Canada's Nuttiest Professors
(Terry O'Neill, Monday, 25 September 2006)
But would the prof have had many admirers among the students' parents if they'd known what he was advocating in his lecture hall? Throughout the semester, the professor gradually led his eager charges along a path to one destination: the conclusion that Maoism was the solution to the world's problems. Democracy was a ruse, he suggested; capitalism, evil. Over time, the intellectual indoctrination become so overt that at semester's end, just before Christmas, he had one of his tutorial assistants dress up as Santa and parade into the lecture hall waving Mao's "little red book."
Professor Michael Eliot Hurst (who died a few years ago) may have been unique in his methods, but not his message. At the time, universities across North America and western Europe were in the thrall of a jarring cultural upheaval that saw left-wing ideologues win senior positions in the ivory tower. The disturbing and tumultuous times were put under the microscope most brilliantly in Allan Bloom's 1987 masterpiece, The Closing of the American Mind.
But that was then. Surely, things have changed. Surely, the radicalized universities of the past have been replaced by institutions of higher learning that uphold standards of intellectual freedom and embrace liberal and democratic ideals. Surely, yesterday's stereotypical radical professor has been replaced by an open-minded academic committed to the highest ideals of truth and justice.
Universities today are hothouses of intellectual repression, encumbered by censorious codes stifling free speech and weakened by employment-equity programs that force faculties to favour diversity over accomplishment. Just ask Lawrence Summers, the former U.S. treasury secretary who was hounded from the presidency of Harvard this year after suggesting publicly that males and females may have innately different capacities for science and math. Or Margaret Somerville, the distinguished McGill ethicist, nearly denied an honourary doctorate from Ryerson University this summer after faculty protested her skepticism toward same-sex marriage (she got the degree but several professors turned their backs on the ceremony).
Today, there are probably just as many, or more, left-wing professors than a generation ago. If our situation is similar to American universities (where there's been extensive research on the issue), most faculties are tilting so far left they're lucky they haven't slid into the Pacific. One study last year found that three quarters of all faculty members at U.S. colleges considered themselves left-wing (as much as 87 per cent at Ivy League schools and even higher in the humanities).
Should Canadians be concerned? They should when those professors use their lecterns as bully pulpits from which to inculcate students with their own ideologies--especially if it means suppressing contrary viewpoints. And, if you ask students, that's exactly what's happening. One McGill student reports that, in a course about terrorism, her professor told her bluntly that: "No educated person can support Israel . . . If you don't change your political views on terrorism, Israel, and just in general, you'll get nowhere in academia." After being repeatedly harassed for challenging his sociology professor's viewpoints on homosexuality, one University of Regina student summed up his education this way: "What did I learn? Keep my mouth shut, follow the professors' line . . . get your marks and get out with that piece of paper that shows you can jump hoops."
It would be illiberal to suggest that unorthodox, even subversive, thought doesn't have a place at institutes of higher learning. Still, we thought some students might want to know where radicalism lurks in its most extreme form; the better to make informed decisions about their education. So, as some one million eager, bright minds settle into classes at Canada's 90 universities, the Western Standard offers up a guide to Canada's nuttiest professors, those whose absurdity stands head and shoulders above their colleagues, whether it be through peddling half-baked or discredited theories or plain old bigotry. It is the first of what we're sure will become an indispensable annual guide to universities. If we've missed some loony who truly deserves inclusion, our sincerest apologies.
SUNERA THOBANI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, CENTRE FOR WOMEN'S AND GENDER STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF B.C.
Thobani was among the first outside of Gaza to revel in the murder of thousands of Americans at the hands of al Qaeda's killers on Sept. 11, 2001. Scant weeks afterward, she told an Ottawa feminist conference that Americans were the real terrorists. The U.S., she said, was "the most dangerous and powerful global force unleashing horrific levels of violence . . . U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood." Even B.C.'s premier condemned the speech as "hateful."
