A Well-Lubed Bland Job

Ok, so there’s a discussion about how blogging might have a negative impact on one’s career (in Academe). Context is Juan Cole’s not being hired by Yale University.

So far so sad. Then it gets worse. Ann Althouse and Professor Corncob are invited to contribute. I don’t really care about Althouse, who’s a garden-variety wingnut and philistine. But I am interested in the oleaginous, passive-aggressive bullshit Instayokel offers, if you understand that by ‘interested’, I mean ‘once again disgusted by’.

Was Cole given a raw deal? Instayokel doesn’t really say; he offers, in characteristic bad faith, that political prejudice on the part of hirers isn’t all bad — an actual Neo-Nazi and a theoretical KKK member lose in such scenarios. But since he asserts that Academe is biased against conservatives, and then says that he doesn’t like it when blogged comments are held against potential hires, his true agenda is plain; all in all a real masterwank of sophistry on Reynolds’s part considering the subject of the whole gig here is that Cole, a liberal, was screwed out of a job by wingnuts because of his blog.

Nevertheless, I agree with Reynolds somewhat. Garden-variety political opinions blogged on the web shouldn’t keep anyone from being hired. It’s web evidence of extremist insanity that should put up a red flag. And what could be even more extreme and insane than, say, KKK membership? If any sort of blogged opinion could cost an employed academic their job, or keep one from being hired by a university (and I’m not saying it should), what might it be?

Advocating genocide might probably be first on the list.

But then as the legacy tenured Glenn Reynolds would no doubt attest, it’s difficult to sack affirmative action hires.


Comments: 33


The Perfesser’s got that plausibly denied already. “No, see, I was only saying that if bin Laden got HIS wish, then the result would be genocide. Certainly, genocide of the entire Islamic world isn’t my wish. Is that so difficult to understand?”

It’s all about lawyering up your language so you leave yourself an out.


What sort of blogged opinion should cost an employed academic their job, or keep one from being hired by a university?

None whatsoever. As an academic, you should be able to expect to be evaluated on your professional credentials, not your political opinions, no matter how deranged they might be.


Guh! That’s absolutely right now that you say it and I think about it. Gonna correct it.


As an academic, you should be able to expect to be evaluated on your professional credentials, not your political opinions, no matter how deranged they might be.

Dunno about that. Universities should be able to discriminate during the hiring process based on political opinions. They do get to choose who is representing them, after all.


Brad R. I think you are wrong here. Ward Churchill should be fired because he committed academic misconduct. He should NOT be fired for his political opinions. Arthur Butz should be retained because there is nothing wrong with his engineering competence. His deranged Holocaust denial should not be cause for his firing. Michael Berube should keep his job because of his sharp writing in cultural studies and literature, not because he is an eloquent liberal.

I’m sorry to say that your viewpoint sounds just like David Horowitz–conservative legislatures should be able to hire and fire based on political opinions that align with their own. Who would lose their jobs in a Horowitzian world? Churchill? Definititely. Berube? Buh bye! Butz? Well, who knows? Horowitz and the conservatives have never critiqued him.


I think it primarily depends on whether or not your political opinions have any direct reflection or affect on your academic field. For example, a biology professor who supports the political cause of teaching ID in the public school system should be canned: that cause is in direct opposition to his field and actively damages the credibility of other professors (and himself) in that area.

An evironmental scientist who willingly shills (for pay) anti-global warming editorials for oil companies damages the credibility of the academic field and creates the impression that science is for sale to the highest bidder.

A journamalism professor who advocates believing every word from Bush’s mouth as revealed truth–or, on the flip, reviling every word as Satanic lies–without bothering to check against “facts” or “reality”? You can’t can his ass soon enough, can you?

But when you get to softer fields like sociology, literature, history, etc., it becomes harder to define. Did Ward Churchill damage the field of English Lit (or whatever the hell he taught) with his statements? No, not really.

Did Juan Cole damage the field of Middle Eastern history by publishing a blog on current events in the Middle East? Personally, I think he’s helping it by exposing more of the general populace to the field. But I’d have to defer to other experts in Middle Eastern history and current events to evaluate whether what Prof. Cole said was batshit insane and academically embarrassing. (I have not heard this argument from any experts, and I can’t think of anybody in the right-wing punditocracy–or the administration for that matter–who comes close to qualifying.)

