Professor Glover, lighten up

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PROFESSOR GLOVER, LIGHTEN UP! I am delighted that Professor Cynthia Glover of the Sociology Department protested Reginald Jones’ talk opposing affirmative action. Debate is, or at least should be, what a college campus is all about. I applaud Professor Glover’s passion in expressing her support for affirmative action. BUT if the Villanovan’s October 4 article about the event is accurate, I have one concern about how Professor Glover expressed her views, and two disagreements with those views. First, in this Augustinian community we should express disagreement politely. If the Villanovan article is accurate, Professor Glover disrupted the Q&A session by filibustering even though she was not on the evening’s program. If this is the case, then she should consider whether her actions fit the best traditions of the exchange of ideas. I’ve noticed that many academics, while highly critical of others, seem too insecure to recognize and admit their own mistakes. Yet we professors are human. We too err. To recognize error and move on is the only way to grow as a scholar, and as a person within a community of scholars. Second, I respectfully disagree with Professor Glover’s views that non-scholarly speakers like Mr. Jones have no place on campus. Indeed, only last week the Center for Peace and Justice hosted Noam Chomsky for his work in international relations. While Mr. Chomsky is a great linguist, he has never to my knowledge published in a refereed political science journal. His scholarship is not respected by the political science community. He is not a scholar, but an agitator. Does this mean that Mr. Chomsky should not speak on campus? Of course not! A university should be open to all kinds of ideas, expressed politely but with gusto. As someone who dislikes Mr. Chomsky’s views (though not Mr. Chomsky himself), I would have protested outside his talk, but I would not have hijacked his forum. Third, Professor Glover complains because only one point of view was presented by Mr. Jones. Yet just last year, our Sociology Department sponsored Joe Feagin, a noted and somewhat controversial sociologist who strongly supports affirmative action. (I’ve read and enjoyed some of his writings.) Why were not alternative views presented then? Perhaps there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes we should have debates, but sometimes we should let speakers say their peace, even if we disagree. If we protest, let us do so in a clear but non-disruptive way, by walking out, holding signs, or better still, protesting outside so as not to disrupt a legitimate event. The very respectful Villanova students who protested Charlton Heston’s VU appearance back in spring 2001 conducted themselves wonderfully. Though I disagreed with them, I found them far more interesting than Heston himself, and came away wishing them well. On that general topic, as someone who has spent 15 years in academia, along with another four years in the real world at the Brookings Institution and in the Clinton-Gore administration, it seems to me that many academics are too quick to label their opponents as evil, and thus tune them out. People in the real world of government and politics know that sometimes our opponents are right and we are wrong. You can only figure that out by listening. Villanova’s political science department, I’m proud to say, has professors from a wide range of backgrounds and with a very wide range of opinions. That makes life interesting, and it keeps us on our toes.

Bob MarantoAssistant ProfessorPolitical Science