Academic Cheerleaders for Terrorists

Raymond Luc Levasseur served twenty years in federal prison for leading the United Freedom Front, a radical anti-government group notorious for its violent "protests" against U.S. foreign policy in the '70s and '80s. Its members were charged with the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, the attempted murder of a Massachusetts state trooper, several other assaults on law enforcement officers, eight Boston-area bombings, and a series of armed bank robberies. 

In spite or even because of Levasseur's heinous acts, academics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst recently saw fit to include him in its annual Colloquium on Social Change: Radical Democracy and the Moral Economy [whatever that means] on Social Change, an event designed to showcase radicals of '60s vintage. The purpose of this year's colloquium was to "examine how ideas about social justice have shaped American lives with speakers who represent distinctly different radical challenges to American society."

Never mind that Levasseur's notions of social justice cut short the life of state trooper Philip Lamonaco, caused many others great suffering, and visited destruction on various military reserve and recruiting centers. Paramount in the mind of historian Robert S. Cox, the colloquium's organizer who brought the terrorist to campus, was the golden opportunity presented by Levasseur to shed light on what leads a revolutionary to violence.

Although that talk was canceled due to public outcry, faculty members from six academic departments reinvited Levasseur to speak. In the end, the convicted terrorist was denied permission by his parole officer to travel from Maine, his home base, to the university; nevertheless, two hundred people, including police officers and Lamonaco's widow, strongly protested the invitations to include him at the beginning of the forum on November 19.

The push on the part of academics at UMass to elevate Levasseur to the precincts of the ivory tower is by no means unique. The welcoming, and in particular the hiring, of former terrorists and ex-cons there has been the rage for some time. Examples, as catalogued by Marilyn Penn in an article on academe's twisted "privileging" of applicants who are proven malefactors rather than law-abiding citizens, include:

  • Bernadine Dohrn, the '60s radical who was in the vanguard of the terrorist Weathermen and a fugitive with her husband William Ayers, is the director of the Children and Family Justice Clinic (of all things) at Northwestern University's School of Law.
  • William Ayers is a distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois. He haughtily described and justified his terrorist activities in an autobiography published just after 9/11.
  • "Weatherwoman" Susan Rosenberg served seventeen years for her terrorist acts. She received a pardon from President Clinton, after which she taught writing at Columbia, Brown, Yale, Hamilton, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
  • Jamal Joseph, a former Black Panther who served time for crimes including robbery, harboring a fugitive, and murder, has chaired the Film Division at Columbia's School of the Arts.
  • Tom Jones, the militant black student who was one of the leaders of an armed takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell in 1969, was awarded a different order of academic distinction. He has served as Trustee Emeritus on that campus.
  • There are also, in Phil Orenstein's words, "the terrorist cheerleaders" within the faculty union leadership and radical professorate at the City University of New York. In one instance of their alleged machinations at CUNY, Professor Sharad Karkhanis recounted the efforts of a faculty union leader, Professor Susan O'Malley, to find teaching posts for convicted terrorist Mohammed Yousry and others of his ilk. Karkhanis described O'Malley's desire "to recruit terrorists in CUNY. Given the opportunity, she will bring in all her indicted, convicted, and freed-on-bail, terrorist friends."
  • Another example is the response on the part of numerous professors to the case of Osama "Sami" al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who before his arrest was the North American leader of the murderous Palestinian Islamic Jihad and who used the campus as a base of operations. As David Horowitz and Ben Johnson described, throughout these infamous events, an array of Al-Arian's professional colleagues publicly defended him with bountiful sympathy. Notably, just before his arrest, Duke University invited al-Arian to speak at a symposium on "National Security and Civil Liberties."
  • Radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who recently surrendered to begin serving her sentence for providing material aid to terrorism, is yet another campus celebrity.
  • And as Horowitz and Johnson also note, Evergreen State College has long proven receptive to terrorists. Indeed, cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal has been a "commencement speaker" (via audiotape from prison).
Why are universities so smitten with former terrorists or otherwise extremist, violent individuals? One common response is that professors and speakers with such "real life" credentials bring firsthand experience and knowledge to their academic duties. By the same reasoning, Penn points out, "pedophiles should be operating day care centers and rapists should be counseling battered women."

