By Richard Vedder
I previously wrote about Loye Young, the instructor at Texas A and M International University, who not only flunked students who he said plagiarized in class, but also publicly humiliated them for it on his web site. The school said that was terrible, relieved him of his responsibilities, and said it was reviewing the student grades. I said that was totally inappropriate, that Young should be admired for taking a tough step towards academic dishonesty, etc. Young has not backed down, and has written a thoughtful response to his critics on the INSIDE HIGHER ED website.
Now comes Walter Block. I was not surprised to see Walter the object of controversy. Indeed, the only surprise is that it has taken so long. Walter delights in being controversial, saying outrageous things, etc. A radical libertarian, Walter has attacked Lowell Gallaway and me on occasion for not adhering to the Austrian economics party line - an odd criticism coming from a libertarian who should delight in diversity of viewpoints. So I, too, have been annoyed with Walter at times, and even have had some jousts with him in print.
But Walter is getting ostracized for stating facts, and for daring to approvingly mention the work of two of this country's most outstanding social scientists, the late Richard Herrnstein, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard (and former chair of the department), and Charles Murray, author of several path-breaking books, including Losing Ground and Real Education. Specifically, Walter said that the politically correct explanation of black-white earnings differentials relates to such things as past discrimination, lower levels of educational attainment, etc., but that the politically incorrect explanation of Herrnstein and Murray is that the answer lies in IQ differences. Knowing Walter, he was not nuanced in making that remark, and probably did not discuss the possibility that there are still other explanations. But Walter was stating a fact - namely that Herrnstein and Murray found solid evidence of race-based IQ differences, and that earnings differentials are closely associated with variations in cognitive abilities, which, in turn, are highly correlated with IQ.
The prez of Loyola U. in Baltimore, where Block was speaking, has issued an impassioned statement saying, roughly, "we are not racist" and "we do not condone racism" and "we are a Jesuit institution that believes in tolerance, etc." Since when is it "racist" to cite well known and oft-cited studies in class? Where is academic freedom? Is it more "racist" to cite scholarly evidence relating to differences in cognitive function than it is to use vast college resources in order to get the "right" racial mix of students and faculty?
I think Walter not only was not irresponsible in what he said, but, roughly speaking, was correct. But even if he were incorrect, he certainly had the right to say it. Universities should be a free forum for ideas, and university administrators should not poison that environment by stating what views are "good" and which are "bad." Universities themselves should hold few views, but merely uphold basic principles of openness, tolerance, and academic freedom. Loyola of Maryland is run by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Christians believe in "turn the other cheek" and "love thy neighbor". I am not sure that condemning someone for citing the views of respected social scientists is entirely consistent with that, which is disappointing since the President of Loyola is a priest and member of the Society of Jesus (a Jesuit).