How Free Is The University?

Photos: Anne D. Neal, Avi Davis, Daniel Pipes, David Jones, Ed Morgan, Hugh Hewitt, Hugh Hewitt, Hugh Hewitt, John Carroll, Marc Cogen, Rachel Fish, Steve Emerson, Steve Emerson

I spend Sunday at this American Freedom Alliance conference at USC.

I chat with Daniel Pipes.

I give my name and say I’m a blogger.

"I’ve read your work," says the professor.

At York University in Canada, a policeman came into the greenroom before Dr. Pipes was to speak and read him Canada’s anti-hate laws and their penalties. "I’ve read your website and I don’t think you’ll have any problems," said the policeman. "I just thought you should know."

Canadian law professor Ed Morgan tells us about getting a call from a Toronto Star journalist about Daniel Pipes.

"He’s a mainstream speaker," said Morgan.

"Mainstream?" said the journalist. "Mainstream? He’s a Republican."

Pipes responds: "You meet the most reprehensible people in the world on the university campus."

Victor Davis Hanson gives the keynote address. "When you look at academic senate votes, they look like Saddam Hussein plebiscites."

"The university is the only system that is not transparent and open. The alumni have no access to know where money is spent."

"Its failing in its central mission while it weighs in on everything else in society. The one thing it should confine itself to is education, yet 50% of the students who enter the University of Calfornia system, the largest university system in the world, have to take remedial classes."

"Democracy doesn’t exist as a word in the Middle East."

Is this true?

"We have so watered down the idea of standards and hierarchy that is so essential to education."

Dr. Hanson outlines three reasons for our current problems — vocationalism, the rise of the therapeutic mentality, and Marxism.

"I was once the chairman of the General Education committee. Someone from Leisure Studies came in and said, ‘Who are you to judge that my course in the Theory of Walking should not [replace] Renaissance Art in General Education?’"

"I’ve met a lot of CEOs and not one has said, ‘I wish when I was back at Amherst, I would’ve taken more classes in investment.’ They all say the same thing. I wish I could’ve taken a class in Thucydidies, Machiavelli, Rousseau… They all regret they did not have a deeper education. They all admit that the ability to succeed in business or law or medicine is not the acquisition of technical skills, which are relatively easy, but the difficult task of refining wisdom of the ages into a contemporary context… To be able to invoke metaphor and language and vocabulary. They all admit that when they are writing a memo, the degree to which you can be concise and persuasive…"

Dr. Hanson says the military success of Ulyssus S. Grant and William Sherman had a lot to do with their ability to communicate.

"[The therapeutic culture has produced a pernicious belief that] we are all born equally competent and family and religion and government put all these burdens on you… That we have an inner childish voice that just needs to be heard. If you come to the university, you can discover yourself and be just as brilliant as anybody else."

"The intent [of various therapeutic courses] was to make people happier and nicer and better so you’ll never have to get divorced, lose a child, get cancer… That we all have a birthright to die at 90 years old in our sleep. It is completely a refutation of the Greek idea of ephemera… That nobody gets out of this world alive. That life is cruel and there are certain things a person needs to survive such as education and courage, and not just the ability to empathize."

Then there’s a panel discussion between Australian sociologist John Carroll, Hugh Hewitt, Marc Cogen, and Kenneth Marcus (served as staff director for the U.S. commission on Civil Rights from 2004-2008). It is moderated by Dennis Prager.

The topic? "Is there a political orthodoxy on campus that victimizes and silences its opponents?"

Almost nobody at the conference is left of center (except for Richard Sander from UCLA’s law school).

Prager: "Does it harass and punish opposition? Are we who are not on the Left, are we whiners?"

"When I raise this on my radio show, I’m told, ‘You guys go to make money. We on the Left go to get smart and be educated and deal with ideas. If you’d get more PhDs, you’d have more people in History, English, French and Sociology. It’s not a matter of us harassing you, it’s that you don’t want to be this for a living. You don’t want the horrific conditions of the American professor.’"

"I was at Columbia. I wrote a paper for a [Jewish] marxist professor. It was a paper that drove him out of his mind. It was a comparison of Marxism and Judaism. But he gave me a B+."

"In my experience, they allowed me to say what I did."

Hewitt says that California’s November ballot measure against same sex marriage will not get debated on university campuses because there is only one cool position to take (that same sex marriage is fine).

Cogen is a law professor in Belgium. He says he’s being persecuted by his peers for his support of Israel and the invasion of Iraq. He’s suing his university. All his classes have been taken from him but one.

"There is a Sovietization of Europe by the majority. They are telling the minority which opinions are acceptable."

Dennis: "We have the opposite problem in America. It’s the minority who imposes its will."