Another pat response by academic terrorist defenders is to cut off debate by magisterially invoking academic freedom. As the tenured leftists would have it: "I own this right. I can do this and therefore will, and I need not even acknowledge you who disagree because you have no recourse whatsoever." Freedom with responsibility? The great privilege of participating in scholarly endeavors? Non-starters.

What counts, rather, is raw power and the accompanying personal gain -- academic prestige and promotion, grants from left-wing donors, and the attention and celebrity status granted by the media to professors who make a life's work of making a mockery of "bourgeois" values.

At root, professors who pay court to terrorists are indulging in a radical, degenerate, and socially debilitating form of moral discourse. They are purveyors of postmodernism, a view according to which the "grand narratives" of former times -- narratives which privilege truth over falsehood, goodness over evil, freedom over tyranny, and normality over deviance -- are deconstructed in favor of a conception according to which radical departures from traditional norms of civilization are valued for their own sake. The more brutal, the more extreme, the more perverted this "acting out," the better. What matters is the gory, ugly theater of it all, in order to deliver a tremendous slap in the faces of normal citizens. A litany of reasons to blame America for the ills of the world provides the constant backdrop for these rabid, counter-cultural rituals.

The philosophical incoherence, irrationality, and solipsism of this view have been brilliantly exposed by Alasdair MacIntyre in his treatise After Virtue. Even MacIntyre could not have predicted, however, how postmodernism could have led to the perverse glorification by many in the academic left of terrorist violence.

Something is horribly wrong in higher education, as the public increasingly grasps. Consider the reaction of Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, for example, to the honoring of Levasseur at UMass:

This notorious killer ... is a guest of the university's faculty to talk to students ... Is that the lesson these so-called teachers want to send? ... Glorifying terrorism and equating it with social change is wrong. The University of Massachusetts should be ashamed of its faculty, which has turned this colloquium into a sick joke. Who will speak at this event next year -- Terry Nichols and Zacarias Moussaoui?"

But professors with favorable regard for terrorists and a somnolent disconnect from their victims have shown themselves impervious to shame. Citizens will have to unite in finding ways to prevent these "teachers" from emboldening those who would do us harm and inviting them to infiltrate our campuses.
Raymond Luc Levasseur served twenty years in federal prison for leading the United Freedom Front, a radical anti-government group notorious for its violent "protests" against U.S. foreign policy in the '70s and '80s. Its members were charged with the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, the attempted murder of a Massachusetts state trooper, several other assaults on law enforcement officers, eight Boston-area bombings, and a series of armed bank robberies. 

In spite or even because of Levasseur's heinous acts, academics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst recently saw fit to include him in its annual Colloquium on Social Change: Radical Democracy and the Moral Economy [whatever that means] on Social Change, an event designed to showcase radicals of '60s vintage. The purpose of this year's colloquium was to "examine how ideas about social justice have shaped American lives with speakers who represent distinctly different radical challenges to American society."

Never mind that Levasseur's notions of social justice cut short the life of state trooper Philip Lamonaco, caused many others great suffering, and visited destruction on various military reserve and recruiting centers. Paramount in the mind of historian Robert S. Cox, the colloquium's organizer who brought the terrorist to campus, was the golden opportunity presented by Levasseur to shed light on what leads a revolutionary to violence.

Although that talk was canceled due to public outcry, faculty members from six academic departments reinvited Levasseur to speak. In the end, the convicted terrorist was denied permission by his parole officer to travel from Maine, his home base, to the university; nevertheless, two hundred people, including police officers and Lamonaco's widow, strongly protested the invitations to include him at the beginning of the forum on November 19.

The push on the part of academics at UMass to elevate Levasseur to the precincts of the ivory tower is by no means unique. The welcoming, and in particular the hiring, of former terrorists and ex-cons there has been the rage for some time. Examples, as catalogued by Marilyn Penn in an article on academe's twisted "privileging" of applicants who are proven malefactors rather than law-abiding citizens, include:

