When I was in grammar school there was a kid on my block named David. He often tried to make others look like idiots by accusing them of saying things they never really said. For example, he used to lean over to people as if they were whispering something to him. He would then recoil in apparent horror exclaiming, "No, I will not pull my pants down for a dollar."
At first, he was successful in making others look like idiots. But, eventually, people figured out that David was the idiot. Unfortunately, David's tactic has now been adopted by Ian Newbould, President of N.C. Wesleyan College.
Following a couple of columns-one by Jon Sanders, one by yours truly-President Newbould has issued the following statement in defense of embattled political science professor Jane Christensen:
"North Carolina Wesleyan College seeks to foster freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry. The College believes that the students' educational experience should include a balanced and open approach to learning. As a United Methodist institution, we value diversity of opinion. The College fosters just and fair treatment for all groups in our society and does not condone hatred or violence of any kind. We seek to foster Judeo-Christian values. We value First Amendment rights, and academic freedom for our faculty and students..."
The first problem with this statement is obvious. Neither of the columnists criticizing Christensen argued that she should be censored in a way. We are not enemies of the First Amendment. Nor are we enemies of academic freedom as his statement suggests. In other words, we did not ask Newbould to pull his pants down. As soon as he stops insisting that "he will not pull his pants down" we can move on to other, more important, issues.
For example, Newbould says that NC Wesleyan values intellectual diversity and does not condone hatred. But how does that statement square with the following quote from Professor Jane Christensen?: "I rather think the 'Holocaust' denial sites have a great deal of credibility since the 'Holocaust' was the greatest hoax of all."
Before you read the rest of Newbould's statement, consider that Jane Christensen is the only political science professor at NC Wesleyan. And, just for fun, ask yourself what Christensen thinks about Newbould's use of the word "Judeo" in his defense of her.
"Professor Christensen's views are not those held by the overwhelming majority of Americans. She presents alternative views that many find repugnant. There is no question but that students in her classes hear views and opinions different from the mainstream. It should be noted that our students are intelligent and thoughtful. They can, and often do, disagree with Professor Christensen, without academic penalty. Many students find themselves upset at the opinion and commentary that they are uncritical, or can be brainwashed."
Note that Newbould states that students "often" disagree without penalty. Does that mean that they sometimes, or perhaps often, disagree with penalty?
I suspect that Newbould chooses his words carefully because he knows that a recent complaint against Christensen (alleging viewpoint discrimination) was quickly dismissed by university officials. But what will he do if other complaints are lodged in the near future? Will it be harder to dismiss them now that the whole country is watching?
"As an institution, we do not require our faculty or students to accept, or reject, any particular academic or political theory. We endeavor to ensure, however, that what is taught accords with the standards of each profession and discipline. In response to the many concerns raised about Dr. Christensen's coursework, North Carolina Wesleyan College will be asking a team of respected Political Scientists to evaluate, out of the glare of publicity, the academic appropriateness and integrity of Professor Christensen's approach to teaching. Dr. Christensen has also suggested that this approach would be helpful. Sound and thoughtful review by external examination will guide our approach to this matter."
The idea of calling in "a team of respected Political Scientists" to evaluate "the academic appropriateness and integrity of Professor Christensen's approach to teaching" is simply hysterical. It reminds me of the time I saw a large dog defecate a few yards in front of me on a jogging trail. Rather than call in a team of experts to perform tests on the fecal matter, I just stepped out of the way. In other words, I know fecal matter when I see it. President Newbould's capacity for fecal identification is not so well-developed.
Of course, this proposed evaluation is simply a stall tactic by an administration hoping that its greatest ever PR disaster will simply go away. After all, Christensen admits the following in regard to one of her courses: "This course is outside the scope of traditional 'political science' in many ways. First it is 'unscientific' in that it relies much on eyewitness accounts and speculation."
And that is probably why Jane Christensen believes that the Bush administration staged the attacks of 911 and that "the 'Holocaust' was the greatest hoax of all." She is a "speculator," not a scientist.
But you can't tell that to Jane Christensen. She says that criticism of her courses is part of "a war by the extreme right wing motivated by the Zionists to quash academic freedom on campus." And when I offered her a chance to rebut my criticisms of her, here is what she had to say: "Sorry, Mike, you destructive bastard. You've just played your hand. F*** you."
Let me say for the record that I am not part of a right-wing Zionist conspiracy, aimed at keeping people like Jane Christensen out of our institutions of higher learning. To the contrary, I think that Jane Christensen belongs in an institution. She could hardly function anywhere else.