Does a certain law professor who shall remain nameless damage the field of law by advocating federal interference in individual medical care disputes already decided by a duly appointed court? Or by casually blowing off those “quaint” Geneva conventions without mentioning to his audience that they are part of a ratified treaty and as such are constitutionally the “settled law of the land”, not to mention backed up by subsequent anti-torture acts as well? Or by advocating the unitary exectutive philosophy to the point of threatening the co-equality of our branches of government? Or by randomly deciding that some brown people are just too scary to qualify for that whole innocent until proven guilty, right to face your accusers, right to an attorney, right to have an attorney present during questioning, habeas-schmabeas terrorist coddling?

Hmm…I’d kind of have to say…FUCK YES!
(Oops. I have sinned against civility. Time to go beat myself with wet noodles.)


Ward Churchill’s crimes against academia: speaking the truth.


BlackBloc:  I invite you to read

The Research Misconduct Repor
t on Ward Churchill.  Make sure you have
plenty of time. 
Dorothy:  If the certain law professor publishes those opinions in his
blog, rather than in the classroom, then there is no cause to fire him.  If
he publishes those opinions in major law reviews, then there is no cause to fire
him.  If you, like me, find those opinions deranged then we should say so
loudly, but he should only lose is job if his fellow academics find him guilty
of some sort of academic misconduct.
If you have some method of firing Instaputz while NOT firing someone like
Berube, I’d be delighted to hear it, but I don’t think there is one.


I think there is conflation here between consideration in hiring and consideration in firing someonw with tenure.
the situations seem very different to me.


Dorothy scripsit:
I think it primarily depends on whether or not your political opinions have any direct reflection or affect on your academic field etc.

Oh, absolutely. The minute your political or religious views influence your academic pursuits, they become part of your professional credentials, and must be taken into account when evaluating the fitness of a prospective or current employee.

I wouldn’t hire an ID-supporting biologist nor a holocaust denying historian, but vice versa, an ID-supporting historian or holocaust denying biologist, should be no problem. (I probably drum up some excuse not to hire him anyway, but that’s just because I’m a bad person).



pro I probably lege I would probably



Here’s the issue: when you are a college/university professor, you also serve as a representative of the university you work at and the field in which you teach and research. If you make public statements that actively cause damage to your field or your university, you should be held to some kind of account.

It’s the “actively cause damage” part that’s difficult in the liberal arts fields, I think. It’s much easier in hard sciences to show that someone has, for instance, drawn conclusions unsupported by the evidence. This gets done in peer reviewed journals all the time. But suppose I take a paper that has been soundly rejected by every reputable journal as an unsupported piece of crap with insuffienct controls on the research, etc. and shill it on Fox News? And suppose I get famous in the public eye by pushing this “new finding!” that violates several principle of sound science? Have I committed any academic misconduct? Is there a firing offense in that action? (I honestly don’t know–it’s been too many years since I’ve crawled through the dark underbelly of academia.)

Or if a chemistry professor publicly states–as a chemist!–that the moon is made of green cheese and putting table salt in plain water will cause a huge explosion, has he comitted any academic misconduct or firing offense?

Maybe that’s the difference. If a person is using his academic credentials to enhance his statement, then that statement should be held against him acadmically. If Cole says, “As a professor in ME studies, I can tell you–” then anything after that should be considered from an academic standpoint. If Reynolds says, “As a law professor, I assure you that anything the president does is legal by definition” then his law school should have the right to step back and say “Wait a minute.” (Random example–I’m not claiming anyone said anything.)

If Cole or Reynolds want to get drunk and blurt out bullshit to a bar, no, I don’t care. If they want to write random stuff on a blog, I don’t care. But if either of them place the weight of their academic credentials behind a public statement, then that public statement becomes part of their academic life, just as if they’d said it in a classroom.

(I can’t really say much about Berube because I’m woefully ignorant of the academic standards of cultural studies.)


