The Need for Civility

Freedom of Thought and Speech at Monmouth College, with some comments on efforts at Affirmative action. 

Memos and Essays written by William Urban over several years

Memo to self, April 19, 1994.

                                                         Monmouth College Rules

1. Everything is political.

2. All politics are local (i.e., departmental or personal).

3. Monmouth College is usually behind the national curve; therefore, it is sometimes possible to anticipate the issues which will arise. 

Our understanding of the past reflects our current political debates better than the past. Unfortunately, institutional memory is always short, and official histories do not always give much information regarding the impact of social and political events on the faculty and students. I tried to do this in A History of Monmouth College Through Its Fifth Quarter-Century (1979), but this was considered so troublesome that the college senate delayed its publication. (No institution goes always upward and onward; most go in circles; most gain altitude, but some crash and burn.) One misapprehension of the 1990s was that men had always dominated Monmouth College. There was much truth in that statement, but also an important degree of exaggeration.

Undated private email, probably 1995, referring to one comment in exchanges about a faculty member=s provocative email to faculty. 

As I read this note, I was struck by its ambiguity. Had this come to the Journal of Baltic Studies, I would have written the author to ask for a clarification. [Urban had been editor until 1994] Did it mean:

 a) [Our colleague's] letter was beneath contempt (as one of my senior colleagues remarked, "I didn't even read it. When I saw it was from [him], I threw it in the trash.") and not worth your time.

b) That the author was simply expressing an opinion which is covered by academic freedom and the Bill of Rights. If he wants to say that Monmouth College is guilty of nepotism and institutional racism, who is to say he is wrong?

c) That the author was right, that "the other player in a mixed-motive confrontation" is selecting our representatives and that "the present rambling discussions of a disempowered faculty [are] orchestrated by those who do not always have our best interests at heart" and, therefore, that my reaction (and that of [two others]) are simply hysterical.

Please note:  A first-class institution has standards of academic behavior. Monmouth is in most ways a first-class institution, and I am proud to have been associated with it for almost three decades. If [our colleague] or anybody else makes similar inaccurate, scattershot accusations in the future, I intend to challenge them.          

Final email in private exchanges with a student Feb 6, 1997 on the CWA Vigil to stop domestic violence.

I fail to see a close connection between an insane man with an automatic weapon [Montreal massacre] and domestic violence. The choice of symbolism and the language (how men oppress women) is not likely to persuade a good many people that the CWA is to be taken seriously. First of all, violence is a serious problem, and it is not limited to domestic relationships between men and women. Children who are slapped around and cursed learn that violence and threats of violence are the ways to make people do what they want; and from what I observe in stores, women do their share of both. If there is any truth to this observation, and to the proverb, "what goes around, comes around," women may be their own worst enemies. Parents have a hard enough time rearing offspring, especially if both feel the need to work. But, in addition, we have ever larger numbers of children raising children (and all of the teenage mothers are women); they are not doing a good job, and the social programs in place are not saving the situation. Too many kids sass their teachers, defy the police, beat up others for minor affronts, use drugs and alcohol to excess, and are sexually promiscuous; and then we expect them to treat their future partners with love and respect? Get real. We need a new emphasis on manners, part of which is how gentlemen treat women. Second, the subtext of the Massacre is that women are the victims of male conspiracies anyway, and men will resort to violence to get their way. So, why try? Why not just give up? That men want to exercise power over women has been said to me by women who have fathers, brothers, and even sons. It strikes me as odd, and other men, too, who have daughters, that we should want this kind of world for them. Daughters need to be realistic about the dangers of this world, but they also need to be aware that fear can be paralyzing. There is a line between making people understand that there are risks in life and fear‑mongering. The Montreal Massacre memorial crosses that line. It disempowers women. Third, the general trend of any movement is to become ever more radical until it loses touch with real issues. Those who have the time and energy to keep after something move to positions of leadership, and to mobilize their followers, they have to find sufficiently lurid examples to turn their supporters on and out. The feminist movement is not exempt from this. More and more radical programs, written in language that working women cannot understand, arguing over issues that working women care little about, much less children who are raising children. Domestic violence, yes. That is a serious subject. The Montreal Massacre, no. Fourth, men are no more likely to respond favorably to the implied stereotype of being genetically or culturally determined monsters than women are to being considered helpless. Back in the days of Civil Rights, when I went through the training sessions, we were told repeatedly that anything we did had to be directed toward the goal of reconciliation. We were not to say that those who disagreed with us were racists, but to appeal to the listeners' sense of justice and fair play. Our goal was conversion, not to make people dig their heals in deeper. In the case of the vigil's symbolism, I see divisive finger‑pointing.

