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Thought police at Univ. Rochester

Thought police at Univ. Rochester

From University of Rochester (NY) Professor Stephen E. Landsburg, a blisteringly refreshing view of Sandra Fluke, Rush to Judgment (via Althouse h/t Instapundit):

But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover.   It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered.  To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument.  All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it….

But whether or not he chose the right word, what I just don’t get is why the pro-respect crowd is aiming all its fire at Rush.   Which is more disrespectful — his harsh language or Sandra Fluke’s attempt to pick your pocket?   That seems like a pretty clear call to me.

Ooooohhhhh!  Must be rebuked at the highest levels, via Althouse’s post:

Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, issuing a statement:

I was deeply disappointed to read UR Professor Steve Landsburg’s recent blogs praising Rush Limbaugh for a “spot-on analogy” with respect to his offensive remarks about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke (although Landsburg parted company with Limbaugh for calling Fluke a “slut”). Landsburg went further. He stated that Ms. Fluke’s position deserved “only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered.” He further stated that the right word for her position was “extortionist,” characterized those who disagreed with his view as “contraceptive sponges,” and added that there is nothing wrong with being paid for sex.

Why did the President of the University feel the need to get involved?  Is he the thought policeman?

Sure, the President of the University is entitled to an opinion, but it’s clear that he was trying to tamp down a dissenting view using the power of his presidency.   That may not have much impact on someone like Prof. Landsburg, but as Prof. Glenn Reynolds points out:

And Landsburg has tenure, but don’t you think that a university president going after a professor like this will serve to chill the speech of untenured professors, grad students, etc.?  And do you think Joel Seligman was unaware of that?

Prof. Landsburg was not intimidated and issued the following statement in response to the President’s public rebuke:

President Seligman says that the mission of the university is to promote the free exchange of ideas and lively debate, and I agree.  That mission is undermined whenever a member of the academic community elevates raw self-interest over the exchange of ideas.

That’s what Sandra Fluke did.  She observed that contraceptives are expensive, and therefore demanded that somebody other than herself and her fellow students pick up the tab.  She didn’t even pretend to be interested in debating any of the serious issues raised by the question of when some of us should pick up the tab for others’ expenses.

Sometimes we should, sometimes we shouldn’t, and there’s a lot to be said, discussed, and debated about the particulars.  An emotional appeal for one’s preferred outcome, ignoring all the substantive issues, is the exact antithesis of the free exchange of ideas that President Seligman claims to endorse.

I’ve had three blog posts on this subject, here, here, and here.   The commenters have offered many bright and lively arguments and observations, some of which have led me to modify some of my views. This is a wonderful thing.    It’s also the very opposite of Sandra Fluke’s approach, which amounts to a contemptuous dismissal of the very possibility of engaging these issues through intellectual discourse.  I’d have expected a distinguished academic to feel the same way.

The student thought policemen also took action, trying to prevent the Prof. Landsburg from speaking to his class:

Protesting students entered Landsburg’s room at the beginning of his mid-afternoon class.

“They formed a line between him and the class. And he continued to lecture,” said UR spokeswoman Sharon Dickman.

She noted that a couple of University Security officers were on the scene, but they didn’t need to take any action.

Prof. Landsburg provided the following statement to the student newspaper, printed in an article the students ironically titled Landsburg on Limbaugh incites dialogue at UR:

“My only comment on the events in ECO 108 today is that the protestors were stealing from the students who have paid to learn something. In their contempt for the value of ideas, they seem to be in close solidarity with Sandra Fluke.”

Will any of the students who disrupted the class and tried to prevent Prof. Landsburg from speaking be disciplined?

I doubt it, because that would inhibit their free speech. And they know their rights.  Hell, at this rate they may even be invited to speak before Democratic members of Congress to express how belittled and demeaned they felt by Prof. Landsburg’s words.

In the meantime, this is the type of video put out by the Univ. Rochester admissions department to promote the school.

Notice anything about the video?

Doesn’t look like America to me.  Will President Seligman accept responsibility and apologize for Univ. of Rochester not celebrating diversity in this video?


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“Why did the President of the University feel the need to get involved? Is he the thought policeman?”

HELL, yes! He’s the chief of the ThoughtPolice at his school. But the entire faculty are very likely part of a cadre of ThoughtVigilantes who make it their business to shame ThoughtCrimes like this one.

But, remember, you cannot slut-shame a profligate liar. Because, see, the Collective’s “standards” only apply to others…never themselves.

See Deniers, Climate change.

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Ragspierre. | March 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Thought police is what the term, POLITICALLY CORRECT actually infers – policing of thought/speech/writing, inquisition to determine its correctness and the endurance/suffering of legal/government consequences for incorrectness.