As a (hopefully) future academic, I concur with Bistroist’s statement above– political opinions are relevent only insofar as they are concerned with one’s field.
If I am, say, a hard core Zionist (or anti-Zionist) and said as much in my website, and I apply for a job in the History (or Religion, possibly) departments for a job regarding Religious or Middle Eastern history, then that must be taken into account no differantly than any previously published works in print (although the quality of the prose itself should be ignored save for lack of any published work, in which case you probably aren’t going to be hired anyway).
The university has every right to have certain standards that it wants everyone to adhere to (i.e. “Don’t bash actively religion/other philosophic catagories in class”), because they wish to provide a certain type of experiance for their students. If a school wants to hire I.D.ers and/or Holocaust deniers or Communists or “Brights”, then they have every right to– but they must suffer the consequences every time that professor offends someone. Said offense will be judged in the public by how legitimate if was, but ultimately, the institution will be judged (see: O’Reilly, Bill + Colorado + Churchill) for the stupidity/self-righteousness of their faculty. That’s why I’d never hire a Reynolds if I were a university president, or even a P.Z. if I were at a Catholic university or liberal arts college. They tend to piss off a lot of people (rightly or wrongly) that I want to attract to my institution. One must cater to one’s intended customer base, after all, right or wrong.


They tend to piss off a lot of people (rightly or wrongly) that I want to attract to my institution. One must cater to one’s intended customer base, after all, right or wrong.
Not in academics you don’t. Or at least you shouldn’t. If serious, scientific study leads you to a result that won’t please your “intended customer base”, then so be it. If you try to adapt your findings to what you think people want to hear, you’ll degenerate into pseudoscience in no time, with the depreciation that follows from that.

A guy like Victor Davis IAmSpartacus Hanson may be a thoroughly repulsive war porn afficionado, and I absolutely detest his political views. But at the same time, he’s a highly qualified ancient historian, and has been an important asset in this regard at Stanford and especially California U., just as Donald Kagan has been at Yale, although none of these institutions are to the best of my knowledge usually considered hotbeds of militant conservatism.

As a side note, I gained a lot of respect for Lehigh University when they put out this statement, basically saying that although one of their tenured professors might be arguing blatant bullshit, the faculty recognized and renounced it as such.

Smiling Mortician

The collective bargaining agreement where I teach has this to say about academic freedom:

“Institutions of higher education exist for the common good. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression. Hence, all faculty shall be free to pursue scholarly inquiry and to voice and publish conclusions. All faculty shall be free from the fear that others whose views may differ, whether inside or outside the college community, could threaten those faculty members’ professional careers. All faculty shall have freedom in the instructional setting, and in presenting the subjects that they teach, within established course outlines. Faculty must have adequate safeguards of their academic freedom to ensure freedom of learning, teaching, investigation, and publishing. Faculty shall be free from institutional censorship or discipline when they speak, write, or act as long as they exercise academic responsibility in the instructional setting. Academic responsibility entails attention to the learning objectives of one’s teaching assignment and respect for the dignity and uniqueness of other people.”

This language is fairly standard except, perhaps, for the final phrase about the “dignity and uniqueness of other people,” which some might find overly kumbaya. Of course it doesn’t directly address the question of whether a college or university can (or should) choose not to hire a professor based on his/her published opinions, and that is the central question in the Juan Cole case that started this thread. Instead it necessarily focuses on whether a college or university can censor, discipline or otherwise “threaten the professional careers” of faculty who speak out.

We can, and do, argue about exactly what “search for truth” and “scholarly inquiry” mean — personally, I don’t consider ID arguments to have much to do with scholarly inquiry, nor do I believe Holocaust deniers are searching for the truth. But I’m glad that my college has language that protects the rights of faculty to hold and even share those views (and here’s the important part) as long as those views don’t betray the objectives of the courses they’re teaching or infringe on their students’ right to responsible instruction within the academic setting.

Professors don’t have the right to substitute indoctrination for teaching. When they do so, they have violated both the spirit and the letter of academic freedom, which protects both teachers and students. But as private citizens in a free society (I know, I’m still clinging to the notion that I live in such a society) professors do have the right to espouse opinions popular or unpopular, reasonable or batshit crazy.

What to do when a lunatic prof goes on Fox or wherever to spout junk science or ugliness? The best response to irresponsible free speech is responsible free speech. There’s nothing stopping the lunatic’s colleagues or employers from publicly refuting his/her wacky notions. It should happen more often.

I say all of this not to defend the Mike S. Adamses of the world, but to protect the rights of all those who would conscientiously explore options in the reality-based universe against the tide of whatever “right answer” is currently acceptable.


An important question related to this thread is, “Who says?” Who is to make the determination that a scholar’s research or published opinion is part of the scholarly dialog or complete BS (or both or neither)?

The answer has to be the community of scholars NOT the general public. The general public or their elected representatives are not qualified to pass judgements on most academic questions.

Which is why Mike Adams gets lauded at Townhall for stuff that would never, ever get published in refereed academic journals.