In short, what groups want to do in the evening is their business. In a community such as ours, we should allow and encourage a diversity of views and activities. We should each feel free to express our ideas and at liberty to attempt to persuade others to share them. My dissent from the symbolism of the Montreal Massacre will be seen, I hope, as an expression of that same freedom and diversity. I am an old‑fashioned equality feminist, left behind like the majority of women by the radicalism of the movement today. My views should not be misinterpreted as advocating domestic violence, giving males rights over females, or any other misogynist views. However, unless human nature has changed, they probably will be.

 Email to Faculty November 3, 1999

 The discussion regarding the AA/EO observers at last night=s faculty meeting probably caused more than a few of us to reflect on what the process is actually supposed to achieve. We might well take [our colleague=s] cri de coeur seriously, to ask whether the process has moved us any closer to the goal of greater cultural diversity; and if it hasn=t, to join with her in moving to abolish it.

I have some comments on the AA/EO process.

1) It was meant to correct a problem that did not exist.

President Huseman correctly noted that a majority of the faculty was composed of white males. She concluded, incorrectly, that this was the result of bias in hiring and retention. This flew in the face of the college=s long commitment to social causes (going back to the college=s foundation as a coeducational institution, its early hiring of female faculty, and its acceptance of the first Black student who applied). When Drew Weiss drew up a list of all faculty hires since 1981, showing that 50% of both hires and retention was women and minorities, he demonstrated that the faculty imbalance was the result of historical circumstancesBthat is, in the Sixties and Seventies there were many more male PhDs in the market, and consequently most of the faculty remaining from those years were men. Nevertheless, the faculty passed this policy after long debate.

I have heard of faculty members from long ago who have been described as sexist. Yet even in those days Monmouth College had a good number of very respected faculty women who could hold their own with them; somehow they had gotten hired and retained, a few had buildings named after them. All the faculty of that era are long since retired, though individuals then young but still employed may remember them yet. A philosophically-inclined person might say that the world is full of jerks, and, moreover, that the people quickest to fling an epithet might be jerks, too.

A department which holds its standards higher than gender equity or racial diversity might be well accused of insensitivity. That is a cut below sexism or racism, I believe, and it is compensated for in our hiring procedure, which gives the Dean of the College and the Faculty Senate a significant role in selecting the committee.

I know of only one case in which a department unanimously recommended a young woman for a tenure-track position and was overruled. Yet even that was not sexism: President Haywood hired [one of our current colleagues] to put some Apizzaz@ into the department, something he did not think the department=s candidate could do.

2) It is not an affirmative action program.

President Huseman specifically said that Monmouth College would only hire the best candidate applying. What she expected, she told us, was that the AA/EO reference in the ads would cause more women and minorities to apply, and that they would always be the best candidates. This has not proven to be the case.

When the policy was passed, the goal was a faculty that reflected the national averages for women (at that time, as I remember, 40%). We had met the goal for minorities. There have been some questions raised recently about what that figure is now, how it is calculated, and what the number of minorities is.

The AA/EO committee is designed to oversee process, not progress. Since we have no racists/sexists on the faculty, there is little for the committee to do.

3) Missed Opportunities

Several years ago we interviewed a Black woman for the position of Dean of the College. I was very enthusiastic about her. President Huseman, however, hired a white male. When Ed Scott left we lost one of the most popular and effective faculty members of recent years. My imperfect memory is that he was very happy at Monmouth College, but that his spouse was not. Whether that is true or not, it is probably safe to say that employment at Monmouth College is not always a one person decision.

4) Monmouth College is not alone in its effort to have more cultural diversity                

There is a widespread desire to have role models available. It is important that students from traditionally under-represented groups see individuals who look like them in positions of respect and authority. In an era notably lacking in heroes, we need heroes around.

We also want to have present individuals who can speak with authority about cultures and systems beyond the American Midwest. Obviously, anyone born and reared in any particular place is likely to have some insights into that region=s culture, no matter what subject matter the individual teaches.

