A Ray of Hope for Free Speech at Middlebury, after the Mob

Linked articles are in bold purple

But opposition to Middlebury’s free-speech movement shows where the opposition lies at most universities

 There is good news for open discourse at Middlebury College after the despicable violence that prevented Charles Murray from speaking and injured Prof. Allison Stanger.

 Prominent faculty there have circulated a petition for free speech and garnered lots of signatures. 

Parini and Callanan, the distinguished scholars who have headed up this effort, deserve high praise for it.

At the bottom of this blog post, I quote the exemplary principles they lay out.

 Let’s go beyond praising the free-speech petition and use the signatures to show where support free speech comes from and where the opposition lies.

 So far, 63 faculty members have signed on. More might join in the next few days.

 They come from a broad variety of departments–but not all

In fact, it is worthwhile to examine the departmental affiliations of who signed up for free speech and, on the other side, those who signed the counter-petition (prior to the speech), demanding Murray stay away and then sliming him with false allegations about his views and scholarly findings.

Most (but not all) of Allison Stanger’s colleagues in political science signed the pro-free speech petition, as did she. That’s not surprising. She was, of course, injured in the riots, and some of her friends and colleagues undoubtedly wanted to show solidarity with her.

Parini’s colleagues in English and American Literature signed in larger numbers than most departments. Support from literature departments would not happen at most universities. That it did at Middlebury may reflect the kind of department Parini helped build or simply his colleagues’ friendship.

Who signed the petition beyond faculty in Political Science and Literature? The bulk were in the “hard social sciences” (Economics, Psychology), History, Russian, Math, Chemistry, Geology, and, surprisingly, Religion.

(By “hard social sciences,” I mean those, like economics and psychology, that aspire to be sciences, emphasize large data bases, mathematical models, and empirical testing of causal models. Fields like anthropology and history certainly use data, but they are generally more interested in the actors’ mentalities, intentions, and meanings. Thus, “hard” does not mean difficult, and “soft” does not mean squishy.)

Who refused to sign? There were zero signatures from the following departments and minors:

African American Studies, African Studies, American Studies, Arabic, Comparative Literature, Dance, Education Studies, French, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Global Health , Greek, Hebrew-Classical, Hebrew-Modern, International and Global Studies, International Politics and Economics, Latin, Linguistics , Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physical Education, Physics, South Asian Studies , Spanish and Portuguese, Studio Art, and Theatre

That is based on the stated affiliations of the signatories, compared to Middlebury’s official list of its departments and majors. It is possible, of course, that some signatories have “affiliate appointments” in these departments or that the departments have no exclusive faculty of their own.

The data show

  • Supporters of free speech come disproportionately from the physical sciences, “hard” social sciences, and, to a lesser extent, the biosciences.
  • Opposition comes from the Humanities, Arts, and softer social sciences. Because social justice.

That distribution reflects my own experience across multiple universities (but is not based on systematic data).

On nearly every campus, the staunchest opponents are professors of gender, sexuality, women’s studies, race, Native American studies, education, and social work, all highly-politicized bastions of the left. American Studies is now essentially the same and so are most literature departments. (Middlebury is an outlier.)

They always lead the opposition to free speech. Because social justice.

If students don’t agree with the dominant political ideology of these departments, they leave or never enter in the first place. (It is snarky but true to add that students don’t enter them if they are thinking about building skills for future employers. My point is that they are not building skills for open-minded, critical thinking, either.)

These departments never hire professors who vary from the party line. Never.

Here, for example, are the three full-time faculty in Middlebury’s gender studies program. All three signed the “Keep Murray Away” petition. NONE signed the free speech petition. That is anecdotal, of course, but it is repeated on campus after campus. You would be hard fixed to find professors of Gender Studies, Sexuality, Race Studies, Education, or Social Work who take a strong position in favor of free speech. And they are pretty thin on the ground in theater or comparative literature. All think it would permit “oppressive” speech that hurts the weak, poor, and vulnerable. 

At Brandeis, for instance, the same department–to a person–opposed having Hirsi Ali come to campus even though she had already been invited and even though Ms. Ali is the single most important voice for women’s rights in the Muslim world. They and like-minded faculty got the spineless administration to cave in and rescind the invitation. (FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has a summary of the episode here.)

The dominant ideology of departments like these is:

  • America is an exploitative country and a malevolent force in the world;
  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the right track but too willing to compromise, too willing to work within “the system”
  • America and our college campuses are composed of two main groups: the oppressed and the privileged. Our departments stand with the oppressed. They are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, needing “safe spaces” to express their views unchallenged. A space is unsafe not because of any physical threat but because certain views (or even the presence of certain people) can produce psychic injury.
  • As professors are activists, inside the classroom and outside. Our teaching is explicitly designed to improve the situation of the oppressed and to assign blame to the oppressors.
  • Designated oppressors should feel guilty and can partially absolve themselves by following our movement, not by leading or questioning it.

Put differently: February is “Black History Month” only because it is the shortest month.

Their viewpoint is summarized in Bernie Sanders’ angry rejection of the idea that America is a compassionate country. His fury is brief and telling.

 Turning to the brighter side:

⇒ The Middlebury Principles are excellent.

It is hard to see why all faculty and students don’t endorse them enthusiastically.

That they do not is the tragedy of our time on campus.

Here are the principles, quoted directly:

  • Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
  • Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
  • The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
  • The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
  • Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
  • Students have the right to challenge and to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.
  • A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.
  • No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.
  • No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.
  • The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.
  • The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.
  • The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
  • A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.
  • All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter. –Middlebury Principles

Comment: It is hard to improve on that as a principled defense of free speech on campus.

 My own op-ed on these issues, focusing on the 3 steps needed to restore free speech at universities, is here at Real Clear Politics


Update and Correction: “Social Sciences” removed from list of Middlebury Departments without a signatory. It is a division, not a department, and many social scientists did sign.

zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Thanks for suggesting this article:
◆ Tom Elia
for sending me The American Interest piece

◆ Greg Piper of The College Fix for the correction.

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, February 28

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 Man, that seemed like a short month

 NY Teamsters were promised excellent retirement benefits by the unions that handled the pension funds. Now, the pensions are running dry  (New York Daily News)

[Tim] Chmil is one of roughly 4,000 retired Teamsters across New York State suffering a fate that could soon hit millions of working-class Americans — the loss of their union pensions.

Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially — which happened this month.

“I had a union job for 30 years,” Chmil said. “We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.” –New York Daily News

Comment: This is a tragic story. The only silver lining would be to learn from it. Workers’ retirement funds are their own in 401k plans so they cannot be lost like this. The downside is that workers (like me) have to invest their own money and never make as much as the “defined benefit” plans like those promised by the Teamster Local 707.

But union leader will never, ever, never allow 401k plans if they can prevent them. Why? Because the unions themselves can determine who gets the heavy fees associated with their union funds. Because so much money is sloshing around, the chances for corruption are great. Those who control the pension money can direct it to their brother-in-law or to a friend who promises kickbacks. (Companies used to be able to do the same thing and often invested the money in those own company’s stock to raise the price. That is now illegal.) By contrast, 401k plans are normally very cheap to operate. Unions that control their own pension money can also determine which investments to fund. How do you think Las Vegas casinos were financed in the 1950s? 

Among the few defined benefit plans still around are those of government employees. After all, the taxpayers have to pay them and, at the state level, cannot lessen the burden by bankruptcy.

Well-governed states like Indiana have already converted all employees to 401k’s. Some states are unwilling to go that far but are at least putting all new public employees on 401k’s. And then there are Deep Blue states like Illinois, headed for a dumpster fire.

 “With Obamacare in jeopardy, California considers going it alone with ‘single-payer’ system”  (Los Angeles Times)

The problem, in a nutshell, is that this program would be enormously expensive and California is already in financial trouble.

In a single-payer system, residents would pay into a state agency that essentially functions as an insurance company. The agency would pay doctors and hospitals when people sought treatment.

Single-payer has a long, troubled history in California. Bills made it through the Legislature in 2006 and 2008 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But advocates say Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) increased support for single-payer by championing it on the national stage last year while vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

New York state unveiled single-payer legislation earlier this month. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced a similar bill in Congress that would expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

But a 2008 report from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office found that even with a tax on Californians and the state’s pooled healthcare funds, the state would still be short more than $40 billion in the first full year of single-payer implementation.

“Where were they going to come up with the $40 billion?” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council. “It’s just not feasible to do as a state.”

Weinberg pointed out that a single-payer initiative was scrapped in a state as liberal and small as Vermont. A single-payer measure on Colorado’s November ballot also failed.

Comment: The proponents are California Dreamin’ on a winter’s day.

 Tom Perez, new head of Democratic National Committee, must rebuild his party from the bottom up. Opinion writer James Downie says “Tom Perez’s biggest problem as DNC chair: His backers” (Washington Post)

[The] reason for Perez’s entry and victory was simple: In defeating Ellison, the establishment wanted to rebuke the progressive wing and retain control of the party.