Marcus says there’s free speech on American campuses with regard to Israel, but only in one direction. If you want to criticize Israel, you are free to do so, "even if your means of expression include throwing rocks, death threats and other forms of intimidation, defacing written expression by pro-Israel students, destruction of holocaust memorials. Each of those examples are documented. If you choose to demonstrate for Israel or against pro-Palestinian groups, then you are subject to various forms of silencing."

Dennis notes that leading conservatives such as David Horowitz and Ann Coulter have to bring bodyguards with them to universities while no leftist thinkers need bodyguards on campus. "Is it ever brought up that the civil rights of conservatives are routinely violated on campus?"

Marcus: "We have a body of civil rights enforcement that protects people from harassment based on sex…but not on ideology."

"We definitely need more trans-gendered conservatives," says Dennis.

Marcus: "Until 2004, the position at the Department of Education’s office for civil rights, was that those cases [alleging anti-Semitism] should not be handled. If someone said he was a Muslim facing discrimination, that case would be handled. That’s a case alleging national origin discrimination. But if you say you are a Jew facing discrimination, that is religious discrimination only and we do not handle cases of religious discrimination. In 2004, the office of civil rights changed its policy where the agency would treat anti-Semitism, in most cases, as a form of ethnic discrimination. However, in the first case to test that [at UC Irvine], the new leadership at the office for civil rights determined that the voluminous and detailed allegations of anti-Semitism did not meet the requirements of the office, which is clearly an indication that the office of civil rights [will not prosecute anti-Semitism]."

There’s talk about how some hardline Muslims want to execute homosexuals.

Hewitt says we need to recruit gays, lesbians and the transgendered to rally against this Islamic extremism.

Before the panel, John Carroll tells me that the Left at Australian universities are "clapped out."

John tells the audience: "There’s a complete crisis of confidence throughout the West in the Humanities."

"The Humanities are a bit like secular churches, unless the people believe there’s some higher purpose in what they’re doing, they become demoralized and resentful."

"The university as we know it today comes out of a Christian foundation in the Middle Ages. The essential task of the Humanities was to communicate the ways of God to man. This transformed to the humanist university in the 19th Century. It believed that every man would be a better person if he was educated in Western knowledge, that the elite would govern better if they were educated in the Humanities." 

John describes the following case (which I will quote from " In 1917, Marcel Duchamp presented a urinal he named "Fountain" as a sculpture to the Independent Art Exhibition in New York. It was rejected. Today, it is accepted as a major work of art. Are you still provoked by this?"

John: "Almost all of modern art since 1917 has followed in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp. What was Duchamp saying with his urinal? There are no standards left by which you can say that my urinal is less sublime than a Raffael madonna."

"The modern university has largely followed in the footsteps of what Duchamp represented."

"With this failure of belief in what we were doing, there was a vacuum. Into this vacuum stepped two main movements — utilitarian (making universities into social engineering schools to produce better managers) and political (a belief in redemptive politics). The 20th Century has suffered from a whole series of eruptions of redemptive politics. Hitler’s appeal was that if you follow me, you will find salvation. Communism was redemptive politics. If you become a communist, you will enter some form of the promised land."

"In Australia, the neo-neo-Marxists have deconstructed to the point where there is nothing left. Their students are bored. In Australia, more and more appointments [in the Humanities] are non-political. The residue of the 1960s is resentment. The only times when members of this group get excited is in opposing groups that believe in something or movements that have some form of authority."

"We are entering a time where it is possible to start to rebuild the universities more in tune with the grand Western tradition."

"The United States is the most creative country in the world. Almost all important ideas and inventions have come out of this country."

"My students are bored with post-modernism. You teach them Thucydides or Homer or Raffael’s Madonna, and they’re immediately engaged."

Dennis: "It’s almost eery how relevant Duchamp’s urinal is to my life at the moment."

People laugh.

Dennis realizes what he’s said.

"A number of weeks ago, I was invited to Minneapolis to speak at the graduation of a prestigious Christian high school (Trinity School at River Ridge) whose motto is ‘Truth, Beauty, Goodness.’ (Norm Coleman — U.S. Senator — asked me to do it.)

"My comments were, I want you graduates to know that when you leave here, there is a war against Truth, Beauty, Goodness. I gave the example in Beauty of the scatological art that pervades Western galleries. You will be told that Rembrandt is no better than a menstrual blood exhibit.

"Well, faculty members… This was stunning to me. This is why I’m not as optimistic as Dr. Carroll, at least for our country.

"While I spoke, a graduate got up and walked out. His father wrote a letter asking how they could invite a racist to speak.

