Horowitz Explains The Professors · 29 March 2006

By David Horowitz--Columbia Spectator--03/29/06

When I was interviewed recently about my book, The Professors, by a reporter from the Columbia Daily Spectator, I was under the impression that her article would actually be about the book. But when the article appeared, it was not about the book but about the complaints about the book made by three of the nine Columbia professors I profiled (Lisa Hirschmann, "Professors Deny Claims," Columbia Daily Spectator, March 3, 2006).

My book is about the colonization of significant parts of the liberal arts academy by tenured radicals who are political activists rather than scholars, and the resulting intellectual corruption. The emblematic figure reflecting this corruption is, of course, Ward Churchill, formerly the chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Churchill lacks the academic credentials to be a tenured professor-no Ph.D. degree, and only a master's in graphic arts, which is no qualification to teach ethnic studies at any level. He was obviously hired because he was a political radical.

The point made in my book is that Churchill could not have been hired and then promoted to tenure rank without a vote of his entire department and recommendations from at least 12 outside experts in the field. In other words, for Churchill to have attained his position as chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at a major state university, the entire Ethnic Studies Department at Boulder and the field itself would have to share in this corruption of academic standards. Not surprisingly, the head of the National Ethnic Studies Association, who also profiled in my book, is a supporter and fan of Churchill.

The article about my book in the Spectator begins, "Three Columbia professors accused by David Horowitz of indoctrinating their students with left-wing propaganda have dismissed the claims as factually incorrect and ludicrous." What is ludicrous is the Spectator's assertion that I made such a claim. I didn't. You will not find these words in my book in reference to Todd Gitlin or Eric Foner or Victor Navasky, the three Columbia professors whom the Spectator interviewed.

These three professors were included in The Professors, as I told the Spectator reporter, because they were either comfortable with or actively supported the political corruption of the university the book addresses. Last year the Spectator wrote an editorial about the lack of conservative professors on the Columbia faculty, observing that this intellectual vacuum deprived Columbia students of a vital educational opportunity. None of the three professors supported the Spectator's appeal. Apparently, they are comfortable with faculties at Columbia that have been intellectually cleansed of a conservative presence. Todd Gitlin has even celebrated this political triumph of the left as a consolation for losing the White House: "[After the '60s] all that was left to the Left was to unearth righteous traditions and cultivate them in universities. The much-mocked 'political correctness' of the next academic generations was a consolation prize. We lost-we squandered the politics-but won the textbooks." My own view-the view expressed in my book-is that this is an inappropriate way to look at institutions of higher learning.

Among the Columbia professors profiled in my book, whom the Spectator failed to mention, are Hamid Dabashi, who has described Jews as "physically repulsive oppressors" whose evil is imprinted on their physiognomy, and Nicholas DeGenova who has wished for "a million Mogadishus" and the defeat of the United States worldwide in the war on terror. Also missing is Manning Marable, who, in addition to featuring a photo of Black Panther rapist and murderer Huey Newton on his academic Web site (obviously one of his heroes), has organized under Columbia auspices a "Malcolm X Project" designed to prove a conspiracy theory about Malcolm X's death that even leftists have rejected. What is "academic" or "scholarly" about assuming the existence of a conspiracy in advance of the evidence?

The irony in all this is that I launched my academic freedom campaign and wrote The Professors as an homage to the Columbia I attended as an undergraduate in the 1950s. I was a Marxist, and my parents were Communists, in an era hostile to both. But in all four years of my education at Columbia I never once heard a professor express a political point of view in the classroom, or even on campus. Nor was I ever singled out for my radical beliefs or ridiculed because of them, which is all too commonly the case for conservative students on today's politicized campuses.

I am grateful to my Columbia professors for allowing me the academic freedom to explore all sides of an intellectual argument and draw my own conclusions. I am grateful to them for their self-discipline in conducting themselves professionally in their classrooms and for setting a standard for disinterested academic inquiry and dispassionate intellectual discourse. I hope to see these standards restored one day. I think it is a national tragedy that political ideologues have taken control of entire academic departments and corrupted their classrooms by turning them into political soapboxes. I hope members of the Columbia community, whether their views be of the right or of the left, will think about these problems and take steps to remedy them.

The author, a graduate of the Columbia College class of '59, is the author of The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.