Therein lies Perez’s — and the party’s — biggest problem. The Democratic Party needs the progressive wing’s energy and new ideas if it is to recover. . . . The fact is that the party establishment doesn’t want to admit its failings. –James Downie in the Washington Post

Downie’s conclusion:

Rescuing the Democrats from this deep hole requires grass-roots energy — energy that clearly is most prevalent in the more liberal wing of the party, as seen in the surprisingly successful campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Capturing it means working with outside groups and listening to new ideas, not doubling down on establishment control.–James Downie in the Washington Post

Comment: Perez is whip-smart, well-educated, and skilled at insider politics.

He has only a slim chance of winning the Senate. He has a better chance of winning back the House, though he will have to do so with Nancy Pelosi as the facelift of the Party.

His biggest challenges:

  • Recovering some heft in state politics
  • Integrating the Sanders/Warren/socialist wing of the party without alienated more centrist voters. That would normally be impossible, but their shared opposition to Trump personally and to his agenda will help.

The oddity here is that Perez is on the party’s far left wing. It’s just that he is not as far left as Bernie Sanders, who, after all, is a self-declared socialist and not a member of the Democratic Party. (He joined only for the presidential race and resigned after it ended.)

 Bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, and no arrests yet

These threats are becoming regular events, as the Washington Post reports.

It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January, prompting outrage and exasperation among Jewish leaders as well as calls for an aggressive federal response to put a stop to it. –Washington Post

In addition to these bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized. Several hundred tombstones were pushed over in Philadelphia, on top of a similar attack last week in St. Louis.


zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
 for the NY union pension story
◆ Ron Hassner for list of Jewish Community Centers dealing with bomb threats


ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, January 20

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 CNN has no shame: Names Valerie Jarrett’s daughter to cover the Department of Justice  (New York Post)

Comment: Laura Jarrett  is undoubtedly a very competent young reporter. She seems to have good connections, too. Pres. Obama attended her wedding to a fellow Harvard Law student.

But asking her to cover a Department of Justice committed to reversing many of the policies associated with her mother and Pres. Obama, her life-long family friend, is a CNN news decision of breathtaking stupidity.

Britain promises “hard exit” from European Union but details still unclear, even after Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech (Wall Street Journal)

Mrs. May’s speech was less a post-Brexit plan than an explanation of the options she has ruled out. In many cases, she had already given heavy hints about those choices. So what did we learn?

Mrs. May made clear Britain wouldn’t seek the maximum have-your-cake-and-eat-it stance: membership of the EU’s single market plus British control over migration from the bloc.

It’s a crucial decision that rules out the soft exit many opponents of Brexit were hoping for, and a choice likely to have significant economic effects over time.

For the EU too, that clarity is a big deal. –Wall Street Journal

 When I pay you hush money, then you hush…or I’ll sue  That’s what former US House Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R-IL), is doing. From his prison cell, he’s seeking the return of $2 million in hush-money he paid.

 Earth plates may move because of heat from earth’s core  Those are the findings of a new study of plate tectonics, published in Science Advances 

Comment: The lead author is my friend and next-door neighbor, University of Chicago Professor David Rowley.

 Newly-discovered small Moth with “yellow hair” named Neopalpa donaldtrumpi  The “hair” is actually a covering of scales.

Comment: My kind of goofy story.

 Noxious: Bernie Sanders emphatically tells Cabinet nominee, “We are not a compassionate country.”

Two Comments: (1) What a president he would have made. (2) Bernie’s smack-down of American citizens, his sniveling contempt, captures something that millions of ordinary voters know about Washington. It’s long-time denizens, particularly self-styled progressives, have contempt for them and their country. They no longer even bother to conceal it. It is worse than an unwise political strategy. It is noxious.

 Invoking an old anti-Semitic image, Palestinian activist, Prof. Rashid Khalidi, says pro-Israel Jews will “infest” the Trump Administration  (Jerusalem Post)

Comment: Khalidi has been among the most prominent Palestinian activists at the University of Chicago and now at Columbia University.


zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
 for the CNN story
◆ Ed Lasky for the Rashid Khalidi story


ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, Dec. 27

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Great Graphic Design: ∞: The elegant simplicity of the infinity symbol (The Economist)

◆ Organ transplant breakthrough coming. Using animal organs in humans could eliminate the 3 year wait for a kidney.

◆ Professor at Drexel Univ. in Philly urges genocide against whites. (Daily Mail)

Surprisingly, some people don’t like the idea. They are racists.

