THE AMERICAN Association of University Professors' attack last week on "attempts to suppress unpopular opinions" concerning race and intelligence addressed itself to a largely nonexistent issue.
The AAUP's statement contended that attempts to suppress views like William Shockley's are "undermining the integrity of the academic communities," but it never thought to enumerate the attempts or name any underminers--probably because there haven't been many. Angry students shouted Shockley down at Staten Island Community College last fall, but outside of that, he's been refused permission to speak only by two groups with public views much like the AAUP's, the Yale Political Union this week and the Law School Forum here last fall. Like the AAUP, these groups eloquently defended academic freedom, and like the AAUP, they failed to cite a single viable threat to justify their decision to cancel Shockley's debate with Innis anyway.
It just goes to show what should have been obvious already from official discouragement of debate even on such close-to-home topics as universities' social impact: when it comes to encouraging controversies, some liberal academics are like Lewis Carroll's Walrus. With tears and sobs they sort apart those of the largest size, holding their pocket-handkerchiefs before their streaming eyes.
Fortunately, since misery loves company, the AAUP and the Law School Forum aren't alone in painting a pathetic though unsubstantiated picture of pioneers of academic territory, bravely questioning accepted orthodoxy despite the powerful resistance of an entrenched establishment. To name just two, Shockley and the New York Times push the same line. But in fact this is not new and uncharted territory. Shockley's belief that blackness generally means stupidity has been around for a long time, and a glance at today's United States would show that it represents not a heroic challenge to established orthodoxy, but a belated attempt at justification for the discriminatory ways the orthodox have followed all along.
If it wanted to address the question at all, instead of defending Shockley from imaginary attempts to suppress him, the AAUP should have attacked his real views.