[…] Prof. Jacobson comments: “Why did the President of the University feel the need to get involved? Is he the thought […]

Oh my Bejeezus, that video is so lame. #FAIL

    gs in reply to ncmont. | March 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

    1. How does a video like that get made by typical leftist academicians who believe that the end justifies the means? A hypothetical thought process:

    We’re short of students, especially male students who major in STEM. Whites are the largest demographic pool of potential students. So let’s aim our video at white males. Since whites, especially males, are racist, we won’t offend them by filming melanin. There will be plenty of time for diversity after we’ve cashed their tuition checks.

    2. The presence of university security at the demonstration disruption warrants investigation, IMO. Somebody in the administration knew the class would be disrupted, and made no effort to stop the disruption. Afaic that’s a firing offense.

    Hopefully Rochester trustees, donors and funding agencies have taken notice. Ditto for serious people, faculty and students, whom the university is recruiting.

Political Observer | March 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

While I fully understand your point let’s keep in mind that
this is a university president not someone of any importance.

[…] via Legal Insurrection: Thought police at Univ. Rochester But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatsoever. […]

Because nothing says ‘academic freedom’ quite like cutting of an audience from their chosen speaker…

If I were enrolled in that class I’d be requesting disciplinary action against each of the proto-fascists in that picture.

    For all I know, university security was there to protect the disruptors. For all I know, an enrolled student could get in trouble for complaining. Hate crime, oppressive behavior, attack on academic freedom, failure to celebrate diversity, etc.

    drozz in reply to ThomasD. | March 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

    then you would be the subject of harrassment and intimidation, or “occupied”.

Its only too predictable that the academy would move to quash dissent rather than address the substantive allegations leveled by Ms. Fluke against it. Ms. Fluke’s testimony you will recall stated that “many” schools’ student insurance policies did not cover medications for treating ovarian cysts. Who has come forward with a list of these schools so that potential applicants can be forewarned of their peril? Ms. Fluke testified that even though Georgetown University’s policy covered such medication, claims for it are routinely denied. “20%” of women with such claims are denied benefits is what she testified. As a result one woman lost an ovary and possibly her fertility. Why has no one stepped forward to call Georgetown to account for these misdeeds? When will Georgetown compensate its victims? Fluke further alleges that students have been led to believe that their insurance policy will not cover a post-rape medical examination. Which Georgetown official is responsible for this stunning failure of communication? When will that official be censured?

Of course, we all know the answers to these questions. Never. Ms. Fluke was never more than a puppet in a kabuki theater.

cutting off…

Also, if the University declined to press the matter would there be a case for me against the University for failing to adequately protect the educational experience I’ve paid to receive?

Seems like the lecture audience might constitute a class of another sort…

Midwest Rhino | March 9, 2012 at 9:50 am

Don’t they need permission to audit a class?

And security stood by and let them obstruct?

Was the president consulted, and did he tell security to allow the obstruction?

ShakesheadOften | March 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

As a conservative/libertarian graduate student, I can attest to just how “chilling” the thought police can be. I have on occasion made the mistake of voicing my political opinions amongst faculty members only to literally be shouted down by multiple faculty members at once (no joke…they all shouted as if I was an idiot. They also allow for no nuanced views outside of liberal orthodoxy).

Worse, disagreement with them on political matters is seen as a sign of inadequacy in my area of study even though they are completely unrelated. Research has shown that “experts” tend to think of themselves as experts in all arenas, even though they are no “smarter” outside their areas of expertise than anyone else (and often are far worse because of their assumption of transferable expertise).

The end result is that if I speak my political views too often, I run the risk of being evaluated negatively in the pursuit of my degree…again, even though they are 100% unrelated. THIS is a chilling effect.

I have seen comments against tenure on many conservative blogs, but here’s an example where it cuts both ways. The only conservatives who can dare speak are the tenured conservatives and since the thought police control the tenure process, achieving tenure with conservative views is a difficult prospect.

    Hang in there, Shakesheadoften. As a conservative professor, I know well what you’re up against.

    But we need more, not less, like you in the academy.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | March 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

Just because all the students in the video are vagina-less does not mean the video lacks diversity. I noticed a couple of mustachioed white guys. Other white guys had blue eyes to offset the majority of white guys with brown eyes. And there were even one or two white guys with lighter colored hair than the other white guys. One white dude was even overweight.

Eww, they’re actually telling people Stephen Chu went there. (Hang head in embarrassment.)

I greatly admire Stephen E. Landsburg for his willingness to speak out with reason and clarity.

