CCSU, other universities should educate, not indoctrinate, students
By Jay Bergman
Jay Bergman is professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Scholars.
Published in New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) Friday, February 27, 2015
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's claim that President Obama does not love America, while perhaps inartfully phrased, is defensible. Surely the president's intention, stated publicly when he was running for president, "to fundamentally transform America," suggests a strong aversion to America as it now exists. Moreover, he has condemned the American people for "clinging to their guns and their religion," and, by citing "their antipathy to people who aren't like them," slyly insinuated that they are collectively racist. When asked if he believed in American Exceptionalism, he replied that he believed in it the way Greeks believe in Greek Exceptionalism and the British in British Exceptionalism. His wife, Michelle, famously opined that American was "a downright mean country" and that until her husband ran for president, she had no reason to be proud of it.
Still, President Obama has his defenders, and in a country that is more or less evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, this is to be expected. Indeed, the whole issue of the president's true feelings about America is one on which reasonable people may disagree.
But that was not the case among the faculty at Central Connecticut State University after Mayor Giuliani delivered his broadside. On the campus email list-serve, one professor vowed that she would refuse to attend any lecture the mayor might give here. Another, recently retired, pronounced him a racist. Yet another, while conceding that the mayor was not a racist, argued that his derogation of the president nevertheless harmed the generic struggle against racism - which seems to imply that President Obama should not be criticized for anything and that anyone who does so is morally deficient.
As it happens, Mayor Giuliani spoke at CCSU two years ago under the auspices of the Vance Foundation, which over the years has brought to campus speakers on both sides of the political spectrum, such as George McGovern and Jimmy Carter on the left and George H. W. Bush and Jeane Kirkpatrick on the right. Could Giuliani's statement about Obama cause the foundation to bring him here again? Judging from the comments above, it seems safe to predict that should it do so, the response from faculty would be volcanic. Some have even suggested that in the future the Vance Foundation should either sponsor speakers the faculty agrees with or should be barred from using the university as the venue for the lectures it pays for.
In November 2013, a committee selected by the Faculty Senate sent the foundation a list of seven nominees to speak at CCSU in 2014. One was Melissa Harris-Perry, who, in a recent interview on MSNBC with Attorney General Eric Holder, asked him to quack like a duck. Another, Alice Walker, has compared Israel to Nazi Germany. The late Maya Angelou, also on the list, praised the barbaric and oppressive regime of the Castro brothers in Cuba. Three of the remaining four were similarly situated on the far left of the political spectrum. The last, Valerie Strauss, opposes school vouchers benefitting students from poor families while sending her children to expensive private schools.
College faculties across America are overwhelmingly liberal, and their political contributions show this vividly. In 2012, 96 percent of donations from Ivy League faculty went to President Obama, the remaining 4 percent to Governor Romney. This imbalance is most apparent in humanities departments, where the temptation to indoctrinate students politically is especially pronounced; when President Bush was in office, students of mine regularly complained about professors denouncing him instead of teaching what they were contractually obligated to teach.
The CCSU administration and faculty loudly proclaim their devotion to "diversity." But their commitment is more rhetorical than real. What they really seek is the opposite: a faculty and student body that are racially and ethnically heterogeneous but that politically think the same things. I hope that the good people of Connecticut, who through their taxes largely subsidize higher education in the state, make clear to their elected representatives that instead of indoctrinating students, our universities should educate them, which means, in part, practicing genuine intellectual diversity.
At CCSU, a good start toward this objective would be allowing the Vance Foundation to sponsor speakers with whom the faculty will occasionally disagree.