Sunday, February 13, 2005

Yet more on tenure and free speech
Responding to Dan's recent comments about freedom of speech on campuses:

1) I will defend Tenure to my dying day. Or at least until I retire.

2) The fact that tenure is spectacularly unsuccessful at protecting free speech on campus does not mean that it is completely unsuccessful. For example, it stopped me from getting fired for my speech; I merely received a warning that I'd better not do it again.

3) I agree with Dan that a professor should be judged by his professional output -- teaching and research -- according to the professional standards of that field. And not according to his offline (which may be online) pontificating. This is what I mean by "free speech" in this context.

4) I agree with Dan that many fields (such as ethnic studies and women's studies) have no real content and standards and they should not exist. (I disagree that these people are merely dressing up job preservation as serious work. Rather, I think that in many cases they are profoundly evil.) But how should these fields be eliminated? What is needed is "the cold light of pragmatic scrutiny", but where is it going to come from? One reason it is important to have free speech on campus is so faculty can speak up, and criticize and mock these fields. Where the Left doesn't have an interest, this can happen; an example is at Florida State University where faculty successfully stopped the creation of a chiropractic program .

5) I do not for a minute believe Dan's claim that there is free speech in departments of science, medicine and engineering. (A writer to Jonah Goldberg similarly claims that there is plenty of free speech in his science department. Of course, to avoid reprisals, he chooses to remain anonymous.) There is virtually no free speech in science or engineering in my university. Consider MIT, for another example. Given the speech codes there (that prohibit, for instance, any conduct that creates an "offensive" environment), and given the lack of outrage at the Birgeneau/Hopkins report discussed here, and given some other things that I know about the place, it seems as if there is very little freedom of speech there. In fact, if there is any department in any prominent American or Canadian university where -- for example -- people feel they are (roughly) as free to make anti-feminist speech as they are to make feminist speech, I'd like to know about it. In fact, an argument can be made that Women's Studies departments have more freedom of speech than other departments, for the simple reason that their members and students have already been selected (or self-selected) for the purity and correctness of their thought.

6) Eugene Volokh is one of my internet heroes because of his intelligent advocacy of freedom of speech and because of his dispassionate discussion of legal issues (although I wish he could separate the two a bit better). Dan mocks him for writing about his son and his hobbies, but it is important to point out that the vast majority of his blogging is firmly related to his areas of expertise.

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