By Joshua A. Matz
David Horowitz’s campaign against ‘the insularity of a predominantly left-wing academic environment’ achieves its most specific manifestation yet in his latest book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Individually targeting 101 faculty, whom Horowitz characterizes as representative of the American academic-intellectual establishment, the book devotes 364 pages to an alphabetical progression through those radicals who “spew violent Anti-Americanism, preach Anti-Semitism, and cheer on the killing of American soldiers and civilians – all the while collecting tax dollars and tuition fees to indoctrinate our children,” as a blurb for the book states.
These “alleged ex-terrorists, racists, murderers, sexual deviants, anti-Semites, and al-Qaeda supporters” have managed to earn tenure and win the respect of their academic colleagues through a deeply flawed and prejudiced system of higher education. Horowitz devotes most of his book to criticizing individual professors, reserving 55 of 377 pages to explain his motivation and methodology. Relying upon a series of case-studies – of Ward Churchill and Lawrence Summers, among others – Horowitz refers to his critique as “a chilling indictment of an entire system.”
Claiming use of a method similar to prosopography, Horowitz reveals four troublesome patterns in modern institutions of higher education: (1) faculty are promoted far beyond their level of academic achievement on the basis of politically correct scholarship; (2) professors engage in political propaganda while teaching subjects outside their areas of professional or experiential qualification; (3) professors are permitted to make racist and ethnically insulting remarks publicly without any substantial response from administrators, so long as those remarks target unprotected groups (“i.e. Armenians, whites, Christians, and Jews”; (4) Academic discipline and agenda-neutral scholarly inquiry are now subordinated to indoctrinational efforts by professors with overtly political agendas.
His analysis notes that “the radical left has colonized a significant part of the university system and transformed it to serve its political ends.” This takeover of the university was accomplished in the 1970s, he says, when a wave of political activists achieved faculty-level positions at universities across the nation and enlisted the academic institution itself as a weapon in their advocacy for sociopolitical positions. As group-polarization reinforced this left-wing “echo-chamber of approbation,” the university system emerged as a safe-haven for extremists on the radical sociopolitical left. Horowitz notes that liberal and democratic majorities have increased dramatically in recent years relative to the academic advancement of conservatives or republicans, and explicitly argues that these disparities are the result of institutionally-rooted political and ideological discrimination.
Interdisciplinary fields devoted to the study of women, African-Americans, gender and sexuality, social justice, peace, and whiteness occupy a significant role in this historical analysis. These departments were shaped by “narrow, one-sided political agendas” and “attacked American foreign policy and the American military, others America’s self-image and national identity. Taken together, these new realms of academic inquiry provided open forums for political indoctrination, the “recruitment of students to radical causes,” and exploration of radical theories. Unsurprisingly, Horowitz devotes the majority of his individual critiques to faculty well-known in these or related fields.
According to Horowitz, the number of faculty that regularly violate guidelines of academic integrity and freedom is approximately 25,00-30,000. This analysis, which assumes that five percent of all college and university faculty (of whom there are 617,000 in the United States) are “radical,” suggests that literally millions of students face the indoctrination each year of dangerous and anti-intellectual ideas. These professors have abandoned a ‘liberal philosophy of education, where the professional responsibility of educators is to elevate students’ ability to think, not hand them the correct opinions.”
The roots of this problem run deep, but one of the primary causes identified by Horowitz is the so-called “Revolution by Search Committee.” Noting that department chairs and other tenured faculty play a dominant role in the university hiring process, and observing a fortiori that these individuals are rarely answerable to any higher administrative authority, Horowitz decries the subversion of this review process for partisan ends. Quoting a number of conservative faculty who claim to have witnessed discrimination on the basis of sociopolitical beliefs in the course of such tenure-review or hiring processes, Horowitz asserts more broadly that the entire institutional structure is flawed. In further support of this claim, Horowitz observes that more than 90% of the faculty targeted in his book hold tenure-level professorships at colleges and universities around the country.
