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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2001

Agency Denounces Academics for Anti-War Sentiments

A powerful educational organization with strong links to the American government has published a list of more than 100 academics it claims are "failing America" by criticizing the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, co-founded by Lynne Cheney, wife of the U.S. vice-president, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, says that university and college professors were the only group that did not share the country's horror and condemnation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"College and university faculty have been the weak link in America's response to the (terrorist) attack," ACTA claims in its report entitled Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It. "Proving a shocking divide between academe and the public at large, professors across the country sponsored teach-ins that typically ranged from moral equivocation to explicit condemnations of America."

The ACTA document, which cites statements made by more than 100 academics and students opposed to the war, has some faculty in the U.S. worried the intention was to create a blacklist.

Hugh Gusterson, a professor of anthropology at MIT and one of the academics singled out in the report, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he knows of other professors who have received hate mail for their views and suggested the list was meant as a form of "Soviet-style" intimidation.

"It's sad to see these belligerent nannies trying to restrict what people can learn," Gusterson said.

ACTA accuses professors who spoke out against the war of failing to understand that Western civilization and its values of "democracy, human rights, individual liberty and mutual tolerance" were under attack.

"Rarely did professors publicly mention heroism, rarely did they discuss the difference between good and evil, the nature of Western political order or the virtue of a free society. Their public messages were short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation. Indeed, the message of much of academe was clear: Blame America first."

Among the comments reproduced by ACTA is a quote by Noam Chomsky: "(the only way we can put a permanent end to terrorism is to stop participating in it," and a chant heard at a Harvard anti-war rally: "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!"

The list also includes a statement made by Sunera Thobani, an assistant professor of women's studies at the University of British Columbia, in which she says American foreign policy is "soaked in blood." Thobani is the only non-American academic listed in the ACTA report.

The publication also takes aim at a number of university and college administrations for their response to the terrorist attacks and the war. Institutions like UCLA, for instance, are criticized for announcing plans to expand the number of courses they offer on Islamic and Asian cultures.

"In the rush to add courses, these institutions frequently reinforced the mind-set that it was America — and America's failure to understand Islam — that were to blame," the report says.

The report urges instead that universities and colleges offer more courses on American history and Western values so that the "great heritage of human civilization" can be passed on to the next generation.

"We call upon all colleges and universities to adopt strong core curricula that include rigorous, broad-based courses on the great works of Western civilization as well as courses on American history, America's Founding documents, and America's continuing struggle to extend and defend the principles on which it was founded. If institutions fail to do so, alumni should protest, donors should fund new programs, and trustees should demand action."