Here’s an interesting story that was sent to me by its author. Given that I recently posted an vicious attack on the hysterical Right Wing sonofabitch, David Horowitz, this article, by Scott Jaschik, A Moderate MLA, in INSIDE Higher Ed is welcomed.
The Modern Language Association frequently helps out its critics with provocative session titles and left-leaning political stands offered by its members. At this year’s annual meeting, in Chicago, some MLA members have worried that the association was poised to take stances that would have sent David Horowitz’s fund raising through the roof with resolutions that appeared to be anti-Israel and pro-Ward Churchill.
But in moves that infuriated the MLA’s Radical Caucus, the association’s Delegate Assembly refused to pass those resolutions and instead adopted much narrower measures. The association acknowledged tensions over the Middle East on campus, but in a resolution that did not single out pro-Israel groups for criticism. And the association criticized the University of Colorado for the way it started its investigation of Ward Churchill, but took no stand on whether the outcome (his firing) was appropriate.
The votes by the MLA’s largest governing council came in an at-times-surreal five-hour meeting. Cary Nelson, author of Manifesto of a Tenured Radical, was in the position of being the leading moderate, offering alternative language to defeat Radical Caucus proposals. Critics of Israel repeatedly talked about “facts on the ground” to refer to the treatment of Israel’s critics on campuses today, and it was unclear whether the term was being used ironically in light of the phrase’s use to describe Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank and a recent book at the center of a Barnard College tenure controversy.
While material distributed by those seeking to condemn Churchill’s firing portrayed him favorably, and as a victim of the right wing, some of those who criticized the pro-Churchill effort at the meeting are long-time experts in Native American studies and decidedly not conservative. Many attendees were confused by the parliamentary procedure, and at least one proposed amendment that appeared to have significant backing (in theory) fell apart when questions were raised about its syntax.
After one vote that his side lost, Grover Furr, a Radical Caucus leader who teaches at New Jersey’s Montclair State University, called the meeting “a perversion of parliamentary procedures.”
The Middle East and Academic Freedom
Furr was the author of the original resolution on the campus climate for critics of Israel. The resolution as he wrote it said that some who criticize Zionism and Israel have been “denied tenure, disinvited to speak … [or] fraudulently called ‘anti-Semitic.’” The resolution called this a “serious danger to academic study and discussion in the USA today” and then resolved that “the MLA defend the academic freedom and the freedom of speech of faculty and invited speakers to criticize Zionism and Israel.” The resolution made no mention of the right of others on campus to embrace Zionism or Israel or to hold middle-of-the-road views or any views other than being critical of Israel and Zionism.
Nelson offered a substitute — which was approved to replace the original by a vote of 63 to 30 — after heated debate. Nelson’s substitute noted that the “Middle East is a subject of intense debate,” said it was “essential that colleges and universities protect faculty rights to speak forthrightly on all sides of the issue,” and urged colleges to “resist” pressure from outside groups about tenure reviews and speakers and to instead uphold academic freedom. Nelson’s resolution did not identify one side or the other as victim or villain in the campus debates over the Middle East and said that academic freedom must apply to people “to address the issue of the Middle East in the manner they choose.”
In arguing for his version, Nelson — a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also president of the American Association of University Professors — said that the original version would be “incredibly divisive and quite destructive” to the MLA.
Defenders of the original version faulted Nelson’s version for being even-handed. CONTINUE
Thus it would appear that the radicals want a one sided attack on Israel rather than an even handed approach which is what David Horowitz seeks to achieve.