Make no mistake: Even though he is tenured, he will probably pay a price for even this most minor of ‘transgressions’. There are other ways of making a professor’s life more difficult — from silently squashing chances as internal funding to all the countless other snubs that can make daily life more unpleasant.

The university president was shamelessly doing a few things at once: trying to “up” his progressive cred at the expense of one of his colleagues; trying to make this admirable professor back down; placing a warning shot across the bow of conservativism on campus so others, who might otherwise follow suit, would keep their heads down; etc.

We desperately need a Breitbartian revolution — i.e. a bunch of academics who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore — on our campuses.

You’ll notice how in all of the responses (from president to ‘protesting’ students) we heard no substantive rebuttal of the professor’s main argument. He had the audacity to simply argue a point on the merits, and look at the hornet’s nest he kicked up.

If he reads this by some small chance, I hope he knows there are many out here — grad students, untenured profs, people on the cusp of major promotion — who salute him and are (only for the moment) waiting in the wings.

Midwest Rhino | March 9, 2012 at 10:53 am

I DEMAND these “protesters” be called what they really are .. “conformists”.

“Protesters” have a long established brand to protect. They stand up AGAINST the establishment. They do NOT have police protection. They do NOT attempt to silence free speech of those that disagree with “the man”.

Protesters everywhere should be outraged at wimpy conformists’ attempt to claim the title “Protester”. Give them some Brownie dresses and sashes, and merit badges from the president every time they interrupt free speech.

(you’ll just have to imagine the line of protesters conformists dressed in Brownie uniforms, and the prez’ applauding in girl scout uniform, I have no time for the photoshop) 🙂

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Midwest Rhino. | March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

    actually Prof Jacobson’s term “thought police” for the students fits maybe better … except they don’t carry the billy clubs. The students get to revel in their “brazen” stance, while getting extra credit from their other prof’s and the administration.

    Of course maybe they were just bussed in by the unions.

Well, they got a couple of things right…the weather and graffiti.

For once, I’m glad for tenure. I congratulate Professor Landsburg for standing up and pointing out the complete lack of argument in Ms. Flukes diatribe, and for maintaining his position. I love that he states the students in ECO 108 had their learning experience stolen from them by the so-called protesters. Those students probably learned more from his response to the protesters than anything else they have learned all year in their other classes. Keep “Landsburging” Professor!

The UR is a radicalist training camp. I have an old friend who went in a republican and came out an ecoradical. Not just your run of the mill ecoradical, more like the we’ll smash windows, destroy property, raise whatever kind of ruckus we have to do for the cause radical.

The Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have many stories like in their archives. But for some reason this story scared me in a new way. To look at those proud, idiotic little Stalinist drones standing in the back of the class confirmed the success of the Leftist academic and social project — to stigmatize free thought and plow under the classic liberal idea of America. We’re now producing, essentially, at best, non-Americans, non-citizens and, at worst, missionaries of anti-Americanism, young people not only unable to think but automatons of fear and hatred for the idea of thinking. The entire premise of the university is to celebrate free thought and open debate, to offer a sanctuary from dogma, a place where minds are given a chance to develop in the face of civil challenge and critique. The university is now like some kind of science-fiction hothouse breeding soul-swallowing pod-people. It’s terrifying. I know young people going to these places and have heard the stories and been to the graduations — it is frightening to watch all the rosy-cheeked, gleaming-eyed and newly-minted Marxists marching down the aisles in their gowns and caps excited to take on injustice in government or government funded jobs.

    ella8 in reply to raven. | March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am

    The thing that ticks me off the most about these radical brats (like my old friend) is that many of them come from families with money (that is why they can afford the UR and wasting their time on radical agendas). Those of us from working class families have struggled just to be able to afford any college with the goal of pursuing a paying career. Being an activist agitator is luxury only rich kids and affirmative action scholars can afford. The rest of us are just trying to keep our heads above water and food on the table.

      theduchessofkitty in reply to ella8. | March 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      “Being an activist agitator is luxury only rich kids and affirmative action scholars can afford. The rest of us are just trying to keep our heads above water and food on the table.”

      You know what they say about “idle hands”…

Freedom only goes one way don’t you know, from the leftists on down. They just are better than everyone else so they can say any vile thing they damn well please.

    Joy in reply to ella8. | March 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    You mean like the vile language you use?

      ella8 in reply to Joy. | March 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      These are all things that have been said by others. Listen if you sugar coat the truth nobody is going to listen. I admit I have no moral compass. I went to public schools. My parents never took me to church. I am a product of the left. I have a filthy mouth… but I did not make this up myself. Those things have all been said about Sarah Palin and they effect me deeply, especially being post partum. Somebody has to say it like it is without sugar coating it.

