Archive for the ‘Academic Freedom and Integrity’ Category

Aphorism LXXII

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Those who know religious people and religious society in their contradictory complexity and feel betrayed by religion sometimes naively turn to science or to politics, without knowing scientific or political society to a similar point of complexity and betrayal.

No significant human endeavor is completely free from betrayal by its adherents. When one sees no such betrayal, one lacks deep knowledge of that given human endeavor.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Science and Religion Vs. Run-of-the-Mill Hedonism

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Another outtake from my run-of-the-mill hedonism essay–

It is sometimes useful to turn the “What are we doing instead” question back on the atheism that claims to live by science, since good science, like religion, is very often ignored as the guiding driver of human activity. Those who claim to follow science rarely successfully apply it both in public policy and in personal life (e.g., diet and exercise). There is more scientific knowledge available in our era than any other, yet bandwidth, and consequently brain-width, flows instead to violent games and to pornography.

Science, like religion, is constantly being ignored and betrayed. For example, research shows that educating prisoners reduces recidivism. But legislatures continue to discount these findings for the sake of “throw-away-the-key” populism, and rarely adequately fund prisoner education. Consider betrayals like the Tuskegee and Guatemala experiments, where rogue scientists infected many poor people with disease without their informed consent, or Alfred Kinsey’s shielding of active pedophiles during his research, or the numerous annual ethical infractions unearthed worldwide by thousands of scientific ethics panels and institutional review boards. (See, for example, the many Determination Letters issued by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).) Ethical scientists bear a heavily-tangled bureaucratic self-reporting burden due to infamous “mad scientist” rogues who prompted such regulatory intervention.

True religion and true science potentially share a common animus to run-of-the-mill hedonism. Both science and religion share common ethical foundations. From what particular moral source do we learn scientific infractions are wrong, other than the Biblical commandments not to lie, not to steal, and not to kill?

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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In Loco Helicopter Parentis

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

The following is an outtake from my run-of-the-mill hedonism essay–

Some colleges try to fight run-of-the-mill hedonism to a draw. At many campuses during major entertainment events where alcohol is served, “spotting the ambulance” reveals the contradictory dynamic. The ambulance in this case, often tastefully tucked around a corner, represents just about the last vestige of in loco parentis or the parental commonsense proposition in collegiate life, for near the ambulance are emergency medical technicians and student affairs staff: the alcohol poisoning rescue squad. Their job is to make sure no one dies at the event. This squad wades into the crowd when an imbibing student collapses at risk of cardiac arrest, and runs interference with the student’s friends who don’t think there is anything really wrong and who think they can all “handle it,” and gets the ill student quickly to the emergency room where the student’s life can be saved. The rescue squad represents a firm point of contradiction to our Zeitgeist’s rejection of parental responsibility, despite systematic efforts by civil libertarians over the greater part of a century to reduce parental authority. The rescue squad stands in loco helicopter parentis, whom, it turns out, colleges need after all.

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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An American Professor Who Sent a Colleague to Death in the Gulag

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

The witticism attributed to Henry Kissinger that academic quarrels are so intense because there is so little at stake does not reveal the sometimes life-and-death nature of such disputes. Universities have been the hotbed of conflict since their founding. King Louis IX sent in the royal archers in 1255 to quell attacks against the Dominican friars prior to the seating of St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris. History provides many other examples of riots and mayhem at universities. Occasionally, one learns of acts of deliberate murder.

I recently found a striking example of an American academic who wrote his friends in the Soviet Union circa 1927 complaining about a visiting professor who was then arrested upon return to Russia, and later sent to the Gulag and ultimately to his death.

