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“Oberlin hired an unrepentant bigot to teach undergraduates to write about justice and guide them in their moral development.”

Quite true, and this Tablet writer captures the real scandal at Oberlin, which is similar to the real scandal at Florida Atlantic University, and at the University of Colorado: How do hiring committees at American universities end up appointing vicious ideologues? What sort of hiring committee says We want to expose our students to sadists and knaves, and this is a sadist and a knave? How can we account for the regular emergence among the American professoriate of liars and moral idiots?

UD thinks the outcome only seldom has to do with what you might call fanatic affinity. It seems unlikely to her that there are other people on hiring committees who think the Sandy Hook massacre was a government-created charade intended to destroy our gun rights, or that the people killed on 9/11 deserved it, or that the 9/11 plotters were Jews. It seems far more likely to UD that colleges and universities end up with cretinous conspiracy theorists because their hiring committees, for some jobs, are lazy. They don’t read applicants’ writing (including blogs) with any care, or, if they do read, they don’t understand what they are reading.

At some universities, no one much cares who teaches the soft stuff – ethnic studies, communications, composition. Internal standards in these sorts of fields may be as low as they are in the courses designed for football and basketball players. Indeed, some of these are the fields into which the jocks are herded – especially communications. No one should be surprised when actually examining what some of these people write uncovers the political grotesque.

But what are you going to do? FAU and Colorado are big jock schools; it’s as important to them as it is to Auburn and the University of North Carolina to keep the course scam going one way or another. They’re not exactly going to start scrutinizing content and instructor.

As for Oberlin — damned if I know.

Margaret Soltan, March 17, 2016 2:45PM
Posted in: the university

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7 Responses to ““Oberlin hired an unrepentant bigot to teach undergraduates to write about justice and guide them in their moral development.””

  1. Michael Tinkler Says:

    At Oberlin EVERY tenure track hire is meant. And if they originally hired the person in question for a visiting position and then kept her, they meant it even more.

    I’ve been in every possible capacity on way too many search committees at a lower ranked but still fairly serious SLAC to believe otherwise.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Michael: If you’re right (and I think you’re probably right), the faculty who meaningly hired this person should now stand up – speak up – in defense of her. Maybe they have – I’ll look around. Best – UD.

  3. Rita Says:

    Is it possible that in some of these cases, the person hired represents the hiring committee’s sympathies to a morally edifying extreme, at least until the extreme turns out to be, in fact, crazy? In the Oberlin case (and the Ward Churchill case as well), the scholar in question is a social justice warrior in good standing, such good standing that it shapes their whole research agenda. The other people in the department sympathize with that agenda, and even maybe regret that they aren’t brave enough to be as all out as she is, really doing something with her work, fighting for the rights of minorities (black, or Native American, in Churchill’s case). She is a better, purer version of their wishy-washy academic selves. Until it turns out that being so pure has its own pitfalls. In any department where there is an easy ideological consensus, it’s easy to be blind to extremes.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Rita: I think some of what you suggest could be at work in certain situations. I especially think your argument about the attraction of “real” revolutionaries to armchair radicals sounds plausible. Another possible wrinkle here: Faculty might think that people like this will be particularly attractive to students – if these people attract a following, you might see higher enrollments.

    This direction of thought recalls Sunstein’s theory about polarization and extremism among like-minded people in groups.

  5. Anon Says:

    But were they obviously vicious ideologues before they were tenured?

  6. theprofessor Says:

    Some faculty members think that looking at a candidate’s social media is a privacy violation and off-limits, or they are simply too tired to look after plowing through all of the regular application materials. I wonder if that happened here. The extremeness of her posts would have triggered caution in even our most committed and/or whacked-out SJW faculty here.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    tp: Some hiring committees, I fear, don’t even look at the regular materials. Or maybe one or two people do, and the rest have no idea. In any case, you’d think, in this age of Googling everyone, people would take a peek…

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