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Shouting Down Jim Comey

| 13 Comments
Readers may remember my mentioning that Jim Comey and I were AUSA's together in the Nineties.  I have a high regard for his integrity, even while questioning his judgment and effectiveness in the investigation of Hillary Clinton's astonishing negligence with classified material (see my US News & World Report op-ed).

But for whatever one may think of Comey, no one could seriously doubt his right to speak at the Howard University convocation to which he was invited.  No one, that is, except the protesters who tried to silence him by shouting such things as, ""Get out James Comey! You're not our homie!" and, "No justice, no peace, no f---ing police!"

This is what it has come to in academia:  Harvard invites a traitor and felon to share his supposed wisdom as a Fellow and Columbia hires a cop killer, while "students" at Howard drown out Barack Obama's choice for FBI Director because of his support for the "f---ing police."

It's past time for anyone left in academia with a conscience to put a stop to the unhinged, pro-criminal slant of what goes on there.  But don't hold your breath

13 Comments

Bill, don't you still work in academia in the nation's capitol at one of the top ranked universities and law schools? Given your insider and inside the Beltway perch, I would love to hear your analysis of why academia has become, as you put it, "unhinged" and what you think can and should be done about it.

Relatedly, I assume you saw the stories of the female killer denied admission to a program at Harvard 20 years after her crime and serving her time. Does that story comfort you that some parts of academia are still anti-criminal?

Doug,

It's a sign of how low things have sunk that we now have to point to a murderer's NOT being admitted to Harvard as "evidence" of academic balance. Well, yes, Tsarnaev also has not been admitted -- yet. Maybe we can work on bringing in the lovely Casey Anthony. At least she got acquitted of offing her two-year old -- acquitted erroneously, but what the heck. I'm sure she's great on Originalism.

In the case you mention, by the way, the defendant was a mother who killed her four year-old son in some manner she STILL refuses to disclose. It might have been "merely" starvation and neglect, but it could also have been four days' worth of torture. That she stonewalls about it to this day ain't such a good sign, is it?

And no, it's not that we should feel relief she wasn't admitted at Harvard. It's that we should feel shock she was ever considered. Gosh, where's Professor McVeigh now that we need him? He's the Scholar in Residence for killing four year-old's.

To get to the main point: This whole business is an illustration of how completely standards are being, not merely forsaken, but ripped inside-out. Criminals are no longer treated merely as victims, which is perverse enough. Noooooooo, we need to go well beyond that. They are now to be treated as HEROES, and scholars to boot.

Meanwhile, Jim Comey and Heather MacDonald get hooted down, and other conservative speakers get drowned out -- if they manage to get on campus at all through the mob.

P.S. To answer you question: I don't know how it's become this unhinged, but the evidence of unhingedness is at this point too much to deny. For the remedy, I suggest you be installed as Dean at you alma mater, then hire me as Vice Dean for Curriculum.

Doug,

Unfortunately, the political one-sidedness of academia has gone beyond the critical point where it will be self-perpetuating unless strong affirmative action is taken to correct it.

If I were a young college student today deciding where to go in my career, I would definitely not set my sights on academia, knowing that many of the people who make hiring, publication, tenure, and promotion decisions are people who value partisanship above academic merit and above the quest for truth. Too many are people who will choose lesser lights who are Politically Correct above brighter ones who are not. Anyone with conservative views is well advised to make his career elsewhere. Unfortunately, those well-advised individual choices can only worsen the underlying problem.

Correction takes leadership at the top, a recognition that this is a grave problem and a determination to do something about it. I have been told that while Dean of Harvard Law, Elena Kagan actively sought faculty with conservative views and consulted the Federalist Society's Faculty Division Director, Lee Otis, on possible recruits. That's a good start.

Academic leaders also need to make clear that discrimination in hiring, etc. decisions against conservative viewpoints is just as bad as racial discrimination and will be subject to the same sanctions. People who cannot or will not judge on pure merit need to be kept off the committees making or advising on these decisions.