However, there is also a national debate about whether people should be considered as individuals or representatives of groups. Does one really get to cultural diversity via race and gender? Does this not imply that the individuals hired have to live up to stereotyped expectations? Does this really further the traditional academic goal of having a diversity of ideas? Can one criticize the qualifications of a member of a target group without being accused of racism, sexism, homophobia and hydrophobia?

Does the existence of our program make the local variation of the national debate less acrimonious or more divisive? Last night=s discussion suggests that it has helped us little.

5) Are there alternatives?

Some time ago the faculty passed a joint appointment policy that would have encouraged couples to apply for positions. In most cases these couples would be 50% female. This policy currently languishes in the hands of the college lawyers. Ads mentioning the possibility of a joint appointment might well bring more inquiries from highly qualified women and minorities than the AA/EO announcement.

Time will take care of the historic imbalance to a certain degree. The art department, for example, was long composed of two men (sometimes three). With Harlow Blum=s retirement this December, this male/female ratio will have shifted significantly. Women enrolled in colleges and universities now outnumber men, and the number of women in graduate programs is growing rapidly. In the normal career path, we can expect this to be reflected in senior appointments no sooner than a decade or two after first employment.

On the other hand, as long as few women enter graduate programs in math, science and computer science, we can expect to have difficulty recruiting any of the few who finish. We might have to offer pay slightly out of line with the existing salary scale to attract them. I do not think that we wish to follow the example of sports, in abolishing departments in order to achieve gender balance.

Lastly, we can anticipate the persistence of a very human tendency to overlook one=s own personal shortcomings and perceive any obstacle to personal advancement as the result of deeply ingrained prejudices. The politicized climate of academia today encourages using victimization to explain failures that in the case of white males is usually attributed to insufficient talent or talent applied in the wrong areas, the dispersal of energy or poor work habits, sheer bad luck or poor career choices, or just being a jerk. Is it that our AA/EO policy has as much to do with therapy as policy? Or was it just one of those things that progressive presidents and faculty did?

6) Conclusion.

The most effective way to attract any target group (Phi Beta Kappas, productive scholars, minorities) is through a combination of reputation, pay, attractive location, respected colleagues, eager students, the academic market and aggressive recruiting. We cannot offer everything: young peoples= desire to work in or near a big city will never be satisfied fully in Monmouth, nor can we guarantee close social friends, or extraordinary assistance in research and publication. The pay is improving slowly, and there are visible changes in the physical appearance of the campus, the equipment available, and in the kinds of facilities that will attract students. The market is certainly in our favorCin the arts and humanities we can pick and choose to an extent undreamt of before. On the other hand, our academic competitors are seeking to diversify their campuses as well.

There is no question that in the pre-AA/EO days we had to work hard to attract and keep women and minorities. We are apparently working harder today, but (did I hear rightly?) without making significant headway. Normally, when a plan doesn=t work, the choices are to work harder or to change the plan. Was this not an undercurrent in the flow of last night=s discussion?  I was sure that I heard some frustrations expressed.            

Some of this frustration was not about reaching the goal eventually, but about the pace. History, like Kipling=s India, is hard to hustle. Some was about the means. Probably no one really want to think that a colleague was employed because of gender or race, and any individual who thinks that either was a significant factor is probably under more internal pressure to perform well than any of us know. Nobody needs that kind of stress.

We probably do not need the AA/EO policy, but getting rid of it is more trouble than it is worth at this time. One of these days, when we consider the workload issue again, we might well revisit the need for this time-consuming but seemingly unproductive committee assignment.  

Clarification on essay of November 3, 1999.                                                     Nov. 4, 1999

 [My colleague] and I agree that sometimes one person picks up on a phrase that may not be significant to another, and that for that reason and others, not everyone remembers an event the same way.

 My memory of President Huseman=s comment is this: We were discussing the AA/EO policy in the Poling Room. I asked a question somewhat in this form, AAffirmative Action generally means assessing what candidates would be acceptable for a position, then choosing first the best among the target group for interviews.@ The implication was that priority is given to meeting the affirmative action goals. President Huseman responded, ANo. We will always hire the best candidate.@

To this point I think all our memories are in agreement. That is the way our policy works: we give no overt preference to race or gender.

My memory as to what happened next remains vivid to me, because President Huseman was looking me right in the eyes. She said that when candidates saw the AA/EO ad, they would apply, and they would be the best candidates. I recall being stunned, because this was not the way I saw reality in the 1990s. In retrospect, however, such a statement makes sense. Academics of the my age and President Huseman=s could remember when such an ad was rare. In days when openly-expressed racism and sexism were more prevalent, minorities could be expected to look for clues about where an application would be welcomed.

