Take a look at what the Arizona legislature is considering doing. Professors at state institutions would not be allowed to publically advocate for any political candidate, give expert testimony in trials, or have a public opinion on any issue considered “partisan”. You’d be fined if you broke the rules.
A biology professor would probably lose his or her entire salary in fines in a semester where they taught about evolutionary theory. This blog would rack me up a $500.00 fine every time I made an entry. My books would cost me fines when I published them. How do you write a historical study that doesn’t in some respect make an argument, offer an interpretation, have some aspect that is in some sense “partisan”? Any engineer or scientist who assisted local, state or federal governments with technical issues could be fined, given that almost any project or initiative could arguably be said to be “partisan”. The vast majority of economists would be in some sense “partisan”, in that the paradigms of the discipline have a distinctive and politically meaningful perspective.
Arizona’s legislature should really just close all of its public universities if it regards faculty as such a clear and present danger to society.
“Would not be allowed to publically advocate for any political candidate, give expert testimony in trials, or have a public opinion on any issue considered ‘partisan.'”
The first one I disagree with, but I can understand the motivations behind it, and acknowledge that they aren’t entirely wrong. The second one is the height of foolishness, and must be driven by some sort of mad ID-type concern (all those “experts” at the university disagree with revealed truth!). Might as well just throw out the very idea of “expert testimony” entirely. And as for the third…good grief.
But we live in Kansas, so I expect that’ll be hearing a fair amount of this sort of stuff in the years to come anyway.
It’s a very broad statute, and almost certainly unconstitutional as written based on my cursory acquaintance with the law of restricting speech of government employees. Maybe it’s a political stunt?
Yes, I think that’s pretty much what it is. An ugly one, though. I’m kind of appalled that some conservative commenters are offering the argument that academics have just been asking for it, and that it’s really their fault. It’s kind of like saying, “She shouldn’t have dressed that way if she didn’t want to be raped”.
Looking at the article, I am left with the impression that the legislation may have been aimed at classroom politics, not the stuff you suggest. The author of the article may be playing with the actual content a bit.
The bill’s language apparently specifies, “while working”, which covers far more than the classroom. Moreover, why bother to have provisions that address professors testifying as experts in trials and so on if you’re just talking about the classroom?
This is leaving aside the question of whether it’s legitimate to try and address these matters in the context of “classroom politics”. Again, even that strikes me as stupid as this draft bill formulates it. What, a professor in history is supposed to avoid any commentary of any kind on any issue where there is a “partisan” character to the issue? How is that supposed to work?
For example, it would appear to preclude a prof running for political office him or her self… Our work itself tends to go beyond the classroom and have fuzzy boundaries, with no clear division between work and not work. For example, if I am reading something “not in my field,” I still consider that part of my overall work as an academic. Someone drafting legislation like this has no notion of what university professors actually do.
On the plus side, this justifies me feeling a bit sour grapes about ASU and UA not having any openings in my field (I’m geographically constrained to AZ by my wife’s job).
I blogged about this too at http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/jmittell/JustTV/2007/02/500_reasons_im.html – even as a political stunt, it effectively reframes the spectrum of “legitimate” options, making the measures sponsored by David Horowitz seem almost reasonable by comparison. (And I now owe another $500 for expressing an “opinion” about a piece of legislation!)
I suppose there are professors who harangue students with their personal political beliefs, but I’ve been teaching in universities for 30 years & I’ve never met one or heard of one from students or colleagues. I conclude that the Indoctrinating Professor is a figment of the right wing imagination, though also a very convenient one. Lots of stories circulate — via David Horowitz & others — that purport to give evidence for this academic unicorn, this mythological creature, but upon examination the evidence just sort of fades away. Such myths play on the prejudices of ordinary folk: minorities always get favorable treatment, hippies spit on Vietnam vets, college professors try to impose their liberal views on students. Each myth keys in like a virus attacking a cell by using the cell’s own structure against it.
suppose there are professors who harangue students with their personal political beliefs, but Iâ€™ve been teaching in universities for 30 years & Iâ€™ve never met one or heard of one from students or colleagues.
I have several in my department. They belittle conservative students and openly advertise liberal political candidates.
I am just as liberal as they are, but I regularly clash with them over their behavior. There’s no place for it at a public institution, in my mind.
“Itâ€™s kind of like saying, ‘She shouldnâ€™t have dressed that way if she didnâ€™t want to be raped’.”
No… it’s really not. The line about rape works because rape and attractiveness of the victim aren’t correlated very strongly. Behavior irrelevant to the assault can’t be blamed for it. I agree completely that the Arizona “experiment” is ridiculous and the “they were asking for it” argument is sad, but it’s really nothing like saying “She shouldn’t have dressed that way…”
Bad analogy, maybe, but I use it because they are both “they were asking for it” claims that I find morally and intellectually offensive. The only issue here is the badness of Arizona’s legislature: this is one case where it’s flatly wrong to turn around and try to make an issue of how academics behave. (A lot of the commenters at Inside Higher Ed tried to do just that.)
I hate to say this, since the last thing I want is to appear to suggest that this legislation is reasonable, but I think you overstate a bit the restriction on expert testimony. The bill would not prevent expert testimony tout court, but endorsement of litigation in the course of expert testimony; so e.g. Martha Nussbaum’s testimony on behalf of those opposed to Colorado’s Amendment 2 would have been impossible in AZ had she been an empolyee of an AZ university, though presumably she would still have been able to discuss (“neutrally”?) the issue of what the Greeks thought about homosexuality.
Presumably, in fact, homosexuality is a topic that no professor would be able to discuss at all. I often show up early to class and chat with students; if one asks me what I did over the weekend and I say “my partner and I went away for the weekend,” that in itself would constitute a violation of this legislation. And that’s true not simply in this version, but in the “milder” versions of such programs endorsed by Horowitz and now Stanley Fish (now that he’s discovered this as his latest tool of self-promotion).
One thing that has always struck me about such demands is the incredibly patronizing attitude that such legislation conveys towards students. This is particularly evident in the recent political commentary by Fish, who feels that for a professor to have a sticker, button etc that implies any political leaning is to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for students, as if they are such withering, weak-willed creatures that they can not be in the presence of an opinion–which is entirely different from requiring them to hold the same opinion as the professor. Yes, it does happen, as Tim in Tampa notes, that some professors will belittle students whose opinions differ from theirs. But my experience is rather that I go out of my way to avoid endorsing political opinions, only to have the conservative students militantly express their own beliefs.
My general attitude is that a tremendous amount of resources has gone into convincing students that the real hegemony is the so-called ‘PC culture.’ As a result, I think, a number of students now consider themselves Republicans for precisely the same reason that students once consider themselves hippies–it’s perceived as a form of rebellion. WIth apologies to Blandier, this is the supreme ruse of power: to harnass a revolutionary impulse in militant support for the status quo, all the while allowing the subject to believe s/he is being revolutionary.