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Ben-Gurion University
IAM response to letters from Galia Golan and Nimrod Luz: academic freedom means providing a balanced education

Editorial Note:
The IAM editorial about the faculty of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University was a response to Professor David Newman's challenge/statement that there are just very few activist scholars there.
The post generated considerable response, mostly accusing IAM of McCarthy tactics and such.   There are also some posts, including from a former student in the Department, who confirmed that there was serious pressure to tow the neo-Marxist, critical scholarship line. 
 
The two letters below, though, raise important issues about the limit of academic freedom.  Professor Galia Golan writes that this "ridiculous discussion" needs to stop, as "it is the most natural and praiseworthy thing for intellectuals to also be engaged." She goes on to state that activism is especially important for those who specialize the field of Politics and Government that are "willing to venture beyond the ivory tower out of their sense of justice and devotion to their society."  Golan then refers us to an article on the Dryefus affair in Haaretz by Eva Illouz to bolster her argument about the value of intellectual discourse in a free society.
 
We could not agree more with Professor Golan.  We have repeatedly emphasized that a vigorous intellectual debate is the essence of a democracy and a vehicle for progress.  Regimes that suppress public debate have languished and shriveled and, ultimately, collapsed.
However, we beg to differ with her comparison between academic staff and intellectuals.   Social science faculty are not free-floating intellectuals of the Dreyfus era.  For those who teach in public universities, academic freedom is conditioned on a number of correlative duties, including the mandate to provide a balanced education in the classroom (the marketplace of ideas) and the obligation not to misuse taxpayers money by engaging in political activism.  In other words, faculty have a well- defined duty to their students and to the taxpayer.  The American-educated professor should be acquainted with the position of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that has repeated admonished professors to balance academic freedoms with responsibilities. 
 
 IAM's Academic Freedom in Israel  in Comparative Perspective demonstrates that correlatives duties of faculty are an integral part of their freedom.  To put it bluntly, those who "venture out of the Ivory Towers," should do in on their dime, not the taxpayer's.  As Ziva Shamir, a professor at Tel Aviv University suggested, activist faculty should resign and join a political party rather than turn their campus offices into a party branch.    
 
Whether an academic holds views of the right or left wing, it is equally important to allow different approaches to be heard. Given Professor Golan's long record of left- wing political activism her comment on venturing out of the Ivory Tower to "work for justice" is instructive. To Golan and other leftists who write to us, the only "justice" is of the left-wing variety -  presumably based on John Rawls Theory of Justice.   We have never received a reference to the critique of Rawls offered by Leo Strauss, the noted conservative philosopher, and his followers who postulated a different theory of justice.  That "justice" became synonymous with a left-wing vision of social order speaks volumes about the social science professoriate.  Not incidentally, Israeli universities have never generated the equivalent of the "Chicago School" [at the University of Chicago], where leading conservative thinkers such as Strauss and the economist Milton Friedman could flourish.

The email from Dr. Nimrod Luz of BGU drips with sarcasm, but his point is clear.  Those who fail to embrace the progressive vision of justice of the radical academic fraternity are "intellectual midgets" not worth hearing from.  Indeed, Luz suggests that "it is about time to start blocking these people from actually dictating and influencing moves within Israeli Academia." 



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Galia Golan 
Date: Sat, Oct 20, 2012
Subject: Re: [SocSci-IL] BGU Politics & Government Department is still heavily biased toward anti-Israel radical activism. Facts and figures
To: 


I think this is a ridiculous discussion – it is the most natural and praiseworthy thing for intellectuals to also be engaged, active; and indeed all the more natural for those who choose to study or to teach the field of Politics and Government.  I suggest reading Eva Illouz’ excellent article on the Dreyfus affair in Haaretz.  And let us encourage and support intellectuals willing to venture beyond the ivory tower out of their sense of justice and devotion to their society.
 
Galia


===========



 
From: Nimrod Luz 
Date: Sat, Oct 20, 2012
Subject: Re: [SocSci-IL] BGU Politics & Government Department is still heavily biased toward anti-Israel radical activism. Facts and figures
To: Dana Barnett 
Cc: social science 


Indeed I am so ashamed of my colleagues at BGU who are activists - God forbids someone stands here for such horrible things as civil rights, democracy, human suffering, occupation - I thank my brothers and sisters from all around the world who reminds us constantly not only how a Jew should behave but are indeed pillars and beacons of just and light on our way to become devoted Israelis
 
I salute you Dana and other friends for your time consuming efforts of following closely those monsters from BGU = shame on them -
 
if there ever was a modern version of witch hunting it is defined now by people I hope have a life and better things to do but I begin to doubt it
 
any body said McCarthy?
Amir do you think you can save us from following correspondence
Worrying times indeed when intellectual midgets define and dictate the proper way we should conduct ourselves
Indeed, when very small people begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting.
 
It is about time to move up a notch and start blocking these people from actually dictating and influencing moves within Israeli Academia
 
Oh what a dark period it is - This is not funny anymore and this personal crusade against legitimate academics must be stopped -



 
 

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