The controversy over Prof. Drew Fraser of Macquarie University in Sydney [See “Adventures of an Academic Pariah,” by Andrew Fraser], is another clear example of the double standard liberals resort to whenever their preconceptions are threatened. Official reactions to his and other recent free speech cases highlight a new justification the defenders of orthodoxy have invented for quashing dissent.
In 2002, Vanderbilt University tried to change the name of Confederate Memorial Hall and remove a plaque that honored the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) for contributing to building costs. The UDC was understandably opposed to this, and sued. Jonathan Farley, a black professor of mathematics, responded with a column for a Nashville newspaper claiming that the “UDC honors traitors.” He wrote that “every Confederate soldier, by the mores of his age and ours, deserved not a hallowed resting place at the end of his days but a reservation at the end of the gallows,” and went on to suggest that America’s racial problems are rooted in the fact that “the Confederacy was not thoroughly destroyed, its leaders and soldiers executed and their lands given to the landless freed slaves.”
Despite the administration’s best efforts, Vanderbilt is still a recognizably Southern school whose alumni were no doubt unhappy that a professor wrote that he wished their ancestors had been hanged. As a result, while at many colleges Prof. Farley’s column would have gone unremarked, Vanderbilt had to do some damage control. Black student groups supported the professor, but the college tried to distance itself from him.
The vice-chancellor for public affairs, Michael Schoenfeld, said Prof. Farley’s comments were “contrary to Vanderbilt’s efforts to create a civil and respectful academic community and are rightly offensive to, and rejected by, most people.” Nonetheless, he emphasized that, “the long-standing tenets of academic freedom, which Vanderbilt supports with equal vigor, give our faculty members the right to make public statements and the responsibility to defend them in the marketplace of ideas.” Similarly, when then-student body president Samar Ali called the remarks “hate speech” and “racist and dangerous,” she also emphasized that “he should not be fired for expressing his views.”
Approximately 1.2 million Confederate soldiers survived the war, and so what Prof. Farley called for was nothing less than the extermination of virtually the entire white male population of the South, along with a land distribution program that makes Robert Mugabe look timid. Even Joseph Stalin killed only Polish army officers at Katyn. In his column, Prof. Farley went on to compare Confederate apologists to “Holocaust revisionists,” while at the same time advocating a holocaust of his own. Prof. Farley is a professor of mathematics, so politics and history are not in his areas of expertise–although his faculty web page pictured him next to an image of Che Guevara. During the whole controversy, the university that was once home to the Nashville Agrarians felt no need to apologize to the Confederate descendants whose ancestors the professor thought should have been executed. It consistently defended his right to speak his mind, and never questioned whether a mathematics professor should write about history.
Keeping Prof. Farley in mind, let us reconsider the hoopla over Andrew Fraser, a professor of public law at Macquarie University in Australia. After seeing a typical puff piece about immigration in his local paper, he wrote a letter to the editor explaining that more African immigration would turn Australia into a “colony of the Third World” and bring ethnic conflict. He also pointed out that “experience practically everywhere in the world tells us that an expanding black population is a sure-fire recipe for increases in crime, violence and a wide range of other social problems.” Prof. Fraser did not back down, and attributed these problems to the low average IQ and high testosterone of Africans.
Rather than stand by his right to academic freedom or at least try to refute what he said, the university suspended him. He was locked out of his classroom and forced to meet with supporters elsewhere. Vice-Chancellor Di Yerbury explained that Prof. Fraser had free speech rights but that he had no right to attach his university affiliation to opinions on subjects outside his specialty. She went on to apologize to a number of African groups for his “repugnant” views.
There was a similar incident at the University of New Orleans (UNO) in 1996. Edward Miller, a professor of economics who had written extensively on racial differences in intelligence, wrote a letter to The Gambit, a New Orleans newspaper, stating that racial differences were real and biologically based. The student newspaper, The Driftwood, editorialized that “Miller is neither anthropologist nor psychologist and his work in those fields is entirely unrelated to his professional training (which is economics) and seemed to command little respect from any of the academic circles where we inquired.” The editors cited policy: “The private use of official University insignia, stationery, envelopes, etc., by members of the UNO faculty or staff is prohibited for the following uses: . . . The expression of personal opinion or endorsement in letters to the news media, elected officials, etc., except in areas of one’s professional competence.”
It has since come to light that the civil sheriff (a law enforcement officer for civil matters) of the parish of Orleans threatened to restrict funding to the school if it did not silence Prof. Miller. A black Catholic girls school threatened not to let UNO recruit on its campus. The administration strongly denounced Prof. Miller, questioned his ability to teach blacks, and tried to sanction him by claiming he was writing outside his field. It turned out that Prof. Miller did not use any university materials when he wrote to the newspaper, so that ploy failed.
Both Profs. Fraser and Miller certainly know what they were writing about. Although he is an economist, Professor Miller had written over a dozen articles on intelligence for psychological journals, including several in Personality and Individual Differences, which is one of the most respected journals in the field. Prof. Fraser teaches a course on immigration law, so discussing the impacts of immigration is clearly within his area of expertise. Neither professor was advocating legally discriminating against anyone, much less promoting mass executions as Prof. Farley was.
There are other examples. Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, called the people who died in the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns” who deserved their fate. While many people outside the university called for his head, no one claimed his article had nothing to do with ethnic studies, whatever that is, and the university stood by him. Noam Chomsky, one of the most famous left-wing professors in the country, often says outrageous things about capitalism, American foreign policy, and the mass media. While he invites some controversy, no one suggests he shouldn’t be allowed to speak on those subjects even though he’s a linguist, not a historian or political scientist.
The hypocrisy was made crystal clear when over 100 Australian academics signed an open letter that gave various legal and ethical reasons why Prof. Fraser’s free speech should have been abridged. One reason was that:
“It is dishonest to suggest that free speech is equally available to all. Some of us are entrusted with the ability to speak authoritatively, and to be listened to, because of the roles we occupy in society. This is why it is imperative for other academics to denounce Fraser’s continuing capitalisation on his academic title and institutional affiliation. Fraser has no academic research history in the field of race and ethnicity studies.”
The majority of these academics were not professors of law or philosophy. Were they not also making a statement outside their fields of expertise?
What is significant here is not that there is a double standard applied to racial realists. That has been obvious for years. What is striking about the cases of Prof. Fraser and Prof. Miller is that the charge of “speaking outside of one’s discipline” is now used to trample on the academic freedom of those who question multicultural orthodoxy.