Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Avatar of Liberalism and Academic Freedom

The new proposed University of Austin is being founded to promote liberalism and academic freedom:

There is a gaping chasm between the promise and the reality of higher education. Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas, light and truth. Harvard proclaims: Veritas. Young men and women of Stanford are told Die Luft der Freiheit weht: The wind of freedom blows.

These are soaring words. But in these top schools, and in so many others, can we actually claim that the pursuit of truth—once the central purpose of a university—remains the highest virtue? Do we honestly believe that the crucial means to that end—freedom of inquiry and civil discourse—prevail when illiberalism has become a pervasive feature of campus life?

The numbers tell the story as well as any anecdote you’ve read in the headlines or heard within your own circles. Nearly a quarter of American academics in the social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology.

They’ve decided to hire Ayaan Hirsi Ali to teach there. Here is Hirsi Ali’s view of academic freedom, as captured in a famous 2007 interview with Reason magazine. I encourage you to read the whole thing. But this bit strikes me as particularly relevant. Continue reading

You Tell Me It’s the Institution

Well, here come the latest saviors of higher education, ready to save it from itself:

A group of scholars and activists are planning to establish a new university dedicated to free speech, alarmed, they said, “by the illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America’s most prestigious universities.”

The university, to be known as the University of Austin, or UATX for short, will have a soft start next summer with “Forbidden Courses,” a noncredit program that its founders say will offer a “spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.”

I have a single one-eyed question for these people: Will they allow BDS to operate freely on campus, or will they restrict it from doing so by taking a public stand against it, or defaming it as anti-Semitic? (See this and this as well.)  

That’s my litmus test; I have no other. So which will it be, Freethinkers?

Desert and Merit (2)

An unplanned installment in my series on “desert and merit,” care of Labcorp Drug Development. I applied to the job mentioned below three months ago, after spending eight months cleaning hospital operating rooms. I leave it to the reader to decide what conclusion to reach about my just deserts, based on my merits (or not) as a cleaner.

Dear Irfan,

Thank you for applying to Labcorp Drug Development as a Cleaner.

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Cancel Culture and the Arc of the Moral Universe

I’ve heard so many whining, incoherent complaints about the evils of “cancel culture” over the past few years, usually from the same old suspects saying the same damn thing over and over. I wouldn’t offer a blanket endorsement of every cancellation or every cancellation-oriented group or movement. But I’m curious (once again) to hear what anti-cancel-culture warriors have to say about Trafficking Hub’s campaign to cancel human trafficking in porn.

Either the pressure exerted on MasterCard (and other vendors) was an instance of “cancel culture,” or it wasn’t. If not, why not?

Suppose it was. Was there anything wrong with it? Were the aims unjust, or the means immoral?

If there’s nothing wrong with the Trafficking Hub campaign, what’s the rationale for the blanket attack on “cancel culture”? Why don’t cases like this prove that if we’re to use the phrase at all, “cancel culture” has both legitimate and illegitimate instances?

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The Lost Boys

Here’s an exchange I just had with Stephen Hicks over a recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Generation of American Men Give Up on College” (Sept. 6, 2021). (The Journal piece is paywalled, but can be one-time accessed by registering.)

Naturally, I’m having trouble with the technological wonders of the “block editor,” so I’ve indicated in italics where each separate quotation begins.

Stephen’s reaction to the article:

Two thoughts:

  1. This is a bad thing. Boys and young men have been ill-served by mainstream education, such that they are unmotivated and unprepared for life’s challenges — and they know it in their bones.
  2. This is a good thing. Rather than waste two or four more years of the same at colleges and universities that extend the mis-education, the young men will gropingly get into real life and actually find something engaging and valuable to do.
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Cancel Culture: A Recantation

In previous posts here, I’ve argued that “cancel culture” is fake news–an ideological confabulation devised by the Right to discredit the Left, which is usually “credited” with having created it. I now realize that I’ve been deeply wrong, and wish to recant. Cancel culture certainly does exist, just not in the way its usual ideological adversaries would have you believe.

Think of any event that requires scheduling, e.g., an appointment, a work schedule, business hours, a conference, a travel itinerary, a date. Think of how ubiquitous such events are, and how complex and expensive the infrastructure required to keep them going–to keep the slots filled, to keep the workflow efficient, to make sure everything runs on time. Consider how much reliance the various parties place on the others in the scheduling process. If A schedules with B, A relies on B to be there, and B relies on A to show up. If A doesn’t show up, the failure (whether culpable or not) adversely affects both B and any third parties who would have used A’s slot but couldn’t, given A’s (let’s say) sudden absence. If B doesn’t show up, the absence affects A as well as a set of third parties.

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Too Much Time on Their Hands: The Underemployment of Our Managerial Class

I keep hearing hand-waving stories from right-leaning members of our managerial class about how unemployment benefits are dampening the desire to work among rank-and-file workers. Let me give you a small glimpse into the work ethic of this same managerial class in my own case. I’ll leave you to decide, at least in this case, whose work ethic could use some improvement.

I’ve been writing here since October about the eight month gig I recently did working full time for Operating Room Environmental Services (OR EVS) at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, New Jersey. About seven weeks ago, I gave notice at the hospital, telling both Surgical Services and HR that I would continue to work at HMC’s OR once a month as a per diem worker at the same rate as I’d earned before. They were delighted to hear it; OR EVS has been decimated by turnover, and was practically dying for weekend coverage. I could easily have insisted on a raise, but didn’t. This, by the way, for an institution that failed to give me bereavement leave after the unexpected death of my wife in March.

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Ecce Cuomo

It may seem strange to have so political a reaction to the death of a spouse, but I find myself, in the wake of my wife Alison Bowles’s recent untimely death, seeing the world through her eyes. And she was, if anything, a politically opinionated person whose perspective on the world permanently changed the way I look at it. I’ve certainly done my share of entirely private grieving for her (and have a long way to go), but I can’t help feeling an imperative to preserve what I regard as her distinctive outlook on the world beyond our marriage.

This story in The New York Times about Andrew Cuomo strikes a particular chord.

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Cancel Neera Tanden

The problem with Neera Tanden is not, as is now widely being asserted by Republicans, that she’s “partisan,” “divisive,” or “mean.” Nor is her great virtue, as a lot of centrist Democrats seem to believe, that she’s some kind of persecuted truth teller. The problem with Neera Tanden is that she’s full of shit–a lying windbag and reckless big mouth who’s mastered the art of invective without being able to argue her way out of a paper bag on any substantive issue.

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Ellos No Las Tienen: Canceling the Autumn Sweater Line

Another counter-example to the “Left has a monopoly on cancel culture” or “cancel culture targets the poor, hapless Right” narrative.

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