The victim was a friend of Pitirim Alexanderovich Sorokin, one of the greatest sociologists of the 20th Century, born of a nomadic tribe called the Komi in the north-east of European Russia, who was by 1927 working at the University of Minnesota. He invited a fellow Komi, a noted economist named Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kondratiev, to visit the University of Minnesota. Here’s the story of Kondratiev’s demise, from Sorokin’s colleague Carle G. Zimmerman:

Kondratieff (sic), an agricultural economist and student of business cycles, visited Minnesota in 1927 and stayed with Sorokin. A number of prominent American scientists were pro-communist at the time. One was a forester at the Ag campus where I had an office. He upbraided me for associating with Sorokin and Kondratieff and told me he was going to send a report about Kondratieff back to Russia. Later I learned that Kondratieff was arrested immediately after returning to Russia from the trip to see American universities. However, he was not given the final “treatment” until the Stalinist purges of 1931.

Sorokin, the World’s Greatest Sociologist: His Life and Ideas on Social Time and Change, University of Saskatchewan Sorokin Lectures No. 1, 1968, p. 19.

Both Profs. Sorokin and Zimmerman moved from Minnesota to Harvard, where they achieved great distinction, and Minnesota lost thereby the corresponding opportunity for such distinction.

I find the story above a rather amazing example of how an unnamed American Stalinist true-believer professor contributed ultimately to the death of a distinguished colleague.

So perhaps academic squabbles are not so inconsequential after all. . .

I’ve added some of the information above to the Wikipedia page for Kondratiev, so history can remember. Here is the permanent Wikipedia link for my changes, just in case this information is vandalized or removed from the Wikipedia article.

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Linking Academic Freedom with Religious Freedom

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

When it comes to articulating freedom of thought and religious freedom, few equal Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who put the matter succinctly:

“I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating is that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons.”

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training,” Preached on the Feast of St. Monica, Sunday after Ascension, 1856, in the University Church, Dublin.

Very few Catholic academic leaders have articulated the link between intellectual/academic freedom and religious freedom as did Newman.

In 2009, in the heat of the Notre Dame/Obama honorary degree controversy, I wrote an essay containing the following:

The startling omission of the relationship between religious freedom and academic freedom is not only apparent in Notre Dame’s governing documents, but was missed in four of the most important joint statements made by Catholic universities, with Notre Dame’s significant participation, from 1967-72: the 1967 “Land o’Lakes Statement: The Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University,” which was later adopted by many US Catholic colleges and universities; the 1968 “Kinshasa Statement on the Catholic University in the Modern World of the International Federation of Catholic Universities;” the 1969 “Rome Statement on the Catholic University and the Aggiornamento,” which was produced by the Congress of Catholic Universities; and the culminating 1972 document of the Second International Congress of Delegates of Catholic Universities, “The Catholic University in the Modern World,” which did mention respect for religions other than Catholicism, and freedom of conscience, but again not religious freedom explicitly. Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990), the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, directly addressed, albeit briefly, freedom of conscience. But Benedict XVI’s April 17, 2008 Catholic University of America Address to Catholic Educators went directly to the heart of the question underlying considerations of freedom, by stating that “Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in–a participation in Being itself.”

From Albert J. Schorsch, III, “Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom,” 2009, at www.sanityandsocialjustice.net

Full texts of the documents named but not hyperlinked above can be found in American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents, 1967-1990, Alice Gallin, OSU, Ed., 1992, Notre Dame Press.

Near the end of my 2009 “Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom” essay, I wrote the following:

We must expand our conversations about Catholic universities beyond “bunkered” positions to reflect our Catholic universities’ role in establishing, defending, and maintaining religious and other freedoms, and to consider how academic freedom serves these other freedoms. From Pope Benedict’s profound insight into freedom as participation in Being itself, we can build a revised foundational document for Catholic universities in the next generation that explicitly relates religious freedom to academic freedom, and allows universities, their faculties, and students, to explore specific ways in which they can exercise these freedoms simultaneously.

The relationship between academic freedom and religious freedom should be complementary. This question should not simply be limited to universities founded by religious denominations.

Academic freedom does not exist in a vacuum for the sake of those so freed, but can serve to strengthen other human freedoms, especially religious freedom, which generates a free and open society.

By the way, that sermon of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman–

“Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training,” preached on the Feast of St. Monica, Sunday after Ascension, 1856, in the University Church, Dublin

–It’s a masterpiece.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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On University integrity within a corrupt political environment

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

What I shared with my University colleagues earlier in October, 2010, and in an edited version on 11/3/10:

The author recalls the constitutional debate over the political independence of the University of California to seek a path for the moral independence of the University of Illinois.