Wow, upon rereading what I wrote, it seems I didn’t get the message that I wanted across (my bad– on some minor painkillers for some dental work, but still…).
The Smiling Mortician said it better than I ever could have: the objectives of learning MUST be considered first. Does Glenn’s craziness detract from his ability to teach students the intended concepts? I don’t know– I get the impression that it might. One can (and should!) disagree with at least something a professor says, but the question is, does that perspective stay within the mainstream of the topic even if the professor isn’t necessarily in there (mainstream being defined by the scholorship in quesiton instead of the laymen, as jpj so rightly said), so that the students come away with a functional knowledge of the material. That is the most important part, after all.

Once again, my bad for my crappy expression.

Peace out (I’m going back to bed to sleep this crazy shit off).


you see? now this is why I’ve dedicated myself to having a crappy blog read by no more then 20 or so people.

Dodged a bullet there.

Then again, If I go to Alberta to search for a job, I hope they don’t google my name and see what I’ve said about Bush, those petroleum teat suckers seem to love the guy. Well whaddya know, it effects the little guy too, not just you high falutin perfessers…


Let’s say you’re a conservative. Let’s say you’re pretty much garden-variety, not too off the wall. But let’s say you link to others who call for restrictions on (or elimination of) civil rights, the annihilation of Moslems, and a return to feudalism, more or less. Should you be evaluated solely on your credentials? Absolutely the fuck not.

Our side learned from Justice Brennan – the ratchet theory. Once we’ve achieved something – a new freedom, a 4th amendment protection, a better way – we keep it. The reich wing thinks that you can bring up the old questions that have already been answered – e.g. “Should black people be encouraged to vote?”, “Should women have a degree of control over their own bodies”, “Should the executive branch have to answer to one of the other branches if it wants to listen to your phone calls?” – again. Let’s drag us back into the 50s (and by that I mean the 1850s) and have a do over.

Fuck them. If I had kids, those assclowns don’t get to teach them to hate.


dignity and uniqueness of other people

Now you’ve done it. You made John Leo get all mouth-foamy.


Edmonton or Calgary, Timmah?

Edmonton, don’t worry about it. Enjoy the Fringe Theatre festival and the all you can buy world-feast buffet at Heritage days, and spot off about Bush all you want.

Calgary… maybe yelling “Bush Sux” at the Stampede might give you a hard time, but I’d bet you’d get as many cheers as boos, even there.

Smiling Mortician


Some interesting warrants in your argument:

1. Garden-Variety Conservative is assumed to share all opinions expressed by those he/she links to (and, by extension, the opinions expressed by those who comment on those links, so we’re all now Kevin-Bacon-linked to Deb Frisch).

2. “Being evaluated” is assumed to mean not being allowed to teach, rather than being roundly scorned for whatever dead-wrong ideas one expresses or implicitly approves.

3. A professor who has objectionable ideas (and remember that all ideas worth having are objectionable to someone) is assumed to be jamming those ideas down his/her students’ throats. This is the argument behind the wingers’ wholesale rant against academia as left-wing brainwashing — they truly don’t understand (or refuse to acknowledge) that teaching isn’t proselytizing. [They also don’t understand that there’s a reason for the strong correlation between education and liberal leanings, but that’s another story.]

I have lots of political opinions, most of them pretty lefty-liberal. My students generally don’t know much about my political views, unless they’ve taken me for several courses and have gotten to know me outside the classroom or have read the stuff I’ve published outside the college environment (which most of them don’t do).

A professor who can’t keep his/her biases out of the classroom, and who therefore infects the educational process with propaganda, is a problem no matter what political agenda is being promoted. But a professor who holds strong opinions as a private citizen, and who teaches with an open mind about the discipline and its scholarship — and a dedication to student discovery — is OK by me.

In other words, a responsible professor of any political leaning could bring up any of your three questions (voting rights, women’s bodies, checks & balances) and make a great classroom experience of it. [Sidebar: responsible faculty *should* bring up such questions because, in my experience, most college freshmen don’t know much about why such topics are important. It’s why they think “feminist” is a slur . . . ]

Bottom line: Profs who actually do teach students to hate should be fired. Profs who have ugly ideas on their own time but uphold their students’ right to academic freedom shouldn’t.

Smiling Mortician

NobodySpecial said,

July 28, 2006 at 0:56

“dignity and uniqueness of other people”

Now you’ve done it. You made John Leo get all mouth-foamy.

