed up with one-sided seminars and guest lectures at CSU, asked the university to endorse airing a full range of views in these programs. Cibes said no, on the grounds that such a statement could justly be seen as “invading academic freedom.” He is believed to be the first college administrator to oppose intellectual diversity as a threat to academic freedom.

More recently, when the newspaper at Hampton University in Virginia was about to run an article on health violations at the cafeteria, acting university president JoAnn Haysbert asked for space on Page 1 to give her side. The editors put her article on Page 3, so she seized all copies of the issue, which was then reprinted with her piece on Page 1. Haysbert may be a bonehead, but she is ineligible for the Sheldon, which requires looking the other way, not making off with a whole press run yourself.

A furor erupted at the University of Nevada -- Las Vegas when the student newspaper ran an abrasive Columbus Day article celebrating Columbus and rejecting both Indian cultures and the multicultural notion that all cultures are somehow equal. Nearly all copies of the paper were stolen, and the author of the article, Alexander Marriott, was fired from the staff of the paper on a charge of plagiarism, since discredited. No word yet from UNLV president Carol Harter, who is believed to be busy looking the other way.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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