Ward Churchill, Lawrence Summers, and the hypocrisy of the academics

Posted: Feb 23, 2005 12:00 AM

Quick quiz: which of these two statements do you find more offensive?
(A) About under-representation of women in hard sciences: ?In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.  I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong...?
(B)  About the victims of September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center: ?True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire . . . . To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in ? and in many cases excelling at ? it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it.?
Statement (A) was made by Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University.  Statement (B) was written by Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado.  Believe it or not, the university academics are calling Churchill?s statements a textbook case of free speech, and are calling for Summers? head.  That?s the sick state of academia today.
 Many Harvard professors are leading an academic insurrection against Summers, lobbying for a vote of no-confidence.  On February 15, professors ripped into Summers at a one-sided meeting to discuss his comments.  Summers has been forced to largely back down from his statements, writing a letter to the Harvard faculty in which he explains, ?if I could turn back the clock, I would have spoken differently on matters so complex . . . . I should have left such speculation to those more expert in the relevant fields.?  
  Meanwhile, Ward Churchill, who should not only be fired for his statements but expelled from the country, has found the hearts of many in liberal academia.  Deans and professors from all over the country have pledged their support.  Ignorant college students who cite the First Amendment without ever having read it back Churchill all the way.  
  So why the difference in treatment?  It would be difficult to claim that University of Colorado professors are more open-minded about academic freedom than are professors at Harvard University.  No, this question comes down to politics, pure and simple.  Ward Churchill said something professors believe should be said; even if they don?t agree with his statements, they feel that his radical, treasonous anti-Americanism belongs in the classroom.  Larry Summers said something professors believe should not be given any forum; he challenged the prevailing P.C. notion that women and men are the same in all respects.
  Leftist academia is willing to eat its own to prevent the conservative barbarians from entering the gates.  To many of these professors, Lawrence Summers looks like Kane from Alien: a good, solid, center-left guy ? until that conservative alien pops out of his chest and lands on the table.  Much of the professorial anger at Summers has been building up over time.  A couple of years ago, Summers offended nutty professor Cornel West, who found time in between making rap CDs and ignoring intellectual pursuits to hop over to Princeton in retaliation.  In 2002, Summers made an unpopular speech in which he lambasted rising anti-Semitism in the academic community.  Summers has also been active in fighting grade inflation.

    Everyone knew who Churchill was from the start.  He was hired and promoted because he?s virulently unpatriotic and wishes to see the United States government overthrown.  So why should we be surprised when those who hand-picked him defend him from his attackers?

    Academic freedom means nothing to Churchill?s defenders and Summers? attackers.  It?s a buzzword they can use or discard at will.  Ruth Wisse, one of the few honest professors at Harvard summed up the situation nicely: ?These are people frustrated that they can't unseat President Bush, and [Summers] is the closest thing that they can depose. Since he appears to be somewhat to the right of them, he will suffice as a surrogate . . . I would hope these forces would be exposed: This is a place that wants to deny people free speech.?