Monday, April 11, 2011
Various readers have flagged this item from (the usually excellent) IHE about a web site criticizing Dean candidate Brad Smith, a far right legal scholar at Capital University's law school. It seems to me a non-story for reasons suggested by the comments of Case's Jonathan Adler, quoted in the IHE story: the web site has no identified author, and so as far as anyone knows, this could be a single student or alum, or someone not connected to Case at all. There has been no controversy at the faculty level regarding the political views of the candidates at all. An anonymous third-year student thinks the school is ill-served by someone with Smith's political views. Is that really enough for a controversy?
Since much of the blogging academic right loves to wallow in self-pity, they have been comparing this non-event to L'Affaire Chemerinsky (the one important story I think this blog ever broke!), even though the differences are obvious: Smith has not been offered the job of Dean, let alone accepted it, let alone had the offer rescinded because of his politics. Dean candidates can be criticized, including for their politics, since their job is essentially political. As I said at the time of the Irvine fiasco, when the same self-pity spectacle broke out among delicate right-wingers:
Of course everyone knows that politics figure in decisions about administrative appointments, since the position is often more political, than academic, in character. If, in fact, Professor Chemerinsky was not going to be able to effectively interact with the Southern California legal community because of his public profile, that would have been a pertinent consideration. But after nine months, no one had thought that was an issue: he was offered the job, negotiated about its terms for a couple of weeks, and then signed a contract. Within one week, naked political power was exercised to oust him. Any university that is so vulnerable to partisan political muscle is a university in bad shape.
So far, Professor Smith has been attacked on an anonymous web site for being a political reactionary and apologist for the plutocracy, which he appears to be. That's compatible with him being a fine Dean. I'm sure the folks at Case will sort it out.
UPDATE: Professor Smith sent me a good-humored e-mail to say that, while he disagreed with my characterization of his political views, he agreed with my bottom line: “I don't think there is any real controversy, and I agree with you that the Case Western faculty will sort it out.” I thank Professor Smith for the judicious comments, which demonstrate that he is a person of decanal (rather than blogging!) temperament.
As I've remarked in the past, terms like "liberal" or "conservative," "left" or "right," operate like indexicals like "I" and "this": you have to know who the speaker is to know what they refer to!