Integrity Matters
April 30, 2003

Educators at UCLA missing boat

Question: (A-003)
I note with alarm that the Academic Senate of UCLA, which is a tax supported, public university, has taken it upon itself to pass a resolution to condemn the war in Iraq (now that it is largely over) and place the governing of Iraq in the hands of the United Nations. I believe it is unethical for a publicly-supported university to politicize its academic role in this manner.

Furthermore, faculty members of the Senate who oppose this action of the Senate cannot resign from the Senate without also resigning their jobs as professors at the University. So much for academic freedom! Free speech at UCLA, and possibly other institutions, requires a dissenting professor to commit career suicide! What do you think?

Academic arrogance and intellectual intolerance seem to have joined arms in the controversy you describe regarding the behavior of certain faculty senate members at UCLA. Academic freedom and respect for the world of ideas seem to be the victims here. The UCLA Faculty Senate’s contempt for debate signals the rigidity of closed minds.

Refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of conflicting opinions sets in motion the building of “camps” that are readying for the mindless protection of ideas. Universities were never intended to behave that way. For, it is in the free exchange of ideas that new concepts can emerge.

With reference to academic bodies making pronouncements, well, that deserves some careful investigation. Unless or until the academic charter of a publicly-funded educational institution specifically permits or requires political pronouncements, they seem wholly inappropriate or simply irrelevant.

The interesting dimension of your question about political opinions is that they are quite a bit like religious perspectives. Almost everyone you meet is an expert in each area. Frankly, what the UCLA Faculty Senate thinks about just about anything beyond delivering top quality teaching does not mean a thing to me. Their opinions are theirs and when I want one of their non-academic opinions, I will solicit same.

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