Here's something to think about:
[url=http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/wolfe/archive/2009/04/29/enough-with-the-... With the Campus Inquisitions![/url]
n January, Robinson sent an email to the students in his "Sociology of Globalization" course. In it he accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza, drew analogies between the Israeli occupation of the area to the Warsaw Ghetto, and included photographs comparing Israeli actions in the region to the actions the Nazis had taken against the Jews. Some students complained. The Anti-Defamation League has called for an investigation. UCSB's response has been to say that an investigation is already underway. Many faculty have sent letters of protest arguing that Robinson's academic freedom is being abridged. On the contrary, say his critics: Robinson went way beyond his academic responsibilities by sending propagandistic emails to his students on a subject that had nothing to do with his academic interests.
For me, this is an open and shut case. Neither Robinson's leftist kind of sociology nor his activist kind of politics are mine. Yet the idea of investigating him is appalling and the ADL should be ashamed of itself. Precedents are being set in this case that could have serious ramifications for everyone teaching in public universities--and perhaps even private ones.
We ought to want professors in our universities who teach about controversial subjects to provoke, and even outrage, their students. We should be pleased that they care enough about the issues of the day and about what students believe to send emails to them when things happen in the world that bear on the major issues of the day. Academic apathy is a serious problem. No one could ever accuse William Robinson of that.
At the same time, we should be wary of anyone who views the university not as a place for the exchange of ideas, but as an environment for therapeutic self-affirmation. "This professor should be stopped immediately from continuing to disseminate this information and be punished because his damage is irreversible," one unnamed UCSB student argued. Nonsense. Whatever damage words and pictures can do is out-weighed by the arguments and discussion they provoke. This student was angry. That was the point. The idea that Robinson caused some kind of irreversible damage here is preposterous. Seeking to punish him is even worse.