Jonathan Turley rips Cornell Law faculty letter against me: “It is the antipathy of the intellectual foundations for higher education”
“There is an enforced orthodoxy that is captured in the Cornell letter. These letters are successful in creating a chilling effect on academics who are intimidated by these threats.”
As you know, there is an effort to get me fired from Cornell Law School because of my criticisms of the Black Lives Matters Movement, and failing firing, get me officially denounced by the law school.
It does not appear they will get me fired, but they did succeed in getting an official denunciation. See these posts for background:
- There’s an effort to get me fired at Cornell for criticizing the Black Lives Matter Movement
- Cornell campus climate “so far beyond political correctness”
I don’t know Jonathan Turley, the prominent liberal law professor at George Washington University. Of course I’ve seen him on television and in congressional testimony, where he sometimes takes a position not in line with liberal orthodoxy.
Turley wrote a column about my situation, focusing on the 21 Cornell clinical program members who signed a letter not naming me but clearly directed at me. As mentioned in my original post:
My clinical faculty colleagues, apparently in consultation with the Black Law Students Association, drafted and then published in the Cornell Sun on June 9 a letter denouncing “commentators, some of them attached to Ivy League Institutions, who are leading a smear campaign against Black Lives Matter.” While I am not mentioned by name, based on what I’ve seen BLSA and possibly others were told it was about me. The letter is absurd name-calling, distorting and even misquoting my writings, to the extent it purports to be about me. According to a document I’ve seen, the letter was shared with these students before it was published in the Cornell Sun.
None of the 21 signatories, some of whom I’d worked closely with for over a decade and who I considered friends, had the common decency to approach me with any concerns. Instead they ran to the Cornell Sun while virtue signaling to students behind the scenes that this was a denunciation of me. Such is the political environment we live in now at CLS.
I think this letter, in many ways, was an inflection point in how things are unfolding. Those faculty had a choice. Taking issue with my writing they could have expressed concern and voiced their views to me, and we could have talked it through. They could have facilitated a dialogue between me and the student group they were working with. They were not obligated to approach me before running to the student newspaper and sharing their letter internally at the law school, but that is what decent people would do regarding a colleague. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe not, we’ll never know. Or they could take part in an attempt to damage me as part of a broader effort to take me down, which is the choice they made. That was their choice, I’m just dealing with the cards I was dealt.
Turley absolutely ripped the letter apart in a column that is being widely shared, Cornell Professors Declare “Informed Commentary” Criticizing The Protests As Racism. You should read it and share it if you agree.
Here are some excerpts, but please read the whole thing:
Yesterday, we discussed the effort to remove one of the country’s most distinguished economists from his position because Harald Uhlig, the senior editor of the Journal of Political Economy, criticized Black Lives Matter and the Defund The Police movement. Now, Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson is reportedly facing demands that he be fired because he wrote a blog about the Black Lives Matter movement. Jacobson is the founder of the conservative website Legal Insurrection. A letter by his colleagues is a chilling reminder of the rapid loss of free speech values on campuses around the United States.
Twenty-one colleagues at Cornell signed a June 9, a letter denouncing unnamed “commentators… attached to Ivy League Institutions” as calls were made to the Dean to have Jacobson fired. The professors lashed out against academic commentators who criticize the looting as effectively racists….
The letter is signed by a huge number of clinicians (Professors Zohra Ahmed, Sandra Babcock, Briana Beltran, Celia Bigoness, John Blume, Elizabeth Brundige, Angela Cornell, Sujata Gibson, Mark H. Jackson, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, Cortelyou Kenney, Sital Kalantry, Ian M. Kysel, Mallory J. Livingston, Delphine Lourtau, Beth Lyon, Estelle McKee, Keir Weyble, Carlton E. Williams, and Stephen Yale-Loehr).