Misspeaking and slight unclarity are not uncommon (Politicians sometimes can=t spell potato and sometimes claim to have invented the internet). We tend to look right past most of the slight slips we all make; and a meeting in Poling Hall with many people wanting to speak was not a good place to clarify that comment. If I read too much into what President Huseman said or seemed to say, it does not change the point that she and I were both trying to make: the AA/EO policy was not intended to prevent the college from hiring the best candidates applying.  

I received another note suggesting that there are still racists on the faculty, though they do not express their views openly; moreover, we=ve all got a little prejudice hidden away. Granted, we are all sinners; that is a good Christian summary of the human condition. I would go further: AIf thoughts were crimes, we should all be hanged.@ But if we are all racists, what term is left to describe those who are blatantly and arrogantly discriminatory? I=ve met real racists. They increased my vocabulary, and they thickened my skin against later name-calling. I would prefer to reserve the term racist for the kind of boor whose actions are overt and not use it against people who, say, prefer to marry individuals from their own ethnic or religious background. One can always reason with reasonable people, help them see our common limitations and perhaps persuade them to overcome their initial reactions. Reasonable people might even read to the end of my essays.

A little more goodwill would go a long way around here. Maybe even a bit of humor. But, alas, we live in a mean-spirited era, and not even a quiet midwestern campus can escape national moods. When I came to Monmouth College there was more openness to disagreement than there seems to be today. There were also higher standards in many senses. In recent years we, and much of the larger scholarly community, have tended toward a strange combination of "anything goes" and "group think." Independent thinking is encouraged, so long as it reinforces received opinion. The tide may have changed on this. I hope so. If I ever work this out, I'll let you know.          

 March 8, 2000 from W. Urban 

The Faculty Senate has patiently spent many hours discussing two issues, civility and affirmative action. The most uncivil comments I have ever heard on this campus are the sotto-voce accusations of sexism and racism which lie behind our having an AA/EO policy in the first place: Ato solve the problem of under-representation of women and minorities at Monmouth College.@ In recent days the departments of English, Sociology, Philosophy, and Psychology have hired four white males and one white woman. Those departments have no racists and sexists in their number; nor does the AA/EO committee which oversaw the process. Yet there are many more qualified women available today for tenure track positions than there have been in the past; and from 1981-1995 we were able to hire 50% women and minorities. This suggests to me that we might well be able to move toward a more civil dialogue on campus if we would admit that the under-representation of women and minorities is due to causes other than racism and sexism. We might agree that if there is a person we want for whatever reason, the dean of the college could figure out what it will take to get that person here, and then do what is necessary to make a hire. Lastly, we should tone down the rhetoric regarding that small minority whose politics are conservative and conventional. We have recently had some proposals that lead in this direction. If the Faculty Senate wishes to make these the focus of the fall faculty conference, rather than a confrontational approach to Adiversity issues and the promotion of a collegial atmosphere,@ we might have a worthwhile exchange of views. But a forum which focuses on attitudes that seem to have no connection to actual hiring practices might provide more emotional outbursts than rational discussions.

 -----Original Message-----

From:     Urban, William 

Sent:      Tuesday, March 28, 2000 4:00 PM

To:          Faculty Mail List

Subject: RE: Senate Minutes of 2-29


 A few comments on the Senate Minutes of 2-29-00

Addendum:  Proposal for Improving Campus Climate.

(A more accurate title: How to divide a faculty)

_    The President=s Counsel (lawyer?) and Faculty Senate would seek 3-4 people willing to serve

_    It would be a standing ad hoc committee (say again?)

_    Members should be empowered to take appropriate action (wow!)

_    The committee could sponsor campus-wide forums for any person to air complaints/concerns dealing with issues related to climate (televised HUAC hearings? Is the Courier short of stories? Are the deans' offices closed?)

_    The group could mediate conflicts and suggest resolutions (aha! Do some dean's job.)


In short, I've never seen such an obvious danger to academic freedom on this campus.


  Who are these people who are complaining, and what specifically are they complaining about? This sounds a lot like "I have a list of ...." At least McCarthy made his accusations publicly.

