Ideology in the Academy

By Levinson, Rachel B. | Academe, July/August 2007 | Go to article overview
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Ideology in the Academy


Levinson, Rachel B., Academe


Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some professors were rebuked for making statements seen as critical of the United States or ils antiterrorism effort. In response, the Ml IP's Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in a Time of Crisis warned in a November 2003 report that "in these critical times, the need is for more freedom, not less." Yet, six years after September 1 1 . a growing focus on politics and ideology in the academy is increasingly constricting academic freedom.

Foreign scholars, for example, have been prevented from entering this country to address academics and other citizens. In a highly politicized case, the U.S. government acknowledged (before subsequently denying) that it prevented Swiss Muslim scholar Taricj Ramadan from assuming a faculty position at the University of Notre Dame because of his ideology. In most other cases, the government has declined to explain the reasons for withholding visas, but an apparent similarity among the excluded scholars is their political viewpoint or Involvement

Bolivian scholar Waskar Ari waited for nearly two years for a decision on the University of Nebraska's visa application while the faculty position offered to him languished. He studies political activism among Bolivia's indigenous Aymara people, an ethnicity he shares with Bolivia's president, who has opposed certain American interests in his country. John Milios, a Greek Marxist economist who was denied entry at the U.S. border last summer despite having a valid visa, was interrogated about his politics before being turned away. And Riyadh Latta, an Iraqi professor of medicine, was denied a visa to lecture at the University of Washington this past spring about the public health effects of the Iraqi war. His research contradicts U.S. government data about death tolls from the war.

In addition, despite a longstanding Supreme Court opinion cautioning that loyalty oaths threaten to "cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom," some states have started enforcing loyalty oaths or similar pledges for public employees. An egregious example is a form that prospective employees at Ohio's public universities must now complete. Introduced by the Ohio Patriot Act, the form requires "correct" answers to six questions about support for terrorism; leaving a question blank ensures rejection.

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