Friday, August 17, 2007

We Don't Pay You People to Think!

Colorado Christian University recently notified Andrew Paquin, an assistant professor of global studies, that his contract would not be renewed. He claims that "the issue of capitalism" was at the core of the university's problem with him. Apparently, he has assigned books in his course which are critical of capitalism, and President William Armstrong, former Republican senator (of course) to Colorado, has made it clear that: "What the university stands for, among other things, is free markets."

The Rocky Mountain News says that the University fired Paquin "amid concerns that his lessons were too radical and undermined the school's commitment to the free enterprise system. " However, they don't quote Armstrong as having said this, and frankly it's not clear who they're quoting, or if this is just hearsay. They do quote Armstrong as claiming that no economic system is "more consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ" than capitalism, one of the weirdest statements I've heard all week.

When Armstrong became President a year ago, he unveiled a list of "strategic objectives" for the University. It's generally accepted that professors at Christian universities are expected to be Christians. However, the "strategic objectives" of the university go beyond this to require that all faculty members: "Impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of constitution and Western civilization." Humorously enough, they follow this with: "Be seekers of truth." In other words, feel free to seek the truth- now, here's what it is.

But Paquin isn't exactly an anti-capitalist; in fact, he's the executive director of the 10/10 Project, which funds development in Africa. But he has reservations about capitalism (similar to those that Adam Smith had!) and its compatibility with a Christian mission. After all, Christ himself restricted the market for temple money changers.

But, the story seems half-complete somehow. Paquin was named "Faculty Member of the Year" for 2006, so I'm skeptical that he was a lousy professor. But it feels like something is being left out here. Let's not assume that the fellow was fired for having incorrect thoughts until the university says that they fired him for having incorrect thoughts.

On the other hand, this is how universities without tenure operate- they decide year to year whether or not they want to keep faculty around. Factor in a thought code which requires faculty to agree about: liberty, government, family matters, economics, life, religion, the US Constitution, and Western Civilization, and it becomes easy to understand why professors at the University, particularly in the humanities, might be afraid to do all sorts of research and teaching, or even expect to lose their jobs if they disagree with the President.

There's a big push from the right to get rid of tenure. Supposedly, tenure is unfair to the taxpayers who wind up paying the salaries of people who disagree with them- a problem that seemingly also applies to those of us on the left who pay the salaries of overwhelmingly right-wing police officers. It is alleged that taxpayers are funding people who disagree with their basic values and who indoctrinate their children into far-left ideologies. Therefore, getting rid of tenure will assure "quality control" in academia. It seems to me, though, that advocates of ending tenure are required to explain why doing so won't simply replace academic freedom with thought codes of the sort initiated at this university. Why is right-wing PC preferable to left-wing PC?

Overall, the "strategic objectives" reminded me more than anything of this memorable quote from a historical figure: "Having an incorrect political opinion is akin to not having a soul." That figure was Mao Zedong.

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