Phi Beta Cons

Re: Turn Down the Volume

Following up on Fred’s and George’s posts on Dan Lawton’s tale from the University of Oregon, I don’t see him as whining or as overly sensitive (and goodness knows, I’m against student whining). In fact, it’s just fine to be “shocked” at an appalling lack of professionalism. Here’s his account of one exchange with a professor:

“You think you’re so [expletive] cute with your little column,” she told me. “I read your piece and all you want is attention. You’re just like Bill O’Reilly. You just want to get up on your [expletive] soapbox and have people look at you.”

From the disgust with which she attacked me, you would have thought I had advocated Nazism. She quickly grew so emotional that she had to leave the room. But before she departed, she stood over me and screamed.

“You understand that my column was basically a prophesy,” I shot back. I had suggested right-leaning ideas weren’t welcome on campus and in response the faculty had tied my viewpoints to racism and addressed me with profanity-laced insults.

If a fellow lawyer on the opposite side of a case expressed himself to me like that, I would be shocked (or at least extremely surprised), not because I’m intimidated or “suppressed” in any way, but because I expect a certain amount of decency out of colleagues in the legal profession. It’s not unreasonable for students to expect the same amount of decency from their professors. Nor is it unreasonable to critique professors when they behave badly.

We should encourage student reporting like Mr. Lawton’s. Especially when, as Fred acknowledges, “he gave as good as he got.”

And let’s not let a debate about the characterization of the professors’ conduct or Mr. Lawton’s response obscure his underlying, important, and — even worse — unsurprising findings. The ideological disparity at Oregon is unsurprising, the professor’s response is ultimately unsurprising (for those of us who observe the academy), and it is unsurprising that the author can’t think of a quick fix to a systemic problem.  

Anyway, read the whole thing for more evidence of ideological uniformity (and its negative consequences).

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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