  • Bernadine Dohrn, the '60s radical who was in the vanguard of the terrorist Weathermen and a fugitive with her husband William Ayers, is the director of the Children and Family Justice Clinic (of all things) at Northwestern University's School of Law.
  • William Ayers is a distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois. He haughtily described and justified his terrorist activities in an autobiography published just after 9/11.
  • "Weatherwoman" Susan Rosenberg served seventeen years for her terrorist acts. She received a pardon from President Clinton, after which she taught writing at Columbia, Brown, Yale, Hamilton, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
  • Jamal Joseph, a former Black Panther who served time for crimes including robbery, harboring a fugitive, and murder, has chaired the Film Division at Columbia's School of the Arts.
  • Tom Jones, the militant black student who was one of the leaders of an armed takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell in 1969, was awarded a different order of academic distinction. He has served as Trustee Emeritus on that campus.
  • There are also, in Phil Orenstein's words, "the terrorist cheerleaders" within the faculty union leadership and radical professorate at the City University of New York. In one instance of their alleged machinations at CUNY, Professor Sharad Karkhanis recounted the efforts of a faculty union leader, Professor Susan O'Malley, to find teaching posts for convicted terrorist Mohammed Yousry and others of his ilk. Karkhanis described O'Malley's desire "to recruit terrorists in CUNY. Given the opportunity, she will bring in all her indicted, convicted, and freed-on-bail, terrorist friends."
  • Another example is the response on the part of numerous professors to the case of Osama "Sami" al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who before his arrest was the North American leader of the murderous Palestinian Islamic Jihad and who used the campus as a base of operations. As David Horowitz and Ben Johnson described, throughout these infamous events, an array of Al-Arian's professional colleagues publicly defended him with bountiful sympathy. Notably, just before his arrest, Duke University invited al-Arian to speak at a symposium on "National Security and Civil Liberties."
  • Radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who recently surrendered to begin serving her sentence for providing material aid to terrorism, is yet another campus celebrity.
  • And as Horowitz and Johnson also note, Evergreen State College has long proven receptive to terrorists. Indeed, cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal has been a "commencement speaker" (via audiotape from prison).
Why are universities so smitten with former terrorists or otherwise extremist, violent individuals? One common response is that professors and speakers with such "real life" credentials bring firsthand experience and knowledge to their academic duties. By the same reasoning, Penn points out, "pedophiles should be operating day care centers and rapists should be counseling battered women."

Another pat response by academic terrorist defenders is to cut off debate by magisterially invoking academic freedom. As the tenured leftists would have it: "I own this right. I can do this and therefore will, and I need not even acknowledge you who disagree because you have no recourse whatsoever." Freedom with responsibility? The great privilege of participating in scholarly endeavors? Non-starters.

What counts, rather, is raw power and the accompanying personal gain -- academic prestige and promotion, grants from left-wing donors, and the attention and celebrity status granted by the media to professors who make a life's work of making a mockery of "bourgeois" values.

At root, professors who pay court to terrorists are indulging in a radical, degenerate, and socially debilitating form of moral discourse. They are purveyors of postmodernism, a view according to which the "grand narratives" of former times -- narratives which privilege truth over falsehood, goodness over evil, freedom over tyranny, and normality over deviance -- are deconstructed in favor of a conception according to which radical departures from traditional norms of civilization are valued for their own sake. The more brutal, the more extreme, the more perverted this "acting out," the better. What matters is the gory, ugly theater of it all, in order to deliver a tremendous slap in the faces of normal citizens. A litany of reasons to blame America for the ills of the world provides the constant backdrop for these rabid, counter-cultural rituals.

The philosophical incoherence, irrationality, and solipsism of this view have been brilliantly exposed by Alasdair MacIntyre in his treatise After Virtue. Even MacIntyre could not have predicted, however, how postmodernism could have led to the perverse glorification by many in the academic left of terrorist violence.

Something is horribly wrong in higher education, as the public increasingly grasps. Consider the reaction of Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, for example, to the honoring of Levasseur at UMass:

This notorious killer ... is a guest of the university's faculty to talk to students ... Is that the lesson these so-called teachers want to send? ... Glorifying terrorism and equating it with social change is wrong. The University of Massachusetts should be ashamed of its faculty, which has turned this colloquium into a sick joke. Who will speak at this event next year -- Terry Nichols and Zacarias Moussaoui?"

But professors with favorable regard for terrorists and a somnolent disconnect from their victims have shown themselves impervious to shame. Citizens will have to unite in finding ways to prevent these "teachers" from emboldening those who would do us harm and inviting them to infiltrate our campuses.