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Jewish World Review / Dec. 10 1998 / 21 Kislev, 5759

Don Feder

Don Feder No place at table for conservatives

IN THEIR BOOK The Shadow University: the Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses , Harvey Silverglate and Alan Charles Kors bluntly charge, "Universities have become the enemy of a free society."

This indictment is underscored by a recent incident at Columbia. Accuracy in Academia scheduled a two-day conference at the school for mid-November, titled, "A Place at the Table: Conservative Ideas in Higher Education."

Columbia proceeded to demonstrate that while there's plenty of room at the table for Marxist analysis, feminist dogma and multicultural intimidation, conservatives are lucky to even get crumbs.

Accuracy in Academia, which challenges lecture-hall indoctrination, put together an impressive roster of speakers, including Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who has championed successful initiatives to bar quotas in college admissions and employment, and Dinesh D'Souza, author of The End of Racism.

In his Friday evening remarks, Connerly (who described his ancestry as African, Indian, Irish and French) reminded listeners that race isn't destiny. "I don't want my grandchildren to grow up in a society where they have to check a box," the businessman declared.

The conference drew the notice of the multicultural mob, which operates on the assumption that what it finds disagreeable is indisputably racist and therefore must be crushed under a jackbooted heel.

About 100 noisy protesters showed up to denounce the gathering. They chanted, made faces, waved placards and engaged in other substitutes for thought.

The administration, which was looking for an excuse to cancel the conference, forced AIA to pay an addition $3,200 for extra security.

When the added expense didn't deter the group, administrators ordered the Saturday session limited to those with Columbia ID cards. Since two-thirds of the conferees were from off-campus, this effectively killed the conference, as the administration intended.

In protest, D'Souza spoke in nearby Morningside Park. The civil libertarians showed up to drown out his speech with chants of "Ha, ha, you're outside. We don't want your racist lies."

Aside: At least student demonstrators of my day could rhyme. How much imagination would it have taken to come up with something snappy, like, "Bread and jam, cakes and pies. We don't want your racist lies" -- or words to that effect?

Student activists hold the whip hand on most campuses. Academic bureaucrats, as Theodore Roosevelt once remarked of William McKinley, have the backbone of a chocolate eclair.

Instead of enforcing civility and protecting intellectual inquiry and debate, they usually take the expedient of banning conservative speakers, penalizing alternative newspapers and instituting speech codes. Just as in the 1980s, when Reagan administration officials were regularly shouted down by opponents of an anti-communist foreign policy, today's campuses are increasingly closed to conservative thought.

In October, Amy Tracy, an ex-lesbian and former employee of the National Organization for Women, was barred from speaking at Boston College. "I don't want homophobes and gay-bashers on this campus," Dean of Students Robert Sherwood reportedly told the event's organizer.

Sherwood did not specify what was more "homophobic," that Tracy came out of the homosexual lifestyle or is talking about it.

At Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution, almost the entire press run of the Oct. 8-9 issue of the conservative "Academy" was trashed. It took the school's president, Father Leo O'Donovan, two weeks of hard thinking about whether the First Amendment really matters (when it interferes with a sensitivity regime) before he issued a tepid condemnation of the "alleged theft."

In their book, Kors and Silverglate focus on speech codes -- the academic left's automatic censorship machine. These attempts at mind control save them the effort of shouting down and intimidating opposition speakers.

Under the codes, words the local HQ of racial, gender, sexual equality find offensive (because they challenge deeply held beliefs) are simply verboten. Those who express dangerous ideas are keelhauled.

The authors conclude, "It is time for the citizens of that society to recognize this scandal of enormous proportions and hold these institutions to account." High time.

Higher education operates on the earnings of Middle America -- in the form of tuition payments for sons and daughters and federal subsidies like Pell Grants. Only masochists pay to have pain deliberately inflicted on them.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.