"On what grounds was I a racist? Because I said that truth was second now in American textbooks to making minorities and women feel good about their contributions to U.S. history. As a Jew, I don’t want to feel good about Jews in American history. I want to know the truth about American history. I want to read about George Washington, not George Rabinowitz.

"They met with this man. They had reconciliation with this man, instead of saying, ‘Who are you to say to our speaker, you’re a racist? He said nothing racist.’

"And a professor of Art at this Christian school wrote a huge blog against my talk. The school is not allowing, for the first time in its history, for the video [of Prager’s speech] to be sent out. I, however, recorded it, and I will send it out.

"And what did the professor of art history write? That Prager is all wrong about the scatological being in modern art. He had a picture of a sketch by Rembrandt of a village. In it is a dog pooping among many other things. That is what he calls scatological as if it is somehow comparable to Deuchamp’s urinal, or the PissChrist with the crucifix in urine."

A woman asks: "What’s wrong with secular humanism?"

John Carroll: "Humanism has helped create the enormous affluence of the West but it can’t answer the big questions of life, why am I here and what should I do with my life? What happens to me when I die? Where do I come from?"

"The belief that the only center of meaning on this planet is I, the human individual, in the great trials of the souls, that doesn’t hold your hand. It’s not enough. The best of modern literature knows this. Unless you believe in something beyond yourself, at the end of the day, you’re in trouble."

I think this is precisely what is wrong with most Jewish literature these days. The characters dedicate themselves to no transcendent causes. This makes them flat and dull..

Hugh Hewitt says that 30 years ago last week, he was in Harvard Yard for the famous graduation address by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in which he said the West had already lost. The Soviets were winning.

John Carroll says he’s optimistic about the Anglo-world. "The coalition of the willing. What a great term. It is significant that the Anglo countries have won all the important wars over the past 200 years, made all the important inventions."

"The willingess to go to war… There’s an inherent dynamism and confidence in the Anglo world. I don’t know about Canada and New Zealand."

Dennis: "God loves the Anglo world. We are worried about Britain. We’re not worried about Australia. New Zealand is a difficult place."

"Australia elected John Howard [four times]."

John: "The Australian elites are very healthy."

Dennis: "I prefer Aussie football. Those tight shorts."

I burst out laughing. After a couple of seconds, the rest of the room realizes it is a joke and starts laughing.

At lunch (with Rachel Fish and Ed Morgan), Dennis Prager says hi to me.

I respond: "I liked your joke about the tight shorts."

Dennis: "I saw you write it down."

The conference attracts over 100 people, about 30 of whom speak on various panels.

The afternoon is spent on the buying of the university by Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern dictatorships.

Anne Neal reads her speech and puts the audience to sleep.

Hugh Hewitt says American universities should not take money from illiberal countries such as Saudi Arabia. If divesting from South Africa was such a big deal in the 1980s, how come there’s no move to divest from much more barbarous regimes flush with petro-dollars?

"Either we believe in Natural Rights, that all people are born with certain God given rights, or we don’t."

Steve Emerson: "Not one American university has produced a paper on why 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia."

The inference is that American universities don’t want to offend Arabs with money.

Daniel Pipes says that thinktanks are giving Middle Eastern study professors a run for their money as far as influence with the media and Congress goes.

David Horowitz gives the final speech of the day. "Conservatives are cerebral," he says. "I didn’t want to bring coals to Newcastle. I wanted to bring my combat skills from the Left."

"The Left is brilliant at politics."

"You need someone pushing the envelope and someone else doing the negotiating."

He complains that neither the Weekly Standard nor National Review have written an article about his Academic Bill of Rights. He complains that no conservative academic group has invited him to speak on it.

He says America’s biggest problem is Islamic terror, followed by illegal immigration and then the Left’s domination of the universities.

I’m told that columnist Cinnamon Stillwell is "cute and nice."

I stay late for the 8:15 pm Los Angeles premiere of the movie Indoctrinate U. But I find myself so engaged by the Laker game (I watch it with fellow fanatic and fellow Aussie Georgette Gelbard),

Georgette leaves at the end of the third quarter and her seat is taken by Anne D. Neal who wants to change the channel to the Tony Awards.

I don’t go in to the movie until 9 p.m. I give it ten minutes but everything is so predictable that I leave.

palestine4ever:  I am here to serve your intellect and trolls for page hits.
palestine4ever:  Re-open that retarded "freedom in academia post"
palestine4ever:  Throw in more keywords (neo-con is a good one, also red-baiting, bush, cheney and all of the usual ones)
palestine4ever:  Use your sharp analytical skills to compare/contrast this conference vs. the ones you’d schlup to when Bush was more than Mr. 28% Approval
palestine4ever:  Result: DailyKos and other magnets of the left will link to you and possibly get you about $4 in hits.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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