Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When have they ever been optimistic?

Inside Higher Edumacation reports on the (perceived) crushing of dissent among "social scientists":
A greater percentage of social scientists today feel that their academic freedom has been threatened than was the case during the McCarthy era.

That finding — from Neil Gross, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University — was among a series of pessimistic papers presented at a forum on academic freedom Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Gross surveyed social science professors last year about whether they had felt that their academic freedom was threatened, and found that about one-third did. In 1955, Paul Lazarsfeld, the late Columbia University professor, did a similar survey and found only one-fifth of professors feeling affected by attacks on their academic freedom.
This next line is great:
There are many explanations for the increase, which may not mean an increase in the likelihood of a particular social scientist facing a threat to his or her academic freedom, Gross said.
No, no it mayn't. Another presenter, Professor of International Relations at Columbia University Lisa Anderson, has
just finished 10 years as dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, and the last few years of her tenure found her among the Middle Eastern studies scholars who were regularly criticized by some pro-Israel groups for alleged anti-Israel or anti-American bias. The attacks have “deeply damaged the research community,” Anderson said.
You'll remember some of the fine scholars in Columbia's Middle Eastern Studies Department. Anderson added a warning:
Those outside Middle Eastern studies should not assume that they are immune, she said. Anderson pointed to the squelching by the Bush administration of research on climate change, or to the political attacks on evolution in several states as examples of scholars being attacked for their views.
Wait a minute. Did you say attacked for their views? This must be stopped! By any means necessary!

The comments are worth reading, too.

Update: I misspelled "edumacation." Fixed now.

Update II: Commenter "Sol" at IHE mentions another Columbia faculty member:
The problem, at least at Columbia where Anderson teaches, is often that the anti-Israel faculty screams “McCarthy” when it is the scholarship that is being questioned. Take the tenure battles at Columbia this year. There is opposition to on the grounds that [Nadia Abu El Haj's] book is absurd and not based on evidence. True, the book is highly political. She would like to eliminate the Jewish State. Her method of doing so, however, is to write a book about archaeology and conclude that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a “pure political fabrication.” No wonder the alumnae are up in arms.

No comments: