By Richard Vedder
When I read last week that a professor was going to sue the students who were driving her nuts, I laughed and thought "I kind of understand that --students sometimes do stupid and irresponsible things."
After reading today's Wall Street Journal, however, I have concluded that Priya Venkatesan's suit is nasty, bad, and strikes at the heart of what the academy is all about--assuming the WSJ story is even half-correct.
Professor V apparently was upset that students "argue with your ideas" and have "subversive" thoughts --in other words, do not agree with the usual French claptrap that goes for literary theory these days. The students have created a "hostile working environment" for poor Prof V we are told. Naughty them. My students occasionally argue with me, disagree with me, and, rarely to be sure, even yell at me. I don't like all of it, but that is what a university is all about, even Dartmouth College, which on some days I think has undergone a big decline in the days since Daniel Webster extolled its virtues in one of the greatest cases in American constitutional history.
But I am less mad at Dartmouth then my own Alma Mater --Northwestern --that decided to hire Professor V. I love diversity of ideas (I championed hiring a Marxist in my own department a generation ago), but I do not like people who wish to intimidate those who disagree.
Fortunately, as crazy as courts can be this day, I have a feeling justice will prevail, and this attack on students will fail. I can only hope that Dartmouth is supporting its own students in this instance, and that the AAUP and other self-proclaimed monitors of academic freedom will strongly come into this case --on the side of the students.