Friday, December 19, 2014

Professor Susan J. Douglas of the University of Michigan Hates, Hates, Hates Republicans, or Does She? We interrupt the frantic search for a new football coach at the University of Michigan to announce that Professor Susan J. Douglas, Chair of Communications Studies at the University of Michigan hates Republicans. We know it because she posted an article on online “In These Times” entitled “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” She begins “I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa, or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’” So much for a reasoned civilized discourse on public issues. She continued that while her views may seem biased “historical and psychological research back her up, and so it’s basically actually a fact that Republicans are bad.” I’ll love to see the research. She added that Republicans are rally good at being mean because psychological studies show they usually have traits such as “dogmatism, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity.” The reaction, at least in conservative circles, has been ballistic. Demands have been made that she be fired by the University, that the legislature cut funding to the University, that donations will be given to other institutions, and she has received death threats. Three University Regents (two Republicans and a Democrat) have called into question her statements. Excuse me, but why the outrage? Maybe I should be surprised, buy I'm not. Nor am I disappointed in her remarks. The Academy, especially in the humanities and social sciences, journalism and communications, and the law is overwhelming liberal to progressive to even radical. Ex-professors Ward Churchill of Colorado and Steven Salaita of Virginia Tech/Illinois are not exceptions to the norm. A look at 2012 campaign contributions illustrates the reality. 96% of the Ivy League professors’ contributions in 2012 went to President Obama. It was 99% at Princeton. $221,176 went to the President from Yale professors versus only $8,705 to Governor Romney. The education sector contributed $23,237,329 to the President and $3,939,542 to the Governor. 87% of the law school contributions went to the Obama campaign. The pattern is similar at public universities. Of the nation’s top 27 publicly funded universities, only the faculty at the University of Kentucky gave more to the Romney campaign than the Obama campaign. University of California professors contributed almost $1.1 million to the Obama campaign. $146,346 went to Obama from the University of Texas versus only $4,650 to Romney. 85% of the University of Michigan contributions were to Democrats in 2012. The only surprise is that Professor Douglas expressed her thoughts in writing with no touch of subtlety, but plenty of irony. She has nothing to fear institutionally. Her views are protected by the First Amendment, tenure, and Academic Freedom. She is a highly respected scholar and author. She has not engaged in academic misconduct, unlike Professor Churchill. Nor has she resigned one academic position prior to receiving Trustee/Regent approval of a new position (Professor Salaita). Nor am I worried about conservative students being discriminated or retaliated against by her. The student grapevine is wonderful. Conservatives will either avoid her classes or lay low in them. Her problem is that she will forever be tarnished by the abject stupidity of her statements. They are forever on the internet. A chaired professor of communications studies should know better than push the email send button on intemperate remarks. She has now issued a statement, backed up by “In These Times.” Her original title on the article was “We can’t all just get along.” The publisher had unilaterally, without her knowledge, changed the title to “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” That may be, but it did not change the rest of the article, which starts “I hate Republicans.” The University issued a statement Wednesday night: “The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institutions. “At the same time, the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.” That brings us to the case of Omar Mahmood, a conservative Muslin student at Michigan. The junior literature and anthropology major wrote for both the Michigan Daily and the conservative Michigan Review. He penned an article for the Review, satirizing political correctness. It was “Do the Left Thing,” The parody offended a staff member of the Daily, who complained that it created a hostile environment. It also interfered with “social justice.” The Editor-in-Chief of the Daily dug up a bylaw, which provided that a writer could not be on another journal without prior approval of the EIC. He was also told to write a letter of apology as a condition on remaining on the Daily. He was not told who the complainants were. The editors claimed that a conflict of interest arose. He has been terminated from the Michigan Daily. So much for tolerance of free speech by the student newspaper, which was once a paragon of free speech. Omar returned to his dorm room one night and found it was vandalized. Video cameras saw four women in hoodies as the culprits. There has been little outcry at the University of Michigan on behalf of the conservative Omar.

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