Still, universities are buying what this firebrand feminist is selling. The former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women is a rising star, having been appointed Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Professor in Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University in 1996 before she even finished her doctoral dissertation. She gained her current post in 2000. Though Thobani hails from Tanzania--where sharia law is still practised--she's said that we're the real misogynists, stating: "there will be no emancipation for women anywhere on this planet until the western domination of this planet is ended."
MICHAEL CHOSSUDOVSKY, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA
As overseer of the anti-U.S., anti-globalization website GlobalResearch.ca (see: www.globalresearch.ca), Chossudovsky has manufactured a long list of eyebrow-raising accusations that often read more like wild-eyed conspiracy theories than serious political discourse: the U.S. had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks ("Of course they knew!"); "Washington's New World Order weapons have the ability to trigger climate change"; the U.S. knew in advance about the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but kept it to themselves (apparently so they could ride to the rescue of devastated coastal regions); big banking orchestrates the collapse of national economies. Of course, all that talk of banking conspiracies can lead one into some bigoted territory. B'nai Brith Canada has complained to the University of Ottawa about anti-Semitic postings on Chossudovsky's site.
SHANNON BELL, ASSOC. PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, YORK UNIVERSITY
Political science has never been this risque. But Bell doesn't exactly cover filibusters and Senate reform; try post-contemporary theory, fast feminism, sexual politics, cyberpolitics, identity politics and violent philosophy. The self-described "performance artist" holds workshops teaching the art of "female ejaculation" (also available on video for those off-campus). In 1998, she made news testifying in defence of a sadomasochist prostitute, saying such deviant sexual behaviour was "therapeutic" and that she was an experienced dominatrix herself. In 2000, she was found by police in an illegal lesbian bathhouse. In class, Bell says she dresses provocatively to get a rise out of her students. Early in the term, for example, she usually dons over-the-top feminine outfits. "Then, around the end of October, things are getting intense in terms of their assignments," she's said. "And I move into solid leather for about a month."
JOHN MCMURTRY, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH
McMurty is one of only a few Canadian academics with full membership in an organization called Scholars for 9/11 Truth (see: www.scholarsfor911truth.org), a group of conspiracy theorists who believe the George W. Bush administration staged the 2001 terrorist attacks as a pretext to implement repressive, war-oriented policies. Not that he had much use for the traders and brokers who populated the World Trade Centre to begin with; McMurty's strong distaste for capitalism is exhibited in prolific writings arguing, among other things, that free trade and the World Trade Organization are laying the groundwork for "global corporate rule." His books include The Structure of Marx's World-View ((1978) and The Cancer Stage of Capitalism (1999), and a 1983 article bears the provocative title, "Fascism and Neo-Conservatism: Is There a Difference?" McMurty's answer: not much. Though unlike the neo-con Bush administration, he notes, "Nazis are not explicitly opposed to measures like statutory emission controls which are required to preserve the air, the water, and natural life from pollution and destruction." So they've got that going for them.
SHADIA DRURY, CANADA RESEARCH CHAIR IN SOCIAL JUSTICE, UNIVERSITY OF REGINA
Drury insists that a cabal of extreme conservatives, linked by an allegiance to the teachings of the late University of Chicago political scientist Leo Strauss, controls the White House. Parliament, too, presumably, since she counts Prime Minister Stephen Harper among the neo-con clique. She's acknowledged Karl Marx is her hero because he "inspired the great reforms of the western industrialized world." Never mind that his philosophies inspired untold misery and bloodshed, Drury credits Marx for public schools and labour laws. On other influential historical figures, especially religious ones, she's less flattering. In a 2001 lecture, she called Jesus "bad-tempered," and in her book Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche, Drury describes the Christian church as "a master of dissembling," through which it's been successful in "concealing [its] crimes."
