Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Turn Down the Volume


George, I agree with you that the situation Dan Lawton describes at the University of Oregon is unfortunate and all too common, but I wouldn’t describe it as “fascism.” Lawton says that after he published a piece criticizing Democratic dominance of the faculty, one professor sent him a nasty e-mail but was conciliatory in person, and another professor yelled at him.

That’s unfortunate, but if Lawton has such a hard time dealing with angry comments, journalism seems a poor career choice. While he is correct that students will benefit from hearing a variety of viewpoints, it’s odd to hear him tout the virtues of “free and open discourse in academia” and then complain when the discourse briefly gets a little too free and open.

If Lawton had been kicked out of school, or given poor grades, or physically attacked because of his political views, then invoking “fascism” might be appropriate. But while I agree with your and Lawton’s underlying point, using that term because a faculty member got hot under the collar and stormed out of her office seems a bit much — especially when, according to Lawton’s account, he gave as good as he got in the argument.

I also take issue with Lawton’s statement that “I’m not a conservative, nor a Republican. I simply believe in the concept of diversity — a primarily liberal idea — and think that we suffer when we don’t include ideas we find unappealing.” Since when is diversity “primarily liberal”? What conservatives object to is mandatory diversity imposed by the government, or the use of the word “diversity” as a magic incantation to legalize racial and gender quotas. A good reporter should understand that.

Being conservative, I agree with Lawton’s views that greater ideological diversity on faculties would be a good thing — though, like him, I would not require it. But if a few harsh words from a professor are enough to make him recoil in shock and fulminate about the suppression of open discourse, he could be just a mite too sensitive for the rough-and-tumble trade of journalism.


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