George W. Dent, Jr. is a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He is an NAS Board member and President of its Ohio chapter.
Emory University President John Wagner has been vilified by faculty and students for praising the compromise in the original Constitution between pro- and anti-slavery factions by which three-fifths of slaves were counted for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives. (Emory University's Leader Reopens Its Racial Wounds, N.Y. Times, Feb. 24, 2012) If he had sided with the anti-slavery forces and argued that slaves should not have been counted at all, he would have been vilified for belittling African-Americans. In CL Atlanta one critic charged Wagner with implying that "individual slaves didn't count as whole people." If he had argued that the slaves should have been counted in full, he would have been vilified for siding with slave owners.
Contrary to the criticism leveled in the article by Emory history professor Leslie Harris, the compromise was a success. In 1786 the North was neither willing nor able to militarily invade the South in order to end slavery. The compromise helped bring the Republic into existence and kept it together until 1861, when the North was willing and able to wage and win the Civil War to end slavery.
It is appalling that some Emory students are so ignorant of American history that they paraded calling for Wagner's ouster. And it is outrageous that the Emory faculty voted to censure Wagner for his statement.
However, one cannot feel sorry for Dr. Wagner. He got his position by pandering to a political correctness that forbids honest discussion of many serious issues in academia. He reaped what he sowed.