A star member of the Group of 88 has departed Duke. Cornell’s English Department website reveals that Grant Farred (shown here in his Williams lecture) “will be joining Cornell in the Fall of 2007 from the Literature Program at Duke University. He will have a joint appointment in Africana and English.”
He’ll be teaching “Writing the African Diaspora” and “African-American Cultural Theory.”
Cornell’s loss is Duke’s gain. This is, after all, the same Grant Farred who spent most of the 2006-2007 academic year leveling public assaults against the integrity of Duke students.
In a September 2006 Duke forum, he asserted—without providing any evidence—that the lacrosse players had “a tendency toward misogyny and arrogant sexual prowess.”
Farred didn't confine his attacks to just the lacrosse players. In the clip below at the September forum, linking the hundreds of Duke students who registered to vote with the legacy of “privilege, oppression, slavery, racism, utter contempt for black and native bodies” for the sole offense of wishing to defeat Mike Nifong at the polls. (That is the same Mike Nifong, of course, who the DHC would find guilty on 27 of 32 counts of ethical violations, leading to his disbarment.)
Indeed, proclaimed Farred, any Duke student who dared to vote against Nifong would be casting his or her vote, “whether it is acknowledged as such or not, against women, and, more specifically, against black female bodies.”
He took that argument public in an October 2006 op-ed, he accused Duke students of “secret racism” for having the audacity to register to vote in Durham. Then, in an April 2007 address at Williams College, Farred wildly claimed—without providing any evidence—that one or more of the lacrosse players committed “perjury.”
In several recent comment threads, Group sympathizers have argued that outsiders must defer to the concept of peer review, and refrain from criticizing personnel, curricular, or publication-related decisions made by professors. Farred’s hiring provides an example of peer review in action.
Members of the Cornell English and Africana Studies Department evaluated Farred’s scholarship, and decided to extend an offer of a tenured professorship to someone whose most recent book argued that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming(!) represents “the most profound threat to American empire.”
Moroever, even though the most rudimentary search would have revealed Farred’s apparent belief that he is not bound by the terms of the Faculty Handbook in how he deals with students, the Cornell professors appeared either not to care, or to approve of Farred’s actions.
Checks and balances guard against abuses of power or poor decisions. Where was the Cornell administration in the decision to offer Farred lifetime employment? As we saw with Brodhead and Duke, most administrators will defer to faculty extremists, lest they be deemed racist.
Yet as does Duke and most universities, Cornell has a faculty handbook. Among other things, it lays out the appropriate relationship between professors and Cornell students. The Handbook requires professors to contribute to a “climate of understanding, good will, and toleration of diverse views.” It states that professors must “uphold the conditions of free enquiry both for their students and their colleagues.” And it asserts that as “students also have a legitimate concern” in the structure of the university, “it is the obligation of the faculty to remain sensitive and responsive to their needs.”
It would seem, therefore, that Cornell’s Faculty Handbook, just like Duke’s, does not permit faculty members to publicly attack, without supplying evidence, the character and integrity of the institution’s students.
Beyond leaving Duke with one fewer professor who seems to believe it’s OK to slander Duke students, the move could have another positive outcome: perhaps Cornell student Josh Perlin can find in Farred a faculty mentor who shares his unusual conception of due process.
[Update, 9.15: A perceptive comment from the thread, noting that the Farred appointment
reveals how deep the problems are facing academia.
English departments are usually quite large because so many students are required to take writing courses. [In fact, the Cornell department has 48 tenured or tenure-track professors.] Farred is not an identity studies appointment. Though he might be hired in part to increase the percentage of black faculty, he is being appointed by the department of English. They wouldn’t appoint him unless a majority of professors in that department wanted him.
There is a great deal of competition for academic positions. It would be difficult to underestimate how desirable a tenured position at Cornell is. There must be hundreds of talented poets and novelists who would jump at a chance for such a position.
Cornell is certainly a school that is infected with political correctness. It is one of the worst in this respect. But it still has many distinguished faculty members and it has a very talented student body.
This hire suggests that one of the most important departments in the school, the one that impacts the largest number of students, has a majority that wants to feature someone with a racial agenda who has demonstrated a lack of respect for the most basic tenets of human rights. It’s not that he is a great English scholar or writer who happens to be something of a racist. It would appear that his hostility to whites is his scholarship.
The humanities in many universities has become a swamp of political correctness. It is filled with bigots and enablers, people who are ever alert to the slightest criticism of racial or gender preferences, but are completely indifferent to hate filled attacks on people for being white or male.
A lot of academics can’t see that the situation is really this bad. They believe that criticism of the academy is the work of some right wing conspiracy perpetuated by David Horowitz, ACTA, Paul Wolfowitz, etc., orchestrated by Karl Rove to impose a gun-toting, abortion denying, Israel promoting, white racist, women subjugating, anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian theocracy. This view is wrong. In fact, many of the academy’s biggest critics are liberals who are appalled by what is happening to universities.
The story of the Duke lacrosse case is “Political Correctness for Dummies.” The behavior of faculty like the gang of 88 reveal how virulent some professors are and more important, how cowardly the rest are in their reluctance to stand up to them.
What does it say about Cornell if it wants to hire one of the worst of them?]