Discriminate? Us? How Quickly Duke Forgets

Ashley Thorne

  • Article
  • October 09, 2009

Mark Bauerlein has an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today in which he shows how illegitimate the academic left's denials  of "liberal-bias-in-higher-education" can be. Bauerlein contrasts the avowal of Duke professor Cathy Davidson:

"Either as a department member or a member of the APT committee, I've not encountered any Duke faculty member being harassed or discriminated against because he or she is conservative." ("APT" stands for Appointments, Promotions, and Tenures.")

with the famous case of discrimination against NAS at Duke:

This is an odd statement, for one of the better-known cases of discrimination against conservatives during the academic culture wars of the late-80s and early-90s took place precisely at Duke University not far from her office.  It surfaced when some Duke folks started up a chapter of the National Association of Scholars on campus and several professors reacted with alarm. The most prominent example was a letter to the Provost and five others, including the President, by Duke's most famous professor, English Department chairman Stanley Fish. The letter stated, "I am writing you to say that in my view, members of the National Association of Scholars should not be appointed to positions on key university committees such as APT, Distinguished Professor, or any other committee dealing with academic priorities and evaluations."

Another letter Fish wrote to the student newspaper asserted that NAS ''is widely known to be racist, sexist and homophobic."' These attacks were specifically intended to effect the exclusion of NAS at Duke and to smear its reputation on the whole. Cathy Davidson's untroubled memory disserves her now, as did her letters defending Fish back then. The university should be a place where intellectual freedom is cherished, not where those who hold unpopular views are kept out.

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