Those providing funding -- grant-making foundations, moneyed alumni, and the government -- should insist on these steps as a condition of funding. They need to insist that when schools choose their top administrators they choose people committed to fixing this problem.

Appreciate the engagement, Bill and Kent, but there is a bit of tension in your comments. If Harvard was to "judge on pure merit," it would seem Michelle Jones should have been admitted to its Ph.D. program. But Bill seems to be saying her criminal past and continued lack of candor should be disqualifying, even if she is qualified on academic "pure merit."

I bring this up because I suspect Bill and many others would say criminal activity is a proper metric in the "pure merit" calculus. Similarly, I know some folks on the left would say, e.g., they do not "discriminate" against conservative views, but whether a person accepts evolution or climate change science or racial disparities in legal decision-making is a proper metric of "pure merit." I say all this only to showcase how "pure merit" is necessarily a constructed and contestable concept and how folks on the left can claim that concern for "pure merit" drives their decision-making.

In the end, I think lots of institutional biases result from various facets of institutional design --- schools at all levels generally are (1) somewhat insulated from market forces, (2) committed to principles of equality and inclusion, and (3) shaped by younger populations. Those factors tend to push school environments to tend to be more liberal. (Chambers of commerce, as one institutional example, tend to be more conservative because they are generally (1) concerned about market forces, (2) committed to principles of competition, and (3) shaped by older populations.)

I think traditional liberals and libertarians are concerned about excessive political imbalances in higher education (as your Kagan example highlights, and now Dean Manning's appointment). And I am actually hopeful that the Trump era might help make things better (for reasons too complicated to explain here). But I never hold my breath about this kind of stuff.

That you choose to compare child killing with those who question global warming orthodoxy is telling.

Is one really the other? Judith Curry would have great difficulty finding a job today if she were 30 years old. Is that really comparable to someone who starved/tortured her child?

Your comment about universities being "committed to principles of equality and inclusion" is laughable. I have worked for several over the years and found no such thing.

Christians are welcome only if they keep a basket over their flame and preach only half the gospel. Even then...

Deans imply that DP supporters have no place in the College of Justice & Safety.

University Presidents who send campuswide memos in support of Antifa against Trump supporters.

True equality and inclusion includes more than blacks, the gay community, and other groups that the faculty agrees with. Diversity of thought is many, many times more important in a university than making sure the bean counters leave enough faculty jobs open for the next aggrieved segment of society.

Just curious.

What would the chances be that Harvard seriously considered say, Oliver North, Scooter Libby, or Roy Moore for a faculty position based on "pure merit?"

Doug,

While merit may not have precisely defined boundaries, there are some matters that should be considered clearly inside or outside them.

Certainly if a person is hired to teach biology he has to accept and teach evolution, a foundational concept of that science that is established beyond serious dispute in its basics. (All sciences, of course, have frontiers with debatable issues.) Insistence on a conclusion that is actually based on faith and then bolstered with backed-in pseudoscience would indeed be disqualifying.

Climate change is quite different. There are genuine controversies regarding a wide range of issues, from how to actually measure the overall temperature of the Earth to what extent human activity causes observed changes to whether the Paris accords will actually do anything to help. Imposing orthodoxy and hounding out anyone who disagrees with it would be a loss for education, a loss for research, and a loss for science.

Critical race theory is a prime example of fringe ideologies not being challenged enough. People like that guy I had the confrontation with at our NWU symposium last year (which I am really disappointed they didn't post on the Web) need to be challenged a lot more.

Academia's isolation from market forces is indeed a contributing factor to its present leanings, but I don't think it is credible to say that commitment to equality is. Equality means that each individual has equal opportunity to succeed according to individual merit and demographic labels are irrelevant. Is contemporary academia committed to that? I don't think so. The pro-equality position that was "liberal" in 1963 is "conservative" or even "racist" today.

I also find it curious that you think young people are pushing academia to the left. I believe it is very much the other way around. Students and recent graduates who have come to work at CJLF over the years have regularly reported that when they wrote school papers that had to skew the viewpoint to the left of their real views, knowing it would hurt their grades to say what they really thought.