  How is this a "campus-wide" problem? We already have grievance and harassment policies, and programs designed to foster diversity and understanding. I thought the Dean of Students' Office was on top of this. Or is it just a question of individuals or a small group disliking some faculty members' politics? Or is this aimed at staff? It smacks of intimidation by defining civility. Is consensus (group think) the criterion of collegiality?

  If civility is lacking this much somewhere on campus, we should change the appropriate administrator.

  To end on a positive note: we can't be sent to the countryside for reeducation. We are already there.


Email from Urban, 3-30-00: 

 From my personal conversations with [a faculty senator], I believe that he is sincere in seeing this committee as a means of resolving what he perceives as a serious problem. His intentions are good. However, to quote Oscar Wilde, "the road to hell...."

 I have been around longer than [him] and, therefore, have seen more repression of undesired thought.  I hear that there are angry people. How is the faculty able to deal with an anger, the causes of which are kept resolutely secret? Incivility? What does that mean?

Why is the faculty senate trying to deal with the anger rather than the issues the anger stems from? It may well be that what this anonymous group wants is just impossible without a thorough-going change in everything that we do. (For example, if we are sincere in wanting minority role models, we could go out and advertise for some, fields open, salary competitive; but that would run up against the principles of everyone earning the same salary and departmental autonomy. We could increase the number of faculty without busting the budget by foregoing raises, but then we couldn't compete for new hires. We could raise salary statistics marginally by making promotions competitive and limiting the number who rise in rank. We could bring in more high ACT students and hire all the faculty we want by following Knox into massive deficit budgets, but we've been there.) But this is pure speculation about what these angry people want. I could be completely mistaken. Perhaps they just want a few people fired or silenced--a University of Wisconsin "Office of Equity and Diversity Resources" which can monitor what is said inside class and out, which can punish a raised eyebrow or insufficient enthusiasm for the cause of the moment. Or do they want us to defer to their statements, however off the wall they might be. Or is my suggesting this being incivil?

 Cannot the faculty senate use the discussion time at the end of faculty meeting to air this issue, whatever it is? Certainly we have not had too much business recently.

 What we do not need is a committee with a mandate that could be interpreted as open season on ideas. Even the limited competence to call a public meeting to discuss an untenured instructor's behavior or classes will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. Moreover, on our campus we appoint to committees people who feel deeply committed to the areas concerned. I think it highly likely that sooner or later this inquisitional committee will be filled with angry people. Where on the political spectrum these angry people stand might well change. Best not to go down that road at all.

 I hope that this is not interpreted as an attack on [my colleague]. I have been very impressed with his facile mind, his energy, his ability to take a balanced look at situations and his positive attitude. I appreciate his patience at being willing to discuss this issue week after week in faculty senate for five months, and his eagerness to get on to other business.  

This committee, however,  is not just a bad idea. It is a dangerous one.       

Email to a handful of students, May 5, 2000. 


I thought I would respond to those of you mentioned in the Courier article about professors leaving, with the implication that this was connected to the lack of diversity.

[Section on why individual faculty had left, not relevant here] Problems that must be overcome [in order to attract minorities and women]:

1) geographic location.

     Many Ph.Ds do not want to live in the Midwest, others want to be near a big city.

     No mountains, no shopping malls, little choice among restaurants.

2) social opportunities

     Young single people would like the potential to meet someone to hang out with or even marry.

     The size of minority communities is limited.

      Monmouth is a small town. There is little for adults to do.

3) salary

      It's a good salary, but if you are a minority with a Ph.D., or in a critical field, you can get more.

      The faculty has committed itself to equal pay for everyone, and it is difficult to get a biologist or computer scientist for the pay offered to individuals in the arts and humanities.

      Housing costs were cheap not long ago. That is changing.

4) family

     Since Monmouth is a good town in which to raise children, that is not the problem. However, jobs for spouses are limited. Especially if the spouse is an academic. We have hired a number of spouses as faculty and staff, but our fairness guidelines limit what we can do.

     For four years we have been trying to get a joint appointment policy; this would most likely slightly increase the number of women hired. The dean of the college has said that he considers the faculty plan unworkable and will not implement it. Whatever George Arnold's reasoning about this matter is, he is neither a racist nor a sexist.

5) work load and research opportunities

     If we deemphasized teaching and required publications, we could attract applicants more easily, but it would not be the Monmouth College you know. Many faculty, being human, understand that their prestige is connected to their institution. Everyone has heard of the University of Illinois. It is easier to publish from a "name university."