The line for group hugs begins on the left.


To be honest, I didn’t read the article you refer to before I commented.

In fact, I didn’t even read what Retardo wrote and just jumped in with an idiotic sneer without trying to comprehend the issues.

Hey, that must make me Glenn Reynolds! I never realised it was so easy!

Now, where’s my fucking interview on Scarborough Country?


The thing about top flight academic positions – is that places like Yale and top flight academics often put out feelers all the time, in which the actual position never comes about.

So it is hard for me to evaluate if this had anything to do with Cole’s blogging. In addition, Michigan is probably a more prestigious place to be at for a Middle Eastern Historian. Cole himself said he didn’t want to move to Yale unless he could build up Middle Eastern History at that department. Anyways – Cole has a sweet position in Ann Arbour.

However, blogging could certainly be damaging to a pre-tenured historian’s academic career. But so could anything – including having children. I know a excellent scholar who was criticized for having 3 kids. Despite having a well received book, she was turned down for tenure in a controversial situation. In a private conversation – it was said that her having 3 children was seen as excessive.

Smiling Mortician

it was said that her having 3 children was seen as excessive


When I had my first interview for a tenured position, a guy on the hiring committee asked, “Are you planning to have more kids or dedicate yourself to teaching?” I wasn’t really in a position at the time to teach him the concept of the false dilemma.


When I had my first interview for a tenured position, a guy on the hiring committee asked, “Are you planning to have more kids or dedicate yourself to teaching?� I wasn’t really in a position at the time to teach him the concept of the false dilemma.

Yeah- questions about kids/ marriage/ sexuality, ect. are supposed to be off limits in the hiring process. (even illegal) but hiring committees ask them all the time.


I meant to say somewhere that I got this link via a messy Crooked Timber thread.

Read through it if you have the time; it’s an upperlevel flamewar. One wingnut immediately tries to smear Cole as an anti-semite on the grounds that Cole a)linked to Justin Raimondo and b)used “anti-semite” in its dictionary — and colonialist — definition; to under cut Jews’ alleged monopoly on the term is self-evident Jew hate!

Then it gets worse. The smuggest bastard on earth, Sebastian Holsclaw, jumps in as he always does. Then Henry really fucks-up (seeing as how the whole thread was imemdiately hijacked by wingnut trolls) by banning a Cole defender on grounds of trolling!


We know Juan Cole through his media interviews, his debates, his testimony before Congress, his op-ed pieces and, most of all, through his blog –and through those who blog about his blog.

But who had ever heard of him before 9/11?

My point is we do not know of him through his academic work, his teaching, his scholarship, his translations, or the books he has written. We know of him as a celebrity blogger who writes with much passion and bias about his subject.

My take on him is that he always finds a rationale why the things Muslims do are not the fault of Muslims. When asked why most of the one billion Muslims in the world don’t do or say squat about Muslim terror, he will answer that this or that Iman posted a fatwa up on his web site condemning Bin Laden. (Big deal!) Or when asked why do only Muslims seem to blow themselves up, he will retort that Christians are just as violent and nasty. Or, when asked, Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country? He will say it is the white man’s fault for colonizing the world and providing poor role models. When asked why so much death and atrocities are committed in the name of Islam, he will point to Timothy McVeigh. When confronted with the fact that in most of the Muslim countries there is little or no freedom to practice a different faith, he will say there has always been religious oppression or ideological oppression in the world.

And don’t get me started on his obsession with conspiracy theories about the Jews, or his basic moral equivalence in comparing dictatorships with free and open democracies.

No, he belongs in Michigan where he can be close to his constituency.


Thanks for the link, Retardo. That sort of interesting, but fundamentally tiresome thread has quite a lot to do with why I stopped following CT regularly. There’s some very smart cookies posting and commenting there, but the place get hijacked by smug wankers on too regular a basis for my patience.

That said, the ban was a mindbogglingly stupid move by Henry, the alleged trolling apparently consisting of pointing out that anti-semitism is habitually used as a slur to stifle criticism of Israel, which seems rather hard to deny.


GODDAMNIT! I need to find me some remedial English classes, stat! This is getting embarassing…

pro There’s lege There are


For fuck’s sake… the place get -> the place gets
I’ll stop now, but there’s probably more.


We know of him as a celebrity blogger who writes with much passion and bias about his subject.

And we know you as a paid troll. Stat. Now ‘koff.


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