Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, April 21, 2008

Academic Freedom?

The great Milton Friedman wrote:
The essence of political freedom is the absence of coercion of one man by his fellow men. The fundamental danger to political freedom is the concentration of power. The existence of a large measure of power in the hands of a relatively few individuals enables them to use it to coerce their fellow men. Preservation of freedom requires either the elimination of power where that is possible or its dispersal where it cannot be eliminated.
By Friedman's definition, there is no freedom at WSU, as Foley Institute director Ed Weber recently pointed out, "hegemony of the left-leaning liberal viewpoint" has coerced him into not "inviting too many of 'the wrong kind' of intellectual."

Yet "academic freedom" is being used as a defense of Ayad Rahmani's "architorture" protest by Chuck Pezeshki and Chris Lupke.

A letter in Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News pointed out that absurdity:
Protest not the best way

Chuck Pezeshki (His View, April 12 & 13) does it again. He missed the point even after questioning it himself. And Ayad Rahmani, (His View, April 18) with somewhat reasonable explanation, also.

If a medical professor required a for-credit peaceful protest against abortion, a science professor for nuclear energy or against climate change advocates, a political science professor against anti-war protesters or for guns, or a religion professor for prayer in schools or against gays, and many more possibilities, there would not only be a tempest in a teapot, there would be tornado in a Starbucks latte.

You would never hear the end of it from liberals. Just think if this type of requirement became a trend in education. A more responsible, rational, less controversial requirement would have been for students to critically evaluate the good, bad and ugly of the situation, write a comprehensive article and send it to the newspaper and all concerned.

Joe Ulliman, Moscow
Indeed. The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure states with regard to academic freedom that:
Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.
College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
There are a couple of comments on the Friday Rahmani column that are too good not to repeat:
"I have a great idea for Lupke, Pezeshki, and the architecture prof: If you don't like the way it looks, then you can buy the property and do anything they want with it. Just like the folks who own it now. The concept that the "community" should consider themselves stakeholders is ridiculous and elitist, and pretty parasitic to those who buy, develop, maintain, and pay taxes on the land. You do what you want with your stuff, and I will do what I want with mine. period!"

"I cannot believe the arrogance of some of these professors. Bishop Blvd was not developed for your walking/visual pleasure. It was developed to grow retail development for Pullman. For your walking and visual pleasure and in memory of Bill Chipman many of us worked very hard to gain funding to develop the Chipman trail and downtown walkways for that purpose. I also resent that you seem to think our elected/hired city officials do not know what our community wants and apparently are not as intelligent as you. I am very pleased that they are not making the mistakes of their predecessors and are moving in the direction the community has been waiting for."

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