Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Ill-Considered Invitation

Barbara Regenspan,
Chair, Department of Educational Studies

On October 8, a week and a half after the student sit-in which invigorated the pledge to make Colgate a welcome campus for all of its students, selected program and center directors were asked to weigh in on whether their programs would be interested in being involved with a visit to Colgate by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a request accompanied by Hirsi Ali's Wikipedia entry.

To be fair, the Wikipedia article included the fact that Hirsi Ali is known for her critical views about Islam, but did not include her dismissal of the importance of distinguishing among the many denominations and global political perspectives within Islam, nor did it convey the fanaticism explicit in her 2007 interview in Reason magazine [ http://reason.com/archives/2007/10/10/the-trouble-is-the-west ], available to Googlers a mere few clicks beyond the Wikipedia entry.  One choice direct excerpt from this interview is copied below:

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?
Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.
Reason: Militarily?
Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.
To bring to campus a woman who proposes the annihilation of a religion practiced by 1.5 billion mostly peace-loving human beings is unconscionable for any institution.  Brandeis University rescinded their offer to grant her an honorary degree at last May's graduation, after a few faculty and students did their homework and publicized what they discovered about her extremism.  For Colgate to propose this invitation in the light of its now two-week-old commitment to create a welcoming environment for all members of its multicultural student body and faculty appears particularly self-destructive.

A secondary strategic consideration is the reality that we are all relieved that the sit-in is over, for all of its productive effects on our collective resolve to improve campus life here.  I know how relieved I am to be able to continue to pursue my regular academic work again without disruption, and to support our students to do the same, even though I believed the disruption was worth the sacrifice.  Yet this speaking engagement is an invitation to disruption again.  For those who believe that Ayaan Hirsi Ali's call for the crushing of Islam is hate speech, which is certainly the case for myself and many faculty and students who are already aware of this issue, her invitation will represent a revocation of the University's newly proclaimed commitment, and as such, it will invite--even require--protest.
Finally, and as a related matter, I resent the time I have been obliged to invest in recent months on defending our Colgate from administrative decisions and proposals (like this one) that have been made without adequate “homework,” without adequate democratic process, or both.  At a time when we could be coming together to build a coalition of colleges and universities rethinking the viability of extrajudicial bodies processing crimes on our campuses, rethinking the excessive attention to technology as a cure for broad social challenges in education, rethinking the processes by which we could attract a more socially diverse student body (and challenge the assault on public education which threatens such processes), we waste increasing amounts of energy simply railing against wrong-headed administrative decisions, in the hope that somebody will hear.  I, for one, am tired of these distractions, and would like to be able to recommit my full energies to what I do well: teaching, scholarship, and the broad-minded service that maintains lively faculty governance.

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the AAUP chapter of Colgate University.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Colgateaaup.com: Our Continuing Mission

From the Officers of the Colgate Chapter of the AAUP

The AAUP blog has been up and running since March 2013.  The mission of the blog from the beginning has been to provide a space for debate, the expression of opinion, the raising of awareness, and the sharing of information—in short, to provide a forum for conversation among Colgate faculty.  We believe that the blog has been successful in this purpose.  We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Aaron Robertson, who initially set up the blog and who has ably served as its editor for the nearly twenty months of its existence.

Today we are announcing several changes. Lynn Staley will be taking on the post of editor.  All new posts after today should be sent to her.  Our thanks go to Lynn for being willing to take on this important task.

We have also decided to revive the Vox Facultatis, the previous hard-copy incarnation of the AAUP blog; some of you might be old enough to remember the old photocopies carefully stuffed into your mailbox.  We are not reviving the hard-copy format—the new Vox will be on line, available as a link accessible from the regular blog page—but we are reviving one particular aspect: the Vox issue discussion format, a collection of essays on a single topic.  We will advertise the topics in advance and solicit contributions; we will also invite guest editors to develop special issues.

Finally, we have drawn up a set of editorial guidelines.  In what follows below we do not pretend to have foreseen all possible issues that might arise, and we reserve the right to modify these rules as new situations arise. 
  • Each post will now bear a disclaimer: “The following post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the AAUP chapter of Colgate University.”
  • We will accept comments from outside, but also reserve the right to remove comments that are defamatory, insulting, or off-topic.
  • We will continue to publish anonymous posts.  We mean by this that the name will not be published; the editor will know the identity of the contributor.  The reasoning behind the initial decision to allow such postings is probably obvious; we did not want to close our columns to those who do not have the protection of tenure.  Members of AAUP have made a plausible case against “anonymous” postings, for the equally obvious reason that it allows the author of the post to evade personal responsibility for what is said.  The officers of AAUP revisited the issue earlier this semester (Fall 2014) and once again decided that we will indeed continue to accept anonymous posts, in the hope that those who feel vulnerable will not also feel silenced. 
  • We will continue the blog’s commitment to the exercise of free speech by Colgate faculty.  Believing that vigorous exchanges of opinion are valuable, we will publish nearly everything that is submitted.  But we also will use editorial discretion to ask for revisions or even to refuse posts that contain the following elements:

o   Personal attacks against an individual or group, as distinct from policy disagreements.
o   Reports of private conversations.  (Public statements made before a group are fair game.)
o   Demonstrably inaccurate statements of fact.

The emerging etiquette of blog writing calls for a poster to provide a link to any other blog that is cited.  In this spirit of giving credit to others, and with the aim of providing access to the original material on which a poster comments, we ask that links to quoted websites or other documents be provided if at all possible.