View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Over at Powerline, the Big Trunk has been chronicling the debate between his daughter and a professor there, James Sleeper. It seems Mr. Sleeper has taken exception to an article by the young Miss Johnson, published in FrontPageMag, critical of the hateful anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism on display at a recent Yale "teach-in" on the war. As nearly as I can make out, Mr. Sleeper objects to Miss Johnson naming names in an off-campus publication, at least that's about all I can get out his somewhat incoherent complaints. So, some questions for Mr. Sleeper:

  1. Are the rules different for a public university vs. a private one? Do taxpayers have a right to know what kind of "excesses" their taxes support? Be very careful answering this question on April 15. You might provoke an "uncivil" reaction. In any case, don't the parents of private school students have the same right to know where their tuition goes?
  2. Since the arguments presented we not ad hominem, but idea-driven, can we assume than any debate outside the university that refers to any individuals in out of bounds? Or are the rules, outside the classroom, different for students and professors? Would this mean that a student article in, say, Talking Points Memo, taking Bernard Lewis to task for something or other, would be equally inappropriate?
  3. If anything arguing ideas, along with the names of those on the other side, is out of bounds, then musn't all university professors refrain from publishing op-eds, persuasive pieces in journals such as The New Republic, television appearances with Bill Moyers, and radio appearances on NPR? Wouldn't this retreat from public debate severely hamper the University's attempt to educate the public?
  4. Why is your complaint not with FrontPageMag, rather than with the student? If FPM is fair, surely you or Prof. Gutas would be allowed to respond in its pages, assuming your response made more sense than your email to Miss Trunk. FPM is conservative, and you claim its readership is almost entirely "the converted," meaning conservatives. Doesn't this suggest a rather closed collective (whoops, there's that Marxism again) mind on the left? Should they not read FPM themselves, either for the broadening effect it might have on their opinions, or if only for opposition research, or the adrenaline rush?
  5. If we are to take you at your word, your opposition is to debate happening outside the grounds of the University, at a University where people of like mind to you control the, er, means of production. So, while our complaints may have a Marxist component after all, they resort to a perfectly "civil," very capitalist solution. The real Stalinists would just burn down the YDN offices, right?

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