     The departments are small and each professor must teach a broad range of courses. While a few faculty manage to publish, most do not.

      Monmouth College is an attractive place to work, but the hours can be long, and not everyone enjoys close contact with students.


If you will ask the departments which hired faculty this year, you will see that these are the reasons why they did not find minority faculty willing to accept job offers. If you look at the individuals who hired white males ... you will be hard pressed to find racism and sexism as a reason. Moreover, the AA/EO committee approves all hires, as does Dean Arnold. We can neither force people to apply, nor to accept our offers.

 We do have entrance interviews. We have an exhaustive search process, which emphasizes an effort to promote diversity. We ask why people want to come to Monmouth; and so do the students who are involved in the searches in various ways. We have exit interviews (a process I wrote up). 

Diversity in ideas is a different matter than diversity in race, color or gender. As elsewhere in American colleges and universities, the Monmouth faculty is overwhelmingly liberal. If the environment "stifles personal expression, political beliefs, and cultural differences," it is not from the side of conservativism.

 As for diversity in the student population, it is not for lack of trying. As a member of the Admissions Committee, I can personally testify that every effort except free tuition is being tried (tuition grants would have a significant impact on the rest of you). As it is, we have done a better job than most of the ACM schools.

In short, the college has not lost its commitment or its focus. Can we do a better job? Maybe, but not without addressing the problems listed above. Of course, some of these problems, like Monmouth's location and the town's small size, are just problems we will have to live with.

Since some of you are graduating seniors, I hope that you will remain in contact with the college (the alumni board is always looking for volunteers) and that you will continue to voice your concerns.

 Email to Faculty, with additional concluding sentence in Courier, October 19, 2000. 

Monmouth College has long honored the tradition of freedom of speech. For years we used John Stuart Mill=s classic text, On Liberty, in freshman seminar. Mill went beyond defending the right to hold unpopular opinions (he noted that popular opinions never needed defending) to argue that even erroneous opinions had to be protected. This is a hard point to accept sometimes, but Mill stoutly insisted that unless individuals had convictions to argue with, they would grow mentally flaccid and come to accept whatever ideas were currently dominant, and to believe them without enthusiasm or commitment.

One of the reasons that I have been proud to be a member of the Monmouth College faculty has been the college community=s willingness to tolerate dissenting ideas. Back in the Sixties the college chaplain, Paul McClanahan, was considered very radical. He had been a freedom rider in the South, and he helped students organize civil rights vigils on campus. Paul and I took students on term breaks to investigate the racial tensions in Detroit and Chicago, and in the years when I was not free, he took students alone to St. Louis and Minneapolis.  Paul had been a university president in Egypt, and he knew people everywhere. Nobody could organize a trip like Paul. We always returned exhausted, but exhilarated.

My own civil rights experience paled alongside Paul=s. If I had given my name when each of us in the picket line were individually photographed and questioned, I could have lost my jobs at the University of Texas, as did those who were identified; that would have made paying for graduate school difficult. (There are advantages to being a mere number at a giant state university.) I did increase my vocabulary and knowledge of human behavior significantly; I lost friends, but I was not assaulted or harassed. What I gained in terms of experience, and in appreciating a college that worked at integration and fair treatment was ultimately worth the risk. When my dissertation advisor wanted me to apply for jobs with more prestige and more pay, I could imagine myself back at the University of Kansas, where I was among a handful of Quakers at the first anti-war rally; and I could imagine a big university administration eager to do the bidding of the community, alumni or student pressure groups. By comparison, the college community and the city of Monmouth were very attractive.


My colleagues did not always agree with my views of civil rights. My department chair did not like them at all; but he never summoned me to his office in an attempt to change my mind--only to warn that some community leaders wanted me gone. President Wimpress did call me in to discuss the need to keep demonstrations legal and decorous, and to say that he had told the critics that the principle of freedom of speech was too important to compromise. It helped immensely that I had the full backing of Mary Crow and Doug Spitz. Especially Doug Spitz, who was as fine a colleague as ever existed, and who was working closely with student groups throughout those turbulent years. Also, Charles Speel, who died on October 10, and Stafford Weeks, who were my friends as well as Paul=s.