Horowitz singles out fourteen history professors for criticism (this number is somewhat subjective, as many of these faculty hold interdisciplinary positions). See below for a list of these individuals and their home institutions. A number of these faculty refused to comment on the book; they indicated they did not want to give his claims legitimacy by responding to them. As noted by Edward Peters, a professor of medieval history at the University of Pennsylvania, “The historical profession … has its own professional standards which include peer review. I don’t think the profession has much noted the concerns of David Horowitz.” Along a similar vein, Regina Austin — a Penn Law professor criticized by Horowitz – responded by affirming that “I have better things to do than worry about this … You can’t let your enemies set your agenda.”
It seems increasingly unlikely, however, that the critiques leveled by Horowitz will simply go away. The book is endorsed by Rep. Jerry Lewis (chairman of the House Appropriations Committee), Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom (Professors at Harvard University), Laura Ingraham (host of the Laura Ingraham Show), and a slew of state senators and representatives. With such politically and intellectually powerful backers, and a public increasingly aware of issues relating to academic freedom (a number of court cases and legislative acts have recently captured media attention), it appears possible that academia may soon be forced to take David Horowitz as seriously as he would like.
Three Responses to Horowitz from Targeted History Faculty
Emma Pérez: Associate Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder (p. 300 of The Professors)
Accusation by Horowitz : Expressing “full and unconditional support of Ward Churchill and his first amendment rights,” and of ideological bias in regard to her scholarship of feminist and Chicana history.
Response: “I’m honored to be on a list with scholars whom I respect for their scholarship as well as their commitment to making the academy a place where divergent opinions can be expressed and debated. Clearly, I’m on the list because I supported my colleague’s first amendment rights; however, my subject position, as a Chicana historian, a feminist and a lesbian, makes me an easy target for those who prefer to silence those whose histories are finally being uncovered. The post-1960s presented a dramatic change in historical research when social history offered a method to “do history from the bottom-up.” The working classes, women and men of wide-ranging races, ethnicities and sexualities could be excavated from documents. Concurrently, college campuses were also changing as diverse racial groups of students and faculty were finally admitted in higher numbers and while those numbers plummet on my own campus, the change is already here. Women’s history, along with other burgeoning fields of study, will continue to mature on college campuses despite the current drive to censure those whom Mr. Horowitz and his supporters find unworthy of constitutional rights.”
Joel Beinin: Professor of Middle Eastern History, Stanford University (p. 52 of The Professors)
Accusation by Horowitz: Supported Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Kuwait, refers to suicide bombers as “martyrs,” and appeared on Al-Jazeera to denounce American “imperialism”
Response : “Mark LeVine has already published a refutation and correction in his History News Network blog in response to the original article by Alyssa Lappen on which this material is based. . I wonder whether, in your review of The Professors, you will comment on the charges made on the book’s dust jacket that the “101 academics … happen to be alleged ex-terrorists, racists, murderers, sexual deviants, anti-Semites, and al-Qaeda supporters.” Of course, I am none of these. Perhaps you should ask Horowitz to explain whether these statements represent his views and whether these are supposed to be facts or merely slurs he feels free to throw around.”
Juan Cole: Professor of History, University of Michigan (p. 100 of The Professors)
Accusation by Horowitz: “Believes that a “pro-Likud” cabal controls the American government from a small number of key positions within the executive branch (p.100)”
Response: “David who?”
List of History Faculty in David Horowitz’s New Book, “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America”
Marc Becker : Associate Professor of Latin American History, Truman State University
Joel Beinin : Middle Eastern History Professor, Stanford University
Mary Frances Berry : Professor of American Social Thought and History, University of Pennsylvania
Juan Cole : Professor of History, University of Michigan
Angela Davis : Professor of the History of Conscious, UC Santa Cruz
Eric Foner : Profess of History, Columbia University
Yvonne Haddad : Professor the History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Georgetown University
Caroline Higgins : Professor of Peace, Global Studies, and History, Earlham College
Peter Kirstein : Professor of History, Saint Xavier University
Vinay Lal : Associate Professor of History, UC Los Angeles
Mark Levine: Associate Professor of History, UC Irvine
Manning Marable : Professor of History and Political Science, Columbia University
Joseph Massad : Assistant Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, Columbia University
Emma Perez : Associate Professor of History, University of Colorado, Boulder