Saying that they are fed up with "aggressive incursion of partisan politics into universities' hiring and tenure practices," five prominent academics have issued a call to "defend the university" and gathered dozens of backers in what they view as a new way to bolster academic freedom.
The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University has issued a statement and is asking professors and others to sign on.
While the professors' statement on academic freedom does not mention groups by name, Campus Watch — which publishes information about professors of Middle Eastern studies, with much of the analysis critical — would appear to be one of the groups.
Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, said that the new group was based on false assumptions. The professors believe, he wrote via e-mail, that "academics, uniquely among all professionals, are beyond criticism — that they make up a sacrosanct, privileged group that demands protection from opinions with which they disagree. By implying that criticism from external sources, such as Campus Watch, is illegitimate, they seek to seal themselves off from the society that supports them." He said that he found irony that "ivory tower intellectuals who regularly render harsh judgments against the practitioners of other professions, from businessmen to clergy, and from politicians to the members of the military — claim immunity from criticism when it is directed toward themselves."
Myers went on to say of the professors' effort: "Their desire to declare themselves off-limits to external criticism is symptomatic of the intellectual homogeneity that plagues academe. Were it not for extra-university voices, there would be precious little debate within academic Middle East studies, so uniform is opinion among professors of that field."
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