The next time a college professor starts lecturing on the importance of a free and open marketplace of ideas beware. He’s probably going to offer a few platitudes before he throws in an awkward “but,” and then shows his true beliefs about free expression. As a general rule, you can ignore everything that comes before the word “but.” It is usually after he utters his first “but” that he really starts to show his ass.
At Western Carolina University (WCU) the faculty senate recently showed its true colors on an important issue of academic freedom. They were approached with an offer to fund a new Center for the Study of Free Enterprise (CSFE). It should have been easy for them to handle. Predictably, they screwed it up to a fair thee well.
When the faculty senate met they decided to publish a report on the pros and cons of accepting the money to fund the CSFE. As you read about their pro and cons remember that these professors regularly complain that they don’t get enough funding for higher education. Thus, they are constantly asking you to pay higher taxes to make up for it.
1. The WCU Faculty Senate fully agreed that the proposed CSFE was advancing theoretical perspectives well within the mainstream of the discipline of economics. They also recognized that their colleagues in the Economics department had a “right” to determine their own research agendas, which the faculty senate said it “unequivocally” supports.
2. In contrast with the university as a whole, proposed centers can address a specific agenda without addressing a diversity of viewpoints. The WCU therefore rightly concluded that the limited focus of a free enterprise center should not be deemed problematic.
1. The senators expressed concern that the $2 million gift from the Koch Foundation (please note the source of the gift) would expire in five years. They warned that even if the cessation of external funding forced the CSFE to close WCU “may still be obligated to some level of increased funding in future years.”
Did you catch that one? The faculty at WCU is refusing to accept millions of dollars in external funding because of fears that somehow, some way, the funds might dry up and the taxpayer may some day be hit with some kind of unspecified cost. Has anyone ever heard of a faculty body rejecting millions in external funding due to fears of burdening the taxpayers with unspecified future costs? And could anyone ever imagine them rejecting the gift if the proposed CSFE stood for Center for the Study of Feminist Environmentalism?
2. The WCU faculty senate further concluded that the proposed CSFE was not needed because research and education on the issue of free enterprise was already taking place at WCU.
Was that really an issue? Can you imagine WCU rejecting money from a prominent organization wanting to start an LGBT center – and doing it on the theory that professors are already engaged in research and education on LGBT issues? Of course, you can’t. The reason is that these centers are already up and running at most universities. They are not in need of external grants because the faculty senators have already approved of them and sent the bill to the taxpayers.
3. The senators further stated that the proposed center placed “potential constraints on academic freedom.” They claim that the Koch Foundation has “previously set forth explicit expectations in line with their political views in exchange for monetary gifts to universities, thereby constraining academic freedom.”
Can anyone explain how accepting the gift for a pro capitalist CSFE in any way constrains the freedom of Marxist professors to critique the center’s activities? Furthermore, ask yourself which of the following poses the greatest threat to academic freedom:
*A privately funded CSFE, which only considers applicants who support capitalism?
*A government funded campus LGBT center, which only consider applicants who support same sex marriage and other leftist public policy positions?
4. The senators further expressed concern that accepting a gift from the Koch Foundation would be accompanied by reputational costs. They claimed that gifts from Koch were followed by “much negative publicity in higher education outlets as well as general media.” They topped it off by stating that “for WCU to establish a new center on free enterprise may suggest to the general public something about our institution’s priorities and values with which many faculty are uncomfortable.”
Please allow me to translate those last two statements. First, the WCU faculty senate is saying that the fact that liberal academics and the liberal media would criticize them for accepting the gift justifies rejecting the gift. In other words, liberal educational bias and liberal media bias justify further liberal educational bias. What was that they just said about academic freedom?
Furthermore, this idea that faculty can negate speech simply because they are “uncomfortable” is disgraceful. It boggles the mind to imagine how their ancestors crawled out of a pond and somehow evolved into beings so emotionally unfit that they cannot withstand ideas that make them “uncomfortable.” Compounding their lack of emotional strength is a lack of humility, which claims that their own emotions actually trump the ideas of others.
It is worth noting that none of these professors have expressed opposition to the WCU Women’s Center, which once sponsored a bondage and masochism seminar teaching students how to inflict physical pain on one another for sexual pleasure. Were any of these professors concerned that the center’s activities were accompanied by “reputational costs” in the broader community?
5. Finally, the WCU faculty senate was concerned about the lack of scholarly peer review ensuring that the CSFE activities really were scholarly in nature.
I have to wonder whether there was peer review involved when the WCU Women’s Center held a series of panels on sexual empowerment several years ago. One panel featured WCU psychology professor Hal Herzog. In case you didn’t know, Hal Herzog is an expert on animal behavior. He once wrote a book asking profound questions such as “Why is it Okay to feed a mouse but not a kitten to your pet boa constrictor?” and “Can dogs read people’s minds?” The learned professor also developed a personality test for baby snakes. No, I am no making this up.
So please note that these professors at WCU really do care about academic freedom. If it appears they are engaging in censorship then think again. They are just trying to save money, prevent unnecessary research, spare the university’s splendid reputation, and ensure that only legitimate research is being done in the hills of western Carolina. (Sarcasm = off).
To sum it all up, the Marxists who run WCU don’t need a center celebrating free markets. The marketplace of ideas has been shut down for years.