Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Administrators Deal With Differing Points of View

Anthony Watts has unearthed an interesting story. At San Jose State, Allison Bridger (Chair of the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science) and Craig Clements (an Assistant Professor in the department) have decided that certain alternate views do not deserve to be heard. They have decided to literally burn books they disagree with.

The rewriting of history by destruction of the older records has a long history; the examples from ancient Egypt are too many to recount. But it does not always work the way the censors would like. Think of how effective Diocletian's burning of books was at destroying Christianity. No matter how competent Diocletian may have otherwise been, he is remembered first and foremost for his persecution of the Christians, burning their scriptures and other books, confiscating their property, and killing many of their leaders. They survived anyway. (This is not to minimize the destruction he wrought, just to point out that he did not eradicate the movement, he only destroyed his reputation.)

That modern academia would think that the destruction of books would be (a) effective, and (b) ethical leaves one to wonder what their knowledge of history and commitment to academic freedom really is. I guess some points of view are more equal than others.

The other curious thing is that the professors in question actually bragged about their deeds on their department website (though Watts reports that it has since been taken down). That is certainly one way to broadcast one's tolerance to the world.

Perhaps they thought they could do this because Dr. Bridger is a university administrator, many of which seem to think themselves unbound by ethics, morals, or laws. Perhaps they are simply following the subliminal messages from the pictures in the background. But that would mean that they were simply mindless automatons, incapable of independent thought.

In this case, one wonders what this did to Drs. Bridger's and Clements' carbon footprint. Shredding the book, while as intolerant and Orwellian as burning it, would at least not have increased the now allegedly lethal levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Aren't these people supposed to be against increasing carbon emissions?

Some of the first hundred or so comments on the story are worth reading.