Of interest to colleagues might be a few quotes from the convention leading up to the California Constitution of 1879, by a non-partisan, Columbia U.-educated San Francisco attorney, University of California regent, and civil rights advocate named Joseph Winans, who argued that the University of California be set up as a “public trust,” governed by an independent board of regents, separate from the corrupt California legislature.

To those who opposed such a public trust arrangement, Winans held that they “would not only throw the university into the hands of the Legislature, but make it the plaything of politics. . . as long as it is made subject to legislative caprice; so long as it can be made subject to the beck of the politicians; so long as it can be made to subserve sectarian or political designs, it will never flourish.” According to Winans, California’s university “must be beyond all power of assault and subversion.” Separately, Winans stated that he wanted UC to be structured outside of “all pernicious political influences.”

In the end, after a contradictory, topsy turvy battle, Winans’s position prevailed, and the University of California was structured as a public trust. The California Constitution read that the University would be “subject only to such legislative control as may be necessary to insure compliance with the terms of its endowment and the proper investment of and security of its funds.” According to the California attorney general, the University was a virtual fourth branch of government as a “constitutional corporation. . . equal and coordinate with the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive.”

Sources:

Douglass, John Aubrey, 2000. The California idea and American higher education 1850 to the 1960 master plan. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, pp. 67-69.

By the way, the 1880 state appropriation to UC was $10,000, or 8% of the total operating expenses, which arguably approaches the effective contribution, factoring in funds in arrears, of the State of Illinois general revenue funding of the U of I in a given month.

In part because of the lack of such a public trust arrangement in Illinois, over the past century and one half, our own University has been pressured to be a political jobs bank, to be a purchasing machine, to be a cash line of credit for the state, to accept buildings it did not plan for or need or couldn’t afford to maintain, to accept numerous unfunded mandates, to be publicly shamed in the integrity of its admissions and earlier its scholarship process while the legislative rascals who compromised the University walked away scot free, to be regulated at a higher standard than the Illinois Legislature would ever impose on itself and at an increasing rate inversely proportionate to the decline in state funding–and more–while University administrators have had to grin from time to time, and act as if they liked it.

That the U of I, including UIC, has accomplished all that it has is a testament to the savvy determination of its leadership and to the integrity of its faculty. However, the state of corruption in Illinois requires an ever more vigilant public attitude toward state government.

Therefore, the independence from political corruption of the U of I, including UIC, should be at the top of every government reform agenda in the state, no matter what one’s political persuasion. Independence from political corruption should not be limited to admissions, but include hiring, purchasing, scholarships, real estate, research, investment, in short, every kind of human value that can be turned by enterprising scoundrels into a political pay day.

While the U of I cannot be constitutionally independent of the political mess in the state–and may never be–it can be morally independent, by pursuing its missions of teaching, research, service, and economic development with absolute focus and integrity.

If we of the University transform ourselves along these lines, we can also hope to transform the state.

Never underestimate the transformative power of a university.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The former Prof. Ayers and the Mark of Cain

Friday, September 24th, 2010

On 9/23/10 the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois denied the honorific designation of “Professor Emeritus” to a former university colleague in Chicago, Bill Ayers, who retired on 8/31/10.

According to an article in Chicago Breaking News and other press reports, Christopher Kennedy, the chair of the U of I Board of Trustees and son of former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) stated:

“There are times like today when we must make difficult decisions and perhaps those that are controversial or simply create a spectacle.

In my decision-making capacities as a trustee, I am not given the luxury of taking a poll on every issue and simply voting with the majority.

Instead, like those leaders of our republic who serve our community in a representative democracy, I must ultimately vote my conscience.

Today we take up the topic of emeritus status.

There are provisions for emeritus status in the university-organizing documents.

The emeritus status is an honorific status.

It is a title that is one of prestige.