Not a word about academic freedom or free of speech; not a suggestion that critics of these protests could have anything other than racist motivations. It is the antipathy of the intellectual foundations for higher education. Rather than address the merits of arguments, you attack those with opposing views personally and viciously. That has become a standard approach to critics on our campuses. Unless you agree with the actions of the movement, you are per se racist. It is a mantra that is all too familiar historically: if you are not part of the resistance, you are reactionary….
… it suggests that the presence of conservative (which they seem to view as synonymous with racist) scholars have no place at such schools. That last point is unfortunately the view of many faculty at top schools which are overwhelmingly if not exclusively liberal.
The professors, of course, have every right to to denounce writers for what they believe are racist elements or messaging in their writings. However, they specifically go after scholars who they believe defend “institutionalized racism and violence” and “express rage over the sporadic looting that has taken place.” That would encompass what they describe as seemingly “informed commentary” supporting institutions of a racist society. It is an all-too-familiar attack on campuses against speakers and academics. What is most striking for me is the inclusion of Professors Mark H. Jackson and Cortelyou Kenney, who teach in the Cornell First Amendment Clinic. They are in fact the Director and Associate Director of the First Amendment Clinic, which is presumably committed to the value of free speech even at private institutions. So these professors teach free speech and just signed a letter that people who question the BLM movement or denounce the looting are per se or at least presumptive racists. It is reflection of how free speech is being redefined to exclude protections with those who hold opposing views.
Turley then concludes:
I am unfamiliar with Jacobson’s writings. Once again, however, the merits of such arguments are immaterial. What is disturbing is the effort to silence Jacobson because he holds such opposing views. This letter coincides with what Jacobson says is an effort to get him fired. That would not be unexpected. Conservative and libertarian academics are increasingly being subject to discipline or harassed by their Administrations in the hope of getting them to leave faculties. Moreover, many in the BLM movement use equally inflammatory language but are rarely called out by Administrators, students, or faculty. Why cannot both views we treated as enriching the debate on a campus, allowing sharply different values to be heard in a pluralistic academic environment?
The message for other faculty by these Cornell clinicians is both clear and intimidating. Disagree with the BLM movement or the protests and you will be labeled a racist. Indeed, the letter ends on a menacing note: “And we will continue to expose and respond to racism masquerading as informed commentary.” Thus, if you attempt “informed commentary” on the costs of looting and the need for great law enforcement, you are a per se racist….
The recent protests have served as a catalyst for the rising intolerance on our campus. There is an enforced orthodoxy that is captured in the Cornell letter. These letters are successful in creating a chilling effect on academics who are intimidated by these threats. To be labelled as a racist is devastating to an academic career and these professors know that. Now, even “informed commentary” will be denounced as racist if a professor raises a dissenting view. It is not just the death of free speech but our intellectual mission on university and college campuses.
This sentence by Turley echoes a point I have been making: “Moreover, many in the BLM movement use equally inflammatory language but are rarely called out by Administrators, students, or faculty.”
The law school, as an institution, picked sides and declared in a Dean’s Statement that my writings “do not reflect the values of Cornell Law School ….” I vigorously disagree with that, but was not given a chance to be heard on it, much less some process to contest it. As I mentioned in my appearance on the Laura Ingraham show, the Dean’s statement on behalf of the institution (as opposed to views he expresses in a personal capacity) should have been something along the lines of: “Though I vigorously disagree with Professor Jacobson’s views, those views are protected by academic freedom and no disciplinary action will be taken.” Period.
I don’t know where the spreading intolerance is heading, but when campuses around the country resume in-person instruction, I’m anticipating a prolonged struggle session.
Here are Turley’s tweets, if you want to share them on Twitter:
The message to other professors is clear and intimidating. Disagree with BLM or the protests and you will be labeled a racist. The letter ends on a menacing note: “we will continue to expose and respond to racism masquerading as informed commentary.”… https://t.co/dXDwmSP4St
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) June 12, 2020
…There is an enforced orthodoxy that is captured in the Cornell letter. To be labelled as a racist is devastating to an academic career and these professors know that. Now, even “informed commentary” will be denounced as racist if a professor raises a dissenting view.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) June 12, 2020
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