◆ Pres. Obama’s idea of a centrist is . . .  Bernie Sanders. This, from David Axelrod’s podcast interview with Pres. Obama:

OBAMA: Bernie Sanders is a pretty centrist politician relative to…
AXELROD: Corbyn. [Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party]
OBAMA: Relative to Corbyn or relative to some of the Republicans. (CNN transcript)

◆ The great Thomas Sowell writes his goodbye column. It is here. At 86, he wants to spend more time with his photography, less with public affairs. For decades, he has been a trenchant and wise observer.

◆ This is what really committed time-wasting looks like



zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Timothy Favero
 for Thomas Sowell’s column





Irony Alert: Spokeman for Bernie Sanders says . . .

We Don’t Need White People Leading The Democratic Party

–Former spokesman for Bernie Sanders

The story is here, at Real Clear Politics, with a video of the explanation by Bernie Sanders’ spokesperson, herself named Sanders (Symone Sanders, now a CNN political commentator).

Comment: Excuse me. Bernie Sanders couldn’t be whiter if he were playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.bernie-sanders-with-toronto-maple-leafs2

hat-tip-purple-labeled-126pxTo my friend, Eduardo Vidal

Rep. Keith Ellison, Among Top Candidates to lead DNC

◆ Rep. Ellison of Minnesota is among the most leftist members of House.

In the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the party’s progressive wing is lining up to make him head of Democratic National Committee–and toss out the Clinton loyalists.

Bernie has already endorsed Ellison to head the DNC. (Go BernieSanders.com)

Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer (outgoing and incoming Senate Minority leaders) have endorsed Ellison, too. (NBC)

Elizabeth Warren is behind him. (Salon)

Leftist opinion magazines like the Nation are enthused.

Former Vermont Governor (and former DNC head) Howard Dean is Ellison’s main opponent, so far.

If Republicans had any vote in the matter, Ellison would win in a landslide.

His positions, they think, spell doom for the Democrats.

To see why, read Scott Johnson’s recent column at Power Line.

♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Ellen Weisbord
 for this story
◆ Scott Johnson
for his post at Power Line

The Tug of War among Democrats Starts

All the top positions in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are controlled by Clinton people.

The Bernie Sanders faction managed to toss out Debbie Wasserman Schultz after her favoritism of Clinton was exposed by WikiLeaks.

donna-brazile-300px-no-marginsWhat they got instead was not what they wanted: Donna Brazile, another Clinton loyalist (again exposed by WikiLeaks–both as a corrupt “journalist” and a Clinton advocate behind the scenes).

If Hillary had won, they would have retained their lockhold on the DNC.

But they lost–and now they are vulnerable because of their favoritism, incompetence, and ancien regime associations.

A report from inside a closed-door DNC meeting is headlined: “DNC Staffer Screams At Donna Brazile For Helping Elect Donald Trump. Democrats’ nerves are raw in Washington after Tuesday’s stunning loss.” (Jennifer Bendery in the Huffington Post)

“You are part of the problem,” [DNC staffer named Zach] continued, blaming Brazile for clearing the path for Trump’s victory by siding with Clinton early on. “You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen. –Huffington Post

The Sanders wing has a candidate to replace Brazile: Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. (The Hill) 


Comment: If the Republicans could pick the DNC head, they would pick Ellison in a heartbeat, assuming Cornel West is otherwise occupied. Taking the party left makes it increasingly difficult to win national elections.

That is exactly what I said in my Real Clear Politics piece: What Happens After the Electoral Earthquake? (Charles Lipson comment)

Can Only the Rich Run for President?

Can only the rich run? Several friends have said “yes,” and it’s easy to reinforce their claims by pointing to this year’s wealthy candidates.

But I would answer the question a little differently.

To run for any statewide office–and certainly to run for President–you MUST be able to either

1. Self-fund because you are rich, or

2. Tap into a well-established fundraising network.

Until recently, those fundraising networks were the parties. Today, the Democratic and Republican Parties play only supplementary roles, and then only in the general election. Candidates must raise all their own money in the primaries and most of it in the general election. That gives a huge advantage to candidates who can fund themselves, as Trump did in the primaries, or rely on well-established networks, as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton did.

But consider Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016. Neither was rich. Neither had a well-developed fundraising network. Yet they overcame the funding barriers. How? How did they rake in the cash to air ads on TV, build a national campaign team, and fly around the country? They began with seed money from a few backers, but the key was that their messages took off. Once that happened, they could raise money off their message, their prospects of winning, and their backers’ hopes of getting their message out or gaining an inside track with a prospective office-holder.

Conversely, even a well-funded candidate like Jeb Bush was unable to keep raising money once donors realized he could not win.

In brief: You definitely need the do-re-mi to win high office, and you must raise a lot of it yourself or reach into your wallet. Being rich or well-connected is very helpful, but it is not a necessary condition to run and win.