There is a little lady (Kate) from the great land to our north who runs the Small Dead Animals blog. She is famous for noting that “The opposite of ‘diversity’ is ‘university'”.

Appropriate here.

I updated President Seligman’s wikipedia page:

Is it just me, or is there a rising level of volatility on every front? am I imagining tensions rising on every issue? Is the stink in the air the fear of Marxist/fascists seeing their dream slip away or is it the sweat of the right determined to make a stand here and now?

    LukeHandCool in reply to logos. | March 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm


    Maybe it’s time for campus conservatives and other free-thinking people to start calling the “thought police” … “pigs.”

    It’s not the 1960s … but they are the establishment now.

    Be Breitbart or be square!!

    Joy in reply to logos. | March 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    What you smell is a combination of both….our freedoms are at great risk.

    raven in reply to logos. | March 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Both, I think, and there’s more to it. The Left realizes that it’s racing toward an intersection of its own power and a critical mass of understanding in the country about who they really are and what they (through Obama) have been trying to achieve. Breitbart’s campaign against the media had been devastating; it seriously degraded the once-insuperable power of the “narrative.”

    The Presidency is now everything to them.

    I think the Left has written off Congress. They want — need — another four years of executive control, to finish the “transformation.” Obama has already indicated his contempt for Congress and his willingness to re-make society by fiat and decree. They don’t need an election “mandate.” They obviously don’t care about accountability. Tyranny is on the menu for the next four years. (Did anybody hear Leon Panetta in front of Jeff Sessions yesterday? Pretty incredible and frank assertions of executive prerogative.)

    Breitbart’s death was a milestone event, and I don’t think we know yet which way the war will go. The Left, which had been reeling, is counter-attacking ferociously. Who will step up on the Right? Or will the Right, as a movement, demonstrate that Breitbart’s legacy was not about one individual, that enough conservatives have internalized his lessons to take the fight to the Left. I don’t know. I’m concerned. I’m afraid that all wars need a leader, especially this one, in which culture and personality figure so greatly, and in which the Left retains enormous influence to shape narratives, marginalize ideas and destroy people. You need individuals — leaders — of surpassing character, will and courage.

    We have many fine thinkers and also many sharp wits but writing blogs and producing great arguments or witheringly sarcastic ripostes isn’t going to carry the day. You need charismatic warriors in the fray, willing to risk everything to take the fight right up to and through their cultural barricades.

    Outside Breitbart, I don’t see anybody who has shown this skill or will.

      Hope Change in reply to raven. | March 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      raven – hang in there, my friend.

      In the internal combustion engine, the piston must go fully down in order to create space for the next explosion. Newt’s campaign may be in the very first stage of such an explosion. I pray that this is what I am seeing.

      Watch the energy and comprehension of the crowd in Newt’s speech in Montgomery, Alabama. THEY GET IT. (This includes a loose transcript for your reading pleasure.)

      If the American People across this land begin to see the difficulty Romney or Santorum would have beating Obama, NEwt will rise. The South is the beginning of a base.

      The solutions NEwt is proposing give us a TERRIFIC FUTURE. A DRAMATICALLY BETTER FUTURE. Americans want a better future. America will spit out this replay of Jimmy Carter malaise.

      We can have the future we want. They are not the boss of us. We are the boss of them.

[…] Classroom With Approval of College Prexy Posted on March 9, 2012 9:30 am by Bill Quick » Thought police at Univ. Rochester – Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion Prof. Landsburg provided the following statement to the student newspaper, printed in an article […]

LukeHandCool | March 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Look at that picture. Not much photoshopping would be needed to make it look historically scary … make it black and white … add some symbol to their clothes …

It might take 10 or 20 years … but if things progress the way they hope and change the way they are fighting for, America will be a country unrecognizable to a slain WWII GI brought back from the dead.

Intense minorities often control the direction of history while the complacent majority looks on and rolls their eyes …

Some people hate hearing the truth. All of those things have been said by leftist pseudojournalists. Where is the outrage faculty lounge lefty’s?

LukeHandCool | March 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I must say, as sad and empty as I feel with the death of Andrew Breitbart, I am very heartened after watching the masterful performance of Joel Pollak against Soledad O’Brien and her bully panel on CNN.

Joel is one cool cucumber. First time I’ve seen him speak and I’m an instant admirer.

He didn’t flinch, let alone raise his voice or show a second of exasperation, as he singlehandedly made Soledad look like a complete fool (even as she was being fed wikipedia definitions of “critical race theory” in her earpiece).