It is not earned by right, but it is given as a privilege by the board of trustees.

I need to point out that this is a purely optional act.

While the process of conferring emeritus status may end with the board of trustees, it is important to note that it must begin with the individual faculty member who must request this honorific status for themselves.

Apparently, Mr. Ayers, who has been a teacher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has asked for this privilege and honor to be bestowed on him.

Our discussion of this topic therefore does not represent an intervention into the scholarship of the university, nor is it a threat to academic freedom.

It is, rather, simply a response to his request.

In my role, I am simply responding to something which has been presented to me.

I am guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way.

My own history is not a secret.

My life experiences inform my decision-making as a trustee of the university.

In this case of emeritus status, I hope that I will act in a predictable fashion and that the people of Illinois and the faculty and staff of this great institution will understand my motives and my reasoning.

I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy.

There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil, or to the hopes of our founding fathers for their great experiment of a self-governing people, than to permanently seal off debate with one’s opponents by killing them.

There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so.

We are citizen trustees whose judgments should be predictable to the community that we serve, and I would ask anyone who challenges my judgment, ‘How could I do anything else?’”

From: selected remarks of Christopher Kennedy as reported by the 9/24/10 Chicago Sun-Times.

Trustee Kennedy was referring to a 1974 book co-authored by Ayers, Prairie Fire, which was dedicated to, among others, the Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan.

According to news accounts, U of I trustees then either abstained or voted against the emeritus honor for Ayers.

I have only been in the proximity of Prof. Ayers twice, once at a civic banquet over a decade ago, and another during a university senate executive committee meeting a few years ago, during which I answered a question he posed to me pertaining to senate business. I do not think this, nor the fact that Facebook keeps suggesting that I “friend” Bill Ayers, qualifies me for the Palinesque accusation of “palling around with a terrorist.” But I have long considered writing a short essay on Bill Ayers and the Mark of Cain.

According to the biblical book of Genesis, God marked Cain so that no one would kill him on sight for the crime he committed. In one use in common parlance, a person possessing the Mark of Cain is known as one who has been somehow cursed by an association with evil, remains an outcast, but is somehow also cursed with an aura of indestructibility.

An amazing number of people love and admire Bill Ayers. His mentors saw in him something extraordinary worthy of special consideration. Some students are drawn to his work to integrate social justice into education, and his encouragement of students to break down barriers in themselves and their surroundings to become better educators; these speak of his disarming charm and apparent transparent sincerity, especially in his raising the child of an imprisoned fellow fugitive. His peers in the education field have elected him to leadership positions in national education organizations, citing his social justice and small schools efforts, and have voted him an honorific title at his own university. Foundations apparently found his education work worthwhile, and directed millions toward his initiatives. His acolytes among Wikipedia editors have kept the entries for Bill Ayers and the Weathermen carefully scrubbed of references to bombing and murder, as have a number in the press.

But one does not have to look very far into the history of Ayers’s life to see that people around him were hurt, and that some died. Bill Ayers’s world now extends to Mexico and Venezuela, and to the dictator Hugo Chavez’s educational system, an item not reported very much during the 2008 presidential election. Accusations against Ayers framed in the most personal terms appear on the Internet. A police group in San Francisco still seeks to pin the bombing murder of a young police sergeant many years ago on Bill Ayers.

Yet today, one generally very quiet and unassuming man who has often eschewed the limelight spoke out, recalling a murder of international and historic significance, the murder of his own iconic father. One man said no to Bill Ayers, when so many others had said yes.

Trustee Kennedy made his statement after perceptive discernment. In a very important way, Ayers was denied emeritus standing not because of what he taught at UIC, but what he didn’t: In many writings over a period of years prior to coming to the University, Ayers called for violent acts. Ayers did not grace his decades at the University with a definitive rejection or unequivocal statement against his own calls for violence, but stayed within the boundaries of academic plausibility and generally maintained his silence on this issue.

For the very reason that Bill Ayers did not speak this essential truth of unequivocally rejecting violence, Trustee Kennedy realized that he must speak this truth himself in order to maintain the moral and intellectual credibility of the University in a democratic society.

Kennedy knew that the University isn’t the mythical Vegas, where what one “does there stays there,” and only faculty get to vote on what is decided based upon internal considerations alone. The University is a public trust that seeks the truth and witnesses to it. Trustee Kennedy understood he must both witness to a truth, that violence is not the answer, and repudiate an untruth, that violence is. In doing so, Trustee Kennedy taught more about the truth of non-violence in a minute than Bill Ayers taught in a lifetime.

And now that Ayers is no longer Professor Ayers, the Mark of Cain, somehow immanent, may be there for all the world to see: Denied honor’s veil, such a man may be cursed to live with himself for all eternity.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Iran’s “Star Students”

Monday, April 26th, 2010

As I work my way through my draft blogs stored weeks ago, I wanted to make sure I posted this one:

Thanks to Western computer and information technology, Iran apparently has its own political grading system, which bans certain students who protest the government from advanced education for life. Read Farnaz Fassihi’s chilling account from the 12/31/09 Wall Street Journal

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126222013953111071.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLETopStories

All the more reason to pass the Global Online Freedom Act–

http://sanityandsocialjustice.net/?p=402

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Climategate and the structure of scientific devolution

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Climategate matters for the following reasons–

Science is never “settled.”

Science can be, among other things, a continuing and self-correcting process of human inquiry.

Science is necessary to our survival as a species and as a planet because it fundamentally lets us know when we are wrong, so we can take action to correct our mistakes.

The second that science is treated as “settled” marks the beginning of its devolution as a science.

Science and ideology are enemies.

Science by its very nature must be open to all sources of information, and must be able to test these sources.

Ideology by its very nature builds echo chambers of true believers resistant to new and contradictory information. Ideology attempts to complete and communicate a narrative to a level of certainty beyond the sustainable or possible. Ideology appears necessary for public action, but it is inadequate to sustain our action when it is necessary to correct our action.

Science depends upon human integrity, reason, transparency, open sources for and retention of information, intellectual competence, technical skill, computational power, explanatory and visualization mastery, fair play, disclosure of and separation from vested interest, recognition of verifiable and tested truth from whatever quarter, respect for authorship and for differing perspectives, advancement due to achievement, open debate, free dissemination of human knowledge, and trust in others to act upon reason and evidence rather than upon ideology.

Science can no more expected to be the handmaiden of politics than it can be expected to be the handmaiden of religion.

Climategate negated the traits of good science in manifold and multiple ways. In its themes of manipulation and obfuscation, Climategate manifests the structure of scientific devolution.

© Copyright 2009, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Categories of freedom and integrity of a university

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

In order to preserve its freedom and integrity, a university must continually work to withstand external and sometimes internal pressure in the following categorical areas–

  • Whom the university admits
  • Whom the university hires, retains, promotes, and fires, including both faculty and staff
  • To whom the university offers funding or financial aid
  • With whom the university partners, or communicates, or invites to visit
  • With whom the university connects through its telecommunication portals
  • What the university studies, and what it reports about its research
  • What the university teaches
  • What degrees or programs the university offers, or chooses no longer to offer
  • Whom the university honors, or whom it censures
  • What the university purchases
  • Where the university occupies space, or does not occupy space
  • Whether a university engages in a given intercollegiate sport, or no
  • In what and where the university invests or does not invest

A university is not an autonomous island, and is obligated to respond to the people it serves, and to obey applicable laws and regulations, but neither is it a golden goose, a jobs or a legislative piggy bank, a private think tank for only the powerful, or the supplier of the intellectual “flavor of the month” entertainment for today’s royalty, its funders.   A university is chartered to educate, to research, to serve, to heal, and often to advance economic development on behalf of a wide range of population and interests, often within a given tradition to which it is committed to be faithful and true.    It is not to be made a political plaything, or a spoil of political wars, or reduced to the position of validator of any one political ideology.

To the degree that the leaders of a university do not defend its freedom and integrity in any of the above categorical areas, that is the degree to which its leadership has failed.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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