David Horowitz has let us know, once again, that his (and my) alma mater, Columbia University, is an erupting septic tank of lefty terrorism in which free discourse is suppressed and students must toe the line of socialist correctness. The reason this time: Columbia's School of Social Work has hired Kathy Boudin as an adjunct professor.
For those who didn't know (like me), or don't care (granted, also like me), Boudin is a former member of the Weather Underground and a participant in the 1981 Brinks Robbery, in which two police officers and a Brinks guard were murdered. Like Horowitz, Boudin grew up in a household with strong Communist affiliations. Unlike him, she remained with the Crazy Left instead of sprinting toward the Crazy Right. After she was (rightly) put in prison at Bedford Hills in 1981, she spent the next 25 years actually...you know...trying to help people. She helped create a program for teens whose mothers were in jail; a parental education class for inmates who were mothers; an adult literacy program; an AIDS/Women's health program; and a college education program. She also earned a Masters Degree in Adult Education, and won an international PEN Prize for her poetry. And after 22 years, she was granted parole in 2003. She earned a doctorate in Education from Columbia University's Teachers College in 2004. And then Columbia's School of Social Work - gasp! - hired her as an adjunct professor.
Now let's be clear. Adjunct professors are the temp workers of academia. They don't have tenure. They don't have benefits. They don't participate in the administration and they generally can't do research. They represent the university that hires them about as accurately as busboys represent the cooking at Le Cirque.
Horowitz also claims that that "the prestige of Columbia derives from its scientific and professional divisions" and not from Columbia's undergraduate program, which no longer holds to "Enlightenment values" and open debate. That's simply untrue. Columbia College is one of the top five in the nation (as ranked by US News & World Report). And as an alum, I can say with confidence that CU didn't get that undergraduate ranking because of its ivy-covered campus, incredible parties, or world-class athletes. It came from the quality of Columbia's education, which includes the Core Curriculum: two solid years of Great Books requirements, generally taught in seminars that demand open debate.
But for Horowitz, that doesn't matter. In his mind, it's still 1968 at Columbia. The Strawberry Revolution is in full swing, Mark Rudd is running through the steam tunnels, and long-haired hippies are still chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! NVA is gonna win!"
I went to Columbia 20 years after the riots. I remember plenty of Depêche Mode, lots of clove cigarettes, and sophomores making a point of wearing sweatshirts from other universities. What I don't remember was Marxist theory "rammed down students' throats," as Horowitz so visually puts it. Marx was included in the Core Curriculum, true; but so were Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Machiavelli - and Adam Smith. In fact, there was a distinct drop in class attendance in the time we dealt with Marx, because (along with Heidegger and Hegel) most of us found poor Karl to be thoroughly indigestible - especially in a pre-10:00 AM seminar.
In order to convince the reader that Columbia is Moscow on Morningside, Horowitz produces only two examples: Boudin, and Nicholas de Genova, who despicably prayed for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. But neither was ever anything but an adjunct professor; and Horowitz neglects to mention the University's official condemnation of de Genova, and the fact that de Genova no longer even teaches at Columbia (and made the remarks a decade ago).
I'm not a fan of political violence. I'd be perfectly happy if Kathy Boudin hadn't made parole. But after two decades, she did. That's how the system works in America. The administration at the School of Social Work - not the College - looked at Boudin's past and saw that she had spent twenty years running social programs for female prison inmates while she herself was incarcerated, and then hired her as a contract worker. Maybe that's not quite as Horowitz-friendly an outcome as not hiring Boudin at all; but it's hardly a Columbia-wide endorsement of the Weather Underground.
This isn't 1968. It isn't the Reagan Years. And if Boudin still belongs in prison, there are quite a few members of the former US administration who should be keeping her company in there, and are instead installed in cushy tenured positions in American academia. >Cough< torture memos >cough<.
Time to move on.