An Ill-Bred Professor, and a Bad Situation · 24 April 2005

Filed under: Hawaii, Press Coverage

By David

The story I'm about to relate took place on my visit to the Honolulu campus of the University of Hawaii last week. It is entirely indicative of the unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior of many professors on our college campuses, in this case a chairman of the Political Science Department within this university system, a man named Jonathan Goldberg Hiller. The student who invited me to the university on behalf of the College Republicans -- I will call him Jamie -- is a political science major. In anticipation of my visit, Jamie had asked Professor Hiller if his Department would be one of the sponsors of my talk and if the Department would host a reception for me. Professor Hiller said yes to both requests.

One reason and (as became obvious on my arrival) the only reason Professor Hiller consented to the first request was because Ward Churchill had spoken at the university weeks before to a very bad press. In fact to propritiate the backlash was the only reason the university itself put up a modest honorarium for my speech. The agenda was to show how "diverse" and "fair" they were. In fact, there was quite a difference in the university's response to Ward Churchill and myself, and not just in the size of the crowd, which was greatly in his favor. Before Churchill arrived professors in political science and other departments vied with each other for the honor of introducing him, and attended in droves, and encouraged their students to do likewise. No professors showed up for my speech. Instead there were about 40 protesters who brought signs saying, "No academic freedom for fascists" and similar slogans. I even had trouble persuading the head of security to maintain order, so I could go through my speech without demonstrations in the hall. In fact, I was despairing of getting through even the beginning of my speech when a Vice President of the university suddenly appeared and gave the security detail appropriate marching orders. (I am certain I have Ward Churchill to thank for this, as well.)

My speech, which was in the evening, went tolerably well. There were no pies and though there were some catcalls and a wall of hostile posters faced me from the rear of the audience, I spoke for an hour, and there were no interruptions. I was even presented with a lei.

The reception at the Political Science Department had been scheduled for earlier in the afternoon. At the appointed time, Jamie, who is a soft spoken well-mannered young man, brought me to the Political Science Department outer office. The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices. Students go to these offices for counseling. Such partisan statements create a wall between the professor and the student who it is his/her professional responsibility to help. They serve no purpose but to vent the spleen of these tenured individuals who are apparently so frustrated as to be unable to maintain minimal self-discipline in the presence of a captive audience students who -- if they disagree with the statements -- have no choice but to suffer them. I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if he had ever taken a course with Professor Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the sign.

When we go to our doctors' offices we don't expect to see signs on their office doors making political statements attacking the war in Iraq or attacking those who oppose it. That's because doctors are professionals and have taken an oath to minister to all their patients regardless of their political beliefs. Why can't we expect the same professionalism and decency from our professors?

While I was standing in the outer office with Jamie, I noted a man looking nervously at me. His expression was conflicted, as though he had an obligation that he absolutely did not want to perform. I knew immediately it was the department chairman, Professor Hiller. I should interject at this point, that though I myself am a partisan figure and not a professor -- and therefore have no obligations to students in my charge who may disagree with my politics -- when I invite liberals or leftists to events that I host, I make a special point of welcoming them and protecting them from attack. Sometimes a conservative in my audience will not be able to contain his distress at the presence of a political opponent and let that hostility be seen. In those cases, I go out of my way to reprimand such individuals, defend my guests, and make them feel comfortable.

I didn't let Professor Hiller suffer in his quandary long but went right up to him, gave him a reasonably warm smile and said, "I'm David Horowitz," and was about to put out my hand when he retorted, "I'm one of the liberals on your list." What he meant was my "McCarthy" list. The Left was at first non-plussed with having to oppose a campaign for academic freedom, but has recovered itself to put on its accustomed mantle of victimhood and claim the attempt to defend students from political harassment is actually a witch-hunt against their political views. Not very clever, but effective nonetheless.

Of course the Academic Bill of Rights begins with a defense of their right to their political views, but facts are no obstacle when you are the educational establishment and media is accustomed to being your echo chamber. The actual blacklist in this university as others is instituted by the faculty. There is only one conservative in Professor Hiller's department, of course, and it was he who was pointing the finger at me. (Not to mention the campus leaflet attacking me as a right-wing demon.)

Professor Hiller is of course anything but a liberal, as he claimed. On his faculty website, he boasts that his inspiration is Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist who worshipped and served Joseph Stalin, one of the biggest mass murderers in human history, a fact I didn't bother to mention.

But my tone did immediately change in response to the professor's insult. I said, "Well, since you've dropped the hammer, how come you put political propaganda on your office door where students come to you for counsel? What would you think if I were a professor in this department and put up a sign on my office door calling peace protesters traitors?"

"You're not a professor in my department," he said testily. "Of course not," I replied, "and I couldn't be one, since liberals like you have instituted a blacklist against conservatives like me." That was the end of our conversation.

Jamie and I left the outer office and walked about 20 feet to where the Political Science Department had reserved the room where the professors were to meet with me. On the wall outside the room and just to the left of the entry door there was a poster, which had a picture of me next to Joseph McCarthy. Very subtle. And very thoughtful of Hiller not to take it down.

I hardly need to add that the only professor who showed up for the reception was the lone conservative in the department, whom I knew already and had met, and who as a woman and a minority had slipped through the conservative hiring screen.

This incident depressed me more than any pie or protest could. The insult, which had been carefully planned by this Chairman and his department, was not to me really, since I get insults every day and would be gone tomorrow -- but to Jamie and all the conservative students at the University of Hawaii who would be there when I was gone, and whose four years are spent as second class citizens in their own school.

I try to fathom what kind of teacher would do a thing this to his students? Who could be so petty, so deficient in human grace, as to inflict such an injury on a youngster who had come to him to learn, and for so trivial a triumph (if you could call it that)?

This is really what my academic freedom campaign is about. It is about professorial bullies, so pathetic in their self-esteem, as to carry on a daily war against students 20, 30 or 40 years their junior and over whom they have immense institutional power. To behave like this, they have to abandon every ethical principle that ought to govern them as teachers (and that in fact is written into their faculty handbooks and ignored). But of course they do this for a higher purpose: They see themselves as social redeemers. They are busily indoctrinating and recruiting the next generation of Gramscians and leftists and Churchillian haters of the American dream, to save the world from the rest of us. This is the real mission that drives them, not the academic filler. It is the reason why the intellectual level of the humanities in American universities is at an all time low, and why the academic environment has never been less free.