The Wisdom of Solomon
A rare example of conservatives triumphing over the liberal academy.
11:00 PM, Nov 7, 2002 • By LEE BOCKHORN
But I wonder how far Bollinger is willing to push this argument. If a professor at a public university decided to teach a course denying the Holocaust, would Bollinger be outraged if state legislators or elected university regents objected and threatened to cut funding if the professor wasn't fired? My guess is no. Or, would he have defended Bob Jones University in the early 1980s, when its federal tax exemption was threatened because of its policy on interracial dating? Under Bollinger's criteria, that was just as much a question of "academic freedom" and autonomy as Columbia's desire to bar military recruiters from campus while still receiving federal money.
We should not allow academic freedom to become so expansive a concept that administrators may use it to justify almost any policy--even those with little or no connection to the classroom. The matters that Bollinger wants to exempt from government interference are not purely academic questions; they are administrative ones. In the case of Michigan, the question is not simply whether the school's racial preference admissions policies are academically useful; it's whether they are unconstitutional. In the case of Columbia Law School and its peers, the question is whether college administrators should be allowed to deny a particular employer equal campus access merely because they find that employer's policies morally objectionable.
Why do we establish public universities and support them with taxpayer dollars? (Or, in this case, support "private" universities with massive amounts of federal largesse?) Because we expect them to serve certain public goods. The broad freedoms under which they pursue those goods must also, as with all freedoms, be linked to a wider sense of duty and responsibility. A failure to meet those responsibilities should have consequences. That is the sensible goal of the Solomon Amendment. After years of forcing taxpayers to subsidize academia's radical, anti-American agenda, it is not too much to ask--and certainly no threat to academic freedom, rightly understood--for academics to display a modicum of respect toward the nation's armed forces in order to continue to gorge at the public trough. It's the military's sacrifices, after all, that allow academics to teach--as well as burnish their senses of moral superiority--in comfort and freedom.
Lee Bockhorn is associate editor at The Weekly Standard.