Imagine if 4,000 people – mostly academics proclaiming to be "friends and colleagues" of Professor Eric Rudolph – published a letter defending that terrorist's association with John McCain, praising his role as a distinguished faculty member in education at a premier university, and willfully ignoring his past as a domestic terrorist. While this particular scenario is easy to dismiss as absurd and unfeasible, that is exactly what has happened regarding Bill Ayers' association with Barack Obama.
As of October 30, no less than 4,090 names appeared in a testament of support for Bill Ayers from the higher education community. Their statement emphasized, "We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers."
Although the statement makes the occasional argument in favor of free speech, it does more to condemn the exercise of the first amendment: "The current attacks appear as part of a pattern of ‘exposés' and assaults designed to intimidate free thinking and stifle critical dialogue." In fact, it is a select few who have been working diligently to uncover the truth about Barack Obama's past, since he has not been forthright with the American people. In response, Obama has used a multidimensional approach – his campaign, Obama supporters, and even the Department of Justice – to silence the discussion about his deeply troubling affiliation with Ayers.
But faculty completely oblivious to this and captivated by "The One's" greatness prefer to portray Ayers as a victim of the same "crusades" that were carried out against professors, including Ward Churchill and Rashid Khalidi, which in their opinion were "character assassination." Why is it that these alleged proponents of "open inquiry and debate" do not want us talking about Ayers?
The undersigned express disgust with the "unrepentant terrorist" label, since they claim it is "unrecognizable to those who know or work with him." However, according to an Associated Press report from October 18, "Ayers' connection to the Weather Underground is plastered on his door. A postcard for a documentary on the group shows an old mugshot [sic] of Ayers. Nearby is cover art from Ayers' 2001 memoir, ‘Fugitive Days.'"
Since downplaying Ayers' actions and sweeping them under the rug does not expunge his record, these professors attempt to rewrite history by morally equating his goals and mission to the truly noble leaders of the Civil Rights era: "It's true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans." As though Ayers were merely one of the Freedom Riders! However, the only apparent equivalence here is between Ayers and his colleagues, who cannot bring themselves to condemn violent attacks against Americans by domestic (or foreign) terrorists.
Double standards are best exemplified in the mainstream media and on college campuses. In the same way that the media failed to properly vet Obama and investigate the role that Ayers played in launching Obama's political career in Chicago, the university sweeps under the rug whatever is not politically and ideologically expedient. Their statement, "His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution – including publishing 16 books – to the field of education."
There is no denying the letter's assertion that "anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy and political power may become a target…cast[ing] a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy," is true. But there is no evidence that Ayers, his colleagues and supporters, or Barack Obama have experienced the censorship and vitriol that their critics have received. Ironically, they have received this treatment from these self-proclaimed champions of tolerance and civility.
No longer is this movement of intellectual dishonesty and groupthink only prevalent in the left-wing bastions of Columbia University and Berkeley. Seventy signers are at Georgia colleges and universities, including faculty, associate deans, and students, encompassing almost every college at the University of Georgia – which dominated with 45 signatures. They placed their personal political views over those of their profession and discipline while pretending to defend their profession and discipline.
Intellectual homogeneity is characteristic of many universities, and the signatories of this letter have highlighted some of the most problematic departments. Letters such as this help expose the serious predicaments within academia; it is time that universities are held to account for the toxic and monolithic environments they have cultivated.
Orit Sklar is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Orit has been involved in the conservative movement and the quest for academic freedom both within and beyond Georgia Tech, and is currently co-plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging Georgia Tech's unconstitutional policies.