Monday, May 05, 2008

Suing Students

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.

1 comment:

Skookum John said...

This is why the beg letters from the Dartmouth Association of Alumni go unopened into the trash in my house. That, and the fascist power grab the trustees are mounting.