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.’”
The “obsession” with academic freedom Korn thinks is “misplaced,” for “no academic question is ever ‘free’ from [such] political realities” as “racism, sexism, and heterosexism [.]” After all, since “our university community opposes” such things, “it should ensure that this research…promoting or justifying oppression…does not continue.” This is in keeping with the demands of “academic justice.”
So too does the craving for “academic justice” account for the decision of the American Studies Association at Harvard to boycott “Israeli academic institutions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine.” The ASA, Korn explains, are interested, not in resorting to “the ‘freedom’ game” of “those on the right,” but in achieving “social justice.” Thus, they “take the moral upper hand.”
Korn concludes by reiterating the central thesis of her essay that our “obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom” prevents us from considering “more thoughtfully what is just.”
In a sane world, a world that hasn’t been subverted by decades of leftism, it would be viewed as nothing less than a scandal that any college student, let alone a student at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, would hold Korn’s views, to say nothing of publishing them. Traditionally, the university had been regarded as among the premiere civilizing institutions, the place where students were educated in just those intellectual and moral habits that would enable them to formulate, articulate, and defend their own convictions while treating those of their opponents with respect and even charity.
The academic world inhabited by the Korns of our world is a radically different kind of place. Views with which one disagrees are not to be refuted, but condemned, and their proponents demonized. The university exists not for the sake of acquiring and conveying truth and knowledge, but for the sake of “social justice”—i.e. a totalizing leftist ideology that is to be imposed, “by whichever means necessary,” upon both students and faculty alike.