MICHAEL KEEFER, ASSOC. PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH
Like his colleague McMurty, Keefer's a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and a contributing editor to Chussodovsky's Global Research website. He's also a member of a left-wing network, CampusActivism.org (see: www.campusactivism.org), that aims to empower campus radicals and "spark a powerful student movement that will fight for justice everywhere." Prone to making dramatic charges about world affairs, Keefer publicly predicted the U.S. would launch a nuclear attack on Iran in March 2006 (we're still waiting). The outspoken defender of Venezuela's Marxist president Hugo Chavez says the U.S. military is guilty of "terrorist bombings" in Iraq. Also a defender of political correctness and equity programs on university campuses, he says opponents of these policies aim for "the clear and pronounced transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich."
TAIAIAKE ALFRED, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RESEARCH CHAIR AND PROFESSOR OF HUMAN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
A self-described "orator" who collects his paycheques from a Canadian university, the Montreal-born Alfred has said he doesn't consider himself Canadian and is opposed to co-operating with the "settler" government (the feds) in pursuing Indian grievances. His classes, he admits, are designed to create future aboriginal leaders through a process of "decolonization." He believes most Canadians are prejudiced against aboriginals. "When it comes to attitudes about Indigenous people," he has written, "this is a country with a pretty thin veneer of toleration hiding an ugly mass of racism."
LEO PANITCH, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, YORK UNIVERSITY
An unabashed Marxist, Panitch is, naturally enough, a longtime opponent of globalism and capitalism, which he claims is rife with "injustices and inequalities . . . exploitation and multiple oppressions." Even the NDP is too moderate for Panitch, who's been a constant critic of the left-wing party. In Panitch's socialist utopia, the traditional family is downplayed in favour of "new forms of household relations." He envisions "new kinds of public places that would allow for accessible and egalitarian modes of production and consumption." Barriers between managers and workers would disappear and private property would be eliminated, too, naturally. You get the picture.
KATHLEEN MAHONEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
As an activist lawyer, academic and feminist, Mahoney has many strong opinions, among them that the rest of us are not entitled to our own. This staunch opponent of free speech once filed a human rights complaint against an Edmonton magazine for reporting (factually) that some natives weren't abused in residential schools. The co-founder of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund has also fought to end research into whether courts treat abusive wives more lightly than abusive husbands. Her public position that the pursuit of equality requires the state to forcibly curtail speech that might be hurtful has earned her the enmity of Alan Borovoy, architect of Canada's human rights commissions.
THOMAS HOMER-DIXON, DIRECTOR OF THE TRUDEAU CENTRE FOR PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Homer-Dixon made a name for himself in the aftermath of 9/11, arguing that, rather than Islamic zealotry, the real motive behind the attacks was social and economic disparity between the West and the rest of the world. But his more potent contribution to the academy might be his apocalyptic view that human civilization is on the verge of collapse. A global-warming alarmist, he has painted scenarios of societal breakdown, civil war and general chaos in the wake of abrupt climate change. He has spoken apocalyptically of humankind being on the cusp of planetary collapse, the only solution being to slow our economic growth and end globalization. "We face an ever-greater risk of synchronous failure of our social, economic and biophysical systems arising from simultaneous, interacting stresses acting powerfully at multiple levels of these global systems." Whatever that means, it sounds scary.
SOPHIE QUIGLEY, PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE, RYERSON UNIVERSITY
Quigley may be a computer instructor, but she apparently considers herself qualified to teach morality to the director of McGill's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. Quigley was the Ryerson professor who tried blocking her university from awarding an honorary degree to Margaret Somerville, because Somerville, an internationally renowned ethicist, had written that same-sex parents were not as beneficial for children as mom and dad. Quigley even brought a banner to the convocation ceremony to protest. What's same-sex marriage got to do with binary code? Beats us. But Quigley's never stuck entirely to her field. Her faculty website promotes the left-wing Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and she has signed an online petition opposing any military means to fight terrorists.
JOEL BAKAN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF B.C.
