Harvard students can sleep a little easier this week—not one of their roughly 12,000 faculty members made the cut for conservative author David Horowitz’s compilation of the “101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”
The listing, which profiles academics but does not rank professors by degree of danger, was released Sunday as part of Horowitz’s newest book, “The Professors.”
According to the book’s jacket, “Horowitz exposes 101 academics—representative of thousands of radicals who teach our young people—who also happen to be alleged ex-terrorists, racists, murderers, sexual deviants, anti-Semites, and al-Qaeda supporters.” But in a phone interview yesterday, Horowitz said the book was not intended to be a list or even about “horror cases.”
“The jacket is a marketing strategy from Regnery,” Horowitz said, referring to his publisher based in Washington, D.C.
“There’s no list in the book. I am trying to address what I think is a problem in universities.”
He added, “The book is an attempt to show that there is a pattern in universities. These professors are not the worst of the worst, but they are a significant minority.”
The book has quickly generated controversy in its first week. Last Friday, a nationwide coalition of student, faculty, and civil liberties groups calling itself “Free Exchange on Campus” condemned the book.
“Our main beef with the book is that, first of all, it’s a blacklist,” said Adam J. Jentleson, policy advocacy manager at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that is a member of the “Free Exchange on Campus” coalition. “It is damaging to the idea that professors should be able to exchange ideas freely.”
“He seems to think students today are as easily brainwashed as he was back in the 60s,” said Jentleson. “We think the students we represent are smarter than that.”
Horowitz was an editor of a left-wing magazine in the 1960s and worked closely with the Black Panther Party in inner-city Oakland in the 1970s before he adopted more right-wing stances.
Horowitz said yesterday that he was accustomed to criticism.
“I have so many scars I look like Jesus in the Mel Gibson film,” he said.
While Harvard is not home to any of Horowitz’s 101 “most dangerous,” Cambridge is. MIT linguist Noam Chomsky made the list.
The profiles are a varied lot, but most of the professors work in either the humanities or social sciences. Columbia University, Horowitz’s alma mater, was the home of the single greatest share of “most dangerous” professors—nine in all.
Horowitz said the absence of Harvard professors in the listing was not intentional, admitting he put the book together “fairly swiftly” and “did not look hard.” But Harvard is not immune to the political climate that the “most dangerous” professors breed, Horowitz said.
He said that University President Lawrence H. Summers’ current trials and tribulations resulted from a campus political climate bred by the likes of the “most dangerous.”
“If you have radicals on the faculty at war with you, you’re pretty much dead,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said that last year’s Faculty no-confidence vote in Summers’ leadership came from “political agitators posed as professors.”
Much of the evidence cited in Horowitz’s book has come under criticism this week for being taken out of context or being factually incorrect. For example, Larry Estrada, associate professor of ethnic studies at Western Washington University, is profiled as supporting the creation of an independent Hispanic state in America’s Southwest to be called “Atzlan.”
In a statement, Estrada said, “I think this attack is libelous. They never contacted me or talked to me about my viewpoints. I’ve never advocated secession.”
But Horowitz said that he has students’ interests in mind.
“I think you guys are being cheated,” he said. “You pay $40,000 a year and you only hear one side of the story. There needs to be a marketplace of ideas.”