Slogging through The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America is a bit like taking in the Interstate scenery between Abilene and El Paso—a whole lot of the same thing. Orchestrated by David Horowitz and largely carried out by an ensemble of assistants, this book consists, in large measure, of a succession of ideological portraits culled from campuses across the country. Profiles of anti-American Marxists who employ classrooms to advance their radical social agenda are interrupted by profiles of anti-American queer theorists, anti-Semitic Islamists, and anti-Caucasian racists who all exhibit contempt for ideas other than their own. Amid the mind-numbing repetitiveness of this serial critique of academic bigotry and incompetence, a few cases do stand out.
Take, for example, Bernardine Dohrn and her husband Bill Ayers. Dohrn is a law professor at Northwestern, while Ayers holds the title “Distinguished Professor” at the University of Illinois, Chicago. In their youth both joined the Weatherman underground, a group that “managed to bomb the U.S. Capitol building, New York City Police Headquarters, the Pentagon, and the National Guard offices in Washington, D.C.”
Far from being on the periphery of this organization, Dohrn and Ayers were active members. Indeed, both were pursued by the FBI throughout the 70s. According to a Horowitz researcher, only a “technicality” for improper surveillance prevented the pair from receiving serious jail time for their crimes. Moreover, neither professor has denounced the activities they supported years ago.
Of his bomb-detonating days Ayers commented, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” That comment, ironically enough, was published by the New York Times in the edition that was delivered to the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Dohrn, by contrast, claimed to be “joking” when she celebrated the brutal Sharon Tate murders that were carried out by members of Charles Manson’s clan: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!” This same person now directs the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern and spends her professional time, along with her husband, working to prevent the punishment of violent juvenile offenders.
Then there is the inventor of Kwanzaa, Professor Ron Karenga. In 1971, Karenga and two other members of his “United Slaves” organization were convicted of felonious assault and false imprisonment. Karenga, who bestowed the title “Maulana” or “Master Teacher” upon himself, spent four years in prison for these crimes before being released in 1975. This resume blemish didn’t prevent Karenga from securing a faculty appointment at San Diego State University shortly thereafter. In 1979 Karenga moved to Cal State Long Beach where, in 1989, he was named head of the Black Studies Department. That’s an amazing career track--fourteen years from prison inmate to department head of a state university!
(Meshing nicely with this case of affirmative action for criminals, researcher Thomas Ryan notes that Kwanzaa’s seven principles are the same principles embraced by the Symbionese Liberation Army—the domestic terrorist group that kidnapped Patricia Hearst in 1974 and employed a seven-headed snake to symbolize their collectivist philosophy.)
Having run for vice-president on the party’s ticket in 1980 and ’84, Angela Davis is probably the most famous Communist now teaching on American campuses. But she is surely the only “University Professor” in the University of California system who boasts that title despite a complete absence of serious scholarship. Davis does, of course, possess the distinction of fleeing from the FBI and being tried for involvement in a 1970 plot to free her imprisoned lover—a Black Panther awaiting trial for murder. This plot resulted in the death of four people, including Judge Harold Haley, whose “head was blown off by a sawed-off shotgun owned by Professor Davis.” Davis, however, acting as her own lawyer to avoid cross-examination, was found not guilty of the conspiracy charges against her—thus setting the stage for the honors that were lavished upon her by both the Soviet Union (the International Lenin Peace Prize) and the University of California system.
Horowitz’s well-written introductory chapter contains the most egregious example of academic preferences for imprisoned radicals. That case concerns Susan Rosenberg, who, in the fall of 2004, was invited to join the faculty of Hamilton College as a “Visiting Professor.” Twenty years earlier Rosenberg, another member of the Weatherman underground, had been apprehended and sentenced to 58 years in prison for helping move hundreds of pounds of explosives into a New Jersey warehouse. A midnight pardon issued by Bill Clinton, however, made all the difference between doing time in a federal prison and teaching a course on “Resistance Memoirs” to students at Hamilton.
Rosenberg’s invitation to Hamilton was only withdrawn when a student, Ian Mandel, brought intense public scrutiny to her background—a history that also included an indictment for the murder of two Nyack, New Jersey police officers whose memorial stood a mile from Mandel’s home. As if to indicate their contempt for public standards of decency, the Hamilton organization responsible for inviting a convicted terrorist to the faculty followed that fiasco with a speaking invitation to Ward Churchill—an offer that was reluctantly rescinded after Churchill’s “little Eichmanns” comment about the innocent victims of 9/11 was publicized.
The conclusion one must draw from such examples isn’t that every institution has its bad apples but rather that, at least in the liberal arts in America, moral turpitude and political hucksterism pervades higher education. Radical criminals with questionable academic credentials flourish in a milieu that bristles with hostility toward real scholars who don’t toe the party line—witness the case of former Harvard President Lawrence Summers.
Individuals with prison records or FBI rap sheets don’t get into major educational institutions because they fudge their resumes. They get in because they share the political dogmas of those who hire them—and they flourish for the same reason. Angela Davis isn’t a “University Professor” because of her scholarship. She is there because of her politics.
What The Professors ultimately reveals isn’t a list of instructors that students can avoid, but a corrupt, politicized system that has contempt for the very idea of liberal education.