A professor of religion (and Indian Studies, and Law) with the Dickensian name of Diana Eck has successfully gotten her colleagues on the Faculty of Arts & Sciences to give the boot* to a summer-school instructor.
*Technically, the FAS voted to delete from the summer-school catalog the two courses taught by this person, but their sole motive was to prevent the guy from teaching at their fair university. So I say they fired him.
Before I go on to the substance of this case, I invite you to re-read my opening sentence. Prof. Eck is presumably a very busy person. After all, she’s got to remain up-to-date on the latest developments in three quite different fields of scholarship. On top of that, she’s got the extra burden of serving as co-Master of Lowell House, the most la-di-da of Harvard’s upperclass residence halls**. IOW, Diana Eck has a lot on her plate. So why in the world did such a busy and important person give a shit about who teaches economics in Harvard’s summer school? I mean, the guy she worked hard to get fired was teaching Quantitative Methods in Economics and Business, in addition to a course on Economic Development in India and East Asia. As far as I’m aware, nothing in Diana Eck’s extensive scholarly pursuits involves expertise in either statistical or economic analysis, so it’s amazing that she’s managed to become so well informed in those areas as to be able to evaluate anyone’s competence to teach those two courses. This Diana Eck person is amazing!
**No doubt by pure happy coincidence, Prof. Eck’s co-Master, Dorothy Austin, who is her Partner, rocketed from the relatively obscure position of Associate Professor at lowly Drew University to an appointment as a Harvard University Chaplain, Associate Minister at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard, and Lecturer in Psychology and Religion. I am sure that this appointment, which followed Eck’s appointment at Lowell House, had nothing whatsoever to do with lobbying by Professor Eck.
Well, maybe sure isn’t quite the right word here. Or maybe “sure” is fine, and the problem is the “nothing whatsoever” part.
It turns out that the only amazing thing about Ms. Eck is her resemblance to Harvardians of the 17th Century such as Cotton Mather. But instead of witches, she’s determined to rid Cambridge of anti-jihadists.
This resolute enemy of free expression has no particular complaint about the way Subramanian Swamy has taught economics in the ten years that he’s been a summer-school instructor at Harvard. Indeed, there’s little doubt that she’s utterly incompetent to judge Swamy’s performance. But that doesn’t seem to matter, because she’s not complaining about his teaching; she’s complaining about his political opinions. But she’s not claiming that he’s inflicting his political opinions on his Harvard students. Oh, no. She’s complaining about the opinions he expressed in an opinion column in an Indian newspaper. She finds his opinions simply de trop, because as part of a five-part strategy for fighting back against jihad, he proposed that India announce an eye-for-an-eye policy with respect to the destruction of Hindu temples by radical Islamists. Eck’s outrage reveals her to be either someone so fucking stupid that she doesn’t understand the concept of deterrence in strategic planning (Swamy did not advocate pre-emptive action, but retaliatory action), or someone so far gone in her devotion to “pluralism” that she does not even comprehend the threat India faces from radical Islam. Either way, her opinions in this matter ought to count as much as mine–which is to say, not at all–when it comes to pruning the summer course offerings in economics at Harvard.
Oh, for sure Ms. Eck would rather this had all been done without fanfare. In fact, she actually expressed her disappointment that the Economics Department declined to do the dirty work for her:
“We’re not in the business of trying to publicly shame or disparage Subramanian Swamy,” Eck said in an interview Sunday. “I think many of us imagined that this would be taken up by the Economics Department, and they would quietly drop these courses or find someone else to teach them.”
To their credit, the Economics faculty declined to do Eck’s bidding. But she found a group of willing accomplices in the general faculty. Accomplices, BTW, who are shielded from any criticism of their reprehensible vote by a convenient codicil in the rules they impose upon themselves:
Under FAS rules, faculty members who speak at faculty meetings may not be identified, cited, or quoted without their express permission.
As is true of so many fascists, the thugs who populate Harvard’s faculty are cowards as well as bullies.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and that seems true even in this sordid affair. The precedent that the execrable Eck has worked so hard to establish may prove convenient in the future:
Eck was one of forty faculty members who signed a letter to University President Drew G. Faust and Summer School Dean Donald H. Pfister requesting that Harvard reconsider its appointment of teachers who “detract from the reputation of the university.”
Now, Harvard aspires to be known throughout the world as a bastion of free inquiry and speech. The very same body that delisted Mr. Swamy’s classes has promulgated free-speech guidlines that state:
Because we are a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit censorship of noxious ideas. We are committed to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea. (h/t FIRE)
As a direct result of Prof. Eck’s jihad against Mr. Swamy, Harvard’s reputation as a redoubt of free expression has taken a major hit. Anyone who performs a google search right now with the keywords “Harvard free speech” will encounter critical stories about the Swamy case as the first eight links. Harvard’s faculty may be oblivious to the implications of the Swamy case, but the rest of the world is not.
It follows that Prof. Eck has severely “detract[ed] from the reputation of the university” to a far greater extent than did Mr. Swamy. Indeed, she’s done a double disservice to Harvard, since it is her obsessive pursuit of him that has spread awareness of his views as well as hers. By the very standards she has insisted upon, Prof. Eck’s classes should be excised from the regular course catalog. And then her employment (as well as her bff’s employment) should be terminated.
If that doesn’t happen–or if Harvard doesn’t reverse itself–then I’ll have to conclude that it’s just as dominated by religious zealots whose goal is to oppress the rest of us as it was at its founding. Because this is a complete no-brainer for any institution committed to free inquiry and expression.