Below I reproduce the schedule for a forthcoming conference to be held at a venue called the “Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center” which is part of New York University. With its leftist Cold War Center, which I have written about previously, and its conference on Alger Hiss, (about which I have also commented) NYU appears to welcome the distinction of being the American university most dedicated to resurrection of the Communist fellow traveler’s view of the world. I guess one center dedicated to this task is not enough—so the more the merrier, for NYU.
The Center is appropriately named after Ewen, whose Wikipedia entry, a neutral précis that sets forth the bare facts of how and why he was forced out of Brooklyn College in the McCarthy era, makes it quite clear that if you read behind the lines, Ewen was either a Party member of a devoted fellow traveler of the Stalinists. Now Ewen not only has a lecture series named after him at Brooklyn College, but NYU has a center established in his honor.
Now look at the names on the roster below. First, the keynote is of course by Ellen Schrecker, the historian most known to many of us for continuing apologies on behalf of Soviet espionage by American Communists. (To her supporters, she is the historian who chronicles the Right’s assault of academic freedom in the 50’s.) The education panel has Martin Duberman on it—the author of the definitive biography of Paul Robeson, and who readers of the book will quickly discover a firm support of Robeson’s Stalinism as well as a critique of the persecution he suffered at home for his views, without any nuance in his appraisal of the singer’s politics.
Most egregious is the panel on Vietnam. It features H. Bruce Franklin, a professor of English who has written a few books on Vietnam, but is also known for his now fortunately out of print tome, The Essential Stalin, (1972) in which he writes : “I used to think of Joseph Stalin as a tyrant and butcher who jailed and killed millions…..But, to about a billion people today, Stalin is the opposite of what we in the capitalist world have been programmed to believe.” To them, Franklin wrote, Stalin is “one of the great heroes of modern history, a man who personally helped win their [the people of China,Vietnam, Korea and Albania] win their liberation.” His bio in the book describes Franklin as “a revolutionary who was also a professor of English.”
Perhaps Franklin will elaborate on how Stalin carried out the struggle for civil liberties during the so-called second Red Scare, by urging his American comrades to make the revolution in the “belly of the beast,” as they used to say. Or perhaps he will explain how Comrade Stalin’s orchestration of the killing of millions of “class enemies” did not involve any violation of civil liberties.
His fellow panelist Moss Roberts is yet another long-time left-wing scholar of Asian and Chinese politics and history, who has not changed his views one iota in thirty years.
Now here is the announcement for the event:
*NYU’s Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center Presents*
*”Academic Freedom in the 1960s,” *
*April 1 from 12-6:00pm *
*at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House*
*One Washington Mews, between Washington Square North and East 8th Street***
**Join New York University’s Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center to examine the key fronts in the present battles over higher ed, and their historical parallels in previous eras. The conference will examine successive, well-funded ideological assaults on academic freedom by
outside pressure groups aimed at undermining the legitimacy of scholarly study during the 1960s.
For more information and to RSVP, please contact Zuzanna Kobryzynski at [email protected]
*Conference Program Schedule:**
**12:15-1:00pm – Keynote Address*
* Ellen Schrecker, Professor, Yeshiva University, author of the Lost Soul of Higher Education
*1:00-1:15pm — Break*
*1:15-3:15pm – Civil Rights Panel*
* Joy Williamson-Lott, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, University of Washington
* Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Lehman College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York
* Stephen Aby, Education and Sociology Librarian and Bibliographer, Professor of Bibliography, University of Akron
*3:30-3:45pm — Break*
*3:30-5:30pm – Vietnam War Panel*
* H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies,**Rutgers University-Newark
* Moss Roberts, Professor, East Asian Studies Department, NYU
* Dick Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of English, Emeritus, Wesleyan University
The sponsors do not even hide their ideological agenda. Consider the language of the announcement: They will examine “key fronts in the present battles;” – they will protest “well-funded ideological assaults on academic freedom,” etc.
Undoubtedly speaker after speaker will pile on David Horowitz and his valiant campaign in defense of academic freedom, discussed so well here in the current Weekly Standard by Peter Wood, head of The National Association of Scholars. He has had some victories, but mostly, vicious and unfair attacks. Horowitz has been willing to debate one of his most vociferous critics, the AAUP’s Cary Nelson, a self-proclaimed Marxist. At least Nelson stepped up to the plate, and did not shy away from a confrontation. This says more about him than it does about the Ewen Center people. They are so committed to civil liberties that they evidently believe no one with an opposing view is to be heard.
This conference marks yet another salvo in NYU’s apparent campaign to establish itself as the primary institution of higher education to feature centers devoted to leftist reappraisals of the recent past.
How sad it is that this institution, that once had on its faculty the late Sidney Hook, the preeminent fighter against totalitarianism of the Right and the Left, one of the founding fathers of liberal and left-wing anticommunism. I ended a previous column on NYU with the following, and I repeat it here, since nothing has changed in the past year:
All those people who are appearing there have the right to their point of view, and to espouse their views on programs and panels they create. But a great university should have the obligation to allow the public, especially in advertised programs open to everyone, to hear contending points of view on controversial issues, rather than to run one-sided partisan events that are passed off as scholarly contributions. Or does NYU really want to have the reputation of vindicating the charges made by some conservatives like David Horowitz, who has argued that radical faculty have “turned America’s classrooms into indoctrination centers for their political cause”?
The late Sidney Hook, the great NYU Professsor of Philosophy, wrote a letter in 1949 complaining about an academic conference that had as its aim what Hook called “the goal of furthering Soviet foreign policy.” Hook was furious, because, as he put it, while the conference included “more than ninety well known-fellow-travelers of the Communist Party line,” he noted that one had to “insist that the point of view I have expressed in my paper be presented at the Conference and that a place be made for me on the program.” Hook did not get such a place. Were he still alive, he would no doubt be dismayed that his own University is now partaking of the same kind of practice he dedicated his life to fight. He might wonder whether NYU is pleased with itself for sponsoring these closed-door seances of the old left.