May 09, 2012


For this week's non-Council article for the Watcher's Council vote I submitted "Don't Pick Up" by the Chronicle of Higher Education. This was before I read about the news that the publication axed one of its writers for, among other things, "causing distress" to some readers for daring to opine about the apparent mediocre academic aspects of Black Studies dissertations.

Here's how the Chronicle's editor, Liz McMillen, rationalized the firing:

We now agree that Ms. Riley's blog posting did not meet The Chronicle's basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. . . .

Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley's post was not reviewed until after it was posted. . . .

In addition, my Editor's Note last week inviting you to debate the posting also seemed to elevate it to the level of informed opinion, which it was not. . . .

I sincerely apologize for the distress these incidents have caused our readers and appreciate that so many of you have made your sentiments known to us.

By saying "we now agree ..." McMillen essentially admits that she buckled under to the complaints of the perpetually aggrieved -- usually academic "diversophiles" who, like Elizabeth Warren, view all of society through the lens of gender, ethnicity, and especially race. But most disturbing is the last sentence -- that McMillen feels the need to apologize for any "distress" the article may have caused anyone. Now, I wonder -- would the Chronicle have acted similarly if one of its writers opined positively about hackish programs such as these? Cheeyeah, don't bet on it. And just look at the titles of the dissertation titles that the fired Chronicle writer in question, Naomi Schaefer Riley, highlighted:

One is titled " 'So I Could Be Easeful': Black Women's Authoritative Knowledge on Childbirth." Another is a denunciation of blacks who deviate from the leftist party line: "conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, John McWhorter, and others," in the words of the Chronicle's report. (We know McWhorter and would describe him as a man of the center left.) A third argues that "the subprime lending crisis . . . highlighted the profitability of racism in the housing market."

I wonder if the Chronicle would fire these dissertation writers (especially the latter two) for their distress-inducing screeds if they were employed by the publication.

Of course, I support the right of a private entity to hire or fire whomever they choose. However, higher education is supposed to be about a free exchange of ideas -- not an exchange of ideas that are "distress-free." If that were the standard, then the vast majority of humanities professors' jobs might be in jeopardy because their political views could cause "distress" to a majority of their captive student body. That is, if "progressive" higher education used a thing called "consistency." But as we all know very well by now, only ideas that cause "distress" to "historically aggrieved/oppressed" groups are subject to scrutiny and censorship.

Posted by Hube at May 9, 2012 10:45 AM | TrackBack

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