Dear Dr. Scott:
I read your Academe article on shared governance with some anticipation, expecting to cheer you on. But as I read on, I was reminded of why I allowed my AAUP membership to lapse several years ago. I was put off first by your demonization of Ward Connerly over his opposition to racial preferences. I know Ward Connerly, and your description of him bears no relation to my own experience. I believe him to be a decent man motivated precisely by the same color-blind ideals that used to motivate the civil rights movement and which are embodied still in the 1964 civil rights act. If he has spoken intemperately about faculty, it is only because he has been viciously attacked by his opponents many of whom are teachers and should know better.
But my main quarrel is with your view that affirmative action — racial preferences in college hiring and admissions — is an “educational issue.” How would you respond if someone defended the exclusion of women from higher education (as was once done in this country, as we all know) on the “educational” ground that their presence distracted male students? Or the exclusion of Jews from teaching posts in German universities because of their “corrupting” educational influence? Both these examples represent political not educational decisions. And affirmative action is also nine-tenths political. It reflects beliefs — perhaps legitimate, perhaps not — about social justice and remedies for past deprivation that have nothing to do with what most people would regard as intellectual matters. It also now, in California after Prop. 209, a matter of law. On both counts, the Regents of the University of California have every right to take action on the issue.
Perhaps the difference between us is that you defend “free inquiry, open expression, and discovery” not for their own sakes (as I do) but in service of “broader social ends” (p. 46). This is a very dangerous view, because at some point, the ends may overcome the means, with consequences well documented in the depressing history of the twentieth century. The defense that “my aims are good” will not stand. As Christopher Hitchens recently pointed out in The Atlantic Monthly in his review of Martin Amis’s new book on Stalin: “No greater cruelty will be devised than by those who are sure, or are assured, that they are doing good.”