The next fool (I know him, his first name is Jay, I can’t remember his last name … but he had a local TV show here in L.A. years ago aimed at the MTV crowd which was so mean-spirited and obnoxious … he is not a good person) asked Joel why he was “afraid of black people.” Again, Joel didn’t flich.

Joel has a completely different style than Andrew … but it is very effective. He gave me hope. Thank goodness he’s not trying to be something he’s not (Andrew) and just being himself with his obvious impressive strengths.

He’s also got that fellow UCLA Bruin prodigy at his side, Ben Shapiro. Ben may look like nothing more than a 14-year-old sweet kid … but boy he has some intellectual firepower … and he can use the sweet boy-next-door persona to his disarming advantage.

Go Breitbart & Co. !!

    raven in reply to LukeHandCool. | March 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Very good points. I also appreciated Pollack’s coolness. But coolness only goes so far. Someone needs to smash crockery. We’re not going to win this fight without provocation and rough stuff.

    theduchessofkitty in reply to LukeHandCool. | March 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    It’s good. Very good.

    But we need for more people to come out of the woodwork. More people to take the fight, in many fronts, with many diverse talents, all for one end: to take the fight to the enemy, and to defeat them utterly.

    We need a Legion. A Breitbart Legion.


It wasn’t that she didn’t want to pay for birth control. She’s paying her insurance premium. It was that she didn’t want to pay a co-pay for birth control, just like she will also not have to pay a co-pay for a mamogram under Obamacare.

How did the students attempt to stop him from speaking? It’s sure not clear from the picture or the story that they did. They only blocked him from view.

    raven in reply to jimbo3. | March 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    But why did they even do that? Why did they want to “block him from view”? What are they afraid of? A “lively” debate (which he’s already conceded has improved and modified his own thinking?). Isn’t a university the VERY place to have these free and “unblocked” debates?

    What do they have to fear if their arguments are just, compelling and popular? And why would fear enter into this at all? Shouldn’t we all — liberals most of all — celebrate the arena of honest and open discourse?

“It’s also the very opposite of Sandra Fluke’s approach, which amounts to a contemptuous dismissal of the very possibility of engaging these issues through intellectual discourse”

Is Landsburg stupid? Giving Congressional testimony is not a question and answer situation.

    raven in reply to jimbo3. | March 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    And Potemkin “hearings” are the same as an open debate in the culture. The Left is attempting to stifle a wider conversation. Because they’ll lose. Because Fluke was a sock puppet and her arguments solipsistic and Statist.

iambreitbart | March 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Rumor has it that Joel Seligman is a card-carrying member of J Street, the anti-Israel, anti-free speech organization founded by a Howard Deaniac.

The Hard Left doesn’t believe in debate… only demonization.

Doesn’t look like America to me. Will President Seligman accept responsibility and apologize for Univ. of Rochester not celebrating diversity in this video?

This is brilliant. Standing ovations. Why I read this blog!

P.S. the “word” for Sandra Fluke is “embarrassment”. Forget the subject matter. As a future lawyer and ostensible representative of the quality of student intellect at her law school, this nincompoop is an embarrassment.

P.P.S. “Stupid” is the word for the President’s and others’ paternalistic rendering of a 30-year-old adult female law “student” into a “daughter” (read: “child” here) requiring protection from the repercussions of her own choices — whether that be publicly opening her yap to spout nonsense, or privately… or her unwed sex life with men she doesn’t know well enough to get their contribution to offset her costs.

To be more specific, these are some of the words that have come from the comedian who is to headline the TV and Radio correspondents dinner which Greta VanSusteran is calling for a boycott. I should have used quotations and been more specific, these are not my words. My point is that the left is showing selective outrage. Those words are infinitely more vile and violent than the word slut. It is not nice to call someone a slut, but the smears against Palin are a whole different level of vile.

You have to admit that it’s somewhat funny to watch Liberals being Liberals.

They don’t think and are incapable of exhibiting or using even basic logic. They seem to be blessed (snark) with great amounts of “Herd Mentality”.

Kudos to Professor Landsburg.

Shame on President Seligman.

As for Sandra Fluke… Not the brightest bulb in the box. Does she even realize that she advocates selfishness and greed? Probably not. She only repeats what she has been taught. I guess she must be entitled…

Demanding contraception be paid for by insurance companies without co-pay is like demanding that my auto insurance provide regular tune ups and oil changes without charge to me.

Not happening.

Individual responsibility and individual accountability appear to be quaint customs of the past.

[…] William A. Jacobson, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell Law School Why did the President of the University feel the need to get involved? Is he the thought policeman? […]

[…] love of the thought police even as they cry “Free […]