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The Latest Selective Campus PC Panic

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Ygelsias has a very good explainer on the campus PC panic du jour. A few points:

–Paul has already explained why the claim that criticizing Sullivan — who is not a public defender or professional defense attorney — for taking on Weinstein somehow undermines the Sixth Amendment is silly.

–With respect to the academic freedom issues, the critical point here is that Sullivan could have represented Weinstein and continued to hold one of the most prestigious and well-compensated jobs in American academia. What was not renewed was his contract to be a quasi-ceremonial RA at an undergrad residence hall. Much of the discourse around Sullivan is built around treating losing a side gig as a glorified RA as if it presented the same issues as losing a tenured position (in some cases by people who are indirectly getting money from the Koch Brothers precisely to confuse these issues to fit pre-determined narratives.) But it really, really isn’t. Tenure is an important thing, but it doesn’t guarantee you access to any possible side hustle, including ones that raise conflicts with your other ones.

–As I’ve already argued with respect to Saint Christakis, if PROVOKING undergraduates is very important to your identity as an academic, it strikes me that “being head of an undergraduate dorm” is not the side gig for you.

–Relatedly, the argument that it’s outrageous that undergraduates should have a say in who supervises their residences is farcical on its face.

–Ygelsias makes the very good point that #metoo remains a heavily contested issue. One of the quickest ways to get a prestigious byline no matter how bad your draft is is to write about how #metoo is GOING TOO FAR. It is, in fact, perfectly fair for undergrads to question what Sullivan choosing Weinstein of all the possible clients to lend his name and reputation to means for his stance on these issues.

It’s also worth noting here that such panics are almost invariably ideologically selective. The case of Bob Kerrey getting disinvited from Creighton’s commencement for having mainstream pro-choice views has gotten a fraction of the attention that Sullivan’s RA contract not being renewed has. Now I, myself, think that members of the campus community have every right to question who is selected to speak toward a quasi-captive graduation audience, particularly when substantial fees are involved. The Kerrey case — where the campaign against him was led by state Republican officials — is a tougher one. But the Campus P.C. crowd spent years arguing that prominent have an absolute vested right to any invitation to mouth platitudes at a graduation ceremony for five figures, and it’s an assault on free speech for undergrads to even question whether this money should be going to war criminals or anti-Muslim bigots, and they’ve been not-so-oddly silent in this case.

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