Tags: Tabloid | Television | and | Ward | Churchill

Tabloid Television and Ward Churchill

Tuesday, 01 March 2005 12:00 AM

At one point, he described them as a "technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire" and "little Eichmanns." Bill O'Reilly turned it into a national issue, the Hamilton speech was canceled for security reasons, Churchill resigned as department chair, the governor went on "The Factor" to demand that he be fired, everybody started shooting at the university, and they're now trying to figure out how to buy him out of his contract.

Since I've been highly critical of Larry Summers' relatively more modest comments about women – he pronounced it likely that innate inferiority played a bigger role than socialization in the gap between men and women in the sciences – many readers have e-mailed me demanding that I denounce Churchill with even greater vigor. I'm delighted to do so.

Under absolutely no circumstances would I support Ward Churchill for the presidency of any college or university in the world. A more divisive, wrongheaded man there could not be. By contrast, there isn't a university in this country that wouldn't be delighted to offer its most distinguished professorship to Larry Summers, whatever he thinks about women and science, and were he not holding the office of the president, no one would suggest for a moment that he didn't have the right to his views, however wrongheaded.

The problem Larry Summers is facing is not what he said, but what he's done. Had another scientist made those comments over lunch, people wouldn't be talking about it. Men say such things all the time, even ones who should know better.

Nor are college presidents held to standards of zero tolerance when it comes to slips of tongue. Had a man with a strong record on the support and promotion of women, or just a strong following in the faculty, made those comments, there might have been the same response in the room, but there would not have been the same reaction in the faculty.

I can't think of anything USC President Steve Sample could possibly say that would cause his faculty (of which I am a part) to turn on him – it simply could not happen. On the other hand, as in any other business, if the record shows fewer women getting promoted, and the boss stands up and says he thinks women are just plain dumber, it would appear to outsiders like the place was looking to get sued and the boss was looking for trouble. If the people on the inside, a majority of whom are men, then vote against him, the issue isn't academic freedom, it's leadership. No one is taking away his tenure. Being college president is a job.

Larry Summers' friends, in their effort to protect him from the feminists, are really stripping Ward Churchill of whatever shreds of legitimate protection academia still has left to offer for unpopular points of view. Because that's what Churchill is selling – the "banality of evil" business, coupled with the argument that "if we bomb buildings in Baghdad where they have defense offices, why can't they bomb buildings here where the CIA has offices."

If this were all he'd written, I doubt he'd have tenure. I assume Colorado's review processes are better. Even so, I know that my students will confront people in their lives, perhaps a great many people, who believe just what this man is saying. And one of the most important purposes of academic freedom is not to protect us from dangerous ideas, but to ensure that we are exposed to them and can do battle with them, as ideas, with the confidence in ourselves and our students as to how the competition will fare.

I work for Fox News. I spent years in talk radio. I know how the system works. The question of how you draw the line within a university for dissent – the question that was to be discussed, where it belonged, in a college – became a victim of Talk TV. Somebody found a clip in a college paper. Good work. It was a great story for Bill. Trial by "The Factor." Academic freedom was invented for tabloid TV.

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At one point, he described them as a "technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire" and "little Eichmanns." Bill O'Reilly turned it into a national issue, the Hamilton speech was canceled for security reasons, Churchill resigned as department...
Tabloid,Television,and,Ward,Churchill
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2005-00-01
Tuesday, 01 March 2005 12:00 AM
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