In his lively second interview with “Inside Academia,” Robert Weissberg argues that the accelerated entry of women and African Americans into university life was the main factor in politicizing the academy — not women and blacks per se but the political agenda that many of them unprofessionally began to promote in their classes.
The interviewer suggests that even African-American studies, for example, could be legitimate if normal scholarly procedures were followed. But that’s the whole point. Regardless of the professionalism of the individuals hired, or lack thereof, the whole purpose in using affirmative action to increase the number of blacks and women, and to hire more of them to teach, was based on a definite political viewpoint about the history of women and blacks. The academic areas of study based on these groups presume a history of oppression and victimization and previous exclusion and the need for present redress.
The scholarship and teaching were supposed to be activist and were aimed at transforming society to the left. There may be individual exceptions, but for the most part, professors in these fields do not feel it necessary to look at matters objectively and from all sides in a detached and scholarly manner. As Karen Agness detailed in “For Members Only: Feminism on Campus Today,” she looked in vain for a more moderate or conservative feminism on her college campus. And she found even beyond her own campus that women’s studies, women’s programs, women’s centers, all tended to denigrate traditional female roles, deny sex differences, and imply that true fulfillment lies only in career. This is what prompted her to found her own conservative alternative — the Network of enlightened Women.
A healthier way of looking at the influx of women and minorities might have been just to cheer it as a logical extension of increasing freedom and opportunity, but since it was advanced in many cases through affirmative action, the political aspect would always be hard to remove from the roots of it.