Friday, April 14, 2006

More crushing of dissent ...

... as Glenn Reynolds likes to put it: OSU librarian slapped with “sexual harassment” charge for recommending conservative books for freshmen. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.) Sounds like a pretty dim-witted faculty to me.

Update: Glenn Reynolds links to more on this at the Volokh Conspiracy. It is truly appalling that any educational institution would exhibit such a fear of ideas. The professors behind this ought to be canned. They clearly know nothing about education.


  1. I'm not sure if you've looked up the books in question, but the one that apparently caused the problem, The Marketing of Evil, does sound pretty bad, from its own Amazon page:

    "Or that the 'gay rights' movement—which transformed America's former view of homosexuals as self-destructive human beings into their current status as victims and cultural heroes—faithfully followed an in-depth, phased plan laid out by professional Harvard-trained marketers."

    I do think anyone who happened to be gay and on that book committee would have a legitimate right to be offended. The same would hold for a Catholic, say, who was asked to recommend a book arguing that we should return to that time in America when Catholics were held in greater general contempt.

    I disagree with the faculty's actions. A "sexual orientation harrassment" charge is a bit much (basically they're claiming discrimination, so calling it "sexual harrassment" is misleading).

    But at the same time you can't fairly accuse the faculty members, who are gay, apparently, of being "afraid of ideas." The "idea" in the sentence I quote above is that homosexuals' long struggle against overt discrimination is in fact an evil plot put together by Harvard evildoers. That is obnoxious and also for anyone with a basic grasp of the real history involved, factually wrong. And rather paranoid.

    The book would thus in my opinion be wildly inappropriate for college freshmen. And the person recommending it strikes me as someone with an axe to grind and not someone looking out for good books on current issues for first year students. He was looking to be made a martyr and it is too bad the professors fell into his trap.

    The claim that his "constitutional rights" are being violated, as the ADF says, is just as excessive IMO as the action against him under the university's codes. It is in fact probably worse, since the librarian went in there looking more for this kind of a fight than for the business of selecting reasonable books for freshmen.

  2. Overall, Thersites, we are in complete agreement. My point is simply that the best antidote to false ideas is the truth. What's wrong with calling upon the person making the recommendations to defend or justify his choices? What's wrong with those who object simply stating plainly what their objections are? If ever there was an occasion for a frank and open discussion this would be it - and there is no better place for such a discussion than a university campus. Taking any sort of punitive action against someone because of his ideas - even if those ideas are demonstratively reprehensible - is not what a university is supposed to be about.

  3. Yes. There is though an element of entrapment in this story that I find distasteful. The librarian who proposed the books, especially this particular book, it seems to me really wanted to pick a fight and in a sense very much wanted to be censored, or at least censured. And when he was, the ADF was ready with a press release that is, I am afraid, somewhat misleading.

    Again, I think the professors reacted badly. (Asking for them to be fired though is excessive, I think -- what would that solve?)

    What has happened here is that a Trojan horse has been smuggled into that campus (and the wider discourse), in the form of a bad and silly and unscholarly book being granted the kind of cachet that "censored" books always attract.

    To be sure, I think you're right, this should have been handled differently. But by the same token if "conservatives" are themselves confident as to the legitimacy of their own ideas, they ought perhaps to introduce them to the mart of ideas without the pre-marked martyr tag so firmly affixed.

    And I have to say that it would be pure hell to be on a book committee with someone like that librarian. that committee had a job to do, and he pretty clearly had already made up his mind to cause trouble.