The reluctance of many faculty to participate in candle-light vigils and marches did not mean that they were in favor of segregation. Many, I believe, just had doubts about the process similar to my reservations about the annual memorial of the Montreal massacre. I would be dismayed if my absence from either it or the Astop the hate@ ceremony were interpreted as my being in favor of violence. I was concerned that my presence would be interpreted as support for a speech code (which major universities are now abandoning, having learned that they create more problems than they resolve), for more mandatory diversity training (the faculty conference provided us with an intellectually unchallenging example this fall), for another demand for minority hiring (when the most enthusiastic supporters of affirmative action were unable to generate more applications than we received before we had an official policy), and for Soviet-style psychiatric treatment of those who stubbornly refused to conform. The losers in all this will be the students. How many untenured faculty members will be so foolish as to enter into this discussion except on the side of the moral majority? How much intellectual diversity will be sacrificed on the altar of hurt feelings? What would John Stuart Mill have said?

 The civil rights movement was overwhelmed by Vietnam, but the dynamics of the situation remained the same. Paul McClanahan took most of the criticism, especially from the community, thereby sheltering the rest of us. It is not easy to be a lightning rod, but lightning rods protect a wide area around them. Those of us who benefit from their sacrifices should appreciate them more than we do.

I miss that Monmouth College. Those were not easy years, but the institution was proud of its traditions, and we were proud to be associated with it.  I hope that in a few years I will be able to look back and say the same of the Monmouth College of today.

The conduct of the students at the long and sometimes difficult SA meeting Tuesday evening give me reason to believe that the answer will be yes. 

Email to Faculty October 16, 2000, responding to an email (printed as letter in Courier, Oct. 19).


 Especially to those of you who are new and wonder that departmental colleagues can disagree so significantly over significant issues, please know that I have long argued for a diversity of viewpoints inside departments. This is not something that liberal arts colleges are very good at doing, much less departments in liberal arts colleges. It is not always easy, but it makes for a much better education for the students.

Secondly, please know that my ideas have been called far worse than "wrongheaded." If you wish to avoid criticism, don't say anything. But I guess that is the lesson out of the whole [name omitted] affair: the less you say, the safer you are. On the other hand, if you read Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, chapter 31, you might see that even if you abjectly retreat from one position to another, they will get you in the end. Only by then you will have lost all respect, and all self-respect.

If the mission statement suggests, as [my colleague] says, that we are to make students "intellectually uncomfortable," how do we do this by attacking a professor who does this?

Lastly, which of the comments in the Courier are "racist?" It sounds to me as though [the professor] was suggesting that none of us are without sin in this matter.


Note: The rhetoric became so intense (and loud) at this time that the faculty senate had to reprimand one of its members for "unacceptable and unprofessional behavior." (Faculty Senate Minutes 10/10/2000)


To the Faculty Senate                                

Nov 4, 2000


Recent letters in the Courier have prompted me to propose that the Faculty Senate use its moral authority to suggest some guidelines for faculty and staff. Guidelines, not rules. American campuses have enough rules. I suspect that these rules (sometimes called speech codes) have come about because there is a general lack of understanding that academe has long followed informal guidelines or, in extreme cases, a belief that the issue of the moment is more important than respect for dissenting opinions.

First, we should resist the temptation to respond immediately to some provocative statement. Usually, if the statement is idiotic, many readers will recognize it as such. A faculty member who has not been misquoted or misunderstood can only be one who has never expressed an opinion or given an interview. It goes with the job. If one wishes to make a clarification, keep the response short and do not blame the student.

Second, in criticizing colleagues, think of the message you are sending to younger and untenured faculty members. If the tone of your comments is respectful, you will seem to be encouraging debate; if the tone is hostile, it will be read as intimidation. We might even try a little humor or, even better, tolerate it when others make the effort.

Third, people from off campus who were not present at events are poorly placed to sense the mood of the moment. Their comments should probably be confined to generalities, or, in the case of alumni, composed largely of descriptions of similar problems that came up when they were students. We want to shed light, not fuel, on problems.

Fourth, no faculty or staff member should attack a student in the Courier by name. By and large we honor this convention, but in recent years a few faculty members have written rebukes, and now we even have a spouse of a faculty member doing so. This is an abuse of power, bringing authority, experience and education to bear on a young person who is just learning how to express opinions. I strongly recommend private letters over public humiliation.

Fifth, differences of fact and opinion might be better expressed in organized debates. This has worked well in the past.

Sixth, there are times to write long essays for the Courier. There are slow news weeks and the occasional subject that might be of interest to the entire college community; and we may not all agree how long too long is. But in general it is best to have clear arguments concisely presented.

