Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Let Academic Freedom Ring

Let Academic Freedom Ring
by Philipp Tsipman

You don’t have to be at Tufts for too long before you notice one thing: there is not a whole lot of diversity here. Diversity of thought, that is. Sure, Tufts can boast of an ethnically diverse faculty and student body. If you look more than skin-deep, however, you’ll notice that this place resembles more closely a political party or an exclusive social club than a hotbed of free and independent inquiry and thought.

Of the hundreds of lecturers at this university every year, David Horowitz, speaking on Thursday, April 1 will be one of just a handful who is a conservative. The commencement address has been delivered by a liberal from time immemorial, and if we look at the faculty, only two are registered Republicans, or less than 2% of those surveyed in the spring 2002, and only one faculty member gave to a Republican campaign between 1998 and 2001 out of over one hundred contributions.

Now, one may say that Massachusetts is naturally heavily Democratic, that the faculty may be non-partisan, and that in any case the university hires the best people possible without any partisan or ideological discrimination.

Massachusetts voted 32.5% for Bush in 2000 vs. 47.87% nationally. That’s hardly 2%. If you are ever in doubt, however, about the ideological inclinations of the faculty and the non-partisan atmosphere at Tufts, just take a look at the professors’ doors in East Hall, the home of the English and History departments. There are signs, cartoons, and decals for every liberal cause imaginable, sending a clear message to both students and potential faculty applicants about who is “in” and who isn’t. Try to find something similar on the conservative side.

Then, take a look at the events sponsored by these two departments and at their curricula, along with those of the Spanish, Urban and Environmental Policy, Child Development, Sociology and Anthropology Departments, and of the various academic programs at Tufts: Peace and Justice, American Studies, Women’s Studies, and the Group of Six culture centers. Whenever politics is touched upon, it is considered from a Democratic or Green partisan perspective. Even when the political process is not mentioned directly, the discussions reflect the concerns of the well-heeled, liberal Northeastern intellectual elites: environment, racial, gender, and sexual orientation “justice,” animal rights, secularism, Third World humanitarianism, multilateralism, multiculturalism, anti-militarism, and an opposition to guns, smoking, and business. Until recently the Tufts Chaplaincy used to feature a disclaimer on its website associating itself with "liberal religion." The disclaimer is no longer there, but the attitude persists.

While President Bacow talks about valuing diversity "in every dimension-—as a critical element in adequately preparing students for a rapidly changing world," the radicalized sixties generation of today’s faculty and administrators brought their politics and their prejudices along with them to their tenure. They combined them with Boston’s Brahmin exclusivity and created a perfect social club, where minorities and foreigners are more than welcome, as long as they are “our people” that is, and don’t disagree.

Yet, learning from only one perspective in an environment where challenging the underlying assumptions to any extent makes you an outcast in class and hurts your grades is not learning but indoctrination. The result is herd mentality where ideas go largely unchallenged and one comes out with the same cookie cutter mentality as everyone else.

For too long this has been true at Tufts. It’s now time to open things up.

This Sunday, Students for Intellectual Diversity, an affiliate of the Tufts Republicans, will introduce a resolution on the Academic Bill of Rights with the TCU Senate. The bill outlines several key principles—-freedom of speech, non-discrimination, due process, intellectual diversity-—that the university should commit itself to in order to create a climate free of academic bias. We urge the TCU Senate and the faculty Educational Policy Committee to support this proposal, and for President Bacow to call together a taskforce that will address this issue on a university-wide level.

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