March 8, 2012

CONTRARY OPINIONS SHOULD NOT BE ENCOURAGED — THIS IS A UNIVERSITY AFTER ALL: University president lambastes professor-blogger for finding some good in Rush Limbaugh’s anti-Fluke rant. You know, it’s going to be harder and harder to sell the notions of universities as places where people pursue knowledge for its own sake.

And Landsburg has tenure, but don’t you think that a university president going after a professor like this will serve to chill the speech of untenured professors, grad students, etc.? And do you think Joel Seligman was unaware of that?

UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes:

Let’s see how long it takes for the AAUP and Landsburg’s colleagues at Rochester to condemn Seligman’s infringement on academic freedom.

Seligman had a choice to intervene, or not, and chose to invoke the power of his office within the university in a manner that can easily be interpreted as an attempt to strong-arm those who do not have the same rank or protections that Landsburg enjoys. This has the elements of a model case.

In my opinion, CAO’s of universities have an obligation to stand above the fray, to set an example. Seligman’s actions have become too typical of the modern university president to the detriment of the university as an American institution.

Other readers wonder why the President is attacking the only faculty member at Rochester that anyone has ever heard of. That’s not quite fair — Seligman himself was once a quite well-known legal scholar — but certainly this sort of thing may make it a bit harder for Rochester to attract independent thinkers in the future. Then again, maybe Rochester doesn’t want to attract independent thinkers. That’s certainly the impression given . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on this scandal from Tom Maguire. “If the question is, what student activists deserve to be mocked, here is the answer.”

Plus: “Seligman is not threatening any reprisals, but his comments may have a chilling effect. That may seem like an especially undesirable outcome in the frozen tundra of Rochester, but on the other hand, plenty of people, including plenty of academics, self-chill and self-regulate.”

Which sharply undercuts the “public good” argument for higher education.

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