Last, we should remember that the Courier is, after all is said and done, a student paper.


In February of 2003 there was an accusation on the college bulletin board that the college had discriminated on the basis of race.  After several exchanges, I wrote this:

I am not quite sure how the question of self-identification became involved with Champion Miller. At that time the polite word for his race was colored. Since the note is aimed at a modern audience, it seems logical to update the reference to Black.

The point is that Monmouth has never denied admission on the basis of gender or race, and that we are proud of the success that our graduates have had. Advertising this fact is one way of attracting minority  students to Monmouth College. And not just Black students.

 I cant prepare anyone for graduate school who does not enroll. Or who, for various reasons, does not take my classes.

 More serious is the suggestion that little or nothing is being done to hire persons who would be considered by themselves and others as Black.

 The last search for the history department was in 1994. There were about 180 candidates, most of them well-qualified Ph.Ds or ABDs. Every few days Steve Buban, then the Black Student Association advisor, would drop by and ask if there were any Black candidates. I would point to the large box of applications and say, “If you can find one.…” (He doesn’t remember this, but I do.) I also made efforts to reach out beyond the usual ads in various journals likely to get a large pool of applicants. I phoned the individuals on the list of minority scholars list looking for teaching positions in Illinois. Most had gotten jobs but forgotten to remove their names. One had left town for a long trip, not telling either her advisor or her mother where she was going; I wrote her a letter. No response. I wrote letters to schools with Black Studies programs and to the history departments of historically Black colleges; no responses. I phoned some; no one available. I spoke with faculty in other Illinois colleges.

 Doug Spitz was on that search committee. It would be hard to find anyone who would consider him a racist. Similarly, as I go through departments which have failed to find a Black candidate even when there was an active affirmative action program in place, I don’t see individuals I would suspect of overlooking a candidate on the basis of race. Quite the opposite.

 The law of supply and demand is in effect: qualified individuals take the better paying jobs at prestige institutions. Monmouth’s pay and prestige are pretty good, but they are a long way from Harvard’s, and word of mouth about the potential joy to be found in teaching at a small mid-western college does not reach to the two coasts.

 This is a national phenomenon. In a very recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education yet another writer asked why there were so few Blacks going into higher education. The proposed answer was affirmative action, the rationale being that the most talented high school graduates were going to elite universities where they met with less academic success than they would have had at a university or college that would take more interest in the individual. I don’t know that this answer is right (I suspect that the opportunities to make money in business, government, law and medicine is more significant), but I do know that the lack of applicants is not a problem for Monmouth College alone.

 This might suggest to students of color on our campus that they should consider higher education as a career prospect. There is no guarantee of employment, but a Black Ph.D. or ABD is highly likely to get an interview. That is a big step ahead of the 177 candidates who were not invited to the Monmouth campus in 1994.


Conclusion  Actually a debate of this nature is never concluded. It may die back for a while, or be replaced by new concerns, but eventually it resurfaces -- sometimes resuscitated by individuals who had no idea that the issues had ever been raised before. In is in the nature of human beings both to remember history and to forget it; today, overwhelmed by information, stimulated by political concerns and obsessed by youth, few reach out to professors emeriti and former staff to ask what were the issues of the past. It was once said that the past is the beginning of the future; now we see the past as past--i. e., of no importance. Even historians, in search of a "usable past", tend to forget that it is impossible to predict which parts of our past will be most usable in the future.


In making accessible these thoughts I have not described specific public actions and debates that others may remember vividly.  These thoughts provide only the background necessary to better understand those events. 


These thought also, I hope, demonstrate how important civil discourse is. It is easy to speak in favor of diversity, but difficult to accept a diversity of ideas. Diverse ideas suggest that we might be wrong, and that our students might be taught dangerous ideas. John Stuart Mill will remain forever relevant in this debate, because all of us will instinctively recoil from perceived error, then either seek to refute it or drive it from the arena of debate. Efforts to refute are good as long as it is a dispute among equals, but we must remember than students are not equals--they are students. We must respond to their concerns, even to their exaggerated passions and undeveloped knowledge, but we must do so in a professional and caring manner. To our colleagues we owe only fairness and respect; to our students we owe more concern for their self-respect and self-confidence. To all we owe civility.


Lastly, we might develop some awareness of how ironic we appear to others (or will appear). A sense of humor would stand us all well.