Academic freedom: North Carolina Wesleyan needs to draw the line
The main campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College, just north of Rocky Mount, is an attractive grouping of buildings set among pines and hardwoods. A majestic curving brick fence separates it from its neighbors.
It is also separated — not just from its neighbors but from most of the state’s Methodists — by academic permissiveness that far exceeds what is expected of a private, Christian college.
There, Dr. Jane Christensen is allowed to teach anti-Jewish rubbish and political mumbo-jumbo that would repulse the average Methodist in the pews, who support the college.
She maintains, among other outrageous assertions, that the 9/11 attacks were not orchestrated by extemist Islamic Muslims, as we all have been duped into believing, but by officials high in the U.S. government. She implies that Israel has identified targets to attack in the United States. Her interviews are peppered with accusations against “Zionists.”
The president of the college, Dr. Ian Newbould, says he won’t discourage Dr. Christensen because she has academic freedom.
Telling professors what to teach is what Communists do and Saddam Hussein did, he says, and it is not done in America. But Newbould carries the concept of academic freedom to a ridiculous, and possibly fatal, extreme.
It is not un-American for a Christian school to set reasonable standards, based on its own moral values, for the curriculum to be taught. Otherwise the school loses its Christian distinction.
Jane Christensen is not unique, and she is not the overarching problem in this controversy. There are many Jane Christensens — academics who develop and promote weird theories to set themselves apart from their peers.
The overarching problem is college administrators who believe their campuses are obligated to offer sanctuary to such nuts, who encourage them and reward them with tenure that almost guarantees them a lifetime in a job from which they can spew their propaganda.
Published in Editorials on May 23, 2005 9:25 AM