Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pride and Prejudice at Illinois

By Richard Vedder

One of my alma maters, the University of Illinois, is in the news a lot lately. They are bursting with pride over their football team's defeat of number one Ohio State, rising from the ashes and showing some of the glory that Illinois felt decades ago.

But in another area, they are behaving in an all too predictable fashion. A group of conservatives wants to create a free market think tank, such as exists in dozens of locales in the U.S., a few of them (e.g., the Hoover Institution at Stanford) on university campuses. They are willing to pay for it. They are not trying to strike down the freedom of expression of existing U of I faculty, nor are they trying to crowd out funds going for research on other topics. They just want to have a respectable academic program with a campus presence. Yet the faculty say, "No --we did not approve it! We don't want unbalanced, biased programs.” (This is laughable, as Anne Neal observes, if you look at the syllabi or program descriptions of campus radical/feminist programs that are ideologically prone). The faculty are claiming the moral high ground. To me, this is just another attempt to stifle freedom of expression and stifle true diversity (intellectual diversity). It makes me sad. Today, I am less loyal to you, Illinois. To be sure, there needs to be some oversight to be sure that the program does not become simply an ideological program, but one that uses legitimate research tools to reach conclusions about our society. But with those safeguards in place, the alums should be allowed to proceed. If the university still says "NO," they should start their own program in the shadows of the university, hiring university faculty to work for them on a part-time adjunct basis. And the contributors should partly finance this by reducing their contributions to the U of I because of its intolerance and contempt for diversity.

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