Outraged Cornell alums writing to protest the hiring of Group of 88 stalwart Grant Farred have received a form-letter reply from Vice President for University Communications Thomas W. Bruce:
Thank you for your comments regarding the appointment of Grant Farred to the faculty of
. He joined us in the fall semester as a professor with a joint appointment in our Africana Studies and Cornell University and English Department. Research Center
Professor Farred comes to Cornell with a distinguished background in contemporary global cultural studies. He earned his Ph.D. from
Princeton Universityin 1997 and his master’s of arts degree from in 1990. A native of Columbia University South Africa, his bachelor’s degree was earned at the in that country. He has held faculty positions at the University of Universityof Western Cape Michigan- Ann Arbor, Williams Collegeand , and has been a member of the editorial board for The Journal of Sports and Social Issues. He has published several books, including Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football, which describes his love of soccer and provides many insights into race and class that he developed during his youth in Duke University South Africaand . We feel that his unique perspectives and talents – he is an athlete as well as a scholar – will add to the range of reasoned intellectual discourse at Cornell. England
The events surrounding the incident with the men’s lacrosse team at Duke shocked the entire nation and generated passionate commentary and soul-searching on that campus. We are aware that Professor Farred, as well as other Duke faculty members who made comments about the case, has been the subject of postings on the blogosphere. We support the right of free speech for all, while we understand that in many contentious issues people may never come to an understanding of others’ views.
I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns.
In light of his remarks, I twice e-mailed Bruce to ask two questions:
1) To what events were you referring that “shocked the entire nation”?
2) Is it Cornell’s official policy to require all professors to abide by all terms of the faculty handbook?
Bruce did not reply to either e-mail; I even delayed this post by a day to maximize his opportunity to respond. It appears, then, that Cornell no more than Duke will require Farred to abide by the terms of the faculty handbook; and while it’s true that Crystal Mangum’s false allegations should have “shocked the entire nation,” I rather doubt that Bruce had Mangum’s false allegations in mind with his statement.
Bruce’s response, moreover, provides some insight into one of the major points of this blog—how some fields in the academy define concepts like "excellence" or "reasoned intellectual discourse." Doubtless he—and the Cornell English Department—believe that Farred (last heard from academically, it’s worth remembering, proclaiming Rockets center Yao Ming as the greatest threat to the American empire) is a “distinguished” scholar in “contemporary global cultural studies.”
But when people from outside education hear academics speak of “distinguished” work, how many would understand that the academic institution is referring to scholarship such as Farred’s?
Another of Bruce’s lines is almost comical: “We support the right of free speech for all, while we understand that in many contentious issues people may never come to an understanding of others’ views.”
Farred might be many things, but difficult to understand is not one of them.
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, on the campus of Williams College, charged that unnamed lacrosse players had committed “perjury”?
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, in that same Williams address, contended, “At the heart of the lacrosse team’s behavior is the racist history of the South”?
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, in an October 2006 op-ed, accused the Duke students who registered to vote in
of harboring a “secret racism”? Durham
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, in that same op-ed, stated, “What Duke students becoming
Durhamcitizens does is displace the problem of racism from the lacrosse team and the university to ’s political system”? Durham
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, in a September 2006 forum, asserted—without providing any evidence—that the lacrosse players had “a tendency toward misogyny and arrogant sexual prowess?
- Does Bruce think it was difficult for people to “come to an understanding of [Farred’s] views” when Farred, in that same September 2006 forum charged that 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”?
I would submit that Farred’s remarks were quite easily understood, both at the time and now. That Cornell celebrates having such a figure on its faculty speaks volumes about the institution’s values.