In criminal law in particular, everyone who has been to law school recently tells me that they were uniformly taught that all of the pro-defendant Supreme Court precedents are right and all those reaching the prosecution's desired result are wrong. With such extreme one-sided presentation passing as "education," it is a wonder any survive with their common sense intact.

Tarls, I did not "compare child killing with those who question global warming orthodoxy," but rather was trying to explain how folks on the left might think the latter has more to do with academic merit than does the former. And I remain unsure, Tarls whether you (and Bill and Kent) think a conviction for a crime should or should not be a proper criteria in assessing academic merits. I agree 100% that Judith Curry and Michelle Jones are not comparable folks, and Ollie North and Scooter Libby are different from them, too. But just how should a past conviction impact admission to academic programs remains a challenging issue, and one that necessarily carries contestable notion of merit.

I can understand fully how conservatives feel as though universities are no longer living up to missions statements committed to inclusiveness. Here, for example, is part of OSU's vision: "Academic excellence will be enriched by an environment that mirrors the diverse world in which we live. Within this environment, we will come to value the differences in one another along with the similarities, and to appreciate that the human condition is best served through understanding, acceptance, and mutual respect." https://www.osu.edu/academicplan/vision.php I am disappointed by the reality that I do not always see efforts by those on the left to show "understanding, acceptance, and mutual respect" for those on the right. But, from my perch, this is even a bigger problem among the student population than among the faculty.

Part of the reason, Kent, I see students pushing universities left is because I do think a lot of faculty tend to approach students as customers (at least subconsciously), and a lot of left-leaning activity by faculty is driven by a certain kind of customer demand. My experiences with teaching the death penalty reflect these realities --- I poll my sentencing students at the start of class on their DP views. Years ago, it was usually around 50/50. In recent years, my classes are now 90/10 against the DP, and I can feel the grumpiness when I push students to even consider seriously pro-DP arguments. Because I have tenure, I do not have to worry much about student evaluations; folks who do may worry about pushing back hard against the views students come to the classroom hoping to have reinforced.

I say all this not to deny or deflect from a range of biases that a range of faculty bring to the classroom and to other activities (myself included). But I sense that universities have been locations for vanguard progressiveness for eons (see, e.g., Socrates), and that many within universities are drawn there for that very reason and think that the institutions are still no progressive enough.

I appreciate that you are one of the few who even try to get them to consider the pro-DP side. But bear in mind that they have been in Indoctrination Camp a long time by the time you get them.

"The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible."-Woodrow Wilson

This has been going on for at least the last 100 years and spread to public schools.

Students are not becoming more liberal than their parents on their own, without help.

"The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible."-Woodrow Wilson

This has been going on for at least the last 100 years and spread to public schools.

Students are not becoming more liberal than their parents on their own, without help.

In terms of threats to free speech, it certainly looks different from those who don’t share your perspective. Adam Serwer noted in his recent article, “A Nation of Snowflakes”:

The American left is waging war on free speech. That’s the consensus from center-left to far right; even Nazis and white supremacists seek to wave the First Amendment like a bloody shirt. But the greatest contemporary threat to free speech comes not from antifa radicals or campus leftists, but from a president prepared to use the power and authority of government to chill or suppress controversial speech, and the political movement that put him in office, and now applauds and extends his efforts . . . . There’s physical assault of a reporter by a Republican candidate in Montana; Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s prosecution and re-prosecution of an activist who laughed at him during his confirmation hearing; his multiple public refusals to rule out prosecuting journalists; the president’s vows to imprison his political rivals; his encouragement of violence against protesters; Trump’s threat to tax Amazon because its owner Jeff Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, which has published coverage critical of the president; the White House’s demands that ESPN fire Jemele Hill, a black on-air host who called the president a white supremacist; and Trump’s attempt to chill press criticism by naming the media an ‘enemy of the people’ have all drawn cheers from some conservative commentators.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/541050/

If you really worry about free speech, perhaps you’re looking in the wrong direction.

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