Eric Rasmussen’s critics thought they were going to silence him. Instead, in a repeat of similar misadventures in would-be censorship in the past, they expanded his platform to express opinions they find vile.
The Indiana University business professor reported that “the number of my Twitter followers has risen from less than 400 to 833 from November 18th to 21st” and “my web log still exists and has over 10 times the number of readers it used to have.”
“The lesson: Intimidation can backfire,” he said.
The veteran professor doesn’t seem too rattled by his negative experience in the national spotlight. He described his widely reported battle with IU administrators as a “kerfuffle” — defined as disorder, uproar, confusion.
But that snickering description only emphasizes an obvious fact — the professor has the hide of a rhino.
Rasmussen was denounced by the IU administration for what were described as “racist, sexist and homophobic” remarks on social media. News reports of the controversy generated a huge public reaction, to the point that IU’s provost complained that “various (university officials) have been inundated in the last few days with demands that he be fired.”
IU officials did not dismiss Rasmussen “because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so.”
“That is not a close call,” said Lauren Robel, vice president and provost.
But Robel responded to Rasmussen’s speech with statement of her own. She described his opinions as “wrong and immoral” and “stunningly ignorant.”
“Rhetorically speaking, Professor Rasmussen has demonstrated no difficulty in casting the first, or the lethal, stone,” she said.
Lethal? That’s what the provost said in an obvious overstatement. But her rhetoric is consistent with the current leftist stance that being exposed to opinions they do not share constitutes acts of violence that cause physical and/or psychological wounds.
Rasmussen’s sin came when he posted an article written by Lance Welton that raised a dubious assertion, “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” A number of news outlets reported that Rasmussen, not Welton, wrote it, further fanning the flames of outrage.
“If the media can’t get the simplest facts right, don’t trust their summaries or conclusions. Read original sources. Be suspicious of articles that don’t give links to their sources,” Rasmussen warned on his blog.
There’s no question Rasmussen’s views are out of step with current campus political orthodoxies. Rasmussen has raised questions about the propriety of affirmative action, women’s roles in society and homosexuality, all of which received a thorough and hostile airing in the recent controversy.
In addition to the vigorous denunciation of Rasmussen, IU announced that “no one will be forced to take a class from Professor Rasmussen” and that, in the future, he will use “double-blind grading on assignment,” an apparent attempt to blunt his alleged hostility to certain kinds of students.
Rather than roll into a fetal position, Rasmussen fired back at his critics, including the provost.
“She lies about my opinions or, at least, she carelessly attributes specific opinions to me that I have never held, without evidence (no links) and without confirming with me first,” he replied.
Rasmussen also challenged the double-blind grading. He said administrators are sending a clear message to the student body.
“Having seen the Provost and Dean down on a professor who does not share their views, students will feel more comfortable in expressing their own views — that is, they will know what to expect if they speak freely in the classes of the 99 percent of professors who are (a) leftwing, and (b) exempt from blind grading,” he said. “Indiana University is not discouraging bias, but encouraging it, even requiring it, as a condition of teaching.
“God help the conservative student whose professor checks Facebook and Twitter before grading term papers.”
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-351-5369.