University Professors for Academic Tyranny

The American Association of University Professors is a semi—trade union for American professors. It claims to be the high—minded guardian of academic freedom in America, going back to John Dewey. But today the AAUP's principles are being strangled. The organization is co—sponsoring a meeting at the prestigious Bellagio Conference Center on the banks of Lake Como, to discuss an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

According to the anti—boycott group, the International Campaign for Academic Freedom:

"AAUP scholars will meet in the villa in Bellagio, on the banks of Lake Como, to discuss academic boycotts and their relation to academic freedom. The Ford and Nathan Cummings foundations contributed the money that would fund the conference and a subsequent publication. The Rockefeller Foundation is providing the site at Bellagio."

More than a third of the participants publicly support boycotts of Israeli universities out of opposition to the Jewish state, according to the New York Sun. In addition to that, the conference organizers had included in the pre—conference packet an anti—Semitic paper by a Holocaust denier.

After discovering these facts, the three major New York—based foundations are now calling for postponement of the conference.

Even so, the AAUP declared that the conference will take place as planned. The AAUP's General Secretary Roger Bowen takes the following contradictory positions:

1. "...academic boycotts are irreconcilable with the purposes of higher education."

2. "There have been calls for the AAUP to postpone or cancel the February 13—17 conference it is sponsoring in Belaggio, Italy. We firmly believe that the conference should proceed as scheduled..."

3. "This week we discovered that, due to an egregious error, we had included in the pre—conference packet a deeply offensive article by a Holocaust denier. The article had been collected during our research for the conference, but it was never intended for distribution to the participants or, indeed, to anyone else."

4. "There are those, including the organizations funding the conference, who suggest that we postpone the conference because of this error. Others have urged postponement because some of the participants are on record as favoring academic boycotts. We believe, rather, that the conference should be held now, with the same group of invitees, and with every intention of mounting an academically rigorous conference."

Alas, the professors do protest too much. What kind of "academically rigorous" research turned up and circulated a "deeply offensive article by a Holocaust denier?" Is this an example of the academic standards AAUP is trying to uphold?

AAUP's rationale sounds like a political zig—zag play. It's just John Kerry voting for the Iraq War before he voted against it.

Odd, isn't it?

It seems that AAUP is not eager to have debates on other questions — Intelligent Design, or boycotting the United Nations, for instance. AAUP won't have a Bellagio meeitings with David Horowitz, or with other critics of Political Correctness on campus. AAUP will never debate the pros and cons of radical feminism.

Those are not real academic questions, you see.

But boycotting Israel is open to debate.

When you agree to debate a question, you legitimize the issue. This is a standard tactic of campus radicals around the US, who hold positions of power in AAUP.

Decent people do not sponsor headline conferences on certain questons. Should we consider the death penalty for Danish cartoonists? Decent people just take a stand on those questions. You can tell a lot about someone's decency by the questions they ask.

The academic freedom principles AAUP claims to espouse are badly needed at home. We live in the Age of Political Correctness. Our universities are bastions of intolerance in a sea of freedom. But AAUP hasn't done anything to protect free speech on campus. It doesn't seem eager to try.

Maybe AAUP's own radicals are just trying to export campus intolerance to the State of Israel.

Well, if Bellagio won't host this rigorous, scholarly meeting, the sponsors can always ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

He'll be happy to host a rigorous, scholarly debate in Tehran.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.