Students flock to UBC's law school rock star, the counterculture author of The Corporation. Published in 2004, it was the basis of an award-winning movie released the same year. Pummelled by experts for getting basic economic facts wrong (one particularly dangerous claim: gold traders were reportedly jubilant on the day of the 9/11 attacks, because they "doubled their money," yet gold only rose 10 per cent that day, and only briefly), Bakan nevertheless collected 24 international awards for his movie, which compared corporations to psychopathic individuals. Accepting an award at the Sundance film festival, Bakan sarcastically lectured Americans about Canadian superiority ("We come from Canada, right--we know how to fill out ballots in elections"). And he ranted against Coca-Cola, one of the event's sponsors. Funny, Bakan's aversion to corporations didn't stop him from giving the publishing rights for his book to a subsidiary of CBS, one of the biggest corporations in America. Psychopathic? You be the judge.
YOU CAN'T SAY THAT ON CAMPUS
Increasingly, students and professors who challenge the accepted university dogma are paying for it with their careers
Tyrannical. "Totalitarian." That's how John Furedy describes the environment on university campuses. And he's one of the professors.
Mix the dominance of the left in the academy with the stifling speech codes and political correctness, and you've got a recipe for what amounts to suppression of the very intellectual vigour that institutions of higher learning are purportedly supposed to embody. That strikes Furedy, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Toronto, as wrong. And it's the reason he helped create the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship--a group that aims to defend intellectual freedom and promote excellence on Canadian campuses (see: www.safs.ca).
Though the SAFS was created in 1992, Furedy locates the genesis of the modern university's decay somewhere in the mid-seventies, "when a Canadian academic, writing in University Affairs [magazine], opined that it was OK to shout down a speaker if that speaker was a 'fascist,'" he recalls. "No one except I seemed to think that this was incompatible with academic freedom or a university, where positions were to be countered by arguments rather than force."
Little did he know then that things were about to get much worse. The dogma of a contingent of bullying scholars became institutionalized in the form of university policy and classroom syllabi. Universities today, he says, "are dominated by a particular ideology, rather than being devoted to the search for truth, [while] fundamental terms like 'equity' are used in the Orwellian sense--that they mean the opposite of what they seem to mean." Employment equity, for instance, really means discriminating against some groups and favouring others. Diversity doesn't mean diversity of opinions, but "some racial or sexual 'balance' which is ideologically comfortable," Furedy adds.
While it's tempting to point fingers at the more radical, Leninist faculty members for turning universities into thought-control camps, Peter Suedfeld, a psychology professor at the University of B.C. and an SAFS director, says the problem was actually created by weak liberals whose goal is simply to avoid confrontation. Consequently, their reflex is to submit to the most overbearing professors. "Radicals don't mind hurting people's feelings," he says. "But liberals want everything to be nice and friendly and peaceful and loving."
The result, says Suedfeld, is a university environment that is far from welcoming for many. Students who dare challenge the official orthodoxy are given lower grades while even mildly conservative professors end up ostracized or even harassed by their colleagues. From Lawrence Summers, the Harvard president pressured to resign for suggesting that men and women think differently, to Thomas Klocek, the DePaul University instructor fired for debating with a Palestinian student group over anti-Israel leaflets they were distributing--it doesn't take long for academics to get the message: toe the line or your career will pay. In the most ironic case, professor Richard Zeller had to leave Bowling Green State University in 2000 after he dared to propose a course critiquing the culture of political correctness on campus. He quit after the death threats began.
Last year, when National Post columnist Barbara Kay published two columns examining the ideological excesses that permeate the Canadian academy, she received dozens of letters from students and professors sharing similarly harrowing tales of repression. Now Kay's convinced there's a lot more at stake than just a generation of kids getting a lousy education. She believes the colleges are an important front in a broader societal campaign. "In order to capture a culture, you have only to capture its cultural institutions and infiltrate them, and that is how you churn out people with the correct attitude," she says. "The universities are turning out our future lawmakers, our future bureaucrats, our future civil servants, politicians, administrators and teachers." One day it may be perfectly acceptable to, as the Canadian academic recommended 30 years ago, compulsorily silence any would-be "fascists" not only in universities, but in high schools, government and even courtrooms. But if the fascists are the ones who are being forcibly silenced, it certainly makes you wonder what you'd call the ones doing the forcing.
THE ACADEMY'S DARK AGE
Without an end to left-wing hegemony on campus, says author David Horowitz, universities are headed on a path to their own destruction
A project to identify the country's most unhinged professors (even a subjective one such as this) might seem unusual, especially for Canadians who are used to submitting to authority rather than challenging it. But, in the U.S., monitoring moonbat professors is a growth industry. And lucky for those employed in the wacko-tracking business, there's never a shortage of supply.
A group of alumni from the University of California at Los Angeles set out last year to identify that school's most radical, one-sided, abusively left-wing professors. They offered a US$100 "bounty" to anyone providing solid evidence of professors abusing their authority to advance personal agendas. It worked: they received plenty of submissions. But it was no American on the top of the "Dirty 30" list; rather, it was Toronto-born cultural theorist Peter McLaren, someone Andrew Jones, who led the alumni project, branded a "monster" for his anti-Americanism and slavish devotion to Marxist guerrilla Che Guevara (McLaren's website features a tender multimedia tribute to the Guatemalan revolutionary).
Earlier this year, conservative commentator David Horowitz, a self-professed reformed lefty who founded the influential news website FrontPageMag.com (see: www.frontpagemag.com), shook up the halls of higher learning with the publication of his book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. The list makes a persuasive case that universities are overrun by left-wing professors, and they're far from mild, aging hippies. As the jacket blurb sums up: "[F]ar from being harmless, they spew violent anti-Americanism, preach anti-Semitism, and cheer on the killing of American soldiers and civilians--all the while collecting tax dollars and tuition fees to indoctrinate our children." (Horowitz's worst offender? University of Colorado ethnic studies professor, Ward Churchill, who made news last year after publicly referring to the 9/11 World Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns"--arguing that they were complicit in America's global genocide by virtue of their work in the finance business.)
Some university professors (particularly those named in the book) have criticized research such as Horowitz's--and his Campus Watch website, campus-watch.org (see: www.campus-watch.org), which monitors bias in Middle Eastern studies--likening it to McCarthyism. "The left has attacked the book as a McCarthy list," says Horowitz. "But they're the ones who are attacking [me] the way McCarthy did, which is making wild, unfounded allegations."
But Horowitz maintains that his book isn't mere political gamesmanship. He sees it as an honest attempt to save the legacy of academic freedom from being ruined by radical ideologues. "Do we want to return our universities to the Dark Ages, when they were doctrinal institutions?" he asks. To prove his point, he insists that he'd be just as alarmed if universities were dominated by doctrinaire conservatives. "An education in a democracy is supposed to teach students how to think, not what to think," he says. "But what's going on now strikes at the heart of democracy."
Nor does he believe it's come about by accident. Rather, Horowitz says universities were deliberately targeted by lefties in the 1960s, after they realized the academy was ripe for transformation. The preponderance of liberals in disciplines such as sociology and anthropology--where U.S. studies show something approaching a 30:1 left-right ratio--is proof they've succeeded. "How do you get a skew like that unless there's a political litmus test [in hiring practices], which there is?" he asks. Those on the far left are able to exercise their control through domination of hiring committees, he says, stacking the faculty with fellow travellers, as well as the imposition of politically correct speech codes to exterminate dissent. "They have political control in universities because they are willing to destroy a person's career at the drop of a hat," says Horowitz.
But the brilliant master plan may have one big flaw, he notes: the more radical that universities have become, the more they've alienated the public, politicians and alumni--putting their funding in jeopardy. "If universities allow themselves to become political, then they'll become subject to the laws of politics," says Horowitz. "And a fundamental law of politics is, you don't fund your opponents." That the ideological takeover of America's schools may one day collapse may provide some comfort to those who hope for a return to more enlightened institutions--that